Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Happy Flowers

 Daffodils popping up in the garden joyfully herald the first days of Spring. Their bright yellow faces call me outside, invite me to bend down to delight in their sunny promise.

But, wait. There are a few more flowers in the garden today.

Pretty pink flowers with daffodil-yellow buttons and happy yellow ric-rac stitched for a little girl who will soon be three.

This little girl who loves having a "pea tarty" certainly needs a pretty apron while she helps her big sister  bake something delicious for tea.

It's reversible too, with more cookie cutter flower pockets on the other side.  

I had such fun using my fabric scraps to make this sweet little birthday gift for a sweet little girl. 

I found the pattern here.

A little USE the fabric scraps, DON'T LOSE THEM, and MAKE IT - DON'T BUY IT happening.

Friday, August 17, 2012


As fun as cheese making can be, sometimes the end results may be just a tad disappointing.

Yesterday, we decided to turn some unhappy cheeses into something more cheerful.

I selected a not so smooth mozzarella, a flaky cheddar, and an odd tasting mozzarella resulting from Rosie grazing in the oat field for too long.

Extravagant Dad lit a fire.

He suspended a wire waste paper basket from a beam, balanced the cheeses on a grid at the bottom of the bin, and wrapped it in paper with a hole at the top.

Then he nestled wet hickory wood chips in a recycled tin in the weber, positioning the braai vent under the smoking basket.

The end result... ta daaah... scrumptious smoked cheese, enjoyed sliced with a glass of beer.

A truly ELASTIC rescue that turned failure into FANTASTIC.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Labour of Love

Just after sunrise, my two wonderful children head outside on a frosty morning, buckets in hand, to coax milk from sweet, patient Rose with icy fingers.
Half an hour later I pour the steaming, frothy milk through filters into a new buckets and chill it for a day.

The next morning I ladle the thick yellow layer of cream from the top of the milk into my mixer bowl and churn it until golden globules float in a white buttermilk.
I work the strained butter on a wooden board under running water until the water runs clear and there is a rich creamy mass of butter packed into a dish.

That evening my incredible husband works a bit of that butter with some yeast, milk, sugar and flour and forms it into a soft, wet dough which he rests overnight.

The following day he takes the large block of day old butter, rolls out the dough and works them together for hours... roll, fold and rest...roll, fold and rest... roll, fold and rest... until there are over two hundred layers of butter and sweet dough.

Then he rolls out a beautiful rectangle of dough, cuts it into triangles, which he sprinkles with cinnamon sugar or adorns with a block of chocolate.

My amazing husband then rolls up the triangles and leaves them to rise for a few hours before being popped into a hot oven. The house fills with their sweet aroma.

They emerge perfectly flaky, and a delicious golden brown. We tuck into the warm, sweet pastries for supper. When no one is looking I hide a few uneaten croissants in the freezer.

A week later, my two wonderful children head outside on a frosty morning, milk buckets in hand....

My daughter also pops those four frozen croissants into the oven and switches on the coffee machine. A little while later my kind husband presents me with a mug of frothy cappuccino and some hot cinnamon croissants.

I truly appreciate my decadent breakfast in bed.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Slow Living in July

Join me as I reflect on the month of July, inspired by slow Living Essentials. Icy weather has kept the fire burning day and night and drawn us together in the evenings as one of us reads aloud and the others sketch, crochet or snuggle a pet as we listen. Many meals have been shared sitting in the lounge, as close to the fire as possible. Snow has fallen again on the distant Maluti Mountains, but not on the farm. the bare, dry landscape is barely nourishing our animals as we endure the last few weeks of Winter.

I am still producing trays and trays of rusks, each batch flavoured with a different selection of seeds, spices and other yummy ingredients.  This month, they made great in between meal snacks, car snacks for long trips and early morning tea-in-bed treats.

We have plenty of rocket in the garden, so even in the cold weather I have been making salads.
This simple but delicious salad is an example of the sort of lunches that have been alternating with soups and cheesy sandwiches.... Rocket, farm potatoes, sliced boiled egg from our hens, spring onion, fantastic grilled gourmet bacon that was a gift, all drizzled with a vinaigrette.

