Home Grown

Lyn the Cow

Wahoo – the third Paddock has been sold. Not a moment too soon as the Princely treasure chamber was down to the last few coins. I was seriously starting to wonder about how we would buy essentials like Shiraz and chocolate. Anyway, I’ve been down there giving  it a tidy up and was feeling nostalgic about Lyn the Cow.

About a week after we moved to the Paddock (and about 2 weeks after I had hung up the corporate suit), there was an ad in the local paper – ‘For Sale, Lyn, Jersey, suitable as a house cow. Save me from the meatworks.’

So I went and met the farmer. Lyn was elderly, but still milking and he thought she was pregnant (that last bit is what they say to increase the value, but she wasn’t). Anyway, I parted with $200 and suddenly owned a cow. The Responsible Adult was amazed and thought that perhaps I hadn’t thought things through. Of course I hadn’t, it was total impulse. If I thought about stuff before I did it, then I might be the Responsible Adult. Here’s a picture:

1994 Lyn

Lyn, staring back at the third paddock

She looks lovely, doesn’t she? Well she was a real bitch. Bone idle. All she had to do was eat grass all day and walk up to the bails in the morning and afternoons. But would she walk up to the bails? Not unless I chased her all round the paddock, up hills, down dales, through the lantana. But after a couple of weeks and much discussion with more experienced paddock workers, I found that so long as I provided some wheat, mulberry leaves and molasses, she would wander up to the bails. Usually on the late side.  I can tell you, there were many times when I chatted her about how I might arrange for a trip to MacDonald’s where she would be the two all beef patties with lettuce cheese and tomato on a sesame seed bun. Particularly after the time when I learned that the reason a cow puts its head down is not to signify submission, but to head but you. But over time, I came to quite like her and I quite liked the milk right away.

If you are ever tempted to impulse buy a house cow, then go ahead. There’s nothing like sitting on an upturned bucket, leaning into a great big animal while collecting milk. Eventually, I started grooming her after milking and I like to think that she became fond of me also. But I would just be kidding myself – if the wheat, mulberry leaves and molasses stopped coming, so would Lyn.

Anyhow,  Lyn was saved from the meatworks and eventually died of old age. While I was busy trying to work out how to get a digging machine down to the particularly inaccessible part of the paddock she chose to spend her final hours, nature did its job and she just dissapeared into the humus.

But, the main point is that the third paddock has been sold and I have mowed and weeded it for the last time. Yahoo – time to research tropical island holidays.

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Growing Vege’s

Yummy greens for my sandwich

Here’s my little vege seedlings one month after visiting the markets. Even after this short period, the outside leaves of the Cos Lettuce are ready to be cut and placed on a nice open sandwich. Same with the Rocket. I lost all but one beetroot to bloody Bandicoots (vile, filthy creatures) The Kale is growing really quickly. The flowers you can see in the foreground are self seeded Coriander – themselves about to go to seed. Some of the seeds will be harvested for curry and some will be left to grow. Don’t forget to harvest some Coriander root which is an ingredient for a nice Curry paste.
Baby Lettuce leaves are best served with a nice Shiraz.

The Vege’s 4 weeks ago

And about 2 weeks ago
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Mulberry Pie

So yesterday was cold and rainy. Lovely weather for making pie. Here’s how Paddock Workers make a bit of heaven on a plate. Start with the pastry. 
I like a short pastry (lots of butter) known as Pate Brisee Sucree to Provence Field Workers.

 My pastry is totally made in the food processor. I know the traditional Frenchy Field Workers did it all by hand, but I’m guessing that’s because they invented pastry before they invented the food processor.

 Toss in 2 cups flour and 2 teaspoons sucre and give it a quick wizz. Add 150g butter and wizz till it looks all crummy. Add an egg and a tablespoon or two of milk and wizz like crazy. It will all form up like in the picture. Because I like thick  pastry, I make 2 batches – one for the top and one for the bottom. If you’re OK with thin pastry, you could get away with 1 batch, but it will be pretty thin. Now here’s the thing. After being belted by a food processor, your pastry needs a nice rest in the fridge. About half an hour. While it’s having a nice lay down, you can cook up your Mulberries.


