Rain, rain and more rain

The past 4 days it has just rained. After months of none at all we have quickly become a quagmire in the garden, it’s been cold and miserable.

Garden:

Roger made a feed tray for the chooks from an old paddling pool frame (from his “collection of useful junk”) The fence is really high and a bit awkward for me to undo so I generally tip food over it, ok when it’s dry but not when muddy.Image

Before any bale of peastraw gets to the garden the chooks get to enjoy it for a while, pecking insects out and whatever out.

Image

Roger has been repotting boysenberry plants that have rooted. Shoots self root and can be cut from the parent plantImage

He took this photo to show me his wonderful compost under his 2 yr old branches left in a pile down the back of the garden.

Image

This is a carrot he left to go to seed. He hasn’t done this before but instead of collecting them he prepared some earth then shook the large seedheads everywhere. He is hoping they grow this way….?Image

Kitchen:

Shameful bragging – look at the size of our figs this year!! This is a decent sized avocado next to this one.Image

I have been drying any excess as they come in, there is not enough yet to bottle. Figs really only last a day or two before they spoil, we had our first meal of buckwheat pancakes, bacon and honey grilled figs and it was good!!!!Image

Drying herbs at the same timeImage

Making more chutney and a large jar of onions.Image

Image

I keep a pail of wild bird seed on the porch and mix it with fat left in the roasting tin for the birds, the chooks also love it. This mix costs $7 for a large bag at the supermarket but a local seed and grain place sells it for only $3.30.  Apparently irresistible to a certain cat.Image

Image

Home:

A month or so ago I wrote a post about thoughts of leaving here. We have each decided we want to stay put 🙂 We’re too old to start over and we are rooted here when it comes down to it 🙂 We have thoughts of how we can earn some income from here but won’t mention those just now, a “one-day plan”. Next weekend, Easter, we are going to repaint the lounge after leaving it undercoated for rather a long time.

This bird’s nest is too tiny to catch a decent photo but we were amused to find it when Roger cut down the trees at the back. In the earthquakes last year our hot water cyclinder burst. We replaced it and Roger pulled the old one to bits to get a most lovely copper inner out. It was insulated with old wool that he put in a sack, this nest was made with some of it 🙂

Image

This has been sitting on our front porch for ages, my son was going to throw it out. I grabbed it but never did like the black of it and one piece of cane was missing from the front. Image

I got bored the other day and decided to repaint this. Roger plucked a piece of cane from the back of a cane bookcase to fill the gap. I am not doing a great job but it will be better I hope than before…maybe? maybe not 🙂

Image

Anyway, I think that’s all this week from Quarteracre. Keep warm those in the Southern Hemisphere and enjoy your Spring those in the Northern 🙂

Garden and Simple Sprays, Preserving Autumn Foods…Pets

Garden:This week has been super busy with all sorts, neither of us has barely stepped into the garden except for feeding chooks, turning hoses on etc. Last weekend Roger cut down many of the boundary trees, left a few others thinned so today he is tidying up all of this, chopping larger wood for firewood, smaller wood for kindling. The rest will be put in a large pile till the leaves fall off for the garden. Then, in the middle of winter he will burn the rest in the middle of the yard and spread the ash. This photo is deceptive, it’ a mess and there is a ton of tree material to dispose of.

Image

Two simple sprays we use in the garden are milk for moulds on zucchini, cucumbers etc and garlic spray for aphids and other pests.

The milk spray for mould is 1 cup of milk, 2 tsps baking soda and one litre of water, shake and use use as spray. This is very effective

The garlic spray for pests is generally older garlic left over from the previous season. Peel garlic cloves and put in blender with water. Strain well, pour into bottle and add a wee squirt of dish washing liquid. Top with water. There must be enough garlic to be pungent. This is brown in the photo as we added worm tea as other bugs don’t like the smell of worm tea. This also acts as a foliage feed.Image

Today I will be picking blackberries, zucchini, apple cucumbers, tomatoes, beans, broccoli, the remainder of the cranberries and harvesting carrots and beetroot. The figs are nearly ready, yippee, except we get simply hundreds and they will need to be bottled but these are nearly our favourite crop and we eat them all ways.

