Saturday, 15 February 2014

Show Girl

Well the results are in from the 123rd Gundagai Agricultural Show. This is the first time I have entered this show, last year I was just an observer. I entered produce into Section S - Jams and Jellies.

I entered Class 10 - Peach Jam, any flavour. I put in two jars into this class mostly because I have a peach glut to deal with.   My Peppered peach and Rosemary Jam was awarded Second Prize.

Me of little faith - I though this unusual flavour combo might be a little too odd for the Judges!

I also entered Class 13 - Tomato Jam, any flavour. I submitted a jar of the Tomato and Chilli Jam I got a second with last year at the Adelong Show and also got a Second Prize.Yay!

I had hoped to have some produce for submission to Section P - Vegetables but the last week long heatwave destroyed that idea. I had particularly wanted to enter Classes 26 and 27 - Three zucchinis under 18cm (Green and Yellow).  I think you will agree that these items are not fit for submission...

I don't know about you but the moment that the temperature goes into the mid to high 30s my zucchinis fail to fertilize. Perhaps the bees all die or at least are too hot to be bothered collecting pollen.

And I had also hoped to submit entries into Class 28 - A Bunch of Chillies.  My chilli plants have been some of the toughest survivors of the 4 week long heat waves we suffered this year, I was feeling confident, but the fruit proved less resilient. Most chillies simultaneously dried and turned red on the bush.

It's been a tough summer, still despite these failures we pick enough to keep us fed - we hardly buy any vegetables at all.

Today there is the hope that the summer is over. Today we have had our first rain for a good while and it is cool and misty. Perhaps the cooler weather will mean I have some vegetable produce in a fit state for the Palindrome (Tumut) and Adelong Shows.

May your vegetables be fit for submission and my your jars be full of jam.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Harvest Monday - 10 Feb '14

It's been a peach of a week -  not weather wise but produce wise.

The weather has been hot and horrible ( hopefully the last heatwave of the year...) but the peaches have started to ripen in earnest and the hot weather means the scent of ripening peaches fills the air.

There have been peaches for breakfast and lunch. There has been the making of peach jam- this one is a savoury jam with rosemary and black pepper.  We've sampled it already with some of our home raised lamb -  it's very good with lamb! I'm planning on  entering a jar in this week's Gundagai Agricultural Show. It might be a little weird though?

I'm also scanning the peach trees to try to find three beautiful peaches for the Fruit section of the Gundagai Show.  If I can get three that look like this one, I'll possibly enter them.

There have also been Peach Tomatoes. These are a yellow fruit with a furry skin. The flavour is quite mild but the best thing about them is that they have been good performers in the hot weather - perhaps the fury outside protects the skin of the tomato.

The other tomatoes are producing too. The pear shaped tomatoes have been particularly productive, as have the Jaune Flamme, Cherokee Purple and Verna Orange all seeds generously provided by Yvonne.

Most nights we eat a tomato salad with yellow long capsicums with our meal.

This is this morning's pick...

again peaches and tomatoes with a few small ( but very crunchy!) cucumbers, zucchini and small green capsicums. The grapes are a generous gift from our neighbours who cut all their grapes this morning and had their glut to share! Thank you folk of the river flats!

That's the Harvest for the week. I'm contributing this to Daphne's Harvest Monday. Pop over to hers to see OPP (other people's produce).

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

So many reasons...

Finally, after an extremely hot week, there is a cool breeze. Actually, it's not really a breeze, its much more forceful than that, nevertheless is is refreshing... finally!

It's been a long week of relentless sun which was finally broken last night by this wind. As a consequence I woke this morning at about 2am and sat bolt upright seemly smelling bushfire smoke thru my sleep. I immediately checked the Facebook of the Rural Fire Service who handily posted that smoke from the Cooma fire was all over our valleys but there was nothing to worry about.

Phew, somewhat relieved but now wide awake I lay on top of the bed, for the first time in days with a sheet and a blanket and watched with awe and trepidation the night sky light up with dry lightening strikes - just the sort that start fires around here.

There have been so many reasons why I haven't blogged but the heat has been the biggest one. That combined with the fact that my very old lap top even on a cold day emits a tremendous amount of heat has made blogging not just unattractive but downright foolish and possibly life threatening, or at least leg burning.

It's also hard to get inspired about blogging when after three massive heat waves your produce looks like this!

It may be hard to recognise these items as vegetables... let me run you thru  the items you see...

