A Taste of Summer – Day 17 NaBloPoMo 2016

So it’s Day 17, over halfway through NaBloPoMo for 2016 – which is pretty amazing in itself! But today we had a proper taste of summer!

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post the forecast was for 29 C (84 F) and the Bureau of Meteorology got it right! I managed to get some gardening done early and watered everything thoroughly. And when I went down to do the afternoon feed it looked like I hadn’t lost any of the new beans I recently planted.

Before I went down to the yard, I took the opportunity of a warm day to knock a small loaf of sourdough together. No yeast – just 2 cups of sourdough starter, 2 cups of bread flour, a little olive oil and water. After I kneaded it and put it in a greased loaf pan it looked like this. I covered it with a damp tea towel and left it to rise in the warm kitchen.


Earlier this evening (about 6pm) just as I was about to put it in the oven it had risen to the top of the pan.


And the finished loaf  ❤


And this afternoon I pulled all my notes together for my last assignment, a treatment for a 16 page children’s picture book with instructions for the illustrations. Just as I finished the body of the book, I got a phone call from a friend who’s started keeping gorgeous little Netherland Dwarf bunnies – mini versions of my giant breeds. She had come home and found a tiny newborn in the middle of the floor!

After carefully checking the newborn kit and making sure it was warm, she checked her two does, one of whom she’s only had a few weeks. I suggested her new girl might’ve come to her already pregnant, But it appears her other doe was really a buck! I’m happy to say mother and baby are doing well. Human mother has calmed down now and is doing a fabulous job for a first-timer 😀

It’s quite tricky to sex (identify the gender) of very young rabbits and this kind of mix up happens more often than most of us want to admit. I’ve been caught out before and I find it difficult to reliably tell under about 10 weeks.

For instance, Bernard Black came to us a couple of weeks ago as a fully weaned, 8 week old identified buck. The day he arrived I checked and think that’s probably correct but I couldn’t be 100% sure.

Now, after what my friend has gone through, I plan to check Bernard again on the weekend – just to be sure!


A very beautiful and much bigger bunny than when he first arrived a few short weeks ago ❤

A Day In The Life – Day 7 NaBloPoMo 2016

This post came from an idea one of my friends gave me this afternoon. So here’s a day in my life……..

Today was Monday, and a day off from my usual work at Oak Tasmania. But there were all the usual jobs and dinner to prepare early because I also had a 1500 word essay to upload to my tutor for my current creative writing unit, Writing For Children and Young Adults

First, feed the animals. There was squawking and jostling to get the best position, but the chickens all got their share of seed mix and there was an early egg from dear Hipster, the oldest girl in the flock. Then some quick weeding to gather greens for the rabbits and a big chicory leaf for each of them (because rabbits!) and the obligatory cute Bernard Black Bunny pic of the day……

I'm Cute - But I Will Not Share My Chicory!

I’m Cute – But I Will Not Share My Chicory!

Once everyone was fed, water checked, pats and cuddles given, I watered the greenhouse and picked veggies for tonight’s dinner, a slow cooked beef and veg curry. This involved picking celery, purple cabbage leaves, silverbeet and snow peas and (as always) more weeding around the plants and cutting back flower heads – all of which went straight to the ravenous chickens.

Finally, I managed to get back in the house and make some breakfast for me! This morning I felt like something savory on my toast. So, before I went to feed the animals I went searching through the freezer. I had the last of my current loaf of sourdough toasted with a very decadent and different kind of topping. I was quite thrilled to find a tub of basil pesto (sans pine nuts) from the autumn harvest tucked away. By the time I got back to the kitchen it was defrosted enough to spread thinly on my toast. It was intense, both garlic and basil flavours came shining through and utterly delicious!


Time then to knock a loaf of sourdough together and put dinner in the slow cooker. I replaced some of the bread flour with rye this time, which makes a nutty, slightly denser loaf. Wee Beastie the sourdough plant is really powering at the moment, so this is what it looked like after a few hours of proving under a damp tea towel in the kitchen.


I cannot begin to describe how lovely and yeasty these loaves smell at this stage – and without any added yeast! I’ll leave it to prove overnight and bake it first thing tomorrow morning so I’ll have fresh bread for breakfast ❤

Next on my list was getting dinner prepped and in the slow cooker. About 500g diced stewing steak and a couple of diced onions got seared in ghee and tossed into the pot with a jar of home-made tomato based chilli sauce from a couple of seasons ago and a tub of cooked chick peas. Lots of spices, herbs, red wine, plus celery, carrot, broad beans and mushrooms (thanks to the garden again!). All thrown in the slow cooker, switched on and forgotten about until later in the afternoon.


