Sunday, February 28, 2010

Seed saving and other happenings

We had a good session in the garden this morning and I am glad to have started early as it was very very hot here today.

We picked some corn which we ate for lunch and pulled up a pumpkin plant which still had lots of male flowers but no fruit. The flowers were stuffed with mozarella, battered and fried. Delicious.

I set dear daughter to picking about 100 chillies which weighed in at 600g. I will need to process them this week into hot sauce but I need to buy small jars first.

We pulled up our spent runner beans but found that there were some huge pods still attached. They would be too tough to eat so we have peeled them and they are drying. I will use them next year. I have saved some fire tongue beans as well as Ghost Rider pumpkins and carbon tomatoes.

I also had the opportunity to use my newish vacuum sealer. We have been eating beans like crazy that they kiddos are all complaining. So I blanched the 400g we picked to day and then sealed them and froze them for later one when we are missing summer beans.

Our garden looks a litle bare as we only have two corn patches left and everything is in its growing phase but I know that buried there in the ground are turnips, beets, spring onions, carrots, peas, broad beans, salads and spinach.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Weekdays are a blur

No matter how busy my weekdays get (and they do get busy!) I always try to make time for a little of this-ing and that-ing in the garden. It restores my "balance" and in the words of John Denver "fills up my senses".

The seeds I planted over the last two weeks are all saying "hello" to the world, the fine carrots (above), the strong stemmed broad beans (below) and if all I can do in the week is water them or put some eggs shells around them to prevent pests, then so be it.

My little guy planted turnips 2 weeks ago, but he planted them a little close so I have had to thin them this week. I washed the sprouts off and addeed them to our salads so that their fragile attempts at growing did not go to waste.

I am not sure whether my peas were planted too soon, it's better to plant them in July here, but we may get a few for our salads.

Weekdays tend to mesh into each other leaving little time for big garden jobs, but there is always something to do or see.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Saying goodbye to the old.

This year my most prolific summer crops have been our courgette, cucumbers and strawberries.

Our courgettes are done with no more flowers coming so I pulled them out today, the same with our cucumbers. The few that were still left on the creeper were all stung and were given to the chickens to enjoy.

Today I planted lettuce greens, radish, spring onions and cos lettuce. These were seeds on a tape that my mom got me. They are so easy to simply dig a furrow and lie the tape in and cover. They are spaced for you which means that you don't have to thin out. The tape decomposes in the soil. She also bought me lots of summer vegetable which will have to wait a few months.

Yesterday at the Go Natural Expo I saw a similar thing to this called Reel Gardening. They have taken the concept a little further and offer an instant solution to a new veggie gardener. I thought that their concept was truly inspired!

Other things that I saw at the Expo which are tempting are these stacked pots. Fabulous for small spaces and also for patio gardens.

Then recently I was reading in Food From Small Spaces about sprouting. I am a bit lazy when it comes to eating sprouts....but this kitchen counter system looks like a fabulous idea to get nutrient packed greens growing indoors.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

You scratch my back....

5kg's of tomatoes from a friend who has them rotting on the ground have found their way into this recipe from Animal~Vegetable~Miracle.

The advice on the recipe is to take an afternoon and have a friend - the friend is for conversation and the afternoon because that is actually how long it takes. I didn't think I needed the afternoon so started too late - 4pm and was still busy at 10pm. For friendship I had my children helping me in shifts with chopping.

It is a very interesting recipe as you start off with 16 cups of tomato puree (we had more but it still worked) and then you add some ingredients.

You allow it to cook down a bit and then take out enough for 7 jars of relish or BBQ sauce.

Then you add some more ingredients...boil up and then take out another 7 jars of sweet and sour sauce.

Then at the last step you have a very thick substance to which you add raisins and walnuts, heat up and decant to make a tomato based chutney.

This yielded 21 jars of the different sauces and then a whole bowl of chutney left over which I shared with friends.

The manager of the farm got 5 jars of the different sauces in return for the tomatoes. As he is a single youngish man he was so grateful for this. The week before I was able to turn another 4 kgs of his tomatoes into a delicious pasta sauce with carrots and celery and lots of garlic. I got to keep half of this and froze it in portions (I ran out of jars!) and he got three jars for his own use...I think this arrangement works well.

