Tuesday, July 31, 2012

On leeks and optimism.

I've written before, on my other blog, about farming and gardening and optimism. About the hope for the perfect weather conditions to enable the crops to germinate, to grow and to thrive. The hope for days that are not too hot, too wet, too cold or too humid. The hope that the irrigation pipes don't block or burst, that pests leave that crop alone, that there are no diseases, not too many weeds and enough water to irrigate. The hope that there is no flood, or fire, or wind storm. The farmer/gardener hopes that Mother Nature is kind and enables a delicious crop to be picked at the end of the growing season.

Today my littlest, my farmer boy and I spent the day in the kitchen garden and my heart felt full of that optimism. That love of growing clean, whole food to feed our family. The knowledge that the moon is waxing and it is the right time to plant roots. That warm winter sun on our backs. That feeling that comes from sharing an experience I love with those I adore. That hope that we are passing important knowledge on to the next generation. And that hope that if all goes to plan, in a few months time we will eat the fruits of our toil.

This morning we took the leek flower heads that we had saved from last year and we pulled off their seeds.

Then farmer Bren let the wind and a colander help him separate the seeds from their pods (winnowing).

We made a seed raising mix from our compost and sand.

We sprinkled leek seeds in rows.

We covered those seeds with more seed raising mix.

And then my farmer girly carefully wrote labels for the trays.

I cannot think of many better ways to spend a morning.

And I feel full of inspiration and optimism that spring and warmth and bounty are just around the corner.

Do you feel it?
How and what does your garden grow at the mo?
Is there dirt under your nails?
Have you ever grown your own leeks before?
What's making you feel hopeful and optimistic?


Monday, July 30, 2012

OK OK tights (giveaway).

My sister Emily's bestie Emina makes tights!!!!

How cool is that!!!!

They are adorable tights. Spotty and stripey and colourful and so much fun.

The best part is that they are made in Australia. In the very last Australian hosiery factory. I love that.

And the loveliest Emina sent me some tights. And I am super excited. I think they are the perfect solution to these cold, grey wintry days. And they are really comfortable too. I think they are going to be my new winter uniform. I've been wearing the green geometry tights all morning and they are soft and warm and I feel happy every time I look down and see them.

(Imagine farmer Liam's face when he came in for lunch before and found farmer Bren snapping photos of me standing on top of the dresser modeling my new green tights.)

And guess what??
Emina has sent me some tights for you too. I told you she was ace.
I have four pairs for four of you.
Black, mustard or emerald in the cotton geometry tights and red/orange in the dotty.

All you have to do is leave me a comment on this post.
Tell me something. Anything.
I'll draw the winner next Monday.

While you're waiting why don't you check out all Emina's OK OK sites.

OK OK website.
OK OK facebook.
OK OK twitter.
OK OK blog.
OK OK instagram.
And Emily's facebook.

See ya later - stripey tights potata. x

Saturday, July 28, 2012

wool, wool, more wool & a pattern.

I guess a big part of the fun of any hobby, craft, passion or profession is putting together your kit. Researching, hunting down exactly what you want, building your stash and then maintaining it all so it is there for you any time you want or need it.

Like a cook and her ingredients, a musician and her instruments, a hunter and her knives, a runner and her shoes...like a knitter and her needles, patterns, buttons and wool.

As a knitter my idea of heaven is being able to knit whatever I am inspired to knit and having exactly what I need at hand to knit it. That means lots of needles of different sizes and lengths, wool in colours that we like to wear and enough metreage for anything from a hat right through to a women's cardigan.

I cannot believe it's been over a week and I still haven't shown you the delicious yarns I bought at the Australian Sheep and Wool show.

I loved every second of the shopping. The sheds full of stalls of colours, textures, and all sorts of wools. The different brands I'd heard of but never fondled. And the ideas and inspiration and loveliness. I found the most gorgeous 8ply merino wool at Yellow Cat (the grey and the blue above) and the Craft Circle (the green).

I bought all the wooden buttons I could find at the button stall. Gosh I adore wooden buttons. Now I just have to find the perfect patterns to show them off.

I bought Wooli, the recycled wool above, off some lovely women with a crafty shop in Brunswick street.

It's made in New Zealand using all the scraps off the factory floor; wool, alpaca, silk, cashmere, possum. It's deliciously soft and Indi has already claimed it for a loose knit cowl.

I also bought a few cheap one kilo bags of Pear Tree yarn. Gorgeous colours and just so terribly soft. But they are in their plastic bags and I don't want to take them out until it's time to cast on. And shiny plastic doesn't photograph all that well does it.

And lastly, we bought a couple of skeins of the most divine chunky sofTrope hand spun for farmer boy's beanies. 

