Nana Glen Mum

Wood Fired Duck…. April 16, 2010

A few weeks ago, my brother and his girlfriend Eloise popped down to visit for 2 nights on their way through to Canberra.  We had promised them, that in their honour, we would slaughter one of our birds for dinner.  Being as they are somewhat partial to duck, and we had 2 drakes, we decided duck it is!  Steve and I are both members of a food forum and are quite passionate not only about what we eat, but the preparation as well, so we decided to document the process from duck pen to plate.  There are some photos of a beheaded duck, so if you don’t like that sort of thing, now would be a good time to click to another page.  If you truly love good honest food, and appreciate where it comes from, then read on!

The duck of choice was Frank, the one in the foreground.  Why you say?  Well, for one, the other drake is much larger and better looking, so if we ever want to sell or swap, he would be a better choice.  Also, poor old Frank hurt his leg 2 days earlier and was hobbling around, so we may have had to put him down anyway.

Hubby is in charge of “Catch and Dispatch“, so he took Steve outside as his trusty assistant.  I’m not sure how much help he was though, because he managed to take quite a few photos during the process!

Once the “deed” was done, they brought the duck inside where I had filled one sink with boiling water and a few drops of detergent.  We dunked the duck a couple of times (the hot water and detergent help dissolve the fat that holds the feathers in and keeps the duck waterproof),

then Eloise and I set about plucking the duck (and yes I must admit, the old Hey Hey It’s Saturday Plucka Duck song was going through my head at the time) while Steve took some more photos.

I was beginning to notice that our city boy was taking lots of photos of EVERYONE ELSE doing all the work, and so far had managed to avoid getting his hands dirty all together!  Ha ha says I to myself, I know just the job for him!

When we had finished plucking, I handed the duck and a sharp knife to Steve and said “here you go, you’re turn to do something.”  I figured he could get the gizzards out (at this stage I knew how much they smell, but he didn’t).

He was pretty keen to get in to the action, to be fair, until that waft came out and went straight up his nose.  “Oh, don’t they smell like that when you buy them from the shop” I giggle!

Anyway to be fair, he did a good job (despite the wrinkled up nose and funny look on his face – where was the camera then eh???), we kept the liver for the sauce and gave the remainder of the giblets to Chloe our trusty dog.

Waste not want not!  Next job was to clean out the cavity and rinse the bird thoroughly.

Back inside, and the duck was plunged into a large pot of boiling water, this is to open all the pores to allow the fat to ooze out during the cooking process and provide maximum crispiness to the skin.

After a few minutes, we took it out, and dried it off thoroughly with the hair dryer (and people reckon I never use it!  Meh!  Although I must admit I did send the hair dryer photo to my hairdresser!  Hee hee hee!!!)

Next stage was to season the duck with salt and pepper, drizzle it with a bit of olive oil, and place it on a bed of chopped veggies, whole garlic cloves and various herbs from the garden.

Then in to the oven it went.  No, not your standard gas or electric oven, in to the wood fired oven!  Yum yum yum!

When the duck was cooked, we put some bread rolls in to cook while the meat rested (and yes, a few smirky comments were made about me having “buns in the oven”), and quickly made up the liver sauce to pour on top, eh voila…..

Roast Duck Nana Glen style!  Is Yumalicious a word?  If not, it should be, because that is what this dinner was!

If you liked these photos, you can see more of Steve’s awesome pics on his Flickr page here.

 

And with a new day, we have new babies!! October 5, 2009

Chicks, chicks and more chicks!  I love baby chicks!

Chicks, chicks and more chicks! I love baby chicks!

Yep, the babies have arrived at last!  Twenty of them in fact!!!

Arent they gorgeous!!!

Aren't they gorgeous!!!

And here are some more…

Whitey the White White with some of her new chicks...

Whitey the White White with some of her new chicks...

I know they aren’t the best pics, but we had to move Whitey the White White as it was (her nesting box was too high and we were worried the chicks might fall and get hurt), and Pecky lived up to her name and decided to have a go at Whitey’s chicks.

We’ve put up a temporary barrier now though so they both have their own space with their individual broods.   Inside, we are up to day 22 with the incubator, so all things going well, we stop turning the eggs in 3 days time, and hopefully the ducklings and turkey will start to hatch in 6!  Exciting times!

