I recently found out that the Laucke Golden Wholemeal Bread Mix I've used for the farmstay here at Struan Farm since we opened, as well as for our personal use, has been discontinued. DISCONTINUED! It disappeared from Countdown about a year ago, but the distributor assured me it would be available from either Bin Inn or directly from them. Well, guess what? Not enough sales volume was being sold without Countdown. I learned this past week it's now gone burger entirely from NZ.
I'm seriously disappointed by this news. One problem with the product marketing in my view was that the standard loaf recipe was quite heavy. When I tried it originally I wasn't all that crazy about it, and had guests who reported the same issue. However, once I tried the lighter style loaf suggested at the bottom of the carton, I was sold. As were many, many farmstay guests here at Struan Farm who have RAVED about my freshly baked wholemeal bread! No preservatives, healthy stuff.
I have a stash of boxes in the pantry that will last me awhile, and in the meantime I've contacted Laucke to see if I can get it shipped in directly from Australia. Out of necessity I am also trialling other bread mixes, since freshly baked bread is an important component in our breakfast provisions on offer.
A few days ago it rained so I cracked into my testing programme. I use the bread machine for kneading, then proof and bake the kneaded dough in tins in the oven so it looks like, well, freshly baked bread.
The mixes I bought to test were: 1. Bin Inn Wholemeal Bread Mix, 2. Laucke Multigrain Soy & Linseed (making the lighter style loaf), 3. Edmonds Multigrain Bread Mix, and 4. Bin Inn Multigrain Bread Mix by Laucke. I discovered there really isn't that much choice out there. The last three mixes all looked the same, but called for different quantities of yeast and water. If push comes to shove I may need to devise my own recipe, but I'm trying to avoid that at the moment. I may also need to explore other organic markets around the traps.
Bin Inn Wholemeal Bread Mix. This was a complete disaster! It didn't mix properly in the machine at all. I used the yeast they recommended for purchase, which was powdered and weird. It also didn't have much water for 500 grams of mix. It went from the bread machine directly into the rubbish, 1 1/2 hours wasted.
Laucke Multigrain Soy & Linseed (lighter style loaf). I'd tried this mix originally when I was testing breads for the farmstay, made the basic version they recommend and found that too dense. This time I tried the "lighter style loaf." The dough was quite wet out of the machine. The amount of water called for was 360 mls, my liquid measuring cup goes from 350 to 400, so it's conceivable I used too much water given the consistency of the dough. This one was okay. I'm realising that the challenge will be to find a brown bread that's as flavourful as the Golden Wholemeal. I'm starting to think these multigrain breads are just white breads with wholegrain "bits."
Edmonds Multigrain Bread Mix. This dough came out of the mixer in a tight ball, very cleanly. The bread came out of the oven with a smooth, crisp crust. This bread also tastes okay, I just don't like the hard chewy bits of grain. So as I'm going through this trial I'm deciding I need to find another "wholemeal" bread rather than "multigrain."
Bin Inn Multigrain Bread (Laucke). My main issue with the Bin Inn bread mixes is that they assume everything is done in the bread maker/machine, no information is provided on oven temperature or cooking time if you're not using a bread maker. So one must "wing it," using the other brand mixes as a guide, 220 degrees for 25 minutes or thereabout. I had been so hopeful that Bin Inn mixes would be the answer to my problem, but alas, they are not. This one was gloopy and hadn't mixed entirely in the bread machine, there was a fair amount of unmixed flour. I pulled out what I could, proofed that, and popped it into the oven to see the result. It didn't crisp on the top and hadn't seemed to bake properly.
For this round the choice was between Edmonds and the Laucke mix. John and I sampled both and decided Laucke had the better taste, while Edmonds looked better. Now to try to find some wholemeal mixes rather than multigrain given the radically different style of bread (the wholemeal one from Bin Inn isn't an option, although I may test that with more water and a different yeast...). Or better yet, to convince Laucke to sell my tried and true Golden Wholemeal Bread Mix directly to Struan Farm. These are my immediate challenges!
How does one keep track of tomatoes? That is the question. (Shakespeare might beg to differ on this one.)
Last year at Struan Farm I started off well, but once the seedlings were planted out in the gardens I completely lost the plot. As a result, at the end of the season seeds were saved without varieties properly identified. I was forced to go with "KB Big Round Red," "KB Kasundi Mix," "KB Big Red Cherry," etc. Generic descriptions, except perhaps for the kasundi.
I've given up on wooden popsicle sticks with the varieties written on with permanent marker. The markers haven't proved permanent, and wooden sticks get lost in the tomato plant jungle as the season progresses.
