Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Horse Chores

Neighbour Norma, the valley matriarch, owns a lot of horses.
She is into harness racing ie. trotters/pacers*.
When they are in training they go up north but come home to spell and recuperate on a rotational basis.
They have very special diets and need to be fed twice a day.
Neighbour Bob usually does this job but he has gone to Wellington, New Zealand for a week to take part in pre wedding plans for his youngest daughter's upcoming nuptials. He was there just in time to experience some strong earthquakes that are so common in that country.
We have taken over the responsibility of feeding Norma's and Bob's horses plus Ranni, the farm cat and mouser extraordinaire .
So we up early (for me) for the first feed of the day. A specific mixture of oaten chaff, lucerne (alfalfa) chaff, oats, black sunflower seeds, soya meal plus a mystery powder ingredient is bagged up and then distributed around the horses.
Being thoroughbreds on hard feed they are pretty fired up so you have to watch them a little carefully. And the paddocks are separated by electric fences so you need to be also aware of not getting zapped.
The co driver is a little apprehensive about horses but after a week or so I think she is a little more comfortable dealing with them.

The late afternoon feed is complemented with a leaf of lucerne and cut up apples and carrots (as treats prepared by their owner).
It's funny to watch the horses pick the latter out of the chaff and grain to eat first.
Bob's horses get a similar but not the same mix (his mystery powder is different) but only in the afternoon.
All in all we have eleven equine and one feline mouth to feed.
Norma gives us the race times so more often than not we are able to watch them 'go around' on the racing channel on TV. She has had some good results mixed in with not so good ones.

*A trotter moves its legs forward in diagonal pairs (right front and left hind, then left front and right hind striking the ground simultaneously).
A pacer moves its legs laterally (right front and right hind together, then left front and left hind.
But that doesn't really matter you can still lose your money betting on either gait.

Saturday, July 20, 2013


I know I probably post about this every winter but Banksias are one of my favorite Australian native flowers and the ones that bloom this time of year are pretty spectacular.
While they obviously grow wild in the bush, they have also been cultivated (and hybridized) for the nursery trade.
This one is in a private garden near 'our' beach and is used as a screening/boundary plant.
This particular variety naturally grows in the sandstone coastal heath environment and is very salt and wind hardy.

The 76 species of Banksias are named after Sir Joseph Banks an English botanist who accompanied Captain James Cook on what turned out a voyage of discovery of the east coast of Australia in 1770.
The voyage of HMS Endeavour from 1768 to 1771 went to South America, Tahiti (for the transit of Venus), New Zealand and Australia.
They made landfall at Botany Bay (just south of where Sydney is today) and at the Endeavour River (now Cooktown) in North Queensland where they spent seven weeks repairing their ship after it was holed when running aground on the Great Barrier Reef.

While they were in Australia, Banks, the Swedish botanist Daniel Solander and the Finnish botanist Dr. Herman Spoering made the first major collection of Australian flora, describing many species new to science.
According to the State Library of South Australia's web site:
"Banks' Florilegium is a monumental work which records the botanical collections made by Sir Joseph Banks and his team of naturalists aboard James Cook's Endeavour , 1768-1770. It includes drawings of plant specimens from South America, the Pacific Islands, New Zealand and Australia.
The drawings were prepared by Sydney Parkinson during the voyage from specimens collected and preserved. In England, following Parkinson's death, Banks then had the drawings engraved on copper plates for printing. This did not proceed because of the enormous cost involved. The plates were subsequently transferred to the British Museum after Banks' death, and remained unpublished until the early twentieth century, when James Britten arranged to publish a selection. In the Alecto edition, the method used for the colour printing is known as la poupée (rag-doll style). It is meticulous and slow, but produces very distinct colours. Only 100 copies of this edition were published.

It was not until the 1980s that the Museum, in association with the publisher Editions Alecto, decided to renovate the copper printing plates which were still in safe storage and then to print from them, for the first time in colour, the complete set of images. A limited edition of 100 sets, under the title of Banks' Florilegium, would be produced. Over ten years the project came to completion, which is an interesting comparison with the eleven years it took Banks to arrange for the engravings to be completed in the 18th century. This brought to a close what must be one of the most lengthy printing projects ever and was a fitting tribute to the daring and foresight of Banks, Cook and their brave crews"

Friday, July 12, 2013

A Civil War Quilt

As regular readers would know, I am a bit of an American Civil War 'nut'.
So when the co driver asked whether I would like my very own Civil War quilt I had no hesitation in accepting the offer.
Leading up to the Civil War, quilts were made as fund raisers in support of the abolitionist movement. During the war, quilts were made on both sides to raise funds for the war effort and for the comfort of the soldiers.
Due to heavy use and the fact many soldiers were buried in them, very few of this era's quilts have survived to this day.

