Thursday, May 31, 2012

Big drama in the hen house

I got home tonight to a big, upsetting drama.

One of my darling chookies has a very badly hurt bottom, all bleeding and bare of feathers. Another chookie has a bare bum too.

When Howard got home we grabbed Kate and brought her inside. We have cleaned her up and concluded that she has been pecked, very savagely.

She is now sleeply, rather indignantly, in a cat box in the bathroom for the night. We havefilled in with shredded paper and she has a water bowl. She will be able to recover there.

We will check the other girls in the morning.  There is a farm store down the road so I'll dash down in the morning and see if they have an ointment or spray to help her heal.

Then on the weekend we'll see about extending their run. I am concerned that they are pecking because they don't have enough space.  We have not had any problems, in fact they have always seemed to get on really well. But the last two weeks we have been really busy so they have not been out of their coop. Normally we only let them out when we are home because there are foxes around.

So, I feel horribly guilty and distressed at failing them. I know there are plenty of chooks with far worse lives but I want my girls to be happy.

I'll keep you posted about the trials and tribulations of keeping chooks.

And a BIG thank you to everyone I phoned tonight for help. Thank you!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Packing lunch - a great way to save money and eat healthier

Last week during my days away I bought myself the most darling lunch box. A lunch box for grown ups is quite hard to find.  I couldn't resist this.

I like to pack my own lunch.  I don't always of course. Sometimes I go for weeks without taking my lunch but by then I get antsy to get back on track.  I am passionate about home cooked food. I also work full time so need to be pragmatic and accept defeat at times.

The only real way I have found to succeed is to cook ahead of times. Its great to cook up a storm every few weekends and fill the freezer and fridge.

I have been busy the last two weekends so its all looking pretty bare...

Tonight I am starting to get back on track.

I have set the bread machine to have a loaf ready at 6.30 tomorrow morning.

I have made muesli/granola for the first time. It is full of oats, pecans, dates, sultanas.  I'll share the instructions once I've given it a try. Hopefully it tastes good - it was very easy to make.

I have also started making my own yoghurt - this is not going to be ready to eat until Wednesday. It takes a while but its worth it.

As long as I fill my new lunch box with healthy, filling foods I will be able to resist the urge to buy sweets. It will save me money and I'll be able to suit my own tastes and be healthy.

I am trying particularly hard to avoid pre-packaged foods at the moment. I prefer fresh, whole foods and to know what is in the food I eat.  Not that I don't get slack, or indulge in fun foods too. This is my ideal and I go through both active and slack stages.

Do you pack your own lunch? If so, why?  Thrift, health or both? What ever you eat, enjoy your lunch tomorrow.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A few days away: big city, beach and country studio trails

I am stuck in a loud, busy airport on my way home from almost a week away.
I have retreated into my laptop and courtesy of free wi-fi I am sharing this post.

Last Wednesday I travelled to Surfers Paradise for a work conference. Then a couple of days later headed into the country to stay with family. Today I am on my way home. Tomorrow its back to work.

As I did with last weekend's adventures, I'd like to share a few quick snap shots to describe the week I've had.

For the conference I stayed in the heart of Surfers Paradise. I grew up here but moved away about 15 years ago. It was fun to be a tourist for a little while in my home town. The conference was really full on but I managed to go to an evening market ...

and walk along the beach early in the morning.
 My family have all moved away, as I did. My parents live in a beautiful country town with an active artistic community. This weekend the Butter Factory studios were open.

So there ends my little story.  Home to animals galore, my garden, kitchen and own humble studio.

What did you do this weekend?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Adventures in bread making 2 - tricks with dough

Today I used my bread machine to make dough - then cheese sticks and bread rolls.

First the bread sticks.

I rolled out the dough.  Using a spatula to cut in half.

Spread grated romano or parmesan on the rolled dough.
 Sprinkle with paprika.

Cut long strips, fold in half and twist.

Lay on a baking tray and bake until golden.

The rest of the dough I cut into six peices, loosely formed into balls and baked to make yummy rolls for tomorrow's lunch.


