Saturday, 19 July 2014

Getting in amongst nature

Warning: this post is pic heavy!

We have been back to school for a week now. Back into routine of packing lunches, footy training and soccer games. The holidays flew so quickly that I felt like I could have done with an extra week!

We were all so tired after the school term. I was exhausted and just wanted to stay at home, and not go anywhere for a change. We didn't do too much.

The boys all went out and helped with some cattlework most days. I caught up on the mountain of washing. We did some dental appointments and a day of jobs in Dubbo. Some small cousins came to visit us and we did a day of Rugby in the middle.

At the end of the holidays I caught up with a good friend I went to school with in the Warrumbungles National Park. She has small children, and we decided to do a walk and have a picnic in the bush.

The Warrumbungles suffered devastating bushfires in January 2013. You can see how the area is recovering and regenerating from the fires a year and a half later now. I remember the night those fires started. It was the worst day possible for a fire to start. I think the temp was about 47.C and that night after the unrelenting heat the winds blew to a gale and lighting strikes started the fires. 53 homes were destroyed, but luckily there was no human life lost in the fires.

I haven't been to The Warrumbungles since I was a kid, and it seems ridiculous that it has been that long seeing as we live so close to them. I guess I was caught up before with the boys being smaller and in the baby stage with my youngest. And I didn't really relish the idea of carrying small tired children up and down mountains. So we were all pretty excited to go and do a walk.

So we met at the visitor's centre. Paid our $7 fee and got a map of where we could go. Some tracks are still closed, but most have reopened so there are plenty of walks to choose from.

We chose the Grand High Tops Walk. It is meant to take 5 hours and we thought that would be long enough to wear our kids out.


There are plenty of things to see along the way. The track runs along a creek and is quite flat most of the way for a few kilometres.

The Breadknife
On our way up there is a good vantage point to view "The Breadknife" on the way. We decided to press on and upwards. The track gets quite steep from here on in. It is tough, but we keep going.

When you get to the top of the paved track there are a few fights of stairs so you get the best view of the Warrumbungles. It is so gorgeous up here, and in my opinion, winter time is the best time to come up here. Provided you have a fine sunny day of course!

The face of The Breadknife

That domed building on the mountain is Siding Spring Observatory.

The view is magnificent up the top and we were told it was 8.6km. Turns out we find a sign at the top that says 5kms back to the carpark. So we actually did a 10km walk all up. The kids did so well to go that far without complaining or without begging to be carried some of the way.

The stairs to the top

5km up and 5 km down

It is a long way up.

You can see lots of regrowth here.

Once we managed to get back to our cars we were well and truly exhausted!

And hungry!

We drove around the other side of the park to the Canyon picnic area where you get a good view of Split Rock.

We could hear bleating and we spotted some wild goats near the top of Split Rock. There was about 20 of them all foraging away.

Wild goats on Split Rock

Split Rock

Picnic area

The creek.

Caves on Split Rock

Once we were all fed, the kids went exploring the lava flow from all the extinct volcanoes and the creek was a hit. Not much water in there, but plenty of rocks and it kept them entertained until the sun began to go down. We decided to go before it got too cold.


It is such a beautiful place, and I plan of spending more time here before the heat hits again. Now that I know the boys handled that walk well, we may have to climb Split Rock next time!

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Slow cooked lamb shanks

When it is freezing cold outside this is my go to meal in the winter months. My shanks come from our Wiltipoll sheep we kill for our own consumption on our farm. I was given this recipe by my mother-in-law many years ago, and I have tweaked it to include more legumes to bulk it up.
It is pretty easy to put together in the afternoon and throw it in the oven. It's a good one when you are entertaining, so you aren't slaving in the kitchen while you can be relaxing with your beer/wine and guests.


Gather your ingredients
Here are the massive shanks

In it all goes

Steaming hot out of the oven

Lamb Shanks

 4 Lamb shanks
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 medium sweet potatoes
2 brown onions
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
1 tin of chickpeas (Drained and rinsed)
1 tin of lentils (Drained and rinsed)
2 tablespoons of dried rosemary
2 tablespoons of minced garlic
1 tablespoon of dried Basil
1 tablespoon of dried oregano
1 litre of beef stock
Gather ingredients together and chop onions into slices, peel and chop sweet potatoes into large chunks.
Place large cast iron casserole (Le Creuset) dish on high heat on your stovetop. Put a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in the pan and place the lamb shanks in browning them all over.
Once they are browned, add onions and all the herbs and garlic. Brown them slightly.
Add the chickpeas, lentils and sweet potato browning them slightly too. Add tinned tomatoes and stir it all up mixing thoroughly.
Add the beef stock. You can alter the amount you use. I like to cover all the shanks and vegetables with it as it will reduce down with cooking.
Place in oven at 150 C. for about 2 - 2.5 hours. give it a stir occasionally to check it. I put the lid on after about an hour or so when the sauce has reduced a bit so I don't lose all the liquid.
You will know when it is ready as the meat will be tender and falling off the bone.
I served this with brown rice this time, you can use white rice, polenta, couscous. Really, it goes with any grains you may have on hand. It is healthy comfort food and oh so warming on our chilly winter nights.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

A three-legged cow

Have you ever seen a three-legged cow?


Me neither, until we discovered this.

We found this little one two years ago and we could hardly believe that we had a three-legged calf. It is extremely rare, and my husband had never come across one before. My husband's father had never come across one either, and between them both they have clocked up a lot of years producing beef cattle, so it was quite the unusual find.

We were surprised that it could get up off the ground with only one front leg after it's birth. I guess a lot of them can't, so this one is a proven fighter. The fact that it could get off the ground and keep up with the herd was amazing.

As you can see she was prancing around and happy as Larry with her mother. We named her Hoppy.

She ended up getting pregnant accidentally as we really didn't want her to get pregnant. We thought it may be too hard on her. The bull pushed through a fence, so here were with our pregnant heifer.


We were really worried for her as the bull was a Charolais and they produce huge calves. We waited and watched her every day.
When we went away for a football weekend, we got someone to check Hoppy for us as we were sure she was close to giving birth.

Fortunately for us she had her calf unassisted and while we were at home. A beautiful healthy calf. She is so good with her baby.

So glad she is ok since heifers are notorious for having trouble with their first calves. She should be alright now.

There you have it, the three-legged cow. She will hopefully produce many calves to come and she is pretty good company wandering the house paddock.