Monday, 27 January 2014

Simple Living Sunday 14

We managed to salvage another watermelon this week, so our vine only produced two but its better than we have done any other year. If there had been more rainfall we would have had more. I think this will be the final patty pan squash too. I am amazed the squash have still been producing. This one will make a lovely chutney tomorrow...and the cherry tomatoes will be made into relish Cherry Tomato Relish.

This is the yoghurt I started last Sunday. It sat on the bench all day, wrapped in tea towels and then I put it in the oven (warmed and then switched off) overnight. This was made from skim milk and filled three pasta sauce jars using Rhonda's recipe from Down to Earth - yoghurt.

I was so impressed with the result and will never buy yoghurt again. It was so easy to make and is beautiful and thick and creamy. Over a kilo of yoghurt cost about $3. I have been experimenting with flavouring and sweeteners for the kids. I like it plain on fruit but I add a little grated palm sugar for the kids.

We finally have a few mature pumpkins, despite the heat and lack of water here. This one is now the size of a large has tripled its size in a week.

The passionfruit around the gumtree garden is getting really leafy again so it looks like we will have another bumper year of passionfruit.

This is our main source of water at the moment...our bore. The pump has just been in for a service and is running well but there may not be copious amounts of underground water because we are not pumping what we used to...hope we get some rain soon. This time last year we were cursing the rain :)

I am still getting a few tomatoes. They are the only thing I am watering besides the pumpkins now.

The ponytail palm has come back after the floods and frost and is looking really healthy.

I made more tomato relish with the cherry tomatoes...more lined up to make today.

I cleaned out and decluttered the pantry. It's great when you can see everything that is there. My preserves are still in hibernation from the heat.

I finally put together a home journal, collating all the recipes I had printed, gardening articles, preserves information, household cleaners etc. I also incorporated some handy planning lists from the Simple Living Forum. I downloaded the 2013 home journal - not sure if there is a 2014 one yet.

I chose to collate it all into a binder, for ease of use. I think I will start a separate one for gardening.

Paul brought home some figs that were a little soft for preserving whole so I made my very first jam - fig jam! I am not a big fan of jam but Paul loves it. It was just the figs, honey, sugar, lemon and a spoonful of pectin. Easy peasy!

So there you have my weekly wrap up. Today I will be using the public holiday to cook ahead for the kids meals for the week...and to pack my suitcase of course! Tomorrow we set sail for the Whitsundays for four nights...just my wonderful husband and I. Bliss.

What has been going on at your place this week?

Friday, 24 January 2014

More of Tandur farm

When I first started my blog in September last year, I included a tab My Farmwhich tells you a little bit about my farm and why we choose to stay here. I had not read that segment for several months and I realised that I had told you about the old fish farm on our property, but I have never really shown it to you. It is overgrown but we will work on getting it cleared in the cooler months...because there are hidden treasures up there just waiting to be re-discovered and put to use.

We have a large dam with low water levels at the moment that I hope to cover in lilypads. This dam was a source of water for the aquaponic set up. These photos were taken last weekend when it was extremely hot and so very dry.

We have a few stray craypots and nets because there are Redclaw Crayfish growing in our dam and the kids like to catch them...and put them back. They are a delicacy to eat and served in local restaurants, but we just like them in the dam.

There are several old greenhouses like this with solid ends and doors, and frames down the middle...but they don't have shadecloth, and didn't when we moved here. It would be expensive to cover them but you never know, we may come across some second hand materials one day.

These large trays were used in the filter systems before the water was recycled back into the fish tanks. They have a spongy cloth in each level...I thought I could recycle them into seedling trays.

There are hundreds of old plastic pots and other useful metal framework which could be made into shelves or benches for plants.

This large tank still has many large goldfish swimming about...and a great supply of 'seaweed'. I haven't tried using it on the garden yet although I imagine it would be full of nutrients...and the water would probably make great liquid fertiliser.

There are useful powered sheds like this one, which used to house guppy tanks. You can see old electrical filters on the benches. I would like to store all my bulk potting mixes and garden supplies in here one day.

