Sunday, January 31, 2010

A garden feast

We went away for the weekend to a little cabin on the beach to celebrate my 40th was a time of reading, walks, beaching, playing chess and scrabble, watching the stars and wildlife - a Kudu grazed under our window at night. What a wonderful weekend escape for us all.

But back at the lil ol homestead things were growing and ripening...

I am running out of room in my cooler drawer for more produce and with the heat being what it is at the moment need to pick and use asap. So tonight we had another dinner from our garden...

Iced cucumber and yoghurt soup (this was a bit of a challenge for us all - YKWIM - cold soup, but it was delicious.)

Simply made with 4 cucumbers, 3 cups of yoghurt, 1 cup of water, a pinch of fennel seeds and a tablespoon of lemon juice. Blend til smooth and chill.

Two French loaves...and stuffed marrow.

The stuffed marrows were delicious...ours was so big that I halved it lengthways, then cut it into 6 pieces. Scrape out the flesh with the seeds. Fry some onion garlic and pinenuts with the cubed flesh of the marrow.

Mix it together with 2 - 3 cups fresh breadcrumbs, 2 eggs, lots of fresh chopped parsely and sage and stuff it into the marrow shells.

Top with lots of parmesan and bake for about 1/2 hr. I had them in the oven at the same time as our bread was baking.

Dear Daughter Number 2 mixed up a batch of chocolate waffle batter and served chocolate waffles with cream and the strawberries we picked. Our strawberries are tapering off now as they send out their runners for new plants but we still are getting a fair amount of them to enjoy.

It was a true feast tonight.

Friday, January 29, 2010

My many slaves :-)

And no, I am not talking about my children!

Growing veggies and cooking from scratch adds time into my already very full day. I think if I lived on a farm in the back of beyond and had all day to devote to homemaking I would be much better off. However, I don't, so I dwell in my reality - and rejoice in it.

But there are all sorts of "city distractions" and I have to count every minute of my day to fit in everything that needs to be done.

So I use my slaves, perhaps a kinder term is "servants", to help me in my tasks.

The young guns are things like my stick blender and other small helpers. My big helpers are my Kenwood Chef which churns out the most delicious pasta 2 or 3 times a week.

My bread machine will need replacing soon after many years of faithful service, but still manages to give us a decent loaf, or mix my doughs for rooti and rolls.

And then the Kenwood again is used for making our dog food...chopping and grating is quick and the whole process takes no more than 20 minutes twice a week.

But I also love the smooth batters it makes for our morning flapjacks and waffles.

Other tools that I find useful are here at homesteading tools.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Eating local...

I try to plan one meal completely from our garden once a week, more if our plants are yielding lots! Tonight we had this to work potatoes, a massive courgette, tomatoes, eggs and beans.

I used the tomatoes and beans to make a spicy bean dish...

Zucchini and parmesan (ok, not local) fritters...

Served with boiled new potatoes.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tomato Update

A couple of weeks back my carbon tomatoes were attacked by red spider mite. They also got very sunburnt and I didn't think any of these would survive. I have other tomatoes planted elsewhere in the garden but I was really excited to try this tomato type as it has been dubbed "The World's Best Tasting Tomato."

The mites have literally sucked the life out of my tomato plants which are now brown and withered and I have had to drape old veggie bags over them plants to form some shade to prevent the sunburn.

It really is the saddest spot in my garden right now....

However tucked away at the bottom are some really great looking fruits. I picked the ones that had their first blush today and they can continue to ripen on my windowsill.

They have a brown/pink/red countenance....can't wait to try them. I will also save some of their seeds to try again next year.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

All things wild and wonderful

A few months back a friend gave me a cutting of her pepino melon plant. This week we noticed that the few fruits it had produced had the tell tale purple stripes of being ripe. So we just had to try this strange fruit. The shrub of the pepino is native to South America but has done fine in our climate.

The fruit has a more watery taste to the traditional sweet melon but it was a nice snack to try anyway. Hopefully next year we will have a few more of them to munch.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Early in the morning....

With summer in full swing we have to work in the garden early in the morning to avoid the heat. At 6 a.m. the garden has its fresh look and it is my favorite time to peep under leaves to see what is growing. This morning I found...


Sweet potatoes having recovered from a brutal overhaul by the chickens....

Our Ghost-Rider pumpkin which we planted in the compost heap in November...

We then dug out one batch of potatoes which should do us for 2 weeks and planted cabbage in their place. The radishes that we planted last week are up.

Broccoli and cauliflower went into the other free bed.

