July 20, 2014

Bendigo Sheep & Wool Show

Oh my... what an excellent day at the Australian Sheep & Wool Show! I think I spent about 5 minutes admiring the very pretty sheep and 5 hours ogling the rainbow of yarns, knitwear and haberdashery.

One of the best things about attending any sort of crafty event is all the friendly, super nice people. People who are happy to share their expertise, let me to fondle their knitwear, search Ravelry for the pattern I can't quite remember the name of and even offer to drive 3 hours to north east Victoria to share their skills. Such wonderful people!

This beautiful little woven basket? I was given it! I think the lovely ladies from the Basketmakers of Victoria could tell I was just a little enthusiastic about the idea of joining up with their local north east group!

And here's my little stash of woolly goodness from the show... rather restrained wouldn't you agree? ;)

July 14, 2014

Connections + strings of sausages

Yesterday was one of my favourite sort of days. A drive in the country, to a stunning property in the hills, to spend the day with inspiring people and learn new skills.

A day of nurturing connections between people - and between people and the land that provides our food.

Just the day before heading to Boonderoo Farm, I read this article by Dan Barber, who talks about how a bucket of flour led him on a path of realisation that everything on our planet in interconnected and that we really need to give more thought to the foods that we choose to eat.

In his words, "We think we've done enough by choosing the coveted items if they're local, if they're organic, and if we can shake the hand of the farmers that grew them - but that's not enough".

Dan points out that the way we eat in rich countries with a relatively short history of agriculture, such as America and Australia, has no connection with ecological reality. Most of the population eat a very small range of foods, often out of season, that does not reflect the variety of agricultural produce that comes from a sustainable farming system.

A farmer cannot simply grow endless crops of the one coveted item of produce. It simply doesn't work that way. To maintain a healthy agricultural system - to avoid soil depletion and outbreaks of pests and pathogens - the farmer must nurture a complex network of relationships. There needs to be an understanding of the ecology of the underlying natural system.

"The techniques used in our industrial food system can be characterized by disconnection, a systematic unhitching. Everything is relegated to its own silo: vegetables over here, and animals there, and grain somewhere else. All the component parts are kept apart. And because they’re unhitched from each other, unsurprisingly, they're unhitched from any kind of food culture."

Australians and Americans have never not yet been forced to develop a cuisine that supports sustainable food production systems. 

This is what I'm passionate about. Reversing that disconnection from ecological reality. I want people to really understand that humans are just another species of the earth's biodiversity.

We need to nurture connections.
To learn from each other.
To appreciate where the food on our plate came from, what was required to grow it and how it ended up in our shopping basket.
To know who made the clothes on our back, how the fibre was grown and the fabric manufactured.
To always, always consider the complex ecology of the natural world that provides us with clean air, water and food.

And that is why I headed to Boonderoo Farm...

I met a bunch of great people and together we learned how to make sausages. Beautiful, gourmet, preservative-free sausages with goat meat from an animal raised right here on the farm and venison from a deer shot on the next-door neighbour's property.

A lot of work and passion went into these sausages. It feels good to eat food like this. It's the same reason I make my own bread, grow my own veggies, am perfectly happy to eat no tomatoes and lots of kale in winter, preserve the summer abundance, don't eat meat every day, and buy whole animal carcasses not just the prime cuts.

50kg of beautiful sausages.

Thank-you Thomas, Gabi and Felix for an excellent day. Looking forward to attending the next workshop...

May 31, 2014

Lilly Pilly Infinity Scarf

I've only recently rediscovered crochet and I'm loving how quick and easy it is! 

With the arrival of the cooler weather this Autumn, I wanted a scarf that wasn't too chunky and was long enough to be worn looped around my neck either doubled or tripled, depending on how cozy I need to be.

A few people have asked about my scarf so I thought I'd endeavour to write down the pattern. (Please note though, this is the first time I've actually written down a crochet pattern, so do let me know if my instructions can be improved!)

