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.


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.


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.


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.


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 .


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.


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 🙂


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”.


 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

Garden Harvest Vegetable Stock


For some weird reason this got me all excited lol. I am intrigued by it – this is a very different way of making vegetable stock! I should call my blog Stumble Upon because invariably what I show in my blog is other’s ideas and recipes I have stumbled upon out of need for something. I am thankful to for putting this on her blog.

I had been wanting a natural vegetable stock powder. Commercial ones are too expensive, the thought of having to dehydrate and muck around creating my own was sounding like a long drawn out process. This looks perfect to try. It has a large amount of salt which preserves the paste for 6 months. The other thing that appealed was this looked a good way to use some of the frozen vegetables left from last season that have not such a great texture but still taste ok. For this I used a combination of fresh and frozen and am hoping the frozen doesn’t cause any deterioration in the storage time so it is an experiment. 2/3 of the vegetables are fresh though.

Basically 950 g of vegetables (any combination desired) are needed per ration of 250 g salt. Plus the garlic, herbs etc.

For this I used:

200 g pumpkin

200 g carrots

200 g leeks

100 g spinach

100 g onions

A few sundried tomatoes and cloves garlic

A large handful parsley and thyme

250 g salt

Put all in a food processor and process until smooth. This may need to be done in batches and combined at the end. Put into sterilised jars and apparently this will keep for 6 months in a cool, dry cupboard.

I seriously need to find another processor! Mine was bought secondhand about 8 years ago and the blades are quite blunt, hence this didn’t get quite a smooth as I would’ve liked but close to.


Use a couple of teaspoons in soups, stews etc and season after adding this and doing a taste test as it is highly salted.

Very Yummy Savoury Scrolls :)

Cheese, pesto, bacon, sundried tomatoes and baby spinach wrapped in a light, buttery cheese scone mix, these are perfection.


Preheat oven to 400 deg F and line a tray with baking paper.

Scone dough:

3 cups flour

6 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

black pepper

2 oz (50 gr) softened butter

1 cup grated cheese

1 1/3 cups milk

Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and pepper in a bowl. Rub in the softened butter and add the grated cheese. Make a well in the centre and add the milk. Mix from the inside out, drawing in the flour from the outer edges as you go. Only mix long enough to form into a evenly mixed dough (don’t knead the dough, it will toughen it) Tip onto a floured bench top or board and roll out to around a 1 cm (1/2″ thick) rectangle.


3/4 cup grated cheese

3 rashers bacon, chopped

1 cup pesto

3/4 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped

Good handful of baby spinach leaves

I prefer to saute the bacon lightly before using in baking, it’s potional whether to do this or not. Spread the dough with the pesto, then spinach, cheese, sundried tomato and bacon pieces, leaving the outer edges bare.


Roll up slowly, but firmly, as you would sushi. Using a sharp knife that has been dipped in flour, cut the scrolls into even slices, around 1 1/4 ” thick, I got 10 of these. Place carefully on tray and bake for around 10 – 12 minutes. Serve hot with butter.

These wouldn’t normally come under the guise of frugal food, but as I grow/make my own tomatoes, pesto and spinach these cost me very little to make. The pesto is a parsley and sunflower seed one I make and freeze in ice cube trays


I saw a similar recipe last year in a magazine and always intended making something similar so this is what I came up with. The original recipe used plain dough and feta cheese in the filling which looked so good but I can’t run to feta cheese these days!

Enjoy these if you make them, they are delicious 🙂

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.

nivan garden

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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.

Silverbeet (Chard), Sundried tomato and Pesto Quiche

This is very nice using feta however I use grated cheddar nowadays. Quantities are not important here, I just throw in amounts haphazardly really.

The pesto I used in this was a parsley and sunflower one I had made and frozen. The sundried tomatoes are homemade also.


I broke my one and only quiche dish several weeks ago and haven’t replaced it, so the dish I used is not one I would normally.

2 sheets pre-rolled pastry

1 bunch silverbeet leaves

Sundried tomatoes, to taste, chopped finely

1/4 – 1/3 cup pesto

7 egg

1/3 cup milk or  cream

75 – 100 g cheese, grated (or crumbled feta)

1 tsp salt, pepper

Preheat oven to 375 deg F. Line a greased quiche dish with the pastry. Layer silverbeet leaves in, sprinkling each layer with small dolops of pesto, grated cheese and sundried tomato. Finish with a layer of cheese etc. Beat together eggs with milk and add seasonings.


Bake in oven till golden on top, pastry is cooked and filling in middle has set (using a skewer or knife to test) around 30 minutes.


Simple, slow baked shanks


Low on ingredients and time yesterday I rushed this into the oven and it turned out delicious so thought I would share. Though of course it would be nice with lamb these were hoggett shanks which need a little more cooking.

4 shanks

2 med onions

1 cup sliced mushrooms

5 – 6 tomatoes depending on size, chopped (or a can would do)

3 cloves garlic, crushed or sliced

rosemary leaves, couple of sprigs

tablespoon brown sugar

1 tsp salt

black pepper

drizzle olive oil

Place lamb shanks in bottom of a lidded roasting dish, cover with onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, garlic, and rosemary leaves. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle some olive oil over. Cover and bake in slow oven (220 deg F) for 3 – 3 1/2 hours. These are meat coming off the bone tender and very tasty.

