Showing posts from December, 2010

Fruit fly

Yesterday when I was picking the fruit I found three plums that had been stung. Very annoying but there were only three and none in the peaches or apricots. I have refreshed all the traps and hung up  a few more as well as putting out some ecobait. In past years once they started they really took hold but I am hoping we can hold them at bay this year. There is still loads of stone fruit to come as well as the tomatoes. I might put some exclusion bags on some of the bigger tomatoes just in case.
I spent a pleasant hour this morning potting up herbs for Zoe to take home with her. It is so nice to have them in quantities that are easily divided. Most herbs are very easy to propagate from cuttings, divisions or seeds but often ridiculously expensive to buy. I am glad Zoe is now living in a place where she can have a little garden.

The old blue native hibiscus is in full bloom. It was one of the few ornamental shrubs in the garden when we came here but it has never really flowered. this ye…

Hot weather gardening routine

Today is the first time this summer that I have felt that I needed to be in my hot weather routine.
Out in the garden by six to make the most of the cooler morning. Back into the house to do household things by about half past eight. Work in my office until that becomes too hot, about the middle of the day and then retreat to the lounge room until it cools down again. Its already over 30 so I think we will get to the mid to high thirties today. We really need some dry heat after all the rain. I will need to venture out to pick the fruit though and hope it cools down enough to continue the mowing now that Zoe is here for a few days to help with that.
Despite the wet weather the roses have come good again.

One of our neighbours told me I would never be able to grow roses here without spraying with various chemicals. I am pleased to be proving them wrong.  We have had no aphids at all so far this year, there has been some black spot but it is not major. A few weeks ago there were some na…

The corn is as high as an elephants eye.......

Whenever I walk past the vegetable garden I am reminded of the song from Oklahoma, I think it is "Oh what a beautiful morning", quite apt as well. Generally my corn has grown to maybe a metre tall, this year it has almost grown through the top of the shade  enclosure, it is so tall. As is everything in the garden, the tomato plants are not far behind and the climbing beans are right over the top of the shade frame. I don't think I will need to put the shade cloth on this year, the beans will do the job for me.

Other parts of the garden are equally lush. The agapanthus are huge, with flower stalks well over a metre tall. I had to pick some yesterday as they had been blown over in the wind.

The plumbago is also going rampant, it looks so pretty flowering among the red geraniums. Peter's brother had a darker blue one in his garden that we have taken some bits from. The blue's are so refreshing in the summer garden.

My second go at preserving and a better result I th…

Preserving fruit, an art form?

It is always quite exciting returning home to the farm after an absence to see what is happening and get on with new projects. My big new project is putting the new preserving unit to work and bottling some of the stone fruit harvest. I have done a bit of research on this, read the Fowler's Vacola instruction manual and several other books. I also saw Mathew Evans on a Gourmet Farmer   
 and it seemed to me all he did was pack the fruit in the jars, cover with water and add some sugar. This is the process I followed. I have to say my end result looked nothing like his!

Quite attractive though...

More research and practice is called for. clearly I need to put more fruit in the jars, I did think they were full but obviously could have packed much more in. I am going to try using a light sugar syrup next time as well. There is loads of fruit on the trees so plenty to practice with. The other thing that happened is that my preserving unit is in Fahrenheit not Celsius as I had assumed,…

Chocolate Croissants for Christmas morning

I had a busy day in the kitchen yesterday preparing to go away for Christmas. I baked a  spinach and ricotta lasagne, with homemade pasta, for dinner tonight. some cheese and spinach rolls to take to last nights neighbours party. Prepared the turkey for rolling and stuffing. Chocolate croissants for Christmas morning breakfast. Croissants are not as hard to make as you might think and are a real treat, I watched and episode on Poh's Kitchen when Emmanuel made croissants and followed The Cook and the Chef
recipe. Just add squares of dark chocolate when rolling up.

 Have a Happy Christmas.

