Not much to blog about this month :)

I have little to report on the garden, except that it’s muddy as anything. The weather has been cold and wet, Roger has been pruning back fruiting trees and bushes and pulling out very dead plants. There are piles of spent plants everywhere.

I turned on my camera this morning to take a few photos but it’s flat – so, a short post!

We have just harvested our pumpkins but haven’t counted or weighed them yet. We have around 30 which is less than we were hoping but enough. There are still carrots, silverbeet, leeks, beetroot, broccoli, beans, lettuce etc growing. We have just had the last of the zucchini.

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We have been keeping a journal of harvests from the garden this year including weights etc. We have just reached 6 months and so far have well over 600 kg of food recorded from the garden, that includes eggs. We have had some great harvests this year but also some flop crops. Potatoes failed to do anything, from all that we planted with high hopes something happened to them and we only got 16 kg. Peppers and Chilli didn’t do great but I think Roger’s mammoth tomato plant prevented them from reaching their potential greatly 😦 Peanuts were planted and just disappeared.

We are still harvesting feijoa and figs. Did you know you can freeze figs whole? Just top and tail and freeze on a tray then bag. These will not keep there shape or texture but as we use them mostly in smoothies these are fine.

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I bottled the apple cider vinegar. This time I had a most wonderful “Mother” on top. I haven’t taken the time to find out what I can do with this but if anyone has any ideas please do let me know. I had a quick look and understand I can use it to make more vinegar but no-one really said HOW? so it’s sitting in some of the vinegar still waiting to become something new.Image

I bought a large box and a supermarket bag of walnuts for $30 from a friend.Image

I have been making soups galore. I could live on soups though Roger does not like them, my son loves them too so pots of it get dropped off to him. This one Pumpkin and Bacon.Image

Home:

After we finished painting the lounge we painted the porch which sorely needed it. To replace the large heart on the wall Roger made me a rusty barbed wire one mounted on a piece of recycled wood. I just love it but unfortunately can’t get a photo today. I also changed the little cupboard I was painting. I used to do alot of folk art but have discovered my hands shake too much now (I turned 55 on Saturday, I guess that’s just where age is getting this woman!) I was really unhappy with it so have decoupaged it. It’s very cute but no photo of that either today. I made my own Mod Podge as it’s $20 for a small jar of it here – how on earth do people afford that??!!

I am also making some velvet patchwork cushions, hand sewing them because my friend has borrowed my machine. I searched the op shops for old velvet and beaded clothes… and acquired some great ones but have just started them so I don’t imagine there will be any photos of them for a lonnnggg while 🙂 I am really enjoying having the time to just sit by the fire and listen to music and do something else other than food! I have also still been working but that will be ending shortly, winter at home is sounding truly good.

A photo of my shabby sideboard for Pauline (as requested) Image

And finally, I took some photo of Roger with Syd the other day without them realising – I thought I would share one on here because I love it (*whispers* don’t tell Roger!) Man and his best mate.

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 I hope you all had a lovely Mother’s Day!!!

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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 🙂

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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 🙂

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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 🙂

Ooooh….the spring gardens a-growing

We will have food again! Not that we haven’t been eating but the preserved stuff has dwindled and I have had to buy things I really hoped not to. All my frozen tomatoes and sauces and stuff finished about a month ago, also the pickled onions and beetroot. I have been buying potatoes for over 2 months and carrots, onions etc. All my dried fruit ran out months ago! We hoped to learn from last summer and we did – we did not preserve enough. I think we have about 6 jars of preserved fruit left, 4 jars of chutney…a little bit of preserved vegetables. We have 2 pumpkins left!

We are back to eating fresh from the garden though, the glasshouse has been providing salad greens, baby carrots, baby spinach and there are radish, silverbeet (chard), mustard, asparagus, broccoli and lots of herbs ready in the garden. Beetroot (beet) and broad beans (edame I think?) are not far away. Tons of onion, red onion, lettuce, carrot, beet, beans and leeks have been sown.

10 kg of seed potatoes have been planted.

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The raspberries are thriving! in the background are blackberries doing well but later in fruiting.

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Onions and garlic in the foreground which are just wee, raspberries and the grapes around the house have wee bunches forming…these are only 3 year old plants and last year we only got tiny inedible fruit.Image

Blackcurrants are flowering 🙂

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Boysenberries flowering! Our first.Image

And ta-da! We have apricots! We have planted numerous self seeded fruit trees around the place and this has taken a bit longer than the others…we had no idea what it was – peach, nectarine, apricot? We both hoped for an apricot and just found these, 2 apricot. Enough for a taste but next year it will be good!

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And tomatoes and zucchini planted under an erected shade-cloth shelter because we need these as soon as possible. We have 3 flowering plants in the glasshouse.

