Friday, December 31, 2010

First Hooch of Summer - Cherry Melomel

Cherry Melomel - Duck Style

20 liters of rain water
12 liters of cherries
5 liters of honey (this equals 7 1/2 kg honey)

Hooch making is like life - there are some basic principles that are helpful, but really, you just make it up as you go along, using what you have at hand. My recipe today is, as usual, an adaptation from the beautiful "Wild Fermentation" bible of all things fermented and good.

The basic recipe is 1 cup of honey for every liter of water. In terms of fruit, try of at least 1 cup of fruit for every liter of water. If you are adding fruit juice (ie apple or pear juice for cyser or perri) I would go for not more than half juice half honey water - but thats just me, and REAL cider is just apple juice, not apple juice and honey water.

There is a lot of fruit in this I might be able to dilute it with more honey water in a week or so once it is time to take the fruit out.

Where did all those cherries come from?

Mr Duck and I have just spent the last few days eating drinking and laughing with the Ukrainians at Orange. We stayed HERE at the Borrodell Winery / Orchard/ Trufflery in a little cottage hidden in the orchard overlooking a dam and within view of Mt Canobolas.

In case you are wondering, we didn't arrive by helicopter, and we didn't stay in those posh cider houses.....we always rent the Chardonnay Cottage because it is so cute and has such a lovely view.

Last time we stayed here it was winter, and the apples, cherries and grapes were bare. It was SNOWING.

All this rain means that the Cherries are all split. Our lovely hosts suggested we help our selves, so we did, and here they are, in a new vat of Cherry Melomel.

Thats the thing about making your own cider / wine / hooch / mead - its all those lovely words.


need I go on.

Anyway I had forgotten how beautiful and fragrant hooch making is. All I need to do now is remember to stir and coo over these two big carboys for the next 5 days or so, waiting for the wild yeasts in the air and on the fruit to really get things going. Then I take the fruit out, put the lid on and pop in an airlock and just leave everything to ferment away for a few weeks. At some stage, once a bit of sedimentation has happened, it might be good to transfer the melomel to a new carboy and leave the lees behind. This produces a clearer wine, and prevents any funny taste that might eventuate because of the sediment. And at some stage, when fermentation has slowed, its time to bottle and get those little babies under the house.

Even after just one night I can see little white bubbles forming on the surface. And the SMELL - it is so lovely.

In other news, yesterday was our first hot day - perhaps 32 degrees? The girls on the front deck were hanging out on their own front porch after a hard day.

Finally it is warm enough to get in there and see how the honey situation is going. I will keep you posted.

That is all.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Tea Cosy #10

Well, here he is folks. Another Owlly. This time, made a bit bigger to fit my new blue tea pot.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Lotions and Potions

Last night I made another batch of beautiful moisturizer. You see, I WAS going to nick some of Queen Malina on the Front Deck's honey for Christmas pressies, but the weather hasn't been quite right for gettin' in there and mucking about.

Sooo, I worked up 2.5 liters of the good stuff. I have blogged about this before, but here is it again, just because I always forget how easy it is to make, and how SUPERIOR and SUBLIME the end product is.

The key principle is 1 part oil to 4 parts water plus 5% total volume in vegetable emulsifying wax, which is added to the oil part. Both components are heated separately but concurrently to 75 degrees Celsius, then the water part is poured into the oil part while stirring. Too easy!

Basically this is what I do:

  • 4 parts water or rose water
  • 1 part your favorite base oils (eg olive, macadamia nut, apricot kernel oil or a mixture)
  • 5% vegetable emulsyfying wax from here (ie if you have a combined oil and water total of 100mls, then use 5gms vegetable emulsifying wax)
  • Place wax in saucepan and melt gently. Add rest of oils.
  • Add water in separate saucepan
  • Heat contents of both saucepans to 75 degreees c
  • Add water into oil pan, whisking gently. Continue to whisk untill mixed.
  • Turn off heat. leave to cool, stiring accaisionally.
  • When mix is below 45 degrees add essential oils and preservative if you want to use it.
  • Poor into clean jars

Most recipes say to do this in double boilers, but I don't bother. In terms of preservative, I now use a combination of citric acid and potassium sorbate. From what I have read, potassium sorbate is an excellent non toxic, safe mold and yeast inhibitor, but it needs a lower PH (thus the citric acid) to work best. I really don't use very much (perhaps 2 teaspoons of citric acid in 2.5 liters of moisturizer, plus 1 teaspoon of potassium sorbate. Both are available from brewing supply shops.

