Monday, May 28, 2012

Citrus maintenance

By no means am I an expert on gardening topics or anything for that matter but I do love my garden. It gives me great joy. Right now is a good time to be loving some of my citrus trees. The lime and all but one of the mandarin trees have given up their fruit for the year and are ready for a little pampering. A healthy dose of chicken manure to invigorate them. 

Citrus have a high nitrogen requirement so chicken manure applied around the base to the drip zone works a treat. Commercially available fertilisers most likely have it all worked out to a science but poultry manure is aplenty here and it's free. Our climate is  very cold winters and hot summers which is perhaps not ideal for citrus but the only effect it seems to have had is that they are a little slower growing and maybe the fruit is a little more sour than it would be in a more suitable area. Having said that, I am yet to have an orange off our own trees but I live in hope that they are just taking their time and it isn't a result of where they are growing. The citrus trees are the water guzzlers of the orchard and they look decidedly sad when they are thirsty with their leaves turned up. Skimping on the water isn't good for the fruit or the tree. Too much water at once after a dry spell though can cause the fruit to split.

Citrus are the only fruits we have in the orchard right now and I have to say a mandarin is just about perfect for a snack or for a school lunchbox. Quite timely too to have all of that Vitamin C packed goodness with the cold season upon us. Still to be picked are the lemons, lemonades and the Empire mandarin.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The weather has really taken a turn for winter now. We have had some much needed rain and a rather bitter north wind has blown in the winter. I think that most of eastern Australia is feeling the chill this weekend. I am feeling wintery inside, it happens sometimes. Not a depression, just a foggy feeling, not knowing which direction to take. It will pass and I will be feeling fine soon enough I'm sure. Life is good here so I have no excuse not to live it to the full and enjoy the privileges I have. I will move along.

We  had a quick trip to visit Tom in Sydney last week. Just a couple of nights all together as a family which was really nice. He had university during the day so not a lot of time together. The girls couldn't stay away from school too long so we were home by Thursday just in time for Grace to sing in the choir on Friday.

We also had our evening of fine dining at the local TAFE training restaurant on Monday night. Our past experience was of an a la carte menu but Monday was a mini-degustation which was a bit of a surprise. I am fairly adventurous in what I will eat but the others like to play it safe. Needless to say when pigs ears and sweetbreads were served as one of the entrees, surprise turned to horror for my fellow diners. I grew up eating offal so I can eat it and enjoy it but I can understand the viewpoint of those who don't like it at all. Hope wasn't left hungry, the chefs prepared some chicken strips and vegetables just for her and she had a delicious panna cotta for dessert.

I'm not sure what Grace is thinking or doing in the picture.  Certainly not posing for the camera like her sister.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Pumpkin Frittata/ Quiche

It is more like a quiche really and when I made it on Friday for our zero food mile night, I omitted the dairy because I don't have any milk producers right now. I also dry roasted the pumpkin. How I usually make it is below.

Pumpkin Frittata/ Quiche
700 grams pumpkin, peeled and cut into chunks about 2-3 cm.
Olive oil
1 onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
handful of spinach/ silverbeet/ chard(if using silverbeet or chard, tear or shred the leaves)
5 eggs
60mL milk
100 grams ricotta
basil leaves to garnish

Preheat oven to 200 deg C. Coat the pumpkin in olive oil and roast until golden in a large baking tray.
While the pumpkin is roasting, saute the onion and garlic in a little oil. When they are softened, add the greens to wilt.
Lightly grease or line an oven proof dish about 26 x 16cm.
Spread the onion mix and pumpkin evenly over the base of the dish.
Whisk the eggs and milk together and pour evenly over the pumpkin and onion. Place the ricotta evenly around the dish.
Bake for 20 minutes.
Garnish with basil. 

The recipe is fairly basic and could be altered easily to use other vegetables. Tomatoes would be nice particularly roasted cherry tomatoes. A handful of cheddar or a stronger cheese is nice too for a bit more flavour.

