The new season is on it's way, the chestnuts have begun to flower . We will have to rob our bee hives very soon to make sure that the next lot of honey after this current batch will be all chestnut honey. This current batch will be mostly Jarrah with a little red gum - my favourite . However I am eager to find out what chestnut flower honey tastes like.
Posted at 04:57 PM | Permalink
Back home at Chestnut Brae after the journey to study chestnut product production in Europe we were delighted to find that our shed extension is almost finished. So now we can move our office into the upstairs room and finally get ourselves sorted out and begin to find things again. We have now been in Carlotta for one year and we love our “farm change” . The people of Nannup are amazing. So friendly. I had no expectations about Nannup one year ago, as it was the chestnut farm we were buying. I wanted to get back to producing something again. And the chestnut farm as an opportunity to create niche added value products. The plan was to spend the first year learning about chestnuts and learning about farming and then in the second year begin adding value to the crop. The biggest surprise was Nannup and its community. We have never been made to feel so welcome and included anywhere ever before! The Nannup community is exceptional! So friendly! So caring! So...wonderful! The Nannup community is so diverse and totally fascinating. There are several sectors in the community that make it unique. There are the 1970's hippies who moved here to set up organic farms and get away from mainstream society, many of whom are still here and still living "Off the grid", there are university academics who have weekend cottages or weekend farms, and most of those are also living "Off the grid", there are the mainstream farmers who are the heart and soul of the country and are the most genuine and down to earth people you could ever hope to meet, there are the city folk who sold up in the city to follow their ideals of living sustainably and creating niche / boutique farms and niche products (I include us in that sector), there are "weekenders" people who just want to escape the city for a weekend and have their cottages here tucked away in piece of pristine forest, and there are those who just like country living rather than city living. That mix of people in the community make Nannup fascinating, interesting and unique. There is always something happening here and the community gets involved in a whole range of diverse activities and events.
Our farm for me is like a spiritual sanctuary, it recharges my soul and I have difficulty dragging myself away from the farm. But the retailers in town are enthusiastic and caring and interested in their customers. It is not easy to make a quick trip into town, as the journey becomes a social event and everyone I meet stops to chat. People actually care here and that is like a breath of fresh air too.
When we arrived home after having been away for several weeks, someone had been the day before and mowed our lawn for us. We don’t know who. Nobody has said anything. One of the wonderful Nannup fairies just came and did it. Where else could that happen?? I just love Nannup and this totally amazing community, a community like no other. Sabrina Hahn was heard to say that if Nannup could bottle the community spirit here it would be worth a fortune. She's right. The community spirit here is like a genie in a bottle - magical. Thank you Nannup for making our first year here such a joy-filled year and for making us feel so welcome. The first job home is to mow the orchards. I take the tractor with the slasher and slash between the rows and John takes the ride on mower and does around and between the trees. I don’t like doing the round the trees mowing as it makes me dizzy – I much prefer to drive the tractor up and down the rows. Then it’s time to start increasing our poultry. We bought some turkey chicks, heritage chickens, quail and ducklings. But unfortunately the chickens began to die from a virus, so we had to separate out the sick ones and treat them. In hindsight we probably should have just put them out of their misery straight away, but us soft city folk couldn’t do that. May be next time, although I hope there is no next time. We also traded in the pea hen on some other poultry. She was such a pooper!!! And always at the back door, plus she ate all our green veg in the veg garden. So as gorgeous as she was, she had to go. The turkeys and ducklings and chickens are much less messy and just as cute. Now the task is to start experimenting with some chestnut products. Yesterday I made some trial jars of Sweet Chestnut Puree, Chestnut Jam, Chestnutello and today some Cherry Chestnut Sauce. I will keep on making small batches of different things until I find a small range of products that I am happy with. The biggest challenge for me is that I have been sugar free for over 20 years and am also gluten free. I have developed my own range of recipes for our family that is Low GI, sugar free, gluten free and chemical free. But if I am going to sell products to the mainstream market then I feel I will have to use sugar because it is a preservative. That means I cannot even do taste tests to see what it tastes like – plus I probably would think it too sweet every time anyway – so it is a challenge at the moment, that I have not yet overcome.
