Sunday, January 31, 2010

Trellis and Sandpit

Nothing vegetable today....instead we have a new sandpit for the kids to play in and a new trellis for our roses to climb up.

The trellis is particularly good and has taken away the "blank" look that our new stone bed had. Now the whole wall is softened and it looks great.

The sandpit on the other hand, is pretty much a necessity. Albie finally has somewhere to play with his trucks and it will be very nice for him! So far there is no sand in it, and Montana-Rose is just using the wee seat for jumping off...

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Help with Broccoli

Our good friend Jan is staying with us for a few days, and yesterday she helped me to freeze broccoli.

It's always the way,when broccoli is ready in the garden it is cheap in the supermarket, I bought 8 heads at 59c each. Jan and I cut, blanched and froze all the bought broccoli so we can enjoy our own now.

The lettuce and spinach are doing well in the new beds we made. They have good leaf growth and look healthy. Luckily the dog has not been back in there digging!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Boysenberry Pruning today

I had to look up on the web about how to prune our Boysenberry and I discovered that once it has finished fruiting you cut off the old canes and tie up the new ones that are forming.

This was easier said than done! The old ones were all tied to chicken netting and extracting them without ripping my hands to shreds was tricky. Then the new ones were all entangled in my legs....Still, I have done my best and it doesn't look too bad.

I think next year it should be prolific as this year was its first "proper" year. Although we have had the plant since we lived in Christchurch, it has been moved several times and not really had a chance to establish itself.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Dehydrating madly

The dehydrator is out on the veranda to minimise the smell in the house. I only have 5 trays for it and they are bulging. One has tomatoes drying, one has plums and the others have mushrooms.

Our broccoli is looking ready and I am saving some for when our visitors arrive on Thursday so we can serve them food fresh from the garden. The broccoli bought from the supermarket ($1.50 per head, its always cheap when we have lots in the garden) I blanched and popped into the freezer....

More mushrooms, lots of growing going on, and I sold $2 worth of corgettes!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Today's haul, the first carrots

I didnt think we would have carrots yet, but I was looking at the bases of them, and decided they were still too close and should be thinned a bit more. The resulting thinnings look pretty good to eat...We are just going to have them lightly steamed then tossed in butter and chopped parsley. Won't they be fab!

Oh, and the dog is in the doghouse. She got into one of our new garden beds and started digging a hole, just where we had put some broccoli plants...wait till Mark sees that! his babies! Well, now they are all covered in chicken netting which I hope will prove to be a suitable deterrent.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Construction of new garden beds underway

I'm taking a break from sawing firewood and stacking it while the other half does amazing things in our garden today. The weather is fiercely hot, and we are lucky to be working on the shady side of our house, and out of the worst of it. Strangely enough this is where we have been planning new vege beds. Here he is working on them!

When we started this garden there we three beds, then we added one more, then two more, and now another 3 - he has one more to go today. It's been interesting to see it evolve, and we always have ideas for new things to go in. We are going to put stones as paths around this lot as well, like the original 3, which you can just see in the distance, (with my washing behind LOL. I think it is going to look rather good, and it also gives us a lot more space for things like black currants and french beans which never really seem to get a look in at present.

The chooks have been happy today too, here they are living their lives and laying us eggs.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Rhubarb and Muffins

This weather really does dictate what to do in the garden. It has been hot for a week now, but with plenty of rain. The garden is going crazy. Every time I look out the window, or walk around zuchinis have lengthened by inches, and peas have podded.

We have picked peas every day, and had zuchinis every night. I tied the peas up as they are waving growing tips all over the place.

The rhubarb loves the rain, it is sprouting enormous green plates of leaves, with large fleshy stalks. I have made rhubarb cordial and was looking for something new to do with it, when Patricia told me about her Rhubarb Muffins!

God, what a treat!

Make the Custard; 2T custard powder, 1T sugar, 1c milk. Let it cool.

For the muffins: 2c SR Flour, 1/2c sugar, 2/3c milk, 125gm melted butter, 1 egg, 1c rhubarb (chopped small).