If you're new to crochet, be aware that different names are used for the same stitches in the US and in Australia/UK. Ravelry is an amazing resource for patterns but it can be confusing when you're not sure which terminology a pattern uses - you need to check where the designer is from if the pattern doesn't specify which terminology is used.  

Hence, I've included instructions using both terminologies here, with links to tutorials for each stitch. If you're new to crochet, I've found Paula Daniele's video tutorials helpful, with extended demonstrations of both US and UK/Australian stitches.

Lilly Pilly Infinity Scarf

Yarn: 3 x 50g balls of 8 ply / DK yarn (280 m)
I've used the buttery soft Woolganic Organic Merino 8ply DK, which is sadly no longer being manufactured, but any 8 ply yarn is fine (I recommend using a solid colour to highlight the texture of the pattern).

Hook: 4mm / USG/6 / UK8 (or size to achieve a relaxed stitch and flexible fabric) 

Length (circumference): 204cm / 80 inches
Width: 13cm / 5 inches

The pattern is worked in the round, with each row a complete round (rather than being worked in a sprial fashion).

Instructions (Australian/UK terminology)

TR - treble crochet
DC - double crochet
Note: Throughout this project, insert your hook into the top loop of each stitch only, not both loops.

Row 1: Chain 300 stitches. Join the round using a slip stitch, ensuring your chain is not twisted.
Row 2: Chain 3 stitches. TR into first chain stitch and repeat for each stitch to end of row. Join round using a slip stitch.
Row 3: Chain 4 stitches. *TR into the 2nd stitch. Chain 1 stitch. * Repeat to end of row, inserting hook into every second stitch. Join the round using a slip stitch.
Rows 4-7: Repeat Rows 2 & 3, twice.
Row 8-9: Repeat Row 3 twice more.
Row 10: Chain 1 stitch. DC into first stitch and repeat for each stitch to end of row. Join round using a slip stitch.
Row 11: Repeat Row 2.
Row 12: Repeat Row 3.
Row 13: Repeat Row 10.
Sew in ends.

Instructions (US terminology)

DC - double crochet
SC - single crochet
Note: Throughout this project, insert your hook into the top loop of each stitch only, not both loops.

Row 1: Chain 300 stitches. Join the round using a slip stitch, ensuring your chain is not twisted.
Row 2: Chain 3 stitches. DC into first chain stitch and repeat for each stitch to end of row. Join round using a slip stitch.
Row 3: Chain 4 stitches. *DC into 2nd stitch. Chain 1 stitch.* Repeat to end of row. Join round using a slip stitch. Note: Throughout this project, insert hook into the top loop of each stitch only, not both loops.
Rows 4-7: Repeat Rows 2 & 3, twice.
Row 8-9: Repeat Row 3 twice more.
Row 10: Chain 1 stitch. SC into first stitch and repeat for each stitch to end of row. Join round using a slip stitch.
Row 11: Repeat Row 2.
Row 12: Repeat Row 3.
Row 13: Repeat Row 10.
Sew in ends.

Ravelry link here.

January 27, 2014

Summer days

{The joy of being 5 and a half and riding your bike.}

{The joy of being 11 weeks old and lapping up the love.}

{The final harvest of our rosy red nectarines.}

{Shiny new blue sandals.}

{Lunch with wonderful long-time friends who I don't see often enough.}

January 16, 2014

Cumquat marmalade

Cumquat marmalade is my favourite, so I usually try to make a few jars each year. Can you even buy cumquat marmalade from the supermarket? I've certainly never seen a cumquat in the produce section of the supermarket - you have grow them yourself or know someone who grows them - so it somehow makes this marmalade all the more special I think.

As usual, making the marmalade involved consulting numerous cookbooks for a recipe. So, based on the combined wisdom of Cookery the Australian Way, The PWMU (Presbyterian Women's Missionary Union) Cookbook, Stephanie Alexander's The Cook's Companion and In The Kitchen by Allan Campion & Michele Curtis (if I could only have one cookbook, this would be the one), this is the method I used. (Which has resulted in near perfect marmalade in my personal opinion.)

