Chickens, Choughs and chickpeas

It’s been an interesting week at Chez Fork. The older chooks have finally started laying again after nearly 6 months rest and our little black hen, having laid eggs for a month has now decided to go broody and get some ‘me’ time in the nesting box.

Earlier in week the chickens got quite a shock when a family of six White-winged Choughs decided to drop in for a breakfast visit. I know from a health perspective that having wild birds in the chook pen isn’t ideal, but when we let the girls into their larger run there isn’t much we can do to keep other birds out. In this case the choughs weren’t accessing the feeder, but were cleaning up some partially wet pellets I’d cleared out of the feeder earlier in the day.

Choughs
The choughs are very relaxed about helping themselves to some chook pellets

We have seen the chickens drive wild birds out of their pen so we found it a bit odd that they seemed quite intimidated by the choughs. I mean there are four chickens and even our smallest chicken is twice as big as a chough.

c&c
The confab at the Chez Fork Corral “What do we do now?”

On the cooking front I’ve been testing out some new recipes developed by the Queensland Country Women’s Association to promote a healthier approach to the afternoon tea table. The recipes they have been promoting include Bean Brownies and Orange Pistachio and Chickpea Cake. As you may gather from the title, the recipes incorporate alternative ingredients, as well as lower quantities of sugar. These two recipes are also gluten-free. I tried the bean brownies first. Although the flavour was good I found the actual brownie quite fragile in the way that most gluten-free baked goods are. As we do not have problems with gluten I plan to re-make this recipe using plain flour.

From the outset the Orange Pistachio and chickpea cake was much more successful. For a start I didn’t waste any time going gluten-free, I just substituted an equal quantity of plain flour for gluten free flour. I also used tangerines rather than oranges, as I had some that my friend had given me.

OPCcake
Dense and moist with great flavour

This cake has proved popular with all who have tried it. It has a moist crumb which is flavoured with the pistachio nuts and citrus. To finish it off I made a drizzle topping using some more of the tangerines. This one is staying in the repetoire.

Finally tonight we had a hearty vegetable soup including lots of greens from our garden.

vegs
Broccoli, broccoli leaves, bok choy flowers and leaves and parsley

Add in some smoked ham hock, courtesy of my partner’s annual pig processing and for additional flavour some of the dried mushrooms we foraged for earlier in autumn.

ham'n veg
Ham hock and veggies ready for the soup

Finally we had an extremely tasty bowl of hot soup.

soup
Soup for dinner!
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Stakes and cakes

I don’t think it’s much of a secret that I love using colour. One of my favourite tips for quickly bringing colour into my garden is to deploy some brightly painted stakes around the beds.

Stakes at use in the 3 sisters bed last year.
Stakes at use in the 3 sisters bed last year.

Yes, it might seem a bit of an effort to paint the stakes in the first place, but I find it one of those soothing, mindless activities, just right for a bit of post-Christmas relaxation. Not to mention the fun of going and looking at all the colour cards at the paint shop to select what I’m going to use. This time, apart from the intense Iris (blue/purple) and Yellow I’ve chosen a pastel Aqua blue. It will be interesting to see how it ‘works’ in the garden. I find that the stronger colours work really well against the greens of the veggie beds, but that could be due to the very intense light we have in Canberra.

Garden stakes in different sizes and colours.
Garden stakes in different sizes and colours.

I also have some friends who are not afraid of deploying a bit of colour. Last Sunday our spinning group (as in spinning and weaving) met for the traditional Rock Day, or St Distaff’s Day celebrations (7 January), the day when women traditionally resumed their work of spinning post-Christmas. It was a ‘bring a plate day’ where everyone bought food to share. The most colourful and also very tasty offering was this rainbow cake. Makes my garden stakes look quite subdued!

The Rainbow cake in all its splendour.
The Rainbow cake in all its splendour.