Homesteading, News

Birthday Blessings

We have been enjoying the cooler weather and a more relaxed time. There are still things to harvest and process as we get some light frosts but we are definitely enjoying the slower pace. The fire has been going which makes the house really hot but without it the icy air triggers my asthma. I’ve noticed little Mr Hunter Gatherer coughs too and I hope he hasn’t inherited my infliction.
May is a special month in our house as little Miss Forager had a 4th birthday.
We had a very low key celebration this year and I made a delicious Angel food cake decorated as the requested cat.
I’d never made Angel food cake before and it’s definitely a new favorite. Scrumptiously light and fluffy it’s a perfect match for my temperamental oven that will not bake a regular meringue and is a great way to use up egg whites.

image

In the garden we have been busy planting out the brassicas and turning the pumpkin patch into a root vegetable patch. Mr Hunter Gatherer usually does the tilling and patch work but it’s been down to me and the kids this year to get it started. I’ve let the chooks in help loosen the top soil and will soon be planting turnips, mangelwurzal, salisfy, parsnip and a few Chinese cabbages.

The cold windy weather has had its challanges after the long summer but it’s been great to enjoy baking again and my sourdough starter is very happy to be nurtured after months of neglect.
We bake a big loaf twice a week and I’m getting better at making it lighter and fluffier. Our favorite flour is RYE so we’ve invested in a 20kg bag to keep us going.

image

I’ve also been enjoying crocheting and have undertaken a huge project of a mermaid tail blanket for little miss forager. I’m loving how it’s turning out and now I’ve discovered the local wool shop has really good quality wool and is very affordable I think everyone in my family is destined to be given crochet items for pressies this year!

image

In the chook yard we are enjoying a abundance of eggs again. Our young pullets have started to lay and we are very excited that our project of crossing Brahma with Araucana has produced not only gorgeous looking placid hens but also the goal of olive coloured eggs! This has always been one of our goals and we certainly feel accomplished. Now all I need to complete my ‘rainbow dozen’ is for the Maran hen to start laying her dark chocolate eggs.

image

And last on the agenda is kisses moo. We have just changed the milking system as her milk was drying of. The calf was getting lots but us zero so we have switched to morning milking which is better for all of us. Seaweed is such a affectionate calf and let’s us pat him. He’s certainly inherited his mother’s temperament and it’s going to be a real challenge when it’s time to butcher him.

image

Today we are considering mushroom adventures. The heavy rain last week and sunny weekend make it the perfect day for it and I really want to face my demons of the pickled mushrooms in Poland but I’ll save that story for next time.

In the meantime keep hunting gathering and foraging!

Foody things, Homesteading, News, Preserving

Cheats maple pancake syrup

I’ve been busy processing all the apples we are collecting and have been awash with apple scraps. Last year I made Apple scrap jelly which was delicious and Apple cider vinegar is continuously brewing here so I felt like trying something new.

I had been reading about Apple scrap pancake syrup and I thought I would try and adapt the recipe to make some of my own. I LOVE maple syrup but getting the good quality stuff here is expensive.
A while ago I scored a cheap bottle of maple extract from Aldi and I’ve been waiting for a reason to use it.

For the syrup I placed all the cores and skin scraps into a big pot covered them in water and boiled until they were mushy

Next I strained off the apples and for every cup of liquid I added a cup of sugar put on the heat and stirred until dissolved.  Next I added 4 drops of maple extract and 2 tsp of cinnamon.

I then boiled for about 3 hours reducing and thickening the syrup.

You could try adding lemon juice too but I was happy with the thickness and consistency I got.

I didn’t can this batch but if it’s well received I will be making more!

Enjoy X

Baking, cake, Cheese, Foody things, Homesteading

With Seaweed comes cream cheese.

He has arrived! Our long awaited calf was born not long after my last post and
we were delighted to find a little bull calf!
image

As a meat eaters I really want to have a relationship with the meat we consume and for it to be as ethical as possible so home produced beef has been one of our homesteading goals since the beginning.
image
Nyah named the little bull calf seaweed to continue the tradition (our last calf female calf being Stingray).
image
Our relaxed milking routine has kicked off and we have already started cheese making. I’ve been asked a bit recently how we manage a cow along with everything else we do so I thought I could give a bit of insight into our life with a dairy cow.
image

The key to a ‘easy’ routine is milk sharing with the calf while it is young this means we don’t seperate and in the afternoon Dane will get Kisses food ready bring her into the yard. He will squirt some milk on the ground to clear any dirty milk out of the teat then wash the tests and udder with warm soapy water and milk by hand while kisses eats and the calf frolics around the yard.
The positives to this system are that kisses is relaxed having her calf close by and it doesn’t matter greatly if we are late or miss a day of milking but there are some negative points too.
For one because we don’t use a milking stand I can’t milk her as I often have the children with me and sometimes cows can be moody.
We also don’t get as much milk as we could if we were milking twice a day and separating for long periods.
We do get 5-7litres a day with thick cream it’s not the most we COULD be getting but it’s more than enough for our families home dairying.