Another old fish tank with a shed to keep the sun out. This would make a good raised bed if we allowed for drainage underneath...or a water saving garden with gravel in the bottom as there is a pipe on the other side for drainage. So many ideas.

The jewels in the crown of the fish farm are the hothouses that run down the dam side of the farm. Fish were moved into here during the cold months and baby guppies were bred in the heat.

I believe they also used to grow vegetables in them, which I would like to have a stab at (of course) - I think they would bake in summer though so it may be a good winter garden.

This is a view of the fish farm from the main paddock. You can see how high it has been built up. A perfect location for a small retirement home one day maybe? High and dry at least :)

This is the view from the driveway showing a shed we converted into a chook pen. It wasn't a great success as something ended up taking our chooks, so if we use this again it will need some work...and some clearing of trees.

So, there you have it...a few long term goals and a large project to tackle. We need to address water supply and pumps, power, and clearing of vegetation, but it is not impossible and we need to have some projects to work on in husband probably wouldn't agree, I can hear him groaning as I write this :)

Do you have some really large projects at your place that keep getting put off?

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Fifteen is Freaking Me Out

My twin boys turn 15 on Saturday and it is freaking me out. Not because it makes me feel old that my babies are definitely no longer babies (although that does freak me out too). No, what freaks me out is the whole hormones and girls thing. You see they both have new girlfriends, which is fine, but it is no longer the holding hands, hang out with your mate (who happens to be female) type of girlfriends anymore.

No, they are full on in love and images like these are popping up on my Facebook feed all the time. They are already out there for the world to see, so I don't mind sharing them here...but I must admit it feels really weird seeing photos of your boys kissing girls. It's really wrong of me but I know I didn't feel like this when the same thing happened to my daughter Lauren, also at the age of 15. And why didn't I? It shouldn't make any difference whether it's my son or daughter should it?

Lauren even created an art series based on her love for Jacko, whom she grew up with from the age of 15 to 18. I was actually really happy when she started dating because Jacko grounded her, curbed her wild streak and ended the semi-emo look thing she had been toying with at high school. He was a blessing, and when it came time for their relationship to go to the next step (which took a couple of years thank god), that, then we talked about it first and ensured she was on the pill.

With boys I think it is way more least it is for me, because I can't control it. I can't ensure the girlfriend is on the pill, I can't tell her to wait until she is older. I can have the conversation with my boys, which don't worry we already have, and phew they are not anywhere near that stage yet, but one day it's going to happen and I just hope when it does, that some angry Mum or Dad doesn't come knocking on my door with a shotgun.

I miss the cheeky little monkeys they were, and am freaked out that my boys are becoming mini men, especially when I recall being fifteen myself. Was I a great kid, never lying to my parents, always behaving, never stepping out of line? Hell no! My first boyfriend at 15 was a high school dropout who hung around at the pinball parlour all day, was on the dole and rode a my Dad was so unimpressed when I brought him home!

So, I have met both the girlfriends and they seem really nice, and on Saturday when the boys turn fifteen, they will be welcomed into my home...and I have a strong feeling it will be the start of a new era or phase for our household. With Lauren's boyfriend staying most weekends as he visits from Brisbane, and the boys hanging with their girls (daytime only haha) there will never be a dull moment.

Have you had issues with your kids turning fifteen or dating for the first time?

Monday, 20 January 2014

How to make Ricotta Cheese from Whey

This was an easy cheese to make and needs to be made while the whey is less than three hours old to get the best results. This recipe is from the booklet included in my Cheese Making Kit that I got from Green Living Australia. For those who missed my post last week, the whey is leftover from the Cottage Cheese I made. So you actually get to make two cheeses from one source of milk. Pretty clever science that I reckon.


3 Litres of Whey
400ml full cream milk
1/8 cup cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon cheese salt


Large Pot
Cheese thermometer
Stainless Steel slotted spoon
Stainless steel ladle
Stainless steel colander
Tight Weave cheese making cloth

Step 1:
Combine your whey and milk in the pot and heat (directly on stove) to 93 degrees C.

Step 2:
Remove from heat, add vinegar and stir. The curds will rise to the top.

Step 3:
Gently ladle the curds into the cheesecloth lined colander and drain.

