Saturday, 23 January 2016

It's Raining

It wasn't until I moved into the country, I truly grasped just how precious water is. We are no longer on town supply water and the days of long showers and water sprinklers on the lawn are a thing of the past.. along with the stench of chlorine and the unwanted ingestion of fluoride,neither of those things I miss.. We are now reliant on tank water. All the water we use is collected from rain run off from our house and shed roofs. We have a main tank which holds around 18,000 litres and when that one is full it overflows into another tank which holds around 15,000 litres. We have the ability to pump the main tank water up the hill to a third tank which holds around 8,000 litres of water. This may sound like a lot of water, but if it is not used sensibly it becomes a lot less than we need for a year. 

About 4 months ago, I made a dreadful mistake, leaving a valve open on the smaller tank and we lost the whole 8,000 litres. It is gravity feed, so it slowly flowed back down the pipe and soaked into the garden. My first clue was yanking out a weed and there was water dripping off the roots.  I still did not click to what had happened, until I went to run some water to the chooks and not a drop was to be found. It was a real set back and a huge learning curve for me, a mistake I will never make again, on the upside, we found we had a leak in the underground pipe running up to it. 

We have two free standing 1000 litre tanks, that collect water off the chook shed roof, this is for the vegetable garden and poultry. However, we live in an area where summer is very hot and winter can be pretty cold and dry.  This winter was lacking in a lot of rain, so the water tanks sit empty up the back and after a couple at 45 degrees Celsius days ( 114.4 degrees Fahrenheit) my vegetable garden is a dust bowl. Everything burnt to a crisp, it is a big ask, even of even a well watered to flourish after a fiery blast.

Much of Australia is suffering serious drought conditions. I have started a smaller garden closer to the house, where I can use clean waste water and use a watering can to keep it growing well, not to mention a large redundant golf umbrella to shade it on hot days.. I will post about this garden later on..

Rain falling on the outdoor table  
But yesterday, it rained. Not huge amounts, 18ml but you could hear the earth sigh, as the rain came down. The plants around the yard perked up as it sucked up the life giving fluid.  It smells wonderful. 

It is drizzling again today. Everything is looking lovely and it has left everything feeling cool and refreshed. 

A New Yeasty Beast-y

I have felt the pull to get back into bread making again, my husband has been away for the most of the last 9 months, so I tend not to back a loaf for myself, no reason why I shouldn't just my heart wasn't in it.. I love making fermented breads, and my sour dough starter died about a year ago, it was the slowest most painful death imaginable and no first aid given, could revive it -
As silly as it sounds, it was a pretty sad day, when it got washed down the drain, it had travelled all over Australia with me, as the Navy posted us from one place to another. There was a definite bond between us, our yeasty relationship had lasted for over five years. So a few days ago, I thought I would conjurer up a new starter and try and rekindle another long term yeasty beast-y friendship.

My husband is not a huge fan of rye or wholemeal bread, sooo choosing a light rye flour to be added to the starter isn't really tricking him, it is more like breaking him in gently :-)  The light rye is mixed with spelt, both very good flours for a starter, but once it is going I tend not to use wholegrain flours, choosing instead good unbleached flour and some organic white spelt. Tap water for a sour dough starter is a no no, we are fortunate to be on tank water, so chlorinated water is a thing of the past for us.  You can keep a jug of tap water on the bench for 24 hours then use it.

The recipe for the starter I made is 50 grams unbleached bread flour (not bread mix) 25 grams of organic white spelt and 25 grams of light rye flour, 100 mls of tepid water. Mix all this together, give it a good mix, sour dough starter like lots of air beaten into it.. pop it in a jar with a lid, and leave it some where warmish.. 24 hours later you should start to notice little bubbles. When this happens take out 100 grams of the starter, add 100mls water and the same flour as before up to 100 grams and leave it again for 24 hours.
This is called feeding the starter. Do this for the next 3 or 4 days, and you will have something big, foamy and alive. It is now ready to bake with..

This is what mine looks like at day 2, in the first picture you can see a tide mark, that is where it has risen and started to drop, it is ready for feeding. When it is ready to use, I will post a recipe for you.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

A little country cottage.

It has been a number of years since I have sat at a blog and written. My last blog, which I had been actively writting for many years, Butterflies and Breezes came to a halt after a very sad time within our family, and I couldn't bring myself to return to it, so now it is like a well loved yet well worn jumper, still nice to look at but not one you want to wear any more.
So here I sit, getting ready to give The Enchanted Kiwi blog  a whirl.  A great deal has happened in the last few years. We finally bought a small patch of land, in country Victoria.. after years of living in Military housing it was nice to put down roots.
The kids have all left home and we really did down size, sometimes I think, we went a little to small house wise, but I am adjusting. My husband retired from the Navy after 32 years, was a man of leisure for 9 months and went back. It goes to show you that, you can take the man out of the Navy but you can't take the Navy out of the man.
When we first come to look at this place, we crossed a tiny bridge with a sign that said - the road flooded further up there is a marker saying up to 1.5 metres, I looked at the small ditch and thought oh yea.. 
Flooding sign

After heavy rain all if this is underwater, not passable unless you have a 4x4

I have since learnt, they do not call it Deep Creek for nothing, this murky we creek can flow too high for me to be parked here when we have had heavy rain.

Yes, I was a pessimist the first time we drove up it, thinking 'who would want
 to live up here' because after the initial 'goat track' it is quiet pretty. Our drive starts at the purple agapanthus.

This is the view from the drive up through the fruit trees to the vege garden
 and the chook and duck pens. There is the biggest old gum tree at the back here, a lovely tree and very old.
 Our property sits on the edge of a State Forest, nestled in the foot hills of The Great Dividing Range.  I was more than a little enchanted as we walked up the drive for the first time. The smell of the gums, a chorus of birds and insects. This house we knew would be our safe place, our sanctuary and hopefully some where we could enjoy the tranquillity and quite that you don't find in the city. This was a house that needed a name.. 
So we called her:
This is one of my favourite places to sit. It is kind of special as I always wanted a house with a front porch and a bull nose verandah. The photo of the house was taken when we first moved in, I really need to update it, the two weird looking palm things have been replaced with roses and lots of hanging plants. Also missing from the house is the 10 solar panels on the roof, to go with the solar panels for the hot water, the first major step in making this a simpler and more sustainable way of life. 

Up the back we have some small garden beds, and a larger main garden, however that is a challenge as far as water goes, so that is a work in progress..
Living in a harsh climate, summer heats up into the 40 Celsius leaves our lawn looking like a dust bowl, but come autumn it looks beautiful again.

I have chosen heritage breed chooks Gold Lace Wing Wyandottes and Black Araucanas, I have added two Light Sussex, but one is a rooster, I haven't decided if he is staying yet.. We also have a breeding trio of Blue Call Ducks, they make lovely babies and wonderful eggs. 

The things you find in my kitchen sink would have the average housewife shrieking with horror.. not to mention what I let run around on the kitchen floor... just as well the average housewife doesn't live here then.
Told you they had beautiful babies. 
Mr P and his minions


I could fill this post up with 100 photos but I will spare you for now.. I will show you more as time goes by - tomorrow we will see how my sour dough starter is coming along.