Monday, 15 September 2014

On top of the world

Some weeks at the farm you feel like you are on top of the world. I mean that literally too. Spring and autumn always bring fog which rolls in from the Southern ocean. The farm sits on a mountain saddle about two thirds of the way up to the top of the ridge. Practically speaking this means that during winter, cloud can hover just above the tree line here for days on end, but below the farm people are experiencing severe frost. I’ve now been told that the recent snow and frost were some of the most severe in the past two decades. Had I known that fact in advance, I probably wouldn’t have complained to the local gardening group that the coffee shrub and babaco which are both tropical plants died here in the recent frosts. Things were much worse elsewhere.

This morning however, I awoke to another fog and the mountains around the local area poked their heads out of the fog like islands in a sea.

Fog over the Barringo valley
The deciduous trees are in the slow process of breaking their dormancy. This week the earliest pear which is an ornamental snow pear, started to blossom and put on some leaves.

Snow pear breaking it's dormancy
The apricot trees which are now in their second year on the very sunny side of the orchard have put on even more flowers this week. Apricots are one of my favourite stone fruits and they are excellent for both bottling (canning) and for jam making so I look forward to getting harvests as the year’s progress.

Apricots are continuing to put on more blossoms
Not every fruit tree operates on the same annual cycle though. Occasionally the conditions favour a particular tree or variety and this year it seems that the almonds have set fruit really early, even whilst other trees are still dormant or only just breaking their dormancy. I have no explanation for this behaviour on the part of these fruit trees other than using it to justify the 300 different fruit trees here on the basis that something has to produce at sometime!

Almond fruit set
In other farm news the final post for the blackberry enclosure was cemented into the ground over the past few days. The steel gate which is actually a recycled security door also received a lick of paint. The next step for the enclosure is for me to install the rails and then I’ll screw on the pickets which will be made from local saplings.

Blackberry enclosure now with all posts in the ground
The mention of the local saplings brings the conversation around to the actual saw logs which I’d unfortunately stored in the middle of the area which I was using to accumulate fill from the recent excavations for the water tanks and new shed site. The reason that this was unfortunate was because I had to spend half a day sorting out the firewood pile and sapling pile before I could commence further excavations on the new shed site. Honestly the lower rock wall went straight through the middle of both storage piles and I had a groaning feeling that I had to sort out both piles before I could continue with the excavations. Sometimes the hardest thing here is admitting that you’ve stuffed something up and then getting on and fixing it.

Excavated fill with upper and lower rock walls
There has been some plant activity here at the farm this week. Fortunately, I live about half an hour away from a seedling farm so I occasionally drop by there to pick up a whole bunch of cheap seedlings. Nowadays, most of the seedlings that I purchase are hardy flower producing plants which attract beneficial insects to the farm. As a funny side story, a few years back I visited a local plant nursery and in the course of the conversation I happened to mention that I enjoyed planting flowers about the place. The nurseryman responded without even hesitating and said, “yeah, it is because you’re getting older!” I didn’t think that I was that old. Perhaps the appropriate response may have been, “yeah, whatever” but I guess I had to act my age.

New seedlings. Note the very front two plants are native yams
One of the objectives with plants here at the farm is to get as great a diversity of plants in the ground as possible. The climate here can be exceptionally variable throughout the year and also from year to year so a diversity of plants provides a level of reliability that wouldn’t otherwise be there if I’d concentrated my efforts instead on only a single crop or species. However, sometimes I come across the strangest plant communities (guilds) here which are really hard to explain. The photo below shows a very weird plant guild containing: daffodils; wild brassicas and vetch. It is important to observe how well they are all growing together, and it is such an unexpected surprise.

Really weird plant guild
I recently purchased a small quantity of red and black cherry tomato seeds from the Australian Diggers Club which supplies heirloom vegetable / fruit / herb seeds and seedlings. Despite having previously saved the best tomato seeds only a few months back, I thought that it would be prudent to hedge my bets and purchase some additional seeds as well. All of those seeds are now inside the house where it is warm and hopefully they will germinate sometime soon. The common wisdom here with tomato seedlings is to have them outside and in the ground by Melbourne Cup day, which just happens to be the first Tuesday in November. My understanding is that the soil temperature has to be above 15 degrees Celsius (59’F) and there must be at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily onto the garden beds for them to produce fruit. I’ll let you know how the germination progresses. Tomatoes are a reasonable summer / autumn crop here and I usually harvest at least around 50kg (110 pounds) of fruit per year without too much effort.

Tomato seedlings looking out at the view
I’d like to put in a warning on the next paragraph for all of the plant lovers out there to simply skip the next paragraph completely. Apologies!