Rocket - sun burnt leaves.
Pear shaped tomatoes - yep, they are pear-shaped with sun scald!
Speckled Roman tomato -  terrible blossom end rot. For some reason this variety is particularly sensitive to this affliction caused in part by irregular watering.
Chilli -  semi dried on the bush shortly after turning red.
Purple Cherokee tomato - just shrivelled!
Zucchini -  failure to fertilise - I find that this happens when it's too hot.  Perhaps all the bees have expired? I can see now that I will not be able to manage an entry in the Gundagai Show in the category of three zucchinis under 18cms.

You will notice there are no beans in the shot - that's because they have failed completely in the heat.

I have been successful with a few things. Isn't it amazing that something so watery and fleshy as a cucumber produces so well in the heat? And I have been able to pick the off zucchini, yellow pepper and eggplant. There have also been hauls of tomatoes and peaches, peaches, peaches - that is the ones that the wallaby doesn't eat.

There have been upsides to the heat. It has inspired me to build a garden more appropriate to the climate - a desert garden. It's not finished yet, I need to collect some rocks from the mini quarry on our property but it's been too hot to lug large pieces of rocks around!

Oh well, some things have been enjoying the heat! Here is my garden companion - gargoyle perhaps? This lizard lives in Fortress Wallaby. He looks very wise doesn't he? As if this lizard knows not to try gardening in such a horrid summer climate!

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Preparing for Show Season - Gundagai

It's Show Time - Agricultural Show time here in the Riverina Highlands. First Show on the schedule? Gundagai.

Last year we visited the Gundagai Show. We watched the pretty ponies and their prettier riders, watched the old timers and their dogs handling sheep and inspected the vegetable exhibits. This year I am going to put in some entries.

(Just in case there is some confusion -  last year I entered the Adelong Show only - this year I am going to submit entries in both Gundagai and Adelong!). 

Here are the sections I'm looking at...

Class 6: A collection of Tomatoes
Class 23: Six Potatoes
Class 26: Three Zucchini - green - under 18cms
Class 27: Three Zucchini - yellow - under 18cms
Class 28: A bunch of Chillies
Class 44: A collection of culinary Herbs

Of course I probably wont enter all of these classes - it will very much depend on what survives this weeks week long heat wave! But I guess everyone else is in the same situation.

Yesterday I inspected my zucchini plants to see how entries in classes 26 and 27 were going. I've three different types of zucchini in, so I guess if they classify the 'Costata' as a green zucchini, there is potential for three entries into those two classes.

But clearly getting three zucchini of roughly the same size on the right day is going to be a challenge!

Jams and Jellies
Class 10: Peach Jam any flavour
Class 13: Tomato Jam any flavour

The peaches are ripening right now. I am hoping they will be ripe in enough time to make and age some jam.

Of course I could buy some peaches, but I'd really like to use our own home grown peaches if I can.

Today I made my batch of Tomato Jam, mine has roasted capsicum and a little chilli. Last year the same recipe won second prize at the Adelong Show but I am sure that the competition at the Gundagai Show will be tougher!

I'll report back on my show preparations  and let you know how I'm getting on.

And after a little taste test, I might be offering some jars for sale. This jam goes really well with cold lamb!

Monday, 20 January 2014

Compost Pot Luck

We all know how wonderful compost is right? A great way to add nutrient to the soil via your vegetable off cuts and the like. But compost can be more than this  - it can make your vegetable patch for you!

In spring I dug in the compost that was in my tumbling compost bin in preparation for planting the usual summer crops. To my great surprise a load of seedlings from the compost came up.

I have no idea what they are -  cucurbits of some sort are particularly evident but what sort of cucurbit are they? I have about 5 of these large leaved things starting to take over... I wonder if they are a watermelon or a pumpkin? In any case they are doing very well.

Then I have about 5 of these little fellas doing very well - I suspect a cucumber or a rockmelon?

Then there are the tomatoes that have popped up.

Very delicate little plants that seem to be forming  cherry tomatoes in a Mini Roma type form. There are about 5 of these too.

It is fantastic to have these surprise plants for free coming up thru the garden. I cant wait to see what they will yield. Next spring I will devote a whole bed to these random compost pot luck vegetables, just to see what happens. Yay, free plants!

Have you had a vegetable surprise lately? From your compost heap or a self seeded surprise?

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Beating the heat?

Day three of a week-long  heat wave and the pumpkins seem to be holding up relatively well.

I have two varieties in  -  Butternut and Jap.

