Saturday, December 17, 2011

The positives and negatives of electric fencing.

Being relatively poor, all the fences here at Lantanaland are of the electric kind. There was no real cow proof boundary fencing when we got here and to put that sort of fencing in requires serious money. I'd hate to think what sort of money goes into fencing at a proper farm. Proper fencing requires long term vision and planning as well. You have to think of all the possible ways you might want it set up, not just how you want it set up today. Once it is in it is expensive and time consuming to change. Electric fencing is pretty good as long as you stay on top of it and has one real benefit that fits in with my permaculture principles.

Permaculture has a theory that you learn with the land. That is the longer you are on a piece of land, the more you understand the most effective way to work it and make it work for you. Electric fencing is fantastic for this because it is really easy to reconfigure. Just pull out and bash in some star pickets and give that way a try. I think I have reconfigured the 'home paddock' about ten times already to get the best out of the set up. Learning the way the cows behave, building a chook pen and now setting up for a vegetable garden has all influenced how I build the fences.

The latest little permaculture program I have started is the veg patch. I've been watching the River Cottage Veg program and it made me realize that one of the reasons that I don't cook more veg is that the stuff from the supermarkets is fairly uninspiring, flavour wise. When I broke it down, the reason I don't grow more veg is that, well, I suck at it. I forget to water it, or feed it or don't have good enough soil. Hopefully the new patch will solve all these problems.

I have used tyres to build the beds because they are free and modular. That lets me do a bit each day rather than waiting for a whole free weekend to build beds with materials I can't really afford. The beds are just outside the chook pen and right next to where the cows come and wait to be fed, the best source of rich broken down soil. It's also gives me a super enriched fertilizer, the water from the duck pool in the chook house.

I redid the fences so that there is a little buffer between the beds and the paddocks so the cows can't reach those dexterous tongues through and munch on the tasty plants. I walk down past this garden every day to milk and there is always water down there for the cows so there is no chance of neglect. That is probably one of the most important things for me. If it needs daily attention then it had better be somewhere I have to go every day.

The next bit of refencing was around the tree and tank above the house. I have a little paddock there that is too steep for the ride on and I extended it round the big fig and second tank, down to the aquaponics. This little slope is a pain to slash, so getting the cows to do the work for me seems like a smart thing to do. It also means they can come down and say hello when we are on the deck or in the spa, something that Dolores will like. She is a very friendly cow.

All in all for a couple of hours work yesterday and today I have increased my pasture, got a secure vegetable garden in and started, fixed up another fence and moved Laf and Buster the bull into there. All done, until something comes along and gives me an idea and I change it again. All part of the fun.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Technology has to make it effortless.

Mr John Birmingham had a nice little post today on using a notebook to you know, take down ideas and story plans with a pen. Old school. But just because technology is old technology doesn't make it useless or invalid. Sometimes it is still the best thing, simply because it draws you in to what you want to do.

I love my iPad. Do all my blog writing on it. However I foolishly jumped into an update of the software before checking that the blogging app I use had tested and updated for iOS 5 and it killed it. I could and still did write on the web interface but it was nowhere near as enjoyable. The iPad works for me because I cannot touch type and the pace of my typing roughly matches the pace of my thoughts. I tried some other apps for blog writing but they all made the process harder. The way apple has set up the cloud services now means that whenever I pick up the iPad all my photos and saved links are there ready to go.

I use a lot of pictures in my blogs so the ability to place and move pics around in my blog easily and quickly makes me more likely to write. I found a new app for $1.99 that did all that I wanted and actually made it far easier to put together a post than both my broken app and the web interface. The technology was easy and so I was more likely to write.

At work however things are a bit different. I do a lot of design and marketing stuff as well as forward planning and iPad software design. I have a big iMac but my favorite tool is these big blotters that one of our suppliers give us. Almost as big as my desk it has calendars down both sides, space for to do items on the left and big beautiful blank space to scribble in. Every Monday I start a new one and transfer any left over things from the week before. Coupled with a bunch of felt pens it is integral to the way I work.

I've not yet found a easy way to replicate that with the iPad. Maybe not enough space that I can see everything laid out. Maybe on the new iMac with its massive screen there would be a mind mapping app that would replicate it. One thing I do love on the new iMac is the touch pad that came with it. I have a series of desktops set up, one for photoshop, one for time wasting, one for email, one for the software that runs all our ordering and data at work. I simply swipe between desktops and it is like a little mental switch that clicks your brain into that workflow.

New features and new technology is fantastic, but if you are not going to explore and push it, then the best tech for you might be a exercise book and a pencil. Whatever works.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A birthday + I know a guy, chapter 32.

We have been taking the advice of many, many parents and enjoying the last few weekends child free by pretty much doing nothing. Saturday was my birthday so we went down to a local winery, with good mate Ryan and had a lovely feed on an old classic Queenslander over looking some grapevines and some cows. The food was nice if not amazing but the view was fantastic especially with the recent rain making everything a nice English style green.

The rest of the afternoon was spent watching a bit of cricket, bantering with some cricket tragics on twitter and reading a few books before The Wife cooked a lovely quiche and we watched The Fantastic Mr Fox. I liked it but The Wife is not really a fan of quirky so lucky it was my birthday and I could get away with it. Oh and I got a chainsaw from The Wife, Ryno and the Paul Manttan family. Sweet! More gear to tame Lantanaland.

Today was also fairly lazy, I only just got a bit of lawn mowing in before the rain hit, but this afternoon we got an unexpected and welcome visitor. The neighbour that shares a back fence with us, the mythical back fence which I have only glimpsed once and never walked the full length of. He wanted to fix it up and was wondering if we could pitch in some funds.

We got to chatting and it turns out it is his cattle that wander all over the block to the right of ours. Not only that but he kills and ages his own beef. Of course I then mentioned I worked for a butcher supply company. There was a moment where we looked at each other and realized a fellow follower of the 'I know a guy' principle. It's quite simple, a bit like bartering. I trade or use my skills and contacts with yours. Never at market price of course.

Turns out that the cattle are just a sideline, he has an earthmoving business and keeps all his stuff on sheds on the land. Mentioned that he thought about buying our place when we bought it so he could run power up to his sheds. I reckon I know a guy that could help him there.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Food Miles and Flavour

I was watching my food hero Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall tonight doing a show about going vego for six months. He's an inspiring bloke, at least to me and one of the key things I took away was that he'd got a new category added to the local show. Tastiest vegetable. It makes sense, especially in today's modern two tone supermarket system where taste would be at the bottom of a long checklist of things like whether or not the veg can bounce along in a truck for 500km.