After the milk is brought in its poured through a sterilized cheese cloth into another food safe bucket and left to sit in the fridge over night until the cream settles.
The cream is then skimmed with a ladle and placed into the cream jar and the milk poured into the milk jugs.

So there you have it our milking routine. We will start seperating the calf for a hour prior to milking and increase after that once the amount of milk we are getting declines but once a day hand milking is enough.

Last week I made some cream cheese and used that to make a delicious baked creme brulee cheese cake. You’ve never tasted cheese cake until you’ve had it with home made cheese and free range eggs. Absolutely sublime!
image

For anyone who’d like to try making their own cream cheese below is the recipe I used its my adaptation of Dick and James Strawbridge recipe from made at home cheese and dairy which is a great book for beginners like myself.

Cream cheese
Ingredients
1 litre milk
1 litre of double cream
1/4 tsp mesophilic starter
3drops rennet mixed with 1 tablespoon sterilized water

1.Heat milk and cream slowly over low heat for 20minutes until it reaches 40C turn off and allow to cool to 30C

2.sprinkle starter over surface and leave for 5 minutes. Stir and add Rennet

3.cover and leave in a warm place for 12 hours
image

4. Transfer to a cheesecloth lined colander and drain for 6-8 hours then season to taste.

That’s it now you can use it for whatever takes your fancy. If you would like to try a creme brulee cheesecake just follow a new York cheesecake recipe then after you bake sprinkle the top with caster then caramelize with a blow torch and serve with fruit.
image

Fermenting, Foraging, Homesteading, News, Preserving

When life gives you apples..

I’m finally sitting down to write this week’s blog post. I’ve accepted they will be weekly if I’m lucky!

image

Blogging is a funny thing, If I could plug into my internal monologues there would be so much content to share! I keep telling myself I will keep a note book handy to jot down ideas for posts but the reality is I often write my most interesting posts when I’m somewhere random like weeding the garden so for now you will just have to put up with nonsensical ramblings whenever I squeeze time in between animals, babies, gardening and home chores!

Right now I am enjoying a glass of the blackberry sparkling wine I made last week. The warm weather means that it has fermented a lot quicker than my recipe stated so I need to amend that(especially since my friends who used my recipe had some exploding bottles!!!)

Our market last weekend went well we had some surprise visits from old friends which was wonderful. We survived with no Nanna help by bringing a travel cot to make a extra play space for the kids.

Dane has picked up some extra work so the homesteading chores have greatly fallen on me which has kept me busy. I’ve still had to squeeze in getting products ready for the Bathurst riverside market this weekend and Taste of Bathurst on the 12th. I’ll be trialling a new fermented summer garden pesto which I’m excited about.

image

Kisses calved and it was exactly what we wanted a little bull calf that Miss Nyah has named Seaweed (our last calf was stingray). I’m so excited about having our own beef and although it is always hard taking the life of a animal we have grown attached to we know it’s had a good life and we truly appreciate the gift.

image

I have been going well on my personal challenge of processing all the fruit in the freezer.
I did set myself back a little though by taking the kids on a spontaneous foraging adventure to this tree I had been eyeing off for a while nearby. I suspected they were apples but wasn’t sure until we got there to confirm it. On legs with Nyah by my side, Banjo on my back, Gypsy on the leash and Haggis the tortishell cat following behind I felt like we were characters in a story book heading off on a wild adventure! The apples were delicious and we filled the bag to the brim and struggled back home. I’m sure we looked a sight but we were all in good spirits and I have been merrily processing the harvest and will be back for more apples!

So far I have fed a bucketful to kisses with molasses which she greatly deserves, made two buckets of experimental hard cider, canned some Apple pie filling and used the cores and ‘waste’ materials to start another batch of cider vinegar which I will share the recipe for below. You can also save all your Apple cores and discarded toddler apples in the freezer to make this when you have enough but organic is best if you can get it.

image

image

        Apple cider vinegar

image

Ingredients

5-10 apples or cores,skins ect
Filtered water
1 cup honey or Sugar

Method

Put all your ingredients in the  jar or bucket (I use a 5L food grade bucket) and stir to dissolve the sugar.
Cover with a cheese cloth or tea towel and secure with a string or elastic band

Leave on the counter for at least a week mixing once a day. The sugar will ferment into alcohol and start to bubble.

