Remember me? Lots to report and plans afoot.

I keep wondering why I have had so much trouble getting to writing posts and I have come to the conclusion that when I was working I was looking for a form of escapism and regular blog posts were like therapy to me. Since having left work I am continually doing things that I enjoy, am busy all of the time and just don’t seem to have the time to sit and focus on writing a post.  We also spent a month in New Zealand that I haven’t worked out how to write about as I’m still not sure how I really felt about it. Whoever said they didn’t know how they had time to go to work was right on the money. So what’s been happening?

The new Courtyard Taking shape.

This area is out from the kitchen and up until recently has been mainly a utility area. The blood orange tree was planted against a wall but left freestanding after we rotated the ‘dentist’ room.  The area will be paved, have some kitchen garden plantings and be a great outdoor eating area. We took a gamble and using some great tips from a lovely Instagram friend, moved the orange tree (thanks @minipermaculture). It actually looks like it is doing better now than it was where it was moved from. We trimmed it back, planted it in a large hole that was full of compost, worm castings and other goodies, gave it a drink of very weak Seasol and sprayed the foliage with this solution as well. We are now making sure it is protected from the extremely harsh frosts we are experiencing and keeping everything crossed. The water feature is my leaving gift from work and once it integrates to lots of greenery it should ‘disappear’ yet be a focal point at the same time.

Seems to be doing well so far! Fingers crossed for us. This is the area with recycled bricks waiting to be laid by the very weary Mr ATMT who has been working his butt off. As well as the courtyard area, we are working towards getting the driveway edging and toppings done, but we had to run power and water to the courtyard first which meant making some mud. We hired a little digger and plumber son did a great job running the trenches for pipes and cables.

He got a bit of help with this little cutie. What is it about machinery that is so appealing?It’s coming together nicely and I am pleased to say we have just about lost all of the leaves  from the oak. I haven’t managed to accumulate much in the way of leaf old so far but they will still be waiting for me to collect and mulch up so there is no rush.

Some exciting plans.

I had always said I would convert the ‘dentist’s  room’ into a preserving or food related area and have made the decision to fit it out as a registered kitchen so I can have approval to sell  my bread. This is the white room on the right and I am currently working through all of the necessary red tape to satisfy council requirements. My plan is to only sell by pre-order of loaves I enjoy making and keeping it manageable and most importantly, enjoyable. We have so far stripped it out and are getting the electrical and plumbing sorted out so I can plaster, tile, fit out and get things on the road. I am really excited about this, its not planned to be a big commercial operation, just me making something I love doing, on my own terms. This is what it was like inside before I started gutting it. As well as working towards registering the kitchen I am planning on holding some workshops for people interested in learning how to make sourdough. I had a lovely group of ‘guinea pigs’ come at the weekend so I could get an idea of how the format I had in my head worked in real-time. We had a lot of fun and I have tweaked quite a few concepts of how to present and once we have the council tick I will offer some workshops. It is a really good way for me to think about how things are done and improve my skills as well.We hd a little set back with the new bathroom/laundry that was part of the exteno. I posted that I was thrilled that we finally had a finished room, and then KAPOW, poor Mr ATMT was wiping out the shower and came up under the tiled-in soap shelf.Luckily no damage to him, (I did ask!)and we have decided to replace that shelf tile with 2 single tiles as it is highly likely that this would happen again. Back to the suction cup rack but comfortable that it will be safer.Out in the garden I have some broccoli heading up, the bok choy and leeks are doing really and I still have a couple of capsicum hanging on in the greenhouse.

  

Here is an assortment of my Friday family & friend bake. Some multigrain, some flaxseed loaves that are using the excellent recipe that Francesca over at Almost Italian  posted and some light rye loaves. I love the way the kids are so keen to collect their bread on A Friday night or Saturday morning to get them through the week. Finally I just have to share this gorgeous video of our grandson experiencing milling flour for the first time. It is especially precious to me, as I would have had welts in a few places if I’d been caught sitting on the kitchen bench like this. I am going to let him sit and participate with me as much and as often as possible! I love it.

 

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Horse Chestnut tree-never heard of it!

We are preparing for planting out the front yard come Autumn.