Sunday, May 20, 2012

A few quick vignettes from my weekend

We are just home from a weekend away.  I thought I'd share a few small moments with you. On Saturday we went to a friend's wedding at Collaroy, on Sydney's Northern Beaches, overlooking the ocean. It was a beautiful wedding and a beautiful venue.
Family and friends weren't the only witnesses.
We stayed the night at Newport. This is the view we were greeted with this morning.

Into Sydney, and spied a delightful installation down a narrow laneway.
Tiles at an old pub in Sydney's Rocks, the oldest and quaintest part of Sydney.
Our dear friends Marcelo and Rachael at the MCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) Zine Fair. Click on Rach and Marcelo's names to link to their blogs. Marcelo is an illustrator and comic book creator and Rach a keen and talented polaroid photographer.

It was a lovely break in routine. It was energising to spend time with friends, be inspired by beautiful scenery and great creations at the zine fair.

Hope you had a good weekend too.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

5 things Wednesday - 5 frosty photos

First frost this morning. The light was different when I got up this morning and sure enough there was a frost.

I snapped these photos when I ventured out to feed our chickens. It looks freezing, and its certainly not warm, but its not as cold as some other morning over the past week.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Adventures in bread making 1 - new bread machine

I have been making my own bread for years - well except the last year or so when I have been without a bread machine. The last one ceased to operate after many years of good service.

I tried to make bread from scratch.

Mixing and kneading is fine. Keeping the dough the right temperature to rise is not. I live in a cold area and even ridiculous lengths did not bring consistent results.

I've given up and bought a new bread machine.

The rising process is somewhat shortened so the loaf is perhaps not as robust but the advantages outweigh this.

It takes a couple of tries with the various recipes and settings to decide which bread style you like.

I know now after 3 loaves that I can set the timer over night and have a loaf ready for breakfast and packed lunches in the morning.

Do you make bread?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Bird's nest find

I found a beatiful bird's nest laying on the ground under a tree.  It is by far the biggest I have found. Isn't it beautiful? 

Check out the rest of my collection here.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

5 things Wednesday - keeping a visual journal

I keep a written journal and a visual journal. I was however horrified to discover today that I had not made an entry in my visual journal all year. I did not expect that at all.  I packed a basket full of collage materials, glue, scissors and crayons and went out into the sunshine.
 I covered a piece of black cardboard with season inspired images and motivational words. As this particular visual board is about keeping me working on my dreams, I added an envelope in which to tuck notes outlining my actions and successes.  I used photos from magazines as well as silk flowers, leaves and stickers from cheap shops and craft suppliers.
This will go on the wall in my studio.

5 ideas for keeping a visual journal or dream board

 1. The other pages from my journal are varied according to my mood. They include inspiring magazine pictures.

2.  Or materials from craft shops like these coloured leaves glued onto a simple painted background.
3. Believe in my dreams - silk flowers and transfer flowers.

 4. Paper cutouts work well. The word journey here is cut out from a colour copy of a street directory map.
5. The visual journal gives you the chance to experiment and explore. No creative talent is needed. This is a free space to play and feel free. Cheap paints work just fine in a sketch book.

Just be yourself.

I have never shared this pages before. How do you stay inspired? Do you let your inner child out to play?  Please share your story.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Welcome to new blog links

I have added three new blogs to my blog roll tonight.
Welcome to:

This week I have been blogging about gardening, composting, worm farming and cooking stuffed mushrooms.

Still coming up on homespunblissblog...
Adventures in bread making
A new bird nest find
Egg brekkie cups
Landscaping around our chicken pen
My new studio
and visual journalling

And I'm sure there'll be some sewing, embroidery and more cooking before too long. Welcome and hope you are enjoying my homespun journey! Please take the time to stop and say hi.

Souffle stuffed mushrooms

I was catching up with a wonderful friend today and ended up talking about cooking.

On my way home I came up with a dinner idea that I thought I'd share.

I think its one of those meals that is easy but can look rather impressive. And surprisingly light. It takes a little time to cook but if you check out my tips, is quite doable after work. Which is always a priority for me.

