Sunday, October 31, 2010

Here we go again!

Today we made a start on the last area of our garden that we are going to convert to veggies and fruit trees.

On Thursday we will be getting some labourers in to dig the trench beds (I will explain what we are doing in another post this week) so we have to get the trees out before they get here.

Today the Plumbago and Hibiscus were marked for removal. Superman bought a new toy for the job!

We placed all the smaller branches through the shredder for mulch.

The mulch is part of my "save water this summer" campaign. As we chop the rest of the trees out (3 more to go) we will store wood for winter, use leaves for the trenches and the branches for mulch so that the whole garden will have a good layer on top of the soil.

Friday, October 29, 2010

My Herbal Journey

When I started this blog it was simple to keep a diary of how we were going to tackle growing our own veggies. It moved into green, frugal living, then onto living life with a gentle footprint.

All along the way I have found more rabbit trails to go down - canning, freezing and from scratch...saving water and the list goes on.

About a year ago I started looking at herbs. I have always loved herbs in my cooking and this is where my learning curve has been. Recently my interest in other areas of herbs has been sparked. I want to learn about the aromatic and medicinal properties of herbs.

I have dabbled a little here and there and tried some simple remedies over the last few months, but now I feel that I am ready to jump in with a splash. I have signed up at Herb Mentor for a self directed study of herbs and am most excited about what I have learnt in the last 2 weeks.

I have also started a herb blog for anyone to follow as I dig into this topic a little more. Feel free to pop over to my new blog and join as a follower if you want to wander down this path with me.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fast Food

A few years back I would agree that Fast Food comes from the Golden Arches or the local pizza place, even Chinese takeaways were normal. It is convenient to take a night off once a week and order in, it's even nicer to go out with Superman on my own sometimes.

However, I cannot remember the last time (besides for our London trip, which doesn't count!) when I ordered in or ate out. Ordering in doesn't take any quicker than cooking at home (about 40 mins is the average) and eating out takes forever.

Then there is the heartburn overfed feeling afterwards that lasts long into the evening as those hydrogentated fats settle in - yuck. So we just don't make it a habit to order in.

But every now and again I forget to take something out of the freezer, or I don't plan my meals, and then I am in trouble. Last night was such a about 5.00 I realized that in about 1 hr my children would be climbing the walls with hunger and I was preoccupied packing orders for my business so had forgotten to sort out dinner earlier.

Here was my fast food...

Tomato pasta sauce made a couple of weeks ago and ricotta cheese - 1 min (I must learn to make my own!)

Spinach from the garden (5 mins)

Batch of pasta (20 mins)

Mix ricotta, spinach. grated nutmeg, salt and pepper...3 mins

Place 1/3 of the sauce in the bottom of the dish...roll spinach mix into cut sheets, place in dish - 10 mins

Pour over rest of sauce, cover with grated cheddar and mozarella...3 mins

Bake at 190 deg C for 15 mins...serve and eat.

57 minutes...supper is ready! Cost - only the cheeses directly, but a fraction of what a meal out would cost. Enjoyment? Pure tastebud pleasure :-)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Chicken Noodle Soup

This week has been a rough one for me and two of my children. Out of nowhere, they got sick. It moved from nose to chest very quickly and made them feel really miserable.

I decided to use an old wives recipe and do the "chicken broth thing" which is meant to help with bunged up repsiratory tracts.

I always roast two chickens on the weekend to use during the week for lunches and one dinner and normally treat big white dog with the bones. Not so this week!

Garden fresh veggies went into the pot with the bones and water. I boiled this until the bones were supremely soft, then removed all the bones and most of the veggies. I seasoned it and they sipped the broth.

I then added some more flavorings, the chicken bits that were left on the bones and made a batch of noodles. This became lunch for all of us. Yum.

I have also been treating them with a nasturtium tea infusion as well as a ginger, honey and lemon tea. I am happy to report they are up and better...enough so to go to movies yesterday.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mulberry Jam ~ Blast from the past!

