Summer lovin’

Hi, I am back 🙂 Working on a new laptop that I hate, Windows 8 sucks by the way, for anybody thinking of buying a new computer! And for anybody waiting on an email reply from me please let me know because some of my emails are disappearing out into the net world never to be seen again I am discovering – I have replied to all! This has been an expensive month after having to replace a laptop, vacuum cleaner, cell phone and repairs to the truck – how glad I am now that I worked all those hours!

We are harvesting from the garden with some great successes this year but also disappointments. We lost all our tomatoes this year, I think my husband was to blame for that one though he is keeping quiet about what he possibly did to them. I have a feeling that the “foliage feed” he used was something else entirely that he knows I wouldn’t have liked him using but he did in error. Our self sewn beetroot that we transplanted out in great rows all failed, a terminator gene maybe? Our strawberries have not done well. But after a few years of failed potato crops because of a bug problem here this year we harvested over 70 kg of beautiful potatoes. The raspberries went crazy and we got over 40 kg with autumns berries already on their way, the beans and zucchini are always great cropping, the blackberries, cranberries, peaches, peppers and chilli will have very good harvests, silverbeet (chard) lettuce and broccoli have all self sewn everywhere for regular picking. The pumpkins are spreading out everywhere again with plenty on. We got heaps of onions, garlic and carrots and have stared replanting empty spaces for autumn. The herb garden is wonderful with another rock garden dug up and planted in herbs (another post!)

After saying I wouldn’t be freezing vegetables this year, I am 🙂 Old habits die hard and it seems stupid not to when you have it lol. Jams and chutneys and being made at the moment, last year I made around 35 jars of our favourite Zucchini Chutney and just used the last of it two weeks ago so will make the same this year. We still have heaps of bottled fruit left from last year and 14 jars of other chutneys Roger wont try so I will be sticking to just the one in future. We ran out of tomato sauce a month ago and the commercial stuff is disappointing in comparison so I will have to buy a mountain of tomatoes to make more.

I have made no liqueurs or wine so far this year, I just haven’t felt motivated to. I have gone back to work doing strictly one day a week plus m on-call shifts which are simply by phone if any issues and occasionally going in to help with something. Roger is still doing 5 days a week but the work is far less demanding physically – I have to say I didn’t realise how exhausted he was and how hard he pushed himself on the farm. He had little desire for the garden but now is back to his old self and out there for hours….it’s tidy again! 🙂

Me, most of what computer time I spend is on the Freeconomy page – we have grown from 130 at the beginning of December to nearly 500. It is working fabulously but there are occasional issues of greed, grabbing, rudeness, a couple of people selling stuff they got free on other pages! People are people and there are all sorts out there, after banning a few we are going great.

I am back to making my soaps and hope to do a market this weekend. I have been busy drying herbs and local weeds/wildflowers for use during the year. How to package them at reasonable cost is always a consideration but I have settled on this, brown paper with a band. Printing whole sheets for wrapping was too expensive.

Anyway, I think this is about as long as it needs to be. I hope others are enjoying their summer, or keeping warm through their winter.

Advertisements

This Spring…we are scaling back the garden

I love Spring! It’s well and truly here and some of the days have been beautiful.

Roger and I have made a decision that we are going to scale back the garden this Summer and try and grow more year round. I spent much of last Summer and Autumn in the kitchen and fitting in gardening when I could but honestly….I would rather do other things than spend my time in the kitchen and at the end of Autumn I was really weary and grumpy. We grow enough food to feed half the neighbourhood, which is nice but it’s hard work for these fifty-somethings! I don’t want to do so much preserving this summer.

Roger is putting up the other glasshouse soon and we will use both through the late autumn and winter. The garden will remain the same size but we won’t be racing to succession plant this year. Every summer and autumn we grow up to three harvests from the same space, it makes for alot of work and long growing seasons.

