Sunday, April 24, 2011

Find me if you can.

Find me if you can.

One of our Light Sussex chooks has started to lay, about 6 eggs a week. The rest shouldn't be too far behind. Initially she laid one a day in the nesting boxes but after a week or so the flow of eggs dried up. Yes, we had progressed from collecting the eggs to find the eggs if you can. She had made her own nest, well camouflaged in the long grass. 

Three eggs
The accommodation is just not up to standard.

We bought another pair of pilgrim goose. 
More for the gaggle

We now have four pilgrim females, five pilgrim ganders, three cross-bred females and a further three young  juvenile cross-bred ganders. The three young cross-bred ganders are destined for the pot someday. The plan was to have one for Easter dinner however he received a last minute reprieve. I had everything ready- almost. I had no trouble catching the gander, these are so quiet you can just pick them up, carried him over to the chopping block where the cleaver was waiting, and the gander just lay there obligingly, with his neck outstretched on the block. He was so peaceful and trusting I just couldn't do it. I must be getting soft, I grew up in an era where killing animals to eat was just one more routine job. These bloody geese are just too quiet.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Apples aint just Apples

We have solved the mystery surrounding the varieties of the three large old overgrown apple trees in the garden.  The solution, like all good solutions, was simple, ask the man who planted them all those years ago. 

Cox’s Orange Pippin. 
This is my favourite, a smaller crisp apple with exceptional flavour at its best when picked fully ripe straight from the tree. This is widely regarded as the classic English apple, often regarded as the finest of all apples and remains unsurpassed for its richness and complexity of flavour. This is the benchmark against which all others are measured.
This winter we will definitely be planting some more Cox’s Orange Pippins.

Cox's Orange Pippin

A native of Japan the Mutsu is a large golden apple with a crisp white flesh, good flavour, lots of juice and is one of a small number of varieties which really is dual purpose - both for eating fresh and cooking. This is my second preference after the Cox’s Orange Pippin. The Mutsu is highly susceptible to the disease Blister Spot. The disease is caused by a bacterium that thrives in a wet cool summer- just like we have had. About 70% of the apples have the characteristic black rotting spots so these go straight to the pigs.
Our Mutsu is such a prolific bearer, even the possums can’t seem to make much impression.   


And last of all is a Red Delicious. Quite a nice apple eaten straight off the tree, it is probably the least suited to the home garden as its fruit all seem to ripen at the same time.
This is in contrast to the Mutsu and the Cox’s Orange Pippin, which continually ripen fruit over a 2-month period. 

Red Delicious

When eaten straight from the tree all of these apples are far superior to the supermarket varieties. It seems fresh really is best.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Rayburn Royal

We have ordered a Rayburn Royal slow combustion wood stove for the farm. I priced them locally and compared the retail price in the UK – huge difference. Thanks Gerry Harvey for pointing out how much cheaper it is to purchase from overseas.  I ordered one in British racing green straight from the UK.  I was talking to the supplier last night and it is due in Australia in 33 days. Allowing a couple of weeks to clear customs, we should have it installed before the dead of winter. This will also heat our hot water system so I am expecting a large reduction in the electricity bill.

The Rayburn Royal

I doubt anyone who has not lived year in –year out with only a wood stove in the kitchen can appreciate the difference between a well designed, well insulated slow combustion stove and the basic cast iron wood stoves that are still available today.

Our first experience with a wood stove was at Varna where we had a shining green enamel Crown Number 1 stove. This lightweight cast iron wood stove stood on four legs with a one and a half gallon hot water hopper on the side. It had little ability to control oven temperatures, a small firebox with a voracious appetite for wood and no insulation or firebricks at all.
On a 40°+  summer day the Crown Number 1 was guaranteed to turn any kitchen into a furnace from hell. The best that could be said for the early Crown stove was that it was marginally better than cooking on an open fire. Little did I realize when I threw it on the dump, within 25 years it would morph into a valuable antique.

We were lucky enough to replace it with a Wellstood slow combustion stove that was being removed from a house about 150 kilometres away.  The Wellstood was one of the best slow combustion wood stoves ever made. A classic example of 1950s Scottish craftsmanship, half a ton of fine-grained cast iron finished in glossy cream vitreous enamel. Well insulated, undoubtedly chock full of asbestos, a firebox fully lined with firebricks and clay mortar, simple to use controls and as a bonus, it fed a hot water system.
Good insulation and thermal mass are essential to a slow combustion stove, as much heat as possible is kept inside the stove, and half a ton of cast iron and firebricks helps maintain a consistent temperature in the oven.
We fed it on box and mulga; the box would happily burn away all night and the mulga provided lots of heat and little ash. It stayed alight for the best part of four years without ever going out.

There is something almost primeval about sitting in front of a slow combustion stove on a cold winters night, fire door open, basking in the warmth while watching the flames consume the timber. 
An ad for a Wellstood stove 1950s?