It’s been a week of long, cold days and even colder nights.
Farming life isn’t always new growth and adventure. It can be a little heartbreaking at times too.
That was the case when grass tetany hit us on Friday morning. It’s a deadly magnesium deficiency in cattle brought about by lack of sunshine and cold weather.
Blocks had been put out in preparation but it just wasn’t enough in this case. Old cows are particularly susceptible and this old girl didn’t make it through the cold night.
We’ve been feeding out Causmag – a magnesium-rich powder which is spread over hay (and covers everyone and everything with a fine white powder).
Yesterday was also the first time I have witnessed Dean and Dad do a bit of recipe development – making special licks for the cattle containing the Causmag. Apparently the powder is good for the cattle but tastes awful. You can’t reason with them so it takes some sugar to entice them to eat it.
By some sugar I mean big buckets of molasses that has to be warmed to get it moving and mixed. Not an easy feat on a cold day.
There was much discussion on the correct ratio of salt to powder to molasses. Their operation wouldn’t pass a health inspector’s test - the brew was created out the front of the shed and stirred with an old garden fork – but the cows seemed to like to.
And we haven’t lost another cow, which is the most important thing.
Dean’s also been out in the cold spreading urea on the motorbike … brrrrrr! We’ve had so much rain it’s the only way to get across the paddocks.
So when he put in a request for sultana scones on Saturday afternoon, I thought I’d be nice and whip them up.
Sorry for the lack of photographs. The scones went straight from the oven to the table and Dean and Dad scoffed them before I could think to take any pictures.
And thanks for your recipe advice Mum. Apparently I’m a little rough with the dough – so remember if you want light, fluffy scones use your soft indoor hands not your tough farmer hands.
SHORT AND SWEET: Serve straight from the oven with lashings of salty butter and a pot of hot tea. Jam optional. And be sure to break the scone apart with your fingers, not a knife, for the ideal scone experience.
Picking just one cake for our wedding was mission impossible. I don’t like fruit cake, but it’s Dad and Dean’s favourite. I wanted sponge cake – but it can’t be made ahead of time. We both like chocolate mud cake and it’s a crowd pleaser.
I had decided to go with the fruit cake and mudcake. I had been dreaming up decorating ideas for months, honestly years, and both could be made well ahead of time. But somehow it all got left to the last couple of weeks. Moving farms certainly slowed me down.
I managed to overcook the first fruit cake – something I’ve never done before. Dean didn’t mind though, he got stuck into it. It just wasn’t “wedding quality”. Recook.
Then my quadruple batch of mudcake didn’t quite work either. By this point I was less than a week out from the wedding and I didn’t have it in me to go again. I wrapped up the not perfect muds and got stuck into the millions of other jobs brides have in the week before their wedding.
I was also hatching a new cake plan. By Wednesday I’d turned the muds into balls for cake pops. Thanks to my lovely bridesmaid Alicia and her mum Irene for finishing the rolling and the decorating on the Thursday.
In a situation of the bride is always right – I got my sponge cake. I baked it the morning of the wedding. The photographer couldn’t stop laughing, saying in all the weddings he’s ever shot, the bride has never baked on the morning of the wedding.
I actually found it soothing. Cracking eggs, whisking, measuring. The smell the sponge gives off letting you know it’s ready. It was all familiar and comforting – just what I needed in the middle of the craziness of the day.
When I thought it was getting close I sat staring into the glass door of the oven. I wasn’t taking my eyes off it – and it was a nice warm spot on a cold, wet day. I gently opened the oven door, gave it a little love tap to see if it was ready and breathing deep to absorb the smell I carefully took the two tins out of the oven to cool.
There was a brief moment of panic as the side of one sponge stuck to the side but it was only for a moment. Thankfully my wedding cake curse had lifted. But I’d forgotten about cooling time. It sat aside as my makeup was touched up, as Shellac was reapplied to three of my finger nails I’d managed to damage, as I printed off my speech and as I tried to whip up the cream. My whisk had been pilfered the previous month to mix up calf milk and I wasn’t game to stick my newly fixed fingers in water to wash the Kitchen Aid bowl and whisk I’d used to mix up the sponge.
At this point my cousin Wayne walked in and had a fork and a bowl of cream thrust at him. He looked a bit dubious but dutifully started “forking” at the cream in an effort to whip it. Eventually it was given away as a stupid idea (did someone say “bride brain”) and the Kitchen Aid was used.
I layered homemade rhubarb and blueberry jam with plenty of cream – assembling the cake to a choir of “Natasha, you HAVE to get in your dress”. And then to everyone else’s stress I disappeared. Barefooted, in just a low drizzle, I ducked into the front garden and cut the prettiest pink roses I could find. They dried inside the house as the ceremony was taking place and I’m not sure who placed them on the cake in the end. But I was very grateful for your help.
The moral of this story? Let the bride bake sponge cake.
SHORT AND SWEET: My sponge cake recipe was first made by my mother to feed to a gluten intolerant shearer back in the early 1990s. He always missed out on the obligatory scones so mum looked into something he could enjoy too. It was extremely uncommon back then. But with two celiac bridesmaids, it not only came in handy for a safe food on the day – it remains one of my favourite simply because of the taste. Just remember to read your corn flour packing well – contrary to commonsense, some corn flour is made out of wheat products.
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