Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Milking Cows Part 2

I thought I'd talk a little about my milking regime. I've read different blogs about milking cows and so thought my "ways" might be of interest. I've heard people talk about share milking, which (I presume) is the term used when the calf remains on the cow. I can't imagine having a milking cow and doing it any differently. The alternative apparently is to remove the calf and bottle feed it. What a lot of extra work that would be! It's also not natural and certainly not the best thing for the calf or the cow.

I've been involved with milking a house cow my entire life. I remember waking up most mornings as a child, to the sound of the milk separator. That's the machine that separates the milk from the cream. My father grew up on a dairy in the days when the cows were hand milked. Therefore he naturally had a house cow when he left the family dairy and married my mother. I'm one of eight kids, so having our own cow would've been essential. We grew up with fresh milk, fresh cream and home made butter. I have so many fond memories based around fresh cream - thick and just delicious on anything!

So what do I do with my house cow? Well, I have several as I don't like to be without milk and I also like to separate the milk and eat cream and make butter and make yoghurt and cheese! And if there is a surplus I give it away to friends!

Fetta Cheese

I keep a very close eye on my cows just before they are due to calve. I will never forget one cow I had when I was very new to milking. She had calved and I didn't know for a week. By the time I got her into the yard it was almost too late to save her back two teats. She was so full of milk, the calf was only sucking the front two, which is often the case. I managed, with great difficulty to milk out the back two. They had gone hard and the milk was like water. How she didn't get sick from mastitis I don't know. So Lesson 1 - keep an eye on your cow BEFORE she calves and milk her out each day as the calf usually won't handle all the milk.

Once she has calved, it can take a week and sometimes even longer for the milk to clean up. This first milk is colostrum and is a yellowish colour. Sometimes, if the cow has a very large and full udder, the milk can be a bit bloody - this is fine. If it's nice and clean (without blood) I usually freeze some to keep for poddy calves or pigs. When you milk this out, feed it to the chooks or pigs or dogs.

Once the milk is no longer yellow coloured and it looks good enough to keep, you may need to start locking up the calf before milking. The cow I'm currently milking gives me more than 10 litres without locking the calf up, so I don't bother. Usually though, you won't get enough out of a cow while the calf is on 100% of the time. When you want to milk, take the calf away the night before (or morning if you plan to milk in the afternoon).This is called share milking.

When I'm milking and I have plenty of milk, I usually leave a quarter for the calf. If I want all the milk I take it all. The cow will make up some more milk throughout the day, so the calf will still get plenty. If the cow doesn't let her milk down for me, I let the calf out to suck for a minute or so until she lets her milk down, then I just push the calf off and back in the calf pen. For those that are confused about my terminology, "letting the milk down" is a term used when the milk comes more freely (anyone that has breastfed, will know what I mean!) Basically it can be hard work milking if they don't let it down, and when they do, it comes easily (sort of).

I also milk by hand. Some people new to milking use a machine. I've always been told that to use a milking machine you would need at least 4 cows to make the washing up worthwhile. I've never used a machine, but I think I would have to agree. I've been milking by hand for many years, and yes dust and insects etc get into the milk, but I have a good strainer to get it all out! I really enjoy the quiet time of sitting beside the cow and just doing it! I do have to watch for the odd kick, especially if there's sandflies or buffalo fly around. But most of the time, it's peaceful and I can just sit there and plan my day. I very rarely milk more than 4 cows and that would take me about an hour, so I'm not sure how much time a machine would take.

So, my summary:
1. Keep an eye on the cow before she calves to make sure you get her in and milk her out immediately (the second day at the absolute latest!) This will help to prevent mastitis and milk fever.
2. Lock up the calf each night/or day so that you get plenty of milk.
3. If the cow doesn't let her milk down, allow the calf to suck for a minute or so first - and then put the calf away.
4. Leave a quarter for the calf if you don't need the mild. If your need is greater, the calf will be fine as the cow will compensate.
5. Feed the cow a little extra when locking up the calf and then while milking as this will ensure she keeps in good condition. A dairy cow will give EVERYTHING  to the calf and will get poor!
6. Enjoy the milk fresh, in yoghurt, cream, butter, cheese, custard!!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Milking Cows and Raw Milk

