Time to Sleep – Day 16 NaBloPoMo 2017

Well, that was a ride and a half!

I’ve just submitted an 1800 word short story and 500 word exegesis for my Speculative Fiction assignment and I feel like I could sleep for a week. Unfortunately, there isn’t time for that!

Tomorrow (Friday here in the southern hemisphere) is the day I get to play music with The Superstars at Oak Tasmania, and we’re deep into preparation for a private function we’re performing at next weekend. These men and women are simply fantastic and I’m truly blessed to be able to write and perform with them ❤

Maybe I’ll be able to post some photos next week of our performance – I always love action shots 🙂

Meanwhile, there’s lots of gardening that needs doing over the weekend, a jam session at a friend’s place to go to and lots of new movies to see. I’m particularly keen to check out the Kenneth Branagh Murder on the Orient Express, Killing of a Sacred Deer, Loving Vincent and Jungle. Let me know if you’ve seen any of these films, I always like to hear other people’s opinions 🙂

I’ll leave you with a wonderful discovery I made in the greenhouse yesterday – the first Rocoto chilli flower for the season ❤

Sick Day Blues – Day 5 NaBloPoMo 2017

Well, best laid plans and all that jazz……..

I was supposed to go out to the wonderful MONA today for a special lunch with a whole bunch of female musician friends but no such luck 😦

Last week, I got a Whooping Cough and Tetanus booster shot from my GP because there’s a very small and extremely precious brand new member of our tribe I want to hang out with. My doctor warned me I might have some pain from the Tetanus part of the deal and it would hang around for a few days. Yep, he was right on all counts – but I’m sure it will be worth it!

When I got up this morning I had trouble lifting my arm above my shoulder, so hanging the washing out was pretty hilarious – not! Combined with very little sleep last night, I feel utterly wrecked today, so I’ve decided to rest up so I can make music tomorrow with my friends at Oak Tasmania.

Meanwhile, after wrestling with the clothes, I found some lovely bits around the yard that made me smile. I live in a fairly moist climate and there’s always water in the garden for bees and native birds. But because I breed rabbits, I try and avoid mosquitoes as they carry some truly awful diseases. So, I got some tadpoles from my friends Josie and David and was really pleased that they’re thriving in a tub I eventually plan to turn into a wicking barrel. I spotted some fat little chappies this morning, feasting on mosquito larvae 😀

And over near the chook house (aka as Frankenhutch) I drank in the heady perfume of lemon and lime flowers ❤

The lime in particular is thriving, after surviving the Tasmanian winter and after the flowers have gone, I plan to leave a couple of flowers and see if we can have a few fresh limes next year.

I’m resting up now, dinner’s in the slow cooker (Beef and Bean Curry) and I’ve movies to watch and uni work to do.

See you all tomorrow!

Venison Jerky

It’s autumn here in Hobart, though you could be forgiven for thinking it’s still summer at the moment! The sun is shining and the tomato harvest seems to be stretching on and on this year. The deer season opened in Tasmania a few weeks ago and, while I object to shooting a living creature just because you can, I have no problem with hunting if the animal is killed humanely and all the carcass is used.

I was gifted a shoulder of venison last week by family members who hunt. One deer provides a lot of meat shared throughout the clan, including mince and home-made sausages as well as the usual roasts and stewing pieces. I took my my shoulder home and wondered how I was going to use it.

As I walked in the kitchen, I spotted the dehydrator (it’s hard to miss!) still out on the bench after drying all the prunes this year, and made up my mind to try some jerky. I haven’t made jerky in a dehydrator before (only on a Weber barbecue) so this was quite an experiment for me!

Here’s the recipe:

Venison Jerky

1.2 kg (2 ½ lb) venison, sliced into thin strips

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

1/3 cup Worcestershire Sauce and Mushroom Soy mixed together

1 ½ teaspoons salt

4 cloves garlic, minced finely

1 teaspoon dried chili flakes (optional)

2 tablespoons brown sugar

Boning out the shoulder took some time, but with a good knife, some fine music and podcasts to listen to, I was pretty happy. The trick is to cut with the grain of the meat and remove as much of the sinew as possible along the way, but the end result is worth it. Also, instead of wasting all those bits of sinew, I got a stockpot out with a head of garlic, a roughly chopped onion, a few bay leaves, my homemade Tuscan seasoning and some dried celery leaves. Once I finished boning out the shoulder, I added the bones, covered it all with cold water and wine and let it simmer for hours. The next day I skimmed off the fat and let it simmer again for a few more hours. Once it had cooled, I strained the remaining liquid and it was absolutely wonderful. I’ve potted it up and frozen it for rainy day soups, casserole and risotto bases.