If you are not using herbal teas in your moisturizer, you probably don't need to use any preservative. This time, I infused the oil in fresh chopped comfrey leaves for a few days, so I added the preservative just in case.

Well thats it - suddenly I have jars and jars of beautiful luscious moisturizer for Christmas Pressies.

In other news, and speaking of potions, the Cougar came for dinner last night and left us with TWO bottles of Wild Brumby Schnapps - so I am studiously working my way through the Pear William one first. Hopefully there will still be some of this left for Christmas, otherwise we will need to get started on the Butterscotch one. For those of you who do not know, this is the BEST SCHNAPPS in the WHOLE UNIVERSE. Get your self some now. Over the internets.

The Cougar did disappear on Queenie for a while. The race report was - "THOSE GEARS - they shift like butter." And he would be right.

that is all.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Mind over Matter

Yesterday I spent the WHOLE DAY IN BED. Once upon a time I would just push through my tiredness, but now I try and take a more enlightened approach. I don't want to be one of those people that when asked how they are, always replies "Tired".

At work, people wrongly assume I am super miss extrovert. But I am not. Basically I find humans EXHAUSTING, and frankly you have to pay me to spend much time with them being delightful. Its not that I don't enjoy my work, or LOVE the people I work with, its just that they are exhausting, and I need to pace myself.

So, after a few days on the road running lots of meetings and humans and mediocre food, my body says rest. And so I did.

It's taken a long time to stop pushing. I have a strong will and a strong mind, and I can bully my body into doing just about anything. It just comes at a cost.

This photo is me in a solo 24 hour mountain bike race in 2003. Once I could even bully my body into racing for 24 hours straight. I could even trick myself into thinking it is fun. But I don't do that any more. I get tired just thinking about the training and pain and pushing required to compete in endurance racing.*

Which makes riding Queenie in skirts and nice shoes at a sedate and dignified pace to get somewhere, not just riding for its own sake just so much more delightful. Queenie is the oposite of mountain-biking.

And sitting in bed taking phone calls from friends, working on tea cosy #10, drinking tea, reading the papers and generally mooching is fun. I want to be that person that listens to her body - who doesn't bully herself. Who is kind and loving and generous to herself as well as others.

the end.

*You do get to eat a lot of cake though, which is definitely a plus.

Friday, December 17, 2010

coming home

Thank you so much for all your warm fuzzies about Owlly. He really is so cute - I think I am going to make another - just for some more attention......

Just got back from two days in the Central West - Condobolin, West Whyalong and Temora. The Lachlan is in full swing. Everything is wet and lovely. We didn't get to go through Grenfell, because the roads are still flooded at Forbes, which means I didn't get to check on my FAVORITE wild peach tree, but from the looks of things there will be heaps of wild apples, peaches and nectarines this year......which means lots of wine and cyder. BRING IT ON.

On the way back we stopped in Murrumburrah, and in the Which Craft shop, which is a cool funky community owned cafe and craft place and I found THIS:

Happy Christmas to ME. I can't work out how it is made - sort of felted knitted, but somehow the layers are think or rolled, but it is so soft and luxurious, I need to work out how to do it in crochet........Anyway, while I work out how to replicate the effect, I can still use it as my new favorite tote bag.

In other news, these Sturmer apples are lookin' pretty sexy:

And did I mention how much I love Queenie?

Well, thats it for a Friday. Imagine having to WORK on a Friday. Unthinkable.

But I think I will get over it.

Must be time for a cuppa.

The end.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tea Cosy #9

There are no words.