A little while ago I had to buy milk! This was probably the first time in about 6 years! I absolutely hate having to buy it, especially as that meant that I had to buy yoghurt and my supply of feta cheese ran out so it was devastating! Mind you I only had about a month of this, but it was enough to make me realise how lucky I am to be able to milk my own cows. I know exactly how my cows are being treated and what they eat. I also have the benefit of being able to drink raw milk – as much as I want. Milk is my go to energy drink when I’m mid way through the afternoon and need a thirst quenching pick-me-up! Fresh raw milk is an amazing product. It’s so full of goodness and just tastes so good – so much better than anything you can buy in the shops.
I’m now milking two cows, giving me about 12 litres in a milking. I’ve got about 3 more due to calve, so not sure what I’ll do then. I’d really like to make some hard cheeses, unfortunately they do take a lot of time, but I just need to set aside some time to do it, because it’s so satisfying making your own dairy products. I make feta cheese all the time, and yoghurt weekly. The feta I make is a raw milk soft and creamy style. I cut it and put it into jars with herbs and macadamia oil (from the Yeppoon Markets). I also use this cheese to make dips instead of using the philly cream cheese. It’s not quite as creamy, but is still pretty good.  If I put it in a salt brine and let it sit for a bit, it becomes more like the crumbly Greek style feta. Either way I make it, it’s pretty good!

I make about 2-3 litres of milk into yoghurt each week. Some of this I keep natural and the rest I mix with honey (from the markets) and some vanilla essence. I like it slightly sweetened – for my muesli for breakfast. For the yoghurt I “sort of” pasteurise the milk as it’s necessary to kill the bugs naturally present in milk to allow the ABC cultures in the yoghurt to grow properly. They are not as strong and can’t compete with the raw milk bugs! When I say sort of, I don’t like to boil the milk, just bring it to 80 degrees and then let it cool.
I would love to be able to make these products to sell, but unfortunately we have a stupid law in Australia that says that we aren’t allowed to! Ummm..... doesn’t make sense that the same law makers allow fast food joints and smoking....what causes more harm I wonder! Not to mention soft drinks and other rubbish! We are allowed to consume it ourselves and I think we are allowed to give it away. I read something somewhere about a bloke who was giving the milk away, but he was also selling post cards. The post cards were obviously a collector’s item, as they were expensive! You can buy milk for cosmetic purposes, which is great, because it is good for the skin!

One day I would like to start a small dairy – maybe to make cosmetic products, and cheese!
What are your thoughts on raw milk? Have you tried it and/or would you try it if given the opportunity?

For those who are interested, I will post about my milkers and the way I do it...probably of more interest to those that have or are thinking of getting a milking cow!

Saturday, November 16, 2013


A few weeks ago (mid October) I went for a ride across most of our property and was really impressed with the quality of our pasture.

At that time, we hadn't had any rain since about April. A long dry winter and well into spring without rain, so some properties around our area were looking pretty ordinary with very short grass.  Winter is traditionally a dry time for us, but we do get the odd bit of rain. Looking back through past diaries, I note that we often get some rain around Fathers day (1st week in September), which means we will then get mushrooms.....Sadly, this year, no rain, no mushrooms! But I digress....

Despite the lack of rain, our pastures have held on very well. mostly due to the last three very good summer wet seasons, and cell grazing.  We have two different soil types on "Anabank". Our lighter sandy and scrub soils still have plenty of green grass and the leauceana is still growing well.

The heavier black soil country has good feed still, but has very little green showing through.

We have been cell grazing since 2003 and rotational grazing before that. It really has paid off for us. We are carrying more cattle each year and even now at the end of our dry season, we have more cattle than we've ever had on the place, and still have reasonable pastures.

I've talked about cell grazing before, and I just can't emphasise enough how it is the KEY management tool we use to retain moisture and improve pasture quality and quantity. Thus improving production of beef. It does take a bit to set up and costs a bit in the beginning, but is so worthwhile. We have doubled our carrying capacity by using this grazing management.

It only works though if you successfully match your stocking rate to carrying capacity, as well as get the rest period right. Grass needs time to recover after grazing - at least 30-60 days in the growing season and 90-120 days in the dry - it's based on the growth rate of the grass. So yes, you do need plenty of paddocks to manage this correctly.