In the meantime, back to the jerky. I peeled the garlic and started chopping it. Once it was reasonably small, I sprinkled the salt over it and, using the flat of the blade, really started the mash the garlic. I got out my biggest plastic lunchbox with a tight sealing lid and put the salty garlic mash in the bottom with the sugar and chili flakes. Then I added the wet ingredients and carefully mixed the whole thing. Adding the venison strips was a messy business, you really need to use your hands to massage the mix into the meat. Finally, I covered the container and put it in the fridge overnight. I did squish it around some more before I went to bed, but it isn’t really necessary.

The next day, I put thin strips of marinated venison on the dehydrator trays and lovingly placed them in the machine. The smell was gorgeous and I think this marinade would make a wonderful stir fry or slow casserole too. Using vinegar and the high salt content of both the soy and Worcestershire sauce did a great job and really drew out a lot of the moisture content from the meat as well as flavouring the strips.

To start, I put the temperature up high on the dehydrator (74 C/165 F) for the first half hour. This is recommended because I don’t use a nitrite “cure” for the jerky and it is necessary to kill off potentially nasty bacteria before drying proper. Botulism is dangerous and I take food safety seriously. Then I brought the temperature back to 63 C/145 F and processed it for just over 6 hours. This will vary with different dehydrators.

The results were excellent – chewy, delicious, dark and spicy! I’ve bagged it into little packs and for extra safety, will keep it in the freezer and pull out some as needed.  I’m going to try this with other meats (especially cheaper cuts of beef and rabbit) but the cider vinegar and salty soy combo is certainly worth repeating.

I hope you’re all well and happy wherever you are on this beautiful planet ❤

Let the Madness Begin! – Day 19 NaBloPoMo

I had a really good day today.

Because I’m back on schedule for my uni assignments, I decided to make the most of the lovely spring weather and spent most of the day in the yard.

There were rabbit hutches to muck out, chickens to talk to and (at long last!) tomatoes to start planting, and later, I did quite a lot of work in the greenhouse.

Around this time every year, life gets a bit crazy for me with lots of summer vegetables that I start from seed. These either need to be either planted out in garden beds (like tomatoes, beans and salad greens) or potted up for growing in the greenhouse (primarily basil and chillies).

This year is no exception, and this afternoon I potted up one of my favourite summer herbs, Shiso (Perilla frutescens), also known as Beef Steak Plant.

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I use it shredded in salads and when the leaves are full size, as a wrap for sashimi and even for pickling and drying. I love it’s spicy, fresh flavour. I have a really good and simple pickling recipe here if you’re interested.

To have enough for fresh and preserving, I usually grow about two dozen plants in small pots and keep them in the greenhouse. I use a weak home made liquid feed once every couple of weeks

There was also a punnet of Bergamot (Monarda didyma) that I’m planning to use to attract bees, and add flowers to salads and for tea that yielded a dozen plants, more tomatoes and a punnet of five very healthy Jam Melons (Citrullus lanatus).

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These very old fashioned fruit are a real blast from my childhood, when my mother would use a melon to make autumn fruits go much further for desserts such as pie fillings, tarts and of course, Melon and Lemon Jam. The melon is fiddly to seed but once cooked, the translucent flesh takes up other flavours beautifully. I was given the seed by a lovely woman in northern Tasmania and I’m really pleased these grew. I intend to grow the strongest two but don’t have large enough garden beds left to put them in! So, I’m planning to put them in big tubs and let them spill out across what used to be the corner of shame – now well tended pine bark around the plum tree.

It’s a little bit of forward planning (and maybe wishful thinking) but I’m hoping to have at least a couple of melons to use for making the last of the berries stretch that little bit further at the end of the season ❤

Tomorrow I’m potting up the first of the basil – the official start of “basilapocolypse” – and more tomatoes. Next week, some of the chillies will be ready to go. Then things will get really crazy!

Rainy Day Self Care – Day 13 NaBloPoMo

I’ve been really struggling today, feeling physically unwell but also quite inexplicably sad since I woke this morning.

