Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Weeding and such

 This small part of the front garden probably shouldn't be bothered with at all. It has poor drainage and not much seems to like it there. Consequently I never pay it much attention. Well, it is there so I guess it deserve better treatment and who knows, maybe it will reward my efforts with some flowers. Today when I weeded there it had a cement like crust on top and a fair bit of clay below the surface but on a positive note, there were a lot of very fat and healthy looking earthworms. Can't be too bad if the worms like to live there.

 I wanted to mulch the area after I finished weeding and planting a few cuttings and seedlings. Before mulching I had to weed the mulch. The grass in the bale had sprouted and was really growing rather nicely. At least this batch of mulch doesn't seem to have any nasty weeds in it like some we have had.
It's always a risk when bringing mulch.

It didn't take too long. Half an hour tops which is lucky because I seem to have a mountain of things on my to-do list.
One job completed today was gathering rocks to place around my kumquat tree. It is in an old wash tub which I found on the roadside. The bottom half of one side of the wash tub is no more so I thought rather than move the tree and because I like the old tub too, I would just build it up with rocks. Doesn't look too bad and the soil is staying where it should which really is the main thing. Collecting rocks is a good workout too.
Now I'm off to do some baking and bread making because even though I would like to, I can't work outdoors all day.
Tomorrow is a big work day too.
Are you busy? If you are, I hope you are busy doing things that bring you joy.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Too early for tomatoes??

The last few times I have visited the plant shop they have had tomato seedlings galore (and they are very tempting). Now just last week we had our coldest night time temperatures of the year with severe frosts so  when I see people loading their trolleys and baskets with tiny little tomato plants I want to shout don't do it. Wait. Of course I don't, it's none of my business and in fact most likely the gamble will pay dividends. Today when I bought my own little punnet of tomatoes I felt like I should be looking over my shoulder just in case there was some crazy lady about to tell me not to do it and wait until it was safe. Alas, she was holding the basket and in my defence, my seedlings are going to be potted on and hang out in the greenhouse for a little while.
Tiny Tim tomatoes unfortunately photobombed by a dog's bottom
 "Tiny Tim" is a variety I haven't grown for a while. The last few years I've stuck with grape type small tomatoes and  black cherry tomatoes which have been prolific.

 The little greenhouse where my seeds start out is getting a bit too warm so I think I might move it just a fraction to cool it down a touch. I don't want the seeds to cook, just germinate. The okra were the first seeds to pop up and so far I have ten or so varieties of tomatoes in there plodding along.

 It might be too early for tomatoes to be in the ground here but apparently not too early for the almond to be in bloom.

Monarch on the plum
And not too early for the plum trees either. The apricot is going to be next to burst into flower. Any day now. It's good the flowering is staggered a bit, it gives the bees a longer time period to access the orchard flowers and it also means the bees can concentrate their efforts on pollinating only a few trees at a time. Win-win.
The turkeys have taken up nesting rights in amongst some lavender bushes. I'm not sure if I will leave them there and work out some sort of way to secure the mother bird from predators or if I will help her choose a more appropriate nest. My birds are fairly compliant until they start incubating the eggs that is.  It does sound rather dreamy though, a nest in the lavender.
Have you started planting any spring/ summer things yet?? Or are you settling down for the cooler seasons in the north?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

High Tea for me

I've done it. I've chosen a date for my High Tea for Habitat for 2013. Saturday, 14 September is the day and I do hope it is a nice one weatherwise because I'm thinking a springtime tea in the garden will be sweet.

 Last year was very small scale with just my sister and some of our children but this year I thought why not go a little bigger. Who knows though, maybe no one will be able to or even want to trek out here for a cuppa and a piece of cake so it still might be small scale yet.

High tea is my favourite kind of afternoon tea. Why? I'm not fond of sweets so all those lovely little savoury morsels entice me. I do like baking the sweet things though so I'm happy all round. I don't like buying into the trend that high tea has become of late but I can say I've been having high tea even when it wasn't THE thing to do and I will be still partaking long after it is blasé and the next fad has taken its place.

The High Tea for Habitat program raises funds for Habitat for Humanity and building homes both here in Australia and overseas. It feels good to help out even in a small way and the added bonus is time with friends. It's not too late to register to host  a tea of your own. If you do sign up to host a tea, you are sent the sweetest host kit and the even can be as big or small as you like. It's fun. I just wish all of my lovely blogging friends could visit for my high tea now that would be fun.

No more talk of tea or I will be boiling the kettle and I have to get back to work. We had a very cold start this morning. A heavy frost and our lowest temperatures this year. Birdbaths and chicken water dishes frozen over. Makes me wonder why I actually sowed my spring vegetable seeds in the little greenhouse last week. But they seem ok and warmer than the surrounds so all is good there.

Tomorrow I am off to Agquip so most likely no blogging, no gardening, no cooking. Just tired feet from lots of walking.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Distracted... it's so easy

My top priority in the garden today is to get bed 4 of the herb garden weeded and ready to replant. It is an unsightly mess of weeds with a few herbs hanging in there that you can barely make out. I have been a slacker regarding this bed. But according to my calendar , it is the week that this bed must be put to rights. Not only that, I think it is a good idea to come clean here and not just show the pretty parts of the garden. It's how it really is. But today I am not going to be distracted too easily, I hope.

