The Good Life: Barter Economy

While my potato harvest has been extremely good, we are getting a little sick of potatoes here at The New Castle of Corke.  I have been seriously running out of things to do with potatoes!  I’ve made nikujaga, mashed potatoes, irish stew and have even fried the darn things in my airfryer[1]!

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Check it out.  More than half a kilo of potato right there.

Yesterday, I dug up the biggest potato I had ever seen in my life and realised that I had gotten to the end of my potato threshold.  Neither the Boobook nor I felt like eating potatoes anymore.

Thankfully, my friend, Mrs Peacock, was visiting family in Newcastle and she had had far too much citrus.  So, we did the only thing that made sense:

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Have a bag of taters

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Oranges, lemons and tangerines oh my!

We traded produce.

I have now participated in the barter economy!  Check me out being all productive and stuff!

Now all I gotta do is figure out what to do with all this fruit…


[1]With little success, unfortunately.  Some potatoes were not made to fry.  They disintegrated instead.

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The Good Life: Digging my Potato

For optional music for this post, please check out this song – Digging my Potato, by the Seatbelts.  For further immersion, imagine the hot, Australian sun bearing down on your back while listening to this song.

Hey, I know it’s been a while since I last posted.  I underestimated how much energy my previous job took out of me.

It’s been terribly dry in Australia recently, so the soil has been baked solid.  Thankfully, there was a little drizzle last week, so I was able to get some gardening done!  I turned an entire bed of the garden and even managed to plant some seeds!

That being said, I had noticed some significant growth in the potato patch, so I decided it was time to reap what I had sown.  I was planning to make a stew for dinner, so the timing was perfect.

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Look at the size of this hole!

I can totally sympathise with Almanzo Wilder when he complained about potato digging in Farmer Boy.  Harvesting potatoes is difficult even at the best of times and it’s particularly hard when your soil is as firm as mine got this summer.  If nothing comes up once you’ve stuck the fork in the bed and turned the soil a little, you kind of just have to get on your knees and use your hands to feel around for the potato lumps in the soil.

Plus, you have to be careful with the fork when turning the soil – stab too hard and you might just stab right through a perfectly good potato and ruin it, which I managed to do twice.  It’s a lot of work!

Still, I did manage to get a little harvest out of my potato patch.  Each plant produced about four potatoes, which isn’t very much, but look at the size of these things!  For the record, the bowl in the picture is one of those huge ramen bowls, which gives you an idea of how big the potatoes are.

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Awwww… yeah, dem’s good eatin’s!

I’d planted my patch out with Royal Blues and Pontiac potatoes.  These are the Royal Blues, beautiful purple potatoes with firm white flesh that’s perfect for stewing, baking, mashing… pretty much anything you want to use them for.  The Pontiacs aren’t big enough for harvest yet.

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Washed and peeled.  Look at the shine on those things!

I’m going to make a beautiful cream stew with these tonight!  I can’t wait to see how they do!

 

Travel Essentials: BabyZen Yoyo+ (aka Best Stroller Ever)

We’re talking about our latest favourite travel essential over at Owl Fly Away today!

Owl Fly Away

Okay, as you can tell from the title of this post, we are completely in love with the BabyZen Yoyo+.

babyzen-yoyo-owlflyaway-travel Travel anywhere with the BabyZen Yoyo+

We’ve been using this stroller for nearly a year now (thanks to the generosity of the fine folk over at BabyZen Singapore who were kind enough to send us a lovely stroller to try), and it’s seriously the best stroller we’ve ever had – and so handy for travelling!

Not only is the stroller lightweight, sturdy and easy to manoeuvre around, but it collapses down so small that you can bring it on board any flight as carry-on baggage! As you can imagine, this makes life SO much easier when travelling.

Babyzen-yoyo-plus-travel-essential-baby-owlswell The perfect “anywhere chair” and napping corner

Thumper was so comfortable in the BabyZen Yoyo+ that he would easily take naps in it, anytime, anyplace, anywhere. This meant that we could stay…

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Owls Well presents: Living Clay/Studio Asobi

So, during the June school holidays this year, I wrote about our experience at a pottery workshop with Studio Asobi. Well, our pieces have been glazed and fired by Huiwen from Studio Asobi, and they are so much prettier than we ever expected!

Here’s a little video I made of our time at the pottery wheel – and the results of our labour!

Here are some thing I learned about the glazing and firing process:

  1. Applying the glaze will add layers to your final piece, so the walls of your clay piece will appear much thicker than your original creation, and any scratches and marks made on the surface will be more shallow.
  2. The firing process dries the clay out as it hardens, and the final product will be at least one-third smaller in size. So if you want to make a dainty teacup, your original creation may have to be as big as a mug!
  3. Be brave about experimenting with glazes! As you can see from the video, different glaze combinations can have startlingly different results. I regret not taking a bigger risk with my glaze selections…but now I know that I can be braver next time around!

