Showing posts from January, 2011

Companion Planting and other matters

I have to admit I am not a very scientific gardener. I tend to absorb huge amounts of information, then apply things a bit randomly while building on what works. I like the idea of companion planting and I have some charts somewhere but what I really like is when I can actually see the companion relationship working. I read once that the Native American people used to plant beans, pumpkins and corn together. The corn provided some support for the pumpkin and beans and they all shaded and sheltered each other. In our  very hot and usually dry summers I thought this was an idea that might actually work. In the heat of the summer our vegetables quite often "cook" on the vines. I planted climbing  beans on the trellis on two sides, rows of corn in between and pumpkins in the corner. It has become a veritable jungle. A happy and productive jungle. The corn is over two metres tall and loaded with yummy cobs, the beans have grown up the sides and over the top of the trellis, shadin…

Summer without Mangoes

I was introduced to Mangoes quite late in life, i guess as a child we ate locally! Since being introduced to Mangoes though they have become a favourite part of our summer. Something interesting has happened this year though, as our garden and orchard has grown and become more productive, we have purchased no fruit since early October when the Mulberries began. I had thought I would pick up a box of Mangoes on one of my Sydney trips but the thought of all the fruit already at home stopped me even looking. So no Mangoes for us this summer. Instead we have been eating Mulberries, passionfruit, Apricots, Plums, Peaches, Nectarines, Raspberries and Strawberries, so it has been no hardship. Without any conscious effort we have become locovores, at least in our fruit consumption.
We also ate no tomatoes for months until ours became ripe. This was a conscious decision as I had purchased some particularly tasteless ones and thought why bother. Next year I think we will have enough bottled tom…

Food for a hot day

It was already 27 degrees when I got up this morning, not quite as early as usual as we had been out to an Australia day party last night, but still before seven. Yesterday ti went over 43 and I think today will be the same. Very hot indeed. The party yesterday was for tennis and a barbecue, I didnt play tennis but a lot of people did despite the heat. Austrlian country folk have this thing about proving their resillience no matter what. Becasue of the heat we didnt eat until pretty late, maybe nine thirty, so by that time a babecu and salad was acceptable and pleasant way to eat. I made mini pavlovas with passionfruit and cream the same as last year.  I dont think many people remebered and they enjoyed them anyway.
Pavlova recipe  It is an obvious thing to take to an Austrlai day party as we have loads of passionfruit at the moment and unlike this time last year still have plenty of eggs every day. Last year I  used frozen egg whites as we were in the midst of drought still and my po…

A place for my cookbooks in the kitchen

When i received no less than five new cookbooks for Christmas I remarked to Peter that it was a shame i didn't have a place to keep them all in the kitchen. They have been in the bookshelf in my office. He said he had just the thing and made two shelves out of a nice piece of cedar he had been saving for a project. So here they are, one shelf full of books and the other waiting for me to add to my collection. I also discarded all the books I never use, not a great deal, and organised my clippings into folders. A lovely cooking reference library where it belongs in my kitchen!

Sheet mulching, working smarter not harder

During the past few years gardening here has been very labour intensive. Building a garden in a paddock is hard work and we are organic in principle so no spraying of weeds allowed. I feel like I am always getting things back in order and it is very hard work. This is exacerbated by the fact that for the last three years I have been away at least two weeks every month  working and Peter has been working and renovating so the garden has always lacked regular consistent attention.
Well that is going to change, I am not going to be away working nearly as much, in fact I am not going to work nearly as much at all so i will have much more time for the garden.
I really want to get on top of some of the hard jobs in the garden in a more permanent way. Not least because I am getting older and although I think the hard work is good for me it does at times sap my motivation and get in the way of my enjoyment of the whole process. I want to have more time to plan and to potter and improve the ae…


I spent most of the weekend in the garden despite the hot weather. We had a thunder storm on Saturday night and got over an inch of rain so that has renewed my gardening energy. Prior to that storm it had been dry all January and now it is getting very hot. 42 degrees forecast for Australia day on Wednesday.
Other than fruit and vegetable maintenance my plan for the weekend was to get the rose gardens back in order. There are three main rose gardens and the climbers. In some ways they have had a very tough summer. Initially it was mild, wet and humid so for the first time we have black spot in the roses. Then it has been hot and dry, usually that is fine but I think all the plants are a bit soft after the cool start to summer. they need to toughen up.
In the meantime the weeds have got away a bit and the mulch needs redoing. So the first and most laborious task was the weeding. Three big barrows of weeds later and I was ready to mulch. I got the Jemima garden all completed but then th…


So much of everything in the garden at the moment. Leading the field is the beans,
all doing incredibly well. The other day i picked over a kilo and left quite a few on the vines to mature and dry.
I made our favourite Olive Oil Beans with this big harvest.

