Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Summer Berries - the Sun must be coming

After a spate of cold, dreary, wet weather (what the Scots  would call "dreek") finally today, the sun has come out.  And my strawberries have started to come out too! We have picked the odd one or two, but today, this is what I was able to gather :-)

Also harvested, 2 x artichokes and a lettuce.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Problems with free motion quilting

I try to quilt, I don't really have a lot of time at the moment - what with the house, the wedding and more!

My sister told me all about "Quilters Gloves" which have grippy bits on the palms and fingers, so that you can  manipulate your quilt easily under the walking foot, or when free motion quilting.  These gloves go for about $16NZ....and you can buy the same thing in Mitre 10 in the Gardening section, for about $2.99!

Well, at my local quilters shop in Rangiora they advised that I buy some tacky placemat stuff, which we would use in our campervan to stop cups rattling about etc, and to cut it into rounds and use those.  The benefit being you don't have to take off gloves etc to change threads, thread needles...

Wow, what a great piece of advice! works brilliantly

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

An Eggbound Chook

For the past year or so we have had 7 chooks (one of our 8 having died from unknown causes).  Happily they have scratched in the garden, and chased the dog for her bones, and followed me round as I tend our veges.  And, every day they have given us a bounty of beautiful eggs.

Until....a few days ago one sat at the bottom of their house, feathers all fluffed up and looking sickly.

I checked her over, very compliant when I handled her, very (ahem) large distended rear end. Pulsing rear end.  UH OH! eggbound was my diagnosis.

The internet gave lots of advice, some of which I was loathe to follow.  Do I really want to risk breaking the egg and all the ones backed up behind it? any physical work on her was out of the question.

Eggs are produced in a real "factory line"!  there are about 5 or so in production within the chook at any one time, from the one ready to be laid, all covered in shell, back to ones without shell, smaller and smaller up inside the chook.  When one gets stuck, all the others then exacerbate the problem.

The method I ended up trying was the "warm bath".  The idea being that the muscles of the chook relax and release the egg, hopefully.

I filled up a large bucket with warm water, popped in my chook, where she promptly hunkered down, and put a cardboard lid on top with a small stone to keep it in place.  I left her for 20 mins as instructed by the internet.   Then took her out.  She just flopped on the deck and lay there for some time.

Eventually Mark took pity on her and dispatched her with a carving knife.

A sad, sad, day for a lovely hen.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

It's a big secret

Mark has given me strict instructions!  no photos, news or otherwise of our new house, currently being built north of Amberley.

At our wedding there will be a big reveal, so you will all just have to wait *smiley face*

In the meantime, I have been busy laying out a vege bed, planting an orchard, madly putting in flower beds that will hopefully look good at the wedding, and watering madly!

We have worked on the garden every weekend for the past 3 months or so, which is why you have not heard much from me since July.  Gee, is it that long!  Looking back at when I last posted, it was, yes, July.


Thursday, June 28, 2012

A pinny full

In that pinny pocket, about 1.5dozen eggs, and a dozen Feijoa!  what a great saunter round the land this afternoon :-)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Insulating/Double Glazing windows "on the cheap"

I just read this really interesting article (link below) on how to provide a short term double glazing to your windows.  If, like me,you live in one of NZ's older style houses, with single glazed windows this could be the answer to condensing windows, and cold rooms!

Buy a large 1m wide roll of bubble wrap.  The bigger the bubble the better (for seeing out of).  I got mine from OfficeMax, 60 metre long roll for about $40.00.  Just make sure you dont get 30cm wide or something like that, as you want the wrap to be wide enough to fit across your window without joins.

step 1: Cut a piece of bubble wrap the size of your window.
step 2: Spray the window lightly with water, or brush with a wet pastry brush
step 3: Stick the bubble wrap, bubbles towards the window, starting at the top and smoothing with your hand as you go.
step 4: relax !

