Monday, December 19, 2016

Those pesky birds!

I have started netting to deter birds.

Despite my earlier post with pictures of christmas decorations in Cherry trees, I have bitten the bullet and started netting.  As soon as the cherries went red the birds started.  There is such a good crop of cherries in the tree that I am pretty desperate to keep them so we can enjoy eating fresh ones at Christmas.  It's only one week away.

When we first moved onto our property it was just two enormous paddocks of broom. I remember noticing that there were no birds, and I thought it was because it was too hot and dry.  But as soon as we started planting trees and flowers the birds came.  We have starlings, thrushes, chaffinches, hawks, sparrows, oystercatchers, skylarks, yellowhammers, the odd fantail and even the other day I saw our very first NZ Falcon (v. exciting moment).

The boysenberries have also suffered from attention by the birds, so, on went the netting too!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

In my trug today

There were also Raspberries but I had put them into my Rumtopf before thinking of a photo!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

"Willow" talks!

Check out this cute video I took of Willow after milking one morning.  She was hanging around enjoying a scratch and a rub and she said "Hi" to me!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

On "Inviting Abundance"

There was a TV show that I watched avidly through a couple of seasons, "Agent Anna".  (Not just because we shared a name!) A bitter-sweet comedy about a real estate agent who's husband leaves her.  The resulting mess as she gets a job and navigates her way round the adult world on her own made me laugh.  In particular there was a time when she went to "Inviting Abundance" classes - a bit like Yoga but with some New Age fluff thrown in for good luck. Lots of "Ohm"ing and sitting in yoga poses whilst asking the universe for abundance in love, life and jobs.

I haven't tried that method, but abundance came anyway.
In the form of Poppies
and Milk from our lovely Willow - here is fresh Caerphilly

and beautiful green, lush, viridescent, verdant, grassy, grass!  Never before in the four years we have lived here have the paddocks and garden looked so naturesweet!  Our shrubs and trees are shooting away by the foot, and all our hard work finally looks sumptous - just how I imagined it would.

No wind, no bad frosts, no storms, and lots of beautiful soft, dripping rain.

Abundance forever!!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

No rest for busy people

Labour Weekend, the day we celebrate a 40hour working week.  Freedom for everyone, in the evenings, and on the weekends, to get involved in fun activities with their family and friends.

In our case, planting the new berm by the pool.  (Hopefully minimising both wind misadventure and gaining a little privacy from visitors).


Our latest Wwoofer, Anne, a lovely German girl, mowed the lawn and said it was the best day of her life!  She really enjoyed riding our mower, practicing her driving skills and she made a lovely job of the property.  

Anne has been working hard in the Vegetable garden, inspiring me to get our strawberries and asparagus sorted out.  I was super excited to find tiny little fluffy feathers of bright green, which I identified as baby asparagus plants, self seeded. I hear tell that asparagus doesn't grow very well from seed, but I will give these a go and see what happens.

Anne mowing the lawn
Self seeded Asparagus

I'm now off to plaster some more of our pool...maybe I'll rest later on in the week.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Cook for a Fortnight in one afternoon

We have had a very busy couple of terms at school, with my youngest child doing an activity every afternoon.  He has ballet, piano, cubs, singing lessons, Glee club, drama, band practice and goodness knows what else.  I can hardly keep up.  It has created a lot of tension in our family as the year has played out.  Part of that is the eternal question...what's for dinner?  Feeling tense after running in the door this is the last thing I want to be asked. So, to alleviate that stress, I spent several hours cooking and made dinner for a fortnight!

Here's what I did.  The recipes may not suit your family, but you can easily adjust them.  As you read through the process, you'll see that by making some basic bases, it is easy to adjust them for different effect.

If you follow this, here's what you will be freezing:
2 x Sausage Casserole
1 x Spanakopita (Spinach Pie)
1 x Vege and Bacon Gratin
1 x Macaroni Cheese
1 x Potato Gratin
1 x Meatballs
1 x Chicken in Italian Tomato Sauce
1 x Chicken in Cream Sauce with Asparagus
1 x Pork Pie with Apples

The idea is that you can pull one of these out of the freezer in the morning, and heat it up when you get home, or you could add Wedges/Potato Mash/Veges/Salad etc and possibly eke it out over two nights.

