Tuesday, 31 July 2012

TInny hunt continues this evening

Well the search for a tinny continues, but I'm rather excited by this evenings viewing. Fingers crossed it’s on good nick, unlike most of those we’ve seen so far. Especially since it will be a 250km round trip to see it... am not sure about the name either.

The idea that I am searching for a smaller boat is probably more amusing when you consider I suffer from seasickness. Not so much on larger vessels, but smaller crafts and/or rough seas and in Matt's words I'm a "gone-a".

Now don't get me wrong this is not a flash new boat, the hull is nearly ass old as me, though the trailer and the motor are quite a bit younger. But this fulfils a promise I made to Matt when we bought this place. I said we'd (hopefully) be able to buy a (reasonably priced) tinny by the end of this year to compensate for his loss. As a tinny would be more practical than a bigger vessel; such as the one we sold to buy this place. 
Our cuddy-cab (we sold last year)

One of the appeals of living in North Queensland is the barrier reef and the amazing fish varieties and clear waters. So not surprisingly the Mackay Region has one of the largest boat ownership rates per capita in Australia. And was one of our more "extravagant purchases" since living here. Not in that it was pricey or flash and as I have pointed out around here it's not really "extravagant", as everyman and his dog has one (of some size or description)... it's part of the lifestyle. I guess it's just extravagant in that it's not a necessity. I guess before moving here I would never have thought of owning a boat, or of myself as fisherman but now I think I would find one anywhere. Just for the experiences, let alone the freshest, free food!
Trip to Carlisle/Brampton Island
Our previous boat was a 20 year old cuddy cab, but she was neat and served us well; enjoying many sunny days on the sea, fishing, snorkelling etc. Even with my seasickness; which I wasn't aware I suffered from until we bought her.  But Matt made the ultimate sacrifice to buy this place. So this is something I have aimed to repay.
Previous-prawn hall
Now a tinny by definition is not a cuddy cab, but a boat like the old one would not be as practical where we are. Here there are amazing creeks and small boat ramps, perfect for a smaller craft and for fishing, prawning and crabbing.  Not that crabbing has been something we have had a great deal of success with in the past- most we had ever caught was a six pack of beer! Most would have been happy with that, but it was Gold and it would have been our first catch- am guessing it was worth while too, since they left anything at all!

Previous catch

Previous catch

Will let you know how tonight’s viewing goes...fingers crossed we'll be on the water soon. 

Piggy reprieve, patience required

Well I spoke with Sheree from Mackay Free Range Pigs Friday last week. http://www.mackayfreerangepigs.com.au/
As I had sent both herself and Christine from Berkshire Gold an email hoping for some advise. As our pigs are 13 months old now and there is no signs of any action and Matt has began asking the questions "what do we do with them?" I suggested having a vet to examine both Smokey and Streaky to ensure their both in good health and productive working order. However I've been told the vets here have little to no experience with pigs. So thought Sheree and Christine would be my best form of advise (as they were the breeders we bout them from) and Smoke and Streaky's best chance.

I explained to Sheree that I believed Streaky to have been in season in mid May. As she smelled different to me, and on eventually inspecting her back end (poor girl has
 no privacy).
So if you’re interested in what to look for in a guilt/sow on heat- they appear swollen and sometimes slightly red. The boar was also very interested in that area (also a good sign).
Since May we have seen no signs of her being in heat, however I haven’t noticed any differences in her if she were in-pig. Or of any action between the two of them- Though I have been told pigs are private animals.

But Sheree did explain that a few of her girls showed no or only minor signs, especially on their first litters- as there were only a few piglets, so it was difficult to tell. She did explain how their teats will enlarge (ready for milk) about a week before birthing. So to just be patient, and wait and see.

So for now our (hopefully) breeding pair have a reprieve.  I just do not want to get my hopes up too much, but must admit it is hard not too… so fingers crossed.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Henny-penny's egg is 1st to hatch

<p>We've been incubating Rhode island red x's for friends and to make up and even 2dozen they threw in an egg from their resident house chook miss jenny penny a cheeky and bossy leghorn bantam. She rules the roost and even sits at the table in their sun room... so guess who's egg hatched 1st! And just a demanding as her man she's been chirping ever since. Let's hope the rest hatch out as healthy.

Monday, 23 July 2012

"Quiet Weekend"

I started writing last night and decided that I shouldn’t blog about a whole weekend on Sunday night/ Monday morning. Because what may have been a “quiet weekend”, means that we spent much of the weekend getting stuff done around the place and I have now realised there is quite a bit to say.

