Sunday, March 28, 2010

"Murder!" she wrote.

Growing up we had a TV series by this title and while she was a accidental detective, I am just a gardener. But when I find a problem in my garden, I like to find an organic solution to it.

My mom send me a recipe for a chilli garden spray last week, but my very precious computer has died a sudden death and is in hospital for repairs :-( I am most worried about as I am really not good at backing up and haven't for 4 months which means I stand to loose a lot of important data...Superman is letting me use his laptop for this post - isn't he great?!?

So today I had to look for a solution to the colonies of aphids making their home on my fruit tree. Jane's Delicious Garden has lots of recipes and she rightly points out that if you have an aphid problem you will most likely have an ant problem. Ants "farm" aphids as the aphids excrete a sweet goo that the ants like.

The aphids and ants around my cabbages can be controlled with coffee grounds - well if there every was a reason to drink more coffee, this is it! So I am now collecting my coffee grounds to place around the bases of my cabbages instead of outting them in the compost.

For the fruit trees, I needed a spray and the spray uses the following: tablespoon chillies, 4 onions, head of garlic, oil and dishwashing liquid.

Simply use the liquidiser to blend the veggies together and let it stand for a day. Then mix in the oil and dishwashing liquid (1 tablespoon of each.)

My mixture is too chunky to go through a spray nozzle so I will have to let it drain through a muslin clothe. (EDIT: I placed the mush in a strainer while we ate dinner and about 4 tablespoons of clear liquid has drained. So just so that you don't kill the plant - use one tablespoon to 1 each of oil and dishwashing liquid.)

Tomorrow it will be murder - in broad daylight :-)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

I love my pot maker!

Today I got a surprise in the post! I had ordered this potmaker in Dec and forgotten about it. And then it arrived I just had to give it a try...It's a great way to use up junk newspaper that comes through the post. And when the plants are big enough you sow them in the paper and don't disturb the roots. So you can start carrots, beets and all other root crops in these indoors before they can be planted out in spring!

Cut a newspaper into 9cmx25cm strips.

Wind it around the wooden cylinder. Fold the part that extends past the wood under then "mash" it into the base.

Voila! All these pots in about 5 minutes!

We quickly filled them with sand and sowed some cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower seeds then put them in the light hut!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Just a bit of lovely...

Friends of ours live close to this family...what a lovely little peek into their lives....

Monday, March 22, 2010

Canning resources

I was asked if I had any favorite canning resources, so even though I am really new to this, I will share what I know.

The first is a cyber-friend Sharon's Simply Canning. She even has a new to canning free ecourse that you can sign up for.

Then the next thing I did was buy a book. We didn't have it in the library here in South Africa, so I bought Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. This is truly a treasure trove of recipes.

Then I also used Pick Your Own for jam recipes and freezing tips. I know they have lots more there other than jam, but the first two resources covered the rest.

Hope this helps those wanting to start out. BTW, when I realized that I would not be able to provide completely from my garden, I settled my heart on also buying in season fruit and veg and preserving it. This means that I buy what I can when it is at it's cheapest. Buying in season also reduces food miles and is much better for my wallet.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

No much to do in the garden.

Besides for planting some carrot and baby spinach seeds there was not a lot to do in the garden.

Therefore the kids and I tackled the last apples and made half into a yummy rhubarb and apple crumble and the other I made apple and rhubard butter.

I didin't follow a recipe but this is what I did: cored, peeled and chopped lots of apples and about 10 stalks of rhubarb. I steamed them then added them to a pot with 1 cup of sugar, 1 teaspoon of cinamon and 1 teaspoon mixed spice. I then let it reduce and put it into clean sterilized jars.

We then prepared the chillies by washing them and taking off the stalks. Then I made the same pickling liquid as last week and pickled 4 jars of them.

I also wanted to make a chilli relish so I used about 20 chopped chillies with 2 tomatoes, 1 onion, 125ml sugar and a tablespoon of garlic. I boiled this up then blended it up with my stick blender and put it in a jar. My hubby tasted it and said it was super hot!

We have so many chillies now that a friend will be the lucky recipient of a jar or two!

Friday, March 19, 2010

That moment in every canner's life....

Remember those guavas from last year?

Well, I am sure I am not the first who has ever canned produce and then a few months later reached into the cupboard and all your hopes and expectations of providing food for your family looks at you from the inside of the jar.

Then there is the moment when you pop the lid and hoping for the best as you use the canned produce...well that was me last night. We all wanted to have gauva crumble and guavas aren't in season, but I have 6 bottles of them in my cupboard.

As I twisted the lid off I was sooooo nervous that there would be mould or something on the top, but was super-pleasantly-surprised to see them in perfect condition. They found their way into a simple pudding:

Blend 250g of butter and 2 Tablespoons of honey.

Add in 1 cup of wholewheat flour and 1 cup of white flour.

Put half of the mixture into the bottom of the bowl. Place guavas on top. Crumble the rest of the dough onto the top of the guavas.

Bake at 180 deg C for 40 minutes. Serve with custard.

I also thought I would share these two pictures. The first is my canning store in the cupboard ( I have a few more jars in the fridge). The cupboard has chillies, guavas, relish, sweet 'n sour sauce and chutney.

The second is my small freezer with beans, corn, pesto, tomato sauce, pumpkin puree and pita breads.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Friends are always friends

Mid 2009 was a tearful time for my family as we said goodbye to two families that have been our closest friends for many years. The one was a permanent goodbye as this family relocated to a farm up country, some 12 hours solid driving away.