This was a real trip down memory lane. Somewhere in the distant fogs of my youth I think I remember my grandma making this. The taste is definately something I remember...

A friend of mine has a weeping mulberry tree and we used to collect leaves from it when we kept silkworms. She kindly let us pick the berries yesterday for a couple of jars of jam.

My son came home with stained hands, mouth and feet! Too cute - I remember that purple blue stain on my own feet as a kid.

I used the Ball's Quick Berry Jam recipe as I had found some Pectin in the UK when I was there. (It was lurking in my sisters grocery cupboard!)

We did this recipe twice for a 8 bottle yield.

4 cups of berries
7 cups of sugar (close your eyes while you read that!)
2 tablespoons of lemon juice.

Bring to a boil that you can't turn down...yes my first batch did overflow!

Then stir in pectin and boil for 1 minute.

Decant into hot sterilized jars.

We had on toast today as a snack - very yummy.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Easy peasy lunch time

Lunch times are often a crunch time in my home. We are 3/4 the way through our school day, Superman is looking in the fridge, kids are saying "What's for lunch, mum,?" and I can feel my blood sugar is going for a dip.

I don't like to eat bread everyday so I have a few alternatives to fill tummies quickly.

My chickens have also figured out that spring has come and with the longer sunlight hours are picking up their laying. Spring onions are looking good and I need to start using them to make space for my Autum plantings in a couple of months. The herb tower has exploded and the celery I planted in there is ready for use.

So here is what we had for lunch today:

Not so ordinary potato salad

Boil baby potatoes til soft, cool and halve. Sprinkle with salt and ground black pepper.

Mix together 1 cup plain yoghurt with 1/4 cup light mayo
Add 2 teaspoons whole grain msutard.

Chop up a handful or spring onions (chives also work well) and 2 stalks of celery.

Mix together and enjoy.

Chickpea & Chili salad

Open and drain a can of chickpeas. Add a generous splash or 6 of olive oil and the juice of 1 lemon (or lime).

Chop up lots of fresh coriander and one red chili.

Mix together and enjoy!

Sunshine eggs.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Whilst holding my breath....

Well, not actually...but in my head I was...

We tested our olives yesterday and they are ready!

This is the timeline in the life of the olives.

We recieved them in May. They spent 3 months in brine.

We tested them for bitterness a month ago. They were 90% of the way there so we transfered them to the oil, herb and water solution.

Yesterday we finally decided they were good enough for our garden salad.

Some bottles seem to be better than others, but the ones we used last night had a wonderful garlic and rosemary flavour. We put the ones that needed more time to the back and started with the perfect ones.

We have 13kg's of olives to work through now before next autumn. I think I am going to experiment with a few recipes:

Olive ciabatta
Olive tapenade
Olive tart

And of course we eat them for snacks and in salads. Anyone else got some recipes to recommend?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Poor Man's Capers

Nasturtiums are a fabulous addition to the vegetable garden. The leaves and flowers can be used in salads, they have mild antibiotic properties for times of illness, the bees love the flowers, the flowers are beautiful and you can pickle the green seeds.

Pickling nasturtium seeds is commonly known as "Poor Man's Capers". Today one of the jobs on my list was to pull out this plant as it was not allowing my strawberries much light, had grown through some spinach and was looking a little tired.

We collected all the green seeds after pulling it out and washed them, picked them through for any brown seeds and then placed them in a canning jar.

I made the pickle with:
1/3 bottle apple cider vinegar
Teaspoon crushed garlic
Teaspoon pickling spice
Half a lemon and onion finely sliced
1 teaspoon salt

Bring it to the boil and cool.

Pour it over the seeds until completely covered and seal.

We use capers in salads, on sandwiches and on pizzas and as they are REALLY expensive I do hope this substitute works.

My little guy picked some of the blooms which now smile at me at the sink when I wash dishes.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

And the winners are....

The all time over producers of this past winter are...

1st Prize - Broad Beans

We have picked, cooked and eaten broad beans from June through until now. I never weighed them, but in the height of their production we could serve them twice a week.
We ate the last tonight. Tomorrow the stalks will be pulled up and shredded for the compost. I will dig in compost and plant tomatoes here. Definately 1st prize to the broad beans.

