Sunday, December 30, 2012

Appointment of Head Gardener at Willowbrook...


With me going to Australia for a year, we have appointed a new full-time gardener and farm manager to help Peter look after the grounds and animals. He has extensive training as a landscape gardener and groundsman; is handy with engines and machinery, and loves animals: so is ideal for the job.

The gardening itself has now become a full-time job, it is no wonder that many country estates employed a whole staff of gardeners to look after their grounds...



Friday, December 28, 2012

Our herd doubles...


Just before Christmas we doubled our Boer goat herd, with an additional 6 Does. They came from a lovely couple who had bred boer goats for years and had won several breed shows with their goats. They however wanted to spend more time with their family, and so were looking for a good home for their last few goats and someone had mentioned us. And we were delighted to have them.

We had got some large wooden cable drums from a friend, for them to play on...


And we have kitted  out every paddock with a new shelter in the corner, which can accommodate up to 25 small animals of most varieties...



Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Message...


Wishing all our dear readers and followers a very merry Christmas, and all the best for 2013. 

2012 has been such a challenging year on the farm, in the gardens, and advancing the grand building plan at Willowbrook. It has also been a very challenging year personally with specialist exams, new vocational responsibilities, and decisions to emigrate for a year. But with that all behind us, at least for now, We can turn our thoughts to celebration and reflection upon our accomplishments. We hope that this festive season is one of joy, and that you are all surrounded by the warmth and love of friends and family. May you too relax, and marvel at the year that was before tackling the new year with all its possibilities.

Blessings +
David and Peter Lord Cowell

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Mince Pies...


Tis the season to be jolly, and in our family to relax the belt a notch. The religiosity of the feast aside, Christmas day, for us, has always been the time when food is abundant, heavenly sweet and spiced aromas float out of the kitchen, the uplifting mixtures flow freely, and the family banter abounds.

This year we are at sixes and sevens with me packing up to emigrate, with little time to spend preparing elaborate recipes.  We have been invited to a traditional Polish Christmas celebration with friends, which starts on Christmas eve, is punctuated by Midnight Mass, and continues with celebrations well into the early hours. Then we will have our usual extended family luncheon, this year at my grandparents' house; and then a standing Boxing day feast with our Urban Family.

I haven't had to make a Christmas cake this year, as our recent house guests brought us one of their own magnificent home made masterpieces. But, wanting to feel just a little bit creative on the culinary front, I thought my brother and I should turn our hands to making batches of fruit mince pies...


To start off with One will need ingredients for the sweet short pastry, lots of candied peel, 2 apples, dried fruit and spices, and lashings of brandy (I usually use Grand Marnier orange brandy or Chambord framboise).


For the fruit mince finely chop the apples, glace cherries, candied orange and lemon peel, ginger, currants, sultanas, and any other dried fruit you like. Add to a large mixing bowl. Add spices to taste (I use allspice, cinnamon  and nutmeg, with a little mixed spice). Douse liberally with a brandy of your choice. Set aside to imbue.


For the pastry I follow a standard short pastry recipe: 1 cup of plain flour, 75g (2.6oz) of butter, 1/4 cup of fine sugar, 1 egg yolk and a tablespoon of water.

Sift the flour into a bowl and cut in butter until it resembles fine breadcrumb. Stir in sugar, add the egg yolk and the water. Mix into a stiff dough, and then chill for half an hour prior to use. This will make about 400g (4/5 lb) of pastry. One can also add a teaspoon of mixed spice to the ingredients if you wish.

Once chilled, roll your pastry out onto a nice cool surface...


Once it is about 3-4mm thick, use a 7cm cutter to cut as many rounds of pastry as One needs for One's patty pan...


Line your patty pan with the rounds, and prick the pastry well with fork tines, then blind bake in a medium oven for 10 minutes or until lightly baked. (You don't strictly need to blind bake the bottoms, but I find they turn out better and last longer if the bottoms are crisper).


Once the bottoms have been cooked fill the cases with One's fruit mince and cover with more pastry rounds cut with a 6cm cutter. Brushing the edges of the bases with some beaten egg will help the tops to stick to the bottoms, and One can use the left over egg to glaze the tops. 


Bake again in a medium-hot oven (Ca. 180C / 350F) for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove, cool, and dust with icing sugar...