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And this is a fig tree cutting, just starting to bud. These are done from prunings just put in the ground under the mother tree, There are 10 of these, Roger wanted to try this and they have grown easily this way…but we have no use (certainly no room!) for 10 fig trees. We do have friends however, maybe they will be given fig trees for Xmas 🙂

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This year our pumpkins are going to be grown across the only piece of lawn left in the back yard, close to the house so an area has been dug up and lots of organic matter been thrown on ready for them shortly. I am now going to have to vie with pumpkins for a sunbathing place. Our quarter acre section will be full and Roger still told me last night, as he does every year “I have run out of room”. The only way from here is up!

My list of the “best value for money” veges and fruits for the home garden / pantry

I saw an article like this somewhere else but it varied greatly from what mine would be so thought I would do one of my own. Obviously everyone’s households needs are different, preferences vary, but this would be mine.

1. Tomatoes: If we don’t have enough self sown seedlings we’ll buy one or two trays of six plants but last year we had around 15 plants, a few different varieties. Here a tray of 6 costs around $3.50, we bought one punnet. From these plants we preserved enough supplies to last us a year – frozen pulp and paste, tomato ketchup, barbecue sauce, pasta sauce, sun dried tomatoes (dehydrator) and used in different chutneys. We could’ve made soup also but neither of us is a fan of tomato soup. We ate heaps and gave alot away. We didn’t grow Roma this year but will in the future – they are the best for cooking for their richness in both flavour and colour.

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3. Pumpkins: I understand in other countries pumpkins aren’t eaten as much as a vegetable as we eat here here. We eat heaps of it and it’s second on my list because it’s free. We throw the seeds from our fresh pumpkin with scraps into the compost or directly where we want it and it just flourishes wherever seeds are thrown. It must be the easiest vegetable to grow but rambles over alot of space – we often grow it through the chook area. Pumpkin stores really well as long as the conditions are ok for this (cool, dark room, not touching each other, stalk cut a couple of cm from fruit). They also freeze well cut into pieces but don’t take much cooking. Delicious as a veg, excellent in soups, breads, cakes, all sorts of recipes (have never tried pie) pumpkins represent great value for money/ease of growing. We try to grow 30 – 40 a year.

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3. Beet / beetroot: One packet of seeds (approx $3) goes a long way with beetroot and this is one of our favourite vegetables for taste and nutritional content. We eat it fresh, grated in salads through most of the year, I have it juiced and we bottle it also, and freeze it for baking. It grows easily and we have never had the slightest problem with disease or pests of any kind. We eat it from baby sized up to very large and it’s always good. Left too long in winter produces woody bulbs so best eaten young through the winter season.  Interestingly the best beetroot we have grown (and carrots) happened when Roger planted both together in the same space to finish off two packets of seeds, they like each other!

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4. Zucchini: Every plant produces endlessly it seems and we love our zucchini. Baby ones are delicious raw in salads, zucchini are great in stir fries, baked and can be frozen chopped or grated which we used in soups, vegetable pancakes and fritters, cakes and breads, and soups. Marrow, which I despise with a passion goes to our neighbours who love it stuffed. We also make our favourite chutney with zucchini. We grew four plants this year grown from seed – 50 cents maybe.

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5. Beans: Picked daily, beans just keep on giving and we freeze heaps of them as a handy vegetable over winter, we also dry them for soups etc.

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6. Silverbeet (chard), lettuce and brocolli:  Each of these, just picked as needed will last for ages in the garden. We grow silverbeet because it’s nutritious and versatile, is pest and disease free, thrives anywhere and just keep producing for ages. We leave one to self seed and haven’t paid for silverbeet for years. Same with lettuce. We don’t plant the hearting varieties but just pick leaf as needed. Broccoli is our favourite vegetable and the ones that are just finishing would be nearly a year old. On another post in gardening I have written how Roger prunes off leaves as they die, new grow back  as do new florets. A pack of six at $2.50 kept us in broccolli for ages.

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7. Potatoes: We have had great seasons with potatoes and also very poor and seed potatoes (disease resistant) need to be bought – these aren’t cheap. We get psilid bug here which have devastated our crops some years and are really hard to control.  The only way to control is through planting very early and covering through frosty nights so we get good early harvests…unfortunately this year we gave too many away and the bug caught our later crop so we didn’t get enough to last the year out.

8. Garlic: We eat heaps and haven’t needed to buy garlic for planting since our first year here, all garlic has been grown by cloves from the previous years bulbs.

9. Asparagus and Yams (Okra): Permanent crops that take care of themselves easily, multiplying in space as the years go on after that initial expense.