One of the two old olive trees in a raised rock bed in front of the shed had been slowly falling downhill over the past year or so. I wasn’t too worried about the situation until I had to manoeuvre the water tank past that olive tree recently. The water tank simply didn’t fit past the branches of the olive tree. It was at that point that a cunning plan was hatched. The plan involved winching the olive tree over so that it leaned in the opposite direction. The water tank was then able to slide past the branches of the tree and all was good. I then started looking at the olive tree and thinking: how good would it be if the olive tree was vertical again? I then pulled apart the rock wall and stuffed a few more rocks under the lifted roots of the olive tree, packed in a whole lot more soil and then rebuilt the rock wall. After about a week I let the tension out of the nylon winch straps and the tree is now vertical. Remarkably the tree is still looking very healthy, so hopefully it will be vertical still in a few years time!

Olive tree being winched back to vertical
On wildlife news, most nights I take my fox terrier out for a walk to see what is going on about the farm with the local wildlife. It doesn’t pay to let the local wildlife get too comfortable because a few days ago, I found a sulphur crested cockatoo eating the skins off ripening fruit on the citrus trees! Grrr! Anyway, last night’s walk was startling because there was a loud coughing sound not very far from me in the dark. At this point it is worth mentioning that not many of the wild animals here have pleasant sounding voices at night and most will produce sounds that send shivers up and down your spine. I grabbed the torch and the camera and the noise was found to be coming from a medium sized wombat ambling up the driveway. I think it was telling me politely to go away and stop bothering it.

Wombat ambling up the driveway
 This past week has been both a sunny and warm week and temperatures most days were in the very low 20 degrees Celsius (68’F). The temperature outside here at about 9pm is 9.1 degrees Celsius (48.4’F) and so far this year there has been 580.6mm (22.9 inches) of rainfall which is up from last week’s total of 561.8mm (22.1 inches).


Morgenfrue said...

Love the fog. I really miss mountains. Denmark is as flat as a pancake, which makes for easy bicycling but not much else.

I recently heard that the zoo here is going to expand its Australian exhibit. They've had wallabies and some small kangaroos, and then when Mary became princess they were given some Tasmanian devils as well. Now they are going to get some giant kangaroos (this is a direct translation of Danish, I'm not sure if that's what you guys call them)... And wombats! I have to confess after reading your posts and comments on ADR I really want to see some wombats!

Brian Miller said...

What variety of olive tree do you have? We have bought a few for our Tennessee farm, although we are a zone and half too far north. What steps have you taken to keep it winterized?

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Stacey,

The flickers are very attractive birds. Thanks for the reference as I'd never seen them or heard of them before. Were the mountain ash berries part of your edible plants?

A lot of the produce here goes towards the wildlife - I'm on their turf after all, but it is a hard balance and I'm still trying to work out who and what will take too much.

No worries. I use 15 cubic metres (19.6 cubic yards) of firewood in an entire year. That sounds like a lot doesn't it? Mind you, it provides direct heat, hydronic heat, cooking (oven and stove top) and hot water. Am I sounding defensive? Dunno. Maybe, there are a lot of trees here.

You are very observant. I built the firewood bays to keep the timber off the ground because otherwise water wicks up into the firewood and I also didn't want to attract termites to anywhere near the house. Termites don't like dry timber you see.

The downside of this arrangement is that field mice hide under the corrugated steel sheets where they are both warm and dry over winter. It provide hours of entertainment for the dogs.

When the firewood is stored outside in the rain, I put plastic or steel sheets under the firewood to slow down the decomposition of the firewood. As the biological activity increases in the soil here, the firewood breaks down even quicker. After a few years, even with the plastic and steel, the bottom layer of firewood piles produces a rich black loam full of fungi which I distribute around the place.

Ah, a cord is equal to 3.6 cubic metres, so you'd have 7.2 cubic metres in preparation for the fall (about half of the years firewood here). You are very lucky that your timber seasons very quickly.

Five winters is a really good idea and that is my objective here too. Wow, it is really interesting to hear that opinion from your part of the world too. The reason that this is also my objective is that sometimes things go wrong and having that energy buffer in storage means that it is simply one less thing to worry about. Illness or injury may strike, who knows? Also a guy that I speak to just out of Ballarat (Hi James) that is west of here, lost his firewood piles to a bushfire, so you just never know what the future may bring. My thinking is: if you are thinking about that system, then it is not working for you. Five years firewood is like money in the bank to me.

Of course, -10 is possible here, but very unlikely due to the position of the farm on the mountain saddle. Some of the people in the valley below lost their lemon trees so I've promised them a delivery of fresh organic lemons - in return for some frost sensitive fruit trees. A win win arrangement.