My farmer boy wears a beanie every single day and is very particular about what he likes and what he doesn't. He spent a while choosing the colours, chatting with the spinner and then describing the pattern to me.

When we got home, I wound the first skein into a ball immediately. Then I found the largest circular needles I own (6.5) and casted on 64 stitches (the tram we used to catch from our childhood home into the city).

Then I knit, knit, knitted for a few hours and it was done. Speedy!! Gosh I love the chunky stuff.

In case you'd like to make your own Farmer Boy Beanie...

Cast on 64 stitches.
Join in the round.
Knit 2, purl 2 rib for about 20cm.
Decrease rounds.
1) Knit 2, purl 2 together. (48)
2) Knit 2, purl 1. (48)
3) Knit 2 together, purl 1. (32)
4) Knit 1, purl 1. (32)
5) Knit 2 together. (16)
6) Knit around. (16)
7) Knit 2 together. (8)
8) Thread the tail through all of the remaining 8 stitches.
Pull tight. Fasten off.
Darn in ends.

And please let me know if you make one, I'd love to see.

He loves it. He has barely taken it off since I cast off.

So that's me and my treasures.

I hope you are having a lovely weekend.
Are you?
Do you have anything exciting planned?
What are you making/baking/growing/going/reading?
Have you added to your stash lately?
Do you agree that the stash building can be just as much fun as the craft itself?

Bye! x

ps. I'm on The Country Style blog!!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Mandarinalade (a recipe).

Well here we are in the deeeeeeeeeep, daaaaaaaaaark, depths of winter. The rain is thundering down on the roof, the creek is up and threatening to swallow the driveway and the paddocks are turning into rivers and dams.

And my girls are living on oranges and mandarines.

There are a few big bowls full on our kitchen table.

And mostly they're getting to the bottom of the bowls before we replenish them but sometimes there are a couple of soft, squishy ones left behind.

No one here really likes citrus cakes all that much so usually the dregs just get composted. But yesterday in the midst of my cooking frenzy, it occurred to me that I could make marmalade.

And so I did.

And all the recipes I looked at were super fiddly, so I made up my own.

It's simple pimple. Really.

Indi says it tastes like something you would get in a cafe. That's very high praise indeed.

I hope you like it as much as my gang do.


You will need.
8 mandarines.
juice of one lemon.
jars. (mine made 4 and a bit of the 350ml jars above).

Get ready.
Start off by sterilising your jars with warm soapy water or in the dishwasher and then placing them in a warm oven to heat and dry.

Place a couple of small plates in the freezer.

Get set.
Place your mandarines, skin and all, in a small saucepan.
Add the juice of one lemon.
Add just enough water to cover the mandarines.
Place on the stove and bring to the boil and then bring down to a simmer.
Simmer the mandarines until they are soft and tender.

Remove from the heat and blend the water/mandarine/lemony mixture.
If you don't have a blender, you could chop the mandarines up.

Measure the mixture. (Mine was 4 cups).

Put the mixture back on the stove on a low heat.
Add the same amount (or a fraction less) of sugar. (I added 3.5 cups).
Stir until sugar dissolves.

Raise temperature to high and stir occasionally.
Watch for the pips that tend to float and remove.

Start testing for readiness after the mixture has been boiling for about 20 minutes.
Test for readiness by dropping a small spoonful of mixture onto a plate from the freezer and running your finger through it. When it wrinkles, the mandarinalaide is ready.

Turn the heat off.

Take a jar at a time from the oven and ladle in the mixture and then seal.

Allow to cool.

Spread thickly on scones, or fresh bread, or muffins.
Or of you are meat eater, Ro says he's going to try it on duck tonight.
Whatever you do, enjoy.
I know my guys are, they're onto the second jar already.

What are you up to?
What are your fruit bowls full of?
Are you preserving?
Does marmalade make you think of motel breakfasts?
Are you going to make some mandarinalade?


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Chicken - A vegetarian's perspective.

This is a warning to those of you who are sensitive to or dislike pictures of meat. While this post does not have any photos of blood or guts, it does have photos that are suggestive of a process and therefore might offend.

I am a vegetarian.

I have not eaten nor prepared or cooked meat for over 20 years.

It's easy for me to be a vegetarian. I do not like to eat meat, I do not crave meat, I find it impossible to take responsibility for the end of a life so that I can eat meat and I think I am healthier and eat better without.

On our organic farm we grow fruit, vegies and nuts and we have 1500 hens for eggs. Although we know that there is a great demand for organic meat in the market, raising a creature just to kill it in its prime for food is not something we have ever done nor are likely to do.