Perfect summer day

The clouds are gone, the cold snap on Monday just a memory  yesterday and today are picture perfect summer days.
Clear skies and the temperature in the low thirties, not too hot to stop us doing things but just right. Tonight is the neighbours Christmas party for our area so it couldn't be better. As the drought has been the dominant weather feature since we moved here we sometimes forget that the climate is one of the attractions of this area for us. Apart from about two months of summer where the temperature can remain in the high thirties for days on end, the rest of the year is very pleasant indeed. Lovely autumns, real winters and a long spring. So far this year we are enjoying a very mild summer as well. We have not even thought of putting an air conditioner on yet and of course there has been a flood so we have plenty of water. What a change. This time last year we were carting water from town and spending about two hours a day watering all the little trees and shrubs we ha…

Poultry and Peaches

When I got home from work yesterday I discovered that the surrogate chickens, who are being raised by the silkies and living under the peach tree, have discovered they can fly. They had flown up into a low branch of the tree and were picking and eating the peaches. I am glad that I checked that tree yesterday as it is only quite small and they could have made a real mess of it just as the peaches are ripe.

We moved the silkie cage to another spot and netted the tree in case the birds also discover it.

Also decided that the chickens could go up with the other chickens who were hatched in the incubator.

All together we had twelve chickens, three have gone to one of my friends as pets for her children, another six are going to one of our neighbours. We will keep the remaining three but I think two of them are roosters so they are destined to be dinner at some stage. I already have someone wanting more chickens so will set another batch after Christmas. I am literally swapping my chickens f…

Super Silverbeet

Just look at this giant silverbeet leaf, its huge. Just as well we love eating it. A testament to the improved qualityof our soil as well as the wet weather.

The Best laid plans.....

On Saturday morning the resident weather forecaster told me with great certainty that the rain was all gone until Christmas day. A weekend of gardening was the plan, tidying and mulching the priorities. By one o'clock it was pouring down! A brief respite in the afternoon saw me complete the weeding of the Jemima rose garden, wonder why I made such a big garden for such a little girl! I was really keen to put down a heavy mulch of newspaper and lucerne to inhibit the weeds. A week ago I bundled up all the newspapers and sat them out in the rain so they would be suitably moist for this job. I got about a third of it done and down came the rain again. Unfortunately the rain was accompanied by strong winds so quite a bit of my mulching was blown away.
Yesterday I did get the tomatoes tidied up and the Kikuyu dug out from the edges of the vegetable garden in between thunderstorms. As our ground is sandy we can still work on it when it is wet. The vegetables are enjoying this wet and mi…

This Weekend Happy Snaps

A Flower arrangement made from leek and carrot flowers
 Perfect plums picked straight from the tree for our breakfast, they are so juicy and bursting with flavour

Agapanthus are flowering, they are huge this year

The Price of Fruit

Growing my own fruit and vegetables has certainly given me an appreciation of the work involved to harvest even one piece of fruit. It shocks me to see the very minimal prices that we can buy fruit for at times, I wonder if the grower is actually making anything out of it at all. Yesterday I saw a roadside stall offering organic apricots for $4 a kilo...what a a bargain. The major fruit and veg shop in Orange was selling non organic apricots for $9.95 a kilo, I wonder how much the grower got for them. Bananas were a ridiculous 99cents a kilo. While this is good news for people shopping it is not a real reflection of the reality of growing things. The bananas would have to be transported a long distance as well. They were quite small so I imagine didn't fit the criteria of the major supermarkets.
The fruit we grow is priceless, many, many hours of maintenance, pest prevention and watching involved but it is so satisfying in terms of taste and the knowledge that it is chemical free,…

Creative Cooking from the garden and pantry

Our vegetable garden is in a bit of a lull for the moment that corresponds with the time Peter was in hospital and I didn't get much done. All the summer vegetables are going well and I expect to pick the first Zucchini's in about a week. Once they start there will be plenty of choice again. At the moment it is quite restricted. Yesterday I was in Parkes and as it was Thursday the fish man was there so I bought some nice fish for dinner.
Thinking of a sort of Mediterranean Fish dinner I had a forage through the pantry and garden to see what I could come up with. I found some lovely potatoes that have grown in places other than the potato patches. I cut the larger ones into chunks and used the smaller ones whole, tossed in olive oil, salt and chunks of lemon and roasted.