The Northern Italians used to have a room for storing lemon and other citrus trees in during the winter. The trees were in pots and they could be wheeled in and out as necessary. The old timers here used to have boilers in their green houses during extreme frosts, but you don't see operational boilers here anymore. There is a good example of one at the old hill station garden "Alton at Mount Macedon".

Yeah, deep bedding is a great idea for chickens over winter. I include a very deep layer of their bedding on the floor of their hen house during the winter months. It is like a strawbale house, it just works. An excellent idea.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Exactly, "ya'all" is an excellent translation. I liked the Texan slang too. There are a few of those "all hat and no cows" sorts around these parts too. It must be a common problem. hehe!

Speaking about Texas, I must confess that I've been watching the US television series True Detective. Yeah, it's good. I watch very little television but wow, that one is well worth the time. The story was so complex, it took two views for me even to understand it. Plus the theme song from the Handsome Family - Far from any road - haunts me. Spooky stuff.

Mate, that crisp sounds good. YUM! I may just try that recipe this summer. I make biscuits every week to have with my nightly coffee and the recipe is not too dissimilar. Nutmeg and cinnamon are my favourite spices. Unfortunately, neither will grow here without a whole lot more global warming.

Haha! Ca-ca is Italian for poo! hehe. That is funny. I've got my favourite feral fruit trees here too, but it is worth mentioning that if apples aren't good fresh eating then they are either for the pot or the cider barrell. Just sayin... The worst tasting apples make the best apple cider vinegar.

A few years back whilst picking feral apples, I put my hand on a swarm of European wasps. Fortunately they were so busy eating that they didn't sting me, but it left an indelible impression and I approach with caution now.

Yeah, the original BBC production put me off fireworks as a child. I remember back in the early 70's seeing the successful local band Skyhooks perform on a float on the Yarra River here and they ended their performance with fireworks and all I could think about were triffids and how if I watched the fireworks show I may go blind.

Hope you found your nashi pears. They are definitely worth the time as they are much sweeter and juicier than European pears. I grow a few different varieties here, but mostly the Nijiseki (or twentieth century) variety.

Watch out for triffids in the orchard!



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Morgenfrue,

Yeah the fog can be really nice. It deadens all of the sounds too, so the place becomes eerily quiet.

Ah, well, yeah that would make bicycle riding easy up your way. hehe! To get here from the elevated plains below you'd have to climb about 300m (1,000ft) in elevation. A few hardy souls on bicycles give it a go here, but the gravel road deters most. The main road up Mount Macedon is another matter all together because it is sealed and that gets a huge amount of bicycle riders - especially on weekends - pitting themselves against the 600m (about 2,000ft) elevation climb. They all look tired by the time they get to the top, but oh boy, do they get some speed coming down hill again.

Great to hear. Wallabies are lovely creatures but the wombats are something else again. The nighttime here is alive with all sorts of creatures. Tasmanian devils were displaced on the mainland by dingoes and the devils are having a hard time of it on the Island of Tasmania (which is geologically a chunk of Antarctica) due to the devil facial tumor.

I spent a lovely evening one night years back on a remote farm in north west Tasmania. My lady and I and the farmer sat in a hideout whilst he lured some devils in to the nearby area with fresh carrion. They were really amazing creatures. It was quite the experience.

Yeah, the eastern grey kangaroos can get to 7 foot tall (about 2 metres) so they are an impressive beast. I always give those ones a wide berth at night as they are not an animal to startle.

Wombats are great creatures and I truly hope you get to see one. They do an excellent job keeping the herbage down here and their antics are always delightful.

Hope you get a spotted quoll or four too!

Princess Mary is a delightful addition to your land.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Brian,

Ah Tennessee is about 36 degrees north. I'm about 37 degrees south, so it may be possible that we have a similar climate.

The olives are mainly Kalamata, but there are a whole lot of other species here too. There is even one here that is a University of California (UC126) breed. They all do well without any winterizing. There was a recent heavy frost and even some snow and they didn't skip a beat.

In fact I believe that in some warmer parts of South Australia, they have become something of a feral invasive tree.

Down on the elevated plains below the frosts were as bad as anything that people had seen in the past two decades and there are plenty of olive groves and they all seem to be doing OK.

Perhaps in you area, they may require a bit of protection from the cold winter winds? Dunno, sorry mate.



LewisLucanBooks said...

Hmm. "True Detective" is one I've missed. I'll have to see if our local library carries it.

Hmm. I got curious about the origin of apple crisp. According to this, you call it Apple Crumble.