Perhaps it’s the weather. It’s been very wet and bleak almost all day, so I didn’t have much chance to be in the yard. I’ve become very aware of how sensitive I am to such things. So I decided to remain as positive as possible, do things that made me feel better and generally engage in some self-care.

I got out my uber-fabulous rain jacket, found a beanie and went to splash around, feeding the hungry hordes and finding little things to photograph – something that always makes me feel good.

First stop after feeding was to check the greenhouse. Usually by November I need to water fairly thoroughly in there but today it was so damp it wasn’t necessary. I did find breakfast though 😀

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I only picked the one on the right and while it was lovely, we really haven’t had enough sunny days to encourage fructose production. I’m concerned the raspberries will be the same too but it’ll be at least a couple of weeks before they start producing significantly. And surely the sunshine will be back by then!

Of course, the best way to cheer me up is to see new things happening and I was very pleased to discover several flowers on the Cayenne chillies this morning. I really love these long, thin skinned chillies. They are great fresh but dry easily and they have a light and bright flavour, that lifts all manner of dishes.

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Meanwhile, I decided to make a really hearty slow-roasted organic chicken for tonight’s dinner so I headed for the French Tarragon patch, which is booming at the moment.

This is my take on Tarragon Roast Chicken.

I had some chestnuts left in the freezer that I dry roasted and shelled back in autumn. They were chopped up finely with a couple of the small garlic heads and the Tarragon and thrown in a bowl. I beat in an egg and a little olive oil, and mixed in about half a cup of fine sourdough breadcrumbs to help bind it all together.

In the slow cooker I made a trivet of a halved onion, some small carrots, a few celery sticks from the garden that were too big for using in salads, a few more little garlic heads and the rest of the Tarragon. I put the stuffed chicken carefully on top of the vegetable trivet, seasoned it and poured over about a cup of white wine. Then I put it on low and forgot about it for a few hours.

After some quiet time reading, watching trashy Sunday afternoon television and a long luxurious shower, we prepared potatoes, parsnips and carrots for roasting. Now, this is totally decadent but it was a household decision to add some home made garlic butter to the roasting pan – because fresh garlic!

After the veggies were starting to brown, the chicken was carefully lifted and finished off in the oven with all those lovely vegetables. I decanted off about 3 cups of rich liquid from the slow cooker as a sauce base and made a cornflour roux. A tablespoon of homemade mushroom ketchup and a dash of cream finished off the sauce.

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This was utterly fabulous. The Tarragon and garlic shone through without overwhelming, the chicken was succulent but cooked through, vegetables crisp on the outside and fluffy inside, and the stuffing was nutty and rich but not stodgy.

I’m now going into a food coma – but feeling much better than I was earlier in the day 😀

And to finish, here’s Bernard Black Bunny, telling me to “go away woman, can’t you see I’m eating?”

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Take care friends, and don’t be shy about looking after yourselves ❤

Making Room – Day 10 NaBloPoMo

This will be a short post as I’ve got to get ready for an early set tonight as I mentioned here a couple of days ago and I’m still not absolutely certain what songs I’m going to play. Something short and vitriolic feels kinda right at the moment.

While the world seems to be coming to terms with the US election, I gardened hard this morning. I picked heaps of snow peas, and there’s loads of new flowers and peas coming on. It’s been a wonderful crop and hopefully with last another month or two.

I also ripped out a couple of giant Italian Parsley plants that are going to seed and stripped them for use in the kitchen over the next few days. Then I got stuck into the broad beans in the next bed and picked the largest pods I could find and shelled them into a bowl while the chickens looked on. Again, there’s still heaps of flowers and new beans forming, so this is going to be a good crop. All the parsley heads and bean husks got chopped up and fed straight to the chickens, who are giving us loads of eggs this year.

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I’m the only one in the house that likes broad beans as a fresh vegetable but they dry very well, and we go through a lot of dried beans each year in curries and stews to make meat go further. I’ve laid out what I imagine would be a meal’s worth and I’m going to see how long it takes for them to dry out. It could end up being a dehydrator job but at least these will have a start.

Also, I gave up waiting and decided to lift the rest of the garlic. Some of it is a little small but it is what it is – and with the parsley, I want to make that other great Italian garnish – gremolata.  I’m going to experiment with reconstituting some of my dried lemon zest and adding that instead of buying fresh lemons. My lemon tree is flowering but no fruit until next year.