Resource Consulting Services were who we went to for the education needed to undertake this change, but there are other consultants that do it.

Since planning this blog post, we have had some lovely rain - 100mm in the last three days. The beauty of managing our pastures means that rain like that will soak in. Grass helps the land absorb the rain, so there will be less run off. Although some run off will be great to fill our empty dams!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A morning walk

I can’t believe that it’s so long since I’ve updated the blog! I had good intentions, but my full time job didn’t finish, just turned into a part time one, but things are easing up now!

Yesterday we decided that I would take over the daily check of the pigs. It is a requirement in pig farming that a qualified person checks the pigs every day. We have some great backpackers at the moment – actually we’ve been very lucky to have had a run of great backpackers, but while they do a lot for us, technically they aren’t qualified persons!
Thirteen new born piglets - all looking very relaxed and happy.
....and goat babies too - she had twins - a brown boy and a creamy girl. The boy is hiding.
Now that the weather has warmed up and daylight is so much earlier, a stroll around the paddocks at 5.30 is just beautiful! It started out with sunshine, but then the fog moved in.
In fact the day started so beautiful and peaceful.....but then it just turned hectic!
After a fortifying (luckily) breakfast we went out to muster some cattle. Four hours later and with tempers flaring and not enough cattle in the yard we headed home. Reinforcements came in the form of a helicopter, so the job was then completed in a timely manner! I did get to have a good look around most of the property, which I haven’t done for ages – the grass is very good considering the lack of rain we’ve had. So my next post will be about pastures and rest.
The Bauhinia Tree when flowering, is one of the prettiest trees - covered in pinky white flowers.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Farm Talk

I have been asked to give a talk to School children - actually lots of them over the next three days. The Fitzroy Basin Association is holding a series of sessions for kids to learn about different types of farming. I think it'll be interesting because if we want to be able to buy Aussie Food, we need to have Aussie Farmers. And what better place to start than with kids - the farmers of tomorrow. They are also a blank slate and not influenced by generations of farmers that have done it one way. To feed the world, we need to use regenerative farming practices, and sadly there aren't too many farmers doing it that way. The modern farm uses practices that don't encourage regeneration of both native flora and fauna and our domestic animals and plants. I believe that we can look after both and hopefully will get that message across to the students (and their parents when they come along)

I'll be talking about the following topics and will expand on them over the coming weeks on this blog.

Our beliefs – they “why” we farm this way:

·         Wanted to save old rare breeds – intensive farming doesn’t suit these breeds so they are becoming very rare – we try to conserve our native animals, why not conserve farm animals too?

·         Ethical farming – animals being treated humanely – confined Vs free range

·         Healthy Food – healthy regenerative farming practices produce healthy, nutrient dense food.

·         Taking control of market forces

o   We can all make a difference by making different choices with regards to producing and purchasing food

o   We choose to direct sell our product – paddock to plate concept

·         Our farming and marketing style keep money in the local community – this keeps money circulating within the community – helps everyone

What we do and how we do it:

·         Daily check and feeding of pigs – each day starts with feeding pigs. Legislative requirements to check pigs each day

·         Weigh pigs each week for selling. Deliver to the abattoir each week. We supply some butchers, private delivery orders and sell at the markets

·         Wean every 2-3 weeks.


·         Outside fences are netting to keep out wild pigs and dingoes

·         Inside fencing is electric – 2 wires

·         Some portable water and shelters so that we can move from paddock to paddock when we move the pigs – we rotate the pigs to rest pastures

·         Compare ours to conventional – sterile environment, visitors (if allowed) need protective clothing, small packed pens, automatic feeding of antibiotics and other drugs


·         Kids are our future – kids have a perception that animals live happy lives on farms.

o   Advertisers target kids with colour etc – this is mostly false

·         Regenerative farming is the farming of the future – looking after the environment and the animals

·         More people needed as it’s more labour intensive – rural properties always looking for people

·         Might cost more, but pay now (for food) or pay later (for doctors)

·         Without Aussie farmers, we won’t have Aussie food

·         The kids today are the farmers of tomorrow – we can change - one kid at a time.

Monday, August 19, 2013

something finishes and something begins....