Alternatively you can make a lattice design for the top of the pies or decorate them however you wish. Enjoy with a glass of mulled wine.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Boys Fishing Trip 3...Third Time Lucky.


Over the last few days my Dad and I went trout fishing on one of the lakes in South Waikato, Waipapa. This lake forms part of the Waikato river, between the Maraetai hydroelectric dam, and Waipapa hydroelectric dam. Maraetai is the largest of the 8 hydro Dams on the Waikato river system, and Waipapa the smallest. The Waipapa section is also supplied by the Waipapa river, which starts in the Pureora forrest park, and flows eastwards out into the lake...


It is a stunning part of the country, and is only an hour away from Willowbrook. Here is a view of some of the park, from one of the highest bridges in the north island...



We had lovely weather. The lake was a flat as a millpond...


until you got up close to the Maraetai dam outlet...
 
Above: You can see some of the penstocks of the dam. 

Below: The penstocks during its construction in 1953


Fast flowing water...

The area is rich with native birdlife as well as fish. We saw a family of black swans...

you can hear the Tuis and other birds in the background over the swan honks...

This is the still pond where we caught most of the trout. It is just where the Waipapa river flows into the lake... 




Further upstream Dad showed me a waterfall that he used to hike up 30 years ago... 

  




We went harling in the water between the lake and the waterfall, as well as fly casting. We caught about 14 trout, 6 of which we threw back, and 8 we could keep...

  


Here is some footage of landing a small trout...

Bounty, Day 1...

On the first night we baked our trout. We seasoned them with salt, pepper, ginger, mustard, lemon, dill and capers...


On the second night we smoked our trout, seasoning them with salt, pepper, ginger, lemon, and brown sugar, before smoking them with Manuka wood chips...


Mmmmm. So, third time lucky, I finally caught some of these elusive trout. 

We are hoping to fit in some deep sea fishing around Christmas, before I leave for Dubbo.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Cat's out of the Bag...

Well, I guess it's time to let the cat out of the bag and say that I am leaving NZ and Willowbrook behind...


Now that I have my fellowship, I am off to greener pastures (in all reality, probably browner pastures) and crossing over to Millie's side of the ditch to work in Australia for a year.

This is in part because I think it will be a great experience working in a rural environment (having worked in the same tertiary hospital for the last 10 years; and with construction on Willowbrook looking like it will start in the next 3 months, I have chosen to exploit the significant pay disparity between Aussi and NZ, for a little while at least.

Above: Dubbo Main Street

I am going to be based in a town called Dubbo, in rural NSW. I am not sure what it is like as a place to live or what leisure options will be open to me, but I am sure I will make a go of it.



Peter is going to stay here and look after the gardens and farm. That will be a little hard on both of us, but we are agreed that this is a sensible thing to do, and I know that every opportunity has an expiry date.

Dubbo is famous for its Zoo...


and its rodeos and cowboys...


Beyond that I am not sure what to expect. It will be a busy job I'm sure, as Dubbo Base Hospital, where I will be working, has 24 ''feeder hospitals'' and services a catchment population of 300,000 people.

Never fear dear readers -with Peter's photographic help and the marvels of the interweb I will continue to blog about Willowbrook et cetera whilst over there.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Orchard...

It has been lovely weather recently, which has allowed us to get out into the garden and to do a lot. Here are some pictures of the Orchard after it had been mown in preparation for a party...


Above: The first tree we planted at Willowbrook - a dual grafted apple tree.



Above and  below: Piling the mown grass around the base of each tree for mulch.



Perfect rows...


Friday, December 14, 2012

A Decade of Memories...

It was 10 years ago today that Peter and I met, when I was working in the Emergency Dept of The Royal London Hospital. Little did we know that 10 years later we would be on the other side of the world embarking on Willowbrook, nor that we would go through all that has lain in between. I don't think either of us would change a thing.

Amicus Tuus Semper Ero




Thursday, December 13, 2012

Chilling Beauty...



Kirk's posting of all the snow in the UK reminded me how much I miss the chilling beauty of an English winter wonderland. It's a stark contrast to the hay making weather here. For all of those bloggers in the northern hemisphere, wrap up warmly, and enjoy every snow flake.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

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