Archive for the ‘Cheesemaking’ Category

Still here!

November 6, 2019

Hello!

It seems like it has been quite a while since I last emailed.  Life rolls on here in Tassie.  We have had a relatively dry winter, without the flooding of certain areas on the property that we like to see most years as it indicates good ground water levels.  Now the weather is alternating between cool and warm every couple of days.  It seems like it can’t make up it’s mind, but that is a fairly normal state of affairs here.  It is not unusual to have sunshine, wind and rain alternating numerous times over a single day.  If you don’t like the weather – just wait half and hour.
I have not had the greatest of health, and nor has Kim, which has meant we haven’t achieved as much as we would have liked over winter.  I actually had a great deal of muscle and joint pain which limited me a great deal, enough to make me actually go to the doctor!  The problem turned out to have been caused by very low Vitamin D levels.  I have been slowly improving over the last few weeks as I am now taking supplements.  That time was a definite wake up call as to how much I will be physically able to do as I get older!  We are trying to come up with plans for the property that give us options of reducing the work load when we need to.  Our current lifestyle is nicely low cost, but the flip side of that is that it requires a fairly high labour input.  As an example in order to heat our water we have a solar water setup, which is connected to the slow combustion stove.  If the sun does not warm the water enough then we need to light the kitchen fire to raise the water temperature.  Wood fires are great, and we have plenty of wood on the property, but to turn it into firewood is quite time intensive – cut down a tree, cut it into rounds, split it into pieces, stack and store it in the container to dry, move it to the house, start the fire and keep it going.  It all takes time and energy.  To give us an alternative Kim is now going to add a gas HWS booster into the system, which will mean that we can choose to use that if we would like to.  It will cost more to run in dollars, but less in daily effort and will just give us options.  Meanwhile, we continue to work on preparing firewood for next winter.
FirewoodProduction
Josiah did a solid 2 months in his new job, before being made redundant when they decided to employ a full time cook and no longer needed a kitchen hand/counter sales trainee as a result.  He was quite disappointed and is back to job seeking now, with no success so far.  Caleb and Sam continue to have chronic health problems that severely limit their ability to work anything like regular hours, but we were thrilled when Sam got his drivers licence recently.  It shows how much better he is handling his anxiety problems at the moment.
Sam wtih Ps
Lydia continues to work hard at the flower farm.  Her work is getting busy at this time of year, and with the weather warming up she appreciates the times she does the packing in the cool room.  She is enjoying sleeping in her bus and recently fenced in an area outside so that her cat can enjoy the big wide outdoors.  She has also been adding a variety of pots and filling them with whatever seeds came up from the latest Woolworths promotion, so is developing a bit of a garden in there.
CatInRun
I have been unable to find any paid work this year, despite looking hard.  I became involved in a trial program that offers extra support to help resolve issues that limit people’s employability.  My issues are my age (not much I can do about that) and how long I have been out of the workforce.  As a result of advice from mentors in the program I enrolled in a TAFE computing course to update myself with the latest Windows and Office versions.  I quite enjoyed doing the course, especially as I could do most of it from home.  The co-ordinators have also been trying to get me a couple of weeks work experience with a local company, which I hope will happen later this month although we may have struck a hitch with insurance not being available unless they guarantee me a job – which is not going to happen.  I will probably offer to sign a waiver of liability or something as I think it would be a good experience for me and may well lead to some holiday and sick relief work.
We have run a new paddock for Lydia’s ponies up close to the house.  The area does not have much grass, which is actually what one pony needs to stop her getting laminitis.
HousePonyPaddock
We have also been making the ponies a hay feeder so that we don’t have to feed the hay by hand every day.  Lydia and I knocked up a wooden trial version last year from bits and pieces on the property, and liked it so much we have decided to make a larger more permanent version.  The feeder gets lifted over the top of a roll of hay and should mean less wastage as well as less labour.  I just had to finish adapting the bed ends to be a grid the ponies can feed through after this photo was taken, and then it was done.
PonyFeederAlmostDone
I wouldn’t mind getting some sort of hay feeder for Twinkles the cow one day too, but it would have to be a bit different as the cattle are quite a bit rougher on things in their paddock than the ponies seem to be.  Twinkles is on her own again at the moment as her last boy is now in the freezer and her new calf is not due until January.  We used a different mobile butcher this time as our original man is wanting to cut back on what he does (he is getting older too!).  The new guy was probably not quite as good and cost more, but using him certainly meant we did a lot less of the work ourselves which made it worthwhile.  He also has a mobile cool room so that we could hang the carcass safely before the butchering was done, and the meat has all been delicious and tender.
TwinklesInCalf
I started some tomatoes from seed in the caravan this year as Kim was keeping it nice and warm for us and it seemed a shame not to make some extra use of the heat.  They are doing well and I hope to get them planted out soon, but first I have to do some renovation work on my gardens to ensure the chooks cannot get in.  We had been considering making a new garden area in a year or two as our current areas are getting a bit old, and we could think of a few improvements to make on the original plan, but we are now thinking about changing our plans to raised garden beds instead.  Again trying to think ahead to how much we will be able to do in 10 years or so.  We have also been working on plans for redoing our fences.  We put the fences in 10-12 years ago using bush poles and most of them are rotting away now.  We also need the fences to do different things now than we did back then.  So the current plan is to have a 3 or 4 wire electric fence around the edge and to make divisions with poly wire.  We will also move a couple of the fence lines to avoid areas that flood, and will have an electric mesh fence around the chook area to keep that safe from quolls.
Tomatoes
The corgis have still not won any shows, possibly as much to do with our ability at presenting them as anything to do with them.  Our last show was a Welsh Corgi specialty show, which is quite a friendly show where we received some good advice on showing and grooming.  We also managed to buy a second hand show trolley locally, which has made going to shows much more manageable.
Show trolley
Sadly our two corgis do not always get along and we have had some fighting at times.  Most of the time they get along well, but then something will set the new girl Haru off, and she will attack Willow – and Willow might not start the fight, but she is more than willing to finish it!  We end up having to drag them apart or they just won’t stop.  We have had torn ears, bloody faces and sore paws so it is not just noise and motion.  We have been trying to identify what triggers Haru, and have had some success with avoiding those situations, but in the end we have decided that we are safer to only have one of them out at a time.  We never have any trouble with the German Shepherd, thankfully, so they can both still play with her.  We now have a dog pen set up in the verandah room,
WillowInPen
as well as turning Josiah’s old cabin into a rather comfy dog house with a run.  They get a bit yappy at times and give us sad looks but it is the only safe way.
HaruInCabin
Kim has been keeping busy planning our driving trip around the UK in March.  It has taken an enormous amount of his time in researching it all and booking flights, cars and accomodation, and he is not finished yet!  I think he has organised the first two weeks, so there is just another two weeks to go.  I have also booked a super short trip to Perth in early January for my Dad’s 90th birthday (hoping the cow will not produce her calf until I return!)  Dad had a bit of an episode in hospital in September with fluid around his heart, but they managed to stabilise everything again and send him home, which we were all exceedingly pleased about.  🙂
We currently have a pair of little Tasmanian Thornbills nesting outside our lounge room window.  They are kept busy every day feeding the new arrivals and we have our fingers crossed that they will safely raise them.  The last time we had birds nesting there it was a pair of Grey Fantails and much to our horror the babies disappeared one morning.  We think a Black Currawong was the culprit, and so we are hoping that we don’t have a repeat of that this year, especially since Kim has quite a soft spot for Tassie Thornbills.
Tasmanian Thornbill (Acanthiza Ewingii)
And I think that is most of my news for now.  Best wishes.