Kitchen:

A friend gave me a small box of pears so most of them were bottled. I don’t have a canning kit so we use the overflow method as is most common in NZ with fruits. Image

I had to buy tomatoes as well this year. I have enough for sauces etc but not enough to freeze for tomato puree for pasta sauces and cooking. As we don’t know what sprays have been used I also wash in a sink of water with vinegar added to clean off any chemicals. Sauce tomatoes are cheap in summer and I got these for $1 a kilo.

Image

I have made around 20 of these packets for the freezer with more needed still. The fruit just chopped roughly, boiled in a pan till quite

concentrated then processed briefly in whiz so still a little chunky.

Image

Preserving pepper / capsicums. We did not grow these 🙂 Our green ones are coming on slowly (summer was not a great one) and I will be freezing them as they come for stuffing later in year. These coloured ones generally sell for around $1.30 each in late summer but I have been on the look out for cheaper. A town vege shop had them for sale for $1.29 for bags of three assorted colours. Also soaked before using .

Image

The recipe for peppers in olive oil can be found here, thank you Backyard Farmer! They are simple but require a bit of time to slice. Quickly bring to boil in a mixture of boiling water, vinegar and seasoning, drain and pack in jars with olive oil.

Image

A bonus is lots of seeds to dry and plant next year.IMG_3411

A dessert we have often is Berry Claffouti. Berries placed in a dish, sugar sprinkled over and a light but yummy batter poured over and baked. This is a favourite here and much enjoyed by quests. If making it just for us I will use yogurt but for visitors it is made a little more richer by the use of homemade ricotta using strained yogurt (or bought cream cheese if short on time)Image

Another bottle of berry liqueur was made, this time a mix of blackberries, raspberries and cranberries. No photo taken 🙂

Home:

This week we had to have our old dog put to sleep. Bob was 19 and was sick and had dementia.This photo was taken 6 years ago when we got him. Bob was then called Clyde and his owner was going into a hospice and needed to find other owners for him quickly. Friends of ours mentioned we would probably take him and though I wasn’t too convinced I wanted him he sat on my knee and gave me a big cuddle when we visited them….yep, we were sold 🙂IMG_0870

I had never much cared for Foxy’s but Bob was a character and endeared himself quickly. He was a great companion and is now buried in the garden along with Basil, my 15 year old “baby”.

IMG_0179

 When Basil died we got another dog from the SPCA. “Bree”. She had to be put down 4 months later as she had cancer. She was a beautiful dog, one that had been mistreated but was so lovable it was devastating to lose her. Didn’t even get a photo of her, she was silver and cream and a staffy cross.

So, we still have Syd, a hulking great farm dog who sleeps on the couch and gives huge bear-like cuddles. He is the cuddliest dog you could ever meet, I am sure.IMG_3178

I have virtually always had a dog and always will, there is no greater love and loyalty than that of a dog 🙂

And we now have mittens who is happier to be able to come upstairs now the demented, geriatric who used to chase him away has now gone!IMG_3130

Homemade Berry Liqueurs

Ok, so I am cheating here. I still have quite a few months to go before my first ever batch of liqueur is ready, but a sip from it’s first bottling proved to be as good as I hoped. One sip knocks your socks off and has a beautiful, and not at all subtle, taste of fresh raspberries. And I was asked for the recipe this morning so here it is.

Any berry can be used for this. In fact this recipe can be used for many fruits, our next to try will be feijoas and there are two bottles of blackberry that have been started. I would like to try peach and apricot if I can get them soon. We have been lucky to be given homemade vodka to try these but any cheap vodka will do.

Liqueur is super easy to make but it is made in several steps, it needs to be strained twice in the first two months. Once through a strainer, the following month through a coffee filter. It is then (well, supposed to be) left for 6 months to mature.

Recipe can be halved for smaller amount.

1 kg (2.2 lbs) of fresh berries

3 cups white sugar

6 cups vodka

Prepare a large glass bottle or jar. This should be sterilised by cleaning well then putting in low oven for half an hour.

Place in berries, followed by sugar then pour over vodka. Label and date bottle. Store in a cool dark place or cover with a cloth.