Once the Apple/scraps sink to the bottom you have made hard cider!
Strain the apple/scraps off and recover the bucket or pour into a fresh bucket to continue fermentation.

Leave for another 3-4 weeks to allow alcohol to turn to acetic acid. The small amount of sediment at the bottom is normal this is the ‘mother’

After 3 weeks start tasting and once it is to your liking bottle. It will never go ‘off’ but may produce extra mothers that you can use to speed up future batches.

We use ACV all the time. We make it continuously whenever we have enough apple cores saved. It’s great for our health and well being but also great for treating animals as well.

Fermenting, Homesteading, News, Preserving

This Week

This week I am focussing on preserving our harvest and abundance of local produce available. I’ll also be foraging lots as blackberries are everywhere and I’ve seen a few rouge Apple trees around. Kisses is going to calf any moment now (I know I know I’ve been saying this for ages) and I’d love to give her some buckets of Apple’s and molasses.

I’ve decided to empty out the freezer I’ve got so much fruit in there and as there will be even more available to freeze soon I feel it’s better to get it ready sooner rather than later.
My preserving list for this week is huge so tonight I’ve been making more Worcestershire sauce, elderflower cordial and dandelion syrup, plum bbq,mixed raspberry and blackberry jam and plain Blackberry jam .

image

Earlier today we went and filled another two big buckets of blackberries and I started on 10litres of BlackBerry sparkling wine. I hope it’s as delicious as the raspberry wine was!

image

I’m still drowning in squash so will pickle more of these and maybe experiment with some fermented vegetables.

image

Dane has been enabling my chicken collection and brought me home these gorgeous salt and pepper shakers. Growing up I used to collect cows and they were always my favorite animal (still are!)but my cow collection disappeared in my late teens and early 20s. Perhaps if I’d paid more attention to my young selfs obsession with farm animals my path in life would have become apparent sooner. In any case now I’ve turned that obsession to rustic furniture and chicken paraphernalia.

image

Now I must end my ramblings for today and get back to the task at hand!

*Edit * Everything is processed and canned now. I’ve cleaned up and cleaned down and am enjoying a relaxing drink before a shower and bed. We still need to be up at 6am to start the homestead chores.
I forgot to mention previously that this weekend is our regular market at Tarana. The following weekend we will be doing a new (for us) market in Bathurst called the riverside market. We’ve visited this market before and love it the only problem is it clashes with out local farmers market in Oberon. We weighed up the pros and cons and decided to try Bathurst. We don’t sell enough at the Oberon spending more than we made last market. The riverside market is shady and has play equipment we can take the kids too plus there is a amazing op shop (thrift store for my American followers) I do hope we sell more product there. Really I don’t care about the money although it’s all adding to our goal of buying our own farm but really I just love sharing my passion for food and preserving with people and I’m running out of storage space!!!!

Foraging, Homesteading, News, Preserving

Homemade Cordials

We had a wonderful weekend with friends picking blackberries and enjoying delicious food. Foraging is certainly more fun with friends and the bounty at the end of the day is far greater. We hauled two big buckets and saw lots of other pickers out and about too which was a pleasant surprise.

image

Most of the berries from this haul I have frozen but I reserved 3kg for making BlackBerry cordial and I will include the recipe for this after my ramblings!

image

This time I decided to can in the vacola jars using the pressure canner. Usually I just pop into sterilized bottles as we go through it so quickly but this means we drink 5 litres of one flavour which can get a bit boring so instead I want to be able to shuffle the flavors around depending on what we feel like.

Homemade cordials are really easy and inexpensive to make and contain none of the nasty artificial flavours , colours or preservatives.I must confess I’ve never been a huge water drinker. I go through phases where I drink it and I try to drink it more in front of the children but sometimes I really cringe when I drink it! Awful I know. I used to make lots of cold sugarless herbal teas which I’d have on hand in the fridge but I haven’t been doing it this summer.
The flavour in homemade cordial is so strong that you really only need the tiniest amount in a large glass of water. You can make cordials out of any fruit, herbs and edible flowers even out of pineapple skins which being frugal as I am is one of my favorites.
My last batch was pineapple and lime and there’s nothing more refreshing than a tropical flavour hit on a hot summer day!

image

Recently I was reading a recipe for nasturtium cordials I’m certainly keen to try it but this is one I am skeptical on but we have had some delicious experiments with cherry plums and lilac flowers.