Out in the garden, spring is in full swing.  If only we could get some decent rain, actually any rain would be nice!  I’m starting to worry the tank is going to run dry again, and I am so sick of having to drink town water!  We had 2mm rain this morning, just enough to dampen the soil, but I may have to get out there with the hose again this afternoon and water the seedlings.  The new

Baby Peaches

Baby Peaches

fruit trees all seem to be establishing themselves well.  We have 5 baby peaches growing beautifully, and both lime trees are heavily laden with tiny little limes the size of a ladybug!  So cute!  The cumquat is throwing heaps of new leaves and the grape must have quadrupled in size in the few weeks we

Kaffir Limes budding

Kaffir Limes budding

have had it.  It’s going to be fantastic when it reaches up to the verandah and we have shade from the hot summer morning sun, not to mentions the luscious fruit!  The dragonfruit is growing well, and if anyone has any suggestions on how to trellis it, I am all ears!  It is supposed to be a climber of

Yep, these were nothing but a single raspberry cane this time last year!

Yep, these were nothing but a single raspberry cane this time last year!

sorts, but it doesn’t throw out tendrils!?!?!?  We have finally put the 2 kiwi fruit in the ground now.  Matthew put up 3 star pickets and some chook wire down the front of the block for them, and they seem to be settling in well.  The grapefruit has dropped its “bridal bouquet” as Ange called it and replaced it

My u-beaut home made worm farm

My u-beaut home made worm farm

with more fruit than you would find at a greengrocer!  For such a small tree that has been in the ground for such a small time, I can’t believe it!  I think I will be having to cull quite a few of the fruit so they don’t snap the branches.  Mind you, if it fruits like that every year, I’ll be making heaps of marmalade and grapefruit pate de fruits!  Yummy!

Freshly picked peas and a little visitor

Freshly picked peas and a little visitor

All the seedlings I had been raising in the broccoli boxes are now in the ground too.  We have 5 varieties of tomato and tomatillo, beetroot, daikon, jicama, sweet corn, 3 varieties of eggplant, golden zucchini and lebanese cucumbers and on and on goes the list.  Now that they are all in the ground, I’m hoping they’ll take off for a bumper summer harvest!  The most exciting thing in the garden at the moment though, is my new herb garden.  It is huge!  I’ve put it smack bang in the middle of the front yard so I can gaze upon it as I wash the dishes.

My new herb garden

My new herb garden

It’s right at the bottom of the front steps, so nice and convenient access to both the kitchen and the wood fired ovens.  It has 16 different herbs and about a dozen or so different lettuces and salad greens.  I’m really looking forward to when the growth takes off in there.  It is going to look spectacular as well as taste divine!  Seriously, how could you not love fresh food?  I did have a chuckle to myself the other day as I pottered about the garden.  My how my wardrobe has changed in 18 months!  Gone are the Dianna Ferrari frocks, Whittner shoes and handbags, makeup and high heels!  Now I get about in either gumboots or riding boots with old faded jeans, a long sleeved cotton check shirt (gotta be sun smart!!), and an akubra! Laughed my backside off at myself!

 

My Homemade Egg Incubator September 21, 2009

As I said in the previous post, we have lots and lots of babies on the way.  I had started collecting duck eggs from Daisy and Danny about 2 weeks ago as we figured we needed more ducks over summer to keep the grass down, and because their eggs are just so amazing for baking.  We had collected half a dozen or so when our friend Monica from Lowanna rang and asked if we had any broody chooks.  After the last hatch, Specky took over the brood and Pecky stayed on the nest.  Whitey the White White was also starting to spend alot of time on the nest too, so we said yep.  A few days later we drove up the hill and she gave us shoebox with 23 naked neck eggs!  We were absolutely over the moon!  Then, as the icing on the cake, she caught me admiring her male turkey as he strutted around the yard, so she gave me a turkey egg from their nest also!  So now, we have 23 chicken eggs under the 2 hens, and 7 duck eggs and 1 turkey egg in the incubator inside!

