Sunday, 30 September 2012

Spring in the patch

It's spring in the patch and here is what is happening.

Baby vegetables
I have just started to pick my first baby radishes of the season. I deliberately pick them small as this is the first thinning I do. I sow thickly and only thin when the first small round roots have formed. Then there is more room for the others.

Dipped in hummus don't you think?

Fruit on the way
The first of the tomatoes has set - this is a cherry. (Oh dear, it's a bit blurry!)

And Collette the finger lime is flowering like crazy and starting to set their tiny fruit. It will turn black soon and hopefully start to thicken. The fruit that set in March either fell off or was stolen by a curious currawong?

I grow a lot of flowers in my vegetable patch,  I just like a little bit of colour and they do bring the bees.  Right now the violas are spectacular.

And my self sown poppies are just starting to flower.  I collected seed for these poppies many years ago now when I came a cross a deserted house with a wild garden in Tarcutta (or was it Holbrook?).We were on our way down to the Wangarratta Jazz Festival and stopped off for a rest and a coffee. The round dried heads of poppies were just beautiful and so I collected some. I didn't know what they would produce, but I love the colour of these blooms and the grey green of their foliage.

When they have dried off I collect some dried heads to take inside as a dried display and sprinkle the seeds where I want them to come up next year. They just keep coming up every year, where ever they want to regardless of my attempt to place them in certain locations. I try to make space for them each time as they are great bee magnets. The bees circle around and around inside the cup of the petals, it's funny to watch.

And my thyme is flowering, also bringing bees. They are such a delicate mauve. This bunch came inside and went into last night's meal.

The last of the snow peas
This is the third and last planting of my snow peas. There is plenty of really good fruit to come and plenty of flowers. But they will soon be finished and I will have to wait for the cooler season for them again. Heaven on a stalk.

You smell them before you see them and then when you see them you despair. Stink bugs.

I HAVE to do something about these blighters today otherwise there will be no limes. You can see them sucking the stems behind the newly set fruit.  They will be come the subject of an entire post.

And the lovely snail.

This poor lettuce was ravaged overnight! Turn your back and they slime out of their hiding spots and munch.

New life
It only took one warm day and the frogs got going!

Friday, 28 September 2012


Does what you pick from your patch drive what you cook? Or does your cooking drive what you plant?
A bit of both I guess?

Two years ago I decided to try to grow celery. I decided to try to get those fat juicy stems - like the ones you get when you buy from the supermarket. My efforts failed pretty badly - for a couple of reasons.

1. El Nino -  Celery is a water hungry plant and, as it was a El Nino year, and I felt bad pouring loads of water on, so I plain didn't water it enough to get those thick stems.

2. Blanching -  I decided to do what it said in some of my gardening books and I tried to blanch the stems.  The method I chose was to tie the top of the stems together so that the inner ones were kept from the sun.  This was fine in theory, but what I found was that insects of many sorts decided that I had created a cosy over wintering spot for them. Then the plants started to rot in the centre.

Result - not good.

This year I decided to try again.  I also thought about what I use celery for and this helped to drive how I grew it and the attitude I had to thick white juicy stems. I use celery for (in order):
  • making stock
  • making stock
  • making stock
  • adding to meaty sauces - bolognese for instance
  • adding to other slow cooked meals
  • making a Chinese beef and celery dish
  • juicing with apple and carrot and ginger 
  • the occasional salad where I often use the leaves
Thinking this out made me realize that I didn't really need thirsty fat juicy white stems at all. Stock and meaty sauces don't require them and neither do Chinese dishes using celery. Thinnish stems that were greener and packed with flavour rather than water would be just fine for my purposes!

So I decided to grow celery again but this time not set off in a quest for the fat juicy white stems, so I didn't blanch and I didn't water like crazy.

The plants look healthy, they haven't rotted inside and there are no over-wintering insects. Yay! The stems are thin but packed full of flavour, they are green but I have read that the greener stems are actually more full of nutrients.

Armed with my celery stems I made one of my favorite dishes - Chinese-style beef and celery. I apologise for the lack of quantities - I make it up as I go along.

Chinese-style beef and celery (*from the patch)

olive oil
ginger - lots of it, cut up very small
garlic - crushed
spring onions
celery stems* -  cut up finely
chillies* -  cut up finely
snow peas* -  cut in thirds
beef - cut up into small thin pieces that will cook quickly
light soy sauce

Heat olive oil in the wok. Stir fry ginger garlic chillies and celery, when the celery has softened, toss in the beef and spring onions and cook till meat is nearly cooked as you like, toss the snow peas in with a splash of soy.

Eat with rice,  yum.