Image

This has to sit for one month before it’s first straining. Shake regularly. The sugar will dissolve over time.Image

Strain through a fine sieve into a jug.Image

Bottles need to be sterile also. These lidded ones can be soaked in the sink with hot water and a couple of Campden tablets (used for wine making) Recycled wine bottles would do the trick here….we would never buy special bottles but got these free with a beer kit.

Image

Image

These need to sit for a month then have one further straining through a coffee filter or similar. After that stand for 6 months to mature fully. I am not sure I see that happening here… but I expect successive batches will make it!

Image

The First Week of Autumn

I don’t know what happened to summer this year, it’s been cooler than usual, cloudier than usual and has gone in a blur . The firewood has started coming, the garden is dying off in a mess of wilting foliage. The only good thing about autumn is the fig, pumpkin and feijoa harvests, smiling sunflowers…then it’s just one big clean up and the wintering down off most of it. 

The garden:

Roger is grinning from ear to ear today….we finally got his bees. We have been waiting for a year or so for a hive to come up cheaply and it did. They aren’t cheap, but this was 1/2 the price we usually see them for. The man he bought them from this morning assured us there would be 30 kg of honey from this box, additionally there would be beeswax and the pollination of vegetable plants and fruit trees. We then had to buy a book on keeping bees which was not cheap either…..I think the first new book I have bought in decades.

IMG_3345

Mittens early morning routine of watching the chooks being fed. It’s a good thing they are behind a huge fence I think.Image

The leeks are growing well, the zucchini are dying off and behind them a mass of pumpkins and ripening wine grapes.

Image

 

Image

A pumpkin invasion.Image

Image

Image

The tomatoes are nearing the end. With such a cool summer we didn’t get nearly as many as I had hoped for despite planting extra plants. We got heaps but not enough for the year, I will be buying some!

Image

Silverbeet (Chard) self seeds everywhere. We have masses of it, we eat alot of it and the chooks love it.

IMG_3362

Beans and beetroot still growing but not much longer for the beans.Image

Image

The herbs are nearing the end for many, the big herb garden has been covered with peastraw to build up the soil and keep weeds down over winter. The oregano flowering.Image

In the glasshouse we have peppers and chillis just fruiting/ripening and one enormous tomato plant that doesn’t have alot of fuit, is keeping sun off the other plants but Roger is very proud of it:)

Image

In November we decided to journal all our harvesting to see how much we could grow. So far, in three months it is up to nearly 300 kg (2.2 lbs to kg I think?) of fruit, vegetables and berries. There is still alot to come. This from our garden which is probably 1/8 acre. 

The kitchen:

I have been making tomato sauces, both barbecue sauce and a ketchup. We love both of these recipes. I save my olive oil bottles for tomato sauce, I have done 4 litres, maybe another 4 will do.

IMG_3330

Image

And started some Blackberry Liqueur.

IMG_3328

And it’s soup season, another thing to be thankful to autumn for 🙂 

IMG_3363

 

Home:

These are some of the guys from Vanuatu, they came last night for farewell drinks…all rather shy of the camera 🙂 These guys come over to work in the vineyards and we know them well now. This is the summer crew. We were talking last night about their lives…they either have family land or buy a small area for very little, build their houses from wood they chop down, live in small villages and their food is practically free. They grow their own vegetables, eat mostly seafood they catch and occasional chickens (usually for ceremonial meals) and their fruit and coconuts are picked freely from the thousands of trees that grow naturally. That’s their diet and for all our food groups and daily requirement lists….these guys are truly fit and healthy. They speak between 3 and 4 languages and are honest, hardworking, proud but humble people. Vanuatuans have twice been voted the world’s happiest in the world. I just thought I would add all this after the other day’s grumpy post about dissatisfaction 🙂 🙂

IMG_3344

Saturday in the Kitchen and garden….

Roger (aka Roboman) spent the week at work up in the hills spraying gorse. He has been exhausted at night but sleeps like a baby and this morning was up and out in the garden at 5.30. He weeded furiously for several hours ending up with a mammoth heap of weeds. Went to the shop, butchered a sheep, took rubbish to the dump, collected a huge ute load full of peastraw, came home, put alot of it around the garden…left a pile in the herb garden to finish later then took the car down the bottom where he unloaded it for the big garden… then had to repair a gate he broke in the process. Trimmed and bagged up 10 kg of onions. Helped me pick cranberries then got ready to go and play golf for the afternoon. Getting ready for his shower at 2 pm he walks past me singing “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are grey…” and plants a kiss on my head and walks off full of the joys of life…. and plenty of energy.