2nd Prize - Swiss Chard

Our chard has been fabulous this year. I planted normal chard and bright lights. The lovely red and yellow stalks have brigthened my veggie patch. There is still so much growing, but as it is a "normal" vegetable it gets second prize.

We cut from it daily. We have used it in omlettes, quiche, salads, creamed as a side dish, under poached eggs and even for our dog food once a week. Our chard will continue to provide leaves at least until February when the heat will be too much for it.

So well done to the winners, they may take a bow.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Making the early morning count

OK, so I am a morning person. I tend to fade around 9pm, normally with a book and a dog on my lap in front of the TV while keeping Superman company.

However as our season turn the sun is up and it seems silly to waste daylight.

This year I also turned 40 and with 40 came a comfy little spare tyre around my waist which I have struggled to get rid of. For the last 4 years I have excercised pretty regularly and my body has been fit and strong. My weight has been steady so this spare tyre is definately a 40's thing.

I love mountain biking but picked up an ITB injury at the end of the 2nd year whilst mountain biking in the forest. I then switched to Adventure Bootcamp for 6 months but it really hammered my body. Rising at 5.30am excercising HARD at the field from 6 - 7 am eventually took its toll!

I then switched to Tae Bo for the last 6 months and while it was fun and different, the time was inconveniant - 7 - 8 pm Mon, Wed, Thurs. It cut into our meal times and family times.

I believe that family dinner time should be at the table, together, not eating in shifts in between activities. So in August when TB stopped I needed to make another plan. A friend and I had a brainstorming breakfast last week and came up with a plan which suits the needs of both our families, makes use of the early morning, is free and fun.

Here is what my family's excercise looks like:

Tues & Thurs early morning walk 7 - 8am in various green places (vineyards, forest or greenbelts within 10 minutes drive).

Saturday morning MTB ride for moms and older 2 children at 7.30 - 9 while dads take younger 4 to single tracks with their bikes. Moms finish ride at 9, take all kids home and dads have big boy bike ride.

My elder son also trains 3x a week in a swim squad and my elder daughter goes to gym with Dad 2x a week.All this costs is for my sons swim coach and my husbands trainer. The rest is free!

I found a "cup-of-gold" on our Thurs walk which my son put on his head as a pixie cap.

If I look at what I would be doing between 7 and 8am, I know that I can put it aside for 2 mornings a week to get out into nature, get my heart pumping, my kids walking and appreciating the beauty around us.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

It all started with a salad!

Way back in June 2008 we started this food growing adventure.

The first thing I produced, given that it was winter, was a salad. See below. I remember feeling so proud that I had grown this myself and that I was able to serve my family this side dish.

The first salad (note the date!)

We eat salad every night and for me it was a huge thing!

Watercress, nasturtium, lettuce, spinach and fresh peas

Ever since then our salads come from our garden.

Spinach, haloumi cheese, baby tomatoes and chickpeas

Our herb tower is now producing the most yummy mustard greens, rocket and water cress. Our chard forms a huge part of our meals, but I like to serve the small leaves in salads as it is packed full of nourishment.

Assorted leaves, snap peas, radishes

So, yes, it did indeed "all start with a salad."

Saturday, October 9, 2010

My Garden Brings Me Joy!

Yesterday at a lunch with friends, one of them asked me where I feel "safe". This is a term that therapists use for helping people with hurts. (Don't worry I am not in therapy, she is a counselor and it was an interesting conversation.)

Well my garden is my safe brings me joy.

The pots in this picture hold my asparagus plants, the bed against the wall has the grape vine planted in it with some gooseberries that sprung up and a pepino melon plant that I was given.

Other pots hold my herbs - lavender and rosemary.

You can see the flourishing herb tower on the left and the strawberry baskets that Superman put up for me last year.

The grapevine is sending out it's new shoots like a plant on steroids!

This is the view from my kitchen brings me joy.