Different Foods

Why, oh why!!!??? No one joined me for lunch!

The menu consisted of

  • Fresh mushrooms sautéed in a butter garlic sauce
  • Liver fried in fig flavoured vinegar

The mushrooms were freshly picked this morning and given to us by some friends of ours.

The liver was sourced from our neighbour’s freshly butchered lamb.

It was delish! But no one joined me for my lunch time experience!

If you were around, would you have joined me for lunch?

Sheep at SoggyBottom Homestead

When we bought our homestead last year, it came with a Wiltshire Horn ram. The previous owner was unable to round him up with the rest of his herds when he sold them. As a result, we inherited it. I find it interesting that the next door neighbour chose to leave one of his ewe with our ram for companionship.

I took several photos of these two sheep. The prospect that they could become the first of our flock on SoggyBottom Homestead filled me with excitement. In no time at all my first wishful balloon popped. Apparently, it was an old ram which would have had little or no use to us. That’s right, I consider all my wishful thinking or dreams that doesn’t become realities as balloons. It pops and disappears and with it comes some form of disappointment. I liken it to a toddler holding his first balloon. Watch how his emotions change when the balloon either pops or flies away!

So my balloon popped. The ewe found a way of escape as our fencing needed repair. A few days later, the ram escaped too. Needless to say, they both received an appointment with the butcher.

Six months down the track, we have fixed our fencing. We have bought three supposedly pregnant ewes. They have been with a ram, but the farmer who sold them to us was unable to confirm if they are impregnated.

Our three ewes, Snowball, Caramel and Coffee have settled well. They follow us at a distance and come running if we give them some treats.

Snowball is always the first to arrive. She is not afraid to eat out of our hands. Coffee, who has the darkest face, is cautious of us and will not come too close. She is the dominant one and decides from which bucket to eat. The others don’t have a choice as she will push them away from her bucket. Caramel is somewhere in the middle. A slightly brown face. Although she isn’t afraid of us, she is too timid to eat out of our hands.

I would so like to touch them, pat them as I do the calves. Maybe one day. For now, we will wait patiently until the lambs are born.

Outdoor Children

Anecdotal evidence shows that children that spend the most time outdoors seem to have a stronger immune system. Considering that it’s only in our recent history that mankind is spending more time indoors than outdoors, I agree. We should encourage children to be outdoors. My vision of what this outdoor space represents may differ to what you might have in mind. I’m thinking of one that exposes them to the basics of nature, gardening and farming.

Let me go back to my childhood where we lived in Normandy, France.

Children spent hours outdoors, except on rainy days. In our backyard, both a climbing rope and swing could be seen hanging from a cherry tree. These were Dad’s creation for our enjoyment. In school and at home, our games involved movement: skipping rope, hopscotch, ball games, hide-and-seek, etc.

Our vegetables came from our garden. Dad spent hours tending to it each evening after work. The milk and butter came from the farm across the road from us. My parents would send my brother and me to buy the milk. The farmer showed us how to milk a cow. On another occasion, we saw how the cream was separated from the milk and how butter was churned from the cream.

At an early age, we participated in peeling potatoes, shelling peas, stringing beans, etc. I must confess, at times more peas would go in my mouth than in the bucket. I remember seeing the process of how a chook or a rabbit was transformed from its living form to meat on our plate.

Over time, we followed and adapted to the changes in our society. I, in turn, grew up and had children and brought them up in a different environment than what my life began with. Now, I’m a grandmother and together with my husband we have gone back to a simpler lifestyle of homesteading. It reminds me of my beginning in life.

A recent conversation we had with a young adult surprised us. The word “orchard” did not form part of her vocabulary. We ventured to ask other teenagers and young adults if they knew what an orchard was. Most of them had no idea. I realised how much our society had changed.

Have we gone too far? Can we wind back the clock? Do we want to go back to the good old times?

Maybe we cannot go back. We have many conveniences today that past generations did not have. It would seem that our fast-paced lifestyle is robbing us of nature’s privileges. Our society, as a whole, may not be able to go back, but as individuals, we can choose how far we are influenced by the status quo. My desire is that all children who visit our homestead, grandchildren, nieces, nephews or friends’ children, will see first-hand what life on a homestead looks like. How beautiful it is to live surrounded by nature. How peaceful it is to live with nature.