Friday was my RDO (Rostered Day Off), I love this concept- work and extra 45 minutes a day and get every other Friday off… would probably struggle to go back to working 5 days every week. We usually get so much done on these long weekends. This week I had no errands or appointments there was plenty to be getting on with. Especially when the last of the fruit trees I had ordered (Ebay: Rockies Nursery) arrived in the post.
It was like Christmas, I had hoped they would arrive, as the other had come earlier in the week and as they were “dry root” had been soaking in water since Thursday evening. These were delivered in perfect condition, in individually sealed bags- rootsm, soil the works. So Friday involved the finally planting plan and preparation and digging. In total I planted around 40 trees

The previous owners had planted a few palms at the front, a few unsuccessful evergreens at the back and a few citrus trees (2 dwarf orange, a lemon and a lime). In addition we had planted a lemon tree (for Griff) last year and a dwarf mango, which was a house warming gift, but had always planned to expand this. With the intentions to move the tanks and our visit from the local land care we decided more screening on the roadside would be nice. Particularly along the pig pen, as this could provide more shade. As well as expanding the “mini orchid” surrounding the Enviro tank- a soak away from recycled water. But we decided that if we planted there had to be a purpose, a benefit- shade, wind break, scent, FRUIT! Think this is what they call edible landscaping.

 So to add to the native varieties sourced from the Landcare- unfortunately some of these (35 originally) had not weathered too well in their tubes on the patio. This may or may not have had something to do with Madog’s insistence on marking them! I had ordered 5 Lychees, 3 Carob (yes the dog chocolate stuff), 2 Cumquat (which turned out to be 3- thanks Rockies Nursery), 2 Brazilian cherries, 2 Passion fruit, a Pomegranate, a Mulberry, a Macadamia nut, a Cardamom and a Ginger (well its not exactly a tree).
So I decided the Passion fruit and Coastal jasmines were to be potted temporarily (until they can be transferred to the fencing around the new chook pens)- these I am hoping to train as screening and eventually shade; whilst hopefully providing scent and fruit. I also potted temporarily was the ginger- to be planted in the herb garden (once its cleared) and the cardamom is to live permanently on the patio (as it requires shade).
The Cumquats, Cherries and Pomegranate were to add to the orchid, whilst the Mulberry and Macadamia were planted at the corner between the house garden and the pig pen- supplying shade and food. This I extended by planting the lychees and carob (being evergreen and quite large) were to go along the fence line near the pigs and carrying this on upon the inside of the fence. Then interplanting native Mangosteen (which are apparently edible), Wattle, Laurel, Frangipani’s and a smaller shrub that’s fruit is supposedly edible- and I can’t remember what it was called.
So plans made, to allow them to establish I got Matt to mow the relevant areas. So I have time to make tree protectors (since most are only 4- 45cm) and shouldn’t have to worry about them being mowed over or slashed on accident… The mower made it half way and stopped! We bought this ride on shortly after buying the house, and in its first 6 months it spent 3 in the shop! I rang the store, as its still under warranty, as the previous problem had been with the rear drive mechanism breaking in 2… this time the front has done exactly the same thing, only it had ripped out power plugs etc to boot. Now don’t get me wrong, when it running it’s a great machine, but for a 12 month old mower we’ve had nothing but problems with it. So its booked in for Friday- fingers crossed they can get the parts easily this time.

So the outside trees were planted in the slightly thick (but not yet untidy) grass… I found most of them yesterday when I was watering- better not leave it too long with the protectors. By the way, as we are moving the water tanks as they were on the neighbours, we found out the fence is not our boundary either; we own up to 2.5 meters outside- so guess where ½ the fence line trees are going?
The others being inside, so I tried to space them evenly only to find a bald or obvious circle in the grass every few meters (where I was planning to plant). It was in keeping with the alignment of existing palms along the front of the house, whilst allowing the mower to run between it and the fence (when it is working). So I begun to dig, was clearly a previous planting spot… one or two still had pots in them! No wonder the few remaining trees at the far end of the garden didn’t survive. The previous owners had planted trees all the way along, just they hadn’t grown as they had left rubbish and plastic in the holes, so the roots didn’t stand a chance!
I know it is going to take a few years before we see the benefits of these trees, but the sooner we plant them the better.

