Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What's to eat?

I love looking to see what we can eat in the evenings. Last year round this time I had not prepared in advance so most of my veggies were still in the early stages. This year I was a little wiser than before so I planted my winter veggies earlier.

Tonight we could choose between...

Red Cabbage or......

Baby cabbage.

We have about 12 broccoli plants which still need a few weeks but all have fist size heads. Spinach and carrots, peas, turnips, radish, beets, corainder and chives...all these could offer us some of a meal tonight.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Learning a new skill & giving back

At the beginning of the year I posted about some skills that I wanted to learn. I have started towards some of them and made leaps at others. I have learnt a bit more than canning, have a full vegetable garden in Autumn which will produce in Winter, I have eliminated shop bought cans in our home, but one skill still making me a little nervous was knitting.

Way back when I was a starry eye newly wed I decided to knit Superman a jersey. It got about 10 rows into the front and never grew further. That was the last time I knitted - almost 20 yrs ago!

Enlisting the help of an avid and talent knitter we had a little knitting session. She showed me how to hold my wool correctly so that knitting goes much smoother.

The purpose of learning to knit is not for our own purposes, rather my girls want to knit for others. In December I heard about the KNIT A SQUARE organization which really is just a group of people who have a burden for the Aids orphans in South Africa. Sandy started her work as a way to get people around the world to knit 20cmX20cm squares and send them in to a collection point in JHB. These squares are then sewn into blankets for the little ones in creches, orphanages and homes across Southern Africa.

Shirley kindly kick started us towards our goal of 100 squares in 2010 by giving us 9 that she had done. So far I have churned out 2 squares which I do while watching TV in the evening. The girls knit while I read to them at school time.

So often we need to learn a skill that can improve the lives of our own family, and I feel so priviledged to be able to use this new skill to improve the lives of others in my country. Such a small thing a couple of knitted squares, but all sewn together with worldwide contributions, can mean so much to someone else.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Yummy Pear Recipes

This week we have been enjoying our fresh apples and pears. But there are too many to eat fresh so I enlisted the help of a friend who always has the most yummy recipes in her collection.

The first one we made was her Pear Pudding:

Butter a medium sized casserole dish. Turn oven to 180’.
Peel and slice 4 to 5 pears and spread over bottom of dish.
Melt about 100g butter, cool.
Stir 1 cup flour with 2 t baking powder
Beat 1 egg with 2-3 generous dollops honey (or sugar if you have to) and 1 t vanilla essence
Stir in butter and add flour etc
Smooth mixture over pears
Sprinkle flaked almonds over
bake for 1/2 hour or more until nicely browned.

Delicious on its own, could serve with custard, cream or ice-cream.
You could use apples instead, then add cinnamon sugar over apples.

Then I doubled her Chocolate and Pear Muffin recipe:

I use paper muffin cases. Makes 12.
Oven 200 deg C
Melt 100g butter, cool

Stir together:
1-2 chopped, peeled pears
100g chocolate ( I like dark)
300g flour
1T baking powder
130g castor sugar ( I use whatever I have)

Whisk together:
2 eggs
1 c milk
1 t vanilla essence

Mix wet and dry, spoon into cases
Bake 18-20 min. Best served cold.
Improve on keeping, but never seem to last long enough.

I hope to can the last of the pears tomorrow to use out of season. The last of the apples are also going to be canned for winter apple pies.

Friday, April 23, 2010

"Killer" Bees....

On Wednesday my littlest son and I had just finished studying pollinators in our Botany course and we mentioned this to the woman who does my husbands data capturing. She works mornings only from our office at home and is often informed by our children about what they are learning.

She mentioned that she had a beekeeper coming that afternoon to remove a hive of bees from her property. Naturally this was a learning opportunity we could not pass up and went to watch the process.

A swarm of Africanized Honey Bees (Killer Bees) had made their hive in the watermains outside her home. Obviously they had a second queen hatch and thus swarmed to another place - this being her tree next to the pool. This happened on Sunday and they were just hanging in a tear drop from the tree. The bee keeper simply shook the bees into an empty plastic bowl and set the bowl down in front of an empty hive. It was within seconds that the bees started crawling into the opening to make a new home.

Then we went outside onto the pavement where the main hive was. The bees were going in and out doing their business and when the lid was lifted there was the most awesome sight...

This hive must be about 1 yr old and had some very developed combs. He showed us the queen cells, the drones and how to fit the combs onto a frame for a second hive. The combs that didn't fit into this hive he placed on frames and added to the inside new hive. This, he says, was important as being the beginning of Winter here in the South there is very little nectar about to get a new hive started.

The one comb was brand new and no bigger than a side plate...and as you can see would not last long with my brood, but everyone got a chance to get a good mouthful or two of fresh fresh fresh honey with comb.