I pulled the last carrots (will have to plant more soon!), picked the prolific beans and all these cucumbers....

By 9 am we were done, but there was still weeding to be done, the sun was too hot, so we called it a day.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Little Beasties

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water...well that's not actually funny, because on Monday a Great White took out a holiday maker at our favourite maybe it is better to say, just when you thought it was all going well in our garden....

Overnight these little beasties appeared on my tomato plants. Red Spider Mite!

And after the 34 deg C yesterday my top tomatoes have sunburn.

The tomatoes that are in the shade of the plant's leaves are doing well, larger than my palm and without blemish.

So what's the solution for red spider mite...they tell me to make a garlic spray. Basic instructions are to soak 5 cloves of garlic in boiling water and when cooled add a dob of dishwashing liquid (thats the fixitive for the spray) and spray the leaves in the evening. I also went and cut off the leaves that were infected.

Hope it works!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

How can I compare?

Often people say, when they see my garden, that I must be saving money on groceries. It would seem so because of what we can pick daily...but in truth it is not.

We are yet to cover our set up costs, seeds, compost and water costs in savings from not buying fresh veggies, and we still have to buy some items that we cannot grow ourselves.

Yesterday I had to pop into our local Fruit 'n Veg store to get greens for the chickens. I haven't been to this store for at least 3 months. While I was getting leaves from the bins I glanced up at the price boards.

5 bunches of carrots for R10

3 bunches of spinach for R10

3 bunches of beetroot for R10

At this price - how can I compare the hundreds of rands it has taken to set up my garden?

How can I compare because on the same day this was my harvest:

Simply put, I cannot compare cost for cost value....but this is something that Fruit 'n Veg can't give me:

~The satisfaction of picking my own food
~Completely pesticide free vegetables
~The peace that comes from digging in the soil
~The pleasure I get from looking at our garden
~The crispness of freshly dug out potatoes
~The sweetness of sun warmed strawberries
~The wait and anticipation of a harvest
~The skill we are teaching our children

I may never grow enough carrots to juice every day, or enough beet to cook 4 bunches at a time, but what we do have brings much joy and pleasure to us all when a meal is served with our lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, sweet corn and potatoes.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Garden Diary ~ Sunday

I mentioned that I had an asparagus problem sometime back. Because they are perennial I need to have a permanent spot for them. Because we have to really make our little spaces work hard for us, I cannot give these plants permanent space in our veggie beds.

We are still working on a solution, but for now I am just repotting them as they outgrow their pots. The back plants in this photo were started in June 2009. The smaller ones in front were started in Sept 2009. The back ones have been repotted 2 times. This is the first repotting for the smaller ones.

The silly things are like young adolescents - they are "strutting their stuff" and sending up their crowns, but the crowns are not even pencil thick. But they are obviously happy as the plumes are looking gorgeous.

So, that was one task for today. But we also put a layer of compost through the whole garden as a mulch to get through these next two very hot months. We also planted out the last watermelon seedlings.

Where we have cleared a bed of potatoes we added lots of compost and planted bright lights spinach and dwarf beans.

And in a semi shade bed we have planted lettuce.

All in a days work!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Strawberry & Rhubarb Crumble

We have had such a glut of strawberries that my children are starting to turn their noses up at these stunning little berries. The last glut was made into delicious strawberry jam.

I often use them in smoothies or on my yoghurt in the morning. But this week we had so many coming ripe because of the heat that I needed to do something else. We also have 6 rhubarb plants that needed a trim so I cut off the outer leaves of each plant and turn this combination into a delicious pudding.

The recipe is from Animal Vegetable Miracle. It's an interesting book about a family's journey into becoming locavores. I.E. eating seasonal local produce all year round.

So...combine 4 cups of strawberries (halved) and 4 cups of rhubarb stalks (chopped) with 1/2 cup of honey. Mix together 2 cups of oats, 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of ww flour, 1/2 cup melted butter and sprinkle over rhubarb and strawberries.

Bake until crispy and bubbling. I served this with vanilla ice cream as the rhubarb is very tart and the hot and cold went together superbly!

Another try

This morning before the heat struck I gave all the beds a good water by hand a a thick layer of compost.

Where the squashes were that I had to pull up was turned over and given some compost too.

I have decided to plant corn here. January is the last month for corn as it has a long growing season with the cobs being ready to pick between 9 and 12 weeks from date of planting. This means that we should still have sweetcorn in March.

During the week I planted beans up one of the trellises. These are not heirloom - I planted the Lazy Housewife variety as they yield very well.

