Dinner Winner!

On our recent road trip, as we were leaving Spear Creek Caravan Park in Port Augusta, we purchased some of their grown on the property frozen cryovacced (vaccuum sealed to exclude air) Dorper Lamb which we were told was ‘great’, they say the flesh is naturally seasoned by drought resistant saltbush plants the sheep eat while grazing the property. Not being huge meat eaters we were none the wiser and  thought it might be nice to have a couple of camp oven meals on our journey home. Two frozen parcels, one of lamb shanks and another of a small roast went into the camping fridge, we were looking forward to making a  feast in the camp oven on our journey home.

When camping in Mildura we cooked the lamb shanks in the camp oven and I must admit were very disappointed with the results, consequently I wasn’t in a hurry to try the roast and be even more disappointed.  The now thoroughly thawed joint had been sitting in the fridge since we returned home and I wasn’t sure it was still even fit for consumption as I have no knowledge of how long  cryovaccing can extend the shelf life. On inspection there was no swelling of the packaging, no discolouration of the juices and absolutely no smell when I opened the pack so I thought it was safe to give it a road test. With the weather returning back to winter out came the ever faithful slow cooker again.

In went a  couple of sprigs of rosemary,  10 garlic bulbs, juice of 2 lemons, about a half cup of both white wine and my home made stock. Topped with a sploosh of olive oil with some potatoes ready to throw in after a couple of hours.

Lemon garlic lamb roastThis went on slow at about 9.00 in the morning. Added some potatoes at about 12.00 which I took out at about 5.30 and put into my mini oven to brown and crisp up. I also added some cherry tomatoes to the oven to roast while spuds were browning.

Finely sliced some cabbage and threw into the microwave with a dash of stock and some black pepper, Julienned some carrots, cooked them with some honey and mustard and the tiniest dob of butter (because I’m supposed to behave myself), cooked a handful of peas and tried to work out what sauce to use. I put some of the slow cooker juices into a saucepan cranked up the heat and let it reduce, after a few minutes the taste test said it was a little too lemony so I chucked in a couple of cherry tomatoes. Back on the heat for more reduction and it turned out well, still flavourful but the tomatoes added enough sweetness to work.

Plated upMight not look neat and tidy but boy did it taste great! The lamb was stunningly beautiful, tender and juicy. It took me back to when little and we had a roast that really tasted wonderful. All the other strange elements actually went together really well. The potatoes had absorbed a beautiful lemony flavour and were wonderfully crisp.

This is my girlfriends plate, says it all!

IMG_1587In the garden.

I’ve given up on waiting for the weather to improve so some of the tomatoes have gone in!   I’m hoping these are black krim variety but due to the fact I’ve had some labelling issues they may very well be roma, san marzano, gross lisse or big beef!

Black krimExciting, 1st sign the beans are on their way through.

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Should be a great crop of garlic by the look of this.

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I love these little spaces that can be used for planting bits and pieces. I’ve put spring onions and a couple of mini yellow pear tomatoes in this one.

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Radishes are booming along!

IMG_1594Hopefully the weather will improve as next week is the Melbourne Cup which is our traditional ‘plant your tomatoes’ day. I’ve still got several to plant, just need to make a bit more room!

Baby steps but getting there!

With the addition of 3 new wicking beds in the area allocated as the produce garden we can start to see how the final area will look and how workable it will be. I’m REALLY excited that I have more much-needed space to plant all the things I want to grow. The first filling has been placed between the pavers and will be topped with a lighter coloured gravelly mix soon. A water feature has been added that will allow  lizards and bees to rehydrate and is soothing to listen to while in the garden. The only jobs left to do in this area is fence it, get some espaliered fruit-growing on the rear fence, build compost bays, put permanent edging on asparagus bed and build a spot for my shiitake mushrooms to live. The area is proving to work well in its layout with good sunshine, plenty of space between beds and it is reasonably protected from strong wind (this has been tested well and truly with the weather of late!).

