Saturday, January 28, 2012

If you are looking for me....

We are going away for our weeks holiday to celebrate family, birthdays and our wedding anniversary.

Long days beaching, starlit nights away from city lights, no reception, phones or simply we have..

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Moods, mangoes and being a mommy.

It's birthday season in our home. It started with my elder daughter's 17th on the 27/12, then my mom 9/1, then my elder son turned 15 on the 16/01. Following this was my mom-in-law's on the 25/01, mine is coming up on Monday, my Dad's on Tuesday and then my 3rd child - precious  princess - turning 13 on the 15/02.

As you can imagine it makes for a lot of reflection when you have 3 children in their teens, lots of memories coming up to my 21st wedding anniversary to Superman. I have had a deep thinking past 3 weeks. I can see that being a mommy is never the easy path, neither is being a wife. It is a stretching, growing, happy, sad, overwhelming, exciting path to walk.

My littlest one asked me the other day why I am sad, well I am not actually, just reflecting deeply on things. The thought that has preoccupied me over the last month that is relevant to this blog is the state of my veggie garden. I have asked myself:

1) Did I make the most of the season?
2) Did I plan effectively?
3) Did we care for it enough?
4) Was there more I could have done?
5) What more do I have to learn?
6) What were successes/failures?

Honestly, I do not believe that we spent enough time in the garden Spring through Summer. With this semi-neglect comes loss of crops to bugs and over ripening. I also grew things that did not yield well and other crops that were too prolific and not liked by us like Lazy Housewife Beans.

There is still so much to learn, and being an impatient kinda gal, I am first and foremost learning patience with this process of growing food. I dabbled with companion planting this season and what I did correctly worked in our favour. I tried to get into medicinal herbs but just don't have the time so I am back to growing culinary herbs only. So much to learn - so little time.

Last summer we had so many marrows...we ate almost daily and ended the season with the freezer full of grated marrows for winter. This season we have had massive failure! But the last 3 years my tomatoes have failed and this year we have more than we can eat! So goes it....

Time is one of the most valuable things I can put into the garden and time is something that is trickling through my fingers like water...I have asked myself if this is truly simple, this life we are living? I guess not. Our food is simple, our needs are simple but we are a busy busy family in a specific season of life. A precious friend of mine always says to "Live in your reality - and rejoice..." and I am again reminded of this....Live in the season I am in...AND REJOICE! Soon the garden will have more time devoted to it as we switch to autumn/winter crops, but for now I will enjoy what it is giving us for our plates.

Talking about seasons MANGOES are in! Wooohoooo! Here are 3 mango recipes for you:

A faraway soul mate told me how to make this salad about 5yrs ago, it has morphed a bit through the years but it is still a winner.

Cook noodles for your family, chop up some cooked chicken, 2 large mangoes and a bunch of coriander. Add to it 1/2 cup mayo and 1/2 cup plain yoghurt, 1 teaspoon of cumin, 1/2 teaspoon of curry powder. Mix all together, add salt and pepper and enjoy!

Mango sorbet:

2 large mangoes cubed, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup water, 1 t port - blend up in food belndr, chill and then add to your ice cream machine to blend.

Mango smoothies...delicious in the morning when I return from my walk.

Blend up 1 cubed mango, 1 cup of blueberries (frozen), , 1 cup yogurt and 1 banana. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A busy week, recipes and robbery!

I am sure you can tell by my lack of posting this week that we are back to school. It is actually our second week but this week the kids sports and music lessons started up again. I always say that we can handle our home, garden and schooling but as soon as the afternoon activities are added to the mix it is a matter of "hang in there, juggle another plate and collapse into a little heap at night."

As much as I would like to change this it is really not a possibility. Having 4 children who each do 2 activites means 8 in a week, swim training is 3x a week in itself! Throw in my need for excercise and it becomes a finely timed schedule and requires my full attention.

But this is just a little moan...I know that I will blink and my nest will be empty and they will move on with their own lives, so I savour and treasure each moment that I have them with me 24/7.

Well, onto the things you really want to read about - food, garden and self sufficiency. Here are the pictures and some recipes from this week.

The windowsill in our dining room is the perfect spot for morning bread rising...

Some little pilfering critter is getting to our corn before us....

My daughter's sense of humor! I still have to figure out what to do with these pumpkins...we are not big pumpkin eaters...any ideas? Something better than her idea of a hat stand LOL!

Some corn with a BBQ...the ones the field mouse/squirrel didn't get.

My mom bought me these lovely linen storage bags for potatoes. They are lined with black and can hang next to my stove in ready reach for cooking. They are not big enough for all the spuds we have harvested but I keep some there all the time. The others live in the fridge.

Yesterday while I was out for a meeting, Superman rallied the troops and did the garden chores. This meant more potatoes, tomatoes and a big bowl of Cape Gooseberries. I want to make Gooseberry tart for pud tonight.

A lot of our tomatoes have had to be harvested green. I put them on the counter to ripen. Some just weren't ripening to a full red then "du-uh" I remembered that I had planted some giant yellow tomatoes and a light bulb went on.