And before I go on, although I love making souffle, this is actually a fake souffle. But you don't have to give away all your cooking secrets ;)

Large field mushrooms with a deep cup (1 per person)
Silken firm tofu
1 egg
Basil pesto (Optional but recommended. You could try olive tapenade instead)
Fresh asparagus
Shaved parmesan or romano cheese
Eshalots and sliced almonds to serve
Steamed vegies as desired (optional)

Tip 1: Don't be scared of tofu. It takes on the flavour of the ingredients around it and this version is light and fluffy like souffle. Don't tell anyone it is tofu - truly, they won't know if you don't tell them!

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Tip 2: No matter what you have to do when you get home from work, turn the oven on as soon as you get in to heat it up.

Pop or cut the stem out of the mushroom. Chop up and toss in the bottom of the mushroom cup or put aside for another meal.

Place the mushrooms in a baking dish and spray with olive oil.

Cook until mushrooms are going soft. Time depends on how thick the mushrooms are and how many you are cooking.

Tip 3: If you are busy, pop the mushrooms in the oven, as above, as soon as you can. Don't let them cook until they disintegrate. They need to be cooked through, but firm. They can always sit on top of the stove cooked for a while if you're busy. Just top and place back in the oven when you are ready.

Meanwhile... In a mixing bowl, mix an egg into the silken firm tofu. For 2-4 mushrooms half a pack of tofu is enough. Use the whole pack for more large mushrooms.

Tip 4: You need to have the right sort of tofu. I find silken firm tofu in the chiller section of my local supermarket with the other tofus. If you have any trouble check with an Asian food store. Silken firm tofu has a consistency a bit like junket, if you remember that. I sometimes find the store fridge cabinets are a little too chilly, so squeeze the packet and check it isn't frozen or dehydrated.

Snap the coarse stem ends off the asparagus. Place in steamer over boiling water and cook until soft but not soggy. If serving other vegies, cook them now.

When the mushroom cups are soft, remove from the oven. Tip any mushroom liquid out into the baking dish. If using, add a dollop of basil pesto or tapenade into each mushroom cup.

Top with tofu mixture. Try to keep inside the mushroom. Its ok to dome the tofu mix over the cup as long as contained by the rim.

Place in the oven.

Cook until the tofu is firm to the touch.

Serve the mushroom with asparagus, garnish of slivered almonds, parmesan, and basil leaves. Add steamed vegies to the side if desired.
I hope you enjoy this juicy and tasty stuffed mushroom.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Gardening jobs 3 - the vegie patch

My vegie patch has been a bit neglected of late. It was a very wet summer so didn't produce much. Its sunny again, albeit getting cooler as we travel through Autumn.

As my compost was ready I did some weeding.

My one bin of compost stretched to spread across three garden beds.
In the first I planted strawberries for a treat next Summer.

In two others I have planted three different types of garlic including early, mid and late varieties, again for next Summer.

The beds are just waiting the arrival of some lucerne bales that will provide a thick, warm mulch over the top.

Following the permaculture philosophy of keeping often used plants close to the kitchen I planted some lettuce in the herb garden I am fortunate enough to have near my kitchen and front door.

Handy for packing lunches and dinner garnishes.

What is in your garden this May?

Gardening jobs 2 - The compost bin

I recently posted about how much my chickens have helped my compost along.  I thought I'd share an update on how its going.

I have just emptied and spread a whole bin through my vegie beds.  It turned into compost more quickly than usual thanks to the added carbon matter and manure. So here's the story of starting again.

As it is best to layer your compost, first gather your raw materials.
As you can see you don't need a lot of space.

I started with grass clippings. At this time of year they have the added bonus of chopped up dry leaves which add to the carbon component.
Then I added some ash from the fireplace, some horse manure and a layer of kitchen scraps.

Shredded paper and mulch from the chicken coop on top. I will keep going with layers of scraps and chicken coop bedding. The grass is slowing down but I will add clippings when I have them. I topped it all off with some left over compost and soil. A drink of molasses and its all ready to start breaking down.

For more on composting the homespun way please check out my earlier post or leave me a comment.

Happy composting.


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