Parmesan

September 4, 2019

I decided it was time to cut my latest parmesan into useful sized pieces.  I waxed them individually and I do love how they look with the red cheese wax on them, and appreciate how much it stops them from drying out too.  The photo is from when I was part way through the job.

IMG_1186

This particular parmesan has been kicking around in the bottom of the fridge as a large waxed round since sometime last year, so I know it must have aged at least 9 months – and looking back through the blog I think it might have been more like 15 months.  I thought I wrote down somewhere just when I made it, but have no idea where!  🙂

Anyway I was keen to see how it had turned out, and am pleased to report that it tasted like a good, very tasty parmesan should, and it has a nice texture too.  Kim loves it and it is disappearing faster than I expected.  Chalk that one up as a success!  YAY.

Winter News

June 23, 2018

It has been 2 months since I last emailed, so I assume we should have some more news to share.  🙂   We have been doing more upgrades on the manor where our eldest two boys sleep.  Firstly we used our new platform arrangement on the tractor to put the flue up for the replacement wood heater that we installed.  Those flues go really high!

ManorWoodfire copy

Then we put in some second hand floating flooring which I had found on Gumtree. It looks quite nice and should be tougher than the yellow tongue flooring we put in earlier. Also, since it has underlay underneath which should help to insulate the building as well.