I was sitting at this time pondering the mess in the kitchen and wondering if I really wanted to go back in there. I am still sitting… I have decided it might be a good time to post photos and listen to music!

This, folks, is my kitchen at the moment:

Image

Another shot:

Image

There is a little bit of everything going on there. Cooking in the pots is a batch of tomato sauce and in the other scrap meat for the dogs. On the other side of the bench is a big pile of dishes, in the oven is jars for sauce. 2.5 kgs of plums still need bottling, the smaller zucchini are ready for freezing. We did not grow those huge tomatoes by the way – ours are only just beginning to ripen and we needed sauce so I bought some over-ripe tomatoes at a farm gate.

Bottled peaches and Drunken Plums

IMG_3285

IMG_3286

For Drunken Plums, layer fruit and sugar in a sterilised jar right to the top. I halved these to make them fit better and not use too much sugar. Once full pour gin or vodka over. Use a knife to get rid of air pockets and fill to the brim. Lid and store for two months, shaking or turning daily. The plums will float to the top, these can be eaten and the liqueur can be bottled and drunk! (Recipe from HOMEGROWN: NZ Gardener Magazine) I have never tried this before and wanted to make it last year but didn’t get 1 plum.

 Pickled onions and peach vinegar

IMG_3289

Zucchini have been done for freezing, these are the marrow after not picking all week.

Image

Our first pick of cranberries this yearImage

 1.5 kg to go into the freezer until I do something with them, put in a pretty bowl for a photo 🙂

 Image

 This year our two big peach trees gave us not a peach but grew heaps, really disappointing fruit wise. Our little dwarf peach gave us around 5 or 6 kg.

Image

 The blackberries are growing well but ripening slowly.Image

IMG_3276

Bigger onions to store in old onion sackIMG_3302

We have friends who work on a farm where garlic is grown, they are allowed to glean all that is left after the harvests. This is the box they dropped off, we swap for whatever we have available. Some will be pickled, some used for cooking, the biggest saved for seed garlic next season.

IMG_3300

Sometimes I moan that summer is taken up by days like this (in our spare? time) but when I look at these photos I know this – we could not afford to buy most of these foods. Zucchini, garlic, onions…yes, maybe occasional peaches or plums if we wanted to eat floury, flavourless things. These fruit trees were self sown, the blackberry a cutting, the cranberries were purchased, 12 at $1.25 for seedling sized plants – they are now ready to have cuttings taken off for a hedge down one side of the vege garden. This is good food, grown cheaply, eaten year round.

Freezing eggs and preserving….my busy time of the year.

And so it starts – all those tiny seeds planted in spring by an very exuberant husband pays off in a barage of “stuff to do something with” now. There is 2- 3 months ahead of me in food processing and most days I love it, some days I wonder why on earth we do all this. Once it’s all finished though and we get to step back and see the years food all sitting there, it’s a satisfying thing.The garden is flourishing and gaps have been newly planted for autumn, the last chance to grow for winter food – bar the raised garden of greens out in the front yard and “yay” the glasshouse this year.

Freezing eggs: We normally give surplus eggs away but have started freezing them for use over winter when laying is minimal. It makes no sense to give them away and buy over winter. Whole eggs can just be stirred (not whisked as it gives too much air) and frozen in ice cube trays or zip lock packages with the amounts on. Our eggs are quite large so two cubes equals one egg (for baking)Image

My provident journey did this post on freezing eggs which people might be interested in if wanting to freeze yolks and whites separately http://myprovidentjourney.wordpress.com/2013/10/07/provident-uses-for-your-freezer-eggs-other-things-i-havent-tried/

Beetroot/Beets: 

Image

Beetroot is one of our favourite vegetables to grow – I think so far we have planted over 200 or so with more to come. It’s easy, virtually disease and pest free, has a good leeway when it can be harvested so can be preserved when I have the time, both the bulbs and leaves can be eaten and it’s super healthy. We use it nearly every day either grated in salads, roasted, juiced (except I blew up my juicer forcing beetroot into it!) and we bottle heaps of it. It’s a good food to have in sandwiches through winter when tomatoes aren’t available. https://quarteracrelifestyle.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/spiced-beetroot-preserving-recipe/