 Before this quick tea break, I made some progress and the lure of the wee new chamomile, lavender and tansy plants I have to pop in to all of those new spaces opening up will have me back out there after lunch (and some necessary housework of course) to finish the job.

Not before I got distracted by the Chinese Witch Hazel on the way inside. It is a flurry of pink and very pretty even to someone like me who isn't fond of pink.

 The euryops is also looking rather good but it isn't going to stay for much longer. Once it finishes flowering, it's coming out. It has grown too spindly and tall for the position it is in (my fault for not being harder with the pruning). The bees and hoverflies enjoy it so I will most likely replace it with one of its offspring. Watching bees is a distraction. So is wandering after the butterfly that decided to land on the calendula. I'm ok with that though.

The other good thing to come from actually weeding that overgrown herb bed is some surprise free plants amongst the unwanted ones. I discovered a few small salad burnet plants which had self-sown. They are all now resettled in other parts of the herb garden and watered in. Replanting and watering free plants definitely does not count as a distraction.

I'm heading back out into the gusty and rather cold  August wind.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Eating Weeds... stinging nettles

Firstly I'm going to apologise for the rubbish pictures of my pasta. I'll use the excuse that I have a cold (my first in a couple of years) and I wasn't in the mood.
We don't eat weeds often but sometimes I get it into my head to do something a bit different. We have already had nettle pasta a time or two this season and that is probably my favourite way to eat nettles. I'm not a fan of nettle soup but Tim likes it so I make that on occasion too. The reason why I chose nettles for my pasta filling yesterday was that my spinach and silverbeet/ chard are just not ready to be picked in large enough quantities.

The nettles however are lush and asking to be picked or at least removed.

The secret to no stings is simple. Don't touch them. I use a rather uncoordinated  approach with scissors and tongs to snip the leaves off before blanching them. The blanching process destroys their stinging powers.

 Nettle and ricotta  filled pasta.

300 grams plain flour
3 eggs
200 grams stinging nettles (or spinach, silverbeet or other greens of choice), discard stems
200 grams ricotta
1 egg yolk
100 grams Parmesan, grated
100 grams butter
1/2 cup sage leaves

Make pasta by combining the eggs and flour in a food processor until it comes together. Then knead for a few minutes until it is smooth. Allow to rest whilst making the filling.
Blanch the nettle leaves, drain and then squeeze out excess liquid.
Chop the nettles finely and combine with the remaining filling ingredients. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Roll the pasta into sheets about 5cm wide and as thin as possible. Fresh lasagne sheets from the fridge section in the supermarket could substitute.
Place a pasta sheet on a lightly floured surface and place heaped teaspoons of filling every 5cm.
Dampen the pasta around the filling and top the pasta with a second sheet.
Press around the filling to remove air pockets and seal.
Cut into squares.
Cook the pasta in a saucepan of boiling water until done to your liking. About 5 minutes for me.
To make the sauce, cook the butter in a fry pan over a medium heat for a minute then add the sage leaves.
Cook for another two minutes until the butter is slightly brown and the sage leaves are crisp.
Remove from heat and add the pasta.
Toss gently to coat the pasta in the sauce and serve.

Next time I will make a tomato based sauce for these because I think that would go well together and I prefer it to buttery sauces.


Saturday, August 17, 2013

I hope this works

I have just joined my blog up with the bloglovin site because I know quite a few people are reading blogs they follow over there. As for me, I just follow along and read the blogs  I like from the Blogger dashboard. I don't like to complicate things.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

With all of that said, I hope the link works for those using bloglovin.


Follow">">Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Thursday, August 15, 2013


Sometimes pictures aren't always needed. Today I have been butchering a lamb and I really don't suppose many people want to look at pictures of that. I know there are some readers who might like a how-to (and more who do not) but in this case I think that is best left for someone with better credentials than me. Besides that, I was home alone today and butchery and photo taking of said butchery are not the best activities to perform solo. Answering a ringing phone isn't good either I can assure you.

This is a much nicer picture to look at. And it is a good indication of the size of our Scottish Highland cattle. They are quite a tiny breed and have the sweetest temperament. Well ours do anyway.

Ewes in the yard. All except Essy that is. She is 11 years old and does whatever she wants and doesn't care. That's the privilege of old age I guess.

My current reading fodder is No Impact Man by Colin Beavan. The library had to borrow it from another library and I'm glad they could get it because I really enjoyed it and am reading it again. I'm not sure if I should buy the book or not though. Would the environmental impact of buying the book be  negative or positive? It is definitely make you stop and think material. I saw the documentary a few weeks ago and it was good and the book even better. I'd like to give the No Impact Project a go but I'm sure no one else here would be overly keen.

I've left my blogging for late in the day today. So now it is time to make dinner. Pies. Lamb and rosemary or chicken and leek.