The co driver used Civil War reproduction fabrics and followed a pattern by Barbara Brackman. While the blocks commemorate the suffragette movement of the early twentieth century there is little doubt many of them would have had Civil War roots.
Having spent many hours waiting inside or sitting outside quilt shops all around the world (not to mention having the house invaded by quilters a number of times a year), I have become au fait with the mechanics of quilting. Talk to me about bolts (never rolls) of fabric, fat quarters, piecing, tops, batting, backs, long arm machines, FMQing or binding any time and you will get an almost informed discussion going.

So when I was asked what sort of backing I wanted I suggested one with Union and Confederate flags would be perfect. The co driver gave me that look which usually means "in your dreams" and referred me to some web sites to look through.
And what do you know? There it was!
So out it came all the way from Kentucky.
So now I am now waiting for the quilt to be pinned basted and then FMQ'd.
I am sure looking forward to wrapping myself up in it to watch a five match Test Cricket series (MCC v Australia) on TV from England late into the night over the next couple of months.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Anzac Biscuits

The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) was formed in 1915 during the First World War and operated during the ill fated Battle of Gallipoli in Turkey.
An Anzac biscuit is a sweet biscuit made from rolled oats, flour, desiccated coconut, sugar, butter, baking soda and water. It is claimed that the biscuits were sent  by the families of soldiers serving overseas during the Great War as the ingredients don't spoil easily and the biscuits kept well during the long sea voyages.

The commercial production of the biscuits is strictly controlled by law and must be made according to the original recipe.
Home made are of course the best and the co driver has perfected a recipe she found in the decades old Women's Weekly Cook Book. 
It's hard not to scoff them all down in one sitting.

1 cup (90g) rolled oats
1 cup (150g) plain (all-purpose) flour
1 cup (220g) firmly packed light brown sugar
½ cup (40g) desiccated coconut
125g (4 ounces) butter
2 tablespoons golden syrup
1 tablespoon water
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of (baking) soda

  • Preheat oven to 160°C/325°F. Grease oven trays; line with baking paper.
  • Combine oats, sifted flour, sugar and coconut in large bowl. Combine butter, syrup and the water in small saucepan, stir over low heat until smooth; stir in soda. Stir into dry ingredients.
  • Roll level tablespoons of mixture into balls; place about 5cm (2 inches) apart on trays, flatten slightly. Bake about 20 minutes; cool on trays.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Post 400

Wow, who would have ever 'thunk' it?
This little project started back in May of 2004 mainly as a record of my and the co driver's life on 'the farm' as a way to keep family and friends up to date with our doings.
It seems to have developed a bit of a life of its own.
I have nothing profound for #400 so will use it as a general update.
We have had some pretty awful weather in the last few weeks.
Lots of rain and a few nasty storms.
Our bottom paddocks were flooded when our creek broke its banks.
It is pretty soggy down there at the moment and limits our winter work.
Despite this, Stirls came down for a few days and we managed to fix some fencing and burn off a few tonnes of fallen timber.
Luckily we now have some quite strong drying westerly winds so hopefully it will soon be time to continue the weed spraying program. We are on top of it but it would be nice to get 100% done this year.

We have started pruning the vines to get them ready for next season.
The 2013 wine in the tank is looking good so far. We have done one racking and it is spending it's time on some old French oak.
All the necessary acid adjustments have been made and we are protecting it with minimum additions of sulphur (30ppm) at the appropriate times.
The co-driver is recovering from surgery and is doing well albeit taking things quietly.
I spent a night in Sydney with the daughter at her new abode while the co driver was in hospital up there.
We had a great Indonesian meal at Ubud in Kingsford. The chicken satay and beef rendang were to die for.
This area used to be my stomping ground when I first moved to Sydney from Brisbane in 1968. Things have certainly changed since then.
So now we are enjoying some winter sunshine and getting prepared for our upcoming holiday.