Welcoming Animals in our Homestead

Welcoming Animals in our Homestead There has been much preparation and work done around our property in the lead up to the time we would introduce animals on the homestead.

My husband built our main chicken coop as we awaited the arrival of my parents’ chooks. It seems the baton was passed on to us to continue their legacy of raising chooks as well as gardening.

Both my parents’ chooks and quails arrived Saturday week.

The quails didn’t have an adequate housing arrangement. Unsure what type of cage or environment would best suit them, we kept them temporarily in a rabbit cage with a big enough run. My husband mentally built a cage, and low and behold, before the end of the week he had found one that was similar to his plan but that needed some transformation. In no time at all, it had been transformed into the perfect quail home. At least that’s my take on it. Shortly after moving them, we noticed they were more active, scratching the ground, bathing in the dirt. Let’s hope they soon start laying again, as they stopped as soon as they arrived at the farm.

Friday evening saw the arrival of a long awaited Jack Russell pup.

She is gorgeous and already has stolen a part of our hearts. This cute little ball of fur following our every step, being vocal when she wants to come indoor, has chosen for herself the place she likes to go and rest: in the garage on a blanket against a pair of gum boots and near one of Noah’s (our grandchild) jacket.

As if there wasn’t enough emotions sparked up by welcoming a dog in our home, we also had the arrival of two calves on Saturday and three supposedly pregnant ewes on Sunday.

At this point in time, the ewes are not adding much work. They look after themselves. Our mission is to work on gaining their trust. After all, they should give us a few lambs by next spring.

Now when it comes to the two calves, well they have won my heart too. These gorgeous babies with such big eyelashes are both under two weeks. They need to be hand reared. From the advice we have received, this can be challenging. There can be complications. We were told that scouring can happen, which could even lead to the death of a calf. As you can imagine, that has place some fear in me. I sure don’t want to lose one due to negligence. We are intent on following the good advice given to us. Maybe in a couple of months we may write a blog on our first experience in hand rearing calves.

Our expert neighbour has mentioned to us on several occasions that on a farm one must be prepared to bury animals. We won’t mention the many scenarios that could happen. The only one that I will mention is the one we have just experienced. Our cat Peanut came in for his breakfast (we don’t place its food outside as the dog would eat it before he gets to it). He had just finished eating as we walked out the door to feed our calves. When we came back, somehow he had managed to make a toy out of our live canary. All doors to the cage were still closed as we have them secured for that very purpose, but the cage had been pulled down from its place and Spongebob the canary was found dead 2 metres away from its cage, all doors still firmly closed. There were a few tears shed as he daily filled the house with his heavenly songs. They were so beautiful and uplifting.

I guess I better get my emotions in check if I want to be a successful farmer. There’s lots of fun and adventure to be had on the farm. We cannot let the negatives overshadow the good.

Let see what our next adventure on this journey will bring us.

Change of Lifestyle

A few years ago at an expo on rural life, we were informed that many city couples who waited until their retirement to buy a rural property with acreage regretted their decision.

Like so many of us, they romanticised of an easy, non complicated lifestyle, away from the stress of city life. Equally, like many of us, careers, family life, children took priority and their dream lifestyle was laid aside. So once these people reached their dream, they no longer had what it takes to look after and maintain their dream.

For the last 10 years or so of our lives my husband and I have desired, talked about and dreamed about moving to a country town. We have driven through so many towns and villages during our holidays and imagined living there.

Fast forward to a year ago, we finally realised it wasn’t a change from suburbia to country town we wanted, but in actually fact we desired a change of life style, a homestead with acreage. But, hadn’t we been warned that many regretted taking such a decision? Would we be part of that statistic? Were we ready to take on the workload that comes with 10 acres?

To be truthful we could not affirm any of these questions. What we knew was if we waited another ten years it would be too late for us to venture out and then we would live with regrets.

So here we are four months into this journey. We don’t need a gym membership, We have sore muscles from digging, pruning, pushing wheelbarrows, building fences, chicken coops, gardening, etc.

There is no place for boredom: garden needs to be attended to, watering, weeding, planting, harvesting. Cooking, baking, preserving excess fruits and veggies. There’s wood to be gathered, chopped and stacked for winter. All this before we even think of animals: chook pens to be built, fences to be built or fixed, feeding them, etc.

Are we happy with our decision? Absolutely!