Then it was down to the nitty gritty – wrangling all my notes into a cohesive discussion about what I consider to be “an area of childhood that hasn’t been satisfactorily written about”. It’s a potentially huge subject and I only had 1500 words to work with. Chained to my laptop for the next few hours, I referenced, edited and pulled it all together – with Brahms in my headphones and the first cricket test against South Africa on the television. It was a bit mad for a few hours, I remember getting up and making a cup of tea at one point but apparently didn’t drink it, and some kind soul put food in front of me at lunchtime. But I managed to get it all done, correctly formatted and uploaded to my tutor who lives in a different time zone.



After a cuppa with a friend who called round, it was time for the afternoon feeding of the hungry hordes, more egg collecting – and bunny cuddles ❤

I also picked some snow peas that I’d missed that were way too far gone for the table but rather than waste them, I shelled them and set them to dry on my seed shelf. They’ll form the basis of the next crop and/or traded with other fellow gardeners.



Finally, I prepared the veggies to finish off the curry, silverbeet, purple cabbage and snow peas while some nice person cooked rice.


And now, dinner has been devoured (delicious!) and there’s plenty of leftovers to refill the freezer. I’m currently crashed on the couch with my laptop watching my favourite current affairs show, The Feed on SBS and once I publish this I might get back to reading my new book, Jennifer Livett’s Wild IslandOr maybe think some more about that song I’m starting to write. Or perhaps do a little work on my final assignment for this unit, a creative piece of writing and exegesis.

Or maybe go to bed early.

And this was a day off……

New Traditions – Day 3 NaBloPoMo 2016

I’m writing to you with the smell of new bread baking in the kitchen. It’s one of those things that spells “home” to me though my family weren’t into yeast-based cookery when I was a kid. We had bunches of dried herbs, cured meats and always pickled onions. I also remember the rows of Fowlers Vacola preserving jars (the Australian equivalent of Ball Mason canning jars) full of bottled fruit that my parents would put by every summer so we could eat apricots and peaches in the middle of winter.

I still put food by, it’s a deeply ingrained habit that I doubt I’ll ever fall out of love with. Instead of bunches of herbs hanging (and the luxury of a walk in pantry) I have new traditions – a dehydrator, a set of tall stockpots and a thermometer for water bath processing and a ragtag assortment of jars that I routinely wash, sterilise, fill, process, store and use.

My “pantry” is a bookshelf with a curtain to cut out the light and here I keep my preserved cordials, bottled and dried fruit, basil and lemon oils, homemade apple cider vinegar, bread flour and spare egg cartons. At the moment it’s mostly empty jars. There’s no bottled fruit left, one lonely roll of fruit leather from last summer, some pickled and dried chilies from the autumn harvest and a few bottles of sauce, fruit cordial, basil oil and flavoured vinegar.


To this day, I’m not sure why we never made bread when I was a child. I suspect with six of us in the house when I was young, it would’ve been much easier and less time consuming to buy bread than make it! My mother was a wonderful baker and I learned many delicious cake and biscuit recipes from her. Every Saturday was baking day and after lunch, the kitchen table would be cleared to make enough biscuits and small cakes for the coming week. In winter there would also be a few dozen Cornish pasties that would end up reheated as lunches, a savoury Pasty Pie and at least one large cake for the weekend and any visitors that might call in.

For those of you who’ve followed my blog for a while, I have a “pet” sourdough plant I named Wee Beastie. She lives on a shelf in the kitchen, where she watches everything that goes on and demands feeding daily. I started her off on new year’s day 2015 so she’s approaching her 2nd birthday.

Wee Beastie - watching and waiting!

Wee Beastie – note the air bubbles visible through the glass jar!

This living culture requires no other yeast and is a wonderfully frothy mix. My basic recipe is roughly 2 cups of Wee Beastie, 2 cups of strong bread flour, 2 teaspoons of bread improver and some olive oil to stop the dough getting too sticky. Sometimes I add half a cup of rye flour and add a couple of tablespoons of water so the dough is fairly soft. Once this is knocked together in a bowl I turn it out onto my wooden bench and knead it thoroughly for about 5 minutes. Then I make it into a loaf shape, coat my hands in olive oil (about a tablespoon) and massage the oil into the loaf, putting it in a bread pan to prove.

