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Showing posts from November, 2010

Celebration Cakes

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Last night I made the first of the Christmas Cakes, this one is for a raffle at the Lions club Christmas dinner. It was nice to have the time to enjoy the process of making it but would have been nice to have some helpers to stir the mixture. Peter got home just in time to lick the bowl!



The house smelt delicious while it was cooking. My favourite part is when I take it out of the oven, unwrap it and turn it out and then pour a few tablespoons of brandy over it while it hot. The brandy sizzles as it soaks in.
I think it looks nice and hope someone wins it who will enjoy it.
Today is Peters birthday.The first time we have both been home on one of our birthdays for years I think so  I thought I would make a cake. I came across this recipe recently on Mathew Evans blog,

http://www.sbs.com.au/shows/gourmetfarmer/recipes/detail/recipe/8292
and wanted an excuse to try it. It reminded me of the old sour cream chocolate cake I used to make when the girls were small.
 I think it was in an old  R…

"Of droughts and flooding rains"

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There is no doubt that Dorothea Mackellar summed this country up perfectly in her poem "A Sunburnt Country". This time last year the land was burnt to a crisp. We had already had many days in the mid to high thirties, all the dams creeks and rivers were dry and we looked for every sign of rain with bated breath. Around here there has been a drought for almost ten years. the rain promised last Christmas never arrived here and we had to endure the January from hell before the rain started to fall at the end of that month. We had some lovely rain up until the middle of the year and since August it seems to have rained more  often than not. Our dams and tanks are full and many if the major catchments are full or over half full. To give you a context our total rainfall for this year is up to 797.5 mls, the average for this area is about 650 mls and our worst year was around 260 mls. So it is just beautiful. Except if you are a farmer. After ten years of drought, crops shrivelling…

Happy Snaps

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Things that made me feel happy around here today.
  Peter is back building after a lengthy illness.

The good bugs breeding up on the carrot I have let go to seed.

The first Delphinium flower

A box of mulberries for our neighbour to say thanks for delivering our papers every Saturday.




flowers on the cactus. It only lasts for a day but there are a few more to bloom.

Making the christmas cake

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When the girls were little I used to make the Christmas cake on the long weekend in October. I'm a bit behind this year but realised that i need to get a move on as I am donating one for a raffle on the 4th December. I have been making the same recipe for many years now. I have an Old Margaret Fulton entertaining recipe book which is the first recipe book I ever owned. Mum gave it to me for Christmas when i was twenty, so it is getting on! I still use it and I think this is a great Christmas cake recipe. Often when people say they don't like fruitcake it is because they have never had a real one cooked with plenty of care and lots of fruit. I put the fruit in to soak yesterday and will soak as long as possible.

It is interesting to note that it gets harder and harder to buy Glace Fruits each year. I knew there would be none here so asked Zoe to get them at David Jones food hall but even there they didn't have the full range. I don't think the cake works nearly as well …

Old Fashioned Egg and Bacon Pie

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We have both been home all day most days since Peter got sick so lunch has become a meal rather than a bit of a forage around to see what needs using up. We are still getting lots of eggs and I have found a butcher in Orange who sells the best bacon, properly smoked! so yesterday I thought i would make a good old fashioned Egg and Bacon Pie. When  I used to work shift work I taught Peter to make this as an easy family dinner, in retrospect wonder what Zoe used to eat on those nights as she doesn't eat eggs!
Anyway the original recipe called for two sheets of frozen puff pastry so you could use that but I use Sour Cream Pastry , learnt from the Cook and the Chef, my all time favourite TV cooking show.
Sour Cream Pastry
250 g plain flour
200g cold, cubed unsalted butter
1/2 cup sour cream
Pulse the flour and butter in food processor until it looks like crumbs

Add the sour cream and pulse until it comes together
Wrap pastry in glad wrap and rest in the fridge about twenty minutes
The Pi…

Turkey Tales

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Springtime and our turkeys have been laying prolifically and going broody. We reduced our flock considerably in the autumn and have just three white hens, three bronze and one bronze gobbler. So we wanted to breed quite a few turkeys this spring. The first two that Peter set in august came to nothing, perhaps it was too cold, so we put a lot in the incubator in September and hatched 11 from that setting.
They are now two months old and going well. they free range through the day now and share their accommodation with two chickens who hatched at the same time. They are starting to need a lot of food so it is just as well that there is a lot of grass around.

