Sunday, 18 May 2014


We've had a lovely weekend of good food and good times.  We enjoyed some outings and achieved a few missions also. 

I've just finished putting together a small hamper as a thank you gift, which was on my to-do list for this week.

I made a larger basket last year. It was all our produce or items made from home-grown ingredients.

I've "cheated" a bit today as the shortbread is made from purchased flour, sugar and butter!

Not long after moving into Hamby Home(in)stead I drove to a nearby small town and while exploring their shopping centre, I picked up a stack of these presentation boxes - for 10 cents each!  What a bargain!  They are a great size and I've used several so far, stuffed with nicely arranged home-made goodies.  This one has shortbread, a jar of fruity chutney and two packets of fig paste.  We'll deliver our Hamby Hamper tomorrow with a large tub of Paroo honey.

Nick and I were quite broke when we first got together.  "Hamby Hampers" was devised during one of our early Christmases, when we were expected to purchase gifts for a large family gathering.  Back then, I did the labelling with clip art and our home printer.  These days I take advantage of Vistaprint's excellent service (and specials) for more schmick presentation!

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Friday feast!

We celebrated Friday yesterday, visiting the ducks and geese after school.  We took chook pellets and a quick afternoon tea picnic. 

The ducks weren't keen to get out of the water but the geese came to peck for pellets near our table.  A few moorhens tried them also.

Once home again we settled in to watch some River Cottage Australia episodes with Nick, who had missed several due to working night-shift.  Nissa gave me the (series 1) DVD for Mothers Day and I've watched most episodes twice already!  I took a break from watching to plate-up mini cheese platters for us all.  One of the main aims was to test my fig paste and I was very chuffed with the end result.  Erin declared it "awesome" - and I reckon she is right!

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Pasting the paste!

When I checked my fig paste yesterday, it hadn't set as expected, which was obviously disappointing.

I'd viewed several quince paste recipes where the paste is rested overnight, then placed in the oven on it's lowest setting. 

Quite a few hours of extra drying time still hadn't had the desired effect, so I scooped the "paste" back into a saucepan with the remaining pectin.  I stirred the mixture over a low heat for around an hour and was much happier with the resultant texture, so divided it between my two moulds.

I prepared the moulds a little differently this time, laying a long sheet of baking paper inside to ease the removal of the finished paste.  The paste was again covered and left overnight.  It was very easy to remove this morning - hooray!

I'm quite chuffed with how the paste turned out and have just finished packing 16 generous portions, using my vacuum sealer.  Now we just need some cheese!

Monday, 12 May 2014

More fig paste!

While we were away our apples, nectarines and pears ripened. They were all gone by the time we returned.

I wasn't expecting any fruit to be left but our fig tree has yielded enough to make a double batch of fig paste - with more to come!

As much as I liked the lovely rounded shape of last year's batch (made by using small teacups as moulds), I thought a larger mould would be easier to work with.

While op-shopping last week I spotted this set of two mini baking trays. They seemed just the right size for fig paste production, so I handed over my $4.00 quite happily.

I used them tonight for the first time.  Each is the perfect size to hold a batch of paste. 

How good is that?!

Sunday, 11 May 2014

The girls are back!

We brought the girls home on Wednesday night. Thursday was quite sunny and I hung a lot of washing through the day, enjoying the chattering of birds when I was outside.

I heard other noises too and it took a little while to realise those were caused by the chookies scratching through the grass of their enclosure!

Vaughan and I were snuggling yesterday morning.  We heard odd noises from the chookie fort.  Vaughan went out to investigate and returned with two eggs.  The noise we had heard was the triumphant cackling of one of our girls.  They've never made those cackles before, so praps they learned some new lingo while on holidays?! 

Tea's home!

Prior to our extended holiday, we bought a solar electric fence energiser. Although the unit itself worked, it hadn't electrified the full perimeter of the large paddock, adjacent to our house. Nick spent some time this afternoon checking for faults. He found five areas causing issues and fixed them all. Now the electric fence was working properly we could bring Tea home.

Nick, Vaughan and I walked down to where she was. We took a container of pellets as encouragement. Our hefty heifer was very keen to get at that container!

We were equally keen to catch her and lead her home.

There were fun and games in getting out of that paddock, which was bounded by a move-able electric fence.  She was very wary of the fence, so baulked when we lowered it for her to cross.  With some prodding she walked part-way, causing Nick to move from his position where he had been standing on one of the supporting posts.  They both were zapped when the fence sprang back up!