Step 4:
Use the corners of the cloth to make a bag and hang the curd to drain for several hours. I used a rolling pin and suspended the cloth over the saucepan.

Step 5:
Turn the cheese out into a bowl and add salt to taste. You can also add herbs at this point too, which I would do next time. This is the finished result. Looks a funny colour in this photo and is drier than I am used to but tastes like Ricotta. I would not drain it for a few hours next time, maybe half an hour so it is still creamy. This weighs just under 300 grams, so a great result from the leftover whey.

And now I still have the whey left over from this process, just under the three litres I started with. As vinegar was added to make the ricotta, it is now acidic whey which apparently limits its use in sweet dishes. I will follow up this post with some other ideas of what to use the whey for. It is a fascinating process and one thing certainly leads to another in cheese making.

My next cheese making endeavour will be a Feta cheese, and now that I have my cheese cave I can start preparing to make cheddars and colby cheeses. I also found a great tutorial for haloumi that would be awesome. I can see that I will need to learn to make low fat cheese soon...I can already feel the calories coming :)

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Simple Living Sunday 13

Every week when I sit down to put this post together, I love the fact that I am recording my journey for posterity and for my future reference. When I want to know what I was doing in the house and garden in September 2013 I know there will be a permanent record of where it all started. Hence, this weekly round up is always my favourite post. I still managed to harvest a few things this week. The green tomatoes I will experiment with later today.

I did a little shop at the Asian grocers earlier this week. Panko breadcrumbs (1/3 of the price you pay at Coles), Cinnamon sticks, palm sugar, indian spice kit and two interesting vegetables...bitter melon and water spinach. $12 for the lot - bargain.

The bitter melon is a funny looking thing and you need to salt it for a while before cooking. It adds a tangy zing to a stir fry and is particularly good with pork apparently.

I sliced it lengthways, scooped the centre out and sliced it for our prawn stir fry. It certainly added to the flavour of the dish and I have saved the seeds to see if I can grow it.

The lady at the grocers said to put some water spinach in a glass of water to shoot. I particularly love this vegetable. It was lovely in the stir fry, just a nice light spinach.

It has started to sprout nicely. Now I am not sure whether to plant it or grow it in water. Will need to research this one :)

Another baby Lebanese melon is on its way. I have been pollinating but it is hit and miss whether something grows or not.

And my favourite Patty Pan squash is still producing.

But sadly the rockmelons did not recover. Will need to learn more about growing them before next years season.

I am very happy with the pumpkins...I counted over a dozen of these today. This one is about the size of an orange.

The female flowers that seemed to take forever to bloom are now everywhere. And I have seen a few bees.

This poor tomato plant has given up the ghost so I have picked the green tomatoes to make a jam or pickle.

A nice grosse lisse, actually two stuck together. Only small though.

Plenty of hibiscus to make tea.

More compost lasagne from the bokashi bin.

And the compost will come in handy for replanting in March.

Found this guy when we took the bins up. Thankfully he is dead. Red-belly blacks are venomous.

I cleared out the other half of the preserving drawer... I can sit my clean, lidded jars in it. Everything I need to do my preserving in one spot.

I checked and labelled all of the jars...26 in total, and adding to it every week :)

Yesterday I made mango chutney and today I made Spiced beetroot and Orange Chutney.

I also started a yoghurt culture which should be ready tomorrow morning. If its a success I will do a post on yoghurt making.

The whey lemonade turned out beautifully. very tangy and with its own fizz. Full of probiotics...and no colours or preservatives. Perfect!

I cleared out a cupboard for all of my cheese making equipment. I am keen to get started on the harder cheeses but need to wait for the weather to cool a little. But I found a cheese making bargain...

My very own cheese cave!! It is a wine fridge I picked up for $50. These are great because you can regulate the temperature and keep it constant, plus the glass door means you can read the temp and humidity without opening the door...once I get my thermal hygrometer that is! It is basically a digital temperature gauge that also measures humidity. So, I am on my way with the cheese making enterprise.

I hope you have all had a lovely weekend. It is just over a week now until we go on our cruise. How exciting!

Do you have any exciting this coming up this year?

The Multitasking Mummy
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