After the failure of our last 3 ducks eggs hatching, I decided I needed to finesse the incubator a bit.  The last lot only died in the final few days, and I think I actually drowned them in my efforts to keep the humidity levels high enough.  I had read you could spray the eggs with a water mister, but I think I continued spraying too long.  After they had clearly died, you could see dark brown droplets on the inside of the egg.  This time I decided I would do better.  The first couple of days I had them in a small fish tank which I had lined with styrofoam, but the temperature was fluctuating wildly, so I decided to make a new one from scratch and take photos along the way incase anyone who reads this decides to have a go.

I began with a styrofoam broccoli box from the greengrocer.

Styrofoam Broccoli Box

Styrofoam Broccoli Box

Alot of fruit and veg shops give them away, or at most they cost about $1.  No great expense, but they seal well and have fantastic insulating properties (they will also keep champagne on ice for 3 days lol!!)

Next I cut out a hole in the side with a sharp knife.  I find that a SHARP smooth blade knife (not serrated) cuts best with minimal mess.  Serrated knives just send bits of styrofoam EVERYWHERE (ask me how I know!!).  I tried to keep it as neat as possible as I would be replacing the square back in the hole later.

Cut a hole in the side

Cut a hole in the side

I’d love to tell you how big to cut the hole, but that depends on the size of your switch box, so you just have to eyeball it and dive on in!  Next step is to cut off one corner from the piece you have removed to enable the power cord to pass through.

Cut off one corner

Cut off one corner

Next is the tricky part if you are not used to electrical wiring.  If you are lucky like me, you might have a friend who knows what they are doing.  With the promise of a home made wood fired pizza, my wonderful friend up the road was able to wire a dimmer switch to a lightbulb, and screw the lightbulb into a piece of wood.  (Thanks Craig – you are the best!!)

The Wiring

The Wiring

You could have the dimmer switch mounted, but he said that by putting it into a switch box (I think that’s what he called it), I could move it into a larger incubator down the track if I needed to, or move the set up into a brooder box when they hatch.  I also wanted to be able to turn the dimmer from outside the box if possible.

Dimmer Switch outside the box

Dimmer Switch outside the box

Light Bulb inside the box

Light Bulb inside the box

Now you need to pass either the dimmer switch box or the light fitting through the hole you have just cut and replace the square “plug” with the cord coming through the cut off corner so the light is on the inside of the box and the switch is on the outside.

Replace the styrofoam plug

Replace the styrofoam "plug"

View from inside

View from inside

Next part is the fan.  If you have an old computer lying around, pull the fan out.  It looks like this:

Computer Fan

Computer Fan

If you don’t have an old computer lying around, you can pick these up for a couple of dollars at a computer repair or electrical shop.  This one is a 12V fan.  It had a big double plastic plug on it, so I cut them off, stripped back the wire coating a bit and put on a pair of 5mm Tab Connecters.  I went searching for a battery to run it off, but they don’t sell them at the supermarket.  I found one at Dick Smith Electronics though, and luckily enough, Matthew had a 12V battery charger in the garage.  I put the fan inside the box, and passed the wires through the same hole as the light bulb’s cord so that the battery could be on the outside of the unit –

Fan wires and 12 V battery

Fan wires and 12 V battery

2 reasons for this.  One is, the less “bits and pieces” you have inside the box, the more eggs you can fit in, and secondly, I don’t have to open the box to remove the battery when it needs charging.

External Battery and Dimmer Switch

External Battery and Dimmer Switch

Okay, you are almost there.  As I mentioned earlier, high humidity levels are required (around 80%).  I’ve been able to achieve this by placing dishes of water inside the incubator.  By placing a face washer and sponge in the water, it breaks the surface tension of the water and provides a greater surface area for it to evaporate from.  At the moment, it is sitting on or extremely close to 81% quite consistently.

Water dishes for humidity

Water dishes for humidity

So how do I measure the humidity I hear you ask.  A lot more easily than most I am guessing.  From all the reading and research I have been doing, most people run a wet/dry bulb thermometer system.  this requires to bulb thermometers, one with a wick, and then you have to cross reference the temperatures on a chart.  Too hard!  For a couple of dollars at your local electrical store (Dick Smith to the rescue again), you can pick up a small weather station like this:

Thermometer and Hygrometer

Thermometer and Hygrometer

As you can see, this one has 2 temperature readings and a % Humidity reading.  I place the unit at one end of the eggs, and the external temperature probe at the other end of the eggs, this way I can see the temperature all the way around.  It also makes figuring out the humidity a whole lot easier as it is right there on the screen for you!  Gotta love technology eh?