You might notice the bundle of shade cloth lying beside the pumpkin bed? That's why the pumpkins are surviving I think. Uncovered and I'm sure they'd fry! I have photographed the pumpkins in the early morning thus the shadow of the photographer (apologies!).

I am leaving the pumpkins uncovered until midday to allow any pollination to happen and then I cover them with a 90% shade cloth until about 8pm when they get uncovered again. That's the approach I'm taking anyway, let's see if this method works for the rest of the week. Temps are supposed to stay in the high 30s and low 40s until Saturday!

These two plants have started to develop little pumpkins.

Let's hope the shade cloths will enable these little fellas to continue their development.

Other pumpkin vines  that were reasonably advanced during the last period of belting heat did not get the shade cloth treatment.

Sad specimens aren't they? They are still alive but have never recovered and are certainly not thriving enough to produce. The only reason I am leaving them in the ground is that at least they are providing some shade to the roots of a nearby apple tree.

The longer I garden the more I think that the oft said  tip about vegetable gardening - the one that says 'plant your vegetable garden in full sun'  - is just clearly wrong for an Australian summer. I find that  most of the plants in the vegetable garden do so much better in considerable shade, especially when I can't freely water due to relying on tank water alone.

 The photo below is of my haricot beans and cucumbers under a 90% shade cloth which remains on them all day. They are doing very well.

Even some of my chilli plants are benefiting with a little shade from an off-cut of a shade cloth.

The only plants that seem to actually thrive in the extreme heat and radiation are the eggplants.

These look to be in the shade but aren't. They are just a little shaded from the morning sun.

How is your garden surviving the heat wave? What things are you doing to protect your plants?

Stay cool SE Australia!

Monday, 13 January 2014

Harvest Monday - 13 Jan '14

A whole week without posting! We've been busy doing more yard work, taking the first of our lamb orders up to Sydney and to a local Farmstay, maintaining the vegetable patch, and over the last day or two skulking inside to hide from the punishing heat.

Today is the second day of a monster heat wave that has already dried up the western states and is now descending on us. Today it's forecast to be 37c, then the next few days are predicted to be 39c, 41c, 42c and then 41c. If my garden survives then I will be fortunate...

To beat the heat I did a little picking this morning and here is the result.

The cucumbers are Spacemaster,  the corn Snow Gold and the tomatoes Red Pear, Green Grape and Jaune Flamme.

Over the last week I have picked a little more corn. Even though not all nibblets are full the corn is so good to eat, sweet and tender and takes no time to cook. This is actually the best corn I have ever grown so while it is not perfect I am very pleased. I'm putting it down to chook pooh.

There have also been more cucumbers and I pick some tomatoes each day. Some still have evidence of blossom end rot from the last week of heat but they are not too badly effected and are still delicious.

These little beans are Hawkesbury Wonder.

We have also been the welcome recipients of other people's gluts. A few lovely grapefruit for instance from one neighbour,

and from another we have received fish! With the local creeks low due to the dry spell they found it (relatively) easy to net a few carp including a massive one. We confess that we have not eaten the carp. Instead we have decided to use these feral fish to fertilise the vegetable patch. We hope that they neighbours don't mind!!!

That's it from Highfield this week. Pop over to Daphne's to see other people's produce.

Keep picking!

Monday, 6 January 2014

Harvest Monday - 6th Jan '14

I've been absent from the Harvest Monday blog party the last few weeks.

Mostly because there was very little to show for my gardening efforts but also because Christmas and New Year intervened and I have taken very few photos of the pick.

But today as I was picking for the evening meal I decided to take a snap.

This little basket all went into a simple salad that accompanied a steak.

I did pick more than this over the last week but this is the only photo.

The tomatoes are Jaune Flamme, Green grape, Yellow Pear and Red Pear. The beans are Hawkesbury Wonder. The lettuce is a Butter lettuce (a little too soft leaved for me, I think I like my leaves more crisp). The cucumber is a Space Saver. I don't remember the radish variety. I also picked a little marjoram.

I'm contributing this post to Daphne's Harvest Monday. Pop over hers to see produce from others' gardens.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Grape Henge

Sun worship temple? Healing centre? 
Huge calendar? Site of ritual sacrifice?

How did they make this amazing structure using only found wood and twitching wire?

"Easy peasy", as the ancients would say!

All you need is a farm truck, a Lad handy with chain and pruning saw, crow bar, screw driver and twitching wire along with blessing and encouragement from 'The Vegetable Queen' and in no time at all you have a Grape Henge!

