The Weekend That Was

 
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I know I have mentioned it on Instagram before but I don't think I've spoken of it here..?  I hold a monthly ritual these days, where I step back and unplug around the time of each full moon.  Over this past weekend not only did I unplug, but we three went the extra mile and entered into domestic lock-down mode where no one came in and no one went out!  It was lovely and just what was needed after last week's global events.  Despite all the confusion and uncertainty that has been swirling around since the U.S. election, there is one thing that remains clear; no one can ever take away our Love and Connection.  Be it with our children and families, our friends, our relationship with Mother Nature, or our community.  The value and importance of love and connection holds fast and, I believe, is what gets each and every one of us through the days when everything else seems shaky. 

It's no surprise that creativity- in all it's many forms- is woven thickly into each of my days.  Creating is how I regain and maintain my centre.  It is my fuel and helps to shift my focus away from external (or global) chaos.  It's a guiding light leading me back home to my nest and even though I have at times pondered over whether I should hone my skills into one specific craft, it's times like these that remind me of why I like to explore.  Depending on where I'm at or the influences that have led me there, I will sometimes create through sewing or knitting, sometimes it might be another textile art or a home DIY, and then sometimes it is gardening or cooking.  This past weekend it was all about the later and of course, there's always a bunch of photos taken along the way ;)

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So a couple of weeks ago there was a garden update where I spoke of a potential mid-November garlic harvest.  Well here we are and yep, I probably could get out there and pull up those bulbs.  They would be fine, except out of the blue (and for the first time in my garlic growing experience) I noticed a lovely long tendril growing out of almost every plant.  I feel like those scapes appeared overnight but in truth I think I have been too busy and distracted to see past the leaves and actually notice that they were there.  In my defense they are a bit camouflaged but while searching for a scape pesto recipe* I learned that the appearance of said scapes indicates the bulbs are about two weeks away from being ready.  I guess that means I'm about two weeks away from pulling those babies up.  In the mean time, with walnuts and Parmesan on hand, I snipped the scapes and blended them into a pesto.  Now the plants can spend these coming days putting all their energy back into the bulbs so that they are as best as can be for harvest time. 

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Next on my list was to get making with that sourdough culture and the kombucha scoby I brought home from the Makers Table.  I started the first ferment for the kombucha about a week ago so the weekend was a perfect time to bottle that batch with their flavours.  Once capped I returned them to the cellar for their second ferment and away I went with another fresh batch of tea.  This first lot of bottles I've flavoured with strawberry and ginger, and I'll let you know what it's like in a few days after I transfer them from their shelf in the cellar to a shelf in the fridge.  Cross your fingers for me!

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Now will you allow me a moment to gloat... just for a second?  Because I thought I might have killed that thriving (sourdough) mother culture I came home with the other weekend.  You see, the busy days took over and I kind of forgot what I was suppose to do with it, so for a little too long it sat on my kitchen bench before I shoved it into the fridge.  On Saturday I pulled it out and tried to revive it with a fresh feed (flour and filtered water) before leaving it to sit and then mixing it into a dough later that night.  Then Sunday I got baking and would you have a look at it!?!!!  I am feeling so darn excited (and maybe a little bit chuffed with myself!).  It worked and it is delicious!!!  I fed the remaining starter and am keeping it in the cellar (hopefully a safe enough distance from the kombucha since I've been warned that scoby is a bully and will take over any other fermenting process, eeep!).  I'll go again with another loaf this coming weekend and if it turns out half as good as this first one then I think it could well be the start of a wonderful love affair!!!

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And just because no weekend full of making, baking and creating is complete without a batch of cookies, I have to include a shot of this lot.  They are sultana and dark chocolate chip using rye flour and dark muscovado sugar.  I use a basic biscuit base recipe and change it up with add-ins each time I make them.  The base recipe is the Milkwood Farm House Cookie and although I have usually used the raw (unrefined) sugar they call for in the recipe, this time around I only had dark muscovado so I went with it and I think I'll repeat that variation again because the extra molasses caramelises and makes for a super delicious, crunchy but chewy cookie.

So in between games of Battleship, chapters of Harry Potter book 3 (that's our current family novel), and the washing and vacuuming, there was a fair bit of time in the kitchen and all of it felt just right.  Now the Moon has reached her peak and here down in S.A. we had a clear night so She was as Super as they said she'd be.  A fresh new week has begun and although there is still so much unrest in the world, I feel lucky and grateful that I can still focus on what is most important to me. 

Over the next couple of weeks I've got a deadline to get cracking on so I might fall quiet here but I'll be back to share soon. 