For the last four years I have had a full time job managing a local pastoral company. It's been pretty intense and very time consuming - challenging and rewarding at times! But, that is about to change - at the end of this week my job finishes. I will no longer be putting so much of my energy into an off farm enterprise and will be able to devote myself to our own farm and business full time. One of the reasons for working off farm is because our property is too small and not a liveable area.

We started breeding free range pigs as a way to make a better living off a small acreage. Our goal was for me to work until June 2014 because by then we thought that the business would be well enough established to replace my wage. Well this has happened a year sooner than planned, so now our goal is to just make it work!

I have not been keeping up with this blog mostly because my job was very demanding and the pig business used up any free time I had. Now I plan to use this blog to document the next phase in our life. I want other people to know the joys, the demands and the heartache that farmers face! Farmers work very hard to provide food and I want to be able to share with people just how valuable that food is by maybe giving an insight into a Farmers life.

I will be exploring the life of farmers (us mostly) who produce healthy nutritious food from paddock to plate. So I hope that you may follow this journey and learn to appreciate the true cost of what you feed yourself and your family. I will also be talking about food and how we grow and prepare real food - keep an eye on the recipe tab.
A vegie farmer at the Yeppoon Community Markets. If you live in the Yeppoon area, there are some great inexpensive vegies there every weekend!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Life on the farm

We had to do some cattle work the other week, so our lovely daughter, her friend and two nieces very kindly came out to give us a hand.

Most of the time these days, we do all our cattle work on the quad bikes - it's quicker and usually easier. The cattle are in cells, so they get used to the sound of the bike and come to the gate to move. Unfortunately, recently the cattle got spooked and busted through several fences and were scattered over many paddocks. We have been hearing dingoes every morning for the last couple of weeks, and we think that they must have stirred up the cattle. Dingoes don't usually kill older cattle, but will give them a fright!

Because the cattle were scattered, we decided that the best option would be to pull in the big guns and use horses. Working cattle with horses is more stress free and when they are a bit ratty it seems to calm them down more than a quad bike does.

It was a wet drizzly day, but we managed to get it accomplished. Thanks to our helpers.

PS I've posted some more farm photos on the photo page.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Natural Sequence Farming

We were supposed to host an afternoon at our place recently with Stuart Andrews and Gwyn Jones, to talk about what we might be able to do to apply some of the principles of a workshop series Kim has been doing "Applied Landscape Rehydration". The course has been designed by Peter Andrews and presented by his son and Gwyn. It would have been great to get some on the ground advice, however that was not to be......we had cattle problems and were tied up for most of the day! Our life has been very hectic on the farm lately, but it is frustrating when you get an opportunity like that and miss out!

We have done some courses on NSF and have seen some really good examples of it working. It's all about slowing up the flow of water, across the landscape and in the creeks and rivers. Click on this link to learn more about Peter Andrews and Tarwyn Park . One thing we seem to have had plenty of over the last couple of years of rain, but hanging onto it is the secret of rehydrating the landscape. We've done a lot here through cell grazing, and I think if you don't start with grazing management, it's not worth spending any money on doing anything else. We've got a couple of swales in. These are contour banks that are on the level and designed to slow down water as it moves across the land. These seem to work and there's certainly a lot more moisture below our swales. The water slows down and slowly seeps through the contour bank. Ours aren't quite NSF design, more permaculture design.

We really think that you need a mixture of land management principles in play to really make a difference and shouldn't get bogged down following one "ideal method".
  • cell grazing
  • permaculture
  • keyline
  • NSF
They all have a unique place - it's a matter of what suits best for a particular spot on your own land.

We had a wild storm the other night and this is what happened to my bananas.....all four trees that had bunches on got knocked over! The rain was a lovely top up for us though.

We did have a visit from some friends after the field day that was on a neighbours place. They had a look around our pigs and commented on how happy and healthy they look. We are trying to emulate the idea of cell grazing with the pigs as well, so it's reassuring when others can see that what we are doing is working. The only problem with pigs is that they are a little harder on the land and therefore it needs longer rest time.

