Lucie Thorne House Concert

We held another of our house concerts again on Saturday night. This time with Lucie Thorne. We have a couple of attempts to get her here in the past year, and this time all the stars were in alignment.

It was a very enjoyable afternoon/evening/night. Lucie is a very talented singer songwriter. We have all of her CD’s and enjoy listening to them a lot. So it is really nice to be able to have her here in our house for a few hours.

We particularly enjoyed our private performance when Lucie did her sound check.

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and everybody else enjoyed the full performance, later that night.

Lucie has developed her own individual style, a soft breathy vocal style and such a gentle lyrical guitar sound that she has developed from her hollow body electric guitar, but turned down to the lowest possible level, so that the sound just gently washes over you with a soft reverb effect. She doesn’t really strum the strings, but emotes through her fingers in keeping with the vocal line of the songs. It so individual and idiosyncratic. She is a totally engaging performer.  The music critic from the age described her music as “some of the most simple and beautiful songs you will hear” The Age.

We consider ourselves so lucky to be able to host her here in our house.

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We have already invited her to come back again next year.

Check out her links below for more information on Lucie and her music.

http://www.facebook.com/lucie.thorne

http://www.luciethorne.com

The Dam is Dry

The big dam is dry. We haven’t had significant rain heavy enough to flow water into the dam since March. The small dam is all but empty. I’m trying to save a small amount of water for firefighting – just in case.

 

This week I started watering the garden using the rain water stored in our water tanks. The weather continues very hot and dry in the mid thirties. The fruit tress in the orchards are really suffering. There isn’t enough water for every plant. The pot plants and vegetables get priority. We are starting to eat corn form the second planting of three lots of sweet corn. We have started picking from the second planting of zucchinis and tomatoes, even the third planting of cucumbers. It may be hot and dry, but we still eat well with carrots and beetroot still doing well.

 

The new zucchini plants are just coming into their own now and flowering profusly. it’s time again for stuffed zucchini flowers. A 50/50 mix of ricotta and finely diced feta for texture, mixed with a few olives, capers, artichoke hearts and an anchovy, all finely diced.

 

These are pan fried in just a hint of olive oil, just to stop them sticking and covered to allow them to sweat out and steam in their own juices. It’s a lovely seasonal meal, as the flowers are only profuse for the first month of the plants 3 month productive life. All the old plants that we planted as seeds in September were down to just one small zucchini per day, when these Xmas planted seeds started producing this week.

The old zucchinis are now on the compost and caulis, broccoli and cabbages are now planted in their place.

 

Summer Intern

This time last year we had a summer intern called Lauge from Denmark. He was terrific. A great cook and so helpful with everything that we had to do. He wanted to experience all the environmentally sustainable ceramics activities that we engage with here, from vegetable gardening through to rock crushing and making clays as well as kiln building and rock glazes.

This year we have Catherine and her husband HansPeter from Switzerland. We spend 5 weeks together and get a lot done. She particularly wants to learn  all about my kiln building techniques. She helps me build 3 different kilns over the summer break. We work on finishing kiln number 301 and then we build 2 new prototypes for the portable, dual fuel, little wood fired kilns.

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These smaller monocoque framed little kilns are so much easier to move around and line. It’s such a pleasant experience compared to having to rotate the bigger heavy kilns.

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As well as ceramics, Catherine is a trained blacksmith in Switzerland. The combination of a few metal working skills along with ceramics is an advantage in this ceramic kiln building workshop.

Roasted capsicums and home made pizza for the musicians

We have hosted the local musicians in our home after the monthly ‘session’ in the village hall. I decide to make pizzas.

I roast a few red capsicums and peel them after sweating them off in a plastic bag for 20 mins. Then peel them and dress them with a little oil and vinegar.

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As the weather continues to be very hot. We are invited to our neighbours home for the afternoon/evening for a swim in the pool and a BBQ. Such is summer. We are very lucky to have such generous neighbours.

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After all this fun and good times, it’s back to work in the kiln factory. I still have to finish one order from last year and then I have 10 kilns ordered for this new year. I’m actually trying to cut down and retire from so much kiln work but these are orders and they mean guaranteed income.

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This is kiln number 301 and hopefully my last of the big heavy ones. My amazing and highly skilled friend Warren and I pose for a final photo in this last kiln. From now on I will be concentrating on the small light-weight portable dual fuel wood fired kilns.

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These hot days

We have been enjoying, or perhaps suffering, a few hot days this week.

The mercury hit 44oC on the back verandah yesterday. Far too hot to try and very much that was physical out side or even in the kiln shed. I stayed inside after watering the vegetable garden in the morning. I read a book instead. It was really the only sensible thing do.We had watered everything the night before as well, but as the heat set in and built up, the plants wilted and lay down. By the afternoon the sweet corn was frazzled and its leaves white and papery dry. I hope that it survives!

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It was so hot that even the candles suffered erectile disfunction!