This is one of those experiences where you just stand their in awe of the Creator who set things into motion all those years ago and how His creations just speak of Him.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Winter weather, soup and jerseys

The last two days have seen us digging out our jerseys from the back of the cupboards as the distinctive winter cold is here. It was ticklng us a couple of weeks ago, but now, even at noon, we need a jersey.

Probably a week or so early for the plant, but I just had to try my turnips in a warm soup for lunch. So I pulled out the biggest ones and made a turnip, leek and potato soup for lunch.

Fry some leeks and garlic in a good dollop of butter.
Peel and quarter 1 potato per eater.
Peel and halve the turnips.
Stir them into the melted butter.

Add 1 litre of chicken stock, some salt and pepper. Allow to simmer until veggies are soft.

Use your stick blender to smooth. Add in 1 cup of cream. Serve with hot buttered toast and a sprinkling of parsley.

Delicious. Just right for a cool day lunch.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

From the tree to our mouths

This weekend we decided to take a break and went away to an apple/pear farm about 1hrs drive away. They offer "gleaning" opportunities after the main fruit has been picked.

We stayed in the renovated laborers cottages which are surrounded by lovely lawns and oak trees. The big bonus is that the farmers have made 4 graded mountain biking trails through their orchards, fields and pine forests. So the weekend was a full, but lovely relaxing one.

Some of the orchards were still not harvested so we could not pick from the trees, but whatever was on the ground was ours for the taking.

Some of the very ripe ones always found a willing mouth to feed...there were donkeys and horses all around.

The pears were huge...these trees had already been harvested but the lower branches were still hanging heavy with these massive beauties.

The evenings ended with yummy stews over the fire...and the kids made smores...decadent, unhealthy and definately more-ish.

Despite all the apples and pears that we ate while there, we have come home with a decent stash to be eaten and turned into some yummy dishes.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Autumn food

Before my pumpkins succumbed to milddew in December they were able to set some fruits. Not anywhere close to what we had hoped for but we did get enough for what we needed. My beautiful Ghost Rider pumpkin was turned into puree a couple of weeks ago but my Austrian Oil Pumpkin has been sitting waiting for something to be done to it.

The pumpkin has been enough for three side dishes...the first 3rd I cooked up with some cinnamon then mashed it with 125ml of cream....divine! The last will make pumpkin fritters and this third was roasted to go with some chicken last night.

Lay slices of pumpkin in an overn dish. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar and dot with butter. Squeeze the juice of one orange over. Cover and roast along with your main meal. Remove the cover 15 minutes before the end to get the edges browned.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Skeletons in my shed and all that stuff!

Even though the major growing season is over, because we get no snow or frost here I can grow year round. Things just sloooow down a lot and we have to supplement veggies quite heavily from our veggie man who comes to the door each Tuesday.

Jobs in the garden also carry on all year and though we had rain earlier this week we did have a clear crisp day today. The kids and I got stuck in early with the mundane chores of being gardeners.

The first job was the shed....a real shambles that needed to be spring cleaned.

The Incredible Hulk found some old wellies in there and decided to give them all a clean. He was not too charmed with having his photo taken :-)

The girls got stick into weeding the pathways. They make this horrid task a little more pleasant by adding an iPod to the mix...

Then they made 40 pots from newspaper for the seeds we need to plant (Chinese cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower).

Amongst other things Sidekick Robyn sorted out the worms. The bottom layer has been moved to the top and the top layer which was filled with fresh foodstuffs etc was moved to the bottom. The decomposed layer is rich and brown and we will use that for our seedlings as soon as the wormies have made their way down.

All in all a great morning in the garden.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Hide 'n Seek

I can't believe it has been over a week since my last post. This is primarily due to the fact that my PC was in hospital but also because I have been a busy little bee elsewhere :-)

We have had a lovely long soaking rain today but it has stopped now that it is late afternoon. I just popped into the garden to get some radishes and decided to take a peek at my turnips which I planted a couple of weeks ago.

There nestled in the wet earth was a delightful surprise and promise of things to come....

Thursday, April 1, 2010

How are things growing?

Because it is the 1st of April I thought I would do a quick update of what's growing in the garden...

Broad beans - these are enchanting me and as I have never grown them before I am excited to watch their progress.

The seedlings I started last week with the potmaker pots and placed in the light hut are now being hardened off in dappled shade during the day. We have a second batch in the light hut.

My loofah is growing beautifully. There are a few smaller ones on the vine.

The cabbage we planted out at the end of Jan is growing great guns. It is baby cabbage and will be ready in a little while.

My basil is still full and glorious.

I also have peas, carrots, beets, turnips and leeks in the beds.

We are going away for a few days over Easter and my trusty housesitter will be caring for the garden. May God bless you all with a peaceful and purposeful Easter as we remember our Lord and Saviour.