So this year I've started out with labels made with my trusty Brother label maker. I labelled seed trays and now also have labelled the pots. My plan when these get planted out Labour Weekend is to draw up a map. "Mr. V," my tomato mentor, advises that this is the way to go, and he hasn't led me astray yet.
You will know that I'm reasonably compulsive about most things, but with tomatoes it seems I have a ways to go: labelling and staking. Stay tuned.
I'm thinking I will be very grateful this next weekend when the time changes here at Struan Farm, "springing forward" by one hour.
Because right now the "Cookie Alarm" is going off every morning at 5:08 a.m. outside the bedroom window. First Curly then Buster joins in, the chorus of baas starts to crescendo well before 6:30. I've been heading out with bottles in my pajamas to calm everybody down. Practically it's impossible to sleep with all that racket.
We love the little darlings, right? It's only a brief moment in time, plus I don't have to set my alarm clock!
John takes more of a tough love approach to the pet lambs than I do here at Struan Farm. I'm not exactly "Mommy Dearest," competing with Joan Crawford as an evil disciplinarian. I want to make sure everyone is going to live through the night, is fed well and sheltered. I also want to make sure they've bonded with me so they'll come when I call them. Maybe it is a "cotton wool" approach but it's worked thus far and makes me (and them) happy.
This weekend when John did an early morning feed he took Curly out of the garage and tossed him out in the paddock with Cookie and Buster. I would have opted for the Pet Pen as an interim step, but then I did get another two hours of sleep so really can't complain!
Everyone is fine. Curly is his own lamb, at first he was hesitant. But now they're a tight little group.
Even Rosie came around to check out the new kid in the paddock, after she had her apple of course!
It rained all day Friday and Saturday here at Struan Farm. So much so that the house got cleaned and the ironing got done, after which it was time to bake.
I'd been noticing on the Mainland Grated Tasty Cheese bag we buy a suggestion that the cheese could be used to make "cheese scrolls." Hmmm, a few cafes I frequent seem to be making sweet scrolls right now, I'm sensing a trend. Plus, something warm from the oven was sounding pretty good for lunch on a chilly, wet day. The only problem was that the Mainland website didn't have the recipe when I went to find it, oh dear! Never mind, searched and found an interesting recipe for Savory Scrolls that looked close enough to what I wanted to achieve.
Self raising flour is mixed with butter then milk to make a dough, which is rolled out in a rectangle. The dough is then coated with tomato paste and sprinkled with grated cheese. The recipe called for fresh red and green pepper/capsicum, which I wasn't all that excited about. So I improvised and used Cotterill & Rouse Onion Marmalade instead. The dough is then rolled up into a log, sliced, and brushed with beaten egg before baking.
The onion marmalade was an inspired choice if I do say so myself! They tasted fantastic, I will definitely make them again.
As you might imagine, I don't like to be bored. It's important to me to stay active and challenged, both physically and intellectually. But I'm also a creature of habit. I don't really embrace change with much enthusiasm, unless of course I'm the one to initiate it. Change forced upon me is a mixed bag. Sometimes it's okay, sometimes it's not.
A few weeks ago we noticed that our lovely rustic sign on the entrance gate to The Cottage at Struan Farm was cracked. In fact so cracked it needed to come off the gate before it fell off.
Oh dear! I have loved this little sign. It was rustic, on weathered wood, yet elegant, with the interesting lettered font and hand painted irises. I found it years ago by chance in a gift-y store in Papakura, when John and I were working on renovating the Cottage as our weekend retreat. That sign has welcomed family and guests to the Cottage for almost fifteen years now. It grew its own lichen like an old baton fence. It's been one of those little touches that has made The Cottage well, "The Cottage."
Now I have a challenge I'd prefer to do without: finding a replacement sign, or reasonable facsimile. Stay tuned. The Cottage cannot be without a sign for too long!
Discovered two invaders on the side of our house at Struan Farm a few days ago:
Puriri moths, Aenetus virescens. They are NZ's largest native moths, and live in indigenous and exotic hardwoods, attack living gum trees. While I guess I can't call them "alien" invaders as a result, I was concerned after reading that they can attack fruit trees and poplars. So after capturing a photo, I captured them! They were obviously casing out the place. Perhaps they are what is causing a problem with one of our larger plum trees. The caterpillars can ring bark younger trees.
Scary. Hopefully I've stopped them from laying eggs around the place unless the deed has already been done. At least now I know what to look out for.
I got a phone call from the neighbouring farm yesterday afternoon. Would we be happy to take another ram lamb here at Struan Farm? He'd been abandoned by mum. And of course the answer was yes....I ran over in the car with bottle and blanket to pick him up.