I am having a night away from the kitchen tonight. We are heading out for some fine dining at the local TAFE. Tim and I had a great meal there last year and made sure we booked a table early this year. The meals are fancy, the service is fantastic and the prices are terrific. If anyone has a TAFE restaurant nearby, it is definitely worth a visit and it supports the efforts of those starting out in the hospitality industry. Win-win.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Zero Mile Food Night

On re-reading my last post it does sound a little whingey. It wasn't my intention to have a whine I think it just kind of snuck in behind the scenes. Sorry for that.

 On Friday night there was a local food night in town with Costa Georgiadis as special guest. There were to be canapes and wine all sourced and made from within the 100mile/160km radius of the town. I really would have liked to attend but without a car and not being keen enough to pedal the 50 kilometres to get there, I decided on a zero mile food night at home.

Pumpkin had to be on the menu because it is the vegetable of the moment. There are at least eighteen still hanging on in the compost area and probably another thirty in the vegetable garden proper. I am leaving them out there until absolutely necessary to ring them in and the flavour keeps improving.

Truly not the best picture but it was a nice dinner with the best of company. Roasted pumpkin frittata, the last of the beans and button squash, simple garlic mashed potato and a mixed salad of rocket, nasturtium leaves and flowers and parsley. I forgot to add the basil until after we were eating but it is supposed to be on top of the frittata.

 I used a couple of the new beeswax candles that I made that day too. The wicks in the candles came from afar and I'm not sure that I would use the homegrown cotton on something as short lived as a wick. Homemade lime cordial finished the meal off. I have to say it was simple fare but that is probably the best way to eat most of the time.

It would be a great to be able to eat this closely to the source every day. It would surely take some planning and work and one would probably end up feeling a bit deprived. It also wouldn't support the growers out there that rely on selling their produce for their livelihood.


Friday, May 18, 2012

Bee business- wax

Generally speaking I am not a procrastinator, I like to get things done. Though on any given day my to-do list is longer than my done list but not because I have a lazy streak but I just bite off more than I can chew sometime all the time. However I have been putting off processing our last lot of bees wax. It is messy and a job that I do not relish.

 This is the wax after it has been washed. Before this it has honey and other debris mixed in with it. So at this stage, it looks fairly clean. It is a good idea to have a pot/ double boiler that is just for processing wax because it is hard to clean off. I use an old heavy based saucepan over boiling water and have an old knife I use for stirring.

 Once it melts I strain it through cheesecloth into whatever vessel I am using. Usually an ice cream container or a clean milk carton. These make for easy removal of the clean wax and they are fairly easy to come by, inexpensive and a good size for the amount of wax I have to deal with.

I know I have written about the 'joys' of wax processing before but I think it bears repeating. Wax is messy business but lovely when it is clean and casting a delicate glow from a homemade candle. It feels smooth and luxe and leaves me in awe of the things such humble little creatures can create.
P.S. I now have what could in all likelihood be the most boring  Facebook page ever published. You can check it out here.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

This and that

Firstly thank you to those who left lovely comments on my post on  Mother's Day. I appreciate that people take the time to stop by and read and then leave a comment. I know for certain that there really isn't enough time to read every blog post from every blog that you enjoy let alone take the extra time to comment so I am thankful for the heartfelt comments that I do receive.

 The dry autumnal weather is continuing with wintry nights and sunny but crisp days. My apricot tree which is a favourite of mine in any season, is stunning in its autumnal garb.

 Not easy to discern but the picture above is of some of the rows I have been sowing over recent times for some grain and cereal crops. Our focus on our farm is feeding ourselves first and foremost before any surplus is sold, bartered or given away. The farm is too small to support us financially but it can provide a lot of our dietary requirements. The cooler season crops in are spelt, rye, oats and wheat. I also have lucerne growing for the animals. We have ummed and ahhed over whether to buy a rotary hoe for tilling but decided against it and I can safely say my biceps are better for it. No need for the gym.