Have a great week friends! xo

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* Ps/ I nearly forgot... the scape pesto recipe I used is from here ;)

 

Makers Table

 

It's been years since I last visited the Barossa Valley but I certainly won't be leaving it that long again.  The Barossa is one of South Australia's award winning wine regions and is about an hours drive north east of Adelaide.  It is of course, incredibly beautiful with vistas of picturesque vineyards at every turn and is absolutely overflowing with artisan talent.  It thrills me no end to realise that these qualities are being recognised by those far and wide and a showcase for the region's finest was enjoyed last Sunday at Langmeil Winery in Tanunda.

Hosted by Country Style magazine as part of their 'Campaign For Country', the Makers Table was a special reader event which included a series of four workshops- each presented by local producers- and a long table lunch fit for royalty.  The day actually included so very much more but I'll get to that as we move through. 

Country Style ambassador and local Barossa producer, Cherie Hausler of Scullery Made ensured we were each greeted on arrival by her warm and contagious smile.  By her side stood Barossa Coffee, dedicated to serving up their fine brew so that our morning was off to the right start ;)  After a bit of chatting and some intros, we were into it.  I'm not entirely sure what the total headcount for the day was but we were placed into four groups to enable a smooth passage throughout.

My workshops began with Will and the making of sourdough bread.  William Wood of Careme Pastry is extraordinary and it's entirely possible that I have a wee crush on this man.  Or a crush on his knowledge, passion and respect for his craft, at the very least. 

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He talked of folding and stretching the dough, and gently coaxing it to roll across the bench by allowing the dough to grab rather than the hand pulling, forcing and kneading.  He says the dough must not be overworked...

in the artisan world, it is disrespectful to the flour

You can see why I have my crush, can't you?!  I shall say no more apart from I now have a jar of the most thriving starter culture you ever did see- so alive that it erupted on me before the day was through! 

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My next workshop had me stepping through the stable door and into a cave of blooms.  Janelle Amos of Self Pollinate immersed us all in the artful practice of nature mandala making.

My work is spontaneous, ephemeral and organic, made and photographed in the natural light of the moment.

Can we just pause here for a moment because I am in love with that word, "ephemeral".  It would have to be the most poetic description for something that only lasts for a short time.  I get stuck on words like that, I think about them while hanging out the washing or clearing the table.  Is that weird?  Am I revealing too much ha?!  Righto, let's move on shall we..?

During her workshop we each created our own mandalas, enjoying the freedom to use whatever whole or fragmented pieces lay before us.  It was a window of joyful meditation in the most divine space imaginable.

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Down the table from Janelle, that divine space continued with a little pop-up shop.  Just three tables celebrating the creative passions of each artisan and displayed with enough beauty to make your heart ache.

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Lunch time!  Prepared by Pete Little and Beck Flavel of Little and Often, and using locally made ingredients, it's fair to say that lunch was exquisite.  Barrels full of fine vintages, the strum of guitar and a goodies bag bursting with a huge collection of 'take home' delights is what greeted us as we found our seats.  Then mouthwatering food, kombucha, wine, fabulous company and the continuation of rich conversation.  The whole day was filled with moments to savour and lunch was no exception.

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I haven't quite got to Cherie's workshop yet but that's her there (pictured below).  I'm jumping in here because it has to be noted that she made those cakes!  Look at them, would you!?!!!  Oh good golly.  I can assure you that they tasted just as amazing.

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After lunch it was a workshop with the tea (and cake) queen herself.  Cherie is delightful and had us each decanting kombucha into our own little bottle, which we then infused with a choice of flavour; dried quandong, quince, rose, cinnamon...?  We then bottled it and skipped merrily away with our own fermented 'elixir of life'.  Plus a healthy glob of scoby, in a separate jar and ready to do it's thing in our own brew at home.

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And now my final workshop for the day.  The making of a copper spoon with my friend and ceramicist, Ilona Glastonbury.  Ilona is the creative force behind Otti Made and The Hundred Mile Home and before you hop into bed tonight, I fully support the hour or so you spend ogling her Instagram feed!  And take it from me, you wouldn't be the first to weep from the sheer beauty of her pics.

Ilona and her buddy, Pete, gave us each a little pack and demonstration to get us started and then away we went.  Hammer hammer, bash bash, file file, polish polish and a little while later, we each had our own shiny copper spoon to take home. 

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Which brings me to the day's end.  I know, I'm sad too.  But before I bid you a lovely weekend to come, there is just one more thing I'd like to mention.  There was a secret ingredient to this day and although I would have enjoyed myself regardless, this day has claimed a place in my "favourite days of all time" Hall of Fame because of that secret ingredient.  It was The People.  I have a conflicted relationship with technology and social media in particular but since the time I apprehensively entered the world of Instagram, I have connected with so many like-minded and incredible people.  It's a space where you find your Tribe and I am certain that many Instagramers would say the same.  It's a virtual land of encouragement, support and inspiration and I have had the greatest of fortune to weave friendships with some true kindred spirits.  One of these women happens to be Ilona and once this event was announced, a couple of us local gals and another from Victoria decided we would go along and seize the opportunity to meet in real life.  With the four of us all together we greeted one another like the reunion of long lost girlfriends and we all stayed on well after our last workshop, neither one of us quite ready to let the day draw to a close.