He has planted the potatoes, beetroot, carrots, onions, broccolli, cabbage and lettuce. The beans will go in soon. In the glasshouse I have planted seeds for tomatoes, peppers, zucchini and we have a few spinach and lettuce in there and a chilli plant from last summer that is still producing.

IMG_3961

We have been picking chillies throughout winter.

The Strawberries are just being split up and planted everywhere, like the cattle feeder we salvaged 🙂

IMG_3956

I am still working quite alot and this looks set to be the way till at least Christmas at this stage.

I have still been making soap, thinking soap 🙂 Last weekend I went and scrounged Camelia petals and have dried some and the rest is infusing in oil.IMG_3933

I have been looking at different ways of just using natural ingredients for both colour and benefits. On the windowsill is Lemon Balm, Rosemary, Geranium Leaf, Camelia and Calendula petals.IMG_3953

Two batches I have made this week are Chamomile and Calendula. And note…Wendy is practising her photography for if and when she starts selling it 🙂

IMG_3949

IMG_3946

Soap making seems to me to be the ideal hobby for gardeners to use some of their herbs and flowers in other ways but food….and maybe, just maybe, a small cottage industry can be created! For all the years I took to eventually try soap making I now think I was mad for being so fearful of it….it’s simple. Just like driving, I didn’t learn how to drive until I met Roger at 9 years ago at 46.

We still have heaps of preserves left to last out till summer, still have heaps of frozen berries and fruit. Last summer I dried some cranberries and used the last of them today (along with some walnuts we still have heaps of)

Cranberry and Walnut Muesli

IMG_3960

Tonight I am going to make dog biscuits using this recipe that Syd likes so much but I will be using pumpkin instead of carrots.

Roger is looking for another job at present and has an interview next week for a building job….he goes between building and farming. This means though if he gets it we will have to give up Syd, he’s a farm dog who belongs to the owner. Gosh we will miss him terribly 😦 We will be left with Mittens, who just loves this huge old bowl I pulled out of the spare room.IMG_3928

Anyway, that’s all my news. I hope Spring is being lovely for you all in NZ and Oz! I have seen photos of gentle snow falling in America, ugh!

Growing, storing and Using Pumpkins

IMG_2260

Pumpkins would have to be one of the cheapest and easiest vegetable we grow, though they do spread out taking up alot of room they are great for those areas not alot else can be grown in. This past Spring we planted them on a pile of compost created over winter and on top of an area of lawn that allowed for plenty of growth. Pumpkin scraps and seeds are just thrown on top as we discard them, they don’t really need starting in pots and alot of TLC babying them along.

The only problem we ever experience with them may be powdery mildew which is (usually) easily fixed with milk sprays. Homegrown pumpkin is so much better than store bought, they are hardy both in growing and storage. We harvest after the plants have died off and we leave most of them to get a couple of good frosts…this gives a deep dark orange flesh and a rich, sweet flavour. Pumpkins should be harvested with a two cm stem on the fruit and stored, not touching each other, in a cool and dark airy place. They generally last up to 9 months but do need to be checked.

This week I have been going through our stored pumpkins and removing any that are showing signs of deterioration. Offending areas can be cut out and the rest used. Any excess can be just cut and frozen raw in bags. They won’t lose flavour but the texture is affected, they break down quicker on cooking.

DSC02083

I also cook pumpkin in salted water and mash it, freezing the puree in 1 cup quantities to use for baking. I also tend to make vegetarian lasagne, or a mixture of beef and vegetable, when I have the pumpkin already cooked and on hand to use.

DSC02084

In New Zealand pumpkin is used alot as a vegetable, eaten either roasted, boiled or mashed. My son’s new wife is from Indiana, USA, and she was surprised by this, telling me her family have bought pumpkins to hollow out for Halloween but the flesh has always been thrown away !! We don’t really celebrate Halloween here but pumpkin is a common fresh vegetable in meals. Canned pumpkin has never made the shelves in supermarkets here (as far as I know).

I have tried roasting pumpkin seeds a few times but have never got them quite right, I don’t know that I will try again. Pumpkin flowers, like zucchini, are delicious fried in batter and both the vegetable and the flower can end up on a platter of Beer Battered Tempura Vegetables.