One of the thing I love about Lantanaland is food miles. Food miles are the distance and energy used to get something to your door. I'm not saying that you have to get everything locally, some cultures and regions just do things better. I get a kick out of the smallest things though and tonight is was one small jar of tomato jam made with these small pear tomatoes that I planted just for jam.

These tomatoes have had a rough time, the cows have escaped a few times and they are on the driveway with some other tasty treats and have had a bit of a prune. I got just enough of the little beauties for one jar. I'm going to enjoy breakfast tomorrow knowing that my jam has food miles of about 50m.

The other food with very low mileage is obviously my dairy products. Now I understand that not everyone wants a cow, even though cows are cool. I've been making lots and lots of creamy feta and one of the other tidbits on River Cottage was a smoked soft curd goats cheese. If a soft curd goats cheese takes smoke well, I reckon my feta will, so this weekend I'll fire up the cold smoker and try smoking some cheese.

I understand that not everyone cares about flavour or where their food has come from. For some people it's price and convenience and nothing else. Some people support the local farmers markets or grow herbs on a balcony. But I'm pretty proud of my jam, small token or not.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Home Grown Veg

Despite the beautiful lush rolling hills with meter deep beautiful topsoil here at Lantanaland I am terrible at growing vegetables. Actually all of that is a complete lie. Except the vegetable growing. For whatever reason I just don't have a fantastic track record with veg.

I understand the principles but seem to lose crops to cows, chooks, lack of water, pests, forgetfulness, goats and ducks. It's a bloody shame because home grown stuff increasingly has a far superior taste to any shop bought stuff and I like eating things that taste good.

The best success I've had this year has been with tomatoes. Some have just popped up from the cows eating lots and lots of tomatoes, some have been raised from seedlings. I have planted them everywhere. I'm enjoying a half decent crop too at the moment but not the absolute glut that would mean that I could make tomato sauce for pastas and the like or one of my favorites, tomato jam. I did today have an absolute joy, a bacon, avocado, home made feta and tomato sandwich.

In my ideal world I would be producing the following in amounts that could keep my kitchen running. Carrots, garlic, onions, potatoes, salad leaves, beans or peas, zucchini and I'd like a bit of corn, cucumber (I usually have no trouble with them) and cabbage. I also usually get pumpkins no worries but not in fantastic numbers.

I'll just keep trying, I have the worst soil going and have just started some raised beds so we'll see how that goes. In a perfect world I'd have the chaotic self seeding kitchen garden that they have at Northey Street farm where all sorts of things self seed and thrive in a random mix. I made some fantastic salads for lunch out of that garden, it had no order but fantastic production.

The beauty of having the farm is that I have the raw ingredients and tools to grow good stuff, I just need the knowledge and the practice. I look forward to eating it.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Rains are 'ere Marge

It's a cliche as old as the hills (see what I did there), but the one of the farmer looking up at the sky waiting for rain, dusty hat in hand has been used and over used by advertising and bad Australian soaps for years.

That doesn't mean it has lost its meaning. Here in SE QLD the memories of last years floods are very much in the forefront of the collective mind. But it wasn't that long ago that Brisbane was suffering from drought. All that meant was a few poor gardens and some water restrictions that most third world countries would be glad to suffer.

Now I am a smallholder, realistically one that doesn't rely on anything I grow or produce, but still one that is incredibly aware of rainfall and weather. Lantanaland is marginal land at best, clay and rocky soil and while I am improving it I rely on decent rainfall to make sure my feed bill doesn't run too high.

So when I woke up this morning about 4am to the sound of steady soaking rain breaking the driest November since 1919 it was the most peaceful, beautiful and relaxing sound I think I've ever heard. It means the grass will grow quicker than the cows can eat and I can seed the third paddock.

It's a good sound.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pulling Tit Every Second Day Was Not Making Her Happy

Well that should get the google analytics ticking over.

I have a problem. The problem is that I have never kept dairy cows before now and while I know that I know nothing, I thought I knew more than that. I have two cows in calf, well, I think I do. Candy looks bloody pregnant to me, but then Dexters look like little barrels on legs anyway, so it's a bit hard to tell. I thought Candy's udder had dropped and filled a bit and assumed that the calf was near. That was 6 weeks ago.

Now it doesn't really matter if Candy is a bit later in the year, let nature take it course and all that. The problem comes with how I've treated and reacted to my leading cow, Laf. When I thought that the calf was imminent, I started to dry Laf off, milking every second day. I thought this was the right thing to do, so that when I started milking Candy she could ease into the offseason and have a rest. About the same time she started to kick when I was milking. Laf used to give an occasional kick, but this was every minute or so. There is nothing like screaming obscenities at a cow in the dark at 5am who has just kicked over 6L of hand extracted milk. I just thought she was over being milked.

Pick the noobie dairy farmer.

If I'd thought about it, I'd have linked it to the change in routine. I know that cows are great creatures of habit and hate having things changed up. I guess I had just convinced myself that it was a particular reason and put my brain in park.

As time has passed and Candy has stayed fat but given forth no baby cow I thought I'd better go back to milking Laf every day. No calf is bad, but buying milk from a shop is catastrophic. When Laf went back to a daily milk it was like she had had a bit of time with the CIA and had her attitude adjusted. No kicks. Running down to get her food. Nuzzling me like a big dog.

Cows. Like. Routine.

So now in the early Lantanaland mornings all is again peaceful. The ground is no longer stained white with spilt milk and I am enjoying milking again. I learnt just how little I know about dairy cows, well actually I'm sure I still don't know how much I don't know, but at least I'm enjoying doing it again.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Ten Years of Bliss

Today I have been married to a beautiful fantastic woman for ten years. We had a bit of party on the weekend to celebrate but some of our close friends couldn't come so I thought i'd throw up my little speech for those who have shared in our lives up till now. Here it is....

This time ten years ago I would have been kicking back nervously in my very last share house with Davey and The Bro cracking jokes in an attempt to chill me out a bit. Despite being together for a few years and many share houses I was quite nervous about getting married. I don't know why, now, because none of the traditional things about marriage, commitment, change, kids particularly worried me. There was no need, it's taken Ness ten years to get round to having kids. But our relationship hasn't changed that much at its core.

Because at the core of our marriage and the time before it is the friendship and love that we have for each other. When we first started going out it was a few months before we spent a night apart. Now I'm pretty sure that had something to do with Vanessa being quite hot, but it was also because we genuinely liked each others company, and always have enjoyed hanging out with each other. We are quite happy out here in our little farm with each other, as long I offer at least one back rub a day and the spa is working.