I like to cook. It's kind of a hobby. Or, as I call it, "Occupational Therapy." :-) . And, I'm always poking at recipes. Sometimes I call it "Vibration Cooking." If it looks, smells and tastes ok, then it is.

Years ago, someone asked for my bread recipe. Well, I start off with two cups of liquid ... and from there on out I was pretty lost. As to amounts and measurements. Some things need a steady hand and a measuring cup ... like, meringues. I put up 9+ pints of Chinese Plum sauce last night. For the freezer. This time I wrote down all the tweeks I did.

The plums turned out to not be free stone. So ... what to do. Then I remembered I'd picked up a Foley food mill at a swap meet. Wizard! Worked like a charm. Though turning it was a bit like riding over a cobblestone street.

Found the Japanese Pears. Two trees. One kind of diseased with scab. Fruit all pretty small. It was just yesterday that the penny droped (or, all the coins rolled out of the bag) and I realized that ALL the fruit is small this year. Not enough water.

I also found an Italian prune tree. Some people around here just call them plums. They have been grown in the Pacific Northwest for a long time. You find them all over the place. We had a tree in the backyard, when I was a kid. I have a thicket on my place, but it hasn't produced. A friend recommended working some bone meal into the soil. Once it starts raining in ernest, I well. But the tree in the orchard produced, but is past it's prime. I'll note it for next year. The Italian prunes dry really well and are great for baking. My plum sauce would probably have been better with those. But, it's still pretty tasty.

I will keep in mind using feral apples for vinegar. Don't know if I'll get around to it, this year. Oh, yeah. When I pick up apple falls, I'm always watching out for the wasps. Enough. Time to get out and do ... something (anything) productive. Lew

Stacey Armstrong said...

Hey Chris,

Thanks for your patience and your forthcoming on your firewood set up. Honestly, it is one of the topics of conversation in these parts that seems to be relatively apolitical. I can discuss the relative merits of different kinds of timber here without offending anyone! We have a modest house and in a cold winter use around the same amount of wood as you! In the next couple of weeks I will be actively moving another cord or so up to the house, and under cover in preparation for the winter. That being said, I am actively trying to find ways to reduce the amount of wood we use. Because of my general exuberance and often clumsiness, I have not been cleared to use the chainsaw here; my partner gets all the joys and sorrows of that job. I light most of the it all evens out. I am very much looking forward to any sentences on your household cookery in your wood stove. I have very fond memories of my grandmas cook stove Elmira, and I not so secretly want one. We have managed make pizza in a cast iron skillet in our conventional woodstove.

As to the flickers, they are one of my favourite birds here, a close second to the pine siskins. I begrudge none of their berry eating. The mountain ash berries are edible, but not particularly helpful. Much like the much vaunted Jerusalem Artichoke, I consider them more emergency rations than everyday eating. I, too, am trying to balance feeding as complicated an ecosystem as I can manage while still feeding the humans. A book on orcharding I recently dipped into discussed the merits of providing as many different tasty eats for the birds as possible as a strategy for improving your harvest. I am tempted to try this strategy as I have noticed that the robins seem to eat the most raspberries and strawberries at the beginning of the season. Do you notice any similar patterns in your land-mates?

Thanks for the tips on lemons. I am going to give them another try.

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Yeah, I hope you enjoy it. You are lucky that your libraries stock electronic media.

I get no reception here at all which is fine by me. The radio however seems to work well here, but a very old FM radio used to have the air traffic control tower from Tullamarine airport blasting over the top of the music intermittently. There is something to be said about digital tuning and phase locked loop receivers!

Yeah, apple crumble is pretty good stuff.

Cooking from scratch is a lost art, which I'm glad to hear that you are working on ;-)! Exactly, it takes time and experimentation to know exactly what ingredients work with other ingredients. Someone once served me a lemon tart dessert with rosemary leaves in it. It sort of clashed a bit...

Funny about the bread. I often get visitors to help out in the kitchen just to try and show them how easy such things can be - without them realising what's actually going on. It is usually a lot of fun. I couldn't work in a commercial kitchen, the pressure and ego's would do my head in.

Instead of going postal, I'd probably go kitchen on them. The problem is they all have very sharp knives in there and they're probably quite adept at using them. hehe! Only kidding. hehe!

Meringue is a bit of a struggle, I'd appreciate knowing your kitchen secrets?

Ahh, cling stones are one reason I don't preserve peaches and nectarines. Freeing the stone from the flesh is usually the work of a sharp knife and takes forever. What is a foley mill?

Yeah, that is true about the water, but also perhaps Brother Bob used to thin the fruit on the trees which also then works to produce larger fruit.