On Monday I should be able to get another couple of KG's for us to make something else for both our stores.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Just perfect!

I just had to share this with you all! This is 1 of the 2
Ghost Rider pumpkins that we grew in our compost this year. We had about 4 that looked hopeful but only two made it to full size, the others dropped off.

We are not huge pumpkin eaters but there is so much you can do with pumpkin so we are chuffed to have them. I also have 2 Austrian Oil pumpkins for winter.

But this one just looks like the "perfect"'s in my kitchen to admire as I pass.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Laziness is relative!

I confessed the other day that I feel I have been wandering a bit in my convictions in certain areas of my homemaking. One such are is keeping cookie jars filled and providing homemade snacks.

I think when one tends to spend the majority of ones time in the kitchen preparing meals it is easy to veer away from this for smaller things like treats. However, with growing children who graze ALL day I have to keep good food around to feed their growing bodies in between meals.

On Sunday evening from 4 - 7 I took a look at all the bits of ingredients lying around and made:

3 trays of buttermilk rusks

Zucchini Choc-chip cookies

Blueberry and rhubarb jam

Mixed my bread dough for the week

Made some hamburger rolls for dinner and a double batch of patties for the young 'uns to snack on during the week.

The problem with this is that the kitchen ends up in a complete mess and it's a lot to clean up, but I suppose if you make a big mess or small mess it's all the same. The cook-a-thon helped me to use up all the ends of flours and the last big courgette and rhubarb stems....not too shabby for 3hrs work.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Autumn? Sorted!

Seeing that the sun was shining in typical February fashion - with it's wilting heat that comes at this time of the year - we made good headway in my garden to do list from last weekend and the new items added this week. I keep my garden diary open all week and add to it as I notice something that needs doing.

This is what out team did today: removed an old gooseberry plant and planted an orange tree in its place. Liquid fed all the baskets. Cleaned the coop and pulled 4 buckets of weeds (there are another 4 buckets, at least, waiting to be done...but enough is enough!).

Then my oldest son and I tackled the unruly compost heap...we really sweated to sort it out, but it's very eye pleasing now.

My oldest daughter had to prepare pots for about 30 strawberry plants that are ready to root from the parent plant. Younger daughter sowed cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower in seed trays.

The little guy collected the last strawberries, cherry tomatoes and was the water bringer to us all and general helper.

I pulled out the spent pumpkin vine and the 4 pumpkins we grew are now ripening in the sun. I also pulled up the oldest of our courgette plants which are no longer flowering. This made space for our broadbeans which are a winter bean. All other beans grow in summer only.

At the far end of this bed pictured above I am sneaking in a planting of autumn veggies of turnips. This section is in shade all winter so I am hoping they will have a chance in the next 2 months before the angle of the earth changes.

Where our tomatoes grew I have planted swiss chard. This area gets sun all winter long. Then on the empty trellises I have planted early peas.

In our first veggie garden I planted beets and carrots in front of the corn in the 3rd bed. We loose the use of the 5th bed in winter so I am just letting the beans run until they stop flowering. The 4th bed holds bush beans and corn, the second - corn, cauli and broccoli and the first bed closest too the coop cabbage and lettuce.

In the newest bed, which is full shade in winter, we still have our rhubarb, chillies and sweet potaotes....talking about chillies they are just drooping with fruits...I am going to have to preserve those soon.

Our herbs are doing so well. I have about 6 basil plants around the garden so it will soon be time to make pesto and freeze it.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Feeding my tastebuds!

I had hoped to post a few more times this week, but life has been too full to do it. But tonight I decided to harvest my rhubarb...I love it with something sweet...a couple of weeks ago we made strawberry and rhubarb crumble and the plants have now grown another massive pile of stems for us!

We used 1/3 of this for Jamie Oliver's creme brule...this time we had a whole lot more rhubarb lining our bowls.

I know rhubarb is an acquired taste, but with something custardy and sweet...there is nothing like it! The remaining stalks I am going to make some rhubarb and blueberry jam.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Rainy day jobs

I was all ready to make an inroad into my long to do list but woke up this morning to the sound of rain.

In between rainy moments we were able to do some things...

I pulled out all of the spent borage plants and my older two put them through the shredder then into the compost.