Spiced Beetroot is a delicious recipe for bottling and we make it every year

Image

Beetroot Chutney

Image

The recipe for this I found at http://hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com/2009/10/30/beetroot-chutney/ I had never tried it before so made just one quantity to try it. This has alot of ginger in and is spicy/gingery. I like it but I don’t think hubby will. Note my labels 🙂 🙂 This is so the lady of the house who wears reading glasses but doesn’t bother when getting food from the pantry, doesn’t serve up feijoa jam to go with cold meat when we have guests….again! I needed something BIG. I found these labels and was rapt, they peel off so next season I don’t need to soak anything off. A bonus, and worth every cent.

My husband refuses to eat the leaves cooked (though he will eat small ones in a salad) but I saw this recipe earlier in the week and really want to try it, it looks utterly delicious http://backyardfarmer.co.nz/2014/01/28/ricotta-and-beetroot-tops-pasta-one-of-the-best-pastas-i-have-ever-eaten-and-i-have-eaten-a-lot-of-pasta/

Zucchini:

Image

:):) Yep, we have a glut, especially as Roger planted 6 plants this year because he really likes the chutney I make and this vegetable is so versatile. We are giving it away left, right and centre lol. But I am freezing some, making heaps of the chutney because it gets ladled onto to everything all year long and we are eating it every night. I tried zucchini chips but they didn’t work out – I will try it again at some stage.

Image

Yesterdays harvest minus the four marrow I gave away.

Raspberry Liqueur: A friend of ours who makes his own spirits kindly made us a batch of vodka. I would never buy vodka but wanted to try making my own fruit liqueurs and this is affordable and can be used with many different fruits. 1 lb of fruit, 3 cups of vodka and 1 1/2 cups of sugar. Leave to steep for a month, shake or stir regularly. Strain, sit a month then filter and rebottle, leave at least 3 months before drinking. Yep, I know….3 whole months!! I wonder if the same thing will happen that happened with our wine, drunk too soon but it was very good!

Image

I have slowly been adding dried vegetables to a large jar of dried soup mix. We bought a metre and a half of aluminium fly screen netting to place on top of our oven racks and vegetables can be tried overnight at 50 – 60 degrees. I have done carrots, beans, onions, pumpkin to add too lentils, barley, herbs etc. This is slow going but given I used to buy a packet of stockpot mix as a base to each pot I made I figure at least I know what is in my homemade.

Image

Back to the garden!….

My posts of late seem to be about everything else but! so I took photos as I went through my day today. I have worked nearly full time the past two weeks so haven’t really done the food stuff.

This morning when I got up this was what Roger had left on the bench from his brekkie. So far we have collected 10 kg of raspberries. We are not really jam eaters so they have been frozen for smoothies and desserts.

Image

So I had some of these for my breakfast with sliced banana and topped with leftover ground dates, almonds and sunflower seeds (from a chocolate avocado tart base) and homemade yogurt.

Image

Harvested our smaller first lot of carrots from the raised garden. This were just washed and put in the crisper (no freezing till the bigger lots come in.

.Image

Also out of the raised garden the first of the beetroot (beets)

Image

This were made into Spiced Beetroot which is a delicious way to preserve them. By the end of the season I hope to have 50 or 60 jars. Sorry not a great photo. The recipe for these can be found here https://quarteracrelifestyle.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/spiced-beetroot-preserving-recipe/

Image

Then I cooked and froze my bags of beans, lentils and chickpeas. This is so much cheaper than canned beans, a 500 g bag of mixed beans cost $2.59 made 9 packets which would each equal a can, each can would cost nearly that.

Image

I also found out today I had won a “Giveaway” draw from The Contented Crafter, a set of greeting cards. I am very excited about this as she does the most gorgeous pictures. Please do check out her blog, she is such a delight and so talented 🙂

http://paulinekingblog.wordpress.com/

I also have two more more awards I need to do but just have not had the time. To those who nominated me thanks so much and I will be onto it soon!!