Storms & Salads – Day 30 NaBloPoMo 2017

So, here it is – number thirty – the last post for this year’s NaBloPoMo.

Traditionally, it’s also a time of contemplation for me, a couple of days before my birthday and there’s only a few weeks left of work and indeed, this year.

It’s hot in Hobart again, and I went into the city today. Got almost all the xmas shopping done (thanks to Richard & Mike at Cracked & Spineless) and went to see my GP for blood test results. This time last year, I was trying to recover after my thyroid decided to simply switch off, and it left me devastated, constantly tired and barely functioning.

Above all things, this year has been about getting back to some semblance of normality. 12 months on, my doctor’s really pleased with my progress – I’m on the right dose of thyroxine, my diet and supplements have brought my notoriously low iron and vitamin D levels back to normal – I feel well again.

One of the major things my GP identified as a contributing factor is my diet. While I eat meat, I always say my favourite meal of the day (year round) is salad, and I have the ability to grow my own.

For that, I’m truly grateful.

Tonight’s salad feast from the garden included a few young silverbeet leaves, sharp and tangy endive, young tender kale, fresh celtuce and crisp perennial rocket. I added a little grated carrot, red onion, sliced mushrooms and a chopped hard boiled egg from the ladies who lay and dressed it with a little basil oil and vinegar from last summer.

And the first of the raspberries for dessert ❤

I’m taking a few days off but I’ll see you again soon. One of the things I want to try and do is write more regularly here apart from NaBloPoMo. Let’s see how much life gets in the way of my good intentions!

Meanwhile, there’s been some thunder and a little rain tonight but it’s still too hot. I hope it breaks soon, I’ve got more gardening to do!

Take care ❤

My stormy mountain

Too Much Too Soon – Day 22 NaBloPoMo 2017

I thought it was unusually warm for this time of year but apparently it’s a record-breaking heatwave for Tasmania. The forecast for tomorrow has been upgraded to 31 C (about 88 F) and hopefully a thunderstorm in the afternoon.

Despite all the mulch I use and regular watering, things are looking a bit dire out in the yard. The chickens and rabbits have good shelter – the bunnies even have their own umbrella – and plenty of fresh water and greens, but I always think this is the hardest time of year for them.

This evening when I went down the yard to feed everyone and water the garden, Boudica our British Giant doe was stretched out next to her water bottle and demanded to be hand fed her fresh grass ration. As you can see, she’s a dreadfully vicious creature – not!

Although I’ve been at work, I’ve had a week off from study and was hoping to get a lot of gardening done, but all I’ve managed to do so far is pull some garlic and try to keep things alive.

As I write at 10:40 pm, it’s still 18 C (64 F) and very hot in the house. I hope we get the forecast thunderstorm tomorrow. This is too much too soon for my taste!

 

The Annual Egg Glut Games – Day 11 NaBloPoMo 2017

 

Despite being mostly older ladies, my six lovely chickens are laying for all they’re worth at the moment. So, as we do every year, I’m giving away eggs to family and friends and making a lot of egg-based dishes. We’ve had custards and cakes, hard boiled eggs in salads and whole egg mayonnaise.

At the moment, I’m also suffering from a spring glut of salad greens – life is tough (not)! So, I picked a bunch of vegetables this morning and made a rich and luscious pastry-free quiche for lunch. It’s a very easy recipe and I often make it as a vegetarian meal as eggs are a great source of protein. But today, I added a couple of rashers of diced bacon, fried with garlic. It also works really well with cooked and shredded chicken, pork or cooked white haricot beans or chickpeas. I’d also recommend adding chopped fresh Italian parsley or chives, it’s really dependent on what you have on hand.

 

Deb’s Vegetable & Bacon Quiche (Serves 4)

 

6-8 free range eggs

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

2 thick bacon rashers

2 small leeks, washed and chopped (can be substituted with shallots or spring onions)

4-5 cups shredded green vegetables (spinach, silverbeet, kale, collards, rocket, pak choy, mustard greens)

1/2 cup milk (can be substituted with 1/4 cup cream)

1/4 cup plain (all purpose) flour

2 cups of grated Colby cheese (Cheddar would be fine)

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

a little grated nutmeg

Method: 

Preheat an oven to 160 C (320 F). Dice the bacon and fry gently. Add the minced garlic towards the end, taking care not to burn it. Take off the heat and allow to cool. Whisk the eggs until frothy, grate in nutmeg, mix in the milk (or cream) and flour.