We set another hen on eight eggs and she hatched out seven of them about two weeks ago and is doing a great job of raising them. We needed to move her and her chicks to the big turkey shed when they were a few days old and she really was not impressed. she doesn't like us to come anywhere near them.

When Peter was in hospital two…

Growing Vegetables from seeds

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It is my aim to grow all our vegetables from seeds and I feel that i have not arrived at the best method of achieving that yet. I would say that over time I have had quite a good success rate but lately it all seems to be a bit hit and miss. I'm not sure if this is because I am paying more attention or because I am having particularly poor results. My tomatoes took ages to come up but then did quite well, none of the capsicum germinated and I only got three eggplant plants. A lot of carrots, beetroots, radishes and parsnips all got washed away by a heavy storm. So I thought I would try something different and planted a lot of plants into jiffy peat pots, so far only one has germinated and they have been there over two weeks, so I guess that is it.

Next i planted into little newspaper pots that Peter made, probably a third of these have come up. So i am still hopeful of getting more.

My big lettuce box is looking rather sparse, usually it is covered with tiny lettuce and the lettuc…

Changing my occupation

I was looking at my details on something yesterday and it said occupation, consultant. I thought that is not true any more. not if your occupation is what you spend most of your time doing. In the last month I would say I have spent at least six hours a day, six days a week gardening. I have done a few days paid consultancy work but I think you would have to say that my occupation is now gardener. Doesn't  that sound great. It is the best job I have ever had, now i just need to find a way to make it earn me a living. I suppose it does in a way as it provides most of what we eat and I have swapped a few things, eggs for example and some of the chickens i am going to swap for Chicken Feed! I need an income producing activity in the garden that will pay for a ticket to England each year to visit the girls. In the meantime I'll keep doing a bit of my old work but find I am a bit reluctant to take time away from my real gardening work. There is just so much to do. The garden is loo…

Gorgeous Garlic

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Having an abundant supply of homegrown garlic is one of my many gardening aims. Last years crop was a bit meagre due to lack of water and this year for some reason i forgot to order any new cloves to plant. Luckily the garden has a mind of its own and lots of self sown garlic emerged in the back garden. Three varieties, Russian garlic which is really a garlicky sort of leek i think, it has  one or two large cloves and is quite sweet, a white garlic and a pink garlic. not very scientific in the names, in any case the only problem with the self seeded garlic has been that the plants were too close together and a bit stifled. I have been using the thinnings for months now in lieu of buying garlic. I did plant two rows of garlic properly from cloves i had bought at the fruit shop that looked OK. It had all been growing along nicely when, all of a sudden, the leaves yellowed and started to fall over. Time to harvest. I am really quite pleased with the result, especially as I was a bit lack…

Beetroot Jam and the first of the Raspberries

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I am having greater success growing beetroots as the the soil improves. they are one of my favourite vegetables and very good for you. I picked these beauties this morning.





Generally I just grate them into a salad but because Zoe is here for the weekend and the are not her one of here favourites I thought i would do something different with them. I called it beetroot jam. It is more of an idea than a recipe as are most of my from the garden meals. Peel and grate the beetroot, it has been a surprise to me that very fresh beetroot is really easy to peel, I always thought it was very difficult unless you had already cooked the beetroots. Put a little bit of butter and olive oil  into a frying pan and gently fry and finely sliced rad onion with some garlic. Add the beetroot, one dried chili and a few sprigs of thyme. After a few minutes add about two tablespoons of brown sugar, a good slurp of red wine vinegar  and salt and pepper to taste. cook on a medium heat until it is a glossy, jammy…

Favourite Things

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The garden gives me so much pleasure. I walk around to see what is happening in every corner at least once a day. As I am just going about my daily garden chores I am often stopped in my tracks and am saying to myself "Wow, would you look at that" Some of the things that stopped me in my tracks yesterday.

