Saturday, May 14, 2016

Round up for April/Early May

What a strange, mild time we are having with the weather.  The drought continues into it's second year.  Our paddocks are dust and stone, and we are feeding out.  The ewes + rams have gone off for grazing elsewhere, we only have Willow the Cow, Lucky the PetLamb, and Cecil the Ram here for feeding.
Dry days and beautiful sunsets have graced our Autumn

Things that have done well this year so far, Artichokes, Basil, Grapes, Apples, Strawberries (in fact, all our berries) and Asparagus.  

Our strawberries have been so fantastic I have frozen kilos and kilos of them.  I think there are about 20kgs of them in the freezer, which should last us all year.  We also made Strawberry Jam using up a few kilos.  Fresh, sun ripened, warm strawberries straight from the garden just can't be beat.

Things that have NOT done well this year so far, Tomatoes, Rhubarb, Potatoes.  The tomatoes were a complete failure! I've never not been able to grow them.  But, this year, an early hot spring, followed by a hot summer just didnt provide enough moisture for them to fruit properly.  The only ones that did any good at all were ones which self sowed in my flower garden.

My "Secret Garden" has really grown.  The Griselinia has bulked up, and will make a good hedge some time soon.  The pond plants have done well also.  Thyme has self sown all over the place which means one less chore filling in the gaps.  
Feijoas coming into season

Monday, April 11, 2016

On a Side Issue

I am succumbing to a bit of self promotion...I have another website and blog, advertising my work as a writer.  

Just to get it out there, yes, here is the link!

and on facebook

Perhaps you might like to check it out and see some of the excerpts from the novel The Scoundrel and The Songstress.  Being bogged down in the middle of the manuscript, I find that I am in need of some encouragement!  I'd love to see you there.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Ups and Downs for the year so far

Harvest time is so exciting, and it amazes me each year the different foods which have thrived and those which have not.  So much is dependent on the weather, how hot it was, how dry it was, how wet it was, as well as the variety planted and what their optimal conditions are.

We have had a difficult year.  It was very hot and dry extremely early on in Spring (September/Oct/November), and with only a large downpour in Janaury to ease the drought a little many things have suffered.

Successes this year have included:
I have six vines, 4 varieties.  HIMROD a seedless eating grape was early, it has all been picked and either eaten or made into something.  Juices, jellies, and grapes in alcohol were some of the ways I have processed them.  I also tried fermenting fresh juice, just to see what would happen.  The old Roman way apparently to make wine, just put the juice in the sun till it ferments, bottle when fermentation has finished.  Wait 6m.  We shall see...
Our Sauvignon Blanc is coming along, I have managed to pick a few bunches so far. This is not nice eating, being quite sharp, but I hope to make some nice juice from it.
Pinot Gris is almost ready and tastes like it will be good for eating.

These have loved the weather, and I have grown many rows of lovely carrots, I even had some seed in my flower garden!
See the carrot down there under the Roses!

This benefited from a large amount of fresh rotted pig poo being added to the soil before planting.  The plants were vigorous and have many cobs each.

Usually this stuff can be difficult to grow, it often bolts to seed bypassing the "make a root" stage.  This year I was given my Mother in Laws thinnings which looked like they would die when I first put them in, but now they look amazing, the tubers are large and cook up well.  Delicious with sour cream and salt over hot boiled roots.

Failures this year
It was too hot to early for these to thrive, and once the January rain came it was too late.  Most fruit that has formed is shrivelled and nasty.  But there is so little fruit that I would be lucky to have picked 2 dozen tomatoes off about 10 plants.  Now they are dying with the cold weather coming, and there is nothing for it but to pull them out.

The seed I was given wasn't Grey Pumpkin, but Kamokamo which is a kind of squash.  I have never cooked it before, supposedly you can only eat it when younger, and I let mine get too big.  The seeds are then inedible and render the growing fairly pointless.

Kamokamo now too big to eat

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Grapes and what to do with them

The weather seems to know that March is the first month of Autumn and all of a sudden gone are the 30C+ days and nights are a lot cooler.  We even had our first frost two nights ago.

