Just checking the blog still works!

I think my last post was our annual gingerbread house demolition, so it’s been a while! The easiest way to bring things up to date was to randomly select a range of photos and tell the story of each. It has been incredibly busy day-to-day, add a long harsh summer with bizarre weather conditions, virtually no rain and loads happening in my world of sourdough. As I keep saying, this retirement gig is hard work! So here’s the update in pics.

Our daughter and grandsons designed these gorgeous little signs as part of our Christmas gift to put in our lane. I thought they were beautiful decorative additions and the bonus is that I think they have really made people slow down a bit (well some anyway).  We had our annual Baw Baw Sustainability Network open food gardens day in January which was an absolute cracker of a weekend. Over 160 people came through our garden who we got to share stories with, offer and receive some tips and celebrate growing your own food. I run a Facebook support group for Australian Sourdough Bakers where the focus is geared on giving advice and support, in particular to new bakers. I also encourage people share leads for supplies of local bread making supplies. This group is just about to hit 2500 members and I think many have gained valuable information from it. I negotiated a deal for members to purchase beautiful handcrafted lames at a highly discounted price than if purchasing from USA. One thing led to another and I found myself being the official Australian reseller……

This pushed me into finally setting up an online store which was an interesting challenge…. I eventually managed to navigate my way around this and am very proud of my Simply Sourdough site. It is a good way of selling everything in one space and I am amazed at how it is going. On the reno front, we have just about completed the main bathroom. Some fittings, filling and painting of trim and it will be done. Of course these last-minute things will take longer than the whole build did! My little right hand man in the kitchen just loves doing anything with creating food. He told me the Canele custard (pre the rum addition) was just like making milkshakes! Loves donning his Celia apron too! The finishing touch on the Canele. This was about the best pick from our crappy tomato season. Wasn’t worth planting this year. Something that came totally out of the blue was being approached by Gippsland Magazine to see if we were willing to have an article about my little bread business and our home run in it. I was nearly beside myself thinking they’d not find enough to talk about, but all went well and we featured on the front cover! That’s a bit special and testimony to all the hard work we have done. The magazines a great way to learn more about our region. As well as my weekly community bread bakes, I’ve had a few special event bakes and did a presentation to a large group at the ‘Women on Farms‘ event held at Gippsland Community college about baking sourdough. I quite enjoy doing these presentations, especially when I receive thank you gifts such as this lovely tea towel designed by Rachel Flynn at Red Tractor Designs. I love this but Mr ATMT doesn’t have the same level of appreciation for it as I. I’ve been playing around working on a 100% sourdough baguette and I am getting close to being satisfied with it. Nothing I Googled really resembled a classic baguette which is what I am aiming for. These were for a special order on a grazing table and they kindly sent me a crumb shot. Nearly there with this formula!Getting my creative side on with this arrangement of  cotoneaster, spent agapanthus heads and coprosma cuttings. So basically its a bucket of weeds!  Quite pretty if I say so myself.Lastly for the Catch up snippets, team Dad ‘N Dave have returned from their trip to Nepal as part of the Habitat Australia earthquake victims home rebuilding project and feel their contribution  to the cause was valuable. Such trying conditions and extreme levels of hardship on these people make you wonder how they maintain the happy dispositions they have. A huge thank you to all those who supported Geoff and David in this project.

Let’s see if I can get another post in before Christmas!

Weekly wrap-Getting my pretty on and No Weddings here!

This week I thought I’d venture out of my comfort zone and try going pretty. Ann Gabur over at The Bread Journey  does the most amazing, detailed, well proportioned and meticulous scoring on her loaves that I thought I’d have a go. I’ll probably have another couple of attempts but it just isn’t my style. I much prefer the rustic, bold look of big oven springs, bursting out through minimal scoring. I do however appreciate her talent and can see a place for it in certain loaves and that it would suit many people. This pic was was my first attempt. For someone who gets bored going up and down in straight lines when mowing lawns and tries to write my name with the mower in the grass, I was pretty impressed I managed this much continuity.

 The loaf I tried this on was a very quickly thrown together loaf using the 1,2,3 method. This is – 1 part starter, 2 parts water and 3 parts flour, add a pinch of salt and in this case some chopped rosemary, mix, let sit for a couple of hours, toss into the fridge overnight, shape, throw into a banneton and bake. I wanted to test out how using a good old Aussie Bedourie Oven worked. These are basically a camp oven but made of spun steel and they not as heavy as the cast ones. The lid can also be used as a pan and the quality is beautiful. This is a 12″ one so you could fit either a round or an oval loaf in it. The big bonus is that the Dr Livingstone ones are Australian Made by Southern Metal Spinners and can be bought online either direct, or at really good prices from many camping/RV stores. I believe we need to support the little bit of local manufacturing we have left while we can. May not be as pretty as some ‘you beaut’ DO’s, but it certainly did the job well.