I really wanted some beans to make my lovely olive oil bean recipe but they are just beginning to flower. Then I thought that recipe would work just as well with silver beet. Usually I just wilt silver beet wit…

Twelve Months of Fruit from our Garden

One of the attractions of this place was that it had some old established fruit trees. Two Oranges, two mandarins, a lemon, two pears, a fig, a mulberry and a passionfruit vine. The basis of our orchard. I have planted additional trees and vines to try and see if we can be self sufficient in fruit for a whole year. At the moment I feel this is within our reach. We have been eating mulberries from the three trees for about six weeks now, there are two very small new trees and one older trees that has been quite neglected. All of them provided loads of berries for eating fresh and preserving. I have put a lot in the freezer and made a small amount of jam. The Mulberries have been supplemented by strawberries, a few raspberries, some passssionfruit and rhubarb. If you look really hard you can still find a few mulberries on the trees although the little turkeys discovered they could fly up into the tree that is outside the yard and cleaned most of those up.

Just as they are finishing the …

Changing our own climate

Despite being surrounded by climate change sceptics climate change is a reality to us and one of the challenges we need to strive to meet. Our efforts to reduce our carbon footprint include; driving a small fuel efficient diesel car, using gravity fed rainwater for all our household needs, growing most of our own fruit, vegetables and poultry and installing a large Solar System that feeds into the grid. By the way we got out first cheque from Country Energy the other week, $464 for two months and no bill, our bill would normally be about $250 for this amount of time so we produced $ 714 worth of electricity in two months, months that were quite wet and cloudy at that. We are trying to reduce our electricity usage as well so will be interesting to see how this goes. We  were fortunate that we had installed this system while the feed in tariff was at 60cents kwh and it remains at this.
On another level we are literally trying to change our climate. Our house is very hot and exposed. Ver…

Rhubarb and Chocolate Muffins

The other week I saw some chocolate and rhubarb Muffins in a cafe. As I am often looking for ways to use our lovely rhubarb I thought I would have a go at making some. I searched the Internet and my recipe collection but could not find any recipes that looked promising so I thought I would make up my own.
1 cup plain wholemeal flour
1 cup ground almonds
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup of buttermilk (or you could use yogurt)
2 eggs
100g chocolate, melted
1 cup rhubarb cut into 2cm pieces

Put all dry ingredients in bowl then fold in eggs, buttermilk and chocolate, add the rhubarb, put into muffin tins and bake at 180 for about 35-40 minutes  .

I think they turned out well but would be nicer with dark chocolate.

Preparing to Preserve the stone fruit harvest

The last few years most of our fruit preserving has either been jam making or freezing. Quite satisfactory in many ways. However I have always wanted to do "proper" bottling of fruit, tomato sauce etc. A few weeks ago we came across a box of Fowler's Vacola jars in an op shop for only $10 for fifteen jars, a very good price. I bought these and then started to hunt for a preserving unit. One of the reasons I wanted one was that I think an electric unit will reduce the amount of heat in the kitchen when we preserve and as it usually in the high thirties when the stone fruit is ripe that will be very welcome. Once the fruit is bottled there is no further electricity costs as there is with freezing and the jars are reusable. So a good solution on many levels. I decided I didn't like the look of the  new plastic preserving units and the new stainless steel ones are very expensive.
I found a beautiful second hand stainless steel unit on ebay, perfect for our kitchen. As a …

This Weekend Happy snaps

Our beautiful Border Collie Angus, looking good for his age

All the beans have come up this time

 More flowers on the cactus

The first Lily's I have grown and they smell divine as well as looking spectacular
 My no dig potato garden is thriving