Eventually, we did have to drag ourselves away.  Though I have this feeling that we have all known each other before.  Who knows where, or how, or even which lifetime?  For now it shall remain as one of those big Universal mysteries but I think these blossoming friendships could well be the sort to last a lifetime.

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Springtime In The Garden

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Well helllooo there!

Can we just skip right on past the fact that I haven't blogged in over a month and move straight into one of the main reasons for why that is so?  Pretty please??

It's Spring time here, or it's suppose to be anyway.  So far it's been one of the wackiest Springs that I can remember.  The weather has been an extension of Winter with the odd sunny day in there just to tease us all.  I'm talking cold, wet and wild with more record rainfalls!  Last week I got another load of firewood delivered which makes two extra tonnes on last year's season.  All of us around these parts have erh well, to be blunt, we've all had a gut full!  Over it, enough, done!  Bring on warmth and sunshine.  Parts of Victoria had snow yesterday... SNOW!  In October!?!!  That's crazy.  And we had an overnight frost which I am hoping against all else wasn't so extreme that it damaged all my new plantings.

Which brings me to the garden.  It's all happening out there now with seeds sown and beginning to germinate and some little seedlings growing inside our craft room - which is north facing and full of glass windows so it's perfect for doubling as a glass house and getting those babies off to a good start.

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I couldn't help it on the Wisteria photos... their flowering days are so so brief and this year has been a particularly beautiful year for them, and all blooms really.  Apparently that is because of the crazy of amount of rain we've had, which makes sense, doesn't it?  Anyway, already the petals have mostly dropped and the new leaves are unfurling so I'm glad I took those pics when I did.

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So let's talk about what's growing, what's been sown and what will soon be transplanted, planted or sown.  The snowpeas have now gone from their seedling trays to being in the ground.  There's an entrance point on the opposite side to where I took that pic above and the idea is for it to create a teepee as it grows.  That will be Noah's hut with Evie's pictured below.  She wanted hers to be without food growing on it, so using a bunch of branches we have been saving especially, the making has begun and with a bit more scrap fabric to weave through, it'll be fit for a garden Sprite, Elf, Queen, Princess, Fairy... or whomever else she chooses to be.  I've also built a very basic firepit for these outdoor months to come.  It's nothing fancy but it will do the job!  There was already a mound right where it is that was the earth and gravel left over from transplanting the mulberry (growing happily behind it next to Evie's hut), so it wasn't hard to scrape it, shape it and pack it around some bricks (of which we have plenty on hand).  Then tadaaa... a firepit ready for the outdoor evenings to come.

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That there is a close-up of our mulberry tree and I'm not quite sure what to make of it...?  Our Winter to Spring transition has been out of the ordinary to say the least and I think it may have knocked this one around a bit.  In previous years it is usually the time for mulberry harvest right now but these are not ready for picking and I'm not entirely sure that that fruit is looking very happy.  I have noted some of the other Mulberry trees in the area and their fruit looks to be a little behind as well so given the leaves on mine look glossy and healthy and the rest of the tree is thriving, I don't think it was the transplant that's done it.  In fact I think it's going to love this new spot and perhaps with the nature of our odd Spring on top of the move it might just take until next year before we harvest anything edible...?

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In the mean time... looky, looky, looky... the fruit set!  Do you see those wee little green beauties up there?  They are itty bitty baby cherries.  I put two dwarf cherry trees in a half wine barrel each, about two years ago.  Or a little longer I guess given they were bare rooted and planted in the depths of Winter.  They are both Stellas which are meant to be perfect for eating fresh (as against cooking with or preserving) and have a firm skin with a slight crunch to them.  Just the way I like them!  I'll let you know how they rate once they are ready.  This is our first year for these and I guess we must have had enough chill hours for the fruit to do it's thing.  We three are SO excited and we each keep checking them daily, possibly even several times a day, but shh who's counting ha.  I'm going to have to net them soon I think - sorry birdies, I'm not willing to share when it comes to cherries. 