 This afternoon I have been sneezing up a storm. I made a batch of green curry paste. I thought the chillies would be the wort part of the procedure but it was grinding the 20 peppercorns that made me come unstuck.
 These chillies are however very potent. I have washed my hands a few times but the sting still remains. I know I should use gloves but a) I don't have any disposable gloves or even washing up gloves and b) I like the hands-on approach when I am cooking, even if it is a bit hazardous.

We used a jalapeno last night and it was extra hot too. So it must have been a good year for chillies.

The end product doesn't look the best but if the aroma is anything to go by, the next Thai green curry I make will not only be hot, but tasty too. I used a recipe from Spirit House and I can recommend their recipes highly.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day

Chrysanthemum and dahlias in the dining room
I can without a doubt say that being a mother to my children is the best part about my life (being a wife to their father is just as good too) so I celebrate being a mother every day in my heart. The kids really like secretly making cards and making or buying a little gift though and I gladly receive them. Tom even made me a card and sent me a chocolate because he does know my weakness. We had a lovely morning tea this morning with my Mum and Dad. Mum brought me these flowers and me being me, I will snip a bit off the bottom of the 'mums to strike for planting. It usually works and plants for free are a treat.

My long-suffering husband
Tim often seems to be rostered on to work Easter, Christmas and days marked as special on the calendar. Today was no exception. But he didn't miss out on a morning tea, we had a nice cream tea together last week in the garden. I think I missed out on playing tea parties as a child and I more than make up for it now, making an everyday cuppa an occasion. Thankfully I have a family that indulges my idiosyncrasies without complaint.

Now in an indulgence of my own (after I lock the poultry away for the day), I am going to sit about by the fire, crochet for a while and watch Anne of Green Gables. Dinner is easy tonight because it is Sunday soup night.

I do hope that everyone has had a happ Mother's Day, I have.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Busy Farming

 A couple of busy days on the farm with little time to write about it.

Back soon.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Chocolate Pumpkin Brownies

The house has had a chocolate drought for a little while so I rectified it yesterday when I was in town. A little bit of good chocolate is a good thing... I hope. I don't think chocolate requires much any value adding but I did want to make some brownies. Last week I was tempted by the River Cottage beetroot brownies but alas my beetroot were too small and besides, I didn't have the necessary choclate. This morning I thought why not pumpkin brownies instead? The verdict, moist and moreish. I am farming alone today so I have had to do my own taste testing and believe me, it was no hardship. The recipe for anyone who might be interested. 

 Chocolate Pumpkin Brownies

125 grams butter
200 grams dark chocolate
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 and 1/4 cup plain flour
150 grams grated pumpkin

Preheat oven to 180 deg C. Grease and line a 20cm square baking tin with baking paper.
Stir butter and chocolate over a low heat in saucepan until smooth. Cool slightly.
Place the dry ingredients and pumpkin in a bowl and stir to coat the pumpkin in the flour mixture. Add the chocolate mixture and stir until combined then add the slightly beaten eggs.
Spread into the baking tin.
Bake for 35 minutes.

Not  a health conscious recipe (even with the pumpkin) but it does do the soul some good to have a small  slice of decadence sometimes.A little goes a long way or not depending on the appetite of course.


Monday, May 7, 2012

Croceting and Knitting

 During the cooler months yarn craft always comes to the fore. The granny squares I am working on now are for a swap of squares in black, grey and white. They have a more masculine appeal I think which is a nice change from the brights and pastels and I might even give this blanket to one of the men in my life. They aren't often recipients of my crafting endeavours but everyone likes to snuggle up under a warm rug in the winter so I'm sure it will be appreciated.

I also spent a few minutes making a Mother's Day card for my mother in-law yesterday. I used the same pattern back in February to make a card and thought it would be a nice touch at this time too. It really takes next to no time and I am hoping she likes the homemade touch to her card this year. The pattern is here for anyone who might be interested.

As for other knitting and crochet projects, I could get lost on Ravelry. It is such a wealth of inspiration and instructions. The more you look, the more you want to make. Grace is hooked on crochet too and made a gift card wallet last night from a free Ravelry pattern although she usually prefers amigarumi.