The other trellis that my pumpkin was growing up has got the last planting of cucumber. I planted some organic seeds called Marketer which I got from the UK. Again this is the last month for planting cucumbers as they tend to get stung in this heat.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Down ~ but not defeated!

I put up a good fight, I really did.

My opponent was greater than me and worked at night too!

Today I finally gave up and pulled out my gem squash plants - they yielded well and gave me about 40 gems over the last two months. The milddew was just too much for the plant and the same for my pumpkin.

I have been spraying with copper soap, cutting off infected parts, only surface watering...but to no avail, the milddew just kept spreading.

Now I have these two blank spots which I didn't anticipate as well as 2 it's back to the drawing board. Seeds that I can still sow for Jan and Feb here in the Western Cape are:

Cucumber (Jan only)

I think up one trellis I will do a cucumber section, the other can have bean. The open ground can have my last planting of corn as I have plenty of tomatoes....this one is a Carbon Tomato and is so far as big as my palm.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

If you came to visit me today.....

I would probably have sent you home with a cucumber. Sometimes I don't understand nature, but nonetheless I love it anyway. Last year I didn't get a single cucumber...not one - nada = nuttin'....

This year I planted some Ashley Cucumbers and they are just exploding...I cut off three last night and today had another 5 ready and lots of babies growing at a rate of knots.

So for now we are enjoying them fresh in sandwiches, salads and snacks with humus but I may try this recipe to pickle them if we can't keep up. I mean there are only so many cucumbers a gal can eat...right?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Green cleaning ~ homemade laundry soap

For a couple of years I have been focussing on what we bring in to our home - organic whole foods for instance.

But a whole 'nother side to green living is what leaves our home. Recycling is a religion in this home and is composting.

But what goes out our home down the drain is another area that needs to be addressed. For a year we have only used biodegradable products commonly known here as Golden Products.

I also switched from laundry soap to the Biowash Ball. It is great, a bit pricey to start out with as I have a 10 kg washer which needed two balls but over the 3 - 4 yrs that we will use it, it will save us money.

What if you cannot afford either Golden Products or a Biowash Ball? Basic green cleaning recipes are easy and cheap to make. Vinegar, Bicarb and a couple of other simple ingredients make the basic for most of them.

Here's how to make your own laundry soap:

1 large bar or pure soap (Sunlight soap for SA folks or Fels Naptha for the USA folks)
1 cup of washing soda
1 cup of borax
Airtight container

Grate your soap.

Mix it all together and use 2 scoops per full load. I use 3 in my big machine when I don't want to use my Ball.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Pick everyday

I have been mentaly calculating how many hours I spend working in the garden each week. This is watering, feeding, planting, weeding, harvesting etc. I figure it must be around 16 - 18 hrs a week.

The one benefit of spending time each day watching and working in the garden is that you can keep your finger on the pulse when it comes to pests and disease, especially now in the heat of summer when all these things tend to become prolific.

The other is that you can help your garden to produce more for you. As we are on a small piece of land we have to use our space to its fullest potential. One way I do this is by picking everyday.

This is what I picked last evening. When you pick fruit or veg likes beans, marrows, squash each day or as soon as they are ready you stimulate the plant to make more flowers. This means there will be more fruit.

The one thing I do allow to grow really big is one courgette on a plant as I use that for my dogs in their homemade food.

My chillies are really coming on now and as we eat them with almost anything - well at least Superman and I, its a welcome sight for our eyes and tastebuds.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Stockpiling ~ is it necessary?

I've been thinking, in fact I think about things all the time. I chew topics over in my mind over a long period when I feel there is something that needs to be addressed in our home or lifestyles.

Some things are easy to do ~ real no should we save water? Or should I grow vegetables...easy things to implement.

But this issue of stockpiling has been worrying me a bit. I don't like doomsday prophets and naysayers...I prefer to trust in Father God to care for me and mine. This said I also believe as the Bible says: "A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences." Proverbs 22:3.

I like to think that I make wise decisions and that I am not a simpleton so I have been thinking about what steps we should take to be more prepared in case of food shortages, basic services and to reduce water and electricity dependence.

I could carry on thinking about this for a long time until I have it all sorted in my head...but this morning I read an article on the 2010 World Cup Soccer and the possible resulting food shortages and price hikes we may experience.

This may just be the thing to push me over the fence and start making inroads into stockpiling, water tanks and solar power.

Anyway, a few months ago I signed up for a E-zine on purely to get his very comprehensive survival kit/stockpiling lists. Wow! Are these lists completely all encompassing thorough lists....if you are keen to get thinking along with me, then do sign up for it.