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.

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Soooo busy, a short post….

The last few weeks have been way too busy! I am a casual at work, with twelve on the staff we have been managing on 6 of us the past few weeks at a workplace that operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week there has just been way too much of it for this young lady 😦 But it’s nearly at an end I hope as I haven’t been able to get back to the markets with my soaps until today. Roger came with me, I think he got sick of my moaning about being too tired to do it 🙂 🙂 I spent 9 hours yesterday packaging for pressies – I finally gave in and bought a cheap printer to make my own papers bought as digital from Etsy (very cheap!)IMG_4249 I got Happy Mail 2 weeks ago and haven’t had time to share but here tis 🙂 A most beautiful Christmas Bunting from the lovely TeddyandTottie who ran a giveaway and then decided everyone should have one!

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And here on my wall where it is the only thing of Christmas I have managed to do so far… and it’s beautiful. Thank you T&T xxx

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Other than that we have been attempting to catch up on the garden, weeding and watering and picking a sack of Broad Beans for freezing. IMG_4239

Did anyone else’s mother used to cook these till they were hard, dark grey and utterly revolting? Does anyone else have memories of sitting at the table till they finished their dinner….of hours spent looking at hard grey lumps on their plate? Once traumatised by these things I now love them.

Other than that the onions are harvested, the raspberry glut has started with a vengeance and we borrowed a still today to make more vodka for berry liqueurs – considering how quickly I drank them last year I am going to need ALOT more this time around!

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I hope you are all enjoying the start of the festive season 🙂

Drunken Plums (Liqueur)

This is so simple to make but takes 2 months to develop. Wash plums and cut in half, remove the stones.

Layer in a jar with sugar. Around 1/4″ sugar to each layer of plums. You need to use a jar that has an airtight lid.

Once full pour over cheap vodka or gin until it reaches the top. Seal and date.

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Leave in a dark cool place for two months, turning daily or as often as possible eg Turn onto it’s lid the second day, back onto bottom third day.

After two months all the sugar will be dissolved and a most divine (and potent liquid) will have formed.Image

 Strain through a large strainer, then through a finer one for clarity. Bottle and it’s ready to drink. Image

The fruit tastes delicious, very much like boozy prunes. It can be eaten as is with cream or ice-cream or baked in a pudding.

Two preserving jars made 1 1/2 wine bottle sized bottles of liqueur and I wish now I had made alot more as Jess (Rabid Little Hippy) told me to 🙂IMG_3519

Plum Jam

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When making plum jam either the plums can be halved and stones removed before cooking or you can remove them with a slotted spoon while it’s boiling (they float to the top). If the stones come away easily I would recommend doing that…the other way can take ages.

Plum Jam:

1 kg plums

1 kg sugar

250 mls water

Wash the plums and de-stalk if necessary. Sterilise jars by heating in a slow oven for 1/2 hour at least. If using metals lids sterilise these by boiling in water for 10 minutes.

Put plums in a large pot with the water and cook about 30 – 45 minutes (lid on) till pulpy. Stir in sugar and boil gently until thickened and test a little in a saucer in the fridge, if it comes out with a skin on top it will set. Makes around 7 – 8 smallish – med jars. IMG_3317

Pickled Cucumber

We had an abundance of Apple Cucumbers this year.

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They are slightly milder and sweeter than green cucumbers and not quite as acidic. Plus we like their size and they are always a reliable crop.

I found this recipe on http://www.ifood.tv/recipe/pickled-cucumber There are many recipes out there, I chose this one because there is not not alot  of added seasonings and spices, I felt the cucumbers could retain their flavours with this recipe. Green cucumbers are used in the original.

This is the basic original recipe, I did 4 times this amount of vinegar mix and about 18 or so apple cucumbers with four onions.

Pickled Cucumbers:

3 large Cucumbers

4 large Onions

4 tablespoons salt

2 1/2 cups White distilled vinegar

3/4 cup white  sugar

1 tsp each of mustard and celery seeds

Slice the cucumbers and onion the night before (or minimum 2 hours) Sprinkle with the salt in recipe and toss. The next day drain off liquid and rinse with cold water. Pack into sterilised jars. Simmer the vinegar, white sugar and spices for 3 minutes. Cool till lukewarm and pour over cucumbers and onions. Seal.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 .

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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.

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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”.

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 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