Front path

We are lucky enough to have a great local business who can help design and source plants for your garden. We are pretty ok with the design concepts and ideas, but knowing what plants are available that are suitable for the hot, dry, low maintenance area out the front that will give the look and feel we want, is where Katrina from Katrina’s Garden has been a great partner to link up with. Katrina has some some great ideas and we are making a list of what to purchase ready for planting at the start of Autumn when the weather is not likely to fry things, yet the soil is still warm, enabling new root growth to establish the plants. By Autumn, we will have had time to prepare the soil and there are a couple of large camellias we are needing to move from the side garden to the front that will require machinery to dig holes. Don’t want to run over new young plants when we do this!

There is a tree in the front yard we only ever notice when it is in flower. It reaches up to within the branches of the big pin oak and Katrina has advised it is a “Horse Chestnut” tree. She did comment that we are lucky it is protected by the pin oak as well as a massive blackwood and a  beautiful, very old, fragrant camellia or it would be a monster! This photo is looking back to the ‘horse chestnut’ tree from the side gate. The blackwood is on the right and the camellia under neath.

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The pink flowers are obviously attractive to birds and I spied a wattle bird dipping into the flowers, taking it’s fill. Wattlebirds are prolific this season.

Wattle bird

We are continually amazed at how many birds we are getting into the garden compared to the first season. With all the planting planned for out the front this will only increase the bird life. Nature is indeed a wonderful thing.

Last weekend before our Gardivalia open garden, quite a few last minute jobs to do!

 

 

Pork buns, shed bases and birds.

Shed Bases.

With our extension/reno scheduled to begin later this year we are going to be in an interesting position with management of a few things such as having a laundry and cooking area, storage and generally keeping things manageable while works are under way. We decided to have an extra garden shed put in place which will be used as storage for the mower, camping stuff and lots of shelves will be incorporated to take boxes that may need to be stored until they can come back into the house. We’ve sited this shed at the back and will be able to screen it almost completely with planting. Added bonus is that it will screen neighbouring properties.

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We are lashing out and having this shed installed, something we have never done before but the cost is reasonable, it means it will be done and dusted and our list of jobs is so long it just seemed sensible.

Birds

We love having native birds as part of the garden. When we first came here there were no birds apart from sparrows and the dreaded Indian mynah, we have been gradually increasing bird attracting plants and every day we are thrilled by our feathered visitors who are increasing rapidly. This morning I was mesmerised listening to a magpie who was sitting and ‘chatting’ away just outside the bedroom. I found this magpie video of a warbling magpie that captures it beautifully, I could listen to them for hours. Along with bird attracting planting we are ensuring we have water available for birds, bees, lizards and every other ‘critter’ that is welcome. here. We are establishing an area in the back corner that I have labelled as the ‘bus stop’ and Mr ATMT is currentLy working on. We bought a cast iron bird bath that will be positioned centrally in this area. The bricks we claimed from the neighbours garage when it was demolished are slowly being integrated into the landscape.

CAST IRON BIRD BATH

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buns

This morning I picked some lemon grass, spring onions, broccoli raab and I had some cabbage that needed a purpose. There was some pork mince in the fridge that also needed using so with these all being a good base for asian dishes I thought I’d have a go at making steamed pork buns. We have dumplings quite a lot so something a little different was appealing. I have never had steamed buns before and had no idea what to expect.

I made a filling of pork, cabbage, ginger, spring onion, char sui sauce, chilli and garlic and made Pork bun dough using this recipe.

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The dough worked really well, I was happy with this.

Pork bun dough

Divided into 16 pieces which I filled with the pork and ginger filling,

Pork Buns

Into the bamboo steamer on a small piece of baking paper and steamed for 15 minutes.

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No idea if this is how they are supposed to look but they were as light as a feather to pick up and to eat. Served with some soy and sweet chilli sauce, I wish I’d been bothered to make a proper dipping sauce, I think it would have made all the difference.

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From the photos I’ve found they look pretty much like they should. Any pork bun experts are welcome to give me their thoughts!

Back to work tomorrow, I need some motivation!

 

 

Weekend wrap.

While I’ve been busy playing with bread dough and cleaning out cupboards Mr ATMT has been doing some back breaking work to make the front yard look a bit more attractive. A couple of months ago I posted about how we did the initial marking out for the front yard layout and now it has been well and truly locked in! Brick edging set on place around the pathway and toppings added to create a new look completely. There is not a lot we can do because of the big pin oak so we aim to just fill the entire area with low maintenance, bird and bee attracting yet pretty and very tough plants. We are also on the look out for a suitable centre piece or water feature for the centre of the circle . Nothing too fancy or glitzy, just tasteful. Got any recommendations?

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Toppings in and partly mulched some of the area that will be planted. No cupids or statues of David allowed as the feature.