Two delicious meals this week were the above Calzone. This is just pizza dough folded over with a filling of mozzarella, spinach, mushrooms and homemade tomato sauce.

Above was a scrumptious Jamie Oliver meal from his Jamie At Home cookbook. It called for 2kg's of cherry tomatoes in different shapes and colors which I have an abundance of. This is drizzled with olive oil and basalmic vinegar and fresh Italian herbs. Roasted at a hig temp until all mushy. Then you add some pork sausages (we had Happy Hog smoked bacon and apple sausages) and cook until all brown and sticky. Served on homegrown mash was a meal to remember. I have a picture of many little heads stuck in the bowls licking the sauce...but my children threatened me with my life if I posted it here :-) 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Water, water everywhere!

Pictures from yesterday....

Thanks to a very vigilant Superman supervising the whole process there was minimal damage. We have wonderful water, pumping full taps....what a good result.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Harvest in a hurry

I should be shouting: "Houston, we have a problem!!" but I will rather look to the blessings than the troubles...but just so that you know what is going on here...
Last year around Dec/Jan we noticed that our wellpoint was loosing pressure. Without "free" water, everything we are doing here is pointless! We cannot afford to water on municipal water and I don't want that water on my crops anyway.
About 3 weeks ago we noticed that there was not even a square meter of water being spurted out of the sprinkler with the pump going full taps and Superman and I looked at each other and said: "Houston, we have a problem!"
Well after all the experts came and went this week we have no option but to sink another well point, and this well point is going to be in the veggie garden right next to my beloved much nutured asparagus.

This caused a hurried harvesting session for all of us this afternoon - in the rain and then blistering humidity. We had to dig out all the potatoes as this bed will be used as their slurry pit, then we tied back the asparagus (I am praying it will not be damaged) and then we harvested all the tomatoes around and about.

While we were going we picked the corn that is ready and the pumpkin and butternuts.

I suppose I should be grateful that this weeks shopping :-) has been done!

Dear Readers, think of us tomorrow as they start to dig....

Thursday, January 12, 2012

When God Gives Tomatoes

I am sure I have mentioned before that I pray over my garden once the seeds for the season are in the ground.

1 Corinthians 3:7 says: "So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow."

This year I prayed in particular for tomatoes. Our first 4 years have been highlighted by failures in the tomato department so I was really trusting God for a good crop. At the moment we are picking bowls of tomatoes everyday. All types - black cherry, black prince, beefsteak, red cherry, yellow pear and more. I am so grateful for this visible sign of God's care for me....tomatoes...who would have thought

So tonight I had 2 bowls and a basket to use and made a delicious pasta sauce with home grown ingredients. I chopped all the big really ripe tomatoes up....

Added a colander of fresh basil and 4 stalks of celery....then a tablespoon of garlic.....

And cooked it up until soft. Then added lots of black pepper and a teaspoon of salt and whizzed with my hand blender.

It was so yummy on freshly made pasta, sprinkled with Parmesan. This pot of tomatoes made enough sauce for 3 meals.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Expectations and disappointments

Back in August we decided to try another way of growing potatoes based on the "potato factory" idea that I found on the web. Superman built these planters and the idea is to keep adding slats to the frame as the plants grow. It is a similar idea to growing potatoes in tyres.

Yesterday we decided that the plants were dead enough to dig out the bottom spuds. Potatoes are generally ready to harvest when the growing stems have died, wilted and gone brown which takes 3 - 4 months.

So we removed the bottom slats....

Started to dig out the compost/soil (which was used as mulch elsewhere in the garden)...

Potato Dog got involved....

And there was promise, expectations, excitement....

Then disappointment :( as more than half of the spuds we soggy and rotten due to my over eager watering. We have only about 20 spuds that made it, the rest had to be thrown away.

Well, we have chosen to think like Thomas Edison and chalk it down to experience and the learning curve is not actually about counting your chickens before they hatch, but rather that we need to be a little more neglectful ;-)

Friday, January 6, 2012

Bean, marrow and baby tomato salad

Boy it's hot here! It makes cooking in the evening a challenge. Tonight Superman has planned a BBQ which is really welcome, but last night I was on duty!

My garden is yielding so nicely at the moment. Tomatoes are being picked by the basket full, marrows are filling out and French beans prolific. I paged through one of my favourite cookbooks - Healthy Appetite, Gordon Ramsey - and adjusted a recipe of his.

Fry one chopped onion in some olive oil, then add trimmed french beans and circular marrows. Sweat until just tender. Remove from the heat and add lots of cherry tomatoes. Sprinkle over 1t sugar, 1/4t thyme & sweet basil. Serve luke warm.

I put this with some sticky chicken drumsticks. Heat oven to 200C. Put drumsticks in an oven dish, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper. Cook for 20mins.

In the meantime, mix together 3T Fish Sauce, 3T Soya Sauce, 3T Rice Vinegar and 6T Honey. Remove chicken from oven, pour sauce over and cook, turning every now and again, until dark and sticky....sooooo yummy!