Sunday, April 22, 2012

Use it or lose it

If you are going to live the life that we have chosen (ok now I do sound like I am starting a commune) you need to make sure that you are being a bit productive as well. Cows and chooks are cool, but if you are keeping them purely as pets then you want to make sure that you have the cash to be able afford those big pets.

That's why I try and plant as many fruit trees as I possibly can. Fruit is not cheap so every banana we don't buy is Lantanaland paying itself off. Sometimes you can fall into the trap of being a bit choosy, only eating and buying the things that you want. That was the thought that hit me as I watched The Wife take pictures of a lizard eating the guavas falling off the tree for him to gobble up. I don't particularly like them as a fruit to eat but what about them in some jam?

As usual I couldn't be buggered looking up a recipe so I just put the guavas, cut in half with two lemons roughly chopped in a pot with half the weight of the fruit in sugar and boiled it up. When it went a bit when tacky on a frozen plate I passed it through a sieve and hey presto, guava jelly. Unlike most of my jam it actually set too and considering it is almost all gone after my parents visited for a week, it must be pretty good.

Confident after my jam experiments I thought I'd have a go at some relish. This time I looked at a few recipes to get a rough idea of the sugar/fruit/vinegar mix. I boiled up the fruit with one lemon, a little water, some cloves, star anise, mustard seeds, cumin and bay. In another pot I sweated off two brown onions, eight hot chillies and a truckload of garlic. Once they were nice and translucent I added about a fifth of the weight of the fruit and onions in sugar and about the same or a bit more of white wine vinegar. (I didn't really measure this out, worse luck). Then I sieved the boiled guavas into the onion mix, added a tin of chopped tomatoes and boiled the whole lot for roughly an hour. I wish I had tomatoes at the moment as well but thems the breaks.

Of course the result was the best relish I have ever tasted, a just reward for not measuring and recording the whole process. Still, not a bad outcome, utilizing what is pretty much a weed here in Lantanaland. There are massive groves of it down the hill that haven't fruited yet so if you know me and live in SE QLD then I'd be thinking what you like more, guava jam or chilli guava relish.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The farm. Need, want, dreaming

I can break the farm stuff into three distinct areas that occupy my thoughts. Things that need doing. Things I would like to have. Things I dream about. The last is important because it keeps the creativity going, and some good ideas come from dreaming about what seems impossible. Some dreams are far off but are good to have in the future as something to work to, like turning Lantanaland into a cooking school.

The need is easy, those jobs that sit in my forebrain, kicking me, telling me that I should be doing them instead of writing. The never ending fencing is the main one. The urgency on that is a little less now I know the guy that owns the 100 acre property behind mine where the cows escape to, and that it is full fenced. They come back eventually. Ideally this year I would fence the last third of Lantanaland that contains the dam. That would mean that I could do much better rotations of the paddocks and start to get some diversity into them, like pigeon pea and pintos peanut that take a little while to establish. At the moment I am just chasing my tail and none of the paddocks really get enough time to re establish good grass. The clover seed has been going into the cows feed regularly so that will get going again.

The other big need is Curtis and The Wife. While he is so small I really want to spend good chunks of time with him, so I am! I'm blessed in that I can spend time with him and I'm really enjoying it. I'm getting a fair bit of stuff done during nap time.

The things I want. There are so many! I'd settle for a decent vegetable garden, more fruit trees and a few more chooks. The chooks will be boosted hopefully by the donation of some fertile eggs and maybe some interesting day olds. A few new ducks wouldn't hurt either. I'd love to have enough surplus eggs to give some to the Herdshare and have that wonderful feeling that you have to have eggs for breakfast just to reduce the surplus. I'd have to do a bit of adjusting of the pens so they had a semi secure day area that had some electric fencing protection from opportunistic foxes, but the idea for that and a way to integrate it into my ideal veg garden is already kicking around. The problem, as always, is infrastructure and money for it.

Some peoples ideal vegetable garden is beautiful neat rows of each variety, order out of chaos. I fell in love with the gardens at Northey St City Farm, where years of plants seeding and growing wild has led to this chaotic wonderland of a garden, where things just spring forth. You plant the things missing in the space and once a year you let the chooks in to clear it all up and turn the soil over. To get to that stage I need to actually get something to grow and seed. I planted some snow peas today, secure behind a sturdy metal trellis. I'll try and get more of a seed raising system going as well, so that I'm planting plants not seeds.

Fruit trees is a matter of preparation and foresight to make sure I establish them in a place where they will get water and enough love to get started and not get eaten by cows. Sounds pretty simple hey! At the moment I have an apple, fig, mango, lime, finger lime, pomegranate, native plum, lemon and passion fruit that have survived the cows and my brownish thumbs. I'm thinking about only asking for fruit trees for birthdays from now on.

I dream of solid fences made of hardwood that could contain a few sheep or milking goats, of terraces cut into the hill, seeded with a variety of pasture for the cows, of a mowable path to the dam, of a series of water catchments in the hill to ensure every drop of rain, of a big stainless kitchen that was easy to make cheese in, of not so much bloody lantana, of a my shipping container shed/workshop/cold room. Dreams are bloody easy. I've got lots of them. I've got more jobs than dreams though.