Sunday, January 20, 2013

Rats

Note: this post is not for those squeamish about, or advocates for the survival of rodents.

We have chickens and we have vegetables, so inevitably it would seem, we have rats. We've always had a few hanging around the yard, and occasionally in the roof space but have managed them with a combination of baits and traps. To be honest, if they're not in the house I'm not overly bothered. When we came back from our Big Gypsy Getaway however, the problem seemed to be on a much larger scale. Our absence had seen them move in, in plague proportions. Apparently it's not just our house though, and our area has seen a rise in numbers.

Recently, probably as a result of summer heating up, our rat colony sought refuge in the roof space. I was frequently being woken up to scurrying (which sounded like a heard of buffalos) above my bedroom, and although they didn't seem to be getting into the house, their presence in the roof was unnerving so it was time to take further action. It didn't take long to discover they had set up their main nest in a small semi-open shed next to the chicken coop. The chicken feeder plus the veges were supplying constant food, so baiting was pointless while they had food and shelter readily available. Hubby and a friend went out with a torch one night to discover a hive of "rativity", so they set up "rat-cam" in the shed to get a better idea of their numbers and movements. After a night of filming, the shed (and their nest) had to go.

After complete destruction of their (disgusting) quarters, which discovered some ruined/chewed windsurfing equipment and resulted in a man-on-rat duel between Hubby and the king rat locked in our outside bathroom (the details of which I will spare you all), we began to gain a little control. Hubby covered all the gutters with fine mesh to eliminate gaps between the gutters and our corrugated tin roof. I no longer feed the chickens via a feeder, rather they get a finite amount of pellets plus scraps daily thrown onto the ground, normally in the morning when rats are the least active. We are also continually baiting in known areas of high "rativity", and Perth's heat wave over Christmas and New Year seemed to work in our favour. A LOT of rats died over that period, and I can only think it was a combination of lack of food and heat.

The rat population clearly hasn't moved out of our neighbourhood, and neighbours have said they have seen them. My tomatoes and capsicums keep going missing off the vines, I still hear occasional scurrying in the roof and we still find the odd baited beast "sleeping" on the back lawn (or in the dog's mouth), but all in all the numbers have been significantly reduced.

If you have chickens and/or veges which seem to attract rodents, I hope some of our techniques are helpful to you. I'd also love to hear any coping strategies you have found useful. With small children and animals, mass baiting isn't ideal, and while we seem to be gaining control, I'm definitely interested in other ideas (which don't involve getting rid of either the chickens or the vegetables).

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Rhubarb Crumble

With the rhubarb plants going crazy at the moment, I thought it was time to find some motivation and make a crumble. I've loved crumble since I was a little girl, and was often in charge of rubbing butter into flour with my fingertips. As an adult I've played around with the recipe to make it just how I like it.

This afternoon I picked three massive rhubarb stalks. We have two plants that only produce green stalks and one that produces smaller, red ones. They all taste like rhubarb. Here is the crumble that we had for dessert tonight.

3 large stalks rhubarb
approx. 1 cup frozen raspberries
1 tbsp raw sugar
45g chopped butter
1/3 cup wholemeal self-raising flour
1/4 cup soft brown sugar
1/4 cup desiccated coconut
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup almonds
1/3 cup rolled oats

  1. Chop rhubarb into 1-2cm chunks and place in a medium saucepan. Sprinkle with raw sugar and stir over medium heat until sugar starts to dissolve. Reduce heat, cover, and stew until rhubarb is soft.
  2. Add raspberries and keep over heat until heated through. Remove from heat but keep covered.
  3. In the meantime combine butter, brown sugar, flour, coconut, cinnamon and almonds in a food processor. Whiz until combined and almonds are chopped. Stir through rolled oats. (You can rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips, chop the almonds with a knife and stir through the other ingredients if you don't have a food processor.)
  4. Preheat oven to 180C. Place rhubarb mixture into an ovenproof bowl and sprinkle crumble over the top. Bake for 30 mins or until lightly browned and crunchy.
 
 
 
Any combination of rhubarb, apple and berries work well. Sometimes if I'm feeling particularly lazy I use a large tin of pie apples, but when you have rhubarb in abundance, rhubarb it is. I served the crumble with custard tonight, but it's really good piping hot with a good quality vanilla ice-cream.