BlackBerry Cordial syrup

Ingredients
3kg blackberry
Sugar
Tartaric acid
Water

In a large pot simmer blackberries in water for 20 mins

Strain berriers and measure liquid by cups

For every cup of liquid add 1 cup of sugar

Bring to boil and reduce to simmer for 2 mins

Add 2tsp Tartaric acid simmer 20 more seconds. Take off heat and pour into warm sterilized bottles or can using your preffered method.

This will keep in the fridge for 3 months or you can store in a cool dark place.
Canned it should last a year.

Enjoy!

Homesteading, News

Nearly Mid February already!

It’s funny how much revolves around the weather. When I was younger talking about the weather was a sign the conversation was on a downward spiral and now I everything I do is dictated by it.

It’s warm and sunny this week and I am thankful. Although it means more work watering the plants it means our summer veg are still in with a chance.
The eggplants are tall but I’d given up hope of them fruiting until yesterday afternoon when I spotted one beautiful purple flower and several buds. This gives me hope and even if I only get one eggplant I will consider it a small victory.

image

The flowers are looking lovely at the moment and are attracting lots of bees. Next year I would love to have our own hive to supply us with honey. We are lucky to have made friends with a local bee keeper and will be nagging them for tips and tricks when we do. For now I have purchased 3kg of raw honey which will hopefully keep us going the next few months.

Foraging and preserving

There are still lots of elderberries on the trees but we think we have enough syrup for our personal use and to sell so we will leave these for other foragers wanting to make there own. Now it is BlackBerry season and we are greedily collecting lots of delicious juicy berries. I love blackberries but the commercial thornless variety just don’t have the same flavor as the wild ones and I like to think the more I collect the less there are for birds to eat and spread.
I have wonderful memories of my mother collecting lots of blackberries from the back of our old house in katoomba and making delicious pies and strudels. I know if she were to visit now we would benefit from her expert picking skills. We had a glimpse of this when she came during raspberry season. Dane was extremely impressed when she got right into the middle of the Bush without a care in the world for the thorns!

image

I’ve already made a batch of Plum and BlackBerry jam which is a delightful combination.

image

image

Yesterday Dane dug up some potatoes from the garden so tonight I am making gnocchi with nasturtium and rocket pesto for dinner and BlackBerry pie with homemade vanilla ice cream for dessert.

image
Nasturtium and Rocket Pesto

Waiting Waiting
While on the topic of ice cream  Kisses Moo is due to calf any day now. Her udder is full and and her belly is low. We are hoping for a steer to fill the freezer but if it is a heifer we will train her as a house cow and either keep her or sell her depending on colouring. I am definitely looking forward to having our own rich milk and cream again. This year I want to try making some soft cheeses and cheddars as well as stocking up our freezer with extra ice cream!!

image

Until next time keep on gathering!

Homesteading, News

Homestead and Homeschool

Its a quiet drizzly day so we are catching up on house work and enjoying Danes birthday. Miss N and I made a snickers cake which has become a tradition now in its 4th year. Last year was definitely the best cake with 5 layers of cake nougat filling, salted caramel and chocolate ganache and shaped like a giant snickers. Every year I use a different recipe and the cake this year couldn’t compete with last years. We are low on eggs due to moulting so three were used instead of 6 and I used peanut butter filling instead of nougat so I think I will stick with last years recipe from now on.

image

We have started our homeschool preschool program and so far it’s going well. The next two years will be a trial for us all to see if we can manage homeschooling and homesteading. At the moment we have been focusing on crafts and we always have many discussions and do lots of natural learning. Aldi had some great books last time we were there and every day Miss N asks to do some ‘school work’. We don’t push her and I love that she gets so much enjoyment from learning.

image

Now I’m giving more attention to craft and preschool activities I’m finding less time to blog and write but you can also keep up to date with us via instagram HunterGathererforager or the Facebook page https://m.facebook.com/Hunter-Gatherer-416223725239665/

The Saurkraut I talked about making in my last post is coming along nicely however the family are less than impressed with the smell!! Fortunately I’m making a batch big enough for for our years supply and I will have time before our cabbage grow to think of a new fermenting system if we are to make it for the markets.

image

We are harvesting lots of delicious produce at the moment and I have squash coming out of my ears. I make have been a bit over enthusiastic when planting all my squash seeds and while I love seeing all the different varieties the variation in taste isn’t too great. Then again I do enjoy the challange of finding new things to do with a squash and my recipe repertoire is certainly increasing.

Now our housework is complete and the rain has eased we will head out into the garden to harvest some rhubarb for freezing then come back in to enjoy a birthday feast and snuggle up together as a family away from the cool weather.

Until next post keep Hunting gathering and foraging!