I did manage some other gardening on Sunday. Since the rain appears to have stopped I took the opportunity some weeding and transplanting done. Best time is before it dries out, as the weeds tend to come out easier and new plants/seedlings don’t seem to get so stressed, as they have nice moist soil.
I focused mostly on my more “organic” patch. Now not as in sold in the shop labeling, more because its contents appeared more naturally…. To be honest this half of what was my waterlogged attempt at a patch last year I have ear marked for vines, potatoes etc. and so far have made little effort with. Everything in it has either germinated itself (mostly coriander and parsley so far) from last year’s crops or there are a few tomatoes and pumpkins I have attempted transplanted (from the recovering section of the pig pen) and I have sown a few watermelon and cucumber seeds (which we aer yet to see any signs from).  But I had noticed a few Eggplants (Aubergines), they just needed weeding around.  These I had great success with last year, but thought they had been lost when the garden was waterlogged. So I began weeding and to my surprise there were over 20 different plants coming. As some were clumped together I have thinned and transplanted them, in the hope that they will survive. This is great since the Eggplant seeds I purchased have yet to be successful!
This weekend I also harvested my first capsicum (pepper) and lettuce for 2012. As well as another kilo of zucchini’s (courgettes) [so more Zucchini recipes to come ;)], spinach, rocket, some silver beat (though most went to the pigs as the bugs had had their share first) and 2 dozen Welsh bunching onions- I just pulled the largest, as they were becoming too big, so I can split and replant some smaller ones.
I was excited to see my first Butterbean and Snow peas growing. Actually the bean vines are doing quite well, although I am yet to pick any. There are also signs of radishes and cabbages and the broccoli and cauliflowers are coming along nicely (though it will be a while before I can pick these).


As for the animals; the chicks and the ducks are doing well. The chicks are developing some of their feathers already, and they’re quite unusual- so we’ll hopefully get to keep some pretty hens (sorry boys)- though I suspect the prettiest are probably all males.
I cleaned the little ones out Saturday (which isn’t something I would normally comment on) other than our area there appears to be a shortage of sawdust in the area at the moment. We have always used sawdust for our birds, although they will nest in other things. So the older birds currently have a combination of hay and some of the ½ bag of sawdust we have left. Whilst for the little ones I’ve used old news papers and shredded paper. These are just as affective and the birds are not as likely to get paper in their water- Which has been a recent problem and the sawdust soaks up the water. I do still like to line the brooder box first (using old livestock bags- woven plastic), as it makes it easier to clean them out and stop so much moisture from seeping into the wooden box… so all round effective recycling! And when I’m done I will still be able to compost it as paper breaks down quicker than sawdust… So just have to make the composter. This is something I’ve been putting off, as I’m wary about the rain and humidity here for composting, but as it’s the dry season (excluding the past months weather) I have no excuse. And another note to add to the to-do list- bring shredded paper home from work.

Other than that we did venture into town for our social bike ride Saturday morning with the intention of hanging around for a look at the local food and wine festival. This allowed for a browse of the electrical stores!
I’ve been chasing a mixer, for my sourdough and I had scoured the internet, so time to have a look locally… We came home (expectedly) unimpressed by the festival but with a Sunbeam Mixmaster compact! So shopping was bit more successful than the festival.


As you can see we have been a little busy this weekend trying it out. Matt made a few cakes and it definitely made this week’s sourdough much easier. You just place all the ingredients in and turn it on. Then tip it out on to a floured surface, mold it into a round, then put it back in and whack on the lid- it even has its own lid. So if you have a mixer with dough hooks there’s really no excuse!!
I also found a few more sourdough recipes on another blog- Simply Self Sufficiency… am looking forward to trying out the pizza dough soon.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Last little ducklings struggle

I made it home from work and tentatively lifted the lid of the incubator… hoping to see movement. But there had been no progress with the remaining egg. So deflated I examined the 2 that had pipped (we had held little hope for the other 4). I could just see what was a bird, but nothing. Then I picked up on the other to hear the faintest chirp and slightest movement. I know everything I have read had said not to interfere, but I had to give it a fighting chance.
So very carefully peeling small sections of shell away from the existing whole, trying to stay around the end that it should have pushed off.
There are a number of reasons for not interfering with ducklings (more so than chicks), other than the argument that if it wasn’t strong enough to make it, then its nature’s selection- survival of the fittest. As ducks remain attached to the umbilical cord for some time after breaking out. Usually staying within the shell for a few hours, which (unlike a chick) largely remains intact. Allowing for them to absorb the last of the nutrients and make their big entrance when their ready and able to free themselves from the dried cord. If you break that membrane or connection, then the bird could bleed out anyway, so you’re interference could do more harm than good. So in many respects you’re damned if you do or damned if you don’t.
But I had made my decision, probably influenced by the events of the morning. But I was giving this little one every chance. It had done the hard work, it was just weak. So after a few hours, and a little more assistance to release its leg, late last night it made its big entrance to the world.