My six grapevines are getting ready to be harvested.  First ready was Himrod, an eating, white grape.  Second was the Pinot Noir, a dark black, small round, very juicy grape.  I am now picking these every day for daily fruit.  But there is a glut and so I started searching the internet for things to do with them.
Black Pinot Noir waiting to be simmered, Green Himrod for juice and Pinot Noir in a jar with Martini Mix
The first bucket of grapes 

I remember my mother talking about Grapes in Brandy, and though I trawled through our hard liquor stash I couldn't rustle up any brandy.  Voila!  the Martini mix leftover from my 50th looked pretty good, so I put grapes in a jar, and poured over Martini Mix,  It looks pretty edible and yummy...

Next I followed internet instructions for heating and mashing grapes and putting into jars for juice.  This was fun, and I processed in the Pressure Canner for 10 mins to preserve it.

Finally I fresh pressed the Himrod for fresh Grape Juice.  I'm tempted to try to turn some of it into wine..more on that later!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Wwoofers Are Wonderful

This is Shaina, who is our first ever WWOOFER.
She is working in our vegetable garden and sometimes with general house chores.  We are so pleased with her!  she is happy, easy to get along with and she is working hard on making a difference to our garden.

If you don't know WWOOF it, stands for Willing Workers On Organic Farms.  Its a great way for the world to come to us, and a great way for visitors to experience a little bit of New Zealand life.  You can sign up to the website for a minimal charge, and then let the fun begin.  You can have as many or as few visitors as you want.  You need to give them board and food, and in return they will work for 3hrs or so to help you out.  The rest of the time they may want to visit friends, learn English or just hang out with your family.
Montana-Rose could help, rather than just watching!
Shaina is very interesting, has a double degree and is walking the Te Araroa Trail, from the north of New Zealand to the Southern Tip of New Zealand, only 3000kms of which she has walked 2,200kms so far.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Apple Juice and Lemon Muffins

I wouldn't be told....that my apple trees needed a second thinning or they would snap.  It'll be OK, I thought.  But no, today, with the help of a small Norwester apples and branches came tumbling off.

As this is my first apple crop I really couldn't bear throwing slightly under ripe apples to pigs.  So I have made apple juice and as I write this the jars are processing in a water bath.
Put the jars into the water, making sure they are submerged, then bring water back to the boil.  Start timing once boiling begins.  These jars are just coming to a simmer

Here's what I did.  Core and chop apples.  Cover with lots of water, and 1 t citric acid.  Boil till apples have pulped, about 20 minutes.  Strain through cheesecloth.  Return juice to 190F.  While juice is reheating, clean AGEE jars, put lids in boiling water to soften the rubber, and wash the screw tops.  Bring a large saucepan to the boil with enough water to cover jars by an inch when they  are standing in it.

Taste Juice, add sugar if necessary.  I added 1 cup.  Fill jars with juice up to 1 inch from the top.  Put on lids and bands.  Submerse in water bath.  When boiling again start timing.  30 mins.  Take jars out carefully and stand on a cloth or wooden board (if put on bench they might crack with the temperature difference).  Leave 24hrs to cool.  Check seals, label and store.

When you want apple juice put jar in fridge overnight.  Open in morning.  Mmm.  I do feel that this is more a "Apple Drink" than actual juice, but there you go.

The final product is pasteurised I guess, is not brown (a big bonus from freshly squeezed apple juice) and looks great.

I also rustled up a batch of lemon crusted lemon muffins.

2c Plain Flour
1c sugar
1t salt
Grated zest of 2 lemons

Put the above in a bowl.

Add: 1 c fresh lemon juice, strained
2 eggs
100g melted butter

Stir only till just combined.

Put into patty tins and bake 30 mins till just browned.

When cool enough to handle dip in 3 ingredients separately in this order:  melted butter, then lemon juice then sugar.  Leave to cool completely.

Sunday, January 31, 2016