This lovely little loaf didn’t take long to be devoured by a couple of seagulls!I’ve been referring to Emilie Raffa’s wonderful Book ‘Artisan Sourdough Made Simple’ for inspiration with flavours and haven’t been disappointed. This dough is based on her olive, parmesan, thyme and lemon zest loaf, but I changed the flour, the hydration, salt and fermenting times to suit me. Handy tip on how to grate a 2kg bloke of parmesan into small bits when your hands don’t work- use your meat grinder. Works a treat! I would however next time leave the parmesan much chunkier, it does melt into the loaf.

I would also recommend leaving the loaf until the next day to eat. It was delicious freshly baked, but superb when left to mature over a day or 2. I had another wonderful Simply Sourdough Introduction to Sourdough Workshop today. Gee they are tiring, but I really enjoy getting together with like-minded people, having a few giggles and exchanging knowledge. Everyone keeps asking about the chick pea dip I make so I’ve recorded it. Into a food processor throw a can of rinsed chick peas, juice of 1 lemon (may need a bit more), couple of garlic cloves, bit of chilli if you like it, a huge hunk of parsley, a pinch of salt and in this case I had an end bit of parmesan from the olive bread so that went in too. Blitz the lot and drizzle olive oil in as its going until you get a nice smooth texture. Serve in a bowl with olive oil drizzled over. Nice on bread, toast, crackers etc. That’s it at rear right of the platter we had in class today. Other sourdough bits from L to R are baguette, roast capsicum focaccia, pizza with tomato & pepper paste (sulca biber), labneh marinated in oil, garlic, chill, pizza cheese and green capsicum. Then there is some of the olive/parmesan bread and my wonderful parmesan and rosemary sourdough crackers.

Nice to just be able to pick through the session. The kitchen space is working really well for classes, didn’t look like this at the end of the day though! Everyone is smiling except for the mad woman holding a mini baguette looking like she’s going to turn maniacal with it! She is smiling on the inside, trust me. Great group, great day! One place in this class was donated to One Planet Classrooms to use as a prize at their major fundraising event. I was thrilled to be able to offer this tiny bit of support to the cause.Finally, I have deliberately not watched, seen nor heard much about ‘The Wedding’,  but a friend of mine loves stirring so sent me a load of pics. The only thing I took notice of was that in this one I thought the poor boys shoelaces were undone. On closer inspection I realised it is probably a shadow from the end pin of his cello.  What do you think? I much prefer thinking it was his shoelaces undone theory. Am I evil?

Back up and running.

I haven’t uploaded any posts since before Christmas due to a whole host of time restrictions.

Firstly there was Christmas.  We had to work hard at enjoying the season this year, but with a bit of determination, skilful planning and plenty of champagne it was a huge success and we spent some lovely time with family and friends.

This year was the 30th anniversary of me making the traditional gingerbread house that is now routinely destroyed in any manner we can invent at the end of Christmas Day. Everyone primed in anticipation and Grandma in the background saying “Oh, it’s such a shame after all the work that’s gone into it”. That only seems to bring more motivation on. Unfortunately this year the bocce ball, come ‘shot put’  hit the target before I was ready to film. Hopefully one day someone else in the family may share their capturing of the moment.

gingerbread house

Some finishing touches before we move in!

Reblockers in

Most notable of the time drainers was that we have finally moved in to our ‘New Old House’.  We worked incredibly hard right over the Christmas break to get the house up to a level suitable for habitation. Water and gas installation finished, rewiring finished, new loo in, lounge painted then repainted after the re-blockers finished (the day before we moved in), earth-moving and rock down in drive so we could get cars in. Then there was the process of packing for moving and making the old house nice for the new owners. Between the local ‘Men’s Shed’, various Op-Shops, Ebay and the tip we got rid of an enormous load of ‘stuff’ but I don’t think you can tell-still seems to be ‘stuff’ everywhere. Once we get a shed/garage and a kitchen I’m sure most of it will find it’s own place.

We’re in!

Goodbye to the old home.

After 23 years in one house I am quite surprised that I really don’t feel anything much about saying goodbye to it. The garden, with its sense of tranquility and birds I will miss, but basically everything is re-do-able so I’m not that fussed. The things I’ll most miss are:

King Parrot bye

The many birds we have that regularly demand a morsal of seed. This beautiful King Parrot came to say goodbye,

compost

I’ll miss having a thriving compost system that just keeps happening. Having to start a fresh system takes a little bit of time.

Growth chart

The old ‘measure the kids as they grow’ markers. Not only an indicator of growth but brings back memories of lots of things the kids did in this home while growing up.

Time to go, pack the kids in the car and off we go!

Packed up the kids and left

Greenhouse up-finally .