IMG_3196

We also use pumpkin, often leftover roasted, in vegetable quiches. Our absolute favourite though is this Pumpkin and Silverbeet Quiche

Image

Though Roger isn’t much of a soup eater I could live on it. Pumpkin soup with a little bacon, Pumpkin and Sweet Potato and Roast Pumpkin and Carrot soups are all very yummy but my favourite is the Spicy Pumpkin and Lentil.

Image

Pumpkin and Vegetable Bake (a terrible photo I have forgotten to sort!) and variations on Pumpkin Chickpea Patties are both good!! We also enjoy Roast pumpkin Hummus.

A recipe for Pumpkin Walnut and Raisin Bread here

Two things I still have not tried is the famous pumpkin pie and these yummy looking pumpkin pancakes at the wonderful Chocolate Covered Katie site.

Pumpkin, Walnut and Raisin Loaf

I just ended a three month baking hiatus and this was a yummy way to end it 🙂 I will put the original site I got the recipe from but I did change it just a little, increasing the amount of butter, walnuts, raisins and spice and I made the method easier. Served hot with butter it’s very delicious, on day 3 it still has a nice and moist texture.

IMG_3834

4 oz (100 g) butter

1 1/3 cups sugar

2 eggs,

1/4 cup water

1 cup pumpkin puree

1 2/3 cup flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/3 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1 cup walnuts

3/4 cup raisins or sultanas

Preheat oven to 350 (180) deg and prepare 1 large or 2 small loaf pans.

Soften butter and cream with sugar. Add eggs and beat, add pumpkin puree and water and beat well. Add sifted dry ingredients – the flour, spices, salt, baking powder and soda. Fold in the walnuts and raisins, pour into tins and bake a large one 55 – 60 minutes, smaller ones around 35 – 40 minutes.

The original recipe was found at About.com – submitted by Diana Rattray

 

 

 

Winter…downtime.

You will have to excuse my lack of posts in recent weeks, really I have had little to post about! I am enjoying our winter and some downtime from the kitchen and garden. There have been other things going on though….reading, napping, odd craft things, been to two weddings 🙂

First things first, the garden This is about all that’s happening for Roger at the moment, lots of maintenance, clearing, pruning.

IMG_3763

We have garlic planted, carrots are still being harvested along with leeks, beetroot (beets), broad beans (edame?) are growing, broccoli, winter lettuce, baby spinach, onions, red onions and silverbeet (chard).

IMG_3765

 

I realised I had never put a tally on here of how much we grew over the first 6 months of recording our harvests. This doesn’t include some, we either forgot to record or grabbed some for visitors and never thought at the time to write it down. Some good crops, some flop crops.

Berries (Cranberries, Strawberries, Raspberries, Blackberries, Worcestor Berries)  – 39 kg

Figs (not a great season) – 25.5 kg

Carrots – 42 kg

Feijoas – 50.5 kg

Beetroot – 46 kg

Leeks – 8 kg

Onions – 14 kg

Pumpkins 80 – 90 kg

Apple cucumbers – 16 kg

Potatoes (terrible season!) 14.5 kg

Capsicums x 24…. Chilli – less than 1 kg

Zucchini – 44 kg Marrow 52 kg

Peaches (Two trees didn’t fruit at all) 6 kg

Beans – 38 kg

Tomatoes  – 28.5 kg

Sliverbeet – over 100 kg (we grow two large patches for chook food as well)

Lettuce, brocolli, spinach, herbs etc – picked most days but we didn’t weigh them

Eggs – over 100 kg

We bought extra tomatoes to preserve as this was one of the worst seasons we have had, bought extra capsicums to preserve and peaches, plums and walnuts.