Fruit: Our fig tree and berry plants would top the list of fruits for economy and production. Our fig tree grew quickly right from the start, produced heaps that first summer and every summer since we have just had masses of fruit. Our strawberries started off as a six pack from a nursery and they just continue to multiply, sending out little runners all over the place. We currently have around 20 raspberry plants that started from 6 canes given to us, they multiply rapidly.

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This is the original article which spurred me to write this and it differs quite a bit to mine, but it’s excellent as he is able to say the weight he got for his harvests and cost comparisons to growing one’s own to purchasing.

http://eartheasy.com/blog/2011/01/top-6-most-cost-effective-vegetables-to-grow/

Homemade Toasted Muesli (with figs, walnuts and feijoa)

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Rolled oats are the cheapest cereal we can buy, coconut is cheap and with whatever dried fruit is in the pantry muesli can be made quite a bit cheaper than is purchased from the supermarket. I used dried apple, feijoa and figs I have done myself with the addition of a handful of dates chopped finely. The walnuts were grown locally and purchased for a very good price, the only things worth any expense were pumpkin and sunflower seeds, which are optional.

7 cups of rolled oats

1 cup of coconut

Mix these both together in a roasting dish and melt together 4 tablespoons oil (I used rice bran) and 1 heaped tablespoon of honey (this makes just a slightly sweetened version). Place in a preheated oven at 175 deg and bake for around 20 minutes, stirring often. Bake only till golden brown taking care to mix well each stir so as not to scorch. Note that this will continue to brown a little once removed from the oven.

Add whatever dried fruit, nuts and seeds (long thread coconut is nice added here too) you like to this basic mix and leave to cool before storing. If the dried fruit is added before cooking they will turn as hard as stones…! Dried apricots and slivered almonds used to be a favourite but now I just stick to what I can grow myself.

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Fig Chutney

ImageThis recipe comes from http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2012/09/fig-chutney-recipe/

Isn’t it funny how you wait for the new seasons fruits and vegetables with eager anticipation and sometimes…in the case of figs! you drool with that anticipation of the first sweet, juicy, fleshy mouthful only to be replaced with rolling eyes and muttering as basket after basket is bought in and placed on the kitchen bench, week after week lol. I am pretty sure we now have enough figgy somethings to last another year….or two!

This recipe makes 2  x small/medium jars and easily adapts to more in one batch. It’s very nice and also quick and easy.

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 large red onion, peeled and finely diced
  • 1/2-inch (2cm) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 2/3 cup (120g) packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) apple cider vinegar
  • juice and zest of one lemon
  • 3/4 cup (100g) raisins and diced dried fruits (any mix)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons mustard seeds
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • large pinch red pepper powder
  • 1 pound (450g) fresh figs, stemmed and diced

1. In a wide saucepan, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent, which will take about ten minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Add the remaining ingredients, except for the figs. Let cook at a steady simmer for 20 minutes, then add the figs, cover the pot, and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, until the figs are tender and cooked through.

3. Remove the lid and cook 10 to 15 minutes over low heat, stirring, until the mixture thickens and becomes jam-like. Ladle into sterilised jars.

I am also going to use his photo as my kitchen is so dark and awful to take photos in.

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Easter weekend jobs……and I do love my dehydrator :)

This weekend has been flat out. My husband decided to go ahead with a job he has been putting off, extending the fern garden. So, I helped with that and weeded the vegetable garden.

I picked a pile of tomatoes, figs, the last of Black Boy peaches, zucchini and some herbs. I bottled figs (4 jars) and peaches (5 jars), made barbecue sauce, baked a yummy cake.

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And I dried “stuff”…a whole new world has opened up! This has to be one of the best $60 I have ever spent – my secondhand dehydrator has been going flat out since I bought it 5 days ago 🙂 I never realised how many tomatoes you could get in a jar when dried, or figs!

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The reason why the petals is, I wanted to save the sunflower ones before they die off, had no idea what I was going to do with them so looked on the net for inspiration. I think I may have found a new hobby….soap making 🙂

I saw this photo and read the instructions, this just looks beautiful. Calendula Soap ( http://slowlivingessentials.blogspot.co.nz) I have calendulas. I have lots of flowers and a new toy so that started me off on a tangent around the garden!

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Who can afford such luxury from shops but the cost of making it is not great AND it would make great presents. In my spare time I have been checking out soapmaking blogs 🙂

I found a pile of marshmallow in an unused corner of the garden, around the back of the fig tree. Marshmallow is good for asthma and dry cough, so picked that and dried it.

So, a busy weekend, a productive one. I just realised though…I GOT NO CHOCOLATE, not one single mouthful. Or a hot x bun. I best do something about  that tomorrow!