Productive Garden layout
Fence and gates will be along the area where the brick edging finishes. Hoping to build a really rustic gate as entry and a climbing rose (or grape) will be planted to cover an arch.

 What a beautiful day!

Saturday would have to have been the nicest day weather wise we have seen for ages! We had planned on getting stuck into doing some work finishing off the bedroom but you could not possibly pass up an opportunity to be outside on such a day.

I had 3 Big and dirty jobs that needed doing, sorting out some of the compost, cleaning out the chook house and removing one layer of worm castings from the worm farm. The leaf mold I started in June has progressed much better than last years efforts! This year I chopped the oak leaves with the mower and lined the wire ‘bin’ with black plastic. Today I turned the ‘cake’ into one of the Gedye bins and I wouldn’t be surprised if its right to use in a couple of months. I got 2 big bins full of chicken muck which is going to be composted separately and used on the citrus trees. The worm farm was well overdue for a cleanse and I now have a very large bucket of lovely worm castings which will be used in my potting mix and around seedlings.

Leaf mold 'cake'

 

Our efforts at attracting more birds and bees to the yard seems to be working. We have noticed wattle birds, many different parrots including lorikeets and crimson rosella coming in. The flowering callistemon always seems to have a visitor in it!

Rainbow lorikeet Wattle bird

 

Lots of spring flowers are appearing and I love seeing their cheery faces. Rose buds are forming and my Souvenir de la Mel Maison climbing rose is in flower. Cant wait to see it climbing over the arbor entry to the vegie patch!

Souvenir de la Mel Maison rose Granny's Bonnets

Poppy Pansies, lobelia, herbs and SLMM rose in bud.

Harvesting and planting at the moment.

We are starting to get strawberries, lots more forming so thats exciting!

IMG_1493I’ve been picking coriander, silver beet, beetroot, lettuce, asparagus (which seems to be slowing down), oregano and mint. I have planted (with all that new space) beans, both dwarf and climbing, zucchini, radishes, eggplant, corn, snow peas, capsicum,black cherry tomatoes and in the greenhouse, rockmelons also known as cantaloupe. I have planted a couple of tomatoes in the greenhouse but will hold off for another week or so planting out the main crop. It is traditional to plant tomatoes on Melbourne Cup Day in Victoria, but mine might go in next weekend.

IMG_1571Baby radish seedling coming through in one of the new wicking beds. Love seeing seeds come to life!

Rocoto Chilli.

My husband was given a seedling from a workmate of a Rocoto Chilli. I had never heard of them but apparently it is a perennial chilli and can keep producing fruit for several years. I did some googling and it sounds too good to be true, so I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes.

Rocoto chilli

 

This is why I keep chipping away!

Vegetarian pasta

Vegetarian pasta with my asparagus and herbs. Mmmm, mmm.

 

 

Port Augusta and Broken Hill

With no agenda planned we decided to head across to Port Augusta which right at the top of the Spencer Gulf in South Australia and is where major road, rail and port transport systems cross. We had a lovely couple of days (again with plague fly populations) exploring this interesting city. Port Augusta is right on the edge of the desert and the Flinders Ranges is a beautiful backdrop to the city.  We managed to find a place to camp which was idyllic as far as location and offering a peaceful haven but the facilities were well past their use by date and didn’t really hit the mark. At Spear Creek Caravan Park we found the showers were cold, shower cubicle that was very small and dingy, the toilets were dirty and just all looked a bit tired and in need of some lovin’.  It would have to be up the top  though as far as a pretty spot to prop.

IMG_1012 A private ensuite loo with a view at Spear Creek Caravan Park

IMG_1016 Sunset at Port Augusta.

One of  the attractions we visited whilst in Port Augusta was the Pichi Richi Railroad, a steam train that leaves Port Augusta and travels through the mountains to Quorn. This was a lovely way to see the entire contrast of the landscape in a relaxed way. A stop for lunch in Quorn of a quandong pie before the return journey. Quondongs are a native food and are also referred to as a native peach. The pie was nice but I must say of all the pies and pastries we tasted while in South Australia, not one had decent pastry!