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That there is our new little almond tree.  Oh, I am so sentimentally attached to this tree... it comes with a story and one that I know you will love but far too involved for me to go into now.  I may even save it and pitch the idea for an article... mmm... not sure... either way, you won't miss out, it's a good one :)

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Finally!!!  The beginnings of some natives, yippy yay yay.  I purchased these two plants late last Spring... no kidding!  They sat there waiting for me to get them into the ground but then life happened and the Summer heat took hold and one thing led to another and I just didn't get there.  Thank heavens natives are tough because these two babies really did not get the attention they deserved.  Despite that, they are now both happily planted out into that strip next to the trampoline and as soon as I save up a few more pennies there will be other natives going in around them.

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Woot woot!!!  More looky lookies... we have some banana passion fruits ready for harvest.  That vine has it all going on, there's flowers opening up for pollination, there are little green fruits, big green fruits and yellow ripe fruits.  This is our first year of harvest for this vine and I can't tell you how excited I am about that.  I grew this baby all the way from a little seed!  Isn't that just THE most satisfying, miraculous, rewarding and joyful thing of all.

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Those are some mystery leaves.  I mixed a few seed packets together... some herbs, Asian greens and lettuces so I'm not entirely sure what these ones are but, all the same, I'm happy to see them poke their little leaves through.

Photo bomber!Β  AKA Snowy ;)

Photo bomber!  AKA Snowy ;)

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HELLLLP!!!  They're at it again!  Urgh!!!!  Those little devils are the bane of my gardening existence.  Oh what to do, what to do?!!  Perhaps I should barricade that one strawberry plant and make it the sacrificial plant to the destructive force that is the slater beetle.  Do you think it would work?  You know, allow them the feast of that one plant while using a barrier around it to keep them away from the rest of the patch?  None of the others have much developing fruit as yet so I don't know if there are other plants affected but gee, can I just have a few homegrown strawbs, please???  I've companion planted some borage and pyrethrum in among the plants but with all that wacky weather they are slow to get going and I'm not sure how effective they are against slaters...?

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Garlics, oh the garlics.  I was a bit worried about them towards the end of Winter as I thought we might have had too much rain and maybe not enough frost but the last couple of months have fixed that.  Yes there has still been the rain (sooo much rain!) but we have definitely had a good dose of frost too and over the last month or so those stems have really fattened up (which to me indicates a bigger bulb and more garlic per clove.. yum, plus a much easier job with peeling).  The tops are just starting to die off a bit so I think we are on schedule for a mid-November harvest.  In the past I have loved timing my garlic harvest with Beltaine, it always feels so perfect to do it on Halloween, but not this year.  The 31st of October is only one week away and I'd like to see those tops brown up just a little bit more before I pull them all out.  We'll see, there are some very beautiful warm Spring days forecast in between now and then so you never know what next Monday may bring... perhaps a Beltaine harvest after all?

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Ah the crab apple.  We're so close, so very close.  When that tree bursts into full bloom that is when I officially know we are into the warmer months and our nightly fires become fewer and farther between.  Not to mention the fragrance and the sheer spectacular sight of all those pink flowers.  Oh I long for it every year, in fact, I think most of the neighbourhood does as it is a bit of a show stopper.  Each year it becomes the local talking point that tree and already there have been a couple of comments over the fence... "look at that, looks like it's nearly there".  Yep, yep it sure does!

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I gave our bay tree a pretty heavy prune early in the Winter and now it is shooting out with new growth all over the place.  Having fresh bay leaves on hand... I tell you, never again will I be without a bay tree.  I do however, really need to dig it up next Winter and transplant it into a barrel or something.  I have a better spot for it than where it is and I want to keep it to a smaller more manageable size.

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And at last our newest babies.  I picked these up just yesterday.  The top one is a Japanese mandarin, easy to peel and sweet as sweet when left to fully ripen, or you can pick them a little earlier if you're like me and prefer some tartness to your manda.  The bottom one is a pomegranate which are tough and tend to thrive in our temperate climate.  A pomegranate isn't on the garden plans and I didn't even know I wanted one until I found myself looking at them yesterday at the nursery.  I actually went there to get myself some Blueberry plants for our three empty pots by the veranda steps but as it turned out, they were out of stock and will call me when they have more.  Well I'd driven all that way, I couldn't possibly head home empty-handed could I?  Nope, I didn't think so either!  And just on the side, things are changing a little from those garden plans.  Nothing significant but small refinements as things take shape and evolve, just like Nadja said they would.  I love this process!

So there we have it - an update on all the Spring-time garden action.  It's busy out there these days and underneath all that mulch you see below are lots and lots of seeds getting ready to burst forth.  I'll be sure to keep you posted on their growth and all the yummy bounty.  Tomorrow promises 27 degrees (Celcius) with warm sunshine and I have plans to be sowing another round of tomatoes, corn, cucumbers and whatever else I get inspired by in the moment.

Have a great week friends!  If anyone needs me, I'll be out here ok ;) xo

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