How do you grow your celery? What do you cook your celery with?

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Cosy tea

You may have read in my post Crochet and the Fairy Godmother that, after many years of avoiding knitting and crochet becasue of severe RSI, I have returned to the 'way of wool'.

The crochet is going just fine, in fact brilliantly! I will blog about this next week.  In the meantime I thought I'd try a small knitting project to see how the arms stood up with that discipline.  I decided on a tea cosy - pretty small job and also with the potential of a fun outcome.

So here it is.

I must say I DO find knitting harder on my arms than crochet, but still a small project yields results without too much pain or damage.

The wool is from Fairy Godmother Ruth's shop in Newtown, Sydney again and this is her 'homebrand' wool, Morris Estate 8 ply in Spruce for the main body and with  the flowers in Marine Green, Rustic Aubergine, Limelight, Imperial Purple, Aegean, Canopy and Dark Dijon -  nice names for colours.

I love the stitch for the main body - a seed rib - it is thick and stretches so wonderfully around the tea pot.

The flowers are pretty easy to make the worst part being casting on 100 stitches!  Is it just me or does everyone hate casting on?

The pattern is Coral Flower Tea Cosy found on Ravelry. The pattern suggests more flowers, but I think this is enough for me.

I am contributing this to My Creative Space.  See what others have been tinkering with.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Currawong tanty?

Is this evidence of a currawong tanty? Or is it garden art?

We went away for the weekend and I guess the currawongs decided that they'd look for food themselves.

In the past they have tried out the little 'worms' that come out of the top of the tea lights... humans would call these wicks.

I think the placement of the tea lights demonstrates an artistic bent, don't you?  Dadaist perhaps? A critique of  middle-class house decoration?  A demonstration of the uselessness of tea lights outside?  Or the currawong's improvement of my home decorating? Perhaps it's just  plain vandalism?

What do you think these pieces of art mean? Or is it just a tanty!

But what I am really confused about is this - where is the third  tea light?

I have found where two have been placed, but the third one?  Perhaps it decorates a currawong nest somewhere?

You can read about my currawong friends here and here.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Monday Harvest - 24 Sept 2012

My pickings at the moment reflect where we are in the season.

My second planting of winter crops is now coming into maturity. This week I picked, one decent sized cauliflower, 3 smallish heads of broccoli  (just one in this picture) and the first picking of my third crop of snow peas.

The other things I picked  reflect the start of the summer crops.

These are trimmings really rather than pickings, which will go into a salad for tonight's dinner.

I thinned my beetroot a little - you can see that the roots had started to form. I will eat these leaves.

I also took the best leaves off the celery. Do you like celery leaves in your salads?

Then I trimmed my lime green lettuce plants, snuck a little off the baby curled parsley and picked some mint.

I think this will all make a great green salad with some semi-dried tomatoes a crumble of fetta and a slick of vinaigrette.

What are you picking?

I am contributing this to Daphne's Dandelions Monday Harvest.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Cooking other people's gluts - strawberry jam

I don't know about where you live, but the strawberries are incredibly cheap at the moment.  I don't have any strawberries in my patch, but seeing as there is a glut of Queensland strawberries at the moment, I have decided to cook their glut.

I decided upon strawberry jam - funny, cause I don't usually like strawberry jam, I find it too sweet.  But  I figure that home-made strawberry jam tastes better than shop bought any time and I can make it less sweet than the shop bought variety, even if the strawberries have travelled a long way to get to me.

I got 6 large punnets for the price of 5 of strawberries  - a discount becasue I bought so many and it was the end of the day, at $2.50 each.  I decided to make my own recipe up, cause I like things a litle tart, I used half the sugar to the fruit (most recipes call for equal sugar to fruit) and added lemon juice and some tart apples. The rind of the lemon and the apples assist with the thickening as strawberries on their own have little pectin.

Strawberry Jam (* from the patch)
1.5 kgs hulled strawberries - cut chunky
750 gms sugar
rind cut from 1 lemon*
juice of 1 lemon*
2 Granny Smith apples grated - skin and all

Choose a heavy-based saucepan, tip strawberries in and add lemon rind and juice, cook on for a bit until strawberries soften a little. Add sugar and apples, stir and 'bloop' on a medium heat, stirring occasionally to make sure it isn't sticking.

The jam kind of tells you when it's ready - it changes colour and consistency.  To test, take a cold bread and butter dish and spoon some jam mixture onto the plate. Let it cool and push it with your finger. Does it wrinkle and sort of hold the wrinkle? If so your jam is done.

Remove the lemon rind and spoon into hot sterilised jars and seal. I got 5 jars from the 6 punnets.

Nice dark red in the jar, hey?