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Afghan Express leaving Port Augusta.IMG_1090

Pink Salt lake with reflections.

The Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden was another interesting place to visit. This beautifully designed garden which is located in a stunning position that offers great views and a feel of the desert is worth a visit. The gardens are designed for different conditions and the detailed information at each point offers great scope for people to apply water smart principles and sustainability in their own back yard.

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The beautiful Sturt desert Pea, I had always wanted to see one and wasn’t disappointed.IMG_1037

The entry garden demonstrates a great use of drought tolerant planting that appears soft but when you  touch the plants they are quite prickly and dry.

Time to decide where to head from here. We decided on Broken Hill, more about that tomorrow!

Flinders Ranges

Day 5-9 Having left the lush greenery of the Barossa to head for the  more iconic arid outback Australian landscape of the Flinders Ranges, we set up camp at Rawnsley Park, a working sheep station that offers accommodation of all standards for people visiting the region. We were in the camping area and found the facilities were clean and quite modern compared to some. There is a camp kitchen that would outclass some restaurant kitchens! Rawnsley Park is close enough to access the main attraction of Wilpena Pound and partake in the many drives and walks that can be done over this vast area. We had booked to stay here for 7 nights with a view to having some R&R time doing some short walks and getting some photo opportunities. We found that after three nights we had seen most of what we were interested in and the flies were way too invasive (well advised totake one of those little nets that covers your head and face to avoid invasion) and thick to be able to just sit, relax and enjoy the scenery. We shouted ourselves a flight on a little 6 seater plane that took us over Wilpena Pound,  further north and back south of the range giving us a spectacular birds-eye view of the mountain range. Well worth doing!

IMG_0873 Almost sunset at the peak.

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Wilpena Pound from the air.

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Some of the local wildlife, a bearded dragon enjoying the sun.IMG_0797An oasis amongst the dust. Time to head off and go to Port Augusta for a look.

Heading to the outback in the Outback!

Going on a slightly different tangent with this post! I have been on the spring or Term 3 school holiday break for the past 3 weeks and we spent the time travelling to various parts of South-East Australia that I hadn’t been to before and my husband had only seen parts of, many years ago.

A few years ago we invested in an ‘Outback Camper Trailer‘ and we absolutely love it. So far we have only used it for extended weekends and our annual couple of weeks by the surf holiday. This will be the first time we will be setting up and moving on to a new spot every few days so it will be interesting to see how it (and we) goes.

To avoid post overload I’ll  break it down into chunks covering a few days for each port of call.

Day 1-Left Gippsland with Horsham being the first stop for the night before heading onto the Barossa Valley, an historic region in South Australia where many of Australia’s best wines and nowadays some great foods are produced from boutique producers. Our leading lady of promoting using fresh seasonal and locally produced food sources Maggie Beer has played a big part in successfully promoting this region. Maggie is always encouraging us to use fresh, locally sourced produce and was my inspiration in wanting to visit the Barossa Farmers market.

Day 2-5 We don’t have many local farmers markets at home that offer a broad variety of produce and I was keen to see what was on offer at the Barossa Farmers Market. I was a little nervous that there may have been more pretension than quality on offer but I  needn’t have worried. From the moment we entered the old winemaking shed we savoured, oohed and aahed over all sorts of goodies.

IMG_0675 IMG_0686Returned to camp with fresh tomatoes, potatoes, broad beans, dried apricots, honey, fresh milk (non homogenised), supresa salami, beer, sour dough bread, beetroot chutney, spicy beetroot dip, a beautiful balsamic vinegar and enjoyed some lemon gelato and coffee while there. Very nice haul indeed!

We drove through some beautiful old towns full of history and heritage, sampled some lovely wines and got to see some picturesque views along the way. I loved the way all the towns houses and shops were a dedication to the grapevine, vines growing everywhere and trained to cover all different structures.

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From here onto the Flinders Ranges.