Dragon pie

We’re having a medieval feast in Goulburn on 4 December (to be confirmed).  The theme is “Misrule: the Feast of the Fool” and I’m Chief Cook.

The concept is to have a stack of dishes which are stunt foods, made to look or taste like something else.  The medieval cooks loved to trick and amuse the diners.

This Saturday we had a tasting dinner to test out some of the recipes.

The first was “dragon pie”, which was covered in red pastry scales.  Looked great, though the pastry shrank a bit back from the edge.  I had no particular ideas for a filling, but my friend Jane suggested a chicken peverade (pepper stew) which apparently comes in a suitable shade of red.  I have some similar recipes for lamb or veal, so it may yet be one of those.  I’m thinking of cooking the pie crusts separately in a slightly larger size.

The next dish was Pommes Dorryle (“golden apples”), which are pork meatballs given a golden covering with eggyolk.  I made these 20 years ago, and they tasted good but didn’t really look all that much like apples.  So we went back to the original recipes, made a number of technical advances, and tried out three different recipes for the endoring mix.  We selected some lovely mint sprigs to stick in the top to make them look more like apples.

The results?  The best of them were much the same as the ones I made so long ago.  And somebody threw out the mint springs.  So the Pommes Dorryle are still a work in progress.  I might look around on Google Images to see whether anyone else has got them right.  And we do have a few more ideas.

The other one was fried deer entrails — yum.  Actually these are pieces of fruit threaded onto cotton, and fried in a beer batter.  You then snip one end of the cotton and pull it through.  Looks just like — fried deer entrails.  These are documented from 1390.

Our friend Will made these at a previous tasting dinner, and they were brilliant, but they didn’t work as well in a subsequent feast.  That was just in May, and I’m in two minds about doing them again so soon, but they do go so well with the Misrule theme.

We cut our fruit a little smaller, and I think our batter was a little thinner.  We were happy with how they came out.  Years ago, the medieval club in Canberra used to do these often, and they had it worked out really well — so I’d like to get to that level.

I hope I haven’t given away too much of the feast — there are a whole stack of unusual dishes planned, and even the dragon pie has a few more wrinkles I haven’t told you about.

 

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On Sunday, Allison and I were the guest speakers for the Collector Village association, speaking on permaculture gardening.  They were googling for some permaculture people in the area, and discovered that we were already involved with their Pumpkin Festival.

I think we did an entertaining presentation with some good slides, explaining (amongst other things) how weeds are a wonderful resource for permaculture.  We do draw the line at serrated tussock!

Gawaine gets the snip

I have blogged before about Gawaine, our mostly-drafthorse foal.  He’s black, with a white flash down his face.

We wanted to have him gelded (castrated), but the vet wouldn’t come unless he was halter-trained.

At eight months, he was a boisterous brat.  I started him with some clicker training out in the paddock, which he enjoyed but it was not without problems.  He loved the games but didn’t want to stop.  Sometimes he even started rearing and biting — which was within my capacity to handle, but I had to ban wwoofers from his paddock (field).

He turned one in late September, and by then he had settled down a bit.  I wasn’t training him all that often — that was when we had all the rain.  I did get a string halter (head harness) on him, but he pulled it off later.  I just about had him to the point where I could take a webbing halter on and off.

Recently, we had Julia from Germany wwoof with us.  She was very experienced with young horses, and she soon had him sorted out.  She got a proper halter on him, and lured him into our round yard.

This gave us an opportunity to wean him from his mother, Domino the anti-social brood mare.  Though when we fed him hay, he would call his mother over and then push the hay to where she could reach it through the bars.  What a sweetie.

Because it’s boring in the round yard, Julia started doing lunging training with him.  Gawaine was brilliant — he would move from a walk to a trot intuitively on Julia’s command.  Julia said that it showed he was going to be a great student.  I think it also shows how good Julia was.  Unfortunately she got an offer for paid work and left us.  Hopefully we might see her again before she leaves Australia.

Our horsewoman friend Jan then took over the training.  She came to much the same conclusion: he has great potential as a riding horse.

She has a horsebreaker friend, who uses really gentle passive methods, who came for a look.  They were able to trim Gawaine’s feet, which is really good for an untrained horse.  Both Jan and the breaker think we should give him some more education as soon as possible, because he’s enjoying it so much.

This week (Wednesday) we finally got the vet in, and Gawaine is no longer a stallion.  Jan and wwoofer Rachel were there to assist.  All went well, and the vet also thinks we should give him early training.

After work on Friday, we led Gawaine out of the round yard into the woods paddock, which he will share with Paulie.  Paulie’s really relaxed, and they seem to be getting on well.  Though Gawaine tried to get some milk from Paulie, and was told off!  This morning, Gawaine was running around and kicking up his heels, so he’s happy.

I did some more clicker training with Gawaine this morning, and he’s still keen.  He will got to Jan’s for more training in a week or two.  I am a little worried because the Clydesdale breed is slow to finish growing, so I don’t want him ridden for a while, but he can certainly have some more training.

This left us with one problem: Domino the Difficult was just one fence away from Gawaine, and Gawaine could have injured himself trying to feed through the fence.  Fortunately Domino solved this herself — she walked right into the yard to check out where Gawaine was getting all the yummy lucerne hay, and Rachel snuck in behind and locked her in.

So now we’re having another go at training Domino.  This has never worked for us in the past, but hope is eternal.

It was snowing!

We had snow on Saturday, from that cold front that flooded parts of Victoria.

It snowed for several hours, but it didn’t stay on the ground.  Then we had wild winds for the rest of the weekend.

Allison and I went to a farm clearing sale on Saturday during the snow.  The prices were for the most part reasonable — many people stayed away because of the weather.

