Sunday, September 22, 2013

My Trip to River Cottage Australia [Part 2: Lunch at River Cottage]

Saturday [Sept 7th] was the day I had really been looking forward to the most. I got to meet Paul West, who I admire greatly and shared similar passions to mine in regards to food, gardening and livestock rearing. For those who don't know, Paul West is the host of the TV series River Cottage Australia, recently aired on the Foxtel Lifestyle Channel.

River Cottage is only a few minutes outside Central Tilba. We met up with the other winners [Brenda, Sammy, Rebecca and Kealy] and our co-ordinator Artemis in Central Tilba and drove out there. As we rounded the bend, we got our first glimpse of River Cottage! Of course we all stopped and took photos!

River Cottage Australia

They really chose a gorgeous location, it's absolutely spectacular! The house is nestled in at the base of Mount Gulaga National Park.

Domineered by the mountains

Horses grazing with the Gulaga National Park as the backdrop.

Driving into the property
 On arrival we were greeted by Paul West and his fiancĂ©e Alisha. There were introductions all round, and then we were ushered inside the River Cottage homestead for some very appetising looking appetisers!

Extremely fresh local oysters, which I thoroughly enjoyed even with all my past oyster experiences being slimy and yuck! I guess it goes to show, the fresher it is, the better it tastes...especially with seafood.

The platter just looked amazing as it was! Local cheddar from South Coast Cheese, 'head cheese' made from one of the River Cottage pigs, a cranberry and rhubarb relish, sweet pickled gherkins and mustard.

And of course, what platter would be without a hot loaf, fresh from the oven?

Table set for lunch
The house was gorgeous inside! It has corner windows which are fantastic, you get amazing views from every window of the house. The whole place has this beautiful light and airy feel to it, and the most amazing vibe to it.

Outside the 'show' kitchen [there are two kitchens in the house], is a small deck leading out to the vegetable gardens and a chicken tractor with young Australorps.

Out the back were the chickens which Ember had a lot of fun with, and the pigs-which my partner was very interested in and almost got bitten by! He came back inside with a number of muddy snout marks on his pants!

Meeting the Australorps
The piggies!
Paul West picking produce for lunch

Bringing out the main meal
 Lunch was amazing! For starters we had fish tartare done in nasturtium leaves. The main was roast chicken and pork sirloin [from one of the River Cottage pigs], with an amazing egg and potato salad, garden salad, chopped broad beans and a pesto-I think it was at least!

Ember tried pinching Paul's lunch!

And that's not all! Dessert was a gorgeous Lemon Delicious pudding with stewed rhubarb and thick cream. It was suggested that this should become Australia's official dessert, and everyone at the table heartily agreed!

You can find a copy of Paul West's Lemon Delicious Pudding recipe on Rebecca's blog insidecuisine.

And if that dessert wasn't enough, there was more deliciousness on it's way out in the form of a salted caramel shortbread!

In the 'prep' kitchen after lunch [note the amazing view from the corner windows!]

Digger the River Cottage dog and star of the show [or at least he thinks he is]!

Me with Paul West
 The afternoon was amazing! So much lovely food and conversation with a group of amazing people and friends! I connected with some incredibly like minded people and shared something very special. I wish it could have gone on forever, and I'll never forget the people I met!

Punch the travelling wombat meets Felix the travelling duck!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

My Trip to River Cottage Australia [Part 1: Journey to Tilba]

Last weekend was probably the most exciting weekend I've had for quite awhile! But let me back track a little first!

On the 29th of August I got a phone call quite early in the morning [8:15 I think it was] telling me that I have won the River Cottage Australia competition!

The competition comprised of entering photos with a 200 word description of how I was 'living the River Cottage life at home'. As an avid gardener, cook, sewer, crafter and 'urban farmer' it was the PERFECT competition for me! I did a photo collage as my entry piece of different aspects of my garden, livestock and cooking.

The prize was flights for me and three guests to Central Tilba, accommodation, a brand new Subaru to drive in for the weekend, 2k spending money and lunch at River Cottage with the host of the show Paul West!

Needless to say I was a little over the moon when I found out I won! 

What was even more awesome was that Ember being under 2 years old wasn't counted as a guest, so we could take my grandparents with us on the trip!

We left Thursday [Sept 5th], flying to Melbourne, we stayed the night in Melbourne before catching a Rex [Regional Express] flight to Merimbula first thing in the morning. 

Ember was super excited to get so close to a real aeroplane!
At Merimbula airport we got given the keys to the brand new Subaru to drive around in [and an in depth run-down on how all the fancy bits worked]! Not that I was allowed to drive it, as I'm under 25 and Subaru had a policy that under 25's couldn't drive it!

After a quick stop off to hire a pram for the weekend, we started our leisurely drive north up the Sapphire Coast towards Central Tilba and River Cottage!

We stopped off at the mouth of the Bega River and had some fun on the sand collecting shells and driftwood, and drawing in the sand.

We saw a bit of wildlife on our journey up, mainly birds and the occasional wallaby. We crossed one creek and saw heaps of large fish. Later we found out they were mullet.
King Parrot


We spent a lot of time travelling over rivers and parts of lakes, including Wallaga Lake. Many of the bridges were made from large wooden sleepers which was a change.