Except BIG LOVE to the Grand Purl Baa for the recipe for the famous Australian owl tea cosy. Owlly, I have searched for your DNA pattern for many years, and how fitting that Loani brought you to me.

He is made out of OWLpacca wool - get it?

Queenie on the go

Today was our first seriously warm day. I have FINISHED my two big reports, so as a big fat reward, I took Queenie into Civic for a meeting and some shopping. Here is the view from above. If I was good, I would have taken the work car and given it to the little men to clean, wash, vacuum, de-mud with instructions to do something about the enduing food waste / compost smell from my work gear, gum boots and tools.

But I didn't. I took Queenie. Gliiidie Riiiiidie Queenie

And here is Queenie by the lake. Sans basket today. Plus cute pannier/shopping bag.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Bee Dance

There is a lot of bee dancing going on around here. Some of it is this lovely stuff above - where the girls dance on the vertical surface of the comb letting everyone know how to get to the motherload they just found. This is cool........the angle of straight part of her dance through the center of her figure 8 in relation to the vertical, is the angle the girls have to fly relative to the position of the sun. So the dance about the same blossoming tree would change during the day as the position of the sun shifted. What wouldn't change is the number of bum waggles, which indicate distance. Cool huh.

The other kind of bee dancing is the solitary, crazy, freaked out head slapping jig I tend to do when a guard bee happens to get stuck in my long hair and starts hysterically buzzing and moving inevitably towards my skull as she frantically tries to escape.

Its a race to see who can kill who first.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Quick visit to the garden

Moving right along.....

Things are going well in the tomato mahals........

I can't get over how gorgeous the flowers are on what I am now calling the "multi-pea". Yup, when they are young they are snow peas, when they are older they are sugar snaps, and then they are pea peas, and then they are dried peas for soup. The multi-pea, also known as a field pea, $1.20 / kg from the produce store.

And here are a few of my favorite things, all in one gorgeous bike, Queen Aprilia, my white nectarine tree (on the right), a compost pile, and the community garden in the back ground.

Queen Aprilia is on the move. She needs to end up over here:

Thats over 20 meters away. I can only mover her 1 meter at a time, otherwise everyone gets lost. And I can only move her after dark, when everyone is inside. So me and my secret service gal are going back down there soon, to do the second shift....

Sunday, December 12, 2010

this is not for you

Dear Bloggy Friends.
This post is not for you.

Dear Bloggy Hater
While I am actually delighted to be thought of as "irresponsible", I realize this is because you do not know me. I do wish you however, lots of love and kindness and perhaps a more generous spirit, and hope that Santa can bring you a nice little box of "sense of humor", a bag of "perspective", and perhaps, the insight to be able to determine that while this silly, light hearted, personal blog is chocker full of excellent tomatoes, beautiful bikes and luscious home made tea cosys, it may also contain exaggeration (for comic purposes only).


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Mr Duck and the Beast

Second tandem voyage today. Christmas is a great time to get a tandem - all those parties and afternoon teas. While I NEVER drink and drive, I can't say the same for drinking and riding.

I reckon we have clocked up 50km already.

Friday, December 10, 2010

the other eagle has landed

Meet the BEAST. Last night was our maiden voyage on our new tandem. We rode to the City (about 12 km) to meet some friends for dinner. Later that night we rode home through the uni and then around the lake - it was beautiful. Some of you may be aware that the ONC is full of water at the moment. Scrivener Dam was amazing. It may have been the wine and vodka (respectively), but we felt sure that the barricades across the bike path where the Yarrolumla creek flows into the river were not for us.

Pretty soon the flooding water was up over the bike path......I got off and took my shoes off (because I was wearing a skirt and nice shoes that would be ruined if they got wet). Mr Duck kept pushing our bike, which was designed by a Mr Onderwater by the way, and pretty soon I noticed that the water was up over my knees, and up over the expensive 7 speed internal hub of the beast. Did you know that the internal hub generator on the front kept working even though it was underwater as well? So our giggling adventure remained illuminated throughout. My understanding is that these bikes are tough, built to last forever in all weather but riding in over a foot of water may perhaps be pushing their robust design to the we turned around.