I’m essentially lazy, so it only gets one chance to rise. Normally, I knock the loaf together in the afternoon, leave the dough to rise overnight and bake it the following morning. The results of this slow process are pretty spectacular and incredibly delicious!


Even when it’s a few days old, this bread makes the best toast, perfect with a poached egg  ❤ I’ve even sliced it very thin and toasted it for an alternative to bought crispbread.

Meanwhile, I have to go. There’s an essay to write and (in the name of science) fresh bread to taste test 😉


Gardening, Food, Art, Music – What Else Do I Need?

After spending a very productive day in the garden yesterday, I went shopping this afternoon.

The short version of the story is I probably shouldn’t be allowed out alone. I came home with a Tahitian Lime (Citrus x latifolia). As most of you are likely aware, Hobart is the southernmost capital city in Australia, and we can get quite fierce winters, with frost and occasional snow. Trying to grow any kind of lime is tempting fate here, but I recently heard about a tree in a nearby area that yielded 9 kilos (just under 20lb) of fruit.

While I was in the garden yesterday, I had a look around and thought about where the warmest place in my patch would be. So today I bought a very healthy little tree that’s been grafted on dwarfing lemon rootstock. And I think that’s the trick with selecting trees for your climate – look carefully at your site, determine what it can and can’t accommodate and choose trees that are grafted onto rootstocks that suit. The plan with this lime is to overwinter it in the greenhouse and plant it out in spring into a tub against a concrete wall that gets a lot of sun. Fingers crossed! I’ll keep you updated.

And around the corner from the garden centre is one of my all time favourite food shops – Ziggy’s Supreme Smallgoods. These folks make and sell their own smallgoods as well as local and imported cheeses, pickles and (mostly Polish) biscuits and canned goods. I restrained myself to Cabanossi and Ukrainian sausage, Chicken Kiev, Chorizo (both for later in the week), fresh sliced Ziggy’s bacon and a couple of cheeses – because cheese! So tonight’s dinner was a veritable feast of the two sausages and one of the cheeses, served with thin sliced, toasted home made sourdough and slices of fresh apple. It was bliss!


Hobart is the place to be at the moment. Dark Mofo, one of my favourite festivals is in full swing this week but it’s not the only thing happening.

Tomorrow night is the grand opening of The Gentle Void, a new art and performance space in Campbell Street. The idea behind this new gallery is to give room to alternative voices and provide a welcoming space for audiences. I’m really looking forward to seeing the opening group show, featuring artists from around Australia.


And finally, Thursday night I’m taking a night off from the Uni books and playing the UNLOCKED gig at The Waratah Hotel. It should be a heap of fun and there’s some lovely performers on the bill, including the very talented Cassie O’Keefe. I’m really looking forward to it 😀


As to the title of this post – what else do I need? A book, always a book – and that’s where I’m off to now.

Wherever you are on this beautiful planet, go gently, be safe and be happy ❤


More Small Joys – Day 24 NaBloPoMo 2015

I’ve had a great day – bustling and busy – but great nonetheless. This morning I fed and watered the hungry hoards and said hello to the baby bunnies, who are all growing at a phenomenal rate! Their eyes are open and they are getting quite inquisitive about the world.


I picked raspberries (a daily job now) and I’m hoping to have enough to make a spectacular birthday cake for myself next week 🙂 When I went to give Boudica her daily raspberry leaf treat, I discovered someone had come out to see mummy and see what she eats ❤


There were six eggs from six chickens this morning, so after watering the greenhouse, I pickled another dozen eggs using the recipe I shared  here recently and started another loaf of sourdough bread. This weather Wee Beastie is very active and needs more attention (and feeding!)

My son came over and hung out, he’s in the process of moving out of his old place and in with a friend who lives just up the road from here. I think he was just sick of sorting out the junk from the stuff he wants to keep and needed some chill out time. So we kicked back, drank lots of tea and watched cooking shows on television. We’ve agreed to have a birthday dinner at home for me next week – Roast Pork with all the trimmings, maybe some new potatoes from the garden – which will be perfect!