Posted at 04:53 PM | Permalink
When we purchased Chestnut Brae in November last year, we were unaware that its garden had in years gone by been part of the Open Garden Scheme. It was rather overgrown when we bought it and we spent many weeks weeding and pruning and were delighted to find that the skeleton of a garden lay underneath. By mid December the roses began to bloom and lovely European plants came into flower. John had flown to Europe to work so he missed the flowering display. The colours were gorgeous – pinks, blues and purples and reminded me of photos I had seen of Monet’s Garden. I emailed John and said to him – Oh my goodness, we have a Monet’s garden here. So we decided to keep and build on that theme in future work we do in the garden.My plan at that time, was to visit France and Italy in October 2014 in time for Chestnut Season in Europe in order to study how chestnuts were harvested in Europe and to study what chestnut products are made in France and Italy to get ideas for what we could make with our chestnuts back home.Now that time has arrived and we had finished working in Belgium and with a day to spare and being within driving distance on the real Monet’s Garden decided it was too good an opportunity to pass up. We had to go and see the garden, even though it was out of season for the garden. Even out of season it was lovely. But even more inspiring was Monet’s approach to gardening. Planting as though he were painting the garden, in order to paint the garden. His thinking and approach to planting schemes were very inspiring and I could hardly wait to get home and start re-arranging the planting we had done. From Monet’s Garden we flew to Corsica to begin our study tour of chestnuts. A Swiss friend had told us that his father took his family to Corsica every year because they loved it so much and in Corsica everything was made from chestnuts. So we thought Corsica would be a good place to study adding value to chestnuts.Our friend was right, there were chestnut products that we had never thought of making sitting on the shelfs of artisan producer shops in almost every town. We had booked our accommodation in the mountains at Casa Capellini and Pierre-Francoise (our host at the B&B ) once he knew we had come to study chestnut products took us to his father's place so we could taste test his father’s chestnut ice cream. It was absolutely divine .Then he took us to meet a chestnut grower near his home. Turned out the grower is the president of the chestnut growers association in Corsica and he took us through his chestnut flour production and his chestnut orchard. His orchard is the same size as ours - so it was perfect to compare. They do things quite differently, so we are going to test out some his harvesting techniques. We have seen so many different chestnut products and different techniques for growing and harvesting chestnuts that we will be very busy deciding which products might work in WA and then experimenting in making them. Before I left home, knowing we would do some trekking in Corsica, I grabbed the bag containing my hiking boots from the cupboard containing my shoes, and threw the bag in my suitcase.
The other day we decided to go and climb a mountain in a national park. I pulled out the hiking boots and found they were a second pair of John's boots - size 11. Darn! What were John's boots doing on my shoe rack?
I had no choice but to put on his boots as it was Sunday and all the shops were closed and go and climb the mountain.
The scenery was beautiful and very rugged. Climbing the mountain in boots that fitted would have been a challenge, but climbing the mountain in boots 3 sizes too large, increased the stumble factor and made the climb even more ... interesting.And totally worthwhile.We bought some sheep cheese from a shepherd in his hut on the mountain.Before heading back to Corte for dinner before returning to our B&B.