2/3 fill muffin cups then dollop on some custard, put a bit of mixture on top. Sprinkle with demarara sugar, or cinnamon & sugar. Bake about 15mins.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

What is a "Mole"

No, not the underground animal, but the dish from Mexico. I was intrigued to see one of the Top Chef Masters (maybe the winner, not sure?) make a MOLE. Now, I have heard of it, never knowing whether to call it "mole-ay' or "mole". I googled it, and came up with a Chicken Mole recipe, which I have been able to adapt to the things available in New Zealand. (mainly substituting Kumera for Plantain).


Buy one big chicken, and piece it. Poach in water to cover with 3 cloves of garlic, smashed, 2 tomatoes, 1 sprig oregano and half an onion, chopped. Poach for half an hour.

Make the Sauce:

In a little oil, lightly fry: 2 fresh chillis (or dried ones), or more to taste, 3 tortillas ripped up, and 1 kumera chopped into small squares. Fry till golden and fragrant. Put in 1 can tomatoes, the other half of the onion, chopped, 4oz dark bitter chocolate (I used Whittakers), 3T sesame seeds, a grinding of black pepper and 1/2t cinnamon. Cook gently till everything is soft. Whizz with the whizz stick.

Take the chicken out of the stock and remove meat from bones, add to the sauce. Add some poaching liquid if it is too thick. Heat for about 10 mins then serve on rice.

As an aside, went to the Polytech orchard today with a friend and picked nectarines and apples and a few plums....

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Oh! Mushrooms Galore

Pix of the latest bucketful, gathered this morning....These are destined for soup tonight and the remainder to go to my friend Linda.

Aren't they amazing, HUGE and they smell mushroomy and delicious

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Mushroom Magic

Ah, Mushrooms....Some think them slimy nasties, others find them divine. I fall into the divine camp.

A pot of mushroom soup is just simmering on my stove as I write this. The warm, yet wet weather has prompted the springing up of large plate sized white mushrooms all over the fields round here. As a bonus, the greenways in Cromwell have them, and outside the BP station, and on the grassland by the Big Fruit. It seems everywhere I go my eyes are not on the road, but on the roadside. I can't help but keep a sharp eye out, so that when I spot some I come to a halt and run out and pluck them...

My dehydrator comes into its own, as mushrooms dehydrate really well and will keep for years once dried. (That's if you dont eat them first). Rehydrate and use on pizza or for soup, or just crush straight into spagetti bolognaise sauce.

Anna's Mushroom Soup

Saute an onion and a clove of garlic in some oil or butter. Chop all the mushrooms you have gathered, add to the pan, then pour over 1/2c cream and top up with milk till the mushrooms are well covered. Add 2 dried mushrooms, crushed. Simmer genly for a few mins. Add salt and lots of pepper. Whizz with the whizz stick, pour into bowls and garnish with chopped fresh chives and parsley.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Lovely Weather .... peas and tomatoes

Finally! a weekend of lovely weather. Sunny, warm, top of about 26C and great gardening weather. I have tied and pinched off-shoots on my tomatoes. We picked a few of the Sweet 100s, but only really got enough for a salad. Our peas also needed tying back and they are finally flowering at the top of their bamboo pyramid.

Mark edged around all the vege beds for me, to get rid of the grass, which was lovely of him. He also did a mammoth bit of weeding - much needed.

I can see our capsicums are finally making one or two fruits. They are just never going to do well, I dont think our growing season is long enough for them, and they are water hungry.

Today I cut lettuce, spring onions, tomatoes, corgettes and some roses to take to a friend who has just had a baby. She also got a jar of my apricot jam. I am afraid that I should have made her a meal, and all she will get out of it is some salad to eat, but it was just about all I could rustle up.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Plum Sauce, the old fashioned way

A friend of mine gave me 4 bags of plums yesterday, one lot for eating and the rest for what? A serendipitous recipe in the local rag caught my attention this morning, "Old Fashioned Plum Sauce".

In between doing washing, and visiting friends today I have cooked up a batch, and wow, it is great. Its quite hot and not very sweet (unlike the chinese one, which I always find sweet), and it has a good kick to it.

3kg Plums
2 Onions, chopped roughly
3 cloves Garlic, crushed
1.5kg white Sugar
6c Malt Vinegar
2T salt
1t Cayenne Pepper
2t Ground Cloves
2t Ground Ginger
2t Black Pepper

I didnt have ground ginger and used a large piece of fresh root ginger, with great results.