I’m gradually getting my head around this final assignment, which is due Friday afternoon. I’ve opted to write three poems for plus a 500 word exegesis. Although I’m a professional songwriter (and prolific blogger) I don’t have much experience with poetry and it’s a form I find quite fascinating. Interestingly, I’ve found the easiest way to start is take and idea and just write. Stream of consciousness seems to be the key way into it for me. Then I edit and arrange the words on the page so they make sense to me – and hopefully my tutor! So my poems are largely about the strange weather we get in Tasmania, the changing seasons, growing things, musicians and music.

The sourdough went in the oven late this afternoon and, as a light dinner I took fresh sourdough slices, slabs of Pork Brawn I made on Sunday and crumbled over feta cheese I made a few weeks ago. We put the slices under a hot grill for about 10 minutes – until the feta started to melt – and it was so delicious! The sharp saltiness of the feta worked so well with the rich, meaty Brawn on the fresh sourdough.

I was also reminded by HeWhoMustNotBeListenedTo that everything on our plates was made by me. It was a very satisfying moment……


So, tomorrow will be even busier – sand and pine bark chips are arriving for a project in the back end of the garden. I’ll have pics to show you all tomorrow night 😀

Heavenly Homemade Sourdough – Day 16 NaBloPoMo 2015

At the beginning of 2015, I made one New Year’s resolution – to start making sourdough bread again. So, on the morning of January 1st, I found a clean pickle jar and some cheesecloth and got my starter set up. It took a few weeks to really get going and for the first month, I added decreasing amounts of commercial yeast to my loaves to make sure they were edible. Of course, there were a couple of “bricks”, it happens to all of us sometimes – but the toast from these loaves is still wonderfully tasty and filling – and the chickens got the rest.

My household aren’t big bread eaters, so on average I make one big loaf a week. The fresh bread is quite dense but moist and wonderful with hard cheese and salad, and after a day or two it makes the best toast ever! My favourite is the crust, still warm from the oven with just a little butter ❤

Sourdough Bread Oct 2015

I’ve played around with different shapes (I went through a round phase for a few months) and added different flours to create interesting flavours and textures, but the plant in the jar has stayed the same.

My plant has a name too, Wee Beastie. She sits in a very pretty jar on a shelf in the kitchen and as the weather is warming up now, she gets fed every day now. During the cooler months I only fed her every other day and it was still very happy. The big thing to remember is that every kitchen is different and there will be slight differences in the wild yeasts your Beastie will develop. Get to know your plant and what it likes!

Wee Beastie in her fluted jar

Wee Beastie in her fluted jar

Sourdough Starter


A clean large pickle jar    1 cup bread flour (white or wholemeal)    1 cup of filtered water   1 tab live yogurt (optional)


Day 1 Mix the flour and water together thoroughly in the jar with a wooden spoon. Add and mix in the yogurt if using it and scrape down the sides with a plastic spatula (I have a wooden spoon I only use for bread making). Sourdough doesn’t react well to metal, so bear this in mind before you start. Cover with a piece of cheesecloth and a rubber band to keep insects and dust out and leave it out of direct sunlight in a warm spot in the kitchen.

Day 2 Add a half (up to 3/4) cup of flour and just under that of filtered water. You can use water straight out of the tap, but like any yeast, sourdough doesn’t work well with fluoride, so I recommend filtered or rain water. Depending on the temperature in your kitchen, you should start to see a few bubbles in your Beastie.

Repeat Day 2 for three more days. By Day 5, your Beastie should be voluminous and a little frothy, with a pleasant, slightly sour tang. It’s time to make some bread!

Please Note: Don’t take any chances with this – if your plant is mouldy or smells “off” discard it and start again.

Wee Beastie - frothy and ready to become bread

Sourdough Bread  (Makes 1 large loaf)


2 cups of Sourdough Starter      2 cups of bread flour   2 teas bread improver      water, milk or yogurt    a little oil


In a clean, dry bowl add the flour and bread improver and mix well. Bread improver is mostly citric acid and helps wake up the gluten in flour, resulting in a much better textured crumb. Add 2 cups of Sourdough Starter and mix with a wooden spoon. At this stage, I feed Wee Beastie with flour and water and put her back on the kitchen shelf – she’s done her job 🙂 Depending on your dietary requirements/personal preference, add a couple of tablespoons of water, milk or yogurt and mix to bring the dough together. Roll the dough off the sides of the bowl and turn it out on to a floured board.

Knead it thoroughly for 5-10 minutes until the dough feels elastic and add a little more liquid if the dough feels too stiff. This element is something of an arcane art, it takes practice to know when the dough feels right and too much kneading can produce as heavy a loaf as too little!