The other family was joining them for a shorter period of up to 2 yrs to help them with some changes that needed to made to farm houses.

To our delight one of the families have returned for a 5 week stay - joy of joys! With them came lots of wonderful farm produce.

Our other friends who are staying on the farm until December have embraced farm life in every sense of the word and I was thrilled to discover a jar of their homegrown honey in my gifts. They also sent me some bees wax to try in my soaps. We all couldn't resist a teaspoon of this honey the moment it was uncovered.

We have enjoyed eating some of the corn freshly steamed on the cob, but the majority has been blanched and frozen.

The chillies are being eating fresh but will need to be preserved this weekend.

The box of organic apples have been slowly munched through by all of us but there remain quite a few which I want to try to make apple butter with this weekend.

I know my friends both read this blog - so thank you dearest ones. You are missed.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Yip...autumn is definately here!

I know this because...Today I swept up my first pile of leaves...My grapevine's leaves have turned....

The shadows have changed....

My garden looks bare...

And the morning air has a nip to it.

Today we had to pot about 30 strawberry plants as they had started making roots while still attached to their parent plants. These are the second "babies" the parent plant has made. Apparently you can do this 5 times and then the plants become very weak with low yields so it would be better then to buy in new stock. But that is 3 years down the line.

We also pulled out all the old corn stalks and spent bean plants. I planted some broad beans where the corn was after digging in some compost. Where the dwarf beans were I am leaving fallow for a bit and will add worm casings and compost then plant my cabbage and broccoli seedlings that I started a couple of weeks back.

I moved all the asparagus pots and the last potted chilli plants out of the wall shadow for autumn and winter as the left side of my kitchen garden is in permanent shade from April onwards.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Expectations and other random thoughts.

I have been woman down since Sunday with a nasty head cold. It has forced me to be in bed for the better part of the last two days. Drifting in an out of sleep, in between copious reading of books to the kids I have been thinking about some things.

Broad Beans

This year I had things so well planned and my expectations were waaaay up there w.r.t. how much yield I was going to get from my 5 basic vegetables I planted - corn, pumpkin, beans, tomatoes and potatoes. Well, our potatoes were eaten in the first 2 months, our corn has been a complete dissappointment, our beans did well but we didn't plant enough and our pumpkin plants were attacked by milddew, but we still got 4 stunners. Our tomatoes were hit with the December heat and red spider mite.

First Lemon of the season

There is the old adage about not counting your eggs before they hatch, and I am afraid I did just that. I could see my freezer filled to the bring with frozen beans, pumpkin and corn and a nice dark cool cupboard full of potatoes. But this was not to be.

Eggs 5 - 6 a day

For a few reasons, I have decided! Expectations...I will never be able to sustain our family on basics like potatoes purely due to space constraints. Not planting enough....I should have planted double the beans. Not planting earlier enough...mildew (and mites) seems to be a bigger problem later in summer. Not recording planting and harvesting corn could have been picked earlier but the cobs that I took off through estimating were either undeveloped or had already turned starchy. I did start off with recording how much of what and when it was planted but the busyness of my days caught up with me and I didn't continue.

Turnips needing to be thinned

Superman calls me the "eternal optimist" because while these thoughts are introspective I have throughoughly enjoyed my garden season this spring and summer and as the weather turns to welcome autumn I know that I have learnt a few more things that I haven't known before.

Sweet Potatoes

So onward I go...

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Preserving Chillies

Today I pickled our chillies. We had about 100 of them and last year I felt so bad as we didn't get to eating them all fresh so a lot were wasted. I really prefer my chillies fresh but I didn't want to repeat last years mistakes.

From this first picking we were able to bottle 3 jars which should do us for a while. I think we will get a second smaller batch still this season as there are still some flowers on the plants.

I used a simple pickle recipe by combining 1 part water with 4 parts vinegar, 1 part olive oil and a teaspoon of salt. Boil that up for 10 minutes while you trim the chillies....note the surgical gloves....I have heard of folk getting serious burns from working with chillies.

Pack them tightly into the sterilized jars and then pour the hot liquid over. Seal tightly, no need to water bath them. They should keep like this for a good few months, but need to be refridgerated once opened.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Bye Bye Baby

It was had been looking at me for 2 weeks now...I had been admiring it from afar, but to all good pumpkins come their final sacrifice....pumpkin pie!

My gorgeous pumpkin, 1 of 4, but the most perfect looking one I have seen, said goodbye to the world today. The seeds have been saved for next year...I have plenty to share with friends too.

I started by making a smiple puree by baking it until browned at the edges then scraping out the flesh and using my blender to make it smoooooth.

Half has been frozen in bags for a later date and the rest was combined with maple syrup, nutmeg and eggs to go into these little tartlets.

I served them with a dollop of whipped cream after dinner....

My little guy thinks they were delicious!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Exciting happenings!

This year is the second time that I have tried to grow loofah's. The "greenie" in me wants to get away from sponge at the kitchen sink. I was then growing loofahs to have a long term supply of the dried fruit to use instead.

So today when I was starting my morning watering and I saw that (above) I was sooooooo happy as it is my first fruit. We have had lots of flowers on the vine...

Which develop these star like clusters after they are pollinated.

So after seeing the first fruit I went hunting around the vine and found a couple more....exciting happenings indeed!