Sunday, March 16, 2008

preserving the harvest

Busy weekend! Mr Duck Herder and I went farm hunting on Friday - back in time to whip up another batch of Juzzy's Grandmother's Relish (previous post). Yesterday neighbour Sue and I bottled two batches of Roma tomatoes and a few bottles of Apple Brandy Blackberry Apples in Syrup (our own recipe!) These were not so successful - the bottles lost liquid - perhaps because the apples should have been stewed a little in the syrup first? SO, happily I scoffed down one deliciously alcoholic bottle, and then somewhat tipsily used the fruit and apple brandy syrup from the other in a batch of muffins.

Half of these will become morning tea en route to Condobolin tomorrow, accompanied by some work colleagues and Stanley the thermos. The other half, for my beloved to eat while I am away.

And finally, I whipped up a batch of pickled cucumbers. This is a first for me too. They are cheats ones really - mustard, dill seed and garlic flavoured (my own cucumbers, dill seed and garlic!) doing their pickling thing in the fridge after a day of sweating it out in some salt - but if these work, then perhaps next year I will be brave enough to do the whole fermentation thing.

Friday, March 14, 2008

relish the relish!

Well, the BRANDYWINE tomato harvest has been good, DELICIOUS even, but not really prolific - although that could be because they are too delicious to let stock pile enough for preserving.

Which was turning out to be a bit of a shame, seems as next door neighbour Sue and I had lashed out and gone halves in a preserving kit during winter.

But then yesterday, as I was watering my carrot seeds en route to work at the community garden, fellow gardener Phil suggested that I might like to raid his patch of ROMA tomatoes as there were too many for him to eat and they were going to waste.

Well, ALRIGHTY!!!!

This whole preserving thing is very new to me. Luckily one thousand clever women have gone before, and I have drawn inspiration from my Nana, for her wondrous pantry lined with jar after jar of apples, peaches, pears and buttons, and instruction from the lovely and relentlessly wondrous Rhonda Jean from Down to Earth, as well as a couple of books on the subject.

So, above, is today's batch of RELISH, cooling after a little hot bath in our new vacola preserving kit. Sue (and probably my Nana) and her mum tut tut at the extravagance of bathing relish - believing very strongly that if the jars are hot then it is unnecessary. But I really wanted to practice using the preserving kit, and also, this is the second batch of relish this season - I would like these bottles to last through the winter if possible.

So if ANYONE around here dies of botulism over the next 6 months, it wasn't my relish ok!

AND later today, when it cools down a little, I will go back down to Phil's patch and steal a few more ROMAs, and then Sue and I will spend tomorrow drinking beer and bottling tomatoes.

In other news, I have learnt a little lesson in chook psychology and the perils of anthropomorpology. Remember the last red egg laying chook? Well, she SEEMED lonely - spending her time up on the back deck - gazing longingly at her reflection in the mirror and wandering off to bed alone every night - refusing to make friends (or stop attacking) the fluffy chickens. Well, we got her a friend - a little point of lay leghorn/new hampshire cross. And Charlotte - HATES her - is violent and TERRORISES her. She has been hiding in the nesting box for two days now.

sheesh. never a dull moment with feathered friends. I thought I was doing the right thing getting her a friend to shnuggle up to before winter, but alas, it seems she would rather be alone than make space in her life (and chook run) for a new friend.

Oh well.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

girl's best friend

A girl and her chooks. Meet my little niece and her little friends. My sister sent me down these gorgeous photos from Brisvegas. Is there anything cuter?

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Autumn Plantings

Managed to get the carrot and onion seeds in this afternoon. I have never had much success with carrots, but hopefully this year will be different. In other years, the seedlings have been swamped by weeds. I have spend about a month preparing this bed - clearing off the mulch, watering and giving the remaining seed bank a chance to germinate, then raking the weed seedlings back in.

Prior to putting the seeds in, I soaked them for a day in damp compost and seaweed to give them a bit of a head start. I have planted Red Cored Chantenays in the bed closest, and Denvers at the back. The onions sprinkled thorough the mix are Gladalans with a small amount of Creamgolds from an out of date packet thrown just in case they were still ok.

It all feels a bit hard to judge how much seed to use. If all goes well, there should be about 5 square meters of Chantenays and 3 1/2 square meters of Denvers.

The beds are covered with shade cloth to keep them from drying out. I expect they will need watering twice a day for the next couple of weeks until they germinate. Will let you know how they go........

Friday, March 7, 2008

Lacuna Sabbath

This week was a busy week - and I have been weary to my bones. The biggest hippy and I were in Condobolin and Wagga this week. Highlights of the trip include an impromptu picnic at the Grenfell Cemetery, surrounded by beautiful HUGE Italian Stone Pines - pinus pinea for those that care. For those of you that don't know, my DREAM (and plan!) is to grow pine nuts comercially

And today, Mr Duck Herder and I went on an little adventure - up through Captains Flat and over the mountains into the Upper Shoalhaven Valley. We were looking for farms and nice places to buy a property one day. We had a lovely time.

But the biggest treat was coming across The Outsider Coffee House and Gallery in Captains Flat. What a lovely cafe - lovely people, lovely place - quirky - arty - welcoming - and what a great brunch we had. The gardens are just beautiful, and you can go for little walks down to the Molonglo River. These pictures were taken while we were reading the papers waiting for our lunch. We will come here again for sure. It feels like the heart of Captains Flat this little place.

(Mr Duck Herder in THOSE sunnies - sigh.)

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Sunday musings

I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man

if he spent less time proving that he can outwit Nature

and more time tasting her sweetness

and respecting her seniority.

E. B. White (1899 - 1985)