We had with mashed potatoes and sauteed vegetables.


Bacon, mushroom and spinach Stromboli


Thanks to Narf at for the recipe for this (which can be found here: ) It looked delicious so I needed to try it!

I made the dough using the orginal recipe however I varied the filling a little to something we make quite often…

Mushroom, Bacon and Spinach filling:

Saute 4 rashers bacon, 2 large field mushrooms, 1 onion, 2 cloves of garlic until browned. Add 3 tomatoes, some fresh basil and oregano and / or a couple of tablespoons of pesto, and seasoning as desired. Simmer until all liquid has evaporated and added finely sliced spinach. Turn off heat and leave spinach to wilt with the heat that’s in pan. I left this to cool for this filling, and sprinkled with cheese once on dough.

This turned out delicious, thanks Narf 🙂

We often make half again of this amount of the filling I used and have been eating it with honeyed figs, sounds a little weird but it’s a delicious combination.

Postnote: I have since made this a few times using leftover meat or vegetable dishes, a delicious way to use up leftovers!

An autumn weekend….ending with a bath tub full of grapes!

The big clean up in the garden continues – what is so beautiful and productive in summer becomes a whole lot of work in the autumn doesn’t it…in harvesting, preserving, removing huge spent plants and finding the weeds you couldn’t see before! The garden is mostly empty now, we harvested the rest of the pumpkins, pulled out the tomato plants to hang in the basement while the remainder slowly ripen. Roger asked me if I wouldn’t like to make Green Tomato Chutney and no sweetheart, I wouldn’t! Over chutney making 🙂Image

What’s left of the beans are being left to dry out for next years seed and cooking, there’s still alot left on the plants.


So, while Roger hauled out dead plants and transplanted some currant bushes I got the easy? job of pulling apart a massive bale of half rotted peastraw and wheelbarrowing it to the garden and spreading it on. Slimy, stinky as hell and verrry heavy…..gosh, what a lovely job! I was soo looking forward to a bath after that one but never got it, I’m sure I smell ok this morning though I did get to wash over the sink 😦 Our bath is full of grapes. Sitting there sore and tired after a rather long few day we got a phone call to ask if we still wanted to try making our own wine – a local vineyard owner Roger knows still had plenty on his vines after the harvest. So, without really thinking; we have no idea how to make it, do we have the necessary equipment, how can we store it etc etc we take off to collect around 130 kg (or more!) of red grapes.Image

6 rubbish sacks, 1/4 – 1/3 full sitting on the back of a truck means alot of juice already by the time we got home so the only place really for these was the bath I was so desperately needing. THEN, we look on the computer to find out what we need and how to do this. Quite involved….ay?! We bought two food grade 200 lire plastic barrels that we had on our watch list on an auction site (we were still considering buying for next year) and today I am off to the library for some information and to the wine making supply shop for advice and some chemicals and equipment. When hubby comes home from work he needs to drive 55 km to get these barrels, and this afternoon I will start de-stemming and mashing. Roger has made a wee bit of wine in the past, at boarding school he and some friends made a still in some empty lockers they bashed the walls out of….so he feels he knows a little bit about the process, I am not so sure we can handle such a great quantity in our first attempt but… this space I guess!!

I managed to locate some cheap walnuts, an elderly lady we know was selling them for the local Guides, so I finally have the bin full as I try to do each year. Today I will be making museli with walnuts, dried apples, figs and feijoas and seeds. I have not bought any muesli for months so am looking forward to this.


And, with the cold weather the chooks have stopped laying so we are having to buy eggs. My son took this photo a couple of weeks back when my granddaughter went down to collect them as she always does. Rather than lay in the hen house our chooks prefer the big nest my husband made from branches cut down from the garden, he built a little house for them under the gum tree which they love. It needs either a little person or a very flexible one to collect these!


So, today my jobs are sorting out the grape problem we have created for ourselves and making muesli and doing another batch of dried apples. I’m actually a bit worried about going into town fearing I might smell still of rotten peastraw, I just won’t look at people’s faces I think…. they say ignorance is bliss!!

Barbecue Sauce and Quick Summer Gnocchi

I had never made either of these before but a glut of tomatoes means trying to find as many ways as possible for using them.

Barbecue Sauce: Recipe makes 1 x 500 g bottle (I doubled this to store)

1 kg tomatoes

1 onion

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 cloves garlic

60g brown sugar

4 tbsp malt vinegar

2 tbspn worcester sauce

1 tbspn each of tomato paste, mustard powder and curry powder

1 tsp honey

Saute chopped onion in the oil in large pan till soft, add tomatoes and cook until soft and mushy (Do not add water). Cool and put through whiz or blender and process till smooth. Return to pan and add all other ingredients and simmer till thick (about 30 mins) stirring occasionally. Image

Quick Summer Gnocchi:

I cheated and purchased ready made gnocchi because I wanted a really quick meal for me (my husband doesn’t like gnocchi)

Fry cherry tomatoes, capsicum and chopped onion in olive oil. Add torn basil, salt and pepper. Cook a packet of gnocchi, drain and add to pain. Stir in a splash of cream (or yogurt) and sprinkle with grated parmesan.

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.


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!


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 ( I have calendulas. I have lots of flowers and a new toy so that started me off on a tangent around the garden!


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!