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.

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We have been picking chillies throughout winter.

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

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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 🙂

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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

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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!

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Growing, storing and Using Pumpkins

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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

 

 

 

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!!!

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.

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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.
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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.
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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!
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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

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 🙂

Dark Chocolate and Beetroot (Beet) Mudcake

I have tried chocolate and beetroot cakes in the past but this one is by far the best. This is not too rich, heavy or sweet and both the texture and flavour are perfect. This recipe is by Gretchen Lowe and Homestyle Magazine, April/May edition.

This uses 250 g of pureed beetroot and I will be cooking some up to keep in the freezer for future cakes. The icing I used was a normal chocolate butter icing (a cheaper option for me) but I will give the recipe for the chocolate ganache she used.

200g Dark chocolate (at least 62% cocoa)

4 tblspns hot espresso

200g butter

135 g flour

1 1/4 tsp baking powder

3 tbsp cocoa

5 eggs, separated

250 g cooked and peeled beetroot, pureed

190 g castor sugar (this can be made by putting normal white sugar through a blender)

GANACHE:

400g dark chocolate

400ml cream

ALTERNATIVE CHOCOLATE ICING:

50 g butter softened

1 tablespoon cocoa

little boiling water

1 tsp vanilla

approx 2 cups icing sugar

Preheat oven to 180 deg C. Line a 20 cm cake tin with baking paper.

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan. Then pour in hot coffee and stir in the butter, leaving till softened. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

Meanwhile sift flour, baking powder and cocoa into a bowl.

Separate the eggs and whisk yolks until frothy. Stir the yolks through chocolate mixture then fold in pureed beetroot.

Whisk whites till soft peaks form. Fold in sugar. Fold into and through the chocolate mixture then fold this mixture into the combined dry ingredients.

Pour batter into prepared tin and bake 35 minutes. Do not over-bake.

When cooked leave to cool before turning out of tin to decorate. When cold the cake can be cut into two layers.

CHOCOLATE GANACHE:

Place chocolate into a bowl. Heat the cream till nearly boiling then pour over chocolate, stirring gently till combined. Leave a room temperature till ganache has reached a spreadable consistency. Smooth generously between the layers and around the sides of cake. Cake can be topped with fresh berries or figs.

CHOCOLATE ICING:

Melt butter, add cocoa and vanilla. Add icing sugar and beat into a thick cream, adding boiling water as required to make a soft consistency. Icing will firm on cooling.

I made in a larger tin so only had one layer. Nice served with whipped cream.Image