Sunday, September 28, 2014

Shearing sheep

In September we shear our sheep in a flurry of mustering, red dust, extra workers, excited sheep dogs, sandwiches and thermoses.

Each shearing season brings a distinct buzz, excitement and smell that makes this time memorable.  As I watch our children helping in the sheep yards, negotiating the paddocks on their small motorbike and poking their noses into the shearer’s smoko box, the memories of shearing from my childhood are almost identical.

It all starts with woolly sheep.  

A morning smoko break in the paddock.  Time for refueling motorbikes, coffee, something to eat, a smoke for some and a quiet moment.

The sheep are drafted and moved through the yards and dust towards the woolshed. 

Skillful shearers and wool handlers make the job look easy.

The cook plays a major role in keeping hungry workers fueled up with no-nonsense, hearty food. 

When the job is done the wool is carefully loaded onto local trucks and sent to market. 

Just like that the woolshed is cleaned up and silent and it is all over for another year. 

I hope you are having a lovely Sunday.  

If you happen to be in the mood for a little more woolly action click here.  Our shearing contractor has a website full of videos, photos and footage of all things sheep and shearers.  

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Botanical art in the outback

It is quite rare for me to receive an invitation, from an artist, to attend the opening of an exhibition.  Also, art exhibitions are not particularly frequent in the quiet outback town of Menindee.  When Anne Lawson kindly asked me to join the gathering for tea and cake I quickly accepted and made plans accordingly.  The interesting thing is, I did not receive this invitation through a mail out or a flyer from the local service station or pub.  Instead, Anne found me through my blog.  Once again the power and reach of blogging amazes me. 

Anne is a member of a group of botanical artists who each year, gather in Menindee to collect and paint the plants that the botanical collector, Dr Hermann Beckler collected while he was at the supply camp of the Burke and Wills Expedition, in 1860.  

The thirty botanical artworks on display are so incredibly intricate.  I can only imagine the patience and attention to detail required by these talented artists.  Thank you for the invitation Anne, it was lovely to meet you.  

You can read more about it here or visit Beckler's Botanical blog

The artwork in the photo below was made by a local resident using recycled materials. For my friends who love enamel, note the old cup, cleverly used at the bottom of the frame.  

This exhibition is currently being held at the Menindee tourist information centre.  Last time I visited this building it was a small, independent supermarket.  It is nice to see that this space has been given a revamp and a colourful new life. 

While we were in Menindee with art on our minds, the kids and I visited a newly unveiled mural, painted by local artist Geoff De Main.  The mural depicts the early characters and images of the local area.  

What is not to love about a midweek outing for a little cake, art, conversation and local history?

I hope you are having a lovey week, friends.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Fire, ribs and family

Lately, we have spent our Saturday evenings at a dam on our property.  We throw together a simple dinner of meat, bread, a basic salad and some cold beer.  It feels like a mini escape without spending any money, making any bookings or needing to change out of our farm clothes.    

It is a perfect spot to grill some home raised lamb ribs.  

The kids like to eat them cave man style, is there any other way?

The high bank is a perfect place to watch the sunset.

A few nervous sheep occasionally trot down the steep bank for a drink.   

There was a tiny flame burning on a marshmallow, shedding just enough light on a little nose before it was blown out and the whole thing was demolished.  

With nothing but the frogs and the fire to listen to we poke sticks in the fire and watch the moon and stars.  Then we head home for hot showers and an early night. 

Do you have a favourite mini escape? 

Happy Sunday friends.  I hope you are enjoying the spring sunshine.  

Monday, September 1, 2014

In My Kitchen, September 2014

My kitchen is home to a gleaming, modern coffee machine which I love like a member of the family. But, when I spotted this stove top coffee pot in a second hand shop recently it had my name on it.  I can see this being useful for a crowd, particularly when coffee is required in the great outdoors.   

Cinnamon, brown sugar and walnut scrolls because some days I need to bring out the big guns for morning tea.  I think we ate more of this than our guests, such is life. Recipe adapted from here

The following photos were all taken in our outdoor kitchen.

Boots warming by the fire during some very welcome rain.  

A display of old enamel cups and part of a soup ladle, all found in the paddocks on our property over the years.  I always wonder about the stories behind these hardy pieces of kitchen equipment.  

My interpretation of Turkish bread emerging from the wood oven.

Camembert cheese made by hand by my friend, Paula.  This girl has serious cooking and cheese making talent.  Thank you Paula, I savoured every velvety mouthful.