At that stage, Nick called our landlady and received instruction on turning the fence off.  After being zapped, Tea was even more cautious of the fence but once over that obstacle she followed Vaughan easily as he led her home.  I walked behind to ensure she kept moving.

Tea was restored to our large paddock just as the sun was going down.  We are looking forward to her remaining in that paddock and our various belongings staying safe from heifer-harm!

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Tea party!

Tea turned one while we were away. We fully intended to make a tea-cake and celebrate her birthday but were caught up socialising. Not to worry. We can have a belated Tea party once she is properly home.

While we were off gallivanting, Tea was having a bit of a holiday too - spending time with the big cows.  She finally learnt about electric fences, so her footloose days are over

At this stage Tea is still in one of the larger paddocks, while we ensure our electric fence is functioning properly.  There's been rain so it should zap hard, which is the idea - but there is an earth along the wire, which needs to be fixed so that Tea doesn't re-learn her old escapee tendencies.

We visited her this afternoon, with a treat of pellets.  She was a bit wary at first but then obviously remembered us, enjoying some neck scratches and smooches from Nick and Vaughan.

When the container was confiscated, she moved over to me and started slurping so hard on my hand that I felt as if she was trying to swallow my arm! 

She was fairly excited - and a lot bigger than she used to be!  I hopped the fence, so Nick could calm her.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Thick soup!

It was 5 degrees at 7:00am this morning.  I expect it was colder prior to then as there was ice on the cars. 

Nick stirred the fire and Vaughan just about sat on the wood heater while he was getting dressed and having breakfast! 

Oscar was still tucked in bed, otherwise there may have been competition for the fireside spot!

I've been catching up on the washing and poking through the unpacking.  It's hard to see any progress, quite possibly because there hasn't been much!  However, I made a large batch of thick soup, similar to this one (though I cooked it in a cast iron pot on the stove as my thermal cookers are still packed, tied securely on top of the trailer)!  I used the last of the Cunnamulla pumpkin and a few other opened packets that we brought home from our extended holiday. 

Erin and I had large bowls of soup for lunch (with leftover mountain bread) and I've frozen a few individual serves also.  It's pretty good soup!

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

First day!

It's been a big day at Hamby Home(in)stead, our first since returning home from our ten weeks away.

Vaughan re-joined his usual school. He looked a bit shell-shocked when we left him.

For the past ten weeks, he's been one of three students - and travelled 70km once a week to join with a slightly larger 12-student school. While we were away his Victorian school had a recruitment drive. There are now 18 in Vaughan's "senior room", and around 14 in the "junior room" - whereas Vaughan was the 21st student when he enrolled last year, with only eight in his class.

Nick and I were a little worried about our boy but by all accounts the Young Master settled very well.

In funny co-incidence, Healthy Harold is set to visit the school next week or the one after - praps the same representative that was staying in the cabin next door at Deniliquin?!

Nick, Erin and I collected a bag of chook food in preparation for the girls' return.  We collected ten weeks worth of mail and looked at the dump shop too. 

I spotted an excellent thing while there.  It has a lot of potential and even better, was a bargain - of course!  It is set to be gifted to me for Mother's Day.  Once I officially receive it, I'll be able to show you!

Erin, Vaughan and I collected Judge Judy and Jo this evening.  They have been secured in the Fox-proof Fowl Fort and we'll check on them in the morning.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014


We arrived back at Hamby Home(in)stead around lunchtime, after being away for a little over ten weeks.

There's a fair bit of chaos to deal with - unpacking, the inside mess from our ad-hoc packing prior to a very early morning departure and outside mess due to wind, rain and bigger cows visiting.

I checked on my vegie garden this afternoon and was surprised to see a large(ish) capsicum, some tomato plants and a healthy crop of rainbow chard.  Given how dry everything had been when we left (and how much Tea had chomped), I was only expecting to see bare earth! 

There's obviously been a lot of rain while we've been away.  Nick checked the tank and measured a water depth of 65cm!  We're usually lucky to have about 20cm, if we pump bore water to increase the level.  There's a lot of green grass around too, which we are getting used to as for most of our time away we've been living in the red dust, scrub country!

We've missed the apple and pear crop but the fig tree has lots of fruit and I picked quite a few this afternoon, before the birds got to them.  I'm keen to make more fig paste!