We've still managed to pack a fair bit in the last ten years, a PHd, new jobs, buying a farm, a pregnancy, just, and plenty of up and downs. I think no marriage that will last can be all one tone, it needs the occasional bump to wake you up and make you look at each other. I find that those bumps are always on the roads that come when I take a different exit to the one Vanessa is expecting me to take. Ten plus years of scientific training has made her mind rebel against what it sees as the best methodology and my hypothesis that it is interesting to occasionally go a different way home has been found to be invalid.

A key part to our marriage has always been friends, and I include family in there because I count them as my friends, because friends are always there for you. When I was running the music venues and working stupid hours with high stress and low pay we used to have a cooking club with one of our best mates Davey. We had this low level bickering going that we would never have done in public but Davey is like a big brother. Instead of making an excuse and canning it he turned up week after week with his jokes and gently steered us into calm conversation. It was like the lightest of couple therapy. Luckily for him the food was pretty good.

I see a lot of our friends here tonight, many who we've lived with or played footy with and definitely shared a beer and a feed with. Food and drink has been another constant theme of our marriage, I love cooking for Vanessa, I never tire of it. Likewise she tolerates my experimentation and when all else fails I get her a carrot. (after slaving away at a very slow cooked lamb dish during her pregnancy, ness threw a minor tanty about not getting any fresh veg for dinner. I almost cried and very patiently offered her some carrot sticks. In five minutes she was cheerfully munching away and I went back and polished off my stew.) Our friends and family have always been generous with their help, time and affection and we would like to thank them for it.

I love Vanessa even more than those first days, it's a deeper love. It's a love that gives a little chuckle when she forgets how I have a cup of tea after ten years, a love that treasures every cuddle and caress and appreciates just how much she understands me and for that I am truly thankful. Not everyone gets to meet and marry someone like that and I look forward for all the things to come.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Old Wood

Sometimes you just lucky with the people you become friends with. I've made two or three through the blogosphere that I would call real mates and communicate with even if the Internet ceased to exist. But the net makes joining of the minds like that easy. The real fun is when it happens through an old school interaction, like being neighbours.

When we moved to Lantanaland the first people we met was Eric and Di, the people who lived across the street. We didn't have that much in common at first, other than music. Eric has about 20 000 vinyl records of all different styles. He just loves music (my old hip hop buddies would go nuts). But he's not into technology at all, can't even save a called number into his phone and he is a fair bit older, different generations and all that. We would have the occasional chat and beer as we got to know each other, he has a great sense of humor and being a chippy, he did a few odd jobs round the house that were beyond my skills.

We got to friendly enough that when we decided that a 20 degree slope on one side of the deck probably wasn't that flash, we asked if he'd do the work of rebuilding it. You just have to look at his house to know eric isn't just a run of the mill builder. Hes a craftsman and like me he gets bored doing things the conventional way. He agreed and we did the work mostly on weekends so that I could be the laborer. Over that time I learnt a few things about building and discovered that we share a deep love for hardwood timber and in particular, recycled timber.

The stuff that gets put into landfill today is criminal, especially from old commercial buildings. Back in the day they built with timber that good craftsmen today would cry tears of joy to get their hands on. We wanted nice wide top rails so that we could take advantage of the fantastic view and enjoy our breakfast on the new deck. To buy new, in hardwood, would be way above our budget, but Eric got a call from a mate who was demolishing an old Nissan dealership. They had some great big slabs of timber that were going to be hacked up with a chainsaw and dumped. Eric rescued them and we ripped all the nails out and today I was sanding the lovely old wood back, exposing the saw marks that the mill probably made 50 or 60 years ago. It made me so happy to see the age, the character and knowing that it wasn't in some tip.

So Lantanaland has given me another gift, a friendship I probably never would have had, one that's grown through working together, building something, for us and the family to come.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Stupid Tax

I have this thing I call the Stupid Tax. When I was younger and getting into tech and gadgets I would quite often be fooled by the marketing and the concept and purchase on impulse. On arrival I'd find that the product, design and engineering didn't match the concept and marketing and so I payed the Stupid Tax for it, money wasted. Or I'll lose or break or misplace something that had plenty of life in it and I'll mutter to myself as I buy the replacement, that's $39 Stupid Tax right there Beeso.

This morning I had to fly to Rockhampton for a funeral, an up and back trip in a day. I was sure I had double and triple checked the date, one of my pet fears about travel but had somehow managed to book in November not October. I went up to the Virgin help desk, hoping, praying that they knew what the stupid tax was and were prepared for me to pay a hefty hit of it to get there.

Turns out Virgin Australia have tax exemptions for incredibly stupid acts and the very kindly swapped my flights at no charge, at which point my heart started beating again. These days I do my due diligence on anything I purchase and very rarely have to pay the Stupid Tax and I'm incredibly annoyed when I do pay it but today I would have gladly paid it to be there for my Grandmother and Mum.

Virgin will get my business from now on and based on form, I'll be paying them some Stupid Tax sometime in the future.

- Lantanaland from my iPad

Location:On a plane to Rocky, luckily.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sacrificing 7 virgins did the trick*

Those of you that have a interest in my small dairy herd and cheese making attempts will know of my problems with butter. I've tried many, many times with no success, had a whole heap of advice from twitter (cheese makers and butter people on twitter are amazingly helpful). I was going to borrow the sherman tank of food processors off a mate of mine, The Snackqueen, but thought I'd give it another go this morning. Well sacrificing 7 virgins* seemed to do the trick because I finally achieved butter.

I cultured the cream with a bit of natural yoghurt, sat it on the bench during the day then chilled it overnight. Within a few minutes of beating I could tell it was different, the cream was thickening! It took a fair bit more to get the butter to separate out and the stem blender was pretty warm by then but I had butter.

I really need to get the mixer going so that i don't have to stand over it for half an hour but there is no stopping me now, hopefully soon Lantanaland will have a stockpile of homemade butter in the freezer.

*no actual virgins sacrificed. Couldn't find any at Beenleigh Woolies.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Raw deal

This morning I had a whole bunch of twitter links about the fate of raw milk cheese and the slow food movements fight to protect the diversity of our cheese types. As the world grows smaller and more and more traditional cheeses are lost I think that raw milk cheese is worth fighting a bit for.

The fact is, that a small minority will want or seek out raw milk cheese if it was legal in Australia. There is no way FSNZA would just let cheese makers go at it, it would be regulated and tested within an inch of it's life, which means it would be more expensive. But we should have the choice.

Consider this. I'd only have to walk or drive for 5 minutes to buy something that is guaranteed, proven, peer reviewed, without a doubt to kill you, cigarettes, yet no government or government department would dare dream of banning them.

The links are here,here and here. Most people will keep buying the standard brie at woolies and I'll keep making my completely random, raw milk cheese at home. But it'd be nice, if you wanted to try the cheese in my world, you could.

Made by someone who knows what they are doing of course.

