Encouraging Growth

fried potatoes and sausage

Thunder is rumbling in the distance, giving the hope of a bit of rain that we desperately need. C’mon rain!!!

storm clouds in Allora

The weather is always a bit madcap around here. One moment we’re parched and sizzled, the next shivering as wind hurtles through the trees and rain pelts against windows and tin sheds. I’ve learned so much living in such extremes. When you can’t depend on the weather to nourish crops and animals, you have to let go and run with it. Flexibility and creativity are essential.

Gardening is one area that tests me regularly. After three years experimenting with hundreds of plants, I’m figuring out what works best in our soil (black and heavy in some spots, brown and gravelly in others), what thrives in drought AND flood, and what can survive the attentions of bugs, cabbage moths, grasshoppers, and innumerable other creatures.

I no longer attempt broccoli, cauliflower, or cabbages. No matter how faithfully I dust them with powder, they’re always decimated by cabbage moths and cut worms. I can grow red cabbages and red Brussels sprouts, however, because for some reason, insects can’t stand them. This is quite a thrill, I tell you.

Herbs also do well here, as do root veggies (when there’s enough water), and tomatoes. Asparagus grows like a weed, thank goodness, and fennel and artichokes are finding their feet.

Bit by bit I’m building gardens that suit our palates and the crazy weather. As I learn how to help my plants, it inspires me personally to figure out what helps me thrive. Encouraging me to remove the things that tear me down and suffocate my spirit, while gathering close the people and experiences that nourish my soul and help me flourish.

Regardless of what happens outside (and in!), a good, hearty breakfast is always a comfort. Our local butcher has fantastic sausages in all sorts of flavors: beef, garlic, and red wine, lamb with roasted tomato and parsley, chicken with cheese and sage. Fried and sliced, they go beautifully with caramelized onions and potatoes. Such hearty fare keeps us going through planting, weeding, and harvesting.

fried potatoes and sausage

What grows well in your part of the world? xo

Storms and Apples on the Farm

lap of apples

It’s so good to be back writing here again after an extended break to write my history book. It is done and dusted now, the launch taking place in less than two weeks! Lots of excitement about that. :-)

It’s been a stormy sort of January with wild winds and skies full of dark brooding clouds. Sometimes the storms bring a cool reprieve from stifling heat and others bring sweltering humidity along with them.

goats in the grass

Whatever form they take, I do love a good storm. The rains have been such a gift, turning our parched, dry land into a lush oasis of waist high grasses perfect for hungry Kalahari goats.

Our Maremma dog, Apollo, has turned from a cuddly puppy into a wonderful guard for our Kalahari goat stock. He is a second mother to all the babies, licking them clean, babysitting while their Mums go off for a much-needed break and a good feed. We adore him.

Maremma guarding goats

When I can I like to take a break from house, farm, and writing work to sit in the grass with my dog Luna and watch the storms roll in over the hills and above the bush. The wind feels so good, and the reprieve from fierce sunlight is luscious. Luna loves it as much as I do, dashing back for pats and ear-scratches in between lizard hunting around fallen logs.

sitting in the grass

Stormy days are also good for my artwork, wood-burning, since it’s too hot during regular summer days. It’s so nice to curl up in a cozy chair with my tools, listening to audio books or chatting with Bear while I work. I’ve started a new line of cutting boards and can’t wait to have them in the shoppe ready for sale.

cutting board

We just harvested the first apples from our newly planted orchard, and that was so exciting. They’re only babies, too small and too few to do much with them, but they taste delicious and give us a hint of bounty to come in the years ahead. I’m excited about future days of using our apples for juicing, baking, canning, and making hard cider.

lap of apples

We finished fencing in the apple orchard and erected the arches needed for bird netting, and soon we will get the netting up to protect our precious trees from marauding wildlife. In the meantime, our Muscovy ducks are doing a splendid job keeping the weeds down and fertilizing the ground.