After a day spent walking London and then travelling through Belgium and France I have noticed the following trends. High heels are definitely out, and flat heels are the go, although flat heels have always been popular in Europe as Europeans do a lot of walking in cities compared to the UK and Australia. But in a whole day in London I only saw 5 women wearing high heels, all the rest were flats – thank goodness we at last have some sense in fashion.UK has been the land of pastels for almost as long as I can remember, but it looks like the Brits are now moving toward stronger colours. Europe has always been stronger colours, probably as bright as we wear in Australia.Animal prints are still the go, with the fashion leaning toward leopard this year, plus fluffy animal faux- furs are still strong in the fashion scene. In addition calf hide is now appearing, especially in shoes and bags.Black and white prints are high fashion this year and dresses are making a strong return after many years. Men’s look suits have appeared but tailored and shaped for women.It is a pleasure to see that there is what appears to be an anti movement to our current and increasingly high tech lives with a desire to return to nature. I think that is why we are seeing animal prints, animal furs, flat heels, organic cafes, nature displays in stores, natural fibres in clothing such as bamboo and hemp, and people demanding more fresh products in fast food outlets such as apples and salads, and healthier options, although this is still not huge, but it is a trend that appears to be growing.Now we are in Corsica, a very down to earth lovely little French island and we are about to drive to the chestnut growing region so we can see what chestnut products are made here with a view to gleaning ideas for products back home.
Posted at 06:11 PM | Permalink
Today we toured Belgian garden centres and they are preparing for Christmas at present. I just love Belgian Christmas products they are so inspiring. In recent years in Australia the quality of Christmas products has declined to a point of same-old same-old boring “stuff”. The Belgians really know how to “decorate” for Christmas. Here are some of the displays I liked in Belgian garden centres.
Posted at 05:22 AM | Permalink
Met up with John in Edinburgh where he was teaching a Strategic Development workshop that looks at what small businesses need to do now in order to continue to be viable and to succeed in the coming years in today’s small business environment where consumers have changed their needs and wants, where social media and information technology has changed the way we communicate and the way we do business, where big corporations are killing off small family businesses who are not in tune with the changed consumer needs and wants, where consumers are beginning to realise the importance of shopping local but expect local businesses to provide new products that meet their changed needs and provide service that complies with a tech savvy shopper and educates and entertains and gives them the experience they are seeking. At the end of the workshop we have a few days off and headed north to Durness through the stunningly beautiful Scottish Highland countryside, then down the west coast which was even more spectacular. The rugged mountains and massive lochs are awe inspiring. John wanted to show me one of his favourite gardens. He thinks that Inverewe Gardens must be in the top 50 most beautiful gardens in the world. I just loved the Walled Garden in particular, and I have to agree it is a very beautiful garden. Plus I love these willow men sculptures in the walled garden. and the beautiful wrought iron work, like this gate. I can see that we are going to have start revamping our garden at home on the farm now. But in another couple of weeks we will be visiting Monet’s garden in France, so I am sure we will get even more ideas there and a heap more inspiration to revamp the garden after that visit as well.
Posted at 02:49 AM | Permalink
Off to Edinburgh tonight to meet up with John. Family are farm sitting for us. Part of the plan is to study how the Italians and French make chestnut products. I have been anxiously waiting for this study tour since we bought the chestnut farm 10 months ago. Hope I glean lots of ideas for some top selling chestnut products.
But first stop Edinburgh to meet up with my darling man .
Posted at 10:45 PM | Permalink
We have had our first WWOOFer with us since 26the June, so he has been
with us for 9 1/2 weeks, and in that time he has totally caught us up on
all the jobs we have had on our list of "to do's". he has helped with
pruning the chestnuts trees, and mowing the chestnut orchard, pruning the
plum orchard and stacking the prunings, burning bonfires, chopping wood,
picking daffodils for sale, cleaning the cool room and the crates, mending
broken doors and painting. He is from Taiwan and his name is Ming Ren.
He has been such a well mannered, polite and hard working young man that
he has been a pleasure to host on our farm. Today and yesterday he put
together a wood shed that had to be taken down to make way for the shed
extension. It was quite a jig saw figuring out what pieces belonged to it
and what went where. I had to take a photo of him next to his
construction when he had finished today. Ming Ren will be moving on to
his next host on Monday and I know they will not be disappointed.
Posted at 05:49 PM | Permalink