Archive for March, 2007

Rainy Day Update from the Farmlet

Friday, March 30th, 2007

We are looking out the windows at a sodden and misty world. It rained cats and dogs for all of yesterday afternoon and last night. When I woke up this morning, it was still raining. I sneaked out during a lull to tend to the goats. The forecast yesterday predicted that we would get 100-150mm of rain overnight, and it surely felt like we did! Kevin and I are already getting a lot of use from the heavy-duty waterproof coats and pants that we felt driven to purchase after the last heavy rain. The rain is much lighter today, but since it is still too wet for most outside jobs, I thought this might be a good time for an update on some of the things that are going on around here.

Autumn Planting
We have built two new pea frames, and I will probably soon put on my rain gear and plant out some more of the pea seedlings that we have started. I hope we haven’t left it too late to get a good crop of autumn peas. Time will tell! Of course, every year is different, but I’m keeping a record of planting dates, so that we can refine our timing as the years go by.

A while ago, I started seedlings for passionfruit (mostly purple ones, and a few golden), cherimoya (also known as custard apple), and red tamarillo. By now, the tamarillos and some of the passionfruit look ready to be transplanted into the garden. We are thinking of putting a couple of the tamarillos in the rather sheltered bed next to the house, since they are quite frost tender. For the passionfruit, we will have to extend the trellis system that we have started on the western side of the house paddock.

Young passionfruit plants

Joining a Co-op
We have arranged to join a co-op, so that we can buy our bulk organic goods at wholesale. We are looking forward to less packaging and better prices. We will place our first order this weekend if the catalogue arrives in time. Otherwise, we’ll have to wait two more months for the next order to go in.

Goat Fence
Work on fixing the fence around the uphill goat paddock is underway, though of course it has been suspended with the wet weather. Kevin was finding it hard going, since Daphne and Lulu were very keen to taste each fence fixture as he tried to nail it into place. They were also sure that the bag of fence fixtures must contain tasty treats for goats. And anyway, why would Kevin be in the goat paddock at all if not to cuddle and play with his dear little goats?

I have canned several more batches of tomato puree, by now. We have quite a little stock of it in the cupboard to enjoy during the winter months. Our bell peppers (mostly red and a few yellow) are also very prolific. I picked a whole bucket-full the other day, and I’m thinking we might try to make a lacto-fermented pickle out of some of them. Perhaps we’ll roast them and remove the skins before fermenting them as per the recipe in Nourishing Traditions. Does anyone out there have any advice or suggestions about lacto-fermenting sweet peppers?

Sweet yellow pepper

We have been in touch with Barry, the digger operator, who will level the site for our much-needed cow shed. He plans to do the work next week, although it’s possible that this wet weather may delay him somewhat. While he’s here, he’s also going to dig out a dam for us. A dam can cause major problems if not properly constructed, so we have taken extra care to choose an experienced digger operator with an excellent reputation. There are a lot of things to think about! The site for the cow shed needs to be big enough to fit the large water storage tank that will sit next to the shed. We need to figure out what to do about drainage and overflows. We also need to make arrangements to save the topsoil that the digger disrupts, so that we can spread it over the wounded subsoil and plant it as soon as possible after the job is finished.

We feel blessed to have lots of rain filling the streams and making our gardens and pastures grow. At the same time, we look forward to having some fine days to keep working on outside jobs — especially the big projects of earthworks and shed construction that have to be finished by July when the calves are due.

Farmlet Readers Contribute $50, $5 and $40

Sunday, March 25th, 2007

WOW! SH sent $50, JC sent $5 and KW sent $40. Thanks to all of you!

Glorious Fat Cow in the Evening Light

Sunday, March 25th, 2007

Esmerelda, our Friesian cow, is growing incredibly large. I’m beginning to wonder if the Ambler’s calf, growing inside her, is going to spring forth fully formed!? We don’t think Esmerelda is due to calve until July, so how much bigger will she get?

I was out the other day, inspecting the boundary fences, and I snapped some images of our glorious (and strident) beast in the evening light.

In photography school, I learned how to use the evening sky as a massive softbox. Just wait for the sun to go below the horizon in the evening and you’ll have several minutes of warm light that flatters most subjects. Glossy car brochure photos are the most common examples of this technique. Let’s see how well it works on a cow the size of a minivan.

I’m ready for my closeup

Will that lens make me look fat?

Fabulous Pets in Our Kitchen

Saturday, March 24th, 2007

Finally we have some more livestock here on the Farmlet. These are not cows or goats, but colonies of bacteria and yeasts. They live in the kitchen, and I like to call them our “pets.”

We now have starters for kombucha, water kefir, kefir, and Caspian Sea yogurt. My sister and her partner were kind enough to transport them here for us when they traveled up from Wellington. They must have transported the pets with great care, as all arrived in good shape. They have settled well into their new home!

Here’s an introduction to the new pets, along with links for those who are curious:

For those who don’t know about kombucha, it’s a colony of yeasts and bacteria that form a slimy pancake-like mass known as a “scoby,” a “mother,” or a “mushroom.” The scoby will transform a container of sweet tea into a delicious sweet and sour beverage, which reputedly has great health-giving properties. The colony produces a new scoby with each batch, so you soon get plenty to give away to friends. My Dad took one look at the scoby and declared he’d be a bit concerned if he found one of those in his fridge. It certainly looks pretty dodgy!


Water kefir are clear crystal-like grains that will culture sugar water (with other ingredients added) into a fizzy, refreshing beverage. We’ve been adding lemon, raisins, and various herbs from the garden.

Water kefir

Kefir (milk kefir) are opaque grains that will culture milk at room temperature. We have been using the resulting kefir to make smoothies. I’m also keen to try making some kefir cheese.

And what about Caspian Sea Yogurt? It is a special yogurt that cultures at room temperature. Instead of heating the milk and keeping it at above room temperature to culture, this culture can just be stirred into raw milk at room temperature and left to thicken. It takes about 8-12 hours. The resulting yogurt is mild and creamy, with a stringier texture than regular yogurt. It’s really easy to make, and Kevin and I find it extremely tasty. Until a couple of weeks ago, I never knew there was such an easy way to make raw milk yogurt.

We are having a lot of fun playing around with all these new livestock. If any readers live nearby and would like to have some starters, please let us know. We’d be delighted to share.

Farmlet Reader Contributes AUD$20

Saturday, March 17th, 2007

Farmlet reader and repeat contributor, IL, sent AUD$20! Thanks IL!