I am not sure if we have done any damage to the hubs......I hope not. But she is fun to ride - big, fat, slow and lumbering but fun. She seems to cope with gutter jumping just fine. It is very companionable cruising along together in the dark, chatting, joking, or just being silent, along the lake, through the forest after a nice night and a few drinkies.

And, now this is the REALLY cool bit, she is an AZOR, which I think is the same factory that made my Workcycles Secret Service frame. So they are like sisters really.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

rain from the north

So like, it is raining again. I can not tell you how much I am enjoying this crazy wet spring. The tent is still out on the lawn from Mr Duck's big adventure. It is going to go MOULDY before it drys enough to put away. Just when it is dry enough to turn inside out, it rains again. How QUEENSLANDish. Not ONCian at all.

The season has moved on from cherries to mulberries to mulberries AND raspberries. Breakfast has never been so delightful. I am wondering if I need to turn the salad garden into an expanded raspberry garden because bloody hell they are yummy. Mr Duck and I have a bowlful each morning with yogurt, perhaps some banana (NOT from our backyard) and for little me with the delicate constitution, some nice whey powder to keep me beefed up.

I am enjoying watching the fruit on the trees expanding. Things are looking promising for the peaches and peachcots. There is a deep joy to be had from a maturing garden. Some of the trees and vines are into their 3rd and 4th and even 5th years, and it shows. We almost have the whole year covered for fruit - one tree ripening as another one finishes.

It starts with an early cherry (an amazing old huge and productive tree), then an slightly less early cherry, and then the mulberries, and then the raspberries. I can't remember who comes next, I think it is the apricots (only 2 this year), and then a flat peach......peach, peach-cot, nectarines....and then the wild plums should turn up, then plums from friends, then plums from the front garden. Late roadside peaches from Grenfell are next, then the nashis. Somewhere in there, for the first time, I should get some vista bella apples (very early). Later in the season should come the sturmer apples, and finally, in May, the kiwis. Lemons, mostly in winter with a few throughout the year. Then there is a little lean patch until the early cherry kicks in again.

The pears are the newest additions to the family - I don't expect them to fruit for a couple of years yet.

Thats my fruit forest. You don't need a lot of room. You just need a lot of plants. And most of these can grow on top of one another, in a forest, even with more than one tree in each hole (duo planting).

If you are just starting out, or adapting an existing garden, Jackie French has a similar approach with her "Wilderness" garden.

Tea Cosy #8 finito

Well ladies, thank you for your very inspired suggestions. Feathers of course. However, then I started getting this picture of a big red rafflesia - you know, a CORPSE flower.

Like this:

See, this one:

And from the side:

I am not sure, but I am thinking it may be the first crocheted rafflesia in the blogosphere.........

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Tea Cosy #8

Dear bloggy friends. I need some help. I have been working on tea cosy #8. She is looking pretty nice. But what to put on top?

The body is made from the most beautiful alpaca wool from is just lovely to work with. Its only 5 ply, so I crochet two balls at once........

I can't seem to find my crocheted flower book. So then I was thinking some crocheted fruit. But perhaps she deserves / needs something more fluffy and in line with her current fluffiness............


Monday, November 29, 2010

Epic Adventure - but not mine!

Mr Duckherder decided to run to Blue Water Holes on Saturday. From our house. As the crow flies......well through the mountains anyway. This was an EPIC ADVENTURE up over huge mountain ranges and LOTS of wilderness and national park. Its only about 100 km!

A little welcoming committee drove for THREE HOURS in the rain to meet Mr Duck at Blue Water Holes camping area. Reedie ran out about 10km to meet him. After 13 hours, you can just see the two little specks coming down the valley. They had been challenged a little by a cranky brumby stallion just a little while ago, but there they are safe and sound.

Mr Duck put on a little burst of speed for the final hill up to our camp ground. Look at those little licorice legs.

They the rain settled in. We had a great night. Caught some trout. And only lost one car on the slippery climb out of the valley the next morning.

