You know the tough guy who lives at our house? The person with the meat rabbits to make delicious stews and fricassee, golden and perfect. Well I think I might be waiting a long time.
One of the rabbits had 13 kittens and after two weeks four of them looked hungry and thin. The solution, rabbit poddies of course. Tiny mouths, tiny teats and special milk. A whole new challenge (not that welcome from my perspective). Thanks you old softie.
We have reached the time of year when it seems we have been feeding sheep forever. The winter feed has run out, and the spring growth hasn't really started. What little feed there is, is of poor quality. So we have been feeding our ewes to help them over the hump till the spring growth can sustain them. A little rain and warmer weather would help it on its way.
No blog post for a week, I haven't been sitting in the house drinking coffee. I went to work and spent the rest of the time moving sheep here and there. Not the riveting stuff of blogs (maybe more facebook material).
However, today we went to dog school and it was great. This time we went to a small group that meets, between Bungendore and Braidwood, joined the club,( they run the Trans Tasman dog trials each year). We took our young Border Collies, Roy and Missy and they did well. Roy actually did very well and showed beautiful style and aptitude. Missy got better as the day progressed, and became more familiar with what was expected. Martin and I also improved our dog handling skills and we have homework to follow up with the dogs, before the next school. If you have working dogs and would like to manage them better I highly recommend dog school, it will make a huge difference over time, to our working dog's competence.
As part of my continuing vendetta against the fox, I attended poison school in Braidwood run by the LHPA. Participation in this course allows me to get 1080 fox baits and be responsible for laying them. The course was a real reminder of how toxic these baits are for the beloved family pet and working dog (for husbands and emus, it's not so toxic). So much so, that I wondered if it is worth the risk. Foxes drop baits and store them, which means they pose a risk for some time after baiting. A good fall of rain will help, but the risk remains. There is no antidote to 1080, and many dogs have been accidently poisoned, resulting in lower community acceptance. This risk has to be weighed against the devastating impact of the fox, and in some areas the wild dog, on sheep flocks. To date, poison has been the most effective means of fox management, so with foxes in plague numbers there isn't much choice. Next year a new poison is to be released, which has an antidote, good news for dog owners, but you still need to be quick to get them to the vet.
There have been several requests for the recipes from my cooking day. I had not posted them' as there are so many great cooks blogging out there, and this blog is mainly about sheep. But here goes.
The tomato relish is difficult, as I just threw stuff into it when I wasn't happy with the flavour, and have no idea how to reproduce the result,and probably don't want to!
The Onion Marmalade comes from "The River Cottage Preserves Handbook" by Pam Corbin. The Marmalade tastes great and is good with cheese, on a cracker as well as with meat. I will definitely make this again.
7 tablespooons olive oil
2kg (4.5 pounds) onions, peeled and finely sliced
1 cup of sugar
7 tablespoons of red currant jelly ( I think you could also use quince or medlar jelly, as their flavour would also blend well).
1.25 cups cider vinegar
.25 cup balsamic vinegar
.5 teaspoon ground black pepper.
Put the oil in a large pan, heat and add the onions, cover the pan, and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally for 30 - 40 minutes, until the onions are collapsed and beginning to color.
Then add the sugar and jelly, increase the heat and continue to cook, stirring more frequently, for abut 30 minutes, until the mixture turns a dark, nutty brown and most of the moisture has been driven off.
Take off the heat and allow to cool for a couple of minutes before adding the vinegars. Return to the heat and cook rapidly until the mixture becomes gooey, and a spoon, when drawn across the pan, leaves a clear track on the bottom for a couple of seconds. Season with salt and pepper.
Then put it in heated sterile jars and seal - use within one year.
Strawberry Jam, is just 150g of sugar to every 300g of Strawberries, and a bit of lemon juice, cooked to setting point - you may need to add jamsetta. Cook carefully so the sugar melts and the strawberries release their juice, creating a wonderful intense sweet strawberry flavour. I am hoping to make scones as a vehicle to show off the jam. Happy cooking.
It makes one wonder what they do to commercial jams to make them so bland!
With no ewes lambing, and an inspection of the other block, showing that all is well with the stock there. No need to drench, sort, or mark anything, we were free to potter. We are often so busy that we don't get to enjoy where we live, and have time to do some of the little jobs around the house.
Then on Sunday the most glorious weather, friends for lunch and then some work on the veggie garden. I am determined that this year will be the year of the garden.
All is quiet here on the sheep front, but down the road, Martin's brother and his wife (John and Mary Pye) have been busy with local innovation. They have been successfully growing organic garlic for some years, and like many farmers, they have been on the look out for ways to value add, to their already popular product. Hence, Bredbo Black Australian Fermented Organic Garlic was born. The raw garlic is aged and fermented at a special temperature for a period of time, and ends up sweetish, garlicky and delicious. I am told it is very much an "it" food for chefs at the moment, and having tasted it I can tell why. The product also ticks all the boxes, of organic, locally owned and Australian. We wish them every success.