Cumquat Marmalade

Start with a large bowl of cumquats.

Slice the skin off 4 sides and the top and bottom of each cumquat leaving the centre pith and pips behind (I decided this was easier than halving or quartering them and then cutting out the pith and pips as most of the recipes seem to suggest).

Weigh the skins and note this down (I had 800g). Place in a large saucepan and add cold water until just covered. Leave to soak overnight.
Place the cubes of leftover flesh & pips in a separate bowl and also cover with water (this is to extract the pectin from the pips so the marmalade will set). Leave to soak overnight.

The next day, strain the liquid from the flesh & pips and add this liquid to the skins. For good measure (to really make sure I had maximum pectin!), I then put the flesh & pips in a sieve and placed it in the saucepan so it was just sitting in the liquid but not spilling out.

Simmer the skins for 30 mins until soft and translucent (then remove the sieve). Add an amount of sugar equal to the weight of the skins (in my case, 800g). Simmer for approx 20-30 mins until the marmalade reaches setting point (testing a small blob on a cold saucer).

Pour into sterilised jars. (Makes about 4 jars.)

January 13, 2014


Firstly, no I didn't grow these. They're from our local farmers market - $20 for an 18kg of big beautiful romas grown in nearby Shepparton. At that price, I'm completely happy to give over my garden beds to other veg that are easier to grow in our cooler climate. I do have a few cherry tomatoes and other salad varieties growing but they're not even close to being ready to pick yet.

This is the first time I've managed to deal with the whole box of tomatoes in one day. Because this year I kept things simple. No blanching, peeling, onions, herbs. Just chopped tomatoes, cooked until soft, put through the mouli, bottled and sterilised.

So I now have 15 litres of beautiful tomato passata, from local tomatoes bought direct from the grower (courtesy of my wonderful neighbour Jenny), in recycled jars, with no additives. And that's a whole lot better than cans of tomatoes from the supermarket that have travelled halfway around the world from Italy (and who knows from where or how far the steel for the cans, or the trees or ink for the labels, has come).

Happy days!

Next up... these little guys, which have travelled all of 300 metres from Jenny's garden to our house. I do love living here!

January 11, 2014

Christmas Ornament Exchange :: Part 2

I've received 2 more lovely ornaments as part of the Christmas Ornament Exchange.

I adore this gorgeous stitched Christmas tree in a mini embroidery hoop, which came all the way from Rhonda in New Zealand.

And not only did I receive this sweet little Chistmas stocking from Gabielle but a bar of chocolate too!

Thank-you to all the lovely ladies who sent me beautiful hand-crafted goodies. I'm looking forward to doing it again next year!

January 6, 2014

We grew peaches!!

Can you tell how excited I am?

I've never really grown fruit before (not counting tomatoes and other things masquerading as vegetables). Fruit takes rather serious commitment and patience. A bit different to poking a handful of beans in the ground.

When we planted our small bare-rooted trees a few years ago, the prospect of harvesting fruit from them felt like something that might possibly happen in the far distant future. We diligently weeded, mulched and watered. We studied the branches of the peaches and nectarines almost daily in Spring to check for the new buds and endeavoured to apply the spray for leaf curl 'within one week prior to bud-burst'. And apparently we've succeeded in sufficiently nurturing them, oh yes!

Our trees are still just a couple of years old, not even as tall as me. So was pretty excited when I realised that we actually had a decent crop of peaches and nectarines coming along nicely.

 So we're all busily devouring lovely big, juicy peaches at the moment. There are 38 yellow ones and 27 white ones to be exact. There's also 50 or so bright red nectarines that should be ready to pick in the next couple of weeks. Happy days!

We're also enjoying all things green from the veggie patch. Tomatoes look to be at least a month away yet though. Summer, where have you gone?

I just need to keep the girls from wreaking too much havoc...

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