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After much ‘faffing’ around and trying to squeeze this job in between all the others we finally have a completed Sproutwell Greenhouse. Hasn’t really been too high on the priority list because of the warm weather but with the possibility that temperatures  could drop at night soon I want the extra protection. Just need to finish the floor and set up benches inside and I’ll be sweet!

In the Vegie Patch

It has been incredibly dry here in Gippsland and we have quickly been taken back to where we were when in drought. After such a wet year last year we were lulled into a false sense of security and have had to revert to hand watering everything. I must say the wicking beds seem to be holding their own. A quick surface water every now and then (more because its nice on a warm evening to do than because its necessary).

My garlic harvest this season has been sensational and it along with ‘Spiced Prunes in Port‘ preserves, made great additions to the Christmas gift packs. Unfortunately I can’t find the photos of the garlic I took so will take a couple later and add them.

I have been battling a bit with my San Marzano tomatoes this year. For the first time in a very long time they have been a victim of Blossom End Rot, a condition that is due to lack of calcium in the soil. Having had to purchase soil for the beds I haven’t had much control over that. Next year once there has been a chance to work in plenty of compost and grow a green manure crop it should start to improve. It really hit home that all the effort I made with the soil at our old place was in fact worth it. I am still getting a pretty good crop and will have more than enough for sauce and passata. Now to work out where to process the harvest…………..

San Marzano

My quest to develop an opinion on whether or not to prune laterals from tomatoes has had mixed results.

Pruned of laterals Not Pruned
Larger fruit More fruit
Takes more time to manage Smaller fruit
Easy to support Heavier to support

Think I am steering towards the pruned method purely because of the larger fruit size. Will repeat again next year because I am not sure how much having a calcium soil deficiency had a hand in results.

The grosse lisse planted straight into the ground are doing really well, just have to remember to pick as soon as there is the tiniest blush of pink or else the blackbirds beat me to it. Today I placed some exclusion bags over some larger fruit to see if I can get longer on the vine time.

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My Rosella sabdarifida is doing quite nicely, will go into the greenhouse soon as it needs warm temperatures to flower. With a good bit of luck I will be able to turn it into those beautiful syrupy flowers and use it in champagne.

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Cucumbers have been great, picking daily and now need to think about making some lovely Bread & Butter Cumber Pickle. Growing up the trellis has been a great success.

Other continual pickings have been beans, silver beet, snow peas, lettuce and herbs. Not sure what happened to my capsicums but they appear to be tomatoes. Suspect I may have been a bit confused when I labelled my saved seed packet!

Chooks.

Couple of steps closer to getting our chooks. I purchased a ‘Dine a Chook‘ feeder and waterer for my husbands Christmas present and I have commissioned the local Men’s Shed to make my very specially designed chook house (keep an eye out, it’s going to be great!)

All said and done, we are a lot more comfortable than we thought we may be. Struggling a bit with highway noise but everyone assures me you get used to it! Lying in my hammock this afternoon eating ripe mulberries was a treat indeed!

I may not have the birds yet, but it is quite beautiful on a hot humid afternoon lying in the hammock looking up through the mulberry tree. Even better when I get to pick a few, very nice indeed.

Mulberries

Let the new memories begin!

Snagged on Snags!

I had some feedback that my comments regarding the quality of food available locally was a bit harsh so I thought I’d just clarify my point. My reference was directed mainly towards the supermarkets more so than the family businesses of which there are a few making a difference to the range but not necessarily the quality available. There are a handful of businesses who are really making a difference to the quality and range available and they are predominantly butchers rather than purveyors of general produce. I still claim that it is near on impossible to get fresh, high  quality (mostly fruit & veg) as a matter of course in most towns in Gippsland. There doesn’t appear to be the demand  by the consumer which is what I find distressing. Most people I work with or know are quite happy accepting what the majors offer without question, along with all the packaging they throw in and nothing will change while this is so. I can only keep spreading the word!

We only eat meat  couple of times a year and when we do I really want it to be a treat, not a trial. This is where lack of planning ahead can strike you down as it did with my hot potato salad last weekend. Having to rely on the local supermarket, I was sadly disappointed. I decided to prevent this happening again so today went to our excellent local butcher and stocked up on some Chorizo sausages to freeze so I wont get caught out next time, and some honey, lamb and rosemary sausages to have for dinner. Very hot day today and a good snag (sausage) and a cold beer are a match made in heaven. I wasn’t disappointed by the lamb sausages, along with gorgeous freshly picked spuds tossed in butter, parsley, mint and served with a little salad of freshly picked offerings. Oh, and a lovely cold beer of course!

Lovely looking sausages from Trafalgar Butcher Shop. Note, no nasty little plastic tray!
Honey, lamb & rosemary sausages, fresh spuds with mint, parsley and a little butter and salad made from, carrot, grated beetroot, lettuce and cherry tomatoes.