I don't really do thinning here on the orchard because I like smaller, sweeter fruit. However, most people tend to perform this function on the fruit trees in mid spring. Plus I'm a bit slack with the fruit trees - sort of live and let live a bit. I only intervene when it's really necessary. Possibly not one for the purists! hehe!

Yeah, I grow prunes as well as plums, but I always thought that they were one and the same - except one was fresh eating whilst the other was for drying. Thanks for letting me know.

No Stress, there's a time for work and a time for putting your feet up and enjoying yourself! What do the Spanish say, "Manana!". Around here I sometimes have pottering days, where I simply mooch around the place pretending to be busy, meanwhile happily doing stuff at a relaxed pace that is fun to do, but not very important or urgent. I think the origin of the word pottering is English, but I'm not sure.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Stacey,

No worries, it is a pleasure to discuss firewood, which incidentally I reckon is the most sustainable heating source of all available options. It certainly is the easiest resource to manage, albeit with a steep learning curve.

Glad to hear that the subject doesn't offend anyone up your way. Strangely enough, it is a problematic subject here, but generally with people who live outside of the area. Those people tend to have difficulties with the idea that cutting trees down to use as firewood is somehow a very damaging thing to do to the environment and yet at the same time they tend to live in urban areas where there are no trees at all and they use gas and electricity as if it is somehow magicked into existence. It is difficult.

Glad to hear that we are both using about the same amount of firewood in a year. The house here is also very modest and very well insulated which helps. Having easy access to the firewood is an excellent goal. I'm on a slope here, so moving quantities of materials up the slope during winter is just problematic. Are you also on a slope? Generally the area is free of exposed soil which leads to mud, but moving heavy loads here over winter compacts the soil and leads to mud which in turn makes moving any materials just that much harder.

Haha! Thanks for the laugh. Yeah, well, I don't actually encourage my lady at all to use the chainsaw either so you’re in good company. It is a fearsome bit of equipment and is to be treated with respect at all times! Actually as part of my role with the local volunteer fire brigade they sent me on course to get certified with the use of a chainsaw. I generally am not excited by short courses, but I extracted so much useful information and experience out of that course that I highly recommend one. Honestly, I should never have been let loose with a chainsaw without having gone on such a course!

The cross cut course also showed me how to use the chainsaw all day without putting stress on my back. If you'd like, I'll put together a video with some useful hints and tips over the next few weeks on the subject?

Mind you, the guy that took the course was an old bushman who was rough as guts but sharp as a tack. He certainly put the group through their paces over a couple of days.

Haha! Glad to hear that it evens out at your place. My lady assists with the electric log splitter whilst I do the stacking. That job is much easier and quicker with two people working in tandem.

Yeah, cooking in the wood oven is a pure joy. I thought that it would be harder than gas or electric, but as long as you don't run the firebox too hot, it is actually a more gentle heat. Plus things cook at much lower temperatures, so it took a long while to get my head around that.

Hey, you could use a pizza stone (or thick ceramic tile - avoid concrete as it may have water inside and it may possibly pop as the water turns to steam) you could cook the base of the pizza using the heat from the wood fire to get it nice and crispy. Mmmm wood fired pizza is good!

Nice to see how attractive the birdlife is up your way. Yeah, I have a few of those sorts of plants too. The native yams in the photos this week are part of that arrangement. The Jerusalem artichokes are one vegetable that I'm leaving to multiply too. I haven't tried one yet as there are plenty of potatoes instead.

Yeah, there are a lot of similarities and I follow the same strategies, but have no idea really how it will end up. The more I grow, the more wildlife turns up too, which doesn't help me to try and get a feel for the issue either. It is hard. Two decoy crops I grow are seedling cherry trees (sour cherries which the birds love) and there are a lot of the local solanum (tomato and potato) family here such as kangaroo apple which produce edible fruits, but they taste like soap to me so they're off the menu but they grow and fruit prolifically.

Great to hear from your part of the world.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi chola3,

Thanks for your lovely comment, but I can't publish it as it has your personal email address on it.

I must apologise, but I only open the farm to visitors once or twice a year. The reason for this decision - which is firm - is that in the past short visits have often extended to half the day as visitors pump me full of questions for hours on end. It has also been my experience that visitors rarely think to bring anything as a gift to say thank you for both the tour and my time, whilst at the same time, they want to utilise the toilet, expect tea, coffee (latte's no less), food and water. People have unfortunately used up my goodwill.

As a suggestion: There are a few gardens on Mount Macedon Road that open for visitors daily. Monday will be a truly outstanding day weatherwise. One outstanding example springs to mind and that is Forest Glade at 816 Mt Macedon Road. Entry is $8 per person and the garden is genuinely expansive and also well over 100 years old.