I’ve learned that in farming, everything worth anything takes a long time and a lot of work, but it’s always worth it. Bit by bit we get closer to self-sufficiency with orchards, gardens, eggs, meat animals, and all that sort of thing. It’s hard work, but we love it.

freshly picked apples

What are you excited about at your house this season? xo

How to Make Your Garden Critter-proof

garden cage

After replanting my garden FIVE times in the past year due to my garden being eaten by an array of critters – goats, possums, rats, mice, birds, etc – I was bound and determined to do something to make gardening feasible.

A fortified fence kept the goats out but even basic cages wouldn’t keep the rats, possums, and mice at bay.

So Bear and I went off to the hardware store and found a big roll of snake and mouse-proof wire with tiny squares that would keep everything out. Yay!!!

garden cagesWe went to the thrift store and found old table frames and other metal frames that would be excellent frames for our critter-proof cages.

garden cageBear built solid wood bases for each cage, then we got out our drills and rolls of wire and folded, twisted, and bolted the cages into shape.

a garden cageAs they were completed I shifted them into my garden, using them to house tender seedlings and keep them safe.

They’ve worked brilliantly!!! It is such a thrill to go out to my garden each day and see tiny green sprouts thriving knowing that within a couple of months – barring any other disasters – we will be eating cabbages, kale, Brussels sprouts, turnips, parsnips, radishes, broccoli, celeriac, and other deliciousness.

seedling cageIt was downright discouraging to have my garden eaten to the ground so many times, but it is so exciting now to know that we’ve fixed the problem. :-)

hollyhocks in the rainHave you ever faced gardening disasters? How did you deal with them? xo

Goats in Autumn Sunshine

kalahari red billy goat

We’ve had stunningly beautiful Autumn weather this week. Warm and sunny with soothing golden light that makes you happy to be alive.

To give our winter pastures time to restore before the cold weather hits, Bear and I have been taking our goats for daily treks into the bush to feast on brambles and weeds.

herding kalahari goats

They love it out there! They amble happily from one bramble patch the next, their coats covered in prickles and stickers as they nosh on their favorite bushes.

After their feast in the woods, we bring them back to the damn yard to wander over the hills and nibble at newly sprouted weeds and leafy trees.

goats in a valley

Most of the time we let them in and go up to the house, but sometimes I like to sit on the hillside and watch them, marveling at their personalities and quirks, admiring their glossy coats that positively gleam in the setting sunlight.

kalahari billy goat

I feel very lucky to get to raise these gorgeous animals and see them thrive. Sometimes they drive me batty when they bust through fences or make a banquet out of my garden, but mostly they are delightful.

kalahari red billy goat

What are some of your favorite moments on your homestead? xo

Homemade Pear Juice

DSCN7725-2

This Autumn weather has been exquisite! Cool mornings and evenings with marvelously warm and sunny afternoons. We’ve been getting heaps of work done: fencing, gardening, and cooking.

My big project over the weekend was juicing this box of very, very ripe pears. The whole kitchen smelled of pears and it was delicious.

I often like to mix my pear juice with fresh ginger or fresh mint, but this time I did it plain.

The first step was washing and cutting the woody stems off. Then it was simply a matter of pressing the pears through our hard core juicer one after the other. As the juice filled the container I poured it through cloth-lined sieves to remove any pulp. I was left with gorgeously rich brown juice that tasted like a little bit of heaven.

box of pearsLiving on a farm, almost nothing goes to waste. I saved all the stem cuttings and pear pulp and threw it outside for the barnyard birds.

pear scraps for chickensThe Muscovy ducks were the first to arrive, fluttering in from around the farm and tucking in to the fruity piles.

ducks feedingThe chooks weren’t far behind, elbowing in to make sure they didn’t miss out.

ducks and chickens feedingBear and I kept the pear juice for ourselves, mixing it with soda water for a deliciously refreshing drink on our breaks from work.

DSCN7725-2My next project is homemade apple cider vinegar…IF we can manage not to devour the amazingly crisp, juicy, and flavorful apples I got from the market. :-)

What projects have you been working on this week? xo