- Lantanaland from my iPad

Location:Footy training

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Watching Grass Grow (warning contains actual description of grass and other things growing)

Queensland doesn't really have a authentic winter. One morning here and there wearing a jumper to milk the cows does not a winter make. What does happen is the grass stops growing. What looked like more than enough feed down the bottom paddock disappeared far quicker than I liked and in the last month the cows have lost a fair bit of condition, despite the hay and fruit they get every day.

So the arrival of spring, the feeling of it, not the date, was very welcome. A few early storms and a bit of warm weather and the green started to peek through. The cows have bashed down a lot of the lantana and as the years go on I'll get better and more pasture but I'm also going to do a bit of improvement over the summer on the feed situation. I already have a nice start on the clover in the home paddock, which is beloved by both cows and bees.

While the grass is getting green, there is still not enough of it, especially for the jerseys who had really thinned off. So I fenced off a little treat paddock up behind the house, along the road. It's a real problem up there, a few rock retaining walls and a slope too steep for the ride on mower. Even the hand mower is difficult because you feel like you are sliding off the slope. It is right near my neighbors too, so I take them up in the morning and back at night so they avoid the "hungry/need to be milked cow alarm clock".

They really appreciate it too. Yesterday, after taking them back to their paddock, I was giving Laf a brush off and checking for ticks. After checking her over I went to do the same for Dolores. Laf quickly pushed her off and rubbed her head on me like an affectionate 300+ kg house cat. Cows can be so cool.

It seems like the spring feeling has brought on a flurry of work. Trees trimmed, cheese made, paths exposed, fencing (always bloody fencing), holes dug for shipping container foundations, fruit trees planted (fig, more passionfruit and kiwifruit), ducks moved down to the chook pen and bath installed, bees checked, more bloody fencing and gates installed and a bit of light lantana removal for something different.

Today's fencing was brought about by the suspicion that Candy the dexter cow is not that far off from calving, so I wanted her in the home paddock where I can keep an eye on her. The problem being the fruit trees I have in and around in that paddock. Nothing a few star pickets couldn't fix. The top paddock has a nice bit of grass and clover too which she will appreciate and I'll up her minerals in some pollard every morning.

I'm hoping that I can import this nifty hand milker from India that I discovered. I've rung them and besides a crappy line, shipping and getting them to understand why I want one I'm hopeful that when I am milling a few cows it will make things a bit easier. I doubt I'll be able to hand milk 20L a day on my schedule.

All in all I'm reasonably happy with the farm progress. Just have to get the shipping container in and sorted before the baby comes is the big one I guess. Plant more fruit trees and keep them going. The mulberry is not far off and I'm looking forward to smoothy breakfast season. I made 2L of yoghurt today for that very purpose.

Other than that, I'm going to sit back and watch the grass grow, because for someone who owns dairy cows, there is nothing more exciting.

Lantanaland from my iPad


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Pit crew

I have two things occupying my brain matter at the moment. Both of them are quite reflective. The first of course is the birth of junior Beeso. The other is my first real head coaching job, coaching an A grade club side in the top Brisbane touch competition. But here's the thing, I'm a bit of a doer and the mind space of both these things is a bit like being pit crew for an F1 team. You are important, even vital, but you're not driving the car.

Last week at the midwife meeting I was struck by how little there is I can do other than move furniture around, keep the house clean and stay very, very calm. I'm loving the process so far, aided by the fact The Wife is doing this the cliched football way, one week at a time, not looking to much to the finals. It's meant I can just roll along, enjoying the discoveries as they come, like the 20 week scan and finding out the sex of the baby.

The footy thing I can drive a little bit more, but as I found out Friday night, as much as I train them, work on teams and game plans and positions and tactics, I can't actually run out there and change things. I've always been a player, only recently started coaching through a rep assistants job and Friday was a big wake up call. I spent hours after lying in the dark, trying to figure out how to do things better.

When I go on my road runs, I spend the long boring minutes thinking away about football and babies and tactics and cuddles and sub rotations and wondering how old a kid has to be before it can milk a cow.

The important things pit crew have to think about.

- Lantanaland from my iPad


Sunday, July 31, 2011

Nothing on the Weekend

I had nothing on this weekend. It started off well, a few beers with some mates (for me) to celebrate finding out the sex of my new little farmhand. (it's a boy and I'll write a bit more about that later). Slept in Saturday with the weekend gloriously unencumbered by any appointments, social outings or coaching.

Of course this is Lantanaland and that means the list of things I have to do is as long as a 14 year old girls phone bill. I started off with a coffee, everything should start with a coffee then a little light fencing with the cows. They are not really up to Olympic standard but it was enough to get the sweat going. This paddock is the small one and it had one gap that looked like it was an impenetrable bank of eight foot high lantana. There is a little (native?) pea that was growing over it and they soon smashed that down to a size where they could munch the pea. On the other side of that was a stand of bananas and I might as well have gone to a fashionable club in Sydney and yelled 'free cocaine for everyone' considering the stampede into the garden. So the cows went back into the big paddock till I had fixed the fence.

This is the last of the grass I have in the paddocks. The other two are eaten out and I don't think I'll get time to do the last big one, which has a much higher lantana to grass mix anyway. The good news is that when this rainy season comes there is a LOT more open land and I'll do a bit of pasture improvement with some green manures over summer as well, so I should get a lot further next winter.

In the afternoon I decided to tear the carpet up, as you do after a good lunch. Underneath was lovely floorboards painted green with white and yellow splashed everywhere. Interesting. We haven't decided what to do, but I'm glad we are shot of that carpet.

Sunday I slept in until the cows bellowing got too insistent to ignore. Laf was in the dry paddock watching the others eat the nice grass and wasn't happy. I was waiting for my chippy neighbour to come over and give me some advice on where my new shipping container was going to live. He was off buying several hundred records, so I planted out two mulberry cuttings and gave them a little electric fence enclosure. Mulberries are supposed to be great for a cows health and I love them in smoothies, so I'm trying to propagate them in all the paddocks. I did some citrus pruning, planted a finger lime, chopped out a few weed trees and prepped for some new vegetable beds.

When Eric came over, we completely changed the plan, deciding to run the container east/west and bury half of it into the hill, which I'm very happy about. The only problem was the end we wanted to start at was covered in a nice thicket of farmers friends and lantana. What a surprise! Eric went home to his many projects and I went got out Zombie Defense Tool Number 1 (the brush cutter). I gave the blades a quick sharpen and went at it with abandon. That done we did some quick and dirty measurements to see how much fill and digging there would need to be done and called it a day.

Ahh yes, a nice quiet relaxing weekend.