Thursday, January 3, 2013

In My Kitchen - January 2013

Happy New Year! The first In My Kitchen post for 2013 is a little bit exciting. My family and friends were incredibly kind this festive season and I am proud to showcase a few new trinkets, as well as a few indulgent summer treats.

In my kitchen is a Map Bella pod coffee machine and an accompanying milk frother. This was courtesy of my mum for Christmas. We debated earlier in the year whether easily accessible, good tasting coffee in my kitchen was a good idea and remained largely undecided. When my mum generously offered to buy us (and my brother and sister) one of these babies for Christmas, my sleep deprivation answered for me. So far I have maintained self control and limit myself to one coffee per day. This morning I even gave an iced coffee a go, and think I have found my new best friend. The unit itself is small and quiet and has nestled into my kitchen quite comfortably. You can see by the lack of sheen on the milk frother that it is getting used, or maybe that's just a reflection of my cleanliness.

The girls saw the coffee machine and immediately thought of babycinos, so in my kitchen is a packet of marshmallows ready to go. Pascall is the only brand of marshmallow that I allow through the door.

 
In my kitchen is a copy of Superfoods, courtesy of a Secret Santa that we did with Hubby's family. This book provides all the justification I need that consumption of 70%+ cocoa chocolate will improve my life. It's ideals of acceptable quantities differ a little to my own, but let's not focus on the fine print. The book also provides some lovely recipe suggestions for each of the Superfoods. Thanks Secret Santa!
 
 
A not so secret Christmas hamper from my sister-in-law included some cool kitchen trinkets. She is a shameless Ikea junkie, so most of them were courtesy of the Scandinavian mega-store. The most interesting was this cheese grater, complete with "catch bowl".
 
 
 
Another favourite from the hamper was this silicone ice-cube tray, which will inevitably get used for making chocolates in my kitchen.
 
 
In my kitchen is a copy of Vegetables: grow them, cook them, eat them, which I bought from the Book Depository a few months ago when getting some Christmas presents for the kids, and completely forgot about. It was a kind of Christmas present to myself when I found it. The book provides useful information about how and when to grow different vegetables as well as what to do with them.
 
 
In my kitchen (well not anymore as I polished off the packet yesterday) is this shameless indulgence. I used to be a massive fan of licorice bullets. Home brand was fine, wrap some dodgy chocolate around a piece of hard/chewy licorice and I was happy. That was before I discovered Macro Organic Milk Chocolate Coated Licorice. This is the stuff dreams are made of. The chocolate is divine, the licorice is soft, and the pieces are large balls, not dissimilar in shape to a chocolate-coated almonds. I vow never to buy the cheaper counterpart again, but I must also promise myself I will only rarely purchase the Macro variety as I will eat all 180g in one sitting, stopping only to vomit.
 

 
In my kitchen is a jar of Beerenberg Tomato Chutney. Hubby has had time off work over Christmas and New Year, and so we have had lots of sandwiches/wraps as easy lunches and dinners that don't require leftovers to take to work. What they do require though, is a good chutney. Beerenberg (apart from being awesome because is has the word "beer" in the title) make some pretty tasty chutneys. Our favourite is probably the Taka Tala, but our supermarket was out and this is a good substitute.

 
In my kitchen is a new lunch box and drink bottle. This is bitter sweet for me, as they are Chicky's. At 4.5, she will start WA kindergarten in a few weeks. While she is more than ready, and super excited about starting school (she picked the lunchbox and drink bottle when we went shopping this week), there will be two and a half days a week that my baby won't be with me. For a full time mum, that's hard to take. If I'm not in labour on her first day of school (which is entirely possible), there will be tears, and they won't be Chicky's.
 


 
Finally in my kitchen this month, is light! We have 4 down lights in our kitchen, but we haven't had all 4 working at the same time for as long as I can remember. For the longest time I got by with just one above the main kitchen bench, but then the week before Christmas that one gave up too. Last week hubby replaced all 4. I'm finding all that light a little overwhelming, and it makes my often filthy kitchen floor so much more obvious. It does make food preparation safer though!

 

That's what's happening in my kitchen as we begin 2013, and in the month that our 3rd child will be born (unless she decides to be fashionably late). To see how some other people are beginning 2013, visit Fig Jam and Lime Cordial.