MoreManorUpgrades2

We still have to do the area under the beds, but apparently we took too much power out of the manor’s batteries using the power saw so we will have to wait a bit before finishing the job. Everyone came up to admire the progress though. 🙂

MoreManorUpgrades

I also did some more experimenting with cheese making while Twinkles was giving us 5L a day. (She is down to 3L a day now, so the cheesemaking has come to a halt again.) The red waxed one is a parmesan, but the other two were made using a fairly basic recipe from my favourite house cow book. I even made my own culture from Kim’s favourite cheese, and I think the flavour was better as a result.

Home made cheeses

After that Kim and I took off for two weeks away in sunny Perth. The timing was organised so that we could attend my nephew’s wedding. It was a lovely wedding held in a beautiful garden in Swan Valley, and the weather was perfect too.

Wedding

We had a lot of precious family time while we were there, especially with my parents and both of my sisters. My uncle also had his 80th birthday celebration while we were there and so we got to catch up with a lot of my extended family as well, with some folk coming from as far away as New Zealand.

Trevor Banyard's 80th Birthday

Kim tried to reconnect with his father’s side of the family as well, but he had no success. It looks like it might take a bit more chasing around to find any other Howe’s. However he did catch up with one school friend (when did they get so grey haired???) …

Kim with Robert Keller

… and got to go out and take some photos with another good friend who shares his passion for bird photography.

Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus)

We were blessed to find the time to have a quick peek at the progress our good friends have made on their straw bale house. They are doing a truly amazing job!

StrawbaleProgress

And we shared a meal and good conversation with some other good friends. Sadly we didn’t get to travel down to Albany this time, but the focus of the visit was my immediate family and we got a lot of lovely time with them.

CookingTogether

When we got back home Kim took the bus down to Hobart to look at an automatic car for Lydia. Lydia only drives automatics and unfortunately the one that we have keeps having minor problems which mean she cannot take her driving test in it, so we decided a second one might be a good idea. After looking at the car Kim decided that it needed more work done than he really wanted to do so he said he would not buy it. However it turned out that the guy selling it was pretty desperate to get the sale and the long and the short of it was that he talked Kim into buying it at a good enough price that it was worth doing the work on it. They got the paperwork done and Kim filled the car up ready to drive home, then he jumped in and turned the key and the car went “click” and just would not go! A few hours later the RACT gave up trying to get it going too, and they hired Kim a car to drive home in and organised to tow the new car up the following week. We really got our money’s worth on the ultimate roadside assistance this year! On the way home in the hire car Kim stopped by and took a night shot of Richmond Bridge.

BridgeAtNight

Since then Kim has replaced the starter motor and the car is now going again. It is a 2007 V6 3L Citroen C5, which makes it our most up to date car yet. The other required parts, a steering tie rod end and timing belt kit, arrived this week so now the work can be done. Kim is not looking forward to doing the timing belt as it requires special tools and is rather complicated, so he plans to do it with the help of his Citroen mechanic friend who now conveniently lives just over the mountain and has a nice new cement floored shed with a hoist! We are looking forward to having this car on the road as it has lots of safety equipment, plenty of power and headlights that turn with the steering. The headlights are really brilliant for driving through the twisty mountain pass in the dark, which Lydia has to do twice a day at this time of year.

BlackC5

The last car we bought was also a Citroen. We very much like the hydraulic suspension. We were buying it as a spare parts car for Kim’s Xantia as it was so cheap ($350), but in the end we decided it was too good for that so we fitted it with a new set of suspension spheres and it is now a daily driver for us. I really like it!

WhiteXantia

The major activity for this last week was turning Twinkle’s last calf, now a 14 month old bull, into beef in the freezer. It is always an ‘all hands on deck’ job despite our local dairy farmer doing the slaughtering, dressing and butchering. He is trying to get us more involved in the process these days so that he can go home earlier. As a result we ended up cutting a lot of the steaks ourselves and did all the mincing with our own machine as well. Then there are the fatty offcuts to trim dog food from, the bones to select for dogs, soup bones or burying, the fat to turn into tallow and everything to clean up after the work is done. It generally takes us a few days before everything is sorted. We filled our freezer as well as Paul’s after putting everything into meal sized portions. It is delicious to have some cuts of meat, like eye fillet, that we would never normally buy for ourselves. We got about $2,500 worth of meat at supermarket prices this time so it makes rearing the calf, which is really just a byproduct of having a milking cow, feel worth the effort. If we had more pasture and didn’t have to buy so much hay it would be even more profitable.

BeefInFreezer

We have given up on doing more to micro hydro for now until the warmer weather arrives.  Kim has heaps of mechanical work to do which is taking priority, and it is often just too cold to work outside for more than a few hours each day at this time of year.  The heated workshop that Kim has planned will definitely come in handy when we get it done!  Maybe next year?

Well, that is all the news I can think of at the moment.  Wishing you all the best.