Do we have any regrets? If I had one, it would be this: why didn’t we do it years ago.

Is it hard work? Yes it is.

Is it worth it? Without a doubt.

To anyone considering moving to a homestead, we can only give the same advice many have given us: go slow, add one thing at a time or it may be too overwhelming.

Quince Chutney

Our quince tree seems to produce enough fruit to share with the birds, cattle and humans. There’s definitely plenty for all.

Personally, I think quince is a fruit that is not attractive to look at. Raw, it doesn’t taste good, it’s tart, sour and distasteful.

But give me a spoonful of quince jelly, it brings me back to my childhood. The fragrance is a delightful blend of floral aroma and fruitiness that awakens the senses.

I remember my grandmother making a batch of quince jelly, however she had over cooked it. It was more like a toffee. A hard boiled toffee. One could hardly dig a spoon into it without bending it, but the taste was amazing. Every chance I had, I would be dipping a spoon in the jar and savouring with delight the flavours of this supposedly failed batch of jelly.

With the abundance of fruit we have harvested from our quince tree, I have made some quince jelly, quince paste, fried some with mixed veggies and for the first time I decided to make quince chutney. Unsure if it was a good idea, I googled to check if there were such a recipe. To my delight, there were various recipes.

My choice was a variation from the quince chutney recipe food at

http://www.lacigale.co.nz/recipes/quince-chutney/

I was surprised how good it tastes. It has a bit of a kick to it, but not too much. It’s a nice accompaniment to cheese and cold meats.

Below are the ingredients I used for just over 4 jars

• 1 cup white wine vinegar

• 1 cup water

• 1 cup sugar

• 6 quinces, peeled, cored and cut into small cubes

• 4 apples, peeled, cored and cut into small cubes

• 2 onions, peeled and chopped

• 1 tsp ground cinnamon

• Ground pepper

• 1 tsp ground cardamom

• 1 cms piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped

• 1 star anise

• 1 tsp salt

• 2 Handfuls of sultanas

Place all ingredients together in a large saucepan. Stir and bring to boil. Then simmer gently, stirring occasionally until it thickens. This should take about an hour and a half.

Place in sterilised jars. Close jars and place upside down for at least 24 hours.

Our Chooks

I cannot imagine a homestead without chooks.

Yes, we did plan to have chooks, many of them, different breeds if possible, but our motto is, let’s go slowly, it’s a journey not a destination. So our plan was a trio to begin with.

In preparation for their arrival chook pen n°1 was built.

We came home with a trio and an extra rooster and 6 small chooks, as a result chook pen n°2 was rapidly built.

A couple of weeks later one chook went clucky, now we have 7 baby chooks, for which chook pen n°3 was built.

Another 8 eggs are in an incubator as the other chook from the trio went clucky but then changed her mind.

In a couple of weeks my parents chooks are coming to join our bunch…. chook pen n°4 is in construction.

At this point in time, we have chooks, but no eggs, so we are

enjoying their presence, watching them grow and savour their menu of grubs, seeds and grains as they roam freely. Hopefully, in the near future we will be rewarded with eggs in abundance.

Welcome to Soggybottomhomestead

Over a year ago we took a big leap of faith into the unknown. We sold our house, went into a rental and began the search for a “a new home”. What that new home would look like was a bit of a mystery.

We knew we wanted a different lifestyle. We were dreaming of a country home, away from the hustle and bustle of the city and suburbs, yet I had a job I didn’t want to give up. We decided a weekender would be great, one that would turn into our retirement home when we would be ready for it. That definitely sounded good.

The search began, nothing seemed to fit our inner desire, whatever that was. It’s only over time, and looking at many properties that we finally came to understand what we actually wanted. Once we knew, we were able to narrow down our search and before we could understand what was really happening, we had bought a 10 acre property on a steep hill.

The weekender soon became our permanent residence as I gave up my job.

This blog is about the journey we are on. We invite you to join us and enjoy our lifestyle with us. you may even get inspired to do the same.

We will be sharing some of the amazing views we get to enjoy, awesome sunsets, additions to the homestead, thoughts and opinions. Oh yes, we will also share some of the undesired adventures that we experience, we wouldn’t want to inspire you with just the one side of the coin, it wouldn’t paint the reality of life on our homestead.

So sit back and enjoy. Welcome to our homestead.