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!

How to make chickens

Look what I made!

Look what I made!

As I started the incubator last week for the first hatch of the season, I thought I would write a bit about what I have learned over the years about hatching and raising chicks. Last summer, I had a major flock-growing season, so I am pretty good for layers at the moment- I may hatch 10 or so for myself to replace some of the old girls, but this first batch is for our good friends at Ngeringa winery, who want to add more chickens to their vineyard pest control flock.

Making chickens is by far my favourite farm activity. I love little peeping chicks; I love broody, clucky mother hens. I love the signals she gives them as she teaches them to be chickens- observing this relationship resonates with my primal soul. As a human being, I think that you cannot help but be moved by the clear display of attentive motherhood in another species. Unless there is something wrong with you, of course.


What’s in a Name?

When we first moved to the farm, sheep were surprisingly hard to come by.

Prices were at record highs and no one had any to spare. Of course, I had my heart set on dorpers, with their crisp back heads and necks, their shedding ability and their stocky bodies, good for the butcher. Unfortunately, at the time they were quite trendy and with that and the general sheep shortage they were almost impossible to buy.

Spring came; a very wet spring after a very wet winter and the grass sprang to life, grass everywhere, up to my knees.

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