Still weak this morning, not properly dry (probably saturated with yolk from being in the egg too long) and still attached to its egg, it remains in the incubator. I did gave it some water (using a medicine dosing syringe) and carefully located the dead tissue along the umbilical cord; this had now dried out and was no longer supplying the bird. So with precision, surgically removed it; allowing it to move more freely and hopefully gain a little strength (not dragging around the extra weight). Am hoping it will be strong enough to move into the brooder box this afternoon. I did leave it a small dish (well tuppaware lid) of water, and it was drinking and moving around.

You may notice from this picture that the duck is in the “hatching tray”
 of the borrowed incubator. I will admit having a separate area for hatching, or as we’ve used it over the last few days for hatchlings has been great. As in our incubator they climb all over the remaining eggs and move them around. But in saying that, I think it’s been handy having the second area. When it comes to those eggs suspended in the trays hatching, we have to move them down to the hatching tray- so will still have the same problem. Maybe we can set ours up as a secondary drying area…  

Well I’ll keep you posted on the last ones progress (fingers crossed). But the others are doing well. They’ve settled in with the chicks really well. I wish I had, had my phone on me when I checked on them yesterday afternoon as they were all curled up together sleeping… very cute!

We were amazed to notice that some of the chicks (now 4-5 days old) have started to develop their feathers! I’m planning on documenting their development (especially over the first few weeks), as well as the duckling- for the future reference. Though with the chicks we no longer have their Old English Game dad, so their development may vary to future flocks, but still curious to see how they turn out. The 2 blue chick are a lovely colour, as are the lighter “stripies” with the lines at the eyes… no doubt they’ll be boys, with birds the pretty ones generally are!     

On another subject the first of our trees (well thier bigger than seedlings, but I wouldn't want you to think they were fully fledges trees either) arrived yesterday! And not the order I had anticipated arriving first- this was from Forvever Seeds (Ebay store). An australian supplier specialising in rare and edible seeds and plants... So am very excited and am hoping pot them tomorrow (at least until thier more established, since these are going in the house garden and maybe subject to dog interference). So we now have Ginger (well its a plant really not a tree), Cardamom, Macadamia & Pomegranate.  

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Highs and lows of smallholding

By the time I returned home from work last night 4 healthy ducklings had arrived, to  our excitement.
I excitedly attempted to blig this pic from mobile
last night, but without success
These were moved from the incubator to the brooder box this morning with the nine 3 day old chicks- with a mixed reception.
The first duckling was amusing- I dipped its beak in the water, placed it down. The chicks were making a noise and scuttling around, due to my appearance. The duckling responded to the chirping and waddled up to them... all of which gathered in the furthest corner. Each other duckling then in turn, waddled up to its sibling and chirped, and then again to the cowering group.
I must admit, I had, had reservations about introducing the day old ducklings to the slightly older chicks, as although we have them cohabiting as adults. They would (temporarily) outnumbered and birds can be pretty brutal!
But their confidence put me at ease (though I did check on them quite a few times, before making my way to work this morning). In fairness as long as they have sufficient food and room they should be fine. Our adults cohabit quite contently, most of the time the ducks seem quite oblivious to the chickens. And the babies, although initially more curious, did not appear bothered by the lack of response and continued to waddle about and explore their new environment.  Hopefully we get to boost their numbering this evening and/or tomorrow, making the odds a little more even.

As for the remaining hatchlings we have 3 drying off in the incubator, two on the way and one no longer with us. So to date we have 7 from the initial 20 eggs, although only 14 were fertile when we candled them. We do have 2 of the remaining eggs that have “pipped” and I am hopeful they will successfully hatch.