Thermometer and Hygrometer in position

Thermometer and Hygrometer in position

Some people set their incubators up with a window to take the readings through, but I figure I need to open it up regularly to turn the eggs and also to get some fresh air in, so I’m not really bothered with it being inside the unit.  The blue matting on the floor of the incubator is non-slip matting from the $2 shop.  It stops the eggs rolling around and keeps them in the position you put them in when you turn them, as they can try to go back to their previous position depending on how the air sac is sitting.

This next photo is to show you how I have aligned the light bulb for heat, water dishes for humidity, and fan for circulation.

The important bits

The important bits

So now that all of this is done, you can put your eggs in and start incubating!!

Pop the eggs in and start incubating!

Pop the eggs in and start incubating!

Just quickly, try and get this set up before you get your eggs so you can run it for a day or 2 to get the temperature and humidity levels right.  I record the readings each time I turn the eggs on a chart I made:

Record Sheet

Record Sheet

This way I can monitor the readings and keep track of how many turns I am up to for the day – you need to turn them an odd number of times each day so they are not sitting on the same side for an extended period (ie through the night) as they can stick to the inside of the shell if this happens.

Well, that’s about it for now.  We are up to day 7, so check back in another 21 days and hopefully we will be pipping!!

 

Spring is on the way! August 12, 2009

Kaffir Lime leaves and their knobbly fruit

Kaffir Lime leaves and their knobbly fruit

We may only be 2 weeks into the final month of winter, but spring can’t be too far away. The horse has begun to shed and 2 of our chickens…Pecky – on the left – (she likes to peck at food) and Specky – on the right – (a speckled brown)

Pecky

Pecky

have both gone broody. We popped a few of Daisy’s (our female Indian Runner

Specky

Specky

Duck) eggs under them when they first went broody as all she want to do is run around, eat, splash and “play” with the drake!! A few days later, we were given ten naked neck eggs believed to be fertile from lovely Monica who gave us the chickens. (No they don’t have mange, they are Transylvanian Naked Neck Chickens – also known as Turkens in the US) So, we have popped them under the chooks also. Hopefully in the next week either Daisy or one of the other chickens will go broody also so we can separate out the duck eggs, otherwise we will just have to take them out and try for ducklings later on. We figure it’s not really fair to expect mamma hens to raise clutches of half chicks, half ducklings!

Blueberry Flowers

Blueberry Flowers

Out in the garden are other signs of spring. One blueberry bush is covered in flowers while the

Blueberry Fruit Forming

Blueberry Fruit Forming

other is actually starting to form fruit! Very exciting for us as this will be our first ever crop of blueberries. On the subject of berries, the mulberry tree

Mulberry beginning to bud

Mulberry beginning to bud

is sprouting leaves and also budding flowers. Hopefully we will get our first crop of them also this year. We are keeping our fingers crossed for a nice abundant spring and summer as this is the first year the plants will have been in long enough as they only went in last year. We
have a single lonely Chinese Bell chilli left on the bush after I had picked all the red ones to make curried chilli with (super yum – I’ll post the recipe), but hopefully with the onset of spring, we will get some more. Up in my green house, I have planted about 18 different varieties of herbs and a couple of fruit trees, all from seed. The first few are beginning to pop their heads out of the soil, so far the thyme, marjoram, chamomile and zaatar have all popped up to say hello, as have some of the sunflowers. I am really excited as they are not your standard yellow sunflowers, but will flower in a range from yellow to orange, through to a crimson red!

The lonely Chinese Bell Chillie

They almost look like gerberas. The peas are all giving us pods daily now and we have planted a second lot, and the bok choy is enormous – much to the delight of the chooks and ducks who tuck in to it for their green fodder each day. My first 3 purple cabbages are forming heads and the daikon are growing quickly too! Our mixed lettuce are probably nearing the end of their run, but I do have some new lettuces on their way up. I am really looking forward to giving some baby cos to my friend over the road who has promised me a big bowl of her delicious Caesar Salad in return!