He slept wrapped in a blanket in the garage overnight, part of that time in the house in a cardboard box in front of the fire. He wasn't drinking from the bottle quite as eagerly as I would have hoped, so not sure about this one. Assuming he survives, we're having a family vote on this name, choosing between "TimTam" and "Curly."
Our (I should probably say "my") problem with ram lambs is that they get sent off after Christmas. I get attached, too attached, and end up having a cry about it all. (When Spud went off a few years ago I found myself sobbing at the dinner table, much to John's distress.) Ewe lambs stay here at Struan Farm to raise their own lambs.
This little one will be happy and well looked after for as long as he's with us, I'll make sure of that.
I've now managed to convert (pet lamb, sort of, still) Ruby to fresh apple snacks here at Struan Farm. She was a bit hesitant at first, but after watching Rosie snarfing up pieces as fast as she could, Ruby decided to give one a try. She ate three. Rosie will eat three in quick succession, seemingly without chewing. She will also push anyone out of the way who gets between her and her precious treats. So if you snooze, you lose Ruby!
You know I'll make sure Ruby gets her fair share, she just has to work with me.
The phrase "how now brown cow" does come to mind, but the one that showed up at Struan Farm yesterday was black. She swam across the river to our place from the neighbour's farm, and was confused by that whole experience. In the afternoon she showed up walking and moaning at the bottom of our house paddock, aka "The Bowl." She was looking for her mates and wanting to go home.
Once she decided the area around our house was the place to stay, she munched on the edge of the lawn along the retaining wall (a good decision, since John hates mowing along this edge), peered in our bedroom window, and made a few half-hearted attempts to munch the gardens. Cookie and Buster kept their distance, as did the other sheep. In the meantime I'd rung the neighbours. Shortly they were over with quad bike and dogs to lead her home.
These things happen in the country! p.s. The phrase "how now brown cow" is a device used in education to teach rounded vowel sounds...
You will recall I've been raking leaves from the hillside overlooking the pond here at Struan Farm. Part of the annual spring clean, it needs to be done so that the fallen leaves don't kill the grass entirely. One of the few downsides of having lots of deciduous trees around the property. Once everything is raked up in autumn or spring we (I) then spread paddock grass seed where required on bare ground.
Practically, what ends up happening though is when I head off to rake I tend to look around, and find other things that need attention. Yet another one of those things to which we should be paying attention. Strawberry dogwood, Cornus capitata, has now been added to the annual checklist. We've had a tree at the pond for years, planted by John's dad Maurie. It's a lovely tree, the birds love the fruit. But it's also listed in my trusty "Weed Control Handbook" as invasive.
I'd seen some rubbishy little trees growing around the native trees and flax I've planted at the pond, so finally took the time to investigate. Turns out these were shooters and/or self-seeded strawberry dogwoods, and they were taking over. Fortunately most were easy to pull out by the roots, the others were lopped off with poison gel applied to the cuts. Two days and four trailer loads later I finished the job (okay, managed to pull out a bit of blackberry by the roots too, with John's help).
I planted a few more flax in the gaps. But we'll pay attention to this from now on. It's much easier to pull out the trees when they're just starting to grow. Now, back to those leaves, no more diversions!
John and I went over to Smart Plants in nearby Te Kuiti a few days ago and picked up a trailer load of potting soil and a stash of PB8 black plastic sacks. My mission now is to repot the native trees John has purchased to date for his extended bush reserve at Struan Farm, at least those I haven't already done. This will give them sufficient room to grow on for the next year (or two if needed).
Above is my mobile potting station. We've re-purposed a macrocarpa table recycled from Maurie's old workshop, which lucky for me had wheels. This gets positioned near the mountain of potting soil, with the plants transported back and forth by barrow. After each use I clean the table and roll it into the garage to keep it in good condition.
Pretty slick operation, eh?
John and I tackled raking leaves under the walnut and oak trees outside the Cottage at Struan Farm a few days ago. It's almost time to spread paddock grass seed on bare spots, and leaves on the ground definitely don't help the grass grow. We managed to get it done in one day, which was great:
But then I was left to my own devices to rake the bank at the pond, John can only take so much raking. This was definitely more than a one day project!
And of course like most things Karen, I made life more difficult by deciding to dig out the bracken fern that was starting to take over a section of the hill. Here's the offending fern:
It was spreading all over, but now it's not. I should report that while I used bandaids pro-actively to avoid blisters from the raking, and only fell down the hillside once, my fingernails paid the price. They just don't make gardening gloves the way they used to--I kept puncturing holes in the tip of one finger. The fern has a web of roots underground, which is how it keeps spreading. I had to dig into the earth to pull up the roots as best I could. One poor fingernail took one for the team.
The bank will look much better when this is all done, I promise!