- Lantanaland from my iPad


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Taking stock

Lantanaland is in a interesting spot. I have one pregnant wife and two pregnant cows. After four years I now have a good plan of some of the things that we want to do.

Take in front of the house. There is a flattish bit that runs along the whole front of the house where the original owner built retaining walls. When we first moved in the chooks went there, with varying degrees of success. It's hard to build a completely enclosed chook yard all the way to the edges of the level ground because of the retaining rocks. I lost chooks to snakes and foxes and more snakes, ducklings would find gaps and kamikaze down the rock wall. Usually just as the veg garden would get going, the chooks would find a way in and destroy it.

When the ikea flatpack chook house arrived I had a much better idea of what I wanted to do with the space. I decided to build raised garden beds on one side and move the aquaponics to the other side and incorporate a pond for the ducks and a waterfall for The Wife. Now a few years ago that would have cost me a bit of cash, but now I have the materials from the rebuild of the deck and stuff to fill them, an unending supply of cow shit. The first bed is up and producing, the salad leaves are ready and the tomatoes are coming along nicely.

Everything has a flow on effect. Moving the aquaponics will mean I can clear out a path running behind the tank and access and maintain a little rainforest garden below the big fig tree at the top of the block.

Take for instance, the impending birth of The Child. This has pushed us to expand our one and a half bedroom house somehow, which means I lose the carport space where I do my building. I can't really have a whole bunch of timber, recycled guttering, power tools and assorted drill bits lying around with a bub coming anyway. This is good, because it means the mythological and much planned for shipping container has passed the Wife Planning Commission and will be installed in the far corner of the top paddock to be part cool room, work shed, storage and doghouse. Extensive secret plans to build world domination center outfitted with every apple device available have yet to be approved.

A bit further down the paddock sits the poorly designed and poorly built cow bales and yard. It's done the job but is woefully inadequate for when Candy has her calf and I need to lock it up for the night so I can milk in the morning. I've mulled many an idea over to build a decent barn while spending my budget of next to nothing and I'd pretty much settled on a tyre construction with render, despite it being a shitload of work.

Then it hit me like a large amount of rectangular building things, with the shipping container going in, I'd have a perfect mount for a cow barn and lockable yard for the calf, rock solid and just sitting there! Happy days.

Elsewhere round the farm things are going pretty much to plan. I've kept up my ambition to get a whole bunch of fruit trees in at regular intervals. Recent additions are a lemon and a finger lime (surely I won't kill this one), gooseberries, raspberries and passionfruit (both to shade the gooseberries and to cover the ikea chook pen). Next round I'll get some avocados, a grapefruit and some more apples.

I've ordered some fertile eggs, including a few silkies. Those raised garden beds are all the same size and I'll make a chookhouse that fits right over the top and when the bed is done producing I'll chuck a few silkies in and they can turn it over for me.

I guess the thing is, when you get a place like Lantanaland, you get all motivated and want to gung ho. Which is fine if you have buckets of cash. But it is better to go slowly, make a few mistakes and learn along the way, so when you do the big immovable things, you are pretty damn sure that it what and where you want it.

- Lantanaland from my iPad

Location:On the road

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sex tourism for cows.

I just went down and picked up my cow Dolores from the farm she'd be visiting to "put her in the family way" as they say. I'm absolutely stoked that Steve and Letitia have been kind enough to let my cows get serviced by their little dexter bull and I'm looking forward to having two calves to manage at the same time as a newborn human.

While I was there it came up that I had given The Pregnant Wife a cold and that she couldn't take any of the sweet, sweet drugs that we use without thinking these days. Letitia asked if I wanted some citrus. Of course I did. She proceeded to fill a bag with juicy lemons, lemonade, two types of mandarins, oranges and just for fun threw in a couple of custard apples. Woolworths value of about $50. I was stoked.

On the way home though, I got angry. Letitia could have given me three bags full and not even noticed the difference. To get that from woolies I would have paid a quite steep price, for, from what I've tasted so far, an inferior product.

I mean, I am trying to get an orchard and vegetable garden established, but I need to work harder at it. I want my kid to enjoy food. The problem is, that unless you want to pay the premium, you won't get food that tastes like it should. Unless we can somehow get something like the Victoria Markets in all our capital cities, seven days a week.

I bought some tomatoes the other day from a trendy inner city fruit shop cause I was there and in a hurry. Took out a small loan at the checkout to purchase them. But outside of the ones I'd grown myself they were the best tasting tomatoes in years. Got eaten in a day, because they tasted fantastic.

Now that just made me keen to grow some great tomatoes and I've planted four varieties this week, but what if you can't? Why would a kid keep eating fruit and veg if it tastes like colored cardboard? All the education and marketing in the world won't beat the taste of a fantastic crisp sweet apple. If it tastes good, people will eat it.

I haven't got the answers, unless you have the money to buy the good stuff. I have the answer for me, which is to plant a fruit tree every couple of weeks so that I have some sort of fresh fruit and veg all year round. But I have Lantanaland.

I can see the day when the bulk of people will get the bulk of their food from a powder or a tube, cause if the fruit and veg is tasteless, why go to the bother of preparing it? Just mainline it baby!

That future makes me sad and a little angry, but it's not going to be mine.

- Lantanaland from my iPad

Monday, June 6, 2011

Theory into practice.

When I was growing up, my parents would escape to a small beach shack on Curtis Island, off the coast of Gladstone. I didn't particularly like fishing and all my mates were back in town and I found it bloody boring to be honest. My mum would always tell me despairingly that I didn't know how lucky I was and she was dead on. At least then. As I got older I appreciated it more and more, the space to explore, the solitude, eventually even the fishing.

So much so that today Curtis Island is still one of my favorite places to visit, even though it has changed and the island doesn't have the same freedom to roam around in that I had when I was a kid. I still try and get back there as much as can and it is one of the main reasons that we searched for, found and bought Lantanaland.

One of most evocative memories of the island was the generator at the nearby shop. A loud diesel, it would thump away powering the rental flats until the curfew at ten pm. As it died the silence would echo and wash over you. I used to try and stay awake just for that moment, sitting in the dark, hearing the silence, before it would be filled by all the small noises, the crashing of the waves if there was a swell, the wind in the trees, the insects and the animals.

Fast forward to 2006. I had been living and share housing in Brisbane for ten years. Now I know that Brisbane is not New York or Tokyo. But the mental walls were closing in. I enjoyed the community that we had around Red Hill and I had my chooks and garden, but I felt cramped. The neighbors closest were loud and had no concept of a working week or sleeping at three am. And just in the back of my mind was the thought of a kid growing up there, unable to enjoy any of the things that I had when I was growing up. It was not a nice thought.