“Pipping” is the term for the bird breaking into the air sac for the “internal pip”- at this stage you may see the egg move slightly, hear chirps or a tapping on the shell. Then the bird will break an area of the shell with its beak for the “external pip”, before they eventually pop an end off the egg to make their big entrance.
Unfortunately there are 4 eggs that we hold no hope for. One had “internally pipped” but that was Sunday… and it’s stopped moving too. The others we’ve not seen any movement or heard any sound from.  Which is sad as they were fertile and developing when we had candled them.
What was more upsetting, especially for me this morning- was we had one little one hatched but wasn’t so healthy and as a result (by my hand) is no longer with us.
This I will explain if you chose to read on. As I guess this is the reality of this “farming” or “smallholding” life, but is not something I did lightly and may not be for the sensitive.

This little duckling had hatched but had its stomach (intestines etc) on the wrong side of its belly button. Yes birds have belly buttons; they have an umbilical sac that is sometimes attached when hatching, that they absorb. This is the last of the nutrients from the egg. It’s quite amazing, really. However the sac is a yellowy- brown colour and quite gooey, which will eventually dry up and drop off. This was not.
It was clearly not right, and what most alarming was the little one was losing blood from it and was unable to coordinate itself and was very weak. And yes their all initially weak on hatching, it’s a big process- but this was different. So, as upsetting as it was I could not leave it all day, to suffer and die a slowly, just because I didn’t want to have to do it. Now I’ve never actually done this part myself, so it was not an easy decision. And not one I took lightly, but as I said I guess it is a reality that we face. And a decision I did not want to, but had to make. Now some may read this and think get over it, others maybe horrified, but I guess the major thing I struggled with, was although we rear animals for the plate. I reconcile it with the knowledge they had a good life, for which we are responsible. This little one didn’t even get that.   

Now not to be all doom and gloom I guess what I need to focus on is that we have 7 healthy ducklings and the hope and excitement the possible arrival of a few more… so fingers crossed.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

This mornings arrival!

We were very excited this morning to greet this gorgeous little one! So fingers crossed that this will be the first of many.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Weekend wash out turned out to be very productive

This weekend was pretty much a wash out. We did manage to trim some overhanging trees and dispose of those and the ones that were removed from beside the shed and clean out the chickens (and using the material as fertiliser for the fruit trees). Especially setting up the temporary run for the young Sussex roosters, as their too big and we needed the room in the brooder box for our impending broods.

So we had 9 arrivals throughout Saturday and Sunday. All of varying shades of gold, brown, grey and black… all stripped! I am curious to see how they turn out. We have decided to keep all 9, least until we can sex them. Then the boys (being a game x layer) will be for the table and the girls will either join our girls, or be sold as pullets. As we need to start preparing to replenish our laying stock, as our youngest bird is 12 months now and elders 3 years or so.
The ducklings in the incubator, being due Thursday began to move,
 churp and break through last night. So am keen to gethome this evening to see thier progress!
Other than that the rain was fairly persistent and restricted us to indoors for most of the weekend. We did however have a big clean out and tidy of the shed… it’s amazing how much room is in there now!
And I successfully made 2 loaves of Sourdough! Funnily enough all I did was stick to the recipe. So here it is.

My starter is now in a lidded/sealed container, this is much better than the mixing bowl and clingfilm- as this had started to show signs of mould around the lip. It definitely has its own distinctive aroma now, much like brewing cider. They say every batch smells and is different as it is made up of the cutlures unique to its environment... not sure what that says about us!

Anyway, I now keep my starter (in its new, more hygienic container) in the fridge. So I have to remove it the 2 nights before I need it, so that I may activate it and prepare the "sponge". So on removal from the fridge I “fed it” to activate it- ½ cup of flour.

Then the night before I I want to make the bread I prepare the “Sponge” by mixing 650ml warm water, 500g strong bread flour and a ladleful of starter. This is best done by hand, and is a little messy. This is then left over night (covered)

When the bread is nearly ready, place a bakestone in the top of the oven, and an oven dish with 1cm of hot water in the bottom-heat for at least 10 minutes at 250°. Turn down to 180°, and then transfer the bread on to some well floured bake proof paper and on to the bake stone. Bake for about 40 minutes.
Then the following day I begin the bread by mixing the Sponge with 600g strong bread flour and 25g salt. You will want extra flour for dusting (surface and your hands). This then has to be kneaded (until smooth) and then form a round and place in a bowl and left for an hour (covered). You then repeat the kneading/ covering twice more. On the final time you divide it into 2 or 3 loaves and shape. Place on a well floured board and cover with a plastic bag to prove for 1-4 hours (til its doubled in size).