And the big reason to harvest these plants is the amazing realisation that I’m running out of bed space! I really need the room to plant out more beans, tomatoes and zucchinis. It’s hard to imagine that I’d ever run out of space in this yard. When I arrived here (7 years ago next month) the back yard was a huge mess. Many of the fruit trees were diseased and some were dying. What is now the greenhouse was an overgrown shed that had suckers from a cherry tree growing inside and most of the yard was a jungle, with weeds almost as tall as me.

This year’s garlic was in the first bed I made. I remember the soil was impoverished, dry and hard, with little worm activity. After all my layers of compost, mulch and crop rotations, today it’s black, rich and alive. When I first started here it was easy to get overwhelmed by all the mess and everything that needed to be done, but over the years I’ve created 6 more beds plus the greenhouse and got it to the point of producing almost all our vegetable needs and some of our fruit year round. One is dedicated just to asparagus, another just to raspberries and one is in the permanent home of rhubarb and acid-loving berries.

Now I go down the yard and still get overwhelmed by everything that needs doing – and because of all the rain the weeds are out of hand again and the grass is tall – but that’s good for the rabbits and there’s food to pick while I consider my options 😉

Today’s cute bunny pic is a double feature. Bernard Black has undoubtedly grown

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But this is my British Giant doe, Boudica. She is a lovely girl, very good tempered, but HUGE – especially when compared to BB!

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I love the “one ear up” pose from both of them 😀

I’m off to get ready to play music. Go gently and be well friends ❤

Greenhouse Action & Musings – Day 8 NaBloPoMo 2016

Today, I’ll start with an apology – there’s no gratuitous cute bunny pic in this post. In truth, I forgot to take one today. To Bernard Black Bunny’s fans, I promise I’ll make it up in tomorrow’s post!

I went into the city today for lunch, catching up for coffee with a dear friend and calling into my favourite bookshop, but this morning after I fed the animals, I had a little bit of fun in the greenhouse.

I grow strawberries in pots so I can move them around the yard throughout the year and I’ve been picking fruit steadily for the last few weeks. But one poor plant really wasn’t looking great a couple of weeks ago, so I took it into the greenhouse, fed it some of my home made worm juice fertiliser and promptly forgot about it. What a lovely surprise this morning when I discovered this luscious beauty and more on the way 😀

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A few weeks ago, I planted my precious stash of chilli seeds for the coming summer. While I usually keep a few Cayenne and Rocoto in the greenhouse to overwinter, most get treated as annuals, so this is a big deal for a chilli-lover like me. I was thrilled to see the first of this year’s crop poking their heads up this morning. The weather has been downright cold at times in recent days, so I was worried that I wasn’t going to get any to germinate, not uncommon if temperatures are too low. I’ll post some pictures in the next couple of days.

This winter was so mild, there’s more chillies than usual held over from last summer, including a few Poblano Ancho and I’m really pleased the Cayenne are starting to flower already.

After, I went into the city and (not for the first time) I was quite astonished at the difference between my oasis here and being in town. All the more so that it’s a 10 minute drive or a 25 minute walk from here to central Hobart – it’s not like I like in the bush or even an outer suburb.

I had a great time with my friend but my last stop was the best – catching up with Richard and Mike at Cracked & Spineless New and Used Books. I love bookshops but this one is really something else. It’s not uncommon to bump into friends there, it can be hard to navigate around the shelves depending on how many boxes of books have arrived that day, sometimes you’ll even see the shop’s stick insects fornicating in their tank (I have photographic proof of this!) and for me it’s almost impossible to keep track of time once I set foot in the door.

And while I always come away poorer in monetary terms, I’m always enriched by the books I buy. Today I picked up a new sci-fi thriller, The Tourist by Robert Dickinson, and a very important book from my early adolescence, Silent Spring by Rachel Carson.

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My father gave me a copy of this same printing when I was probably 11 or 12 and it quite literally changed my life. It caused me to think about making a smaller footprint on this fragile planet, something I still strive to do to this day but above all, it brought me even closer to my father. I’m looking forward to re-reading it and remembering my dad ❤

Finally, for those of you in southern Tasmania, I’m playing a short set Thursday night at the Waratah Hotel in Murray Street. I’m opening the wonderful UNLOCKED show that, now the days are getting longer (and sometimes warmer), is back to being a weekly event. I’m really looking forward to playing 😀

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