So we bought Lantanaland and have been on a journey that I have enjoyed every second of. My life is quite a bit different, milking cows and making cheese and building things that would hopefully still be there when I die. Much more fun than three tradies on a ice binge. Still in the back of my mind was the thought of what it might be like to have a kid here. Every time kids came round and got to have a go at milking the cows or petting the chickens I got a little taste. Good fun, but all in the theoretical.

Until now. Come December I won't be thinking about raising a kid in Lantanaland. I will be! I'm looking forward to it an amazing amount actually. I realize that he or she will bitch about milking the cows just like I did about fishing and they'll probably want to play Xbox 22 rather than weed the garden, but the joy is that they'll have the space to choose, to think and to grow, as much as they like.

- Lantanaland from my iPad

Location:Virgin airlines.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Lantanaland - the movie

Coming to a cinema not near you.

Lantanaland from beeso on Vimeo.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Sucker punched by touch football

12 months ago I'd pretty much given up on doing anything much more in touch footy. I'd enjoyed playing with the young guys the year before, but it's getting harder and harder to get fit enough to warrant running around. I played NTL 30s and wasn't really fit enough and I had no desire to be a fat old guy on Friday nights.

The club I played at has heaps of coaches or potential coaches so it looked like footy was over and I could look forward to Cheesemaking and brushcutting my weekends away.

Then I got a call from an old mate of mine. He has a slightly obsessive personality and his involvement goes in a cycle. Gets involved, then crazy involved, scouts and analyzes and puts in the sort of care and attention that NBA teams do with a staff of five and a 10 million dollar payroll. Burns out. Rings me and tells me he is never playing/watching/coaching touch again. Has a break. Gets rung up and asked to play/coach after six months. Repeat.

Anyway, he had been badgered by a bunch of young players to come back and coach the Brisbane rep team. He wanted me to be his assistant, partially because I would be happy to do some of the work, but mostly because I'm not crazy like he is and might offer some balance. I never thought I'd get to be involved in a open rep side so I jumped on board.

It was great fun. I got to try out a whole heap of ideas and the players were all talented, easy to coach and good guys. And we won, which is never a bad experience. I really enjoyed the coaching too, the technical aspect of it.

Halfway through the campaign, simon asked me to come down to a meeting of his club, Eagles. He wanted me to get involved there as well. Personally I thought the coaches there would want an ex dodgers player about as much as a dose of the crabs, but I came along. They asked me to help out with the A grade side, doing a bit of technical stuff to back up the coach, which again, sounded like fun. Right up to the point where the coach had to quit for family reasons and I suddenly became head coach of an open mens team.

So now I'm sitting at a cafe waiting for some of the players, to plan out an assault at an A grade title. Reading my notes and thinking that after I said yes to coaching twice without hesitating or thinking, Simon suggested that when QLD come asking, I might try and play a bit more hard to get.

- Lantanaland from my iPad

Location:Cedlen St,Camp Hill,Australia

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Cows on twitter.

I was tweeting my excitement and many photos Saturday because I had finally, finally solved one of my steadily worsening problems at Lantanaland. Cow pregnancy.

A cow will gestate for nine months and will give milk for as long as two years. Laf has been milking for 14 months and despite trying to find AI or a visiting bull for Dolores I had failed miserably. However a recent trawl through some Dexter contacts showed a small stud just over the hill from our little farm, down in the sugarcane fields.

I rang and enquired about two things, one, did she have any pregnant cows she'd be willing to sell? By now I really didn't have enough time to get Dolores preggers and keep milking Laf till the next calf came. I needed to fill the milk gap. Yes, she had a few pregnant cows and even better, she had one that was not a show bred cow, with a bit of jersey in her (which is cheaper). I said I'd ring back and make a time to come visit. I was also hoping to check out the bull as a prospective mate for Dolores.

When I rang back there was no answer. I left a few messages. When I finally got through, Letitcia was sick. I was beginning to think that I was cursed to never get some calves. Or worse still, that I'd have to buy a bull! But after NTL I got the call to come down and have a look. Steve and Letitcia were lovely folk. I think Letiticia's family have been on the cane farm for three or four generations.

I met the cow, so different to my girls, stocky and shaggy and barrel round where the jerseys are all bony hips and sleek coats. We got down to business. I'd buy Candy, a two year old Dexter cow and at the same time bring Dolores down for a six week sex holiday. I'd pay for her feed while she was there then pick her up, hopefully pregnant with her first calf.

I hired a horse trailer, which had problems of it's own. It had separator bars, but at horse height, which she could scrape under. I had nightmares about hitting a bump and breaking her back, so I drove the slowest, smoothest drive to Yatala I have ever done. When I got there I nipped two farms down and packed it out with sugar cane for the return trip, which was still pretty smooth and slow.

She's a lovely girl Candy, but very shy and skittish. She's used to a herd of about ten cows and liked Laf and Buster much more than she did me but hopefully with a bit of food bribery and pats she'll be calmer by the time it comes to milk her.

In seven months or so I'll have a new challenge, a calf, to run round after, but also to enjoy. The last say goes to one of my twitter buddies, a music journalist who I talk OZ hip hop and basketball with. He retweeted my cow photos post with the comment "things I don't normally read"....

- Lantanaland from my iPad


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Cheesemaking at The Foccacia

The Wife, my In Laws and my best mate walked into a bar......sorry now is not the time to tell that joke, especially as they bought me a place at a two day Cheesemaking course.

Read about it at Mother Foccacia.

- Lantanaland from my iPad

Sunday, March 6, 2011


It's funny how things go. I got the cows to make my own cheese. It wasn't really going anywhere as I had no fridge to age it in at the correct temperature. About eight weeks ago I scored a fridge from the in laws that started off a little chain reaction that has got me fired up about making cheese.

It started with the fridge, but about the same time I opened up the new paddocks and with the new tasty grass Laf started producing up to 6L of milk a day. Meant the pressure to use that milk increased.

I had a success where I previously failed. My first attempt at feta was miserable. Fell apart. So I left it for a while, but with the extra milk I really needed to have another crack because it is a midweek cheese, one I can make in a nights timeframe. This time it came out fantastic and I haven't looked back. We use a lot of feta and I haven't bought any for almost a month now. The marinated one I am doing in lemon zest and herbs is particularly tasty.

This weekend though was where it all came to a point where I think I am really, really hooked. We were going to a family wedding in Byron and I threw in one of the first Bries that I was confident would be good. I thought it would be a nice thing to have on the weekend. I was also nervous. I really wanted it to be ok. Not mind blowing, just good enough to make me keen to keep trying. It was better than that.

Soft and creamy on the inside with good flavour. Maybe a bit too much rind, but I've already learnt a trick to stop that. I was very happy. However I had hooked up a meeting at the Bangalow markets with Justin from Bangalow Cheese the next morning so I snagged a piece for him to try and stashed it away.