My man is a hefty meat eater, so these recipes are mostly meat orientated, you can easily change that if you want.  Most of the veges (asparagus, spinach etc) are from our garden, but are easily bought. We have mushrooms in our garden at the moment, and I added some of them to both the Pork Pie and the Meatballs.  I have left them out of the recipe, but feel free to add them if you wish.  I just thought they are an expensive addition if you have to buy them.

We also have a lot of dairy in our house, because of our cow.  So we have access to infinite amounts of milk, cream, etc.  Our chickens provide the eggs.

I haven't costed this out, but pretty cheap I think, even if you have to buy everything.

Buy or scrounge 10 large tinfoil containers, place 8 of them out on your kitchen bench.  I did it in two rows, so that I could see easily.  Put out two large bowls, one for the meatballs, one for the spanakopita

INGREDIENTS Purchase/pick/swap/scrounge the following:
10 x large Onions
100g butter for the onions
4 x cans Tomatoes chopped with Basil
1 can Black Olives
1 x 500g Pasta of your choice
2 x Oxo Meat cubes
2 x potatoes
4 x carrots
4 x leeks
2 x apples
2kg potatoes
1 bunch Asparagus
Several large bunches of Spinach
4T butter for white sauce
1c Flour
2litres Milk
4 slices of Bread
Chicken thighs - enough to feed your family twice, in our case this was 10 chicken thighs
1kg Bacon Ends (I got these from Rangiora Fruit and Veg shop for $5)
3c Grated Cheese
5 Eggs
1kg Mince
1kg diced pork
2kg Sausages
1 can pineapple pieces - if liked
5 sheets frozen Flaky Pastry
Bunch Sage
Bunch Thyme
3 x 300ml cream
1 tub Sour Cream - to finish the Chicken in Asparagus when cooked
1 250g carton of cottage cheese
1t nutmeg
2 cloves garlic


Defrost Flaky Pastry sheets.

Chop all the onions - I did this in the food processor, Saute them in a large pan on the stove, in butter till soft.  I like to use butter, firstly because I make it free from our cow, and secondly I prefer the flavour, but you could use oil if you want here.

In another large pot bring salted water to the boil.  When boiling cook the 500g Pasta and drain.

Divide the onions evenly between 8 of the containers and the two large bowls.

Into the first two containers put the number of chicken thighs you need for your family.  You now have the basis for the two Chicken dishes.

Finish first chicken dish: Pour over 2 cans of canned tomatoes/basil. Throw olives over.

Put cooked pasta into another container.

Chop sausages into pieces and place into two other containers. Dissolve oxo cubes in water, add 2T flour, and mix in (this will thicken it on cooking), and pour over the sausages.  Add fresh thyme.  Peel and chop 2 potatoes into cubes, sprinkle over.

Grate the carrots.  Divide - some onto sausages, some into one bowl for meatballs, one into a new container (for Vege Gratin)

Peel and slice leeks, place in Vege Gratin dish.

Cut Asparagus and divide between Vege Gratin and remaining Chicken dish

Wilt Spinach in the pot you boiled the macaroni in (no need to wash!).  Divide between Vege Gratin and Spanakopita bowl.

In the same pot make a cheese sauce, with 4T butter, 1/2c flour and about 2 litres milk. Add salt and Pepper generously.  Pour half of this over the Vege Gratin .  Add 1c grated cheese and then pour the remainder the Macaroni Cheese.

Into the Spanakopita bowl break 4 eggs, add 1 carton cottage cheese.

Grate all the cheese and add some to the Spanakopita bowl.  Sprinkle the remainder over the Vege Gratin.

On the stove fry all the bacon bits, till browned.  Add some to the Pork Pie container, some to the Vege Gratin and some to the Sausage Casseroles and a little to the Macaroni Cheese.

Finish Macaroni Cheese.

Peel and thinly slice the 2kg of Potatoes.  Put them into your large pot, cover with 1 x 300ml cream, and enough milk to just cover the slices. Add 2 cloves of garlic, crushed. Add salt and pepper. Simmer till thick.

Finish Sausage Casseroles - once bacon is in, they are done

Finish Vege Gratin shred four slices of bread, sprinkle two over the Gratin.  Add the other two to the meatballs bowl.

Finish Chicken with Asparagus pour over 1/2c cream.  (When defrosted and cooked, stir in 1 tub sour cream)

Finish Spanakopita stir all ingredients together, add salt and pepper, add 1t nutmeg.  Put into one of the spare containers.  When cool - top with 2 sheets of flaky pastry.  Stick pastry with a fork to let air in when cooking.