Here is the real story here:
Holder to Blue WaterHoles Run - Running - Spot

pedaling in the harvest

I was a GREAT season for garlic this year. It took four trips in my Secret Service Gal to get all 100 globes back from the garden!

I don't meant to gloat, but last week we harvest our FIRST TOMATO. It is a "swift", sewn early under lights, planted out in what is locally known as "The Tomato Hilton". Mr Duck had this for his birthday.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

food forest is go

The Cherry tree out the front is going great this year - not a big crop, but enough for a handful of cherries each day. The REAL buzz is coming from the mulberries. Above is a photo of the White Shatoot. This is a dwarfish mulberry - with amazingly long super sweet white berries. They are so yummi. And below is the more conventional black shatoot. These are more mulberry flavor, but not as sweet. But still huge and fat and yum.

Both trees are still a bit frost sensitive - not sure why. They have lots of dead branches, but where they grow back, the fruit is excellent.

the eagle has landed

As the UPS guy struggled through the gate with MY NEW BIKE he WAS heard to mutter "I'm guessing this isn't a racing bike" Ziva thinks that stuff from Amsterdam smells pretty good and set about trying to break her way into the box.

And look whats inside! My new Workcycles Secret Service bike. She is a big buxom beauty. I have been riding her all week. In my SKIRT! And cardigans. And nice shoes. No lycra. She is just too much fun. Pa Duck Herder has been in hospital all week, and I have been riding up there twice a day. Parking at the hospital is crazy but I can ride right on up and park just outside the door. I rode her to a business meeting yesterday. She is awesome.

She has a big rack at the front too. More photos to follow. Too much fun.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


I have to go to Gippsland for work this week. Some folks are happy to pay for my flights and accommodation and cups of tea n all in exchange for two days of "the world according to the duck". But Mr Duck and I kinda has this idea of doing a road trip down through Albury to see my gorgeous brother and his gorgeous family, and then adventuring through the Victorian Alps on the way. On paper it seemed like it would work, (as long as there was no washed out bridges or trees down on that mountain pass) but I was feeling unsettled and a bit stressed because I couldn't SEE in it my mind or imagine it happening.....and in the end I trusted my gut and booked a flight and promised my brother another weekend for a camping trip instead. And the unsettled feeling disappeared. Life is like that. You gotta trust your gut.

Just like waking up this morning KNOWING that even through So You Think is pretty and lovely, Americain was going to win the Melbourne Cup. Golly I wish I had put $100 on that feeling......13.8 to 1 odds.

You gotta trust your gut.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Things 'n stuff

Ok, so I know its like 3:00am. But what the hey. The nice thing about being a grown up is that it is completely acceptable to wake up at 3:00am, make a pot of tea and play on the internets. After all, when one works from home, one can have a nana nap in the afternoon if one needs.

Anyhoo, I know it is a weed, and not so good for ponies, but I love Patterson's Curse. I found a patch of the most luminous light blue & pink ones sprinkles in amongst the usual lovely purple and red ones. Nature is groovy like that.

And here is the first poppy of the season. hmmmmmm. poppies.

Remember those tomato, eggplant and capsicum seedlings I started a couple of months ago inside, under some lights? Well, it was their big day yesterday.

I am pretty happy with how they went. I took a gamble and planted them out into the green houses down at my plot on Monday.

Welcome the Tomato Mahal.

And the Eggplant Emporium.

And here is something special and delightful. Knitted by my mama. A new tea cosy. FOR ME!
. Now I know how awesome it is to be given a handmade tea cosy made with love. me like.

Monday, October 25, 2010

cycle chic in australia

I am still captured in the most delicious way by bicycle love. There are other lovely things happening - especially in the garden, but this is taking up lots of my head space. It could be linked to finally being happy here in the city and thinking muchly about how I make city living elegant and frugal and healthy and happy. Alternative transport - especially on ones deadly treadly is the way to go. I have sold my serious cyclo cross bike and am enjoying so much riding Selina up right in what ever I want to be wearing when I get there clothes. I feel liberated and free. I do not miss my lycra and my click on shoes that are unwearable off bike. This is all good because instead of a new car, I have a new bike (on order anyway). Mr Duck and I are determined to cope with just the one car and to go "car-lite" and far from being a drag its FUN and happy making.