There are a few places to drop by for lunch and I recommend the Mount Macedon Trading Post as an excellent cafe and lunch spot.



chola3 said...

Hi Chris,
Thanks for you reply and your suggestions. I hope Forest Glade has things similar to your place so I can understand your blogs better.

Btw, is there a place where you post the dates you are open for visits? I do wish i can meet you, JMG and a few others of the ADR in person someday.


LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris; Those are some nice cloud pictures. Odd to think that you're sliding into spring, we're sliding into fall. On some of our days our weather will be identical. Haven't seen any of our "fall fogs" yet. Any day, now. Usually in the morning. Sometimes, I also feel on top of the world. I'm up about 600'. On a ridge. But, with all the trees around, it doesn't feel like that.

But out my big kitchen window, over the sink, I look at a large pasture with a line of big trees on the other side. Big enough that eagles nest in them. Sometimes, I get actual wisps of clouds floating across the pasture.

I'm always surprised when you mention your blackberry paddock and all the work you're putting into it. Imagine. Cultivating blackberries! Can't get rid of the d___ things, around here!

Your guilds of plants? I wonder if it's related in some ways to "companion planting." I have a good book on companion planting and before I plop anything in the ground, always do a quick check to see if I'm making neighbors of two plants that can't stand each other.

Here's some pictures of Foley Food Mills.;_ylt=A0SO8zMoaRpUyDUAT3lXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTB0bXE0bjcyBHNlYwNzYwRjb2xvA2dxMQR2dGlkA1FCQUNLMV8x?_adv_prop=image&fr=aaplw&va=Foley+Food+Mill

Hmmm. That's a rather monster of a URL. Google "Foley Food Mills" and click on images. The Foley Company started making kitchen equipment in the 1920s. Couldn't really determine if they are still in business. My blackberries I just freeze up and they end up on the bottom of my every-other-day bowl of oatmeal. If I ever make some jam or jelly, I'll use the Foley to get the seeds out. I picked up the Foley at a swap meet / flea market for, I think, about $18. I'd say mines from the 1950s.

Here's the meringue recipe.

The individual meringues are down toward the bottom. I think a hand mixer is ideal for beating. You have better control. The mix really does get glossy and "peak." I just use an old brown paper bag on a cookie sheet. A long slow oven does the trick. I usually fill mine with lemon filling and top with home made whipped cream. I've used blueberries, too.

Good ol' Betty Crocker. Don't know if you're familiar with her. She was actually an invented person, by a food company, back in the 1930s. Newspaper columns, radio shows and finally,cookbooks. My go-to cookbook is a Betty Crocker Picture Cook Book from the 1960s. I'm still finding stuff in there that I didn't know was there. Sure, she occasionally pushes the food companies mixes, but not to excess.

My second cookbook choice is the Joy of Cooking. Old editions. A little hard to use but has everything. Like, how to candy orange or lemon peel. I probably have around 100 other cookbooks. I go on jags. From my landlord's, mother's estate, I got two cook books from the Two Fat Ladies. Got the DVDs from the library. So, I'm kind of on an English cooking jag, right now. I have discovered ... Stilton :-).

When I "slung hash", I never worked in a large commercial kitchen. Usually small cafe's or bars where I was the only cook. Had to stick to a menu, but, at least worked for people who cared about the quality of the food. One place, we had a woman who brought in home made Beef Cornish Pasties and Pork Pot Pies. We had a problem with staff pilferage of those :-).

My mother always used to say "Puttering around." She was of Finnish descent. No higher formal education, but very well read. Gosh knows where she picked it up. Pottering and Puttering probably have a common root, somewhere back down the linguistic line. Lew

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi chola,

Thank you for your gracious reply.

I'll be opening the farm one evening in early December for local groups and you're welcome to join then. I'll give some notice as the date gets closer.

I'm also considering opening as part of the Sustainable House Melbourne open day next year, but haven't made my mind up about that one yet. There is also a possibility about opening as part of National Permaculture day too in May next year.

I'll post details as I know more.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Yeah, you know I was thinking the same thing too. It's a bit eerie to think that we may be having the same weather so many thousands of miles away!

This year looks like it is turning into a drier year than the previous year here. I'm already behind the rainfall totals of last year, however the rain that is falling now has turned into the sort of tropical downpours you normally get here during spring. This means lots of rain in a really short period of time, but then nothing. Mate, that heavy rain tests the water catchment systems every time here.

600 foot is quite an elevated spot too. Glad to hear that you get a bit of fog. It is amazing how much moisture the fog can bring into an area even when there is no rainfall, you can hear it dripping off the tree leaves. The Aussie author Jackie French calls it mizzle (mist and drizzle combined).