This is only a temporary solution, but as we are renting, and I dont think I am allowed to use the shrinkwrap stuff which needs double sided tape stuck to the frames, this is probably the best way for us to go.

Only downside is on the windows where you want a clear view of some lovely mountain or garden.  So its ideal for laundries, bathrooms, toilets, hallways etc.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Jack Frost has arrived with a vengance.  He ran around on the back lawn and left white, stiff grass, and he ran around on the front lawn and left icy drifts.  It's the third day in a row we have had a big one.

Luckily I remembered to cover the lemon trees in their pots, and as my Mother in Law pointed out, it is time I pulled them in under the veranda to save them from the worst of the weather.  It's just I am not good at remember to water them, and they risk drying out.

Somehow the big lemon tree in the garden, which is now covered with small, green lemons awaiting ripening, has survived frosts, snow, and goodness knows how many hailstorms.  It just keeps on flowering, fruiting and being a darling.  Maybe it is a different, more hardy variety, who knows?

I have garlic ready to go in, and some sweet peas, which I am ashamed to say I did not grow from seed myself.

Monday, May 14, 2012

There's only a few things left in the garden now from summer...I have perpetual spinach, carrots, potatoes and parsley and that's about it.

On the weekend we had a morning of lovely sunny weather and I dug over part of the garden which really needed an overhaul.  It looks ready to plant winter veges into.  I put in a row of broadbeans and contemplated where to plant my garlic.  Traditionally garlic is planted on the shortest day, which is coming up.  You can try planting the garlic that you buy to eat, but often it has been treated with chemicals to stop them sprouting while on the shop shelf, and you can have a lot of difficulty getting a good crop.  I do buy my garlic for planting from a garden centre and it is much more successful.

On another note, I finished my teatowel quilt! yay  I am really pleased with it, a lot of recycled materials and a nice easy pattern resulting in a good effect.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Teatowel Quilting, a quilt in a week

It was going to be a quilt in a day, but I had to revise that... It would have been do-able, but life got in the way, as it does hahaha.   I started with 9 teatowels, which I sewed into strips of three, then I cut each strip in half.  I have now sewn them all together and am in the process of quilting them up.  Photo of the finished product to come soon.

Crabapple Tree is Heaving

Bent down over the hedge at the front of our property is the most amazingly laden crabapple tree.  I picked half a bucket full, and made this beautiful shiny, clear apple jelly.  One has some mint stirred in, as a mint jelly which is divine on roast lamb.

Recipe: Pick your apples, I just grab them off the tree, and pull the leaves and things off.  Don't bother removing stalks or washing, or anything.  Just chuck them in a jam pan with only enough water to cover.  Bring to a simmer and simmer till all apples are pulped.  Put in a jelly bag, or if you are like me and don't have a jelly bag, a piece of old sheeting or something will do. Dangle over a bowl so the juice can drip in. I tuck the material under the pot I am straining into so that the pulp doesnt sink down into the juice you are straining.  DO NOT SQUEEZE, or stir or mash or anything.  If you do that your jelly won't be nice and bright but cloudy.

Once it has drained for about 4hrs or so, throw out the pulp (there will be lots left over) and measure the liquid.  You get a surprisingly small amount of liquid....Put the juice into a pot and bring to the boil, boil 5 mins or so, then add equal amount of sugar.  So if you measured 2 cups of juice now you would add 2 cups of sugar.  Boil briskly, this is the trick!

To test, put a little on a saucer (like a teaspoon full) and pop into the fridge for a minute.  If it has started to set, when you push with your finger it should be quite stiff, it is ready.  Pour into steralised jars and seal.

To add mint, chop the mint finely.  Do not seal the jar.  As the jelly cools and starts to set and the mint and stir in gently.  If it rises up, just stir a little again later.  Once the mint is evenly distributed and stays that way you can then seal up.