Foraging, Homesteading, Preserving, Uncategorized

Plum Cordial

It has been another busy week and we are finding ourselves crumbling into exhausted heaps all over the place. I wish we could tap into the kids energy supplies. They are bouncing around and we find ourselves playing with them over doing our chores as it’s more fun.

We have been social butterflys this week catching up with many friends before they go away. We were gifted yet another two huge boxes of Plums so more and more preserving and experimentation is waiting on the kitchen counter.

We also went foraging and got a huge bunch of Elderberries.

elder.jpg

We will be heading out for more tomorrow afternoon after our interview for community radio. This was a very unexpected request from a customer who bought some vinegar from us at the last market and is talking to different home bakers and cooks in the area. I will be sharing with her the same recipe I will share today for plum cordial.

This cordial truly is the essence of the saying “a season in a bottle”. The plum flavour is divine and the colour is vivid. While making it I thought it would make a wonderful natural dye and if I ever manage to find time to add learning the art of natural dye I will be experimenting with some plums (and Elderberries!).

Please read the entire recipe though particularly if you are like me and go for it then realize half way through you’ve done something wrong and have to back track!

IMG_5029

Plum Cordial

plumcordial

Ingredients

1kg Plums

3 Litres of water

Sugar

Tartaric acid

Method

Place plums and water in a saucepan and bring to boil. Reduce to simmer for 15 mins

Scoop out plums with a slotted spoon then strain liquid though a sieve or muslin cloth measuring as you go

For Every cup of liquid add 1 C of sugar bring to boil stirring to dissolve the sugar.

Reduce heat and simmer for 2 mins then add tartaric acid

Pour into warm sterilized bottles and seal.

If you like you can cook longer to reduce the liquid and make a thicker syrup suitable for Ice cream. You can also use it to flavour cakes, cookies , icing , fillings or in cocktails. Experiment and have some fun!

gardening, Homesteading, News, Uncategorized

Small surprises

It’s hot. It’s too Hot. I don’t deal well with the heat it’s part of the reason we chose somewhere that snows. The temperatures have hit the mid to high 30s (that’s Celsius) the chickens are panting, the kids are cranky, the cats and puppy are doing lots of sleeping and I’m finding it hard to motivate myself but still there is work to be done. It’s days like this I question what the hell we are doing. Maybe I should just get a conventional job in a air conditioned office and make money in a “normal” way. Then I am reminded by something about why we chose this lifestyle and why we love it so much. Today it was in the form of a small amphibian hiding in a squash flower and enjoying the cool pool of water.

frogflower2frogflower

It was a beautiful reminder of the wonders of nature and the simple pleasures we enjoy each day.

In other news our visitors have all left us it’s been wonderful having the company of old friends and sharing new experiences but it’s also nice to unwind and go back to our life of hermitude. We are still kept busy looking after a friends animals on their farm while they are away. One of our jobs at their place has been to milk their one uddered goat Dolly. It has been great to experience as diary goats has always been high on our list but our unfortunate goat experience we had early in our journey meant we never got to the milking stage. If you’ve never had goats milk fresh you really must try it. The bad rap goats milk has is all lies and I really would put it at the same level as our jersey cows milk it’s that creamy and delicious. I have certainly had my desire for goats reinforced but I’m sensible enough to know that we need to wait until we buy or are on a more suitable property. In the meantime I will keep drooling over cute pictures of baby goats and researching.

All the extra work we’ve been doing has set me a little behind on preserving. One of our guests very generously gifted us about 10kg of plums!!

 Our plum tree is a bit pathetic at the moment it’s a beautiful towering ancient tree that gives generous shade but is very hit and miss with fruit. Our first year we had bountiful plums that were disgusting and bitter! The second we had zero plums thanks to the plague of white cockatoos happily munching then and pooping on my washing line. This year we had about 5 of the most sweet and juicy plums I have ever eaten but not enough to preserve with so you can imagine my joy at such a gift.

IMG_5029.JPG

So far I have made 6 bottles of Plum Cordial (Which I will share the recipe for in my next post), Rosemary and Plum butter (Non dairy this is a smoother jam), Plum Chutney, Chinese Plum Sauce, Worcestershire sauce and  Plum Wine which is smelling VERY alcoholic and reminds me of sangria. I’ve got enough in the fridge for some Vanilla Bean and plum jam and then 6KG in the overflowing deep freeze for processing later in the year.

plumcordial

On top of this we still have our regular Kombucha and JUN bottling as well as animal chores and child education. Life if certainly not boring and despite my small “What are we doing” moments now and again I really wouldn’t have it any other way!