Add 1 egg to the meatball bowl, using y our hands mix well.  Roll into balls, put onto a lined oven tray and bake at 180C for about 20 mins till browned.  Put into the  other spare container.

Finish Meatballs pour over 2 cans tomatoes in basil

Slice pork, add to the last container (this should have onions in already).  Add 2 chopped apples and can of pineapple pieces.  Add chopped sage.

Finish Pork Pie - Dissolve 1 oxo cube in 1 cup water, stir in 2T flour (to thicken when cooking).  Pour over.  Top with 2 sheets flaky pastry.  Use the last sheet of pastry to cut leaves and flowers.  Decorate Pork Pie and Spanakopita.  Stick with a fork to let out air when cooking.

Mix one egg with 1/2c cream. Brush the top of both the Pork Pie and the Spanakopita.

Your potatoes will now be mostly cooked, and the cream/milk thick.  Pour into the last remaining container.

Finish Potato Gratin

Sprinkle all with salt and pepper as necessary.

Cover the tops with tinfoil, label and date.  Let cool, then freeze.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Constantly Surprising

As a gardener, I follow the rhythms of the seasons, expecting blooming in the Spring, abundance in the Summer, brassicas, harvest in the Autumn and hard digging work in the Winter.  I look forward to the specialness of each season, waiting for their own sweet special moments.

Mushrooms in Autumn in one thing I look forward to with particular eagerness.  If you have read my blog for a while you will know that I always get excited about mushrooms.  Their appearance puts me into a frenzy of "mushroom spotting" whenever I am out.

Well, this week, the first week of Spring, we have had wild weather.  Cold, fast winds, snow and sleet all conspired to keep us mostly inside, in front of the fire.  I ventured out to milk the cow and pick early daffodils but that was about it.

Until today.  My special "mushroom spotting eyeballs" noticed a white "something" growing in my flower bed out the kitchen window.  Sure enough, in the wrong weather, at the wrong time of year, beautiful, meaty, fragrant mushrooms are emerging!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Candied/Sugared Violets

Who can resist a sweet treat? this little Victorian number conjures up afternoons of cucumber sandwiches and scones with cream.  Sugared Violets are a labour intensive flower decoration.

If you are lucky enough, like me, to have swathes of violets rampaging through your garden, then this is a winter activity for anyone with Martha Stewart or OCD tendencies.

- Pick your violets, leaving them on a long stem.
- Wash if necessary (I skipped this step) and leave to dry thoroughly
- Whip the white of one egg to stiff peaks
- Using a child's paintbrush (never used in paint) brush the egg white onto all parts of the flower, front and back
- Dust with castor sugar, leave no area undusted.  Paint extra egg white if necessary.
- leave to dry for 24 hrs
- pack into an airtight container, should last for a month

Imagine cupcakes with these little beauties on top.  Or a vanilla cake with cream cheese icing, mmmm

There is a trick to painting the flowers, check that out here:

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Preparing for cold weather

I have had a few afternoons getting the garden organised for cold weather.  Unfortunately I left it too late for the poor cauliflowers.  I had to throw half of them over the fence to the pet sheep because they are damaged by the frost.  This makes them go icky and brown on top.

The other half will be OK because I have tied the larger outer leaves over them, protecting them from further frosting, or indeed SNOW (predicted for the next few days).

The Raspberries got a decent thin-out and prune.  The trick with them is to take out all the dead wood, (those canes that fruited last year) and to trim down the new canes which grew over the season and will produce fruit last year.  Our freezer still has kilos of fruit to be used up.  We get more raspberries than we know what to do with.  Raspberry is a common flavour here for cheesecakes, milkshakes, and berry smoothies.  The pruning took about 4hrs.  You can see in this photo how many canes I have removed, and that is just one third of the work done.  In the picture the canes on the right of the wee boardwalk have been thinned and trimmed, the ones on the left in the picture are still everywhere.

I set to the Blackcurrants also, thinning out, and making a nice fan shape so that the sunshine can get in for ripening, and hands can get in for picking.

Sooner or later I will have to tackle the Strawberries, which need all their dead growth picked or cut off.  Oh, well, another time soon...when the snow has gone away!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Teaching my son to cook - Week Six

Hi Hamish, this week it's Salmon and Roasted Veges with Burnt Butter....