We've made some "refinements" to Pet Paddock 2 out the gate in the backyard here at Struan Farm. This follows a few stormy nights this week when I felt compelled to airlift pet lambs Cookie and Buster back to the sheltered protection of their Pet Pen. They are really too little to be out there on their own without mum (in mum's view), are still hanging out next to the gate and the house. They haven't adventured very far out in the paddock, certainly haven't discovered the sheltering branches of the tawa grove further down the hill just yet. I tried putting out a big cardboard box to provide some shelter in the pouring rain, but that was commandeered by Buster, leaving Cookie huddled up by herself in the driving rain (the box also disintegrated pretty quickly).
In the light of day, Nephew Mike helpfully stepped into the fray between showers with some recycled corrugated iron and a few posts to knock up a temporary "lean-to" for them in the paddock:
I know, it's not perfect, but they can cuddle against the fence or the posts and have some shelter overhead.
The second job for Mike was "Cookie proofing" the fence. Last year we ran a wire along the bottom of this fence to stop the lambs (Rosie and Pip) from getting under and into the garden and down the driveway (you may remember that Rosie got into the bad habit of coming up to our front doorstep). Cookie recently demonstrated an ability to get through the bottom two boards, so Mike has run a second wire to stop all that (fingers crossed).
Can you tell these two wee lambs are keeping us busy? I'm thinking Cookie will be the mastermind, Buster the goofy sidekick, but they may take turns.
In my view this move is a wee bit premature, but Cookie and Buster have been put out into the paddock near the back gate here at Struan Farm. Somehow Cookie managed to catapult herself out of the Pet Pen, so she prompted the decision. We couldn't have her jumping out and running around the house, down the drive or near the road, particularly if we weren't around to rescue her.
Apparently growing up in John's day the pets were put out in the paddock right away, there was no security of a nice little pet pen with tarp and bench to cuddle under. I tried to reason with John that our fencing and paddocks are quite different now, also that hoggets are roaming around who might butt them (namely Rosie). He also isn't the one who has to find them at feeding time when they've gone for a wander.
Everybody's been okay thus far. Now the 6:05 a.m. wake up calls outside the bedroom window begin.....Think I'll send John out on those, what do you think?
The neighbour rang over the weekend to ask if we'd be willing to take two newborn ram lambs as pets here at Struan Farm. Our preference is for ewes, since they'll get to stay around, but these little fellows would probably die otherwise, so of course we took them. I drove over with bottles and blankets and picked them up.
Meet Bugsy and Buster:
Bugsy was a twin, and abandoned by mum, while Buster, who is a HUGE lamb, was born by C-section. He was too large for his mum, so had a rather traumatic entry into the world. He was quite shaky when I picked him up, but he seems fine now.
Cookie's tranquil world was rocked to say the least. She wasn't sure about all this, especially since Buster keeps chasing her around the pet pen with his gangly legs!
As you can see I'm getting accusatory glares right now....but they'll settle down I'm sure.
Unfortunately, the morning after their arrival "Bugsy," the little lamb in the middle, passed away. Sometimes ewes reject lambs for a reason, so there must have been something wrong with him that she sensed. We had him briefly in the garage wrapped in a blanket to see if he would recover, also so he was by himself and comfortable. John has buried him.
So my friends, it's not always happy stories on the pet lamb front, but then they wouldn't have a chance at all if we didn't try to save them in the first place.
I have been curious to see how last season's pet lambs Rosie, Ruby, Pip and Pepper might interact with new pet Cookie, if at all, but didn't know when that opportunity might come about. Rosie, Ruby, Pip and Pepper are technically now "hoggets." They didn't have lambs this year, will be put to the ram next year when they are one year older, which is better for them.
A few days ago John and I were out back with Cookie running around at the same time we were feeding Rosie her daily apple treat. Both Pepper and Pip were quite curious about Cookie, and came up to the fence to look over to her running around "baa-ing." Not sure what was going through those heads, this was the same back fence where they used to get their bottles, and she was staying in THEIR Pet Pen....Pepper looked a little upset, like she actually wanted to help Cookie. This was our anti-social little Pepper, who even tolerated a pat from me. Rosie was more focused on the apple.
John popped Cookie over the fence into the paddock with the three girls (Ruby wasn't around). Rosie got quite aggressive butting Cookie away, which is what mother sheep typically do to lambs that aren't their own. We jumped to Cookie's rescue (she quickly hopped through the fence back in our direction), and told Rosie to behave herself, to play nice or no more apples!
So Cookie will need to grow a bit bigger before she'll be playing with the Old Girls, Rosie in particular. Perhaps Rosie is just jealous of the new lamb in the Pet Pen, the one who gets the bottles now!