Are you cooking or enjoying some rain or perhaps eating a nice piece of cheese?

Have a lovely week, friends.

As always I am linking up with Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial

Friday, August 22, 2014

It's raining croissants

A rainy day for us is something to be celebrated and it is considered very poor form to ever complain about it, no matter when it falls.  On rainy days we stay close to home unless venturing out is absolutely necessary.   Our roads are much easier to negotiate when they are dry and aside from the road situation we love being at home to simply enjoy the moment. 

When rain tumbled down recently I felt the need for a baking project, in addition to my usual bread adventures and I settled on croissants.  This was my third ever attempt at croissants and my first attempt in the cold weather.  With such a glorious amount of butter involved, cold weather baking is easier for croissants, in my opinion.

I wouldn't recommend attempting these with a cluttered kitchen bench, a sink full of dirty dishes, visitors looming or when you are feeling impatient or frazzled.  Although not necessarily difficult, croissant creation is a lengthy process involving quite a few steps and plenty of clear, clean bench and fridge space is preferable.

The dough prior to the addition of butter is the most magnificent, silky combination of flour, milk, brown sugar, yeast and salt.  It smells and feels heavenly.

There is a lot of laminating (folding) and resting the dough, while keeping everything cool at all times. 

Pointy triangles are carefully cut, using a template and then rested. 

The triangles are carefully rolled, gently stretched and left to quietly prove.       

These croissants were flaky, crisp and less oily than previous batches I have attempted.  I know I have barely scratched the surface when it comes to learning these complex baking techniques.  But, this batch made me happy and I found the process both therapeutic and rewarding.  Isn't that what cooking should be about?

Have a lovely Friday and weekend friends, I hope you find time for some baking.  

**I will not be sharing this recipe on my blog.  Instead I recommend using the recipe from here: Bourke Street Bakery, the ultimate baking companion by Paul Allam and David McGuinness.  This is easily my favourite baking book for easy to follow instructions, achievable recipes and inspiring photography.  

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Out and about in the bush

Life is jam-packed.  Some exciting plans are on the horizon.  We are preparing for spring and a possible escape to the beach before the hot weather arrives.  There are busy times ahead on the farm and the school year is rushing by. 

For me the best way to handle the hectic rhythm of life is to make time to get out and about.  Fresh air and the wide open spaces help to reset the mind and remind me of everything I am grateful for.

I kept one eye firmly on the horizon while I quickly took this photo, waiting for the father emu to return to his sparse nest. 

Sunrise through one of our apple trees.  It was -4°C when I took this photo which is about as cold as it gets in our part of the world. 

The lonely, parched skull of a feral pig resting in the red dirt.

Early morning olive tree shadows on the woolshed. 

 At a recent family engagement party most people rolled up to the community hall in utes and four wheel drives to join the celebration.  One outback character and his lovely wife made an understated entrance in this big machine and nobody thought anything of it.  Another reminder that we do live in a unique part of the world. 

I hope you are getting out and about! 

Happy Sunday to you.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

In My Kitchen, August 2014

Here we are again in my kitchen and this month there is a lot of bread happening.  My friend Paula gave me two kilograms of fresh yeast.  As most home bakers know, this is an enormous amount of yeast.  I have tried my hardest to make a dint in it.

Mouthful/handful size panini rolls made with yeasted olive oil dough.  These were soft and easy for the little people to handle.  

A yeasted white loaf which almost turned into a high top.  Once again, this was a hit with the kids.  

Kipfler potatoes from the patch where we grew potatoes last year.  We either missed them last year or they continued to produce.  Either way, they were a happy discovery.

This cauliflower weighed in at just over four kilograms.  Although it looks like two separate heads, they were actually growing together.  I see cauliflower soup in my future.    

I recently purchased some beautiful fresh pecan nuts, still in their shells from Elina at the Sunraysia Farmers Market.  Before they all disappeared I wanted to bake something special with them.  So, I invented this sourdough loaf containing currants, sultanas, barberries, dried figs and pecan nuts.  While it was still warm the loaf received a generous honey glaze. This turned out to be comforting winter food at its best.  


Are you baking or inventing?  I hope so!
Are you keeping warm?  
Thanks for calling in, I hope you are having a lovely Sunday.

I am linking up with Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial.  

Lastly, Katie and Reuben have kindly hosted me on their blog House of Humble.  Take a peek.