Monday, July 30, 2012

Hunter Valley Accommodation - Krinklewood Train carriages

We're all trying to recycle, reuse, refashion to live more sustainable lives. But Marie Garvey has taken the mantra to a whole new level.

Marie has been collecting old train carriages from around New South Wales and bringing them back to life as unique accommodations on her property nestled in the vineyards of Pokolbin.

She does most of the renovations herself -repannelling the cabins with rosewood, ceilings with pressed metal ... even sourcing thousands of authentic rivets.

The carriages vary in size and sleep between two and 12 people. Perfect for weddings, celebrations and family gatherings.

We stayed in the Royal carriage which captures the romanticism of the best of luxury train travel. Ever so comfortable bed, heating, soft lighting, kitchen, bathroom and toilet. And beautiful touches like the stained glass window Marie made herself and some original antique lights.

The pictures below show a carriage she is renovating at the moment. It should be spruced up and ready for its first guests for summer.

Krinklewood with its carriages under the gumtrees, kangaroos grazing in the paddocks, is a special experience for any traveller looking for a slice of a bygone era.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Micro- Winter green sprouts

Give these a try. In just 4 weeks you'll have some tasty nutritious micro-winter greens for your salads, sandwiches or to garnish your soups. The Diggers seed mix I used includes beetroot, mustard greens, kale and tatsoi. I sowed them straight into this pot using a good organic potting mix and a little cow manure to give my seedlings a boost. An occasional water and let the sun do the rest!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Wayside Chapel Roof garden in bloom

It's been a good week up here on the roof . Not too much rain and some bright sunny days that have brought out the flowers .... Beautiful heirloom pink and purple pea flowers, some traditional snow white ones, large papery pink hollyhocks and a few tiny wild strawberries. Come up for a visit sometime. It's magic up here.

Hunter Valley, Pokolbin - Peacock Hill Vineyard B&B

Why is it that the paradise on our doorstep tends to get overlooked? If the Hunter Valley was in Burgundy  - or Margaret River for that matter - Sydney-siders would be beating a path to its lush vineyards, world-class restaurants and jaw-droppin surrounds .... all just 2 1/2  hours drive away.

Instead the region is doing it tough. The high Australian dollar has driven down export sales and a glut of grapes has scene winemakers forced to multi-skill.
One of our favourite Hunter labels is the Peacock Hill Vineyard in Pokolbin. We've been keen members of George and Sylvi's wine club for several years now and are devotees of their
 individually-crafted boutique wines.

They have 20 hectares of vineyards planted with Shiraz,  Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Franc grapes. Their wines have been showered with awards.
Our favourites are their Godfather Chardonnay, Shiraz and their distinctive fortifieds. These are dedicated craftspeople following their passion, swimming against the mainstream and producing wine of true elegance.
They've even installed extensive rain-water tanks and solar-panel grids as part of their commitment to make their operation more sustainable.
They also have some lovely accommodation options. This is country hospitality at its best. We stayed in the spacious, two-bedroom apartment above the tasting room.
Wonderfully comfortable beds, large shower with great water pressure, flat screen TV, iPod and a chef's kitchen stocked with everything you need for a hearty cooked breakfast.
.. and a wonderful view overlooking a citrus orchard.
Isn't time to revisit the Hunter?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Recipe : The best scones ever

A warm winter's afternoon shouldn't be wasted. I have a girlfriend dropping in for afternoon tea. So of course I have to bake some scones. This recipe is from my lovely friend Ingrid who found it in a country women's cookbook. No wonder it's delicious and fool-proof.

3 cups self raising flour
1 tablespoon icing sugar
1 1/2 cups milk
... 2 tablespoons butter
Good pinch of salt
Pre-heat the oven to 250 degrees celsius.
Melt the butter in half the milk( I do this in a large mug in the microwave) and then add to the rest of the milk. Sift all the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Make a well in the centre and using a fork gently incorporate the milk mixture into the flour. The mix should be quite moist. Turn onto a floured bench. Press together being careful not to overwork the dough and cut into scones.
Place on a greased tray and bake until the tops are golden brown (about 15 mins). Serve with thick cream and your favourite jam.
I love this recipe because the scones develop a lovely crunchy crust but stay light and fluffy inside.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Worm Farm

Fresh from an inspiring weekend presenting at the Sustain Expo at Moore Park in Sydney, I've decided to install a worm farm. The Tumbleweed company were demonstrating a compact cylindrical unit called 'Can 'o Worms'.( It's a perfect size for a balcony. It gets delivered next week. I just have enough room to squeeze it in between the BBQ and the tap!
Can't wait to have my own fresh supply of worm juice for my edibles. Speaking of which.... during the next few weeks I'll need to start preparing some of the winter pots for their new spring tenants. It can be tedious work - digging out the old potting mix and replacing it with new soil, manure and compost - but I keep focussing on all those delicious edible crops that will soon be filling my balcony ... more cherry and grape tomatoes, eggplants, zucchinis, big pots of basil, carrots and radishes. Delicious Spring feasts await. In the meantime my current tenants are enjoying the burst of sun this morning

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

First pea flower

The balcony plants are lapping up this tiny burst of early Spring sun. They are twisting and turning to the warm light. The meyer lemons are heavy with juice, another flush of strawberries are peeking through their petals and the vines of the heirloom peas are curling their way up the trellis. Enjoy it while you can - a cool change will soon be upon us.