Studio Asobi welcomes back participants of previous workshops with a markedly reduced fee and as always, 20% of their profits are donated to The Mercy Centre’s Trolley Ministry for Singapore’s homeless population. I would love to work with them again!

 

Peaceful Port Macquarie: Tacking Point and Lighthouse Beach

We’re posting over at our travel blog, Owl Fly Away today, heading somewhere over the rainbow!

Owl Fly Away

We’d spent a lazy morning recuperating from our flight to Sydney and the two hour drive into Port Macquarie the previous evening. We’d managed to stop off at the supermarket on the way, and so we had farm fresh fruits with yoghurt and muesli for breakfast!

kids-australia-breakfast-holiday-macquarie-port-sydney Lazy morning with the kids

The kids were energised and ready to head outdoors, so we took a short drive from our holiday cottage in Port Macquarie to Tacking Point Lighthouse, one of the oldest lighthouses in Australia.

tacking-point-lighthouse-macquarie-rainbow-grandparent Thumper and the Aged P walking to Tacking Point Lighthouse

When we got to the tall rocky headland of Tacking Point, we were greeted by a lovely rainbow arching over the sea. The children delighted in running over the grassy knolls just next to the roadside parking area.

The tiny blue and white lighthouse is easily assessable from the carpark, and there’s also a viewing platform…

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The Good Life: Shelling Beans

Hey Debs! As stated before, I’ve had a fantastic bumper crop of beans this year!  Take a look at it!

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Check out dem beans!

Unless they’re picked at very early in the season for stirfrying, beans need to be shelled.  This takes some time and practise.  I had left the beans on the vine to dry so that I could get some good soup beans.

I’ve learned that unless you pull the strings out of the beans just right, the pod will fight you all the way and you end up with a pile of beans and a pile of tiny bits of ripped up pod as you massacre the pod just to get the beans out.  This may also result in the occasional massacre of the bean as well.  Do it right, however, and the pod will split perfectly into two halves, making it easy to get to the beans.

By the time I was done, I had two piles of beans.  Not all of the beans ripened at the same time, so I divided them as I shelled them.

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The beans divided

The most ripe beans went to the pile on the right, where they would be dried for next years seed.  The unripe flagolet beans and the others that didn’t finish developing a thick skin were put on the left.

The seed beans were spaced roughly apart and placed on a towel to dry for several days.

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From Right to Left: Australian Butter Beans, Rattlesnake Beans and Borlotti Beans

In a weeks’ time, they had shrunk and were ready for planting.

I only managed to save about ten of each bean, but that’s more than enough to plant out my field next year!

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Seed beans are about half the size of freshly picked beans.

As for the rest, well, I cooked the youngest flagolet beans into a delicious chilli using my friend’s freshly dug up sweet potatoes.  They were delicious!

I also saved some up for precooking and drying, but more on that later!

The Good Life: Make $$$ in Your Spare Time!

I am a huge sucker for seed catalogues.  So, when my favourite gardening company, The Diggers Club, restocked their selection of Autumn and Winter bulbs, I had to buy some.  Besides, The Boobook had recently purchased a special bulb planting tool for me.

I stocked up on Saffron Crocuses, nine bulbs in all.  Saffron is, after all, the most expensive ingredient on the planet.  At today’s prices, saffron costs about USD$1,500 per pound, about $250 more per pound than gold.  My accountant brain was mesmerised by the possibilities!

I was going to be RICH!

On my day off, I planted the crocuses using the tool that The Boobook had bought.  It was a relatively simple tool to use.  Simply shove it into the ground and twist it until it reaches the desired depth, then pull it out and empty the dirt over the side.  Unfortunately, the ground in my area is as hard as rocks, so shoving the tool into the ground was not the easiest thing to do.  The clay also gummed up the works, making it harder to empty than I had initially thought.

Still, I persevered, and in-between hanging up laundry and feeding the rabbits, I finally got all nine of the bulbs in the ground.

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Behold my glorious handiwork!

Having completed all my chores, I took a nice hot shower and then had a nap.

When I woke up, my arms had fallen off.

This was not conducive to productivity.

You see, arms are essential tools to doing a lot of things, like getting out of bed, for example.  Also, I couldn’t post about my exploits because typing requires hands, and armless people don’t have any hands.

The Boobook returned to find me wriggling around on the couch like a dying fish, arms flopping uselessly by my sides in a futile attempt to get up and cook dinner.  He sighed and then went to fetch the hot water bottle.

The heat on my sore muscles felt glorious.

Also, he sent out for pizza, which was really great.

A week later, the saffron crocus plants bloomed.  Each tiny flower had two little strands of saffron in it.

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Saffron crocus in full bloom.  Each flower is about the size of an Australian 50 cent coin.

Ah well, so much for my get rich quick scheme.  At least I can still cook some saffron rice to make myself feel better.