Combine all ingredients, pop into jam pan or similar large pot. Slowely bring to boil and cook uncovered till onions are soft.

Rub sauce through a colander or sieve to get out all the stones (be very particular). Return to the pot and heat gently to blend. I then whizzed with the whizz stick.

Pour into hot sterile bottles and seal.

Makes about 4 litres. I have been collecting old wine bottles and it made 5 bottles. Just wonderful.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Garlic is ready

What a great harvesting today....I went out this afternoon to see that half of the garlic plants have fallen over, so when Mark got home we bit the bullet and starting digging them up. And what Garlic! Nothing like last years sparse bulbs, these are heavy, fragrant and bulky.

They were planted in a part of the garden where we dug in lots of our kitchen scraps straight. We hadn't bothered with composting, just kept the scraps in a bucket and when it was full went out and dug it straight in with the spade. These garlic obviously liked that treatment as they are lovely.

Last year our bulbs would be lucky to have more than 3 cloves on them, so we are really pleased.

As an aside, I gave away a cabbage, some rhubarb, mint, and spring onions :-)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Boysenberry Jam

The weather has finally dried up enough to allow me to pick the last of my boysenberries.

"Easy Boysenberry Jam"
Weigh what fruit you have, and weigh out an equal weight of white sugar. Put the fruit in a pan and slowely heat till the fruit pulps. Add the sugar and bring to a rolling, quick boil. Boil 5 mins. Take off the heat and leave to cool a little stirring every now and then to distribute the seeds evenly. Pour into steralised jars and seal.

Along with Raspberry Jam, it has got to be on of my all time favourites. Nothing can be a fresh scone with your own jam on top.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Next day, snow on the hills

Woke up this morning to snow on the hills. The Pisa Range has a light dusting on the top third. I can hardly believe it. Usually at this time of year we are swimming in the lake most evenings and eating outside. We almost lit the fire yesterday it was so miserable.

In the overcast morning the garden looks better. There's no wind so its not so battered looking. Several cabbages are ready, and caulis are coming along well.

Note to self: must go round the edges of the raised beds. The grass has grown right up the sides, which makes it look quite unloved (which of course, is not the case).

Last week when we came back from holiday our grape vine had fallen under the weight of its fruit. It had broken the string lines that were holding it up, and was laying on the ground in disarray. We have put up some wires and cut back all the arms that are laden with fruit so they dont try to grow anymore, then pegged the whole thing up. It looks so much better, and the fruit is getting some light. Go grapes....!

Over the weekend my sister Ruth and I preserved 18 large jars of nectarines. It took us all afternoon and she took home 10 or so jars, but it inspired me no end. I then did 5 large Agee jars of peaches, and finally yesterday, made about 12 jars of Apricot jam. Mark reckons we should have 1 jar of jam for every week of the year to come. Goodness, I am not sure that I can do 50 odd jars. We'll see.

Very autumny temperatures expected today, 7-17C, I wonder if Hamish will go to work in the Cherry Orchard today. They haven't been picking near as often as last year when the picked 6 days a week for about 8 weeks. He would be lucky to have had 14 days of work so far this season.

I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Second Week in January 2010

Here in Cromwell today, it is blustery, raining and miserable. We have had thunderstorms and torrential rain, all very unusual for us, especially in Summer! Just reminding myself, yes, it is Summer. You would not believe it to look out the window.

We have a large vege garden, which has been expanded several times. A series of raised beds, and some edging. I will put up a photo soon. It has been established for just over 2 years now, although it started as a bare patch of builders earth when we built the house.

I can see the poor tomatoes straining at their blue wool which ties them to the fence. A few tomatoes have fallen off onto the ground, grr (mental note: put more ties up tomorrow). The peas which are staked have fallen out of their stakes altogether and are leaning over the corn. The artichokes are browning off and the potatoes are totally smashed and smothering the onions. All in all it is a pretty sorry sight.

I have no idea if we will get any more boysenberries. I have put shade cloth over them to protect them from predatory birds, but this doesnt protect them from our puppy who seems to think that boysenberries are manna from heaven. I made some jam out of our first picking, and now what with the wind, rain, and puppy I am not sure if we will get any more.

More on this later...its only the first post after all!