Turning the corner

We’ve passed the winter solstice. I always hold this out as a faint hope for Allison: the days are getting longer now and spring approaches.

Nonsense, she says, this is when the really cold weather starts… Which I have to agree is usually the case. We have great weather most of the year, but winter here is tough.

But last Saturday was glorious, like the golden autumn days we usually get so many of. (Except this year.) Saturday was warm enough to be outside in a t-shirt, a great day for wandering about the farm chatting to the horses and alpacas. We’ve been rare visitors lately.

Sunday was also quite acceptable, but with a little bit of cool breeze. But who’s complaining.

We’ve had reasonable weather lately, including a couple of heavy frosts on sunny mornings, and this week looks like it will be OK. But cold weather is coming again from mid-next-week.

My theory on living in Canberra or Goulburn is that you need an aunt with a holiday house on the coast, for a couple of days’ respite in the middle of winter. Which we don’t have. Allison has a sister in warmer climes and sometimes sneaks up there for a bit, and in fact she’s going to the US for a few days soon with her work.

But for me it’s another couple of months of cold weather, wood fires and a chance to focus on my family history hobby. Which is not all bad.

Making the best of a cold weekend

Last Saturday, we had the local Landcare club over.

The plan was to have a nice sunny winter day, and have a medieval campfire lunch in our feasting tent.  Usually we just weed the Yarra Community Park and eat some yummy slices (which is all very well…) but we thought it might be fun to give them a taste of medieval life.

Alas, Saturday turned out to be windy and freezing cold.  Not wanting to be responsible for the collective deaths of many of our neighbours, we moved inside, with a little campfire in the orchard to meet the minimum requirement.

We had a great time anyway — they are a fabulous group.  We did a beef and turnip stew (as hearty winter fare), an onion tart, some heirloom carrots in a spicy juice, and some berry fool.  And our friend Elva brought along some fruit and an outrageous amount of chocolate.  (Which I think we’ll agree is honorary medieval food.)

Sunday was the first of our “pot luck” dinners for our medieval group in Goulburn.  This was at the Guide Hall, and we had about 15 of us there, including Master Del visiting from the Sydney SCA.

Members brought all sorts of dishes along.  I made hedgehogs and another onion tart.  Allison did the purple and yellow carrots again, and some rather gorgeous custard tarts in a cinnamon pastry.  But we didn’t win the competition: our mate Georgia did by cheating — she made home-made period pasta (like a macaroni cheese) and went so low as to provide some documentation on the original recipe!  All bets are off for next time.

We had a very pleasant evening with our friends, and are looking forward to the next one.

D’s birthday

We had Allison’s grandson staying with us for the weekend. And we held his 3rd birthday party.

Allison made chocolate crackles, tiny jellies and a radioactively green birthday cake. Plus some “adult” chocolate crackles with 80% bitter chocolate and a brandy coffee cream topping.

My contribution was jelly cakes, a nostalgic trip back to my 1960s childhood.

There were a couple of technical issues with my first attempt, so I looked them up on Google. The closest to my mum’s were those by Kylie Kwong. She’s not quite clear on why her Chinese mother was making these in the 1960s, but they’re just the same.

I cooked a plain packet cake in a patty pan tin, then coated the cakes in nearly-set jelly, then coconut. To get the full effect, it’s best to use a cheap jelly with as much artificial colouring as you can find. Luminous pink is what you’re after. I used two packs, but one was port wine flavour and a bit dark for this job.

They were delicious. My mum used to put some whipped cream in the middle, which I’ll do next time.

He had one playmate, the son of our new friend Kim. Deacon and Andrew played beautifully together, despite all the sugar.  The favourite game was — throwing rocks in the dam.

On Sunday we drove to Allison’s parents’ place for dinner, and dropped off D.   He was rather disappointed not to be coming back to the farm.

We played the 500 card game with Allison’s parents. The boys won, not surprising given that I had the joker and most of the bowers nearly every hand.  I can’t remember such a good run.

The seasons have turned

It’s now officially winter — in Australia it starts on 1 June, usually a pretty good match for the subjective seasons though it got cold early this year.

We have no wwoofers right now.  We haven’t had many enquiries actually, as they quite understandably go north this time of year.  I get the impression that there’s a lot less wwoofers around anyway — maybe airfares are higher.  I’m surprised we don’t have more Europeans, given the limited employment options in many parts.  For some reason, there are never wwoofers from Greece or Portugal, and few from Spain.  We’ve had some  from Ireland, where there are still tough times.

It suits us to have a bit of time to ourselves.  We’ve had wwoofers continuously for nearly three years now, so it’s handy to have a break.  We’re scrubbing the guest house and getting a bit more together time.

Our funds are still tight from my few months between work assignments, so we’re continuing to economise.  In general, we’ve pulled back pretty much to home base.  Kind of like trees losing last year’s leaves and building quiet momentum towards the spring.

There’s not much in the garden; with the late Easter we kind of missed our winter vegetables.  A few hardy perennials, like silverbeet and kale and sorrel, and we still have some leeks and the last greenhouse tomatoes.  I know there’s lots of self-sown seeds waiting to burst forth as it warms up.

The whole garden is a bit untidy.  Our whipper-snipper (line trimmer?) has disappeared, perhaps left at Landcare.  .  At least the grass is short, carefully pruned by the regular frosts.  I’d better prune soon, as I noticed buds coming up on a fruit tree yesterday.  We’ll shortly have to order seeds, make up our soil cubes and get the greenhouse ready for seedlings again.

Our local medieval club seems to have some new buds too, largely of its own volition.  There’s some new faces, and a weekly meeting starting up at the Guide Hall in town.  Some monthly pot luck dinners starting soon.   Our friend Tig in particular has some new energy,  which seems to be catching.  The coming seasons could be really interesting.