Rain, Sheep, and Hot Pepper Jelly

hot pepper jelly

It’s another dark and stormy day on our Queensland farm, and we aren’t complaining one bit.

Normally February is scorching hot, a month we just try to get through until the cooling temperatures of Autumn arrive. But this year it’s been amazing. We’ve had luscious rain, heaps of it, and our farm is thriving.

rain on the farm

We’ve been slowly building our farm family and it’s been so much fun.

This week we added two dorper sheep – Hetty and Lucy – from my friend’s farm an hour or so north of us. They’re lovely girls and have settled in beautifully.

dorper lambs

We bought them as girlfriends for our lamb, Kebab, but they’re a bit too big for him at the moment. He’s growing like a weed, though, and will catch up with them soon.

dorper sheep

I dug another new garden recently as well. It was formerly a duck pen, so the soil has had a good fertilizing, and all the rain has made it soft and gorgeous. I put in berry bushes, rosellas, eggplants, tomatoes, Greek basil, tarragon, rainbow silverbeet, purple beans, a bay tree, pear trees, sweet potatoes, and several potatoes planted in old tires. I’ve left the three middle beds open for Autumn seedlings I have growing in my kitchen garden – red cabbage, Brussels sprouts, celeriac, peas, and other things. I’m excited to see this garden grow.

stone-bordered garden plots

This summer I’ve had a bumper crop of chilies and capsicum, so I get to use them to make one of my favorite recipes from the two years I lived in Oklahoma: hot pepper jelly.

green capsicum plant

In Oklahoma, chilies are called peppers, and this recipe uses them in a delicious way, turning the spicy chilies into a sweet hot jelly that is scrumptious spread on hamburgers, poured over sausages, or drizzled over softened cream cheese as a dip with crackers.

blue bowl of chilies


I like to use half chilies and half capsicums so it’s not too spicy but still has a good kick. I use a hodge-podge of whatever chilies I have on hand: Hungarian yellow, green jalapeno, and a free range red that planted itself.

hot pepper jelly

Do you have a tried and true recipe for when your chili and capsicum plants go berserk?

Hot Chili Pepper Jelly Recipe


2 cups green chilies
2 cups green capsicums, seeded
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 package pectin
4 cups white sugar


1. Dump chilies and capsicums into food processor and pulse until finely chopped.
2. Scrape into large saucepan and add vinegar, pectin, and sugar.
3. Bring to boil, stirring regularly to ensure sugar dissolves, and boil for one minute.
4. Remove from heat and skim any foam.
5. Pour hot mixture into sterilized jars, seal and turn upside down until cool, or put jars through hot water bath.
6. Refrigerate after opening.

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

Summer Morning in the Fields and Gluten-Free Mexican Breakfast

Kalahari buck

Summer has arrived at last and until the storms blew in this week, it’s been sultry and piping hot. Since it’s way too scorching to be out in the fields during the day, I’ve been taking the goats out in the early morning.

wildflowers with goats

It’s been beautiful. The sun is still hot but cool morning breezes are wonderfully refreshing. Now that three sides of the new paddock are fenced in, I only have to guard one side from escaping goats. It’s made my time in the fields so much more relaxing and enjoyable.

This is great now that our Kalahari goat herd has grown with the addition of five new babies, a stray girl that wandered in from who knows where, and William, the big daddy of the group who is part of the gang once again. Isn’t he a fine, strapping fellow?

Kalahari buck

It’s so nice to see them roaming happily, tucking into clumps of wildflowers or munching thistles without pricking themselves.

Kalahari goats in paddock

I like to find a comfy spot in the field to rest my bones as the wind shushes through the grass lulling me into utter relaxation.

red gum boots

Luna loves it too, taking turns chasing after field mice and returning to burrow in my lap for a scratch and a cuddle.

cattle dog in field

She’s such an affectionate snuggler and can’t seem to wriggle in close enough.

farm girl and her dog

I may have to battle heat, flies, and mosquitoes, but it still beats an office any day of the week.

field dandelion

In my quest for healing and strength, I continue to experiment with healthy gluten-free breakfasts that don’t include dairy, sugar, or acid-forming foods. Mostly eggs of some variety do the trick, but sometimes I can’t bear the thought of another egg.

When those days come I turn to one of my old favorites: savory Mexican black beans topped with pico de gallo and guacamole. I love how the fresh Roma tomatoes and zingy lime juice turn a heavy dish into one that is light and perky with plenty of protein and fiber to keep me going all morning.

Mexican gluten-free breakfast

What is your favorite healthy breakfast?

Click here for my gluten-free Mexican breakfast recipes.

Adorable Muscovy Ducklings

Muscovy and babies

It was pouring down rain with wild winds and heavy, dark clouds as I sloshed my into the Muscovy duck pen to feed them earlier this week.

As I bent down to check on a mother who’d been sitting on a clutch of eggs for a while, I was astonished to find little yellow balls of fluff peering back at me.

Utterly unaffected by the gale outside, they snuggled into their mother and were cozy as can be.

We’ve been swooning over them ever since. Seriously, they’re so darn cute I can’t keep from slipping outside multiple times a day to see how they’re doing.

Muscovy mother and ducklings

The day after they were born the baby Muscovy ducklings were already out, toddling through the mud, sticking close to Mom to avoid the pecking beaks of the older Muscovies.

baby Muscovy

Today they were adventurous little things, trucking all over the farmyard with their Mother, climbing into empty cages and even exploring under the house.

Muscovy goslings

They are ridiculously cute, and such sunny spots of brightness on these stormy days. They make me very happy indeed.

Muscovy and babies

Just look at those gorgeous little faces.

I already started mourning their growing up-ness when I discovered another broody Muscovy who has taken up residence in the shed. Hooray for more babies in a few weeks! 🙂

baby Muscovy goslings

What is bringing a bright spot to your days this week?