Thanks for the mental picture of your place from the kitchen window. Yeah, the clouds / mist can roll across the place here too. Those are the days it is really cold here and the solar makes about the equivalent amount of energy as a very loud mouse fart! Mind you, it is nice to be in an area that experiences such diversity of weather. The tropical areas of Australia don't tend to get as hot as they do here, but the weather during the dry season is mind bogglingly predictable months in advance. They have a very variable monsoon weather pattern though, with the occasional extreme cyclone which can flatten cities (like Cyclone Tracey in 1974).

Yeah, well, the blackberries I grow are thornless varieties so Stumpy the house wallaby will strip them completely of leaves so they don't make enough energy to produce flowers and fruit. The leaves are an old herbal medicinal, so I suspect that they are edible. The wild blackberries are completely feral and out of control - except that the local council sprays them with herbicide, only for the plants to bounce back the following year. If I do nothing I'll never get any fruit at all!

The good Sir Baron Ferdinand Von Mueller introduced blackberries into the area in the late 1800's and they quickly went feral. Unfortunately between the wallabies and the council I'm struggling to get enough fruit to produce a year’s supply of jam. Incidentally, I think I probably would have enjoyed the Baron's company but probably wouldn't have been able to get a word in as I suspect he suffered from a bit of bombast. I'll bet you've come across people like that in your time too?

Yeah, there is a lot to the whole companion planting thing. It is very wise to listen to others experience in such matters as it can save a whole lot of hassle. Monday's entry will talk a little bit about Borage bombing a new garden bed here. What combinations do you find that work really well?

Cherokee Organics said...

How good is the Foley food mill, it is like a low tech food processor, but very heavy duty. I've never seen one before. I remember as a child, my grandmother used to grind up mincemeat in a small metal manual grinder which attached to the kitchen bench. It looked really sturdy and could be easily disassembled to clean.

Thanks for the meringue tips, I'll give it a go here and let you know.

Hadn't heard about Betty Crocker, but I also have a penchant for cook books from the 70's and 80's. One of my favourites is a book called: "Cookery the Australian way" - whatever that means! It covers all of the basics and into preserving methods etc. A true fount of knowledge.

It is a bit sad that cooking is a lost art here. Most people that I know - with a few very notable exceptions - tend to buy ingredients based on cost and what they look like. Most of the time, the cooking experience for them is what I call ding, ding cooking: i.e. heating stuff up in the microwave oven.

Wow, I bet you have some interesting stories from your kitchen days? Glad to hear that they cared about their produce too. The local general store / cafe here - which I mentioned earlier - are very much concerned about the quality of their food too and I respect them for that.

Ha! It had never occurred to me that staff pilferage from a kitchen would be a problem. Oh yeah, proper Cornish pasties and pies might be worth it though! hehe!

About a decade ago there was a guy called Doug - who ran the business Doug's Pies in this old Victorian shop in Port Melbourne and without a doubt he made the best pies and sausage rolls I'd ever eaten. The sausage rolls took their business seriously and some of them were thick bratwurst sausages wrapped in pastry with peppercorns liberally sprinkled through for good measure with a dollop of homemade chutney on top. Yum, I'm starting to salivate with all this talk of food. Unfortunately the climate here didn't suit him and he moved north to Queensland. Unfortunately, that just cannot be forgiven! hehe!

Yeah, it possibly does have the same linguistic roots as it can't possibly be a coincidence?

I've been rolling large rocks uphill today. Whatever possessed me to send them downhill was a serious error of judgement!



LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris; Mizzle is a great word! We've had a bit of mizzle over the last week ... late at night and early in the morning.

Oh, yeah. Love the view out of my kitchen window. I feel so closed in in the winter. Plastic on all the windows for insulation. But that window ... I leave unwrapped. I probably loose a fair bit of heat, but it IS south facing. It was a lot more interesting when Brother Bob the Bachelor Farmer ran cattle back there. Then, for a year, there was a ferrel red and white bull. Now, the deer.

Thanks for the reasons you actually plant blackberries. Thornless would be nice. My legs and hands are well and truly scratched up from my blackberry harvesting. I figure it's just part of the toll.

Bombast. Guilty here. :-) .

I know the grinders you're talking about. I see a lot of them here in antique and junk stores. Some, still in the box. I think every kitchen had at least one 1920-1950. I think I've got a couple kicking around here, somewhere. My granny used to grind up all kinds of stuff with them.

Kitchen stories. My favorite is when I worked in a little hole-in-the-wall cafe down in Seattle's Pioneer Square. Just a grill, counter and a couple of small tables.