You will need:
Frypan, Roasting Dish

One large, thick piece of Salmon, not the tail end, enough for yourself
2T butter, at least
3 Large Carrots
1 Potato
1 Onion
Other root veges of your choice
A green vege of choice, like Cabbage or Broccoli, in small pieces
Olive Oil
2 cloves garlic
Some Balsamic Vinegar

First prepare the veges.  Slice the carrots lengthways into 2 or 3 pieces.  Peel and cube the potatoes.  Peel and slice the onions.  Pour a couple of tablespoons of the oil into the roasting dish.  Throw in these veges and your other root veges.  Crush over the garlic.  Sprinkle salt and pepper.  Bake about 40 mins till everything is tender and browned.

Once the root veg is ready, heat the frypan till quite hot.  Add the butter, and swirl.  Immediately add the Salmon piece, skin side down.  Fry briskly till the skin is crunchy and brown.  You will see the salmon sides start to change to cooked white.

Now put the green vege in with the root veges, still in the oven.  Toss to coat in oil.

Turn the salmon with tongs.  It will take another 5 or 10 mins to cook through.  To check, gently part the flesh of the salmon and look inside.

Take the vege out, and toss about 1T balsamic vinegar over.  Arrange on a plate.  Top with the salmon.   Pour the butter from the pan over as a sauce.  If there is not enough butter melt some more and vigourously heat to brown it quickly.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

On Cows, and Joy

Finally, after months of waiting, and watching our cow Willow get fatter and fatter, in fact till she could no longer get down the race...A Calf!  it's a boy, who we have named Sherlock.

Here are Mum and Son, minutes after he was born.  Sherlock has not stood up yet, but Willow is licking him and he stood soon after this photo

Having a calf means having milk.  For the first few days we let them be, then on about day 4 I started to milk Willow.  Those first pails I just let down onto the ground, it was still colostrum.  But after that we have had milk.

She and I have come to an understanding viz I won't tie her to the fence and she won't walk about too much.

We have had a few troubles, she doesn't like me sitting on a bucket for a stool - it makes too many rattling sounds and freaks her out.  I also bring her a bucket of cow muesli as a treat.

While she's eating the cow muesli she stands nice and still in the paddock, and I milk her two rear udders.  Despite what my father said, about cows kicking etc, this is the easiest way to reach them. The two rear teats are quite small and if I milk from underneath it's a slow job.  She hasn't ever kicked.  In fact, she doesn't do anything in a hurry and even if she wants to take a step or two forward I can see she is thinking about it a good minute before she does it.  She's a ditherer, so it takes her a while to make up her mind to take a step.

Once the muesli is finished I have to take the bucket off her or she starts to bang it about, so I take it off her and hang it on the fence or sit on it.

Then I sit at her side and reach her two inside teats and milk them.  The right inside is the calf's favourite and sometimes there isn't much milk there.  But the left inside is the most prolific.  I generally end up with just one hand going on that at the end.

We started getting about 2 litres of milk a day, and now we are up to 4 litres.  Keeping in mind that her calf is on her always, I don't take him off for the night, I'm pretty pleased with that.

Now we have milk, cream and butter!  yumm
Fresh butter!  The fat content of Jersey cream is so high that from a litre of cream most turns into butter, I might get about 200ml of buttermilk only.
So far the weather has co-operated with the paddock milking.  But the idea is that Mark will build me a Cow Bail, so I can milk under shelter when it's raining.  Training Willow to go up the race and into the bail will be my next task!

It's very soothing and meditative milking out in the paddock, while the cow eats or licks her calf, and I lean on her warm sides.  I love it!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Teaching my Son to Cook - Week Five

This week, dear Hamish, it's a chicken dish.  I know I promised Salmon, but I am keeping that...In the meantime, here's a recipe inspired by one of our apprentices, Aaron.  He brought some leftovers for lunch, and they looked so delicious that I snaffled the recipe off him.

Chicken with Cream Cheese in Apricot Sauce
You will need: A baking dish about 3 inches deep, Rice Cooker, a stick whizz or potato masher

Rice - I know you know how to do this already, so no instructions, just do your thing!
4 to 6 Chicken Thighs, de-boned. (you buy them in the Supermarket like this)
1 onion, peeled and cut into chunks
1 can Apricots
1 tub Cream Cheese
2T Soy Sauce
2T Balsamic Vinegar

Put the onion in the casserole dish.  Take out each thigh, and open it, put in about 1Tablespoon of cream cheese and fold the thigh in half.  Place each thigh on top of the onion, in a single layer.
In a bowl add the tin of apricots, juice and all.  Add Balsamic Vinegar and Soy Sauce.  Blend or mash.  Pour over the chicken pieces.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake about 1hr at 170C till golden on top and cooked well.