We cut off all milddew infected leaves and threw them in the trash. Then we dug up some potatoes for the next few weeks to make space for carrots. As we dug we were astonished by the amount of earthworms. My little guy thought we could spare a few and gave a handful of them to the chickens before I stopped him!

We pulled out the rainbow corn and shredded the stalks too.

By that time it was lunch time and on looking in my fridge I realized that I had too many containers of tomatoes - of all sizes and some not nice for slicing, so the girls and I set to work making pasta sauce. I did not water bath process it as we will use them up soon and store in the meantime in the fridge. Here's how:

Wash 2 kg's tomatoes and cut off any blemishes. Put in a pot and cook on a medium heat. When they start to soften use a potato masher to squash them. Then add 2 chopped onions.

Add some Italian herbs - we used fresh from the garden instead of dried. Add in one chopped chilli.

Cook this together until it has reduced and thickened slightly. Add in a tablespoon of garlic, 1 teaspoon salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Allow to cook a little longer then spoon into sterilized jars.

This is a great base sauce for any Italian dishes like bolognaise, lazange or like what we are doing tonight - fresh potato gnocchi with this sauce.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Planning for Autumn

I have been watching the subtle changes in the garden and even though we still have a 4 weeks left of summer (or there abouts) I can see that the seasons change is nearby.

The shadows in my garden are changing and with these changes I know I need to start planning my autumn garden.

In my garden journal I have written out my to do list for tomorrow:

Remove old rainbow corn
Repot Gooseberry plant
Plant orange tree
Dig up potatoes
Pot new strawberry plants
Liquid feed all baskets and pots
Cut of all milddew leaves

Then I need to sow lots of seed and get them ready for winter planting.

Turnips (direct)
Carrot (direct)
Beet (direct)
Spinach (direct)
Cabbage (trays)
Broccoli (trays)
Cauliflower (trays)

Broad beans are also able to go in now, but I need space for them as well as my peas.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Successes and failures

I think there is a tendency in blogland to only share our victories and our good news. But behind the scenes there are other hard lessons being learnt. So while these photos aren't all feel-good photos, they will perhaps share some of the problems we have faced.

Our first big problem was milddew. We were able to harvest only two Heirloom Oil Pumpkins before the plant succumbed. Luckily we have two huge Ghost Riders still growing in the compost.

We also lost most of our gemsquash plants to milddew but we did get about 40 odd gems from them before they too went the way of all battle weary plants.

Our next problem is more recent...most of our Carbon Tomatoes were attacked by red spider mite and while the garlic spray did slow it down, the damage was done. We harvested about 20 huge tomatoes from this and they were delicious, however this area has now been cleaned out to prevent further spreading and about double that in green tomatoes had to be turfed in the bin.

Then a couple of weeks back I went to get some of our Rainbow Corn and found it to look like this. We planted it back in September but it obviously didn't pollinate properly and this was the result.

We have planted lots of other corn and we can hopefully count on those for late summer and autumn. I think the thing for me to get a grasp on is that we have so little space to grow food that when things fail like this I take it hard. Everything that I plant is loved, nutured and tended and thereafter I hope for a good yield from our small space.

On a more uplifting note we have also had great successes with strawberries, cucumbers, courgette (zucchini), potatoes and chillies.

These are what we picked today. So while we have had a fabulous harvest of cucumbers, they are not exactly a staple food like corn...or something like tomatoes that we use in almost every meal...ho hum...I suppose this is the joys of growing your own food.

Superman said to me tonight when he saw the corn: "Thank goodness we don't live 400 years ago in the middle of nowheree...'cause we would starve!"

I know he is just saying out loud what is in my mind, but it kind made me start a little. Thank goodness Woolies are just around the corner!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A poem for the heart...

I read this to the children this morning during school time and it touched my heart so much that I wanted to share it. These photos were taken this morning.

I'm glad our house is a little house,
Not too tall nor too wide;
I'm glad the hovering butterflies
Feel free to come inside.

Our little house is a friendly house,
It is not shy or vain;
It gossips with the talking trees
And makes friends with the rain.

And quick leaves cast a shimmer of green
Against our whited walls,
And the phlox the courteous bees
Are paying duty calls.

Christopher Morley