This was back in the early 70s. Pioneer Square was real Skid Row back at that time. Not all yupped out like it is today. The name Skid Row, by the way, originated in Seattle. Once upon a time there was an unpaved street and they "skidded" the logs from a mill, down the hill to Puget Sound.

Any-who. I used to open up the cafe about 5am. Across the Square was The New Paris Theatre. That featured old style strippers. The first show was at 8am ... can't imagine who would be interested in such fare at such an early hour. But then, I'm not a morning person ... :-) .

Well, after the first show, about 10am, here they'd come. All the ladies would just throw a coat on over their costumes and come parading across the Square for coffee and donuts.

As they say in that business, "A girls got to have a gimmick." Some mornings I'd look down my counter and there would be: Little Red Riding Hood, A School Girl, A Nun ... well, you get the idea.

They were a nice bunch of women. Mostly single moms trying to keep food on the table for a couple of kids. I always treated them with the utmost respect and received same in return.

Rolling rocks uphill. Did you do something bad? :-) Have the Gods cursed you? Sisypus as I remember. Condemned to roll rocks uphill for all eternity.

Oh, I understand. Your last post, "When Good Tanks Go Bad" reminded me that sometimes, tasks... Well, I find that I can't do "A" until I do "B". Which can't be done until I do "C". And, sometimes onto "D", "E" and "F"!. Sigh. Sometimes I feel like I need flow charts. :-) . Or, maybe all it is, is systems. Oh, well. Keeps my brain perking along and firing on all cylinders. Lew

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Yeah, thanks. It is a good word isn't it? It's how the trees here get a lot of their summer moisture. In the early mornings during summer you can sometimes hear the drips falling from the leaves.

Bombast, huh? Well, it is nice to have a bit of personality too as well as a few bad habits. hehe!

The view outside here changes so much that you never quite know what is going to present itself. Occasionally this can mean a very well fed wallaby sitting on top of your vegetables though! A feral bull would certainly present some difficulties, as well as some unexpected circumstances. Whatever happened to it? I’m truly grateful I haven't had to deal with one yet.

A few years back, I turned up to a meeting at the local fire brigade. I sort of mentioned in passing, that I'd driven past a large bull on the side of the road and you don't often see that around here. An innocent passing remark became a total kerfuffle as people started asking me why didn't I lead the bull back into the paddock, and why didn't I know that such and such owned the bull. It was then that I truly understood how much there was to learn!

I hear you. The thorns on the feral blackberries are a right nuisance. They remind me of splinters from timber as they have a similar effect on the skin.

We share a similar ethos in that I treat everyone I meet with respect too. Thanks for the story too, I think I would have enjoyed that scenario as well. All I think they ever wanted was to be acknowledged, it is not hard.

A long, long time ago I worked at a transport company and as a general rule the guys in the yard and warehouse were always polite and respectful and I returned that politeness and respect to them. The guys in the office on the other hand were full of: I'm not quite sure but perhaps machismo maybe the correct term? It was such a contrast that I could never quite get my head around the situation and it left me feeling bemused.

Thanks about the history of Skid Row too. Very interesting. They built timber tramways up here which the roads now follow. Interestingly too, the tramways followed the well-defined Aboriginal trails.

Yeah, totally unsure what it was that I've done, perhaps it was in a past life? Those rocks need an 8 foot wrecking bar to lever them back uphill too. Grrr. hehe! There's more of them too...

Too true, what do they say: "A place for everything and everything in its place". Unless of course you have to do D, E and F first!



LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris; When Brother Bob the Bachelor Farmer was running cattle on the place, well, during the last roundup before he passed on, this one bull escaped. Most of the cattle were some kind of Black Angus cross. But the bull was red and white.

I really didn't become aware of him for a long time. I think he kept a pretty low profile. I referred to him as "The Ghost Bull." And, he survived a winter. Then I started seeing him in the pasture out my kitchen window. Usually around sunset. Sometimes, he'd chase the deer. Going full tilt and driving them into the woods.

He kept getting more and more aggressive. My neighbor / landlord / friend had to drive an alternate route through the pasture when his driveway was being worked on. The bull would occasionally charge his car. There were also reports that he got out on the road. If someone had hit him, there would be liability issues.

One night around sunset, I noticed the bull was up the hill, practically in my neighbors front yard. I gave him a call to let him know. Pretty soon, I hear a "Bang! Bang!" and, then a few minutes later, another "Bang!"

He dressed out at 650 lbs.. The ravens, crows, hawks and eagles fed for days. Both my neighbor and I agree that though he had become a liability, we miss having him around. Lew