We picked up some plastic oars for $2 (for the future raft on the dam) and about 6 metres of railway track for $40 — makes good anvils for making armour.  Allison picked up some useful sewing odds and ends for $5, and a few cooking items at similar prices.  There were two hat blocks (wooden forms for making felt hats) but they went for $160.  A smallish anvil went for $180, probably not bad value but more than I want to spend at present.

Otherwise, we pretty much stayed inside for the weekend.  Better weather promised this week.

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Richard (Allison’s dad) asked how our vegie and tree plantings are going.  He gave us a good shove along on these at his last visit, and wants to see that we have carried through.

Our tree plantings have gone well.  They were planted expertly by our wwoofer team, and watered every day for a while.  Now we have regular showers, so they should be OK from here.  A few were planted not quite where I expected, but English has a word “serendipity” which means that some of those will turn out to be wonderful where they are now.

Our wwoofer Rachel has been brilliant at looking after the vegie seedlings in the greenhouse, and she has been planting them out progressively as they are big enough.

We made some big new rectangular vegetable beds, 1.2 metres wide so that they are easy to access from the side.  Some were built using the classic “no dig” method: layers of newspaper with compost and straw on top.  Another one was built by assembling a raw compost heap on top, and waiting for it to break down.  Some were recycled from last year’s potato beds.

All seem to be working OK, and have good soil.  The compost heap bed is doing the best.

We are still getting frosts here, so we put some polypipe hoops across the beds.  I tried to buy some “floating row cover” to provide protection, but my intended supplier is not answering email.  So I bought a roll of “frost blanket” from the Goulburn irrigation supply shop, half the price.

The problem is that “floating row cover” is meant to be permeable to rain, whereas “frost blanket” doesn’t seem to be.  Despite all our recent rain, the beds are drier than they should be.

So that we can water the beds, we’ve slung soaker hose (hose with little holes in it) under the hoops.  In theory, we can connect these up to our irrigation system and water them from the dam.  However the pump isn’t getting the water up to the high tank.  Shane our neighbour is going to check it for me this week.  It could be a problem with the priming, or there could be something blocking the pipe up the hill.

We’re also suffering a bit from the wind, which has been at gale force.  Even so, only one of the frost covers blew (mostly) off.  They are held on with home-made clips cut from polypipe.

However, we’re losing some of our seedling plants.  I’ll put some slug traps out (skins of a juiced orange) and see what turns up.  Or maybe the guineafowl are sneaking in under the sides.  They are meant to eat insects, but perhaps tasty seedlings are worth a nibble.

More chaos than usual

Our friends Jochen and Astridh bought a house in Goulburn, like all wise and fashionable folk.

They had a baby due in a couple of weeks, so the timing was getting fairly tight.  No problem, they were moving the weekend just past.

They had pizzas with us last Tuesday, then headed home.  So we were a little surprised to hear on Wednesday morning that baby had come early.  Must have been the pepperoni.

They moved this weekend anyway.  Our wwoofers were happy to help, as Jochen had been kind to them several times.  Astridh’s parents and sister came down too.  Jochen’s friend Anton came from Sydney.

In the circumstances, the move wasn’t particularly organised.  Things got thrown into boxes in random order, then sent to Goulburn for the crew there to unpack.

We started at 7.30 and went all day.  By the end of Saturday, Jochen and Astridh and baby were up and running as residents of Goulburn.  We all (16 of us) went out for Thai food at the Exchange Hotel — one of our favourites, and well priced.

This was also goodbye for wwoofer Timo, who is heading north for some more Australian adventure.

On Sunday we did some work with the horses.

My horse Paulie came close to foundering, where they get too much rich grass and their hooves break down.  Fortunately Jan spotted it early, so he’s on restricted rations and an exercise program.  Our wwoofer Julia is being wonderful with the horses, and has continued to train the foal, Gawaine.

This morning it was time to say goodbye to the Marvellous Miss Maud, who is now on her way back to France.  She wwoofed for us for five months, then worked in an outback roadhouse, then came back for a few weeks.  She is a wonderful friend, and has become a more confident person as a result of her adventures.  We will miss you Maud!!

Baby geese

We have had some baby geese hatch.  The eggs we found lying around the fields did no good,  but some of the eggs from the nest near the cemetary did hatch.

There were four babies.  Unfortunately, one of them died.

The incubator was very crowded, and one gosling was mostly out of its shell.  I tipped the shell on its side to slide the baby out, so I could take the shell out to make space.

Unfortunately the umbilical cord to the yolk was still intact, and it pulled some of the bowel out.  It did go back in later, but we found the baby dead a couple of days later.

One other baby came very late, and is small and weak.  Don’t know how well that one will do.

The other two goslings are fluffy and incredibly sweet.  They come to you for cuddles.  They are even more loveable than ducklings.

The geese had made another nest at the cemetary, which is a danger to the public.  So we took seven more eggs to empty that nest, and have put those in the incubator.

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I have mentioned that our friend Jan’s mother died a couple of weeks ago.  Her father has since had a heart attack and died a few days ago too.  So things are still a bit quiet around here, and not much horseriding lately.  Our wwoofer Julia did take Paulie riding one day without Jan, and she’s very good at training him.

We did have Jess and Phil and grandson Deacon here on the weekend.  Nothing significant happened, but it’s always nice to have the little fellow around.  He’s talking well now, and moving at high speed as they do.

Our friends Tony and Claire are moving to Goulburn next weekend, which will be great.  Goulburn is becoming a rather fashionable residential destination.  Houses here are half the price of Sydney or Canberra.

Currently we have four wwoofers: Timo (Germany), Rachel (England), Julia (Germany) as well as Maud (France) who is visiting us again after going around Australia.  Timo and Maud leave this weekend.

And I’m working again, which is a good thing, though I do miss seeing the farm during the day.