Friday, 13 July 2012

It's raining, it's pouring

Well it has been pouring here! Especially considering it’s the dry season? We had 63mm of rain over night alone.  I am unsure what we had over the last few days in total, as Matt had been emptying the rain gauge. And we were a little distracted last night
With the recent rainfall, and the fact that the tanks are “empty” (especially since none of that rain being collected since we disconnected them the other week) the second tank popped up. So we spent yesterday evening lifting it out, in preparation for moving.
 Unfortunately with the rain we had a little more bad news, the duck nested in the corner where the rainwater flows. Her nest has been waterlogged twice, so I am not holding out any hope for her clutch hatching. Although the ones in the incubator (that we thought may have been cooked) appears to still be developing- so we have hope there.
On a slightly more positive note, the chicken eggs we have in our incubator started hatching last night. This morning there were 3 started. So will keep you posted… could be an interesting weekend.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

What to do with Zucchinis (Courgettes)

Well the Zucchinis are flourishing at the moment, or as we know them Courgettes.
When we first moved here I spent 10 minutes at a check out trying to buy a bag of "courgettes". As I had had to identify every bag of veg I wanted, cause the girl at the till did not know what any of it was. Capsicums I knew (we call them peppers), but then there was the "Courgettes"- she spent ages searching the computer for them, before eventually asking a supervisor... well I didn't know that's what they were called on Australia; I had been in the country less than a week! I had just learned that thongs were worn on your feet, after watching a very disturbing advert for "50% off kids thongs"- Anyway another language lesson learned.
But if you are thinking about starting a veg garden and want an easy and fruitful- especially starting out, if you have the room I would recommend a few zucchini plants. They need a little room as they are part of the pumpkin family- though not quite a vine; I have 4 in the end of one of one of my boxes- an area approx 2 x 2 meters. They grow well in humid climates and full sun, just need steady supply of water.
I bought these ones as seedlings (I bought 3 or 4 last year too) you can pick up a set of 4 seedlings from most nurseries/ hardware stores etc. for under $5. They establish quickly (I’ve had these probably 6 weeks) and I am picking 2-3 zucchinis off each plant a week. I have just sown a few seeds for a different variety- I haven't grown any from seed before, so will let you know how that goes.
As for the established plants, I leave picking mine til the flower wilts, but you can eat the young vegetable aswell as the flowers.
So with 2-3 zucchinis per plant, I have quite a few to use! Good job I love them (and add them to everything). But last night I made a zucchini loaf for this week's lunches and thought I’d share the recipe;
Zucchini Loaf- serves 6
400g grated zucchinis,
3 finely chopped spring onions           (something else I have in abundance at the moment)
½ tsp nutmeg
½ cup plain flour
¼ cup fresh parsley
2 egg whites,
3 whole eggs
200g ricotta cheese
120g feta cheese
Pinch salt
Pinch pepper (optional)               (I am not a salt lover so need this for balance, as cheese’s can also be salty)

Pre-heat oven to 190°, spray loaf tin (about 250mm x 150m)- or line with baking paper if likely to stick.
Using clean cloth squeeze as much of the liquid out of the grated zucchini as possible, then fry off in pan with the spring onions- 2-3 minutes, then remove from heat.
In a bowl beat the whole eggs and add flour, nutmeg and parsley (and pepper if using), then crumble in the cheeses and combine. Add in and fold through the onions and zucchini.
In another bowl whip egg whites and salt to stiff peaks, then fold though the original mixture. Transfer to the oven dish and bake in pre-heated oven for 50-55 minutes, or golden.
Set aside to cool (about 10 minutes) slice and can be served warm or cold.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Incubator update- mixed feelings

As I said so far this 'fan-dangled' incubator is giving us mixed feelings. Whilst we are grateful for the chance to hatch an extra batch of eggs. I have to be fair it is very fiddley and tempromental. So far I am preferring the quiet adn simplisty of our incubator. I don't think I'll be running this one again.

Excitingly we had our 1st Indian Game/ Dark Corknish egg yesterday! So we (hopefully)placed it in the incubator with 2 dozen eggs from a friend (breeding Rhode Island Red's). As they usually use the borrowed incubator we are currently running; with mixed results.

As we had candled the eggs in ours, there was fortunatley more room in ours, as we have been having a few issues with the borrowed incubator. Whilst the temperature on the front is in celsius and only goes up to 99.5... so we had been using the digital themometer we use for ours. However it has been placed on the base of the incubator and not hte shelves. When we measured the temperature at the shelves yesterday it was over 40! Anything over 39degrees will kill any incubation process... so 18 of or frinds eggs went in ours. The rest and our set of ducks eggs remains to be seen.