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Our own little Downton Abbey with a crunchy gravel entry to the front door.

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Foccacia take 2.

Last night I posted about the Peter Reinhart foccacia I made and tonight I made up the other half that I had kept in the fridge since yesterday. Tonight’s topping was olives, sliced up stuffed with feta capsicum, garlic, olive oil, sea salt flakes and cheese. Tick to this recipe, so light, silky and easy. I rarely wrap up my own food too highly but this is a winner!

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So that’s it for the first weekend wrap of 2015. Back into the office tomorrow, but hopefully I will get things sorted in record time and not have to stay too long.

Sausages, sourdough and sealing drafts.

We have our son’s engagement party coming up next weekend so I’ve been madly baking savoury goodies whenever I get the opportunity to use an oven. There are lots of family staying locally so we have extended an invitation to come to our place for a BBQ lunch on Sunday. Keeping it simple, as I probably will be quite tired from the party the night before. Just planning on some home made sausages, some nice steak, a vegetarian option and some fresh salads and potato salad (I make a mean potato salad I’m told!). First batch of sausages since we did our sausage making class at Tarraleah last month. Very nervous but I reckon a couple of shots and it will be quite easy. I chose a pork, caramelised onion and apple recipe as a first trial. Cut the pork into chunks and removed all the scrappy bits.

IMG_6116Calculated 15% of pork weight and measured that amount in pork fat.IMG_6117IMG_6119 Got Mr ATMT onto caramelising the onions in balsamic vinegar and brown sugar while I peeled and grated some granny smith apples. Picked some parsley and oregano and chopped finely. Put the pork and fat through the meat grinder using the large size cutting plate.IMG_6135Added the caramelised onions, apple and herbs and garlic, mixed really well then put it back through the grinder with the medium size cutting plate this time. Ready to stuff, so far so good. At this point I did cook up a couple of small patties to check flavour for seasoning and taste. I had called into the Yarragon market just before it closed and they were selling the last of Cannibal Creek’s Sour dough at half price. Couldn’t resist buying a loaf so I could compare how mine stacked up. Cannibal Creek is a bakery I must get to visit, fully renovated Scotch wood fired oven and I really like their philosophy on how they do things. My bread’s on the left, CC’s on the right and mine is a week old – looking mighty fine I think. I will concede though that the Cannibal Creek had a much more complex flavour to it and was a better crust. Bet if I had a big wood fired oven instead of a Sunbeam bake N grill it would help a bit! IMG_6137 The sample sausage patties cooked up beautifully and were eaten on toast for lunch with my pickled cucumbers and the wonderful Thorpdale Organics lettuce and some home made tomato sauce. Beats a Bunnings snag anyday!IMG_6147All ok to proceed with this sausage mix so here it gets exciting! We bought a sausage stuffer machine while sitting around the campfire in Tasmania and it was on the verandah on our return. Love shopping like that! Now, how to manage the natural sausage casings?They come packed in salt,IMG_6114 You need to soak them in water to reconstitute and soften before using.IMG_6115 Mr ATMT on the job! This was actually the hardest past of the whole process.IMG_6167Success! Couple of little air pockets and only one burst casing. IMG_6164 A few twists, left overnight to dry out and settle and they went into the freezer. It’s a great feeling knowing we can serve these up and I know exactly what has gone into them.IMG_6169Sealing drafts

While working on the hall I was quite aware of the breeze coming up from under the house through some rather large gaps. We will eventually be insulating under the house but I didn’t want the skirtings put back in place with such massive entry points for breezes. Cut some insulation bats into strips and ‘caulked’ up the gaps. Every little bit counts!IMG_6172

A Serene Spot to Sit.

Mr ATMT is working on paving a nice little spot out the back under the mulberry tree. We find we tend to naturally gather ion this spot on a hot day. It will also fit my hammock beautifully, that’s important!IMG_6150

A before and after.

The work we have been doing in the hall is starting to come together. We have removed wall mounted strip heaters, replaced plaster on the ceiling, painted, had the timber floor boards replaced where necessary and polished. Removed swing doors from the entry foyer and also the glass window that was above them replacing it with some simple fretwork. A large 1960’s boring cupboard has been removed from the small alcove section which is now a highlight of the passage. All the channels in the old timber panelling have been filled, sanded and smoothed. Anaglypta wallpaper has been hung and painted. Jobs still to do are, finish rejuvenating the timber on the architraves and front door, design and install a leadlight window for the front door and choose and install light fittings.

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Getting there I think, I certainly hope so!