I used 4 cups of Mulberries, but would use 6 if we were having company, or I was looking to win a contest as 6 cups would make a nice high pie. Put your Mulberries in a saucepan with a bit of water and a couple of tablespoons of sucree (Mulberries aren’t very sweet). As you cook them, the Mulberries will release more juice. When the Mulberries have softened after about 10 minutes or so, mix a heaped tablespoon of corn flour with a little water and add to the pot. This will thicken the mix for your pie.


By now, your pastry should be ready for a bit of roly-poly. I use two sheets of baking paper to roll out. Turn the lot over and keep unsticking the paper as you go. Using this method instead of rolling out over a floury bench means that you aren’t adding more flour to your nice buttery pastry. After rolling out, your pastry will need another nice rest in the fridge. While this is happening, you can wash up so that the Responsible Adult doesn’t get cross about a messy kitchen. Then blind bake your shell. I go for about 10 minutes with lentils weighing down the base and another 5 minutes without to crisp up the bottom.

Then it’s in with the filling, on with the top and a bake in the oven. The pie needs to be cold before serving. At the cubby house, we like to have sour cream with our sweet pies, but lately the shop seems to want to sell us the Frenchy Creme Fraische which is less sour. It’s all good – just enjoy.


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Marmalade

Part of my winter ritual is the annual making of the marmalade using the trusty wood stove. My method is pretty simple and has resulted in prize winning marmalades. First, cut up some fruit. We grow oranges, lemons, cumquart, grapefruit and of course there’s Harry the hybrid.
For home use, I just chop roughly as the resulting thick peel suits my taste. For a competition, I would slice thinly. Three or Four fruit will make a decent batch. I also juice a couple of oranges to add to about 5 or 6 cups of water to toss in the pot. All seeds are separated and put into some muslin secured with a rubber band. 

Cooking


This goes onto the hottest part of the woodstove until it boils, then moved to a simmering spot. The pot stays covered. The mix is simmered for 2 – 3 hours to ensure that the resulting marmalde doesn’t develop mould over time. 

Setting


After cooking, I remove the mix and measure it. The amount of sugar required is one cup less than the amount of mix. In other words, if I have 6 cups of mix, I will want 5 cups of sugar. The seeds are discarded, the pot is cleaned, the mix returned and put back on the stove. Once it boils, the sugar is added.


Now comes the critical part. The mix will boil and froth for a while. As it starts to settle down, you need to test for the setting point. If you take it off the heat too soon, you will have runny marmalade. Too late and you get toffee.

To test, just remove a couple about half a teaspoon of liquid and drop it onto a cool plate. Wait a few seconds and tip the plate into a vertical position. If the liquid runs down the plate, then you aren’t there yet. Setting point is when the liquid forms a skin and might slide a bit, but doesn’t run.

Let the mix cool slightly before bottling. A well cooked marmalade put into sterile jars will last a very long time.


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Volunteers

Amazingly, plants can grow all by themselves without needing our help. You probably know this because mainly they are weeds which come up by the thousands in the paddock. But it ain’t always weeds. In our part of the world, plants that you might like that come up all by themselves are called volunteers.

A few years back I noticed a citrus tree come up in the chook yard. The good thing about having a paddock is having enough space to let these things grow and develop – just to see what it will become.

The result with this tree is a fruit that seems to be a cross between an orange and a grapefruit. Didn’t know what to call it – Orafruit? Grapange? – Decided in the end to just call it Harry.

It makes pretty good marmalade.

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Sweet Potato Curry

Here’s a couple of freshly dug up sweet potato’s to make a quick vege curry. (In case you’re wondering, only one has been peeled.) When dealing with home grown produce, it’s easier to just follow your instincts rather than trying to follow a recipe with specific quantities. So I just cubed up the sweet potato’s along with an old potato that was just laying around.
My curries always start with plenty of sliced onion – the more the better for me – lightly fried in vegetable oil. To make the curry, my staple ingredients are garlic, ginger, cummin seed, chilly and coriander. Once these are fried, it’s in with the vegetables, some stock and tomatoes. I also add a can of four bean mix for a bit of added interest. Cook it up for as long as it takes to prepare some rice. To thicken the curry, I just take a couple of cups out and whiz it up with my Bamix stick blender and return it to the mix.

The non home grown ingredients would cost a couple of dollars and it was enough for about 6 hungry paddock workers.


Obviously, the dish is best served with a hearty cabernet sauvignon.

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