The joys of homesteading

I don’t know if we have simply been inspired by the TV show River Cottage, or because it’s Christmas and Craig has some time away from his desk, the beautiful summer weather or all of the above, but we are really enjoying ourselves the last few days and been really really busy.

Christmas day started with us cooking breakfast for 55 people! All in the common house of Earthsong. It was wonderful and a great way to stop from feeling homesick. There were croissants with filings including homemade preserves, ham, cheese, tomato, avocado, pineapple, strawberries and cream and waffles. Orange juice, bubbly, tea or coffee to wash it all down with and wonderful company. It was an absolute delight, everyone seemed well feed and happy and the compliments and words of thanks were greatly received. We then followed it up with a very small pot-luck lunch, very laid back and quiet.

At the end of the day I was left with the remainders of a half-leg of ham, 10 “chips” of strawberries and a big bowl of sliced tomatoes. Craig and I did our best with the ham yesterday and this morning, and then this afternoon I turned the remainder into a big pot of yummy pea & ham soup served with a zucchini bread (or cake, it was pretty sweet, next time I serve it as bread I’ll put a lot less sugar in it, but with all that sugar it would be a delicious dessert with yogurt).

  After leaving the ham & split peas to soak for 4 hours I turned the bowl of sliced tomatoes into soup, I added vegetable stock, 2 baked potatoes, thyme and bay leaves, cooked it all up and then put it through the blender. It tastes amazing and I’m so looking forward to having it tomorrow with some more of the zucchini bread for lunch.

While I was busy in the kitchen, Craig was out side trying out our new auger (you stick one end in the ground and then turn the big handle to dig holes for posts). He managed to dig enough holes and embed posts into them ready to make our new garden fencing (to keep the poultry out).

I forgot to mention that prior to this activity we started our morning off by making breakfast, feeding the animals and watering the glass house, followed by a plum picking expedition. We have a wonderful mound of plums.

Tomorrow morning I have another busy cooking day scheduled with a long list of things to preserves and piles of yummy fresh food from the garden.

I’ll be turning the left over strawberries into more strawberry jam, the plums into jam, sauce and some sort of chutney, then there is the bean chutney and the zucchini pickles, not to mention the guests we have coming for dinner, the probable beheading of a chicken for the pot, oh and I would also like to do some sort of lactic fermentation of at least 1 cabbage. I think I’ll let Craig see to the feeding and watering of animals and plants tomorrow.

Now if that wasn’t enough activity for you, we also squeezed in a visit to a very cool kitchen shop called Milly’s Kitchen and spent a bucket load of money on new preserving jars (we already ran out of supplies with the last lot of preserving we did). This shop is full of wonderful kitchen goodies and I was in total heaven! I so need to find away to justify the sexy-as $300 copper jam pot… So shop visit, home, cooking, more holes & posts, dinner, a few minutes of archery practice (it’s been over a year since I’ve picked up my bow, and man do I suck, lol). Wondering around the gardens investigating the plants (yes the zucchini plants definitely have “rust” and some of the greenhouse tomatoes have blight), lots more plant maintenance was listed, noted and dealings with to come *sigh*. Now Craig is off in his workshed working on his workbench (I think?).

Sprocket has also been very active today too, it’s so bizarre to feel these little movements and huge reminder that I’m not alone in this body any more- how freaky does that sound!

In other news, in an attempt to protect our surprise second clutch of ducklings from the hungry Harrier Hawks, I built a dome for them.

 The dome consists of  12 meters of flexible pipe, 4 T connectors and some bird netting. Inside we’ve placed a shell pond for them to paddle away in with a little bridge to get in and out of the water. Mum and ducklings have been living in the dome for about a week now and seem pretty happy. The other poultry come and visit them throughout the day so we may actually get a good clutch surviving this time round.

It’s so nice to see so much happening around the home lately. Their are 2 types of onions hanging (brown and red), plus three bunches of bananas,  I’ve been feeling so great about cooking up a storm in the kitchen, to the point that I made a zucchini soufflé for the first time ever after just watching an episode of River Cottage a few days ago. It felt so decedent to sit down to a souffle for breakfast, made from the fruits of our own garden. I’m so hanging out for next weeks mail, I have starter cheese making kit arriving with all the necessary bits and pieces to make fetta and/or cottage cheese. 

I hope that the joys of our harvest continue to inspire and excite us in the future and never become hum-drum or “work”.

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What’s happening on the farm

I finally got some better photos of our lovely animals.

And yesterday Buffie discovered where the geese are laying their eggs and we took about 8 eggs from one of the two nests. It made a lovely japanese style omelette to go with our dinner last night. The eggs are HUGE by the way, about the size of 3 or 4 large chicken eggs at least. They don’t seem to have the greasy feel of duck eggs which I’m very glad about. We still aren’t sure exactly what breed of geese they are so if anyone has some idea please let me know.

We are now thinking of getting in a drake and a gander so that we can start breeding up the birds for dinner.

We are also still working on what breed of chickens, roosters and ducks we have. We think the ducks might be pekin ducks. What ever they are I think they are lovely. I’m pretty certain that at least 3 of our chickens are brown shavers. I want to get some dog houses for the ducks and geese to lay their eggs in so that it’s easier for us to find them and hopefully when we get in the boys it will be nice and cozy for the babies we hope to get.

I’ve finished clearing out another of the overgrown raised beds and planted it with potatoes, Craig has made a start on another one and Buffie has been collecting load after load of horse poo and piling it nicely around the fruit trees as well as clearing back kaikua that has started to straggle a lot of the trees.

The greenhouse is certainly working out wonderfully (and was the only warm and dry place out in the gardens for most of the day yesterday). I’ve gotten in a few bags of compost, garden mix and sand to mix up my own seed raising mix. I’ve followed Kay Baxter’s advice and I’ve combined equal parts of dirt, compost and sand (one day I dream of the dirt and compost coming from our own gardens, but right now we have mud and a stunning looking compost pile that is at least 6 months away from cooked). This combo is in one container and into another I’ve started to sieve the mix. It’s a long process, especially because the bags of soil and compost were a little damp, but the end result is a lovely fine mix that I’m really happy with. So far I have the following seeds/seedlings growing:

  • Cannelloni beans (now seedlings just about ready to plant)
  • Borlotti beans (just sewn)
  • Slenderette beans (just sewn)
  • Chinese cabbage (seedlings that I’ve now thinned out into containers for friends, they are all ready to be planted now I think)
  • Rocket (yummy and ready to be planted out into the garden, I’ve also thinned them for friends)
  • Another lettuce (Silvia or Silvide?)
  • Mixed Basil (thai, cinnamon, lemon and purple)
  • Broccoli (just sewn)
I’m thinking I’ll sew the carrot seeds into the bed Craig is preparing and see how they go. We’ve decided to plant out a lot of these things into the “perennials” bed this season, the land is just so wet and the rain isn’t looking like easing any time soon so we just can’t do anything towards the main plots for at least a few more months. It is nice to see a little progress happening, even if it is slowly.