Autumn Harvests

I seem to have gone right through summer with only one or two posts, I apologise for my absence at the busiest time of the year for a garden blog – it’s just been crazy busy here. Most of my computer time is taken up with the Freeconomy Facebook page these days and I feel it’s important to keep up with that.

While the bottom vege garden is being put to sleep for winter the fruit trees and bushes have been giving us a huge amount of fruit – we have peaches, figs and all sorts of berries coming in bucket loads. I am freezing most of this, have made jams but no bottling of fruit this year – though I have made a batch of peach wine (I will post the recipe for this when I find out if it’s ok)

???????????????????????????????

This is what my benches look like every couple of days!

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

We have harvested around 4 kgs of honey from the hives but have left heaps there for the bees for winter. I found an easy way to extract, covering an oven tray with aluminium mesh, cutting all the honey and comb out of the screen and placing on the mesh, put in the oven on around 50 deg C (barely warm) and the honey melts into the pan leaving the wax behind.

The herb garden is nearly empty and much of it sitting dried in boxes or hanging on two old clothes airers – what the lady of the houses uses when hubby is too busy to make a rack for her!

DSC02210

The green hedges around the front have all grown up now creating the privacy we wanted.

DSC02214What else we have been doing: Roger is enjoying being back building and is doing an adult apprenticeship (did I mention that?) so he has been studying. He has also had some great scores from stuff that has been headed for dumps – a huge amount of school library shelving came home and has been shared out amongst his mates. He has lined his basement workshop with it and it’s now very orderly and tidy! He also got a great pile of insulation that was going to be thrown out and he has put it both underfloor and topped up the attic with it. He has been working on the water feature and finally got it standing, it was too heavy to lift on his own.

???????????????????????????????

With leftover concrete he made this on an old beehive tray I scavenged two years ago. In January we went to a family reunion at the site of the old homestead his mother was raised in and he took an old piece of barbed wire and a piece of chimney rock, they are in the middle here.

???????????????????????????????

Our truck has broken down so I am sort of stranded at home during the weeks, unable to work because I can’t get there. I can’t get to the markets either though my sister kindly offered to sell stuff for me at her market up North. Also all my products are now in our community office which sells local crafts. I have been doing the garden, preserving all the food (we have two large full freezers for winter) making sauces, chutneys and jams. Making a heap of soaps etc and trying to declutter by giving stuff to Freeconomy. All my soaps and creams are generally left downstairs which is a pain so I converted a little desk with it’s drawers and cupboards to a little store of things closer to hand. ???????????????????????????????

We are still intending on having a shop here so are moving in that direction…when all the food stops coming in and only the front garden producing again it gives more time for other things.

So, that’s what we are up to, I haven’t disappeared…still around 🙂 I hope those of you going in to Spring are enjoying the warmer weather and those of you heading towards winter have your firewood at the ready!

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.

Garden, Soaps and Councils!

Things have been a little bit hectic around here and I have been popping in to have very quick reads of other blogs but I fear I am not keeping up to date, either with reading or posting.

The garden:

Is running riot and doing very nicely with not alot of help. Everything is planted but weeds at present are getting a little out of hand. Generally I do the front and Roger does the big garden but he has been so busy he hasn’t had time so this weekend hopefully we can catch up. The weather has been warm but really gusty, this time of year in our area it blows for a couple of months. The herbs are growing quickly and today I brought out the dehydrator for the first time of the season to dry some to keep them contained. The raspberries are ripening and about to be covered to protect from the birds. Everything else has fruited and it’s interesting to see the difference having the bees has made, we have fruit on trees that haven’t fruited before!

Look at the size of these broccolli!

IMG_4237

This afternoon I am going to pick what looks to be hundreds of broad (fava) beans, pod and freeze them. Everything else is fruiting and flowering despite us 🙂

We took trays out of the beehive last week absolutely full of honey but have no idea how we are going to harvest the honey. Roger tried to make a homemade spinny thing but it didn’t work so we froze the trays after googling to see if we could. You can see it here going into the contraption, and spinning but it didn’t have enough speed.IMG_4221IMG_4222

I did do one slowly in the oven and got 500 g but some was wasted so I think we will hire an extractor from the local beekeepers club.

Soaps etc:

I did my first market two weeks ago and really enjoyed it. My friend came too and also my granddaughter came to help.

1503917_953554794672647_3175230377343225806_n

That is me squinting into the sun while my sun took a photo, it’s awful 🙂 I have been busy making more to be ready before Christmas but they still have at least two weeks to cure. We were supposed to go again tomorrow but rain is forecast. A problem with being 28 km away from the market and reliant on Roger taking tables in for me in the truck means I can’t get there every week because he has other things going on. We had alot of fun but you need to get there at 6 am to get a space, it was a long morning by 12.30.