Here is Mikael Colville-Anderson, founder of cycle chic, while he was in Australia last month. He says it better than me.

that is all for the moment.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

more bike love

My fickle ministrations have moved onto a workcycles secret service. She is the sporty spice version of the Oma. How is this for a description: "A modern workhorse. A fast, tough and stealthy city bike for the long haul." How any bike that weights more than 20kg can be described as stealthy escapes me however I am smitten. Imagine a bike that is designed to last a whole life time even while living outside in the snow.

While there ARE a few city style bikes available in Australia, none of them have the amazingly practical and usefull components of the workcycles bikes. Note the skirt guard, fenders, full chain case, hub dynamo for the lights which are mounted on the fork so that a front rack can be mounted to the frame. They rock.

In other news, Selina suffered the indignity of having a last century plastic woollies basket strapped to her new old pink rack. She is super practical now. I needed more boot capacity to carry the veggies back from the community garden, not to mention the milk and papers.....and the other night when I rode up the hill to a friends house for dinner, the two bottles of wine in her front basket almost bounced out - YIKES.

Despite the snow on the weekend, spring is here and it is time to get out on ya bikes.

I am getting good at only using the car for work trips out of town. Although I need to pick up some star pickets for the tomato tunnels this weekend......might need the car for that too.

that is all.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

in my brain

“Be Content with what you
have; rejoice in the way things
are. When you realize there is
nothing lacking, the whole
world belongs to you.”

- Lao Tzu

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Selina Selina I love you

OK, so she is just a tad on the small side but she is lovely to ride. I am having a bit of a bicycle epiphany and renaissance all in one.

Yesterday I rode Selina 11 km or so to Ma and Pa Duck Herder's for a cuppa, and then rode home. It was lovely. Today I rode down to the garden, did some weeding then off to the hardware store in Phillip and then home and then back to the garden and then home. Perhaps about 13km all up. The extra layer of rim tape seems to have fixed the exploding tube issue. I like not being in a rush, or "training" ie hurting. I like not driving. I Like Selina!

I need more storage space, so I took my pannier rack off my cyclo - cross bike. With a bit of stuffing around it will fit onto Selina. Its black which won't do at all, so I am spraying it PINK which is much better methinks.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Around the traps

We have MORE possum cuteness. Meet the second shift. These two turn up at 10:00pm, after Bitie has been and gone.

Today I got to see one of Eric's hives SWARM. One minute the air was FULL of bees, the next they were all clumped on this tree. It was beautiful. They are all in a box now, waiting to go to their new home.

And here is the garlic lookin good.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Bee Tradition - A new Bee Herder is Born.

Reprinted with kind permission from Elaine Supkis at

Its a tradition folks. A new bee herder should be gifted their first swarm of bees from another bee herder. And thats what happened tonight.

Some of Eric's girls at the community garden swarmed yesterday. I wasn't there but apparently they were BEAUTIFUL.

Anyway I rustled up some broccoli boxes and Eric pulled together some drawn out frames - some with honey and scooped up those little lovelies from the casurina trees into their temporary home.

Now I KNOW that Mr BVVF is a hankerin' for some stripy micro livestock of his own, so I suggested to Eric we see if he would like this particularly big and dark and lovely swarm, and he said yes. (hooray!)

So I phoned Mr BVVF who had serendipitously just purchased some second hand bee boxes, so it was perfect timing and all meant to bee.

Mr BVVF and I bundled his girls into the car tonight, and well, reports are mostly good. Apparently a GREAT NUMBER managed to get out on the trip home, and well, the latest report is that MOST are back in or on their box in their new home under some poplars, but it appears some may be spending the night in the car. oops.

The good news is that Mr BVVF is safe and well and remains at this early stage an unstung hero in the beekeeping world.

Congratulations Mr BVVF. Let me know when you want me to come out and give you a hand to move the kids into their new boxes.

Love Duckiexxx