Rest is the key to good grazing management and it doesn't matter if it's cows, pigs, goats, sheep or chickens. The land needs adequate rest time before grazing again - you need to look after the pastures that you want to keep.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Return from Joel Salatin

Joel Salatin is well known amongst healthy food and healthy farming circles. He's been a crusader for the grass fed meat industry in America. His family own and operate a business called Polyface Farm. Polyface Farm - the farm of many faces, is about growing and direct marketing pasture raised animals. It's about healthy farming and grazing practices and not only using all the land, but layering enterprises so you use more than you would with only one enterprise. This concept means that more people can be supported by the farm than would otherwise happen on a conventional farm. It means that farming is a worthwhile occupation for the kids to come home to!

He has built the health of his farm over many years, from a very degraded block of dirt through the use of animals. He believes that animals are an important link in rebuilding soil and regenerating degraded land. He and his family and other associates, grow and sell beef, pork, chicken, rabbits, eggs and vegetables. These are all integrated, with some enterprises using the same bit of ground, but at different times. For example, he calls his egg laying chickens his hygene and sanitation committee. They follow after the cows to scratch the manure around and eat any bugs, flies and parasites. These paddocks are then rested so that any that get missed don't find another host.

Joel has taken cell grazing to another level. He calls it Rational Grazing because the cows get one days ration each day - they are moved every day.  We have set paddocks and move the cattle depending on their mob size and the size of the paddock. Polyface work out how much the mob will eat in the day and then put a temporary electric fence up.

Farms need people and that to keep farming families on the farm, we need to create salaries for the family coming on. The idea is to add another enterprise to provide another income. So what are our layers going to be when I give up my full time job? I need to find my own income. We'll be looking at that to see what might suit best - maybe eggs or ducks, or fruit trees or nut trees. Maybe beef direct marketed along with the pork - or lamb (that's my favourite!)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Joel Salatin

I'm starting to get excited! Kim and I are heading to Gaton tomorrow to go to a Joel Salatin workshop. Joel is a farmer from the US (Polyface Farms) who has developed a way of farming and making a living off small acreages. He's a lot more than that, so if you don't know who/what about him, you will find him here. We went to one of his workshops a couple of years ago and he's very invigorating - an odd word, but he just gets you excited about farming the right way.

He has pigs, cattle and chickens (and rabbits, but we can't do them here in Queensland). He markets these as meat products, so it's a whole paddock to plate enterprise. We are looking forward to getting some tips in improving what we are doing.  It's difficult to make a living off a small area, so by producing the end product it makes us more viable, as well as providing healthier food for people!

Will hopefully report back on it when I get home!

This is something that court my eye on his website.....

"EARTHWORMS: We’re really in the earthworm enhancement business. Stimulating soil biota is our first priority. Soil health creates healthy food"

I couldn't agree more.......

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Why we farm

I had one of those phone surveys today - I only responded because she said it was about our local area. It ended up being about a new mine proposed for Springsure area, which isn't too far away.

Before I knew this, she asked me what were important issues to me. One was that the Mining sector seems to have total disregard for agriculture and the value of the land that they destroy. So it was interesting that it ended up being about mining. I know that mines bring jobs and revenue to an area, but I can speak from authority, as I have a coal mine about two kilometres from our house....they don't really do a lot for a community. Yes there are jobs for some locals, which is good but brings up another issue I have, which was my second concern, that we as food producers cop ever increasing costs of production, without a corresponding increase in price received. To me, it appears that the mining jobs subdise food production. Just about everyone on properties in our area, has a job in the mine. They work so that they can continue to farm! Without the support of outside income (and that includes me, because I work off farm) most farmers in Australia would not be able to continue to produce food.

In America, the government pays subsidies to their farmers to assist them, over here, we have to work off farm to subsidise the farm. So next time you go to Colesworth to do the shopping, please consider our Farmers before you buy the $1/L milk or $1/kg vegetable! This sort of thing just puts another nail in the coffin of Aussie Farmers. We need support from the Townies to keep us going - buy our food and be prepared to pay for Good Quality Food. Cheap imports will only be around while we have an Agriculture industry. Once our farmers are finished, the cheap imports won't be so cheap!

Sorry, I went on a bit of a rant there, but it really does bug me when I see people I know that only want to be farmers and they have to work off farm so that they can stay farming. But, we all continue to farm, because we love farming!

This is part of the latest Slow Food Newsletter - I thought it was interesting.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Is a Thermomix really that good?