Monday, August 12, 2013

I've been weeding

I have an apprentice at home today. Grace has a week of work experience at a restaurant but Monday is their day off so she in turn has a day working with me. Really I just have an offsider who is doing the less than thrilling things like washing the dishes. It means that on top of my farm-type chores I have had a bit more time in the garden weeding. Weeding definitely isn't the gardening job I live for but if I think of the positives of a nice garden and healthy plants then the task is more enjoyable. That and spending more time looking at the flowers than the weeds I'm pulling.

 The jonquils are the stars today. So sweet and low/ no maintenance.

I can't go past the daphne bush either. The perfume is amazing especially so from flowers which individually would be rather insignificant.

And what did I see? Two naughty ewes on the wrong side of the fence. I think they are employing the old idea that if they can't see me then I can't see them. Sorry girls, it doesn't work. These two are notorious escape artists and have been since they were lambs. Super easy to put back though, I just call there names using my angry voice and away they go. I wish it was always that easy to move sheep where you want them to go.

Now, a trip to town. School has rung up to say Hope has a sore throat and feels poorly.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Wacky Weather

Yesterday was chilly to say the least. A good day to be holed up with a book for most of the day. The temperature didn't make it out of single figures but at about 5pm, the sun showed itself as it set behind the hills in a what looked like a summery display.

 This morning looked completely different but surprisingly, wasn't as cold as it looked. Misty mornings are on my favourites list along with rainy mornings, sunny mornings etc.

I hope my friend likes purple because that is the colour I am featuring in a picnic blanket for her. That's tonight's project, sew up the nine fat quarters I cut up last night. I know Friday night is a popular stitching night for many so I'm hoping to catch some of those creative vibes out there and make the top tonight.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Taking it easy

I'm taking it easy this afternoon. I've got a bit of a weary feeling which I think might be from low iron (now that I can recognise the signs). So off to bed early with a good book, The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan in fact. I find I don't read a lot of non-fiction anymore. Cook books and gardening books dominate.

 I made a small tote bag recently to post off in a gift parcel. Now I'm moving on to making a picnic blanket/quilt for another friend and perhaps a table runner or two. That's a good thing about winter evenings. There is less daylight to spend working outdoors so some of those craft projects can take centre stage.

And just to show you how  things really are here. I turn my back to do some exercising and what happens to my water? I'm a little concerned about how many times this has happened in the past and I haven't known.

Monday, August 5, 2013

International Scone Week

I stumbled across Celia's blog last week and I'm glad I did. If I didn't then I would have missed International Scone Week and I would have been much displeased. There is no need to have a special excuse for making scones of course but sometimes I forget that they are an easy and not too unhealthy treat and I go a while between scones. Well, in honour of such a wonderful thing as International Scone Week and having a willing morning tea partaker at home today, I decided to make some pumpkin and date scones. I like pumpkin scones and I like date scones so together, I like them doubly.

The pumpkin makes the mixture quite moist so they take a little longer than regular scones to bake. They also have more of a crunchy exterior than plain scones too (mine do anyway).  They are probably sweet enough without any additions but if I'm having sweet scones then jam and cream are going to be there too. Today we had a choice of rosella or strawberry jam. I had half a scone with each jam and today my favourite is rosella.

Pumpkin and Date Scones
3/4 cup mashed pumpkin
2.5 cups self raising flour
30 grams butter
1/2 cup chopped dates soaked in hot water and drained
1/4 cup sugar
milk, enough to make a sticky dough (1/3 - 1/2 cup)
Preheat oven to 220 degrees C and grease or line a baking tin/ tray.
Combine the sugar and flour in a mixing bowl.
Rub in the butter.
Stir in the pumpkin and dates and enough milk ( a little at a time) to make a sticky dough.
Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead a little to bring the dough together in a ball.
Press the dough out to a thickness of about 2.5cm and cut with a well floured round cutter.
Place on tray and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. They are done when they are golden and sound hollow when tapped.

It is a sticky dough so floured hands are a must. And if scones weren't good enough already, the cooking time is just about the right amount of time to get the kitchen back in order after making all of that floury mess.

Needless to say, no lunch necessary here today.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Proud Parent

"Proud Parent" that's what our name tags said at the scholarship presentation on Thursday evening. Of course they were right, we are proud parents. We were also quite tired parents too after the six hour drive down and then dealing with Sydney traffic which we are not used to. 

Of over 1000 applicants, there were 49 scholarships awarded. All of the scholars who spoke on Thursday were so eloquent and appreciative and from what I could tell, deserving too. It was great.

And just because it isn't fair of me to post pictures of Tim here when he doesn't like having his picture taken, here is one of us together. Apart from the professional photograph taken at the beginning of the night, I think this might be the only one of me, talking to the girls on a borrowed phone.
The presentation was at the lovely Clydesdale Room at the Sydney Showground. The horses weren't there of course but there was still plenty to look at with all of the keepsakes and horse paraphernalia on display. A fitting place in the city for a presentation of rural scholarships for sure.

As a bonus, the food was delicious too.

This proud parent is now off to take Grace to her piano exam and her nerves are a mess.