The Kitchen

This will sound terribly boring for me but it’s really not, it’s a good thing. All we are eating is our meals based around the garden, eggs, meat Roger gets. All the fruit was frozen for smoothies. Lunches are sandwiches or leftovers usually and dinner is 1001 ways of cooking the same things, occasionally buying chicken on special or a little fish. I have not baked for months and the reason for this is we haven’t wanted it. I made desserts that didn’t get eaten, cakes that were left in the tin….so I stopped. We are eating really well and are not desiring anything other than pretty basic foods. Have I lost weight though – nope! Not an ounce even though I could do too.

House:

Roger got a great buy online with carpet for the bedrooms. He bought what was listed as 6m x 3 m of beige 1 year old pure wool carpet and underlay for $50. When he went to collect it the guy said it was probably quite a bit more, he wasn’t sure. It is enough to do 3 bedrooms and his friend’s sleepout. This is presently sitting in a huge, heavy pile in our lounge waiting for us to lay it. It’s taking a little time to gather the motivation required!!!!! It is sitting in front of a cabinet that contains the stuff I need to finish some projects but weighs a ton.

Remember the cat bed I made that Mittens did not like? We came home from a weekend away to find he had decided it was OK after all – to lie ON though not in.

IMG_3774

Life: A couple of weeks ago we attended the wedding of my most special niece and her man. We almost didn’t make it, both coming down with tummy bugs, but managed to rebook flights and get there. It was a fancy dress wedding and we went as Indiana Jones and Magenta from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. It was such alot of fun and we thoroughly enjoyed it. My oldest son whom I only get to see every couple of years made it 🙂 The bride and groom are the loveliest couple and they had a movie theme… red carpets and Oscars and all sorts of Hollywoody stuff! It really was a neat wedding 🙂

And this Saturday just gone my youngest son married his sweetheart, a young lady from Indiana, USA. I couldn’t be happier – after a difficult couple of years for him he has found great happiness with a really special lady and they adore each other. I don’t think they would like their photos put on a strange blog they know little about but I thought I would show this one. It was raining and cold and though my granddaughter started out with the intention of holding the umbrella over the bride while they went for a walk this is how they returned lol

IMG_3821

 

 

.

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.

Image

 

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.

Image

Image

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.

IMG_3548

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

Feijoa season – Chutney, freezing, ice cream etc

There are plenty of feijoas coming off the trees this year. I understand in some countries these are called Pineapple Guavas, they are one of our favourite fruits.

IMG_3569

What we are doing with them!

A very good friend of mine, the very lovely Diane :), sent me this recipe for Feijoa Chutney. I had been going to try another recipe but used this as it has alot of dates rather than an awful lot of sugar for sweetening. Its delicious and comes from Digby Law.

1kg feijoas
500 g onions
300 g raisins
500 g pitted dates
500 g brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 teaspoons salt
4 cups malt vinegar
Wipe the feijoas, trim ends and finely slice them by hand. Finely chop
the onions and coarsely chop the raisins and dates. Combine all the ingredients
in a large saucepan, bring to the boil and cook very gently for 11/2 – 2hrs, until
the chutney is thick. Make sure the chutney doesn’t catch on the bottom of the
saucepan.
Spoon into hot clean jars and seal.
Makes about 3 litres.
IMG_3579
Feijoas freeze really well, simply scoop pulp out and freeze, I freeze in 1 cup and 11/2 cup bags for use in smoothies or baking.
IMG_3580
Banana, Feijoa Ice Cream
Freeze 2 bananas and one cup of feijoa pulp till frozen. Remove and put in bowl of food processor. Leave 5 minutes to soften then add 3 tablespoons yogurt, 2 tablespoons cream (optional) and 1 tsp vanilla. Process till thick and ice-creamyish. This is so delicious I forgot to  take a photo before we ate it!
Image
Fejoa and ginger jam recipe here I made it last year but have not made it again yet. It’s very nice.
Feijoa Cake recipe I make which came from Joan Spiller, this is delicious and I heartily recommend it!
Last year we tried drying feijoas but didn’t much  like them ourselves so haven’t done them this year but they were nice additions to things like Homemade Muesli, with figs and walnuts