The jam is not exactly tart, but it is delicious and  much less sweet than the shop bought, much better for you per spoonful given it has less sugar.

But tell me if you know - how low can you push the fruit /sugar ratio?  I'd like to go lover than 1/0.5. What have proportion have you used with your jam making?

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Broccoli orecchiette

The second broccoli glut is upon us and a wonderful 
early spring thing it is.

Today I picked three (small) heads of broccoli. They are smaller than the first crop earlier this season, but tight and tasty and firm.

I think I might have mentioned the lad's part Italian genes?  Well I suggested orecchiette as a natural accompaniment to broccoli  and, with a flick of hard pasta flour, down to work he went. 

The recipe came from Stephanie Alexander's Kitchen Garden Companion, handily  listed under, you guessed it,  broccoli. 

Broccoli Orecchiette
As almost always we varied the recipe, so our version appears below.

300 g plain flour - we used hard pasta flour
3 egg
ground pepper

Mix ingredients and knead till it comes together.  Rest and re-work and form into thinnish sausage-like rolls. Cut into small pieces and form 'ears' by pressing the small piece of dough in the palm of your hand. 

The original recipe included ricotta but we didn't have any so we omitted it. This may have been a fatal mistake! Boil water and add pasta to boiling water and boil for 5 minutes. Remove from pot and drain.

Broccoli accompaniment ( *from the garden)
olive oil
4 cloves garlic
1 rasher of bacon
6 anchovy fillets
2 chillies*

Cut broccoli into florets and steam lightly. Keep aside.  Add bacon to a frying pan and cook on until the colour starts to brown.  Add garlic and saute, and then add anchovies and melt. Add broccoli and chilli and combine. Tip in drained pasta , add butter and parmesan and mix.  Serve.

This was delicious, but the pasta was a little heavy. It would have benefited from lightening with the ricotta.
But the combination of broccoli, the saltiness of bacon and anchovies, the vigour of garlic and chilli makes this pretty delicious.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Gifts for the farm

We've been buying each other gifts for the farm.  I bought the lad this book full of helpful hints.

And the lad bought me this giant Stephanie Alexander edition with natty cloth cover -  I guess to keep the grubby dirty gardening hands off!

Are there books you swear by?  Books handy for your chook raising, fruit tree tending, soap making, cheese cultivating, kitchen cow keeping  - I guess not many of you keep a kitchen cow.

Books that we might find useful for our new adventure?

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Collette the finger lime

Collette is enjoying spring, aren't we all (at least down here in the antipodes?). Collette is my finger lime - that is her variety not my nic-name for her. She's an Australian native citrus plant.

After having a few early flowers in mid March, and the flowers setting fruit, the tiny tiny black skinned fruit just sat there and got no bigger.

The other day I passed by Collette and noticed that several things had happened.

She has dropped some of the tiny fruit she set in March -  there are only 2 left now - there were 4, but, one of the fruit has started to swell - don't get too excited, it is still tiny.  Hmm, sorry, this picture is a bit blurry - it documents my finger prints better than the finger lime!

Now I am starting to day dream... finger lime with yabbies, fresh from the dam? What do you think?
(Yabbies are small fresh water crayfish, common in farm dams and muddy sided creeks).

But back to the topic - what's happening with Collette? She has lots of new dark red growth.

She has lots more flower buds.

And, best of all?  After scrolling back thru my posts on Collette, I have found her label. It appears that she is at least partly frost hardy!  Perhaps I wont have to give her up to a good home when I 'go bush'.

Does anyone else out there have a finger lime to report on?  What's happening with yours?  

Saturday, 15 September 2012

2nd wave of caulis

Yesterday I picked my first of the second planting of caulis.

My first planting, planted in January, suffered a little from whiptail but, while there were some caulis on the small side, many of them were quite decently sized, in any case we certainly had enough caulis not to have to buy any through the winter. They all had tight curds and were beautifully white (and delicious!). The last of them came out in early July.

On reflection it was a pretty good crop despite my early fears of no heads at all because of whiptail. The photo on the top is of the best of my January planting.

My second planting, planted in July and into the same beds that the first planting were in, are decidedly small and a little yellowed but still with tight curds.

The one on the right was the size of a small bread and butter plate.

I suspect that  they are on the small size because they went into the same bed as the 1st wave? I did manure and lime in between but perhaps the caulis had pulled what they wanted from the soil in the first planting?

Not sure what conclusions to draw here, so at the moment these are observations for further cogitation. Any ideas?

I will be picking the first of my 2nd broccoli planting soon too, I wonder if they will be on the small side too?

Friday, 14 September 2012

100 posts, 100 years, 100 miles away...