Olive Oil Beans
1 kilo of Beans, any variety, I used a mixture
1/2 cup olive oil 2 large onions 4 cloves garlic 2 cans peeled and chopped tomatoes or the equivalent fresh if you have them
Saute onions and garlic in the oil gently for about twenty minutes until they are soft and sweet Add the tomatoes Salt and pepper to taste 2 tablespoons of fresh herbs (oregano works well) Add the beans and bring to a simmer Place a sheet of baking paper on top of beans, weigh it down with a plate Simmer for about two hours these are great hot or cold, i put a batch in the freezer as I think they will freeze well. There for a while I was worried that i wouldn't get any cucumbers, i needn't have, they are coming thick and fast now as are the tomatoes and…

An Easy Ice Cream Recipe

Yesterday afternoon I found a carton of cream lurking in my fridge. It was a day past it's use by date. I had bought it last week for our dinner party as it was reduced to 84cents for a quick sale. Then I didn't use it as I made custard instead. How to use it up? I thought about just whipping it to go with the nectarines (story to follow) and then remembered an easy ice cream recipe my Friend Linda had given me.
The other main ingredient is eggs so of course that is just the thing for me to make.
Ice Cream Recipe
4 eggs separated
300 ml cream
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla paste

Whip cream until soft peaks form
Whip egg whites with the sugar until the sugar has dissolved
add vanilla
Beat in egg yolks quickly
fold in the cream,  
Pour into a container and freeze

How easy is that, and it is Delicious
On the dairy theme I am also making some yogurt cheese or Labne today. Just taking one of the containers of my my homemade yogurt  tip it into a strainer lined with a few layers of cheese cloth

Lost and Found

Now I've lost a duck! I had to put everything away early last night as we were going out. I started really early as the day before it had taken over half an hour. The little ducks went straight in, they were actually waiting to be fed. The chooks all went in as soon as I went up there with a feed bucket, even the usually reluctant ones, so I feel as though I have got them retrained again to come in when I feed them. The older turkeys were also cooperative, I couldn't find the smaller ones and went off down the paddock looking for them but when I came back they were all in as well. Including the hen that I lost yesterday. I will have to watch where she hides when I let her out today This just left the three ducks. Usually they are  not a problem which is why i left them to last . Wouldn't you know it, I could only find two. I suspect the other one has a nest somewhere too, not that it will do her any good as we don't have a drake at the moment. Hopefully she will turn u…

A lost turkey and five fat ducks

Turkeys lay their eggs in clutches, so they will lay for a few weeks and then go broody. As we have quite a lot of turkeys at present we are letting them out to free range from early in the morning until dusk. That means i need to keep an eye on where they are laying their eggs so I can find them if they go broody. They like to sit in sheltered, overgrown spots so it can be quite a challenge. What I usually do is watch them when I let them out and the ones that are laying will rush off on their own squeaking loudly, if I follow them I can find their nest and then when its time to put them away if I cant find one I go and look there. So last night when i went to put them away one of the white turkey hens was missing. I was pretty sure i knew where her nest was so went and looked there, tucked under one of the cedar trees, sure enough there was a nest with three nice eggs in it, but no turkey. Our place has lots of places for a broody turkey to hide so after looking in all the usual spo…

Three varieties of Zucchini or Courgette if you like

In line with yesterdays theme of "More being More" in a gardening sense I have planted three varieites of Zucchini this year.
The usual Black Jacks, which were the earlist to go in and are doing very nicely, a nice amount of flowers and fruit and none so far that have got away on me. Although I dont mind if they do as I will put them in the dogs food in that case.