The next morning The Wife and her Dad huddled under the market tents buying veg while I picked Justin's brain while a parade of people came past to buy my cheese. He thought by cheese was a pretty good go and gave me some fantastic tips and knowledge while I was there. Knowing my butter troubles he even gave me some of his fantastic cultured butter to try. I can't thank him enough, it was just a great boost to be able to talk to a professional, let alone one that's just won multiple awards at a cheese show.

I was even more fired up about cheese making. In two weekends time I'll be doing my Cheesemaking course and when I came home this morning what did I find at the postbox? My cheesemaking book I ordered with lots of new recipes. Today I'm making some Castle Blue.

Later I hope to solve the problem of the upcoming milk gap and considering the roll I'm on this weekend, maybe I'll come home with a cow!

- Lantanaland from my iPad


Sunday, February 27, 2011

I am a Fucking Idiot.

Apologies to my more genteel readers for the title, but unfortunately it is very true.

A few weekends ago I spent a fair whack of time and effort running fence line. I blogged about how I was betting on the fact that fence, while very good was not yet complete and that this would be good enough, as the cows would be satisfied with the lush grass in the new paddock and still come up the hill to be milked.

Let me repeat, I am an idiot and that assumption meant I had two days of hell where I thought my cows might be gone for good.

Wednesday night I had footy and didn't separate Laf out at night. I do this occasionally when I get home late and I'm too tired to take some food up. I usually compensate by going up and beating the calf to the morning milk. When I went up in the morning Laf wasn't at the gate. Again, that's not that unusual as there is good grass down the bottom. I went down the path a bit, calling for them. I could hear some mooing down the bottom but no cows came up. Cursing their recalcitrance I gave up and went to work.

Thursday afternoon I called again but couldn't go too far as I had a guy coming to look at hooking up the top tank to the house so when we lose power we still have a water supply. After he left I went further down as the light faded but still nothing but distant moos. I was starting to get a little worried.

Friday morning I was up early and as soon as there was enough light I was off down the hill, calling and walking every path in the paddock. Not a sound nor sight. I even checked up above our house in a paddock on the hill the neighbour keeps mowed low and that the cows love. Nothing. I was really worried now. I love the cows, they are a massive part of Lantanaland now and a big part of it's plans for the future.

The only positive is that all three were gone, which meant that they'd probably gone wandering together. Considering we have hundreds of acres of thick lantana and bush next to us, it was a small comfort. Friday arfternoon I scooted from work as early as was decently possible bought a new blade for the brush cutter and came up with a plan.

Thanks to the technology of near map I know there is a set of yards and water in behind our place. I planned on going in along the western boundary through to the paddocks beyond and start calling. I stood on the deck planning my route when a flash of monochrome on the green hill across the valley caught my eye. I quickly grabbed the binoculars and sure enough, in the far distance, there was Dolores. I could see a patch of brown that was surely Buster higher up and then Laf wandered into view.

Whew. They were all still alive and together. Now I just had to go and get them. There were cow tracks of sorts on the eastern side of the valley but no real path. Time to fire up the brush cutter and imagine the zombie hordes were invading. It was heavy going down the hill, but as we got down lower the cow paths were heavier and older and once we crossed our back boundary line (which, until then, I had never seen!) we were in beautiful lush knee high grass paddocks. No wonder they weren't coming when I called.

The Wife and The Dog came and joined me as I walked up the far hill as I put the halter on Laf. Where Laf goes, the others follow. I gave the rope a tug. Laf looked at me pityingly. "Have you seen the grass up here?" she seemed to be saying as she budged not an inch.

Luckily The Wife (phd) is much smarter than me and had brought a loaf of bread with her. Laf quickly forgot the grass and followed us home in a stop start way, the other two trailing behind. Only took about three hours.

Saturday saw the brush cutter fueled up and going flat out. Simon, perhaps guilty he had tricked me into coaching two teams this year came down to help. By lunch all the posts were in and we were drenched with sweat. By late afternoon just about all the fence lines were done and a nifty gate to the dam installed. Except the two posts were too far apart and the post driver was up at the house. Damn.

No matter, a few hours on Sunday and the paddock was finished. My boss has a saying, a sale is not a sale till we have the money in the bank. Well a fence is not a fence until the bloody thing is finished.

Something I am not likely to forget in a hurry.

- Lantanaland from my iPad


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Maximum amount of milk for the minimum of moo.

In my mind I have a list of infrastructure that needs doing at Lantanaland. It's one of those pieces of paper from a loony tunes cartoon that when unrolled, the bottom runs across the floor and out the door. Fencing, gates, cow sheds, garden beds, fix the deck and the floor downstairs, attempt to make the kitchen bigger than a galley from the first fleet, fruit trees, a cheese production room in the laundry, a cellar, a workshed/lair, the list goes on. In my wallet however is a very tiny piece of paper titled, available funds which usually makes me sigh and put it away again.

Take the cows. Some dear mates helped me carve out a paddock last June and a small one in September. Ideally, with enough funds, I would have cut another paddock further down for when those ones had been eaten halfway out. Instead I stretch and wait and use the free fruit and bread I get to supplement their diet. They are healthy, but not fat and it probably means I get less milk.

Recently my lead cow was a bit sick, probably with what the vet called "three day" a mosquito borne virus. When I was walking down the hill to her to give her a bit of food and water in the shade she was hiding in, I realized that while there was some grass still there, it was not enough. I'd extracted about as much as I could. So the trusty brush cutter was dusted off and I strode off down the hill to cut fence lines, slashing and gouging like I was in some Z grade American horror movie.

I did get a pleasant surprise when I finally, after two days work, I tunneled my way down to the dam. It was very full and had much more water and plant life in it than it had when I'd last seen it, two years ago. The following weekend I opened my wallet and purchased about enough gear for 500m of electric fencing, just over $150. This was not enough to completely enclose the paddock, but it turned the cows inwards, stopping them from getting out and onto the tracks that lead back up past the house.

Now if we had money, I would be putting a star picket every five meters, instead of stringing it out as far as I could, using the plastic posts to hold up the wires in between. Hell if I had money I just would have got a bobcat in and terraced the whole hill and regrassed it.

The point is that if we were flush with money we wouldn't have bought Lantanaland. As well as the lack of infrastructure the house is run down, the soil is crap and there is no established fruit trees. That though, is half the fun. It means that I can redo the kitchen in a skeleton of stainless steel and old timber. It means that as the cows roll back the eight foot high grass and smash tunnels into the lantana I get a better feel for the shape of the land, so that when I do get the heavy machinery in I'll be able to direct it, know where I need terracing and paths.