I've known a few people that have had a thermomix and they go on about how good they are and I think "can they really be that good?" I wondered whether they were justifying in their own minds the expenditure. And they are very expensive! Well, so far, I'm a convert! It is an amazing machine. I haven't been too adventurous yet, but am slowly working my way throught the recipe book that came with it. As well as converting some of my own! I really like the fact that it makes cooking from scratch a lot easier - it makes "slow food" fast food! Some of the things I've done and like:

  • Mashed potatoes - cooked in milk and then mashed so smooth and creamy. You can cook them while the greens get steamed above it, but I'm still trying to work out how to get the greens to actually cook, instead of just heat up - any tips are welcome!
  • Flourless chocolate cake is YUM - grinding the almonds to a meal first means not having to buy ground almonds - that would have to save money surely!
  • Butter - making fresh butter from cream is simple - not sure whether it's better butter than in my standing mixer, but a lot easier and less messy! Having my own cream to make butter makes it even better!
  • Jam - I've made a few small batches, which is a great way to make use of fruit when it's in season and cheap - a great way to make organic jam.
  • Relishs - once again it's easy to make a small batch.
  • Palm sugar syrup - I love this - it's a great inexpensive alternative to Maple syrup. I use the method from here http://yummysupper.blogspot.com.au/2011/01/palm-sugar-sypup.html (sorry don't know how to do fancy widget things!!) Grating the palm sugar blocks is simple in the thermomix - then add the water and cook - all in the Thermomix.
  • Grinding wheat to make bread - it would be a pain to do everytime, but it's really nice - I was lucky enough to get given some chemical free wheat by a local a couple of years ago and it's been in my freezer waiting for me to buy a grain mill!
  • Smoothies, slushies, quick frozen mango and yoghurt icecream
  • Grating cheese, chocolate, citrus rind
  • Cakes, biscuits etc!
  • Cooking rice
  • Polenta - it makes it so easy!
  • Custard, mayonaise, icecream.......
  • I've also been told that you only need to buy whole spices, as you can grind and toast them in it! Will get around to that one!
It really is a most versatile machine and if anyone wants to add some things to do, that would be great. And yes, it really is THAT good!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

What's in my garden

We are flooded in once again, although we can get out to Emerald or Blackwater for groceries if we need to. I couldn't be bothered - well that is until we run out of coffee! I decided that I should take stock of what we have and what's in the garden. My garden efforts have been pathetic! It has been so hot for the last couple of months that most plants just die! Also, we have turkey's and we can't seem to keep them out of the house yard - it was the only green place, so you can't blame them. Anyway, my garden is quite overgrown - I think that the grass helps to keep the plants that are hidden in there somewhere some shade. Also by keeping green plants, even if it is grass, we are building carbon. Also, we have a grass here called green panic and I think it makes quite a good companion plant. It doesn't seem to compete for moisture like other grasses.
The grass is green panic, but there is a passionfruit vine along the tank, some turmeric and ginger, strawberries in there somewhere and then bananas at the back - two bunches on. I have started digging, but it will take a while.
Cassava - we had some chips last night and I'm roasting some with my roast pork tonight. I only use the roots - can you use the leaves as a vegetable? Hiding behind the casava is eggplant (loaded), then I have comfrey, brazilian spinach, some herbs and then there is a capsicum/chilli.

I bought the above plant at a street stall - supposedly a capsicum, but it does have a slight bite. It's only about 2 cm long. Has anyone ever seen these? I really like them and will try and keep some seeds, but am not sure whether they will grow true to type.

I also have some beans - the ones that survived the turkey scratching and a guada bean. I like this one, because they ensure that we have plenty of greens for a while!

And finally I have some pumpkin vines growing - it has been way to hot for them, so hopefully they will grow and won't get overtaken by the grass!

So we won't starve, even though my garden isn't real flash! We do however, have plenty of milk for yoghurt, fetta cheese, butter, cream, as well as meat - fish (we swap for meat), beef, goat, pork, duck and chicken - the latter are all home grown!

I do love being "almost self-sufficient".

Friday, January 25, 2013

It's Raining, It's Pouring......

Wow, we've had some rain. It started about midnight Wednesday night and now at midday Friday, we've had over 225mm (9 inches). Everything is very wet and we'll be quite happy if it lets up a bit. Our property is isolated from town in all directions. I've taken some photos this morning, and will put more on the photo page.