While its baking, do the rice, and steam the veges.

Serve on rice. Eat.

Do Dishes.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Teaching my Son to Cook - Week Four

I don't yet have a picture of the Beef Stroganoff, so I'm not sure if it was a success.  But no matter, onwards and upwards!

This week:

Boil Up For Two Nights
This is my take on Maori Boilup. I've anglicised it a bit.  You should get enough for two meals, it is delicious heated up the next day.  This is a longer cooked dish, so is best for a weekend, or on a week night if you dont mind eating late

You will need: A large pot

2 x Pork Hocks or Lamb Shanks
Some Thyme, fresh is best
3 x Potatoes, peeled and cut into smallish chunks
2 x carrots, peeled and sliced
Greens of some sort, Kale and Cabbage are best
1 x Beef Oxo Cube
1 cup Self Raising Flour
2T butter
A little milk

Into your large pot put the Pork Hocks/Lamb Shanks, cover well with water, bring to the boil.  Add oxo cube and simmer for about 2hrs or until the meat is soft. Add 1t salt and grind over good amount of pepper.  Add the potatoes and carrots simmer 15 mins.  Add the dumplings (to half float on top) and greens.  Put on the lid(or the dumplings wont cook properly). Simmer till dumplings are cooked, about 10 mins.
Dumplings:  Rub the butter into the flour, add thyme and moisten with milk to make a dough. Roll into balls about the size of a walnut.

To serve, take out the meat and break into chunks, put into a bowl.  Add potatoes, carrots and greens, and throw around a few dumplings.  Ladle over a few spoons of liquor.  Enjoy.

Do dishes!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Teach my son to cook - Week Three

Well, Hamish is really moving along with his cooking skills, over the past two weeks he has successfully risen to the challenge!

Week Three - Beef Stroganoff a la Anna
This was my go-to dish when I had lots of teenagers at home.

You will need:
Frying pan, knife, spoon, rice cooker or pot

1 rump steak, sliced into long strips
1 onion, sliced
4 button mushrooms or 1 large mushroom, sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 cup cream
1T butter
salt pepper

Put rice on to cook in the ricecooker.  In the frying pan saute the onion and garlic in the butter.  Add the steak and sear on a high heat till browned.  Add the sliced mushroom.  Cook till the steak and mushrooms are cooked to your liking.  Stir in the cream.  Let boil till the cream reduces and goes thick, about 5 mins.  Add salt and lots of pepper.  Serve on the rice.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Teach my son to cook - Week Two

This week I hope Hamish will be happy to attempt something a little more complicated.

This recipe is an adaptation of something I remember watching Rick Stein cook, as a simple, earthy, and satisfying meal.

Again, it's a one-pot wonder.

Sausages & Potatoes (for 1)
You will need: Frying Pan, lid or tinfoil for the pan, knife, spoon, cup

2 large potatoes
2 sausages or 4 little ones, full flavoured, preferably a bit spicy
1 large onion
1 clove garlic
1 lemon
1T or so of butter
some parsley if you can lay your hands on it

Peel the potatoes and chop into 2 inch pieces.  If you have large sausages cut each into 4 pieces, if you have little sausages twist them in half and cut at the twist to make 8 pieces.  Of course if you think you need more sausages feel free to add them!   Cut the onion into largish pieces.  Grate the peel off the lemon, and squeeze the juice into a cup.

Add the onion, butter and garlic to the frying pan and cook for about 5-10 mins till onion is soft.  Add the sausages and potatoes, fry gently to brown a little.  Add the lemon zest and juice.  Add only a tiny bit of water - this is not a stew.  Turn down the heat till it is just simmering, add the lid.  Leave to cook till the potatoes are ready, about 30 mins.  Check often, and add a splash or two of water if it needs to stop it sticking.  To serve stir in a few tablespoons of chopped parsley.  Heap onto plate and eat.

Do Dishes

UPDATE: 21/6/16
Hamish reported that these were absolutely delicious!

Planting and Pruning

Winter is upon us, but work in the garden continues apace.

I have been planting garlic, pruning blackberries and boysenberries, removing nets, cutting things back and generally tidying up.