The reward at least this time was immediate. Milk production has more than doubled and I've made large amounts of creamy feta, a soft blue mould, white mould cheese and this morning as I type this I am waiting on curd to set for a soft washed rind. All of which will hopefully lead to me paying back my initial herd sharers so that the cows can start earning some management fees. Maybe then I can be a bit more proactive with my cow infrastructure, more milk, less moo!

- Lantanaland from my iPad


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Grass Envy

Every day I drive to work I pass a lush green paddock on the left. At the moment the cows are belly deep, munching away with the look that cows get when they know they will probably only have to move four meters in one day. (in fact I can't drive anywhere anymore without looking at ground in terms of grazing. We were at a beautiful windswept grassy hill in northern NSW for a wedding, when The Wife, seeing a faraway look in my eyes, enquired about my thoughts. "be a great bit of grazing for the cows this").

There is a bit of anger as I drive past, because it used to be two paddocks and the other one is now a gated legoland community, complete with matching gardens and roofs. But mostly It is envy, because I have probably ten square meters of top grazing in my two paddocks.

Now that's mostly because until recently the top paddocks had been covered in lantana, the place isn't called Lantanaland just because I have a bit on the driveway and I'd always thought the mix of grass and weed down closer to the dam was even more biased towards the lantana. I was basing that assumption on old data, because I hadn't been down to the dam in two years. When we got the place, QLD was still dry, but by the end of year one the cattle agisting had been removed and the lantana had closed down the paths.

On Australia day, I had to do a bit of fence repair, as the cows had been escaping a bit too much even for my entropic ways so I wandered the fence line to see what was the problem. The fence was easily fixed, a bit of the electric line had escaped it's holder, but the state of the grass was another matter. There was a little there but it would be hard work for the cows. The envy came on tenfold. How many years, I thought, until I have a nice lush paddock.

I have been investigating native grass regeneration so I am doing some good as well as getting the best fit for my climate and soil, but I looked at the rocky soil and despaired. Oh well, time to cut out another paddock.

The trusty brushcutter had been playing up a little, no doubt in rebellion against the 100% humidity we had for a few months. Some new fuel and a bit of coaxing and I was geared up to slash away. I worked myself down the old cow path before turning down the slope towards the dam.

Well, if you'd seen me then, you'd thought I was a teenage girl presented with Justin Bieber clones for her birthday. Grass! Tall lush grass, thick luxuriant grass. There was thick lantana, sure, but the cows could graze here for quite a while without even making a dent.

I slashed away with renewed enthusiasm, until I ran out of petrol. The bull calf, who'd escaped when I'd been fixing the fence, wandered along the conveniently cut path to say hello.

I came back in the afternoon and pushed on, through some truly thick lantana. I tell you, if we have a zombie invasion, give me my brushcutter, a tank of fuel and my harness and let me loose. I'll be death in workboots.

Of course, as can only happen when you are at the bottom of a huge hill, the blade came loose as I was about five meters from the dam. No matter. Saturday I'll return and join that path up with the fence line and run some electric fence and the cows will be in heaven.

Soon I'll be a able to drive to work and look out the window without even a hint of green.

- Lantanaland from my iPad


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

'Ave a go, at making cheese.

I just couldn't help myself.

I've been making a bit of cheese lately, a batch every weekend, since the In Laws donated a old fridge that I could use for aging. Mostly soft brie like cheese, as the turnaround is fairly quick and I'd love to be able to start getting everyone in my Herdshare a bit of product.

Cheese making is one of those things I'm not really cut out for, requiring precise temperatures and timing. I'm a bit, well, a lot more slapdash. I've been good though, only ruining two out of the last three batches, one when I didn't watch the temperature of the water bath I was using. The second was when I left a cheese to dry and went out training. The book was probably meaning European room temperature, because when I came back my lovely soft cheese had collapsed in the heat.

Today I came home and took Laf up to the driveway to have a feed on the much greener and lusher grass there. I get a heap more milk the next morning. I've been tethering her there overnight, which only backfired slightly last weekend when she started bellowing to be milked at 3am. I milked out almost twice as much though. As I was leading her up I noticed she was very full in the udder. The calf hadn't had his afternoon drink. I couldn't tether her out in that condition, she'd bellow all night.

So I milked her out and went down to make some cheese. Trouble is, I'm running a bit low on supplies, I had no brie starter culture or white mould or liquid rennet. I did have my back up junket tablets and a bit of cheddar culture.

So after reading up a bit I decided to ignore all the recipes and try and make a semi hard cheese, with the culture of the milk dominating. The milk was just the right temperature so in went the junket tablets and a touch of culture. I've cut the curd and stirred and broken it all up. I'll drain it, salt it and lightly press it overnight. Then into the fridge to age, then, who knows?

If it doesn't work out, I've got plenty of raw product to work with!

- Lantanaland from my iPad


Monday, January 3, 2011

Tassie Tough

They have a term over here, called Tassie Tough. Queenslanders were definitely not Tassie Tough. At least thats what I was being told by a bunch of Tasmanians sitting on a beach at Coles Bay in shorts as I eased into what felt like arctic waters for a swim.

This was our new years trip, visiting the holiday shack of Marj's parents at Freycinet. I stayed in that bloody water for about ten minutes, nine minutes too long before running up to the shack and huddling under a doona and shivering like a teenage schoolgirl watching her first horror movie.

We'd had a leisurely drive up, mostly food related, no surprise there and then a lovely salmon dinner before crashing out. The next day we did a walk to Wineglass Bay. It was what I called a longish walk but well worth it for the stunning views and countryside.

Davy and Marj, being Tassie tough, called it a short stroll and we had barely finished lunch before they were gearing up to go snorkeling for some abalone for dinner. I was knackered but went along for a look. It seems like you can't go anywhere in this place that is not scenic, which The Wife loves. I've pretty much lost control of my good camera.

We had a pretty quiet New Years and I crashed out straight after midnight. For good reason as it turned out cause the next day I woke up with a mutant Tasmanian cold. Definitely NOT Tassie Tough. I pretty much slept all the way home, refusing both caffeine and potatoes, a sure sign that I am truly sick and not having a whinge.

I slept the next day too, putting our Bruny Island adventure back a day. It also means I have a wish list for next trip. Houn Valley, Tasman peninsula, the distillery, other cheese places.....

Dave and Marj have been the most brilliant hosts, Sarah (Dave's sister) has been great company too. This ends the southern part of the trip, tomorrow it's the Cradle Mountain and Chez Flinthart part of the journey.

We'll be back again for sure and I hope soon, great mates, great food and lots to do ensures it. Maybe then I'll be a little more Tassie Tough.

Lantanaland from my iPhone