I am trying to make the most of the potato harvest while it lasts, as sadly, they don't seem to be storing well.

In my cheese making adventures I have discovered an easy recipe for a cow's milk version of a goat cheese, chabrie. I love this recipe as it produces fast results, being edible a few days after making. This firm salty cheese, flavoured with herbs or sun-dried tomatoes has graced many meals lately, and even friends' tables, appearing in salads, on pizza, in pies and even just cubed and tossed in garlic and rosemary laced olive oil and devoured just like that. Delicious.

This month we tasted our first two ready hard cheeses, gouda and cheddar. Both were great.

Whenever I have extra cream, skimmed off the plentiful milk buckets, I process it into butter for the freezer or for sale, ice cream and lately, soured cream, into rusks and pastry. The rusks don't last long before they are gobbled up, but the balls of frozen pastry are wonderful for stockpiling.

My cheese store is growing. By the end of July I had 12 cheeses maturing in the cool room. Some cheeses will only be mature in 6-18 months. Obviously, with the cheddars, the longer, the better.

There is always an effort to reduce our expenses and reuse as much as possible around here. I have taken a break from meal planning, then shopping to fit the plan lately and try to use only what we have in the garden, pantry and on the farm. I am also selling whatever I can find that we no longer use. Rather convert my resources into cash than let them sit gathering dust.

This month we sold our piano and used the funds to buy a pedigreed puppy, a much better use of that asset, if you ask me.

Every time a kitchen glove develops a hole in it, I cut it up across the width giving me a handy pile of elastic bands of various sizes.

We have branched out with our market stall. My husband has started baking breads for sale alongside my cream cheeses. He uses old tin cans as moulds and we wrap them in brown paper from recycled paper bags and tie them with raffia kept from gifts in the past. Quite a lot of recycling with a difference going on here.

My faraway Cape Town friend posted me some soap nuts. I had no idea what they were, but after a little research eagerly tossed some into the washing machine instead of powder. Surprise, surprise, my washing  came out clean. I have yet to try them in the dishwasher.

Our veggie tunnel is mostly resting during this icy time of year. The oats that I planted as green manure are almost ready to be dug into the beds in preparation for Spring. Now that there is little for them to destroy, our chickens are sometimes let in for slug patrol.

Winter is a great time to concentrate on structural changes in the garden. Lebohang built me a new herb bed in the bare patch of lawn that was left from a small garden pool. Those beautiful sandstone blocks came from a derelict pile of stones in the cattle field. It will take time for me to gather all the herbs for the bed, so in the meantime, we have planted it with some strawberries and garlic in the alternate compartments.

My talented son, following in his father's footsteps, made me this beautiful side table using oak, plum and beech wood. I am so proud of him.

I had fun creating two of these little succulent planters, one for my sister, and one for me. The pebbles were collected when we lived in a cottage on a rocky beach shore five years ago. Touching them takes me back to days of crashing waves, salty wind and combing the shore for treasures.

I knitted these darling booties for an order. I adore this pattern. It's quite fiddly to make, but the end result is always worth it. They are knitted up in bamboo yarn. I couldn't resist naming them:
 lemon meringue, cinnamon and apple pie.

Most of my month has been spent discovering old invoices, processing their data, and documenting school records, a huge admin slog, so not much else in this department.

Besides a little milk donation, my world has been so inwardly focused as I have gathered the various documents together, but my son has provided a kennel service for Jack the bull terrier again. He did earn some good money from the job, but I know how much Jack's owner appreciated the care.

My daughter enjoyed a wonderful holiday with her Aunty Deborah, traveling to Mozambique for a week. My husband and son enjoyed the trip to fetch her and our new puppy with a bit of bow hunting and guy time with Dieter. I enjoyed the silence.

Even more, I enjoyed having my family all back together again and with the bonus of a new furry member of the family.

Winter time is puzzle time. We built a 1500 piece puzzle over the school holidays. Nothing like a puzzle to make you live in the slow lane.

Early morning puppy wee walks have taught me to enjoy beautiful sub-zero sunrises that I never would have experienced had I not been out on the ice encrusted lawn coaxing our pup to do the right thing.