Friday, June 10, 2016

A mini project - Teach my son to cook

I was proud to attend Hamish s graduation on Friday, and while we spent the weekend together we talked about his new job (with the gaming  company Camshaft in Wellington).  It seems his domestic skills are still limited and we hatched a plan to branch him out a bit.
I'll write a recipe once a week and he promises to cook it...I hope he photographs the result so that I can see how he is getting on.  I hope to be able to gradually expand his repertoire, so here goes the first one.
Lesson One - Omlette
You will need: 3 eggs, a small piece of cheese, salt and pepper, a small amount of butter, a bowl, a metal spatula, a grater and a frying pan
Break the eggs into a bowl, any bowl will do
Add 1 tablespoon of cold water from the tap, add a pinch of salt and a shake of pepper
Whisk well with a fork
Put the frying pan on the heat and wait till it is very hot
Add 1 teaspoon of butter,  swirl the butter to coat the bottom of the pan
Add the beaten eggs
Cook for one or two minutes till the eggs start to set
Take a small pice of cheese and grate it over the surface of the Omlette
At this point you could also add slice olives, tomatoes chopped or cooked ham
Cook a minute or two more till almost all set
Put the spatula under one side of the Omlette,  lift the edge and fold the Omlette in half with the cheese trapped inside
Cook one more minute then tip the frying pan to slide the Omlette onto a serving plate
Finally step, do the dishes

Hamish made the omlette for a lunch on Wednesday, and said he loved it, despite the electric "devil" cooktop.
This was his finished lunch!
What a fabulous start to his cooking next, hmmmm?

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

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Designer Clothes - made at home

Montana-Rose had a shirt which I originally bought for her at Pumpkin Patch when she was 5 years old.  She would not wear it for several years, and it's only in the past year that she has worn and worn it.  In fact not only did she wear it out, but it got way too small.

On an expedition to Quilters Quarters in Rangiora we chose a fabric to make a new, bigger version out of.

It's certainly not cheaper to make your own clothes, the fabric,buttons and elastic came to $44.20, but you get a one off piece, made to fit you.  It certainly is something that no-one else will have, and I hope she gets lots of use out of it.

Amongst the many advantages of making your own clothes is the fact that you can make a quality garment, the buttons will be properly sewn on and not fall off, you can select a long lasting fabric.

 First I cut up the original, it was pink, taking note of how the elastic was fitted into the bodice and sleeves, and the gathering around the neckline.

I used the pieces to lay out the new fabric, blue, and cut them bigger, especially at the armholes where Miss Rose had been finding her old top very tight.
After a couple of try-ons it was done!

The back.

It's come out so like the original,but better and bigger in size.

Saturday, January 23, 2016


Having spotted this recipe online today i thought id give it a go. A bit like a clafoutis on a cooked base.  Looks delicious, ill let you know how the taste test goes. Blueberries, boysenberrirs and raspberries all picked about 5 mins before assembling

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Bounty after the rain

Miracles of all miracles, it has rained...and rained...and rained (till the ceiling hung with vines and the walls became the world all around)....

Garlic: I was late putting in the garlic this year, usually we plant on the shortest day and harvest on the longest day, or as close to them as possible.  This year I was about 3 weeks late, but the harvest is still good.  I only planted about a third of the amount, for we had so much garlic I gave bunches and bunches away.  This year, there is only enough for us, about 60 heads.

 Onions:  I tried to plant a whole bed full this year, but ran out of seed only a few rows in.  The seed packets just don't have as many seeds in as I am sure they used to (in the good, ole days).  I never got around to putting in any more.  But the quality of these, though their number is not great, is fabulous.  Great round, well formed onions, some about the size of a coffee mug!
Raspberries: This is the 3rd pick, and there is probably only one left.  This would be the smallest weight for a pick so far, the best being 2.5kg

 Camomile: my hankering after a Camomile lawn is well known in our family.  Finallly, I almost have one.  Pix of that to come later.  For the moment I have harvest and dried some flowers.  Unfortunately, I tried Camomile tea - BLERK - where have I gone wrong? a great camomile smell, but a bitter aftertaste!  not even the addition of honey made that any better.  Still, nice for rinsing hair, and for putting in the bath.

Mushrooms: Unexpectedly, we have mushrooms in our paddocks.  The rain has brought them out early, usually I would start looking about the middle of March!

We have filled our rain tanks with water, and our paddocks have greened up, what a  great summer!