Lake Wallaga

A view of Mt Gulaga from the road between Tilba Tilba and Central Tilba

We arrived in Central Tilba in the early afternoon and after unpacking all our bags into our gorgeous B&B rooms at Tilba Two Storey Bed and Breakfast, we had an explore of the township of Central Tilba. Everyone was so friendly-small town atmosphere-I love it! So many fascinating shops, including a dairy, leather shop, woodworking shop, lolly shop, candle shop and many others. 

Our room the "Dame Zara"

View from out the back
 We had a cooked breakfast provided each morning, and it was always so beautifully set!


Back of the Tilba Two-Storey
We spent our first night in Tilba having wood fired pizza from Carooma and a few goodies from the local shops. Tomorrow [Saturday] would bring a whole new adventure, the one I was looking forward to the most, our lunch at River Cottage!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Keeping Chickens: Feathers

Chickens are covered in feathers, except for their feet [unless you keep a feathered foot breed like Pekins]. Their feathers insulate them in the cold weather and keep them dry in light showers of rain. Their feather colour and patterning is what gives chickens their unique looks.

Moulted feathers from Gold and Silver Laced Wyandottes

They waterproof their feathers using oil from a special gland just above their tail in an action called Preening. Preening involves the cleaning and maintenance of each individual feather, realigning messed up feathers and removing debris.

Dustbathing is the action birds use to help keep themselves cool and parasite free. Feathers are very insulating and it can be hard to cool down with that insulating layer in the hot summer weather.

Chickens will find a cool spot and lie in the dirt, dig and flick dust and dirt into their feathers. This cool dirt on their skin helps cool their body temperature down. It also helps dislodge any parasites living in the feathers, dead skin and would probably soothe any bites.

Dustbathing is often a social affair.
In the right soil, they can dig themselves quite deep! My husband often refers to my chickens as 'echidna chickens' as some of their dustbathing holes can end up about 20cm deep! In the hotter months, dampening the soil in shaded areas will encourage them to dust bathe and keep cool.

Sunbaking is probably the oddest thing I have ever seen with chickens! Sometimes paired with dustbathing, it is an extraordinary thing to watch. The chickens will lie on the ground, wings and legs outstretched at odd angles, sometimes looking like they're dead!

Don't fret, this is a perfectly natural behaviour of birds, although they are not sure exactly why they sunbathe. Some ideas are that it helps the preening oil distribute across the feathers and to help rid their feathers of parasites.

Every year, chickens go through a moulting cycle, normally around autumn. They will lose their feathers and re-grow new ones.

Each bird will moult in it's individual way, but I think most can be sorted into two types of moulting. The 'here and there moult', where they will lose only a few feathers at a time, and they never really look scrawny. And then there is the 'explosive moult', where you walk out into the yard and think some animal has killed a chicken because of the amount of feathers in the yard! But then from around the corner walks an almost bald chicken!

Most chickens will stop or at least slow egg production whilst they moult and regrow their feathers. This is because they need protein to grow new feathers and to conserve their sources they stop laying.

It is important that chickens do get enough protein during their moulting, so you may need to supplement them with a little extra. Things like mince meat, mashed up cooked egg and meal worms are just some ideas for extra protein kicks.

Feather Eating
Eating dropped feathers is often witnessed around the same time as moulting. It is not a big problem normally and it shouldn't be worrying unless the birds start pulling feathers out of each other or themselves [see Feather Picking].

Feathers contain protein, so the chickens will often eat moulted feathers to gain that extra protein to help grow their new ones.

Feather Picking
Feather picking is a much bigger issue than feather eating. Feather picking is when chickens will pull feathers out of themselves or out of other chickens. They may eat them or they may not, and left to their own devices, it can become a big problem, leading to feather loss, wound formation, self trauma and even cannibalisation.

Feather picking is often caused by boredom and/or not enough space. Chickens are intelligent creatures and do need environmental enrichment. It is generally uncommon in backyard flocks, more often happens in commercial flocks, where they are caged or housed very tightly. Feather picking is often one reason rescued battery hens look so terrible.

Moulting time can cause feather picking and it is very different to feather eating [see Feather Eating]. It may mean the chickens are in desperate need of some extra protein. If this is the case, once they've had extra protein added to their diets, the feather picking should all but stop.

It can be caused also by a wound on a chicken, where the others take interest and peck at it, pulling feathers out and escalating from there. There is a blue wound spray [often used for horses] which you can spray on and around the wound to discourage pecking at it.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

New Kid on the Block

So I have a new kid on the block. Literally!

Meet Billy the Kidd!

Billy was bought into my work [I work at a vet clinic], after being found wandering the suburban streets nearby. He was very thin and riddled with parasites, only weighing in at 9kgs! So I took him home, as I do with any odd strays!

He's pretty friendly, my daughter loves to feed him! Still working on his leash walking skills...they're not doing so well. Stubborn thing!

We haven't managed to locate his owner, so he may become a permanent addition.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Cardboard Castle

Over the weekend I helped my friend's daughter to build a castle for a school project. It had to be relatively historically accurate, so we built a concentric castle [multiple walls] with a working drawbridge.

We had a lot of fun building it out of cardboard boxes, toilet rolls, poster tubes, chocolate boxes and pop-sticks.

The builds all can be removed. There is a keep with a 'princess tower', a church, tailor, blacksmith, stables, place of arms/fighting arena, a well and of course a working catapult!


Church and oratory.