Councils!

I don’t think I have ever mentioned we have very poor drinking water here. We drink it from the tap during summer if no rain but in winter it is filthy, we need to go to the school and fill up bottles. It’s disgusting. The government have passed a law to say everywhere in NZ must have safe water systems in place by 2016 so our council are now required to do something about it. Roger was asked if he would go on the town representative committee to assist the council in coming up with a decent option for us, he said yes and has been run off his feet the last 2 months as they put together an application for a government subsidy to help “us” pay for it. It seems the council expect the town ratepayers to pay a large amount of the cost for whatever system we end up though they will loan the town the money at 7% interest over 20 years. So, if we get the subsidy we can expect to pay an extra $700 a year on top of the $800 it already costs us for our water rates, if we don’t it will cost everyone an extra $56 a week for drinkable water. We will be drinking the most expensive water in the country someone said.

There is no way the community will accept that happily (including us) so I really don’t know what will happen over the next year or so except it is taking up an awful lot of Roger’s time. I don’t know what happens in other small towns but I think it’s shocking. Our town rates 8.5 on a deprivation scale (out of 10) for the country, there is no money here. There’s alot of concern from everyone, alot of anger expressed at the last town meeting, it’s all quite yuk.

Other than that life is OK and plodding racing away 🙂

The Spring garden and Roger’s new job!

It’s been two weeks since Roger left his job. The day after he handed in his notice of two week I was rung by a friend to ask if Roger would be interested in doing a job for her in his spare time, putting in a new hot water cupboard and a concrete base for her wood stove to be shifted onto in her kitchen. Yes, she could wait two weeks, so that’s what Roger did the first week.

When we decided he should give up his job we felt ok about it, trusted that everything would be ok and he would find something sooner or later, ideally 3 days a week so he would have time here to do what is needed. We trusted but we did have periods of anxiety because that’s not really the practical thing to do nowadays, job security is important. Anyway – while he was doing this work for my friend he wasn’t entirely sure of something so rung an old building workmate for some advice. The guy was off work after an op so called around and while there mentioned Roger’s old boss is always asking him “what’s Roger doing now?” and saying he was a damn good worker. So Roger rung him, they had a discussion and it’s turns out they are building a concrete precast yard in our little town, to build a new winery. Roger spent several years building concrete wineries, this guy said they could really use him, Roger told him he only wanted to work 3 days a week at present, the guy said that is fine and his hourly wage will be 50% higher than it was on the farm! He starts Monday. WE ARE OK, we are better than ok! Serendipidity 🙂

I found this on the net and it seems appropriate and I shall try to remember it.

10675806_967480523277342_5466775885800382655_n

He has had a great week getting projects done but I can’t (won’t) show photos right now as he has also created a huge amount of mess everywhere and I have my pride! He has been using some of the scavenged timber to fence off the vegetable garden from the dog. It looks great but the whole back yard is a building site truly representative of Roger’s tendency to create chaos.

He has also been working on the fountain he started around 9 months ago. Done in stone aggregate and hardwood corner trims, he has put two stone hearts in the front. Problem is now though it weighs over 200 kg and he can’t lift it into place on his own.IMG_4068

A few pictures of the front garden

IMG_4072

IMG_4058

IMG_4055

The vegetable garden is all planted we have (in different stages of growth) potatoes, tomatoes, beans, lettuce, silver beet, spinach, pumpkins, apple cucumbers, zucchini, peppers, chilli, brocolli, cabbage, carrots, leeks, garlic, onions, red onion, beetroot all in. Roger doesn’t bother growing peas anymore because they take up too much room and you don’t get enough food from them according to him and we don’t grow corn because we have it given to us by friends.

Fruit we have growing are strawberries, red and black currants, peaches, cranberries, figs, feijoas, blackberries, boysenberries, raspberries plums (we hope we’ll get some this year along with the apricots) lemon, two newly planted passionfruit, new blueberry and gooseberry plants

Herbs we have are parsley, rosemary, chives, calendula, lemon balm, soapwort, mint, chamomile, peppermint, thyme, comfrey, oregano and basil, sage, feverfew, nasturtium, plantain.  Last year we dug out one of two remaining rock gardens to put in a bigger herb garden and the other one is about to be dug out for more.

Flowers: I have been planting some flowers in gaps around that I want for soaps creams etc. A friend has given me violets and lily of the valley plants, I have been splitting up geranium, planting marigolds and more calendula and a whole lot of sunflowers are going to be planted…somewhere!? It’s California Poppy time and I have been down the riverbed and beaches picking it – did you know it’s very good in wound salves? I made some this afternoon and will share the recipe during the week, along with some information about the uses of California Poppy’s I have found….it’s a handy plant for the medicine cupboard.