The back corner which is almost exactly how I want it to be.


the red gernaiums after i tidied them up


The hydrangea that I grew from a cutting from our old house and only recently found a spot for in the garden is flourishing and flowering




this huge bunch of lavender that i picked from  the lavenders I pruned in the rose garden


The Lily that has buds on it and will flower soon

The biggest strawberry i have ever grown

this old wheelbarrow that was lurking in the back shed and is going to become a planter for some beautiful geraniums a friend is giving me.
I also felt very smug last night when a friend was complaining of all the bugs on her roses, we have hardly any bugs on ou…

Trees Old and New

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A lack of established trees is one of the big issues with our garden here. When you look around the beautiful established gardens in the area they are full of trees. We had a few old fruit trees, some white cedars, two of which are a good size, Kurrajongs and Robinia's. The Robinias' are a bit of a problem as they sucker and come up everywhere, but we just snip them off and cut the trees almost completely back each year so in the spring we end up with this, nice green, shady trees . You can see the native frangipani in the foreground here, it has grown well and smells delicous.
Similarly the white cedars are often removed because they host a rather nasty, hairy caterpillar, but these are short lived and our trees are not near the house so they don't bother us. The trees are magnificent, drought tolerant, deciduous and have a lovely flower and scent in the late spring.  They come up all over the place so we just move them where we want them. You can tell they are a great tr…

Worn out with weeding

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The beauty of gardneing on sandy soil like this is that you can get straight back on it after the rain. So despite having  over thirty mls of rain in the previous twelve hours, yesterday afternoon we made a big assualt on the weeds in the rose gardens.
This post was going to show three beautifully weeded, mulched and tidy rose gardens, the Jemima garden and the white garden are completely weeded but about three quarters of the way through the pink and yellow garden my body said it needed to stop digging, bending and pulling. the thing that defeated me were the Hearts Ease that have gone feral in this garden.
When I stopped I realised it was 6 PM anyway. Still we have made a good start and I think we will get them done today.
In the meantime a reminder of why I grow the roses,  this is only one reason of course as they look great in the garden as well and I do enjoy most of the work associated with them.
           A mixed bunch




Pink and white       

Red and white, the red roses have…

Home made

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I often wonder, when I see signs in restaurants and cafe's claiming something is home made, if it actually was made in someones home. I doubt it really and think perhaps the sign should say made in house or something similiar. At the same time as we are fascinated with the Masterchef phenonemen in Australia and the idea of serving restaurant quality food in our home, I think there is a real nostalgia for home made food. Just bake a cake and take it to work to test this theory out. I was thinking when I was a child nearly all of what we ate and a lot of what we wore was home made. We looked forward to the special treat of bought biscuits or sausages. But our diet was limited by the skills and culinary history of our parents and it was quite an impoverished one in many ways, meat and three veg most days and the three veg was mashed potato and pumpkin and tinned peas. We had a vegetable garden and a few fruit trees but I dont remeber either ever flourishing. Dad always milked a cow o…

passionfruit

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When we moved here there was a ragged old passionfruit just near the back door. I have rehabilitated it somewhat and it has always looked quite  nice but nver had much fruit. I guess becasue of lack of water.
I wanted to create a microclimate to grow asparagus and some berries that needed shelter from the sun and the wind and because passiofruit has such a lush, thick growth habit I thought they would do the trick. I grew some vines from seed and planted them on a trellis about six foot high.
Two years down the track here they are. They has exceeded my expectations.

I expected them to fruit in summer but this year after the winter rain they flowered and set fruit. Much to our suprise the fruit ripened and we haave been eating passionfruit for the last two months. The ripe fruit just drop off the vine and you find them hiding in the grass at the base of the vines.

The old vine has also come good and looks set to have a bumper crop.The flowers are beautiful too,







I can see passionfruit cu…

Mowing a meadow(or in this case a paddock)

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What we are trying to do here is literally make a garden out of a paddock. A quite run down paddock at that. I am not sure of the actual dimensions of the garden, I think it is about two acres. Only a few trees, the garden along the veranda, some fruit trees and a small patch of lawn were in the original garden.

Our vision is that there will not be much lawn or grassed areas, just lots of trees, shrubs and ground covers. As well as being beautiful we hope all this will cool the house a bit in summer, shelter us from the wind and provide a habitat for birds, lizards etc. The reality at the moment is that although everything is growing really well becasue of the  rain, the weeds are growing faster. The garden has had three months of neglect, one when I was in england to see the girls, one when I got home and was really busy and Peter was building and most recently while Peter has been ill. The current task is to reclaim all our trees and shrubs from the Patersons Curse and Cape Weed that…