The oldest of our flocks of chickens are between three to five years old and waaaaaaaaaaaay beyond their laying peak and over the hill. Almost all commercial egg farms get rid of their chickens when they are 72 weeks old before their first moult. Being that a chicken only starts to lay her first eggs at around 16 weeks old, that's a bit like a teenager.

On our farm we pride ourselves on allowing our chickens to express their true nature. We let them do everything that is natural for chickens to do. They dust bathe, scratch for grubs, live with males/roosters, go to bed and wake up when the sun tells them to and we let them live long, long lives.

In return they lay eggs for us. And feed our soils with their manure. And scratch the earth and eat the grubs.

But recently we've been discussing the fact that some of us do eat meat and that we have a flock of certified organic free range chickens who we are feeding each day and who are well past their laying years.

And so we made a decision to harvest a few chickens to feed our three families.

So last Thursday our three farmer boys and Miss Pepper gathered quietly and prepared a few chickens for food.

At first I stayed away because I thought I'd be repulsed. But curiosity got the better of me and I slowly crept nearer and nearer.

And to be honest it moved me to proud, awe filled, emotional tears.

Those four farmers treated those chickens with such respect and kindness. As they collected each hen she was thanked for her eggs and her life and her body. It was all done very calmly and quietly.

I don't know if it was the fact that living on a farm with livestock, I have seen more than my fair share of dead stock and so I am desensitised. I don't know if having been witness to the aftermath of a fox raid a few years ago, this didn't seen anywhere near as graphic and horrific. Or maybe it was just the knowledge that these chickens have had the most wonderful lives. Right up until their last day.

It didn't disgust me as anticipated. Not at all.

So while I will continue to quickly skip past the blog posts and instagram photos of raw and cooked meat. And the discussions of how best to cook a meat meal will probably still turn my stomach. Our meat experience was pretty inspiring and I feel really proud to have been part of it (as the photographer).

And I feel pleased about the roast chook that was served and enjoyed by Farmer Bren and Miss Pepper on the weekend and I'm glad about the hot chicken soup that was eaten by the cold farmer boys for lunch here this afternoon. And it makes sense that the scraps will go into and feed the compost.

And the compost will break down and heat up and be turned and will create new life.

A life cycle.

I feel like it makes sense.

Monday, July 23, 2012

All things wooly (& the winner).

Last Friday my farmer boy and I spent the day at the Australian Sheep and Wool show in Bendigo. We had the best time.

When we visited the show a few years ago I was still very new to woolycraft and was completely overwhelmed and went home empty handed. This time I felt like I had the opposite experience. I know what colours, yarns and plies I like to craft with, I know what wooly direction I am heading in next and I am just so happy to look, to admire and to ask lots of questions.

The wool show had so much of what I love, what I am passionate about and then more.

It had stalls and stalls of luscious yarns in every ply and in every colour of the rainbow.

It had needles,

and buttons,

and felt,

and all manner of haberdashery goodness.

It had activities for the kiddies.

It had fun, creative displays.

It had wool clothing and fashion parades and it had such fun crafty patterns and creations.

There was weaving and crochet and spinning and knitting and carding and felting and macrame and machine knitting.

And there were sheep and rams and lambs and wool comps and shearing comps and sheep dog comps and best breed comps.

And there was even comfy seating for those not all that interested.

There was just SO. MUCH. WOOL. 

And I LOVE wool, so I loved it.

And I'm guessing the sheep fanciers and farmers, the wool artists and crafters, the fashion peeps, those interested in cooking the sheep and lamb's meat, the families and the stall holders all loved it too. There seemed to be something in it for everyone. The farmers in their work boots, cowboy hats and blue vests all the way through to the lady standing next to me at one stage wearing a crocheted technicolour dream coat and knitting a cabled throw while making her yarn purchases.

But as soppy as it sounds, my favourite part of the entire show was that my farmer boy gave up a day of work to come with me. He walked through every stall and shed, he didn't make a face when I spent too much money, he helped me carry my three bags full of wool and chose a couple of skeins of chunky homespun for some beanies for himself. I even overheard him tell a woman that he can't get into knitting but spinning is a possibility!! Love him.

Such a great day.

And while we're on all things woolly, I must thank all those who entered the Tikki pattern giveaway. I think the beautiful comments made this giveaway my favourite to date.

And without further ado, I asked the random generator for a number between one and 201 and it gave me number 37 - Brave New Fiona!!

Congrats Fiona.
Email me your addy and the 5 Tikki patterns you choose and we'll get them to you asap.
Happy knitting!

And to everyone else, watch this space because I have another woolly giveaway coming up really soon.

So, tell me peeps, how was your weekend?
Did you get up to anything exciting?
Did you go to the wool show?
Have you been before or to one like it?
Would you like it?

Wishing you the most wonderful and happy week lovely peeps.

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