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