2017, so long and thanks for all the fish

As this year slowly fades into the next, without a bang or a whimper, each day arrives and passes in a heat haze of small summer jobs around the house and gardens. I service all the fire fighting pumps. We have 4 or them. Cleaning the air filters and changing the oil, ready for any fire emergency that might crop up in this heat. These pumps are used for other jobs throughout the year, for garden irrigation, roof sprinklers on the house and workshop roofs for cooling on the hottest days and water transfer from tank to tank, this occasional work keeps them in good working order, so that I know that I can rely on them in any emergency.

We had a couple of weekend workshops of garden maintenance, with a couple of our pottery students and friends helping us get the garden back up to speed after our long absence OS in the late spring . They earned themselves a free raku firing workshop  ticket in the winter for their trouble. A very special thanks to all those friends who helped us out during the past 12 months, your friendship and support is greatly appreciated.

The garden is now producing a lot of food for us and will continue to do so into the future, with the germination and growth of all the seeds that we planted. We have successive plantings of corn, beans and zucchinis, etc. to keep us going.

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We have enjoyed a number of lovely meals recently from the garden. Our protein is mostly sea food based, as we have a very good fish man that drives up from the coast a couple of days a week. We often bake a whole fish and boil the bones to make a stock that we can use later to make something else. Recently I pan-fried a whole trout in olive oil and garlic, stuffed with lemon thyme from the garden and dressed with lemon juice and crushed almonds. I finished it under alfoil to slowly steam it through, de-glazed with a little splash of chardonnay and a dash of fresh cream before serving it with some steamed kippfler potatoes. I didn’t get any complaints and I made a good stock of the bones.

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Not only do I get a very good glutinous richly flavoured stock from the bones, but then the Spice Girls (chooks) get a nice surprise for breakfast the next day.

Many meals at this time of year start to look like variations on ratatouille, with mixtures of tomatoes, egg plant, zucchinis and capsicums. I try to mix it up a little using the fish stock to make a blond garden risotto, with Pumpkin, zucchini, caps, garlic and onion. I add a little pinch of saffron and Janine brings in a sprig of fresh oregano to help it along a little. I finish it with a chunk of butter to make it extra creamy and smooth.

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Later, we bake a snapper in the same way, except , this time I use some of the days tomato passata to simmer it with the days vegetable pick.

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I take the time to clean, scrub, oil and then re-wax the kitchen table.

 Someone once told me that I should oil my handmade furniture once a day for a week, then once a week for a month, once a month for a year and then annually after that. So now is the time for such small details to add up and need addressing. I refuse to go into the factory or the workshop for this precious week between Xmas and new year to do  kiln work. Instead I work at all the other jobs that need doing annually, like this one. A change is as good as a holiday! It’s been a busy year with trips to China, Adelaide, Canberra, Cambodia, Korea, then Japan and Korea and Japan again. Plus the launch of my new book ‘5 Stones’ at my big show of my 15 years of research into single stone porcelain at Watters Gallery. I still haven’t written up all of the recent Japanese trip yet. Maybe in the new year.

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I do go into the workshop many times through this week, but it is to get tools that I need for maintenance and to do repairs on household items.

I will go back to work on the 2nd after our Swiss Intern arrives for a 6 week stay with us. We will be busy making single stone porcelain and building kilns after she has settled in.

Last year we had Lauge from Denmark, this year it will be Catherine from Switzerland. Something to look forward to. However, before that, we will have our annual New Years day recovery party to welcome the new year in and I will be cooking up a selection  of our garden produce for that.

Boxing Day Domestic Meditations

Before we head off to have out Xmas lunch, we are up early to harvest the summer largesse from the garden and orchards. We have been picking a few nice red tomatoes each day since mid December. Our earliest crop ever. Due largely to the fact that I started them off under an improvised cloche in September before we went overseas. This beat the frosts and kept them warm to get them started off earlier in the year. It’s the first time that I have attempted this and it has worked very well.

Now we can harvest a basket full of tomatoes each week. So we have been making small amounts of Tomato passata since the week before Xmas. This morning I put on a Jan Garbarek CD and settle in for an hour to shell a big bowl full of beans the have got away and are not as nice as they could have been if I’d got to them earlier. I have been picking, blanching and freezing them each week to keep up. There are some big scarlet runners, some lumpy french climbers and smaller bush beans. I need to harvest them every couple of days to keep them flowering. Today I decide to shell the larger ones and cook them down into a dish of beans in Tomato sauce.

  

Janine has been chopping and mashing the bigger ripe tomatoes in a large copper boiler to render them down for more passata. This is pretty simple to make. We just cut up the tomatoes, Place them in the pot and mash them with a potato masher and let them boil down in their own juice. After they cool, we will put them through the kitchen sieve to remove the seeds and skins, before re-heating to concentrate the flavour and them vacuum bottle them for later in the year.

 

 

I steal a ladle full of her tomato sauce and add it to the beans in a small pot and add a tiny knob of our home-grown garlic and one of our dried chilis. I set it one small burner to slowly simmer and get stuck into slicing all the small tomatoes in half for drying. It’s a cool morning, so it’s OK to have the stove on.

We are all done by 10.00 am.