Our new grape trellis, located on the perimeter of Fortress Wallaby has been constructed and I am delighted. 

It's all wiggly found wood and a little wire. Not a straight line can be seen. 

This structure will form a frame for the four grape vines I intend to raise and the structure clad with large grape leaves will shade other vegetables beneath. 

That's the theory anyway. 

Let's consult the oracle to see what she foretells...

"I see a bounty of grapes of different colours, green, pink and black. I see fresh grapes full of juice, I see dried fruit - perhaps a muscatelle at Christmas?  I see stuffed vine leaves with rice and preserved lemon, and I see shaded vegetables under the protection of the grapes of Grape Henge". 

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Sowing winter crops

I don't know if I am crazy or not.Yesterday I started sowing my winter crops.

It always seems so silly to start seeds for cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and other winter crops in January - there is still so much hot weather to come. But when I think about when I used to plant out seedlings of winter crops in Sydney, I always started in February. While we have a hotter summer here (and a cooler winter) than Sydney, I think the timing is pretty right.

Here is what I have started to raise.

Asian vegetables

  • Red Pak Choi, Mini Wombok


  • Mini Cabbage, Savoy


  • Green Sprouting, Waltham, Romanesco


  • Purple, Mini


  • Chou Moillier - this is a really weird plant that grows incredibly tall. I will grow it for green winter Chook food. I'm hoping it will handle our winter and become a permanent fixture in the garden providing shade in summer too. 


  • Continental parsley


  • Freckles Bunte, Salad Bowl, Baby Cos

I started one punnet of each yesterday. I will put more seeds in over January and February and maybe March so that I can crop all thru the cooler months.

Are you thinking about winter yet Southerners? Are the Northern folk thinking about summer crops yet?

Friday, 3 January 2014

Tomatoes to come

Last post I reported on two of the varieties of tomatoes I am currently picking. I have many other varieties yet to ripen.

This year all tomatoes I put in were kindly provided to me, via the supply of seed by Yvonne. Her choices so far with the Jaune Flamme and Purple Cherokee have been spot on. These varieties have had great flavour and juiciness.

Now I can't wait till some of the others ripen.

The first Speckled Romans wont be far off now. One is already turning and others are developing their characteristic stripes. Why aren't they called Striped Romans?

I am also waiting on the Green Grapes to ripen. This plant is the sole survivor of the frost snap in late October. I had several more in but alas they were burnt off. It's sometimes hard to know when a green variety is ripe isn't it? Other than a by giving them a little squeeze? Does anyone have a technique or tip?

I am growing other small varieties. I am also growing a Yellow Pear and a Red Pear. The plant below is  the Red Pear ripening up 

The other varieties I am growing, again , all thanks to Yvonne's generous supply of seeds are, Peach -  it has a nice squat shape... 

Oxheart Yellow, and

Verna Orange (which has a little bit of a Blossom-end rot problem - see the fruit's flat bottom?).

Here are more Purple Cherokee on the way!

And more Jaune Flamme...

I am really looking forward to my tomato glut.  Happy Tomatoeing everyone!

Thursday, 2 January 2014

The first of the summer pickings

It's taken a while. There has been late frosts, chaffer grub attacks on my borlotti and then very changeable weather followed by 5 days over 35 degrees. Finally however, there are some summer pickings.

The pickings are very small right now but at least there are some.

I have been picking about 2 or 3 Jaune Flamme tomatoes a day for a week now and they are delicious - they do apparently win lots of taste tests.

Mine don't seem to be as orange as photos on the web suggest. They are more a dark yellow colour.

Some have had a little blossom end rot - but that's pretty inevitable given the hot weather run we had. In any case, it's not too bad and easily cut off. The Jaune Flamme seeds were given to me by the lovely Yvonne - thanks so much, they are beautiful.

Then this morning I picked the first Purple Cherokee. They too were ripe and delicious. Again, all thanks to Yvonne for introducing me to this tomato.

Best of all, neither tomato had any fruit fly! (Shhh, I'm keeping it quiet in case they hear me!)

I have been picking the odd cucumber too - these have come off my Space Saver plants

They are a bit wonky but as the plants mature it seems as though the fruit straightens out too.

And there has been the odd yellow long capsicum and tip pickings of marjoram . The tomatoes, capsicum and marjoram went with leftover Christmas ham and home-laid eggs into a dish I call a rough omelette - a favourite easy dinner dish.

How are your summer pickings going? Did you have the fabled Christmas tomato?


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