Happy eating on scones!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Homemade Water Biscuits, Cheap and wonderfully moreish

These are a tasty treat for the lunchbox, and easily made with very little expense.  The only fiddle is rolling out and cutting, but that is easily done quickly.

In a bowl put 1.5c of flour, rub in 50-100g butter (depending on how "short" you like them), and add enough cold water to make a soft dough.

Roll our super thin, wafer thin.

Brush with a little oil  and shake on some salt or other flavours, then cut into shapes and bake in a hot oven(180-200C) for about 10mins till browned slightly.

Flavours:  salt, chickenstock, beefstock, dried herbs, dried onion.

They stay crispy in an airtight container, but I really love them hot from the oven.

Great spread with homemade pate.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Dryer Balls!!

(Not what they sound like LOL)

These are little patchwork or woollen balls that you put in with your washing in the dryer.  They help the washing "move around" inside the dryer, causing the air to circulate better and hence a shorter drying time = less money spent on electricity.  A bit like how you put an old sandshoe in when drying sleeping bag to keep the loft in the feathers.

Now, I know what you are going to say about dryers...we shouldn't use them!  and I do try not to.  But sometime when the weather is conspiring against you and the washing just won't dry any other way, I resort to it.  My dryer is actually a fairly recent addition to our household.  We have had it about a year, I really wish I had it when we lived in Cromwell cos there in the winter it was so hard to get washing dry that I used our local laundromat in desperation.

However, I have made  some more "dryer balls" and a pix will come soon of these cuties.

(pop about 4 in the dryer with your washing)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

25 Jars of Apricot Jam + Recipe

Mark and I made jam last night....24 Jars of it!  What a wonderful thing it looks on the bench, one for every fortnight of the year.   Glorious, fragrant, thick, soft and sweet, on scones, toast and more.

Apricot Jam

(We made 5.5kg of fruit)

Weigh the fruit, and for each kg use 1c water.  Weigh out an equal weight of sugar.

Stone the fruit first, just by splitting them in half and picking out the stone.  There is  no need to chop the fruit up, it mashes down somehow during cooking.
Add the fruit and water to a large pan and S L O W E L Y heat to pulp the fruit.  This can be a bit tricky not to burn the fruit at this stage, if you try to rush you may be disappointed.  So take your time and stir well and often.

Meanwhile wash your jars, and put into the oven at 100C to steralise.
When the fruit has pulped, add all the sugar and bring as quickly to the boil as you can.  You want a good rolling boil.

Don't worry about the froth, we will take care of that shortly.  Test for "setting point".  After about 10 mins, put a small spoonful onto a plate.  Pop into the fridge and let the piece of jam cool.  Then push it with your finger, if the top of the puddle wrinkles where you push it, you are ready!  If you were worried about not being able to get it to set easily, you can buy Jam Setting stuff which is Citric Acid and Pectin, but you can also add the juice of a lemon or two to the same effect.  Generally Apricot jam is pretty easy to do without added extras, but no worries if you want to err on the safe side.
(In this pix the jam is not quite done yet, just showing the technique)
Once you have reached setting point, skim off the froth, and stir in a teaspoon sized piece of butter afterwards to remove any remaining scum.
Then leave it to cool for 10-15mins, mainly so you don't burn yourself!

Pop the hot jars onto a cloth or board (so they don't crack with meeting a cold object) and ladle in the jam up to about 1/2cm from the top.  I use cellophane covers, which you wet then secure over the jar.  As the jam cools it creates a vacuum, to prevent any mould forming.

Label your jars then admire, then eat!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Freezing Beans

Yesterday's haul of veges

a huge pile of beans
1 large cauliflower
a bunch of carrots
1 beetroot
some tomatoes
Corgettes galore

and a whole lot of gone to seed radishes which the chooks are going to get I think.

Montana-Rose and I sliced the beans using an old fashioned bean slicer and then blanched them and froze several packets.  We ate  some for dinner along with corgettes (of which we have a major glut!)