This country was brown and the grass all burnt off before the rain - it's greening up already. I think it helps that we have had this paddock resting - the grass just recovers instantly.

This is our new dam - it was only built a few months ago. One thing you don't want when you build a new dam, is to get ALOT of rain in one go. This dam, also didn't have a high enough bank. It should bywash before getting this close to the top of the wall. The next photo shows what happens........
when you get too much water to quick. We saw this happen - the water was gone in seconds! The ideal situation would be to get some small falls of rain, so that the water flows into the dam gently and the dam wall has time to firm up before getting storm rain. We haven't had much rain at all since it's been built!

Saturday, January 19, 2013


I got a bit carried away over the Christmas period and bought a lot of fruit. We didn't really have enough people here to eat it all so I decided that I either preserve it some how or wait until it goes off and compost it! I was VERY fortunate to get a Thermomix from my fantastic family (it will be my Christmas and birthday present for the next 5 years!!!) Anyway, so what have I done.......

Pineapples - we've been buying some lovely little rough leaf pines for a while now - grown locally at Yeppoon and to me, they are the best pineapples you can get. They are sweet and juicy and I've never seen them in the shop for as long as they have been this year (well last year really!). I had about 8 that I didn't think would last much longer, so I got the Fowlers Vacolla gear out. I made a sugar syrup and managed to fill 4 jars with chopped pinapple and because I had enough syrup and jars, I did one with sliced mango. I didn't cook the fruit at all, just sliced it and put it into the jars and then poured the hot syrup over. Into the pot and boiled for about 20 minutes. The jars all appear to have sealed well and they look really pretty!

I had some strawberries in the freezer - these were homegrown and just the odd shaped ones that no one wanted to eat. I only had 250g so had put off doing anything with them - I had planned on making jam, but it was a bit of a pain for such a small amount. Not when you have a thermomix though! I just put in the fruit and sugar, set the temperature, time and speed and went and did other things while it cooked. I only got about 1/2 a jar, but it was easy and so yummy - especially on fresh homemade bread with my own fresh raw cream!!!

Then because I had left over plums and cherries that were getting passed their useby, it was straight into the thermomix - this time I got two jars of jam - it's also good with bread and cream!

Mangoes - we had some common mangoes (these are the stringy ones, but tasty). The last couple of years I've slice and dried them, but this year I've just frozen them. I sliced them and spread on trays in the freezer, and then just bagged them. This way you can just take out what you want for a smoothie or icecream....or frozen mango/vodka slushies, which we had over Christmas! Recently it was frozen mango, cream, yoghurt and egg yolk, whipped together and then put into the icecream maker....YUM. We also made a huge batch of mango chutney - very good with roast pork on sandwiches.

Bananas - we had another bunch recently and in this heat they all seemed to ripen at once, so they too have gone into the freezer - just freeze as they are, skin on. For smoothies or banana cake, just need to defrost enough so that they can be peeled easily.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Spontaneous Dinner Party

I recently made a short notice trip to visit my brother and his wife. Got there just in time for drinks on the front lawn - very civilised when you visit people on holidays! Another brother turned up with his partner for dinner so it was a nice treat. It was made even better when we started eating and so much of the food was homegown, homemade or local.

One of my sons had given me some red claw to take with me. This had been previously wild caught and frozen. My brother who also turned up for a visit brought some home made cheese - he's been on holidays and has been busy working his way through his cheese making book.

So with a bountiful garden and home preserves, cooking up a feast is not difficult when you get unexpected guests.

We started out with cheese and home grown/home preserved pickles - cucumbers and baby corn. I was really taken with the corn (and we did include some not so local salami and crackers!). The entree featured the red claw, cooked in a chilli sauce, served with a squeeze of lime! They were delicious, and the only problem being that there weren't enough!

Main course was my nephews job and was a really nice Chicken Bake - including freshly picked pumpkin and herbs.

Desert was a great finish with some local mango frozen yoghurt.

I always get excited when I eat food that is local and fresh. It really does taste better. I think that it's easy to cook good food with good ingredients. It's impossible to cook good food with bad ingredients. Therefore the fresher the ingredients, the more likely that they will be good! I just wish I had taken some photos, as my family are all really good cooks! And we all love our food!