This afternoon it is a trip to town. There is a second hand book sale on and we need a few things from the store too. Having only one car (and living 50km from town) means trips have to be planned and lists made because I won't be able to go back for a while. I am actually enjoying the feeling of not being able to go. It just feels so good to be at home.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Potatoes and Leeks

The garden provided me with some potatoes and leeks today. I have been ruthlessly clearing out summertime crops which have been keeping on during the earlier parts of autumn. Not too ruthless I have to say, there are still some beans left in the garden and the pumpkins are rampant and are showing very little signs of dying off. I have been breaking off the fresh growth on the pumpkins because it really is going to come to nothing. They are a mess but there are plenty so I am not complaining.

We have been eating a lot of meatless meals. It might seem a bit strange, living on a  farm with a fresh supply of poultry and lamb that we don't eat meat every day. The kids could gladly (as long as it isn't a lamb they have played with) eat meat daily and their requirements for it are probably greater than ours. So tonight, they will enjoy a cottage pie whilst Tim and I have a potato and leek soup. Simple food, where the flavours can shine.

No real recipe for the soup. I usually follow a similar formula for all of my pureed vegetable soups. Prepare the vegetables, boil them until tender (adding stock if necessary) and then puree. It works with most of the root vegetables anyway. Sometimes I will add lentils or even a bit of cream after pureeing.With the potato and leek soup, I will saute the leeks in butter before cooking with the potatoes.  Quick, easy and generally healthy too. A chunk of parsnip and thyme bread on the side and it's a meal.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Kind Word

Never underestimate the value of a kind word or gesture. I am reading a book all about kindness right now and the ramifications of being kind or perhaps unkind to yourself and others. Today a kind word was what I needed to hear and I am grateful to have had it from an unexpected source. Just a few sentences was enough to make me feel a little special. Of course self-worth and happiness really has to come from within but a bit of outside help well... helps.
 Thank you.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Tidying Up

Making soap and tidying up our budget has been on the agenda. I actually made the soap two days ago but I am just getting around to cutting it into individual cakes. I just used a basic recipe which are available in books and all over the internet but added ground coffee after it reached the trace stage. It makes the soap a little more exfoliating and was a good way to use some caffeinated coffee I had which I can't drink.Nobody wants to be around me when I have had caffeine, I am no fun.

The budget tables don't look as good as the soap. We are making some real cut backs. Grace will no longer be taking music lessons. I hope that in the near future we can return her to her tuition but at the moment the costs of over $100 per week just for the lessons is not feasibe or sustainable. It is unfortunate because she is quite advanced and should be sitting an exam in August but it just can't be helped right now. I  feel awful about this.

Anyway, things will look better tomorrow I'm sure.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

 There is of course more to me than gardening, farming, cooking and the other things I write about here but today was really just about being outside and enjoying a day in the garden made evn better by having Tim at home to work beside me. The days are shorter, there is less to do and the sun has lost some of its summertime sting.   
 There is still plenty to be done but energy isn't as easily drained in the cooler months. The cotton I planted last spring is finally heading towrds picking. It is such an interesting plant to grow. Easy to look after. Just plant the seed, water occasionally and wait. Large scale farming is another story, where cotton is a high demand crop. At the end, you get the cutest little cotton balls of fluff. Very much worth it.

The marigolds are truly lovely right now. There don't seem to be many pests around so either the marigolds really are keeping them at bay or more likely they are gone for the cooler seasons. A friend who visited once mentioned that the  marigolds and calendula were just too bright and gaudy for her tastes. I like them. I don't think natural colours are ever too over the top.

This afternoon I was going to make some beetroot and chocolate brownies for afternoon tea. But the beetroot(above) are just too tiny to do the job. So for our teatime treat this afternoon it is  lemon/lime bars. I would have made it just with limes because I really do have more than enough of them but I am erring on the side of caution. think they might be too tart on their own. We'll see, it is due out of the oven just about now and the girls should be off the bus in about 5 minutes. Perfect timing.

I have switched over to the new blogger and it is causing me a few headaches. Nothng wrong with it I am sure just I am a creature of habit and need time to adjust.

Tea time,