I haven't posted for a while - there are a few reasons for that. They involve self-imposed anxiety, cleaning and a secret.

100 posts 
This is the self-imposed anxiety bit. You probably haven't noticed but this is my 100th post. Now that shouldn't mean anything really, but it is funny the limits you can put on yourself. I have delayed and delayed thinking I should have something profound to say.  Alas, I haven't  but I decided to post anyway...

I started this blog in January when, on a long summer vacation,  I was having trouble with the idea of going back to work. I decided that if I started a blog and wrote about the things I love about my veggie garden,  I would have something to distract me from the thought of having to selling my labour.

When I started, I didn't know what a blog was, I was technically incompetent and I didn't know there were others - yes like you - who write about their garden and the joys of their produce. It's been fun exploring the blog world, reading your blogs and learning from the things you do and from reflecting on my own mistakes.

I started by putting a limit on the blog  - just a year - and now that the year is  3/4 over, I cant imagine stopping on 31st December.

100 years
This bit is about cleaning. We have been very very busy, cleaning, painting, shining, sweeping, buying flowers and hiding things in cupboards. You may have guessed what we have been up to? We have sold our house.

"So what has this got to do with 100 years?", I hear you asking.  Ours is a fabulous Federation house (for those not from Australia, 'Federation' is an Australian style of architecture hatched around the time  when our separate states came together in a Federation and when Australia became independent from Britain in1901).

Our lovely was born in 1915 - so she is nearly 100 years old. This is the view from the backyard back to the house.

This house is loved. It is a treasure of original features - fanlights and irons, fireplaces with art-nouveau tiles, coloured glass and patterned ceilings. We have nursed her back to her glory from a shabby, neglected state and she is now so pretty. It is hard to sell it, but we have sold to people who we know will love her as we have - a bonus and a comfort. We hope they will love her well past her 100th year.

"So why did you sell?" - Gosh, you ask a lot of questions!

Selling has allowed us to make a huge lifestyle change.  I no longer have to sell my labour ( but I can chose to do that if I wish).  And it has allowed us to do something we have wanted to do for a long, long time.

100 miles away...
This is the secret - not a secret any more! We have bought a property in the country.

So I guess we will be busy for the next few months too. For the next while I will be doing a lot of my veggie gardening in pots so I can take them with us. I may not be in paid labour but there will be lots of labour to make the property work for us.  I have to contemplate gardening in frosts and work out how to beat the 'roos and rabbits to the glut. There will be wood chopping, wombat watching, yabby catching from the dams and droughts and flooding rains.

If you are still interested, I will still be blogging from my patch in the bush!

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Winter wrap - '12

Winter here in Sydney has been a season of two halves.  The first part of winter was decidedly wet and the second half quite dry -  a harbinger of the return of the little boy  El Nino? The last part of winter has also been unseasonably warm - I am not complaining....

Here are some of my observations from this winter.


  • cabbage - mine have been savoy
  • cauliflower - these were fabulous
  • broccoli
  • snow peas
  • spring onions
  • lemons, lemons, lemons
  • limes
  • fennel
  • rocket
  • herbs - rosemary, thyme, oregano, bay and mint towards the late part of winter
  • some chillies in the early part of winter
  • some sunflowers in the early part of winter

What I have learnt
  • lime your brassica patch lest you get mini caulies
  • broccoli is less fussy liming-wise than caulies
  • snow peas are heaven on a stalk
  • my mint needs more winter sun
  • never take your parsley for granted - it can lure you into a false sense of supply cause it lives for two years, but when it's time is up, it's up and you are left without even a sprig
  • fennel loves lots of water - it will grow well without it and produce lovely bulbs, but when it gets water a plenty, the bulbs are fat and white and juicy
  • plant more fennel in succession
  • late winter chives are incredibly flavoursome 
  • bok choi is pretty and easy
  • brassicas planted in winter avoid the cabbage moth when they are babies but get the moth visiting in late winter - but by that time they are growing strongly and are little affected
  • this year I was rubbish at having something to pick in late winter - I still have my second crop of brassicas in the ground and only now forming heads!
  • prunning your citrus in late summer and again when the growth re-awakens is a good thing to do
  • the beans you dried in summer are fantastic for winter meals
  • baby rainbow lorikeets have black eyes and beaks
  • lemon trees are sacred

  • lemons all winter
  • the beauty of a cauliflower
  • seeing my first blueberries flower and form fruit
  • thyme flowers
  • the glut of lime flowers and miniture forming fruit
  • the birds that visit my garden - rainbow lorikeets and currawongs especially
  • Half-tail would be a comedian if s/he was a human


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...