This morning we were out and about and I took a wrong turn down a street and ended up outside a scrap metal place that has junk and rubbish everywhere. Sitting in a pile of rubbish was this crate, it had one end broken but the two sides has this stamped on them. I gather it’s a wine crate…anyway, we snatched it and made a quick getaway lol

IMG_4070

I think one side will go on the dining room wall and the other ? Neat though.

I mentioned a while ago I had started a Freeconomy group for our area on Facebook and there is nearly 100 members now. It had been slow for the last month or so but people have started sharing seeds and plants which is great and I spent a good portion of a day last week running around delivering strawberry plants and vegetable seeds. It was nice and it was good to meet so many young people just starting out growing for their families. One person asked for anything spare so she could grow food for her kids and others joined in, it was great to see such alot of sharing happening. I was proud to see my son give away a near new mountain bike he wasn’t using, he thought someone could give it to a kid for Christmas but it was taken very appreciatively by a guy who needed it to get to work. I remember we had a discussion here about the fact some people will take advantage of other’s generosity but it’s proving to be a really worthwhile thing.

Sorry if this has ended up too long!

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!

9 days till Spring!!

Winter is nearly over and in 9 days time it will officially be Spring. In past years I have disliked winter intensely but this year I have loved it…there has been much to do inside. I have also been working quite alot which wasn’t expected but welcome for the extra money. 

Garden: 

We are just gearing up for the garden now. Seed raising potatoes are laid out in the basement and the first lot will go in tomorrow…then will start the morning and evening rituals of covering to protect from frosts then removing during the day. Potatoes need to go in early here because once the weather gets a bit warmer we have a bug that chews the new shoots and does something to the starch content preventing them from growing. Carrots and beetroot have been planted as well as broccoli and cabbage seedlings. Tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, cucumbers etc will all be started off in the wee greenhouse. Roger bought a dismantled second hand greenhouse as a second one for the bottom garden but is a bit befuddled as to how to put it back together right now 🙂 We are still harvesting leeks, silverbeet, spinach, lettuce, beetroot, carrots, oinions and broccoli from the winter garden and garlic has been planted. All the fruit and berries were pruned over winter and are ready to go!

Kitchen:

We still have a good supply of stored produce. The pumpkins have started to shows signs of deterioration so have been been picking those out and cutting up to freeze. We still have a large amount of stored food and have had smoothies made with berries and frozen fruit throughout winter, lots of soups and stews made with both frozen and fresh vegetables, have loved being able to have heaps of salads with fresh vegetables from the garden and spiced beetroot, pickled cucumbers and onions, peppers in olive oil etc. We didn’t have extras for many months but have noticed the past month we have desired more so have made crumbles with bottled peaches, apricots and plums and berry clafouti, our favourite. We are still using dried herbs from last summer.

Pauline aka The Contented Crafter kindly sent me some milk and water kefir grains and some kombucha so I have been using those and am hoping not to kill these ones. Thanks Pauline, right now they are still very healthy!

Neither the kitchen or the garden have been exciting enough to photograph at any time this month 🙂

Home:

I bought these lovely things at a garage sale for only 50 cents each. The bowls are a little irregular which I really liked, the plate is handpainted…all very cute!

IMG_3874

I have gone crazy soap making which needs a post of it’s own I will do tomorrow. I have been trying different recipes and am hoping to get good enough to sell some at the local market for Christmas. Time will tell……! I clearly need to find an outlet for what has become an obsession.

Roger comes home home ever so often with a big grin on face saying he found something today…he works on a farm which has alot of history and finds old draughthorse shoes, old bottles etc….treasures. He came home last week and told me to guess what he found. 

“A bird’s nest? A horse shoe?…..” “Nope, nope” he says “it starts with a B and you will never guess!!” No, I couldn’t, so he proudly produces it.

IMG_3882

My husband was standing in our lounge with this – it’s a BOMB! Hadn’t had it checked, assumed it would be fine and brought it home as another collectible. It’s gone now! Taken by the police to check it and I very much doubt we will ever see it again unfortunately. It’s an old training one from WW2. He didn’t trust that I was right in saying it needed to be checked so called a mate down – who admired it quickly then backed off even quicker saying it’s something? was still in tact and it needed to be checked!

This is Mittens standing at his access to the house, the kitchen window. The front door is often open but he likes to enter this way and will pull all sorts of desperate faces while he waits…next to the open door.

IMG_3838

And this is both Syd and Mittens blissed out in the evenings taking up all the furniture 🙂

IMG_3868

IMG_3869

I hope those of you ending summer are enjoying some beautiful weather and plentiful harvests and those of you in the Southern hemisphere are enjoying your planning…and warmer days!

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.