After the success of the trombocino's last  year we have planted just one vine this year. It is encroaching on the surrounding pumkins and melons but i hope they will all survive together, The first Trombocino will be ready to pick tonight. Remember the huge ones that grew at the end of the season last year.  Giant Vegetables
  Trombocino have a firmer textrue than zucchini and a delicote buttery flavour.

From  Diggers Club I received a free packet of Zucchini round de Nice, an heirloom Italian variety. I have never seen these before,t hey have a very cute round fruit. They are also a nice neat sort of bush. I …

More is More

I have to admit when it comes to gardening I am quite greedy. More is definitely the way to go. I suppose I have a famine mentality so I need to plant a lot of everything and many different varieties to try and make sure we have enough.
Take my beans for example. I have had very little success growing beans here and they are one of favourite things to eat, as well as being a good staple for drying. This year I was determined to get a crop. After preparing the soil I chose many different varieties to see what would do well. Guess What? of course they have all done well, we already have so many beans and they are just starting. All visitors will be going away with bags of beans, we will freeze some, eat lots and make lots of our favourite olive oil beans, i think i will freeze batches of that too.
I planted purple king, rattlesnake and blue lake climbers. They are over two metres tall and cropping prodigiously, the rattlesnake are a particularly attractive bean with their purple stripes…

A Homegrown three course dinner party

One of my New Years Resolutions is to have a dinner party once a month. A real dinner party, clean the silver, get out the serviettes, light the candles sort of dinner. We have all these things that we rarely use so i plan to use them and make a regular social occasion.  The plan is to invite about four people over. A dinner party for six. Having made the resolution I was then humming and haaing about it, so finally on Wednesday rang some neighbours and issued the invitation for Saturday night, last  night.
On the menu was almost entirely food we have produced ourselves.

Fried Zucchini flowers served with a garlic aoili, sage leaves and Fried Haloumi
(only the haloumi not from our place) 
Main Course
Roast turkey, stuffed with bacon, peach chutney and sageserved with gravy, roast new potatoes, parsnips and Zucchini and steamed beans (just the bacon not from our place)
A sort of Eton Mess, in a long glass I layered a light creamy custard with Mulberries, meringues and cream…

Angus update

Thank you all for your concern for Angus.
We had a stressful visit to the vet, Angus has had some mites that get under his skin on his leg, he then bites his leg until he has created an open wound. The vet decided he needed to inject under the skin in the wound, ouch! To do this he needed to sedate Angus. When he gave him the anesthetic he went out like a light and I got quite a shock, I was just expecting him to become drowsy. All went well though and he seems fine. He has even kept his bandage on all night. I thought he might have taken it straight off. Hopefully it will all heal up now. Part of the problem is that it has become an anxious habit, he is a very anxious dog, so we will have to try and keep him more occupied and leave him inside more I think.

Angus with his green bandage.

We had a surprise this morning when Peter went to turn the incubator, there was a little chicken. We were not expecting any until Wednesday. I think what has happened is that the chooks were sitting o…

On My mind

My old dog Angus is on my mind as he is not well, has soemthing wrong with his leg and the treatment the vet did on monday hasnt worked. Will take him back today and hope for a better result.

The First Tomatoes of the Season

I picked the first tomatoes of the season yesterday.

Following lPeter Cundall 's advice I have picked them when they started to colour and have them sitting in a cool spot in the kitchen. On the wood stove actually, as it is not lit at the moment. They grew on a volunteer bush in the Jemima rose garden. We ate one the other morning and it was a bit disappointing, you could tell its origins were a supermarket tomato not one of our nice heritage ones. Never mind the ones I planted are almost ripe, the Christmas Grape Tomatoes will be first I think followed by some Tigerilla's. The volunteer has a lot of tomatoes on it though so i think i will use it to make an early batch of Green tomato chutney which we usually cant get enough of.

A Reality check

Yesterday in the garden provided me with a reality check regarding our weather. Over the past few months we have experienced the most benign weather conditions since we have lived here. Mild temperatures and plenty of rain. As a consequence the garden is lush and green. Perhaps too lush and green for our normal weather conditions. Yesterday i noticed that a couple of my precious raspberry plants had very quickly drooped and looked as if they might die. This happened in the space of a few hours. In more usual times I check my plants pretty regularly but have got out of the habit as we have had so much rain. It has been dry here since just after Christmas though and the sandy soil has very little moisture, especially the areas where i have not done a lot of mulching or composting yet. So i am back to my usual habits of checking and looking anxiously at the sky. While Queensland is flooding we could really do with a bit of rain!

