La Petite Mort

A favourite, quick snack at Tansley Farm is what we like to call La Petite Mort.

Step 1. I like to use a nice, fresh sourdough bread cut into medium-thick slices. A pain paysan would work as well, but a typical baguette might be slightly less interesting.


Step 2: Drizzle some robust olive oil (from Tansley Farm, of course) over the bread until it soaks in a little. You could do this step after the cheese (see Step 3), but the cheese can prevent the bread from taking up a lot of the oil.


Step 3. Spread some fresh chèvre goat cheese over the oil. We use our own, raw-milk chèvre.


Step 4. Ideally, you now want to sprinkle some piment d’Espelette over the cheese, but this can be hard to come by in Australia. A great alternative is some cracked pepper.


There you have it — I know you will love your petite mort as much as I do.




2015 L’Orpheline ‘Sauvage’ sparkling cider now available

It is with some pride that we are now ‘officially’ releasing our 2015 L’Orpheline Sauvage sparkling cider. It is without doubt our best cider yet, with a little dance of bubbles on the palette, a clean taste and dry finish. I like to explain to people that it is best appreciated as ‘champagne’ made from apples, because it is probably the apéro most similar to that famous bubbly wine from France.

This year’s Sauvage is made from two apple varieties — red Jonathan & granny smith — and it is about 7% alcohol by volume (a little stronger, but smoother, than the 2014 vintage).

I also tried something a little different this year, but you need a little Cider-Making 101 to understand why this change was important.

Unlike in the juice from grapes, wild yeasts (and we only ever use wild-yeast fermentation in the barrel) tend to have a little trouble surviving on apple juice alone, which means that ciders fermented this natural way tend to finish fermenting well before all the sugars are consumed. This results in ciders that tend to be on the sweet side, and also why completely dry ciders like L’Orpheline are exceedingly rare (especially in Australia; think of the ciders you typically get on tap in the pub).


Gigi and Nöelle

A friend was over the other day,

Nöelle in a box

Nöelle in a box, coming home

and he brought up a particular French cheese that he knew of, didn’t I love this one?

I told him that I hadn’t heard of it, so no, I didn’t know if I did. He looked at me, surprised, and said (only sort of kidding) what, don’t you know everything there is to know about French cheeses?

I see we need to get something clear here: I don’t have dairy goats because I love cheese. I make cheese because I love dairy goats.

As a farmer, I wasn’t always this way.


Kale salad with nouvelle olive oil

kale and silverbeet

Winter greens in the Tansley Farm garden

When winter is in full swing, I crave dark, vitamin-packed kale salads.

And winter is well and truly here. We are tired. It was an amazing harvest season; everything was top-notch. It began in early spring with mountains of gorgeous eggs, then launched into summer with luscious tomatoes, cucumbers and celery; then blackberries and boysenberries, and cherries from Cowlings. There were litres and litres of milk from Gigi and Noëlle, until the cheese cave was overflowing with ageing beauties. Then in autumn, the apples were ready – a tonne from our little orphan trees! Pears went into jars and the freezer, poached and their saffron scented syrup saved for winter cocktails. We dried walnuts in the sun and stored them safely in metal bins in the cellar or shelled in the freezer. And did we mention vintage? A barrel and a half of pinot noir, tasting amazing already, gently ticking away until bottling at the end of the year. Then finally, the olives. It was a stunner of a crop, but after a harvest season like we have had, who would expect anything else?

And so we are tired, and so grateful for the season’s bounty, and so ready for the rest that winter brings.

Summer is for crisp cucumber, sweet tomatoes and delicate lettuce, but winter is fresh carrots, radishes, and mountains of thinly sliced kale, doused with soy sauce, vinegar and lashings of our spicy nouvelle oil.


Beautiful apples!

Apples, apples, apples! Wow, what a year we have had!

Northern Spy

A Northern Spy apple, a variety discovered around 1800 in Upstate New York and happily growing on Tansley Farm.

On Tansley farm, we have five heirloom varieties of apples. The trees are a remnant of an orchard probably planted in the 1950s or ‘60s. Thirteen trees are left to their beautiful, gnarled and twisted ways, allowed to grow how they want with no irrigation, pruning or spraying. The only fertilisers they get are the packages left by our sheep and chickens.

Due in part to our hands-off approach, our yield varies wildly from year to year, and that is okay with us. Some years the fruit set is minimal but the individual fruits are large (and then the parrots come visiting and it is all over, red rover), other years the fruit set is great but the apples are tiny. This year, we had the best of both – great-sized fruit and lots of it.

We tasted the apples day by day, waiting until they were ripe. And then one evening just before sunset, a massive flock of sulphur crested cockatoos, 50 or more birds, descended on our trees. Oh no! We watched in helpless horror as they snacked their way through the branches, dropping those deemed not worthy. In a matter of minutes, we watched a quarter of the crop fall to the ground.

So we got Hamish and Siri – Go GO run RUN! We sent the dogs, yelping and barking, up the hill thundering like a pair of racehorses. They were intent on a running game, not seeing the birds, but our encouragement had them worked up into a joyous frenzy as they raced through the trees, spooking the flock off to some other hapless farmer.

The parrots always let you know when your fruit is ready, and if you are lucky you are there to get the message. Typically, you will wait and taste and wait and taste and then you wait one more day… and when you go out in happy anticipation with your basket you arrive at the tree and they are all gone. Sigh.

So we were fortunate to witness the onslaught and trooped out bright and early the next morning to harvest. All day long we picked apples, hauling them up and down the hill to the shed at the bottom and the ute at the top. In the end, we collected a tonne from our beloved trees, filling every picking bin we had, despite the losses from the previous day AND leaving plenty for the parrots in the branches too high for us to pick. What a glorious harvest.

So the L’Orpheline 2015 is now pressed and in barrel and will develop for a bit and then will be bottled. Look out for her in spring!

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