Coat your hands liberally with olive oil and shape the loaf as you desire. Put it in the tin or tray you will bake it in, cover and leave it somewhere warm to prove. I have a hot water heater that’s perfect for this. With a new sourdough proving can take a few hours. Be patient with your loaf and remember, the longer you leave it the more pronounced the sour taste will be. I usually wait until it’s doubled in size.

Bake in a pre-heated oven on the middle shelf for 10 minutes at 210 C, then reduce to approximately 180 C and continue baking for 25-30 minutes. Again, every oven is different and I recommend using a pizza stone when you heat the oven up, it makes a lovely bottom crust!

White Sourdough fresh out the oven

White Sourdough fresh out the oven

What’s your favourite bread recipe? Please leave a comment below and happy breadmaking! 



Hubble & Bubble




So, the blossom is starting to show, daffodils and snow drops are popping up and the soil is starting to warm up – I think spring has finally reached Tasmania – and about time too!

I think we were all getting a little sick of the cold weather this year. A few days ago the Bureau of Meteorology announced what many of us already knew – this was the coldest winter since 1966. But that doesn’t mean the weather’s suddenly warmer.

Last weekend we had more cold weather, snow on Kunyani/Mt Wellington and more rain than we’ve seen here in the south for several months. So, I got busy indoors 🙂

Wee Beastie and Cider Kit 29 Aug 2015

The last cider brew unfortunately lost its airlock while it was still playing out and had the first faint tinge of sourness when I’d checked it the previous weekend. So, during the week, I transferred about 8 litres to a 20 litre food grade plastic bucket and put about the same amount of clean, filtered water and Mother, my vinegar plant. The rest is sealed in clean fruit juice containers and will gradually all become Apple Cider Vinegar.

In the photo below, you can see the vague shape of Mother down the bottom, doing her thing. It takes about three months to produce a good, robust vinegar, suitable for medicinal and culinary purposes. I recommend processing to arrest the yeast. This is done by heating the strained vinegar to 70 degrees C, cooling and bottling. And of course, the longer you leave the processed vinegar, the more mellow the flavours become.



Meanwhile, the fermenting barrel got a very thorough clean out, all the seals checked and left to dry in the sunny laundry.

My sourdough plant I started at the beginning of the year, affectionately known at this house as Wee Beastie, was ready to make another loaf and there was a new brew of cider to put on.

The bread was pretty easy to get happening. Two cups of Wee Beastie, two cups of strong bread flour, half a cup of rye flour, a little salt and 2 teaspoons of bread improver to make the gluten work. No dry yeast necessary! I knocked the loaf together, kneading it for about ten minutes. Then, coated my hands in good olive oil, rubbed the dough with it, put it in a pan on the water heater (the warmest spot in the house!) and covered it with a tea towel.

Leaving the bread to prove, I replenished Wee Beastie with the usual half cup of bread flour and third cup of filtered water, mixed it well, covered it with cheesecloth and put it back on its kitchen shelf to start fermenting again.

The cider is always a bit of effort, because I like to use filtered water rather than straight out of the tap but usually, the results are pretty darn fine 🙂

Keeping Notes 29 Aug 2015This time I was using a Brewmate kit I bought a few months ago from a local brewing supply shop. I’ve never used this one before but its base is Australian pear juice and it comes with sparkling wine yeast, nutrient and apple flavour concentrate. I’m going to see how it plays out and taste a little before deciding to use the concentrate or not.

And, as always, I’ve taken notes on the brew, including the specific gravity, base temperature and so on. I find it easier to keep track if I write it down, and let’s face it life’s too busy to keep everything in our heads! The notebook lives with the clean bottles and brewing things and I add to the notes when bottling and again when I do the first tasting.

I use a heat pad to put the barrel on and with an even temperature, the brew started to take off by late Sunday.

While I was attending to the cider, the bread started to rise very nicely. I think sourdough loaves generally need longer to prove and this time of year when ambient temperatures are still quite low, it pays to give it that little bit extra.

But the result was a delicious light rye, with a beautiful sour tang. It’s still quite a robust, dense loaf that makes the best toast!

WB Light Rye 29 Aug 2015


Well, I must run and get some rehearsal done for upcoming gigs – more on that later 😉

Take care and see you all soon ❤

What are your best brewing and/or bread making tips? Please leave a comment – I love to hear from you all!