Warts and all

or should I say freckles?
The fruit on the Apricot tree has lots of brownish, scabby freckles on much of it.

 Caused by the wet weather and unusual humidity. Despite this we have had a good harvest. Eaten lots of lovely apricots, given some away, made jam and preserved some. The ones that are left are looking pretty sad. I thought I would take them all off the tree and feed them to the poultry ,they love them. But could not bring myself to throw them all out as they still taste delicious. I decided to scrape away the flesh from the spots and make some apricot puree.A bucket full yielded four jars of beautiful puree.The taste of summer put away for the winter.
Also picked the last of the peaches this morning. They have lasted quite well but the late ones are not as good to eat as the earlier ones, they taste a bit watery. As I picked the fruit I gave the tree a bit of a prune and tidy up to try and have strong new growth for next years fruit. I will do the same to the apricot later toda…

Five Little Ducks

Finally we have managed to get some ducks to hatch. They came out between Christmas and New Year. They are very shy and have been hard to get a photo of. They run away whenever I get near by.
They are very cute. One of them is bright yellow. It is hard to believe how quickly they are growing, much faster than the chickens or turkeys in their first weeks. They are in the garden at the moment and i will leave them there unless they become destructive.

A Fair Trade

We have had quite a lot of interest in our poultry lately and have a waiting list for chickens. Instead of selling them I have been trading them. One of my work clients from Orange wanted three chickens for her children so we swapped them for a bag of  chicken starter  food. the deal is that if they turn our to be roosters they can bring them back and swap them for a pullet. Have not heard from them so hopefully they are all pullets. We have actually had a greater proportion of pullets than roosters in the last few batches. There is one little rooster, only about eight weeks old and crowing already, looks and sounds very funny. Our neighbours wanted six chickens as well and they took them last week. They are farmers so I said they could swap me some mulch hay or some wheat. Patrick turned up on Saturday with his ute loaded with three big round bales of hay and two bags of feed wheat. A pretty fair trade I think. We usually buy mulch hay for the garden and this will go a long way.

I th…

This Weekend Happy Snaps

A vintage dinky for our veranda

                                                                 angus and napkins sharing their breakfast

                                                       The first beans 

                                              A Kurrajong tree come back to life after we thought it was dying

                                                               Happy Gazania's

Orange Farmers Markets

The Farmers Market was on in Orange Orange Farmers Market this morning. although it is quite a long drive, about an hour from here, they are our closest Farmers market and the only opportunity I have to buy, somewhat locally, the things we don't grow here.  Although it was only a small market today I had a successful shopping trip bringing home pork, bacon,  speck and chorizo from the Trunkey Creek Bacon people and a lamb shoulder  from  Wellington Lamb.
It was interesting to notice the things I didn't need to buy as we already heave them, fresh vegetables, stone fruit, garlic, eggs and honey. There were two cheese stalls today. One selling goats cheese and other brie and Camembert made from Jersey cow milk. The Brie is excellent and I am looking forward to trying it.  I aspire to owning a jersey cow and making my own cheese in the not too distant future. I also bought some goats cheese to put with roasted beetroot from our garden. The goats cheese stall had a couple of French…

Spelt Pasta

All day yesterday I was looking forward to making one of our favourite summer dinners, fresh pasta with grated Zucchini. When I went to make it I discovered that I didn't have any of the flour I usually use. I was disappointed for a minute then remembered the packets of Spelt  flour that Zoe had bought for me. I'm sure I have seen spelt pasta so I decided to give it a go. I am really glad I did as it was a revelation. the best pasta I have made. We have been making our own pasta for about two years now, starting off hand rolling and progressing to using a small pasta machine. It is easy to do, satisfying and uses up eggs.

Spelt Pasta
1 1/4 cups spelt flour
2 small eggs (I usually use three eggs to this quantity of flour so the spelt is moister perhaps)
process is food processor until it just comes together, form into a disc and wrap in gladwrap. Rest on the bench for about an hour. Ours rested for two as I got sidetracked putting the poultry away. I think the long resting time hel…