We were very disappointed, as there does appear to have been some development (when we had candled them). Though now we're going to wait a few days and see whether there has been any further development. As if it was too high, it had been all along.

So guess for now we just wait and hope.

As for the original eggs we placed in our incubator, we are hoping for chicks by Saturday and ducklings by next Thursday... so we're on count down now. Will have to move the other birds out of the brooder box soon!
With the miserable weather Friday and Sunday consisted of some cooking and gardening.
Following my post on Friday I finished my chutney and this is maturing nicely in the cupboard- made 6 jars!
Recipe: Green Tomato & Zucchini Chutney
700g zucchini, peeled & diced
700g tomatoes, peeled
300g apples, peeled & diced
300g onion, finely diced
300g sultanas
300g brown sugar
600ml cider vinegar
2 tsp chilli flakes
Tbsp grated ginger
12 cloves
2 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp coriander seeds

Blanche tomatoes, run under cold water and then remove and discard skins. I do this over the container you are collecting your tomatoes in, as they may burst out during this.
Then place all ingredients in a large pan and simmer for 2 ½ - 3 hours. Leave to cool and then transfer contents to jars and seal for at least 4 weeks. The longer this matures the better the quality of the chutney.

I also attempted my Sourdough bread- with mixed success. This hasn’t put me off; quite the opposite. As I now know where I went wrong- had I just done it by hand as per the recipe it would have been fine.

More successful,
but still room to improve

Makes 2-3 loaves
650ml warm water
500g strong bread flour
Ladleful of sourdough starter

Sponge (see above)
600g strong bread flour, plus extra for dusting
25g salt

Dough in breadmaker
Once you have your starter, you need to activate it. So if it is refrigerated like mine get t out a day or two before hand and feed it.
Also make the sponge the day before, so it can prove over night- place in a bowl in plastic bag.

Now I attempted one purely using my bread maker- this did not work at all.
unsuccessful Breadmaker version

So I made a batch using the mixer for the dough, I think this “knocks it back” too much. As the recipe says to knead it for 10mins, then leave to prove for an hour each time (4 times in total)- this is the “knock back” . The dough setting takes 90minsutes, each time, so think it knocked to much air out of it. This was more successful than the version make totally in the break maker, but was still a little dense. So I’m going to make the next lot entirely by hand.

Frozen Chicken Stock

Easy store/use- Best Chicken stock!

This weekend I also cooked one of our home grown chooks for dinner. So, as to make the most of the bird I also make some stock from the carcass. Simply by placing it in a stock pot with a few carrots and sticks of celery, cover with water and simmer (on a low heat) for a few hours. I wanted to add this in, as this is a great way to get great tasting stock and is something you have available anyway. Once I am happy with the flavour, just leave to cool. Then this is my storage tip- Place freezer bags over appropriate sized freezer able containers (plastic dishes, tuppaware etc). Carefully fill the bags to level of container (or near enough). Leaving enough of the bag to tie it off.

Then place in the freezer, til frozen and then you can remove the containers and store the bags- use when required.

Other than that Sunday I managed to get some weeding, sowing and mulching done. In preparation for the warmer months approaching. Whilst it wasn’t the most pleasant day, it wasn’t cold and the drizzly rain was probably ideal for new planting.I was also quite excited as the “vine garden”- the section of the veg garden we dug out last year (that became water logged) and has not been built up. So where I intend to grow tomatoes, pumpkins, cucumbers etc- so vines. Had 2 plants growing in ti, which I am sure are eggplant/aubergine plants! We had great success with 4 of these that I bought as seedlings last year; only they were lost in the wet season- or so I thought!

Whilst I was busy Matt made a start on clearing the bed beside the shed. This had a few drought tolerant plants and yukka trees in it when we bought the place. Unfortunately the trees are becoming too big- both blocking the light to the shed, as well as its roots are going to become problematic to the shed’s foundations. So whilst we had hoped to re-locate these trees, unfortunately this was not possible. Hopefully we can save the few smaller trees still.
But other than the stumps this bed will soon be ready for planting, we decided this is to be the herb garden.  It’s close to the house, good sun and partial shade, whilst hopefully providing a welcoming aroma when approaching the house.