Using a fork or mixing spoon, gradually add the chopped vegetables and grated cheeses. Stir through the cooled cooked bacon, making sure everything is well incorporated and coated in the egg mixture.

Pour into a greased 20 cm (8 inch) souffle dish and bake for 45-55 minutes. This makes a soft-set quiche, but if you want it firmer, I recommend covering with foil and baking a further 10 minutes.

Serve alone as a light lunch or with a salad for dinner.

Let me know if you try this and what you used in your mix – I love your feedback!

Take care and I’ll see you tomorrow ❤

Garden Update – Day 8 NaBloPoMo 2017

Yesterday, I wrote about teaching Food Gardening so I thought it was only right and proper to give you all a little update on my own urban farm.

While it’s undoubtedly spring and the soil is starting to warm, I suspect my patch is about two or three weeks behind where we were last year. Raspberries were setting fruit this time last year and I was getting ready to lift the main garlic crop for curing. At the moment, all the berries are only just flowering and the early garlic (my main crop) is nowhere near ready yet. Nevertheless, there’s bright spots – it looks like I’ll get my first Tayberries this summer ❤

Tayberry flower

Also, we’ve had a rough entry into spring, with very warm weather followed by snow and a few very cold nights in the past month. This didn’t seem to hurt my young apricot tree, which has quite a few fruit on this year. The plum an nectarine are loaded and I’m thrilled that my pollination plan with my 2nd year dwarf apple trees worked a treat. All four trees are looking incredibly healthy and all carrying fruit. I’ll be thinning it pretty drastically to encourage stronger trees and discourage biennial fruiting but I’m very, very happy to be finally looking at a few home grown apples at the end of summer.

Baby Royal Gala apples

Because of the up and down weather, I haven’t planted out this summer’s tomatoes yet, but I decided to grow them on a bit longer in folded paper pots. It’s a really good way to use up newspaper and come planting time (this weekend I hope), I can put the whole thing in the ground and avoid transplant shock.

Mama Mia tomatoes, waiting for the sunshine

As you can see above, I mark the plant name and the date they were potted up as I tend to lose plant tags. If anyone’s interested, I’ll write up some instructions on this great little paper recycling tip.

In the meantime, the zucchini’s are in the ground (most of them survived the cold) carrots are starting to size up, the late garlic that I’ll be lifting in the new year looks fabulous but a good deal of the early garlic that I normally dig up in November looks like it’s rotted in the ground. Incredibly distressing! Also, the Snow Peas were decimated by slugs this year but the potatoes are looking great.

Through it all, the chickens just keep on laying eggs! Considering most of my ladies are quite elderly (4 years and older) they really are quite remarkable and I’m struggling to keep up with them!

Madame Mephisto

So that’s all for today – I’m off to bed early tonight as I have to do my six monthly blood test tomorrow morning and I’m helping out with a fencing job afterwards. Sometime tomorrow I have to make bread, write a story draft for uni, do my prep for teaching work on Friday and maybe do some catch up with weekly work for uni. (I’m tired just thinking about it!)

Take care friends and see you soon ❤

Sunset from my backdoor

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!

Spring Chicken – Day 3 NaBloPoMo 2017

The weeks are flying by now and the year is almost done. We’ve moved over to Daylight Saving Time last month, and the days are noticeably longer. Nevertheless, there was snow on Mt Wellington/kunanyi this morning. It made me very happy I held off planting the tomatoes last week!

In so many ways I feel I wasted the long evenings of winter with study, books and too much YouTube! It’s depressing. I had so many plans for sewing and handwork projects, seed sorting and trying some different recipes but so little seems to have come to fruition apart from the seed saving. Looking on the bright side though, I do have very good uni marks and jars of saved vegetable seeds!

A couple of months ago I got lucky, splurged a little and finally bought a food processor. As someone who’s serious about food, I’m almost ashamed to say I’ve never owned one but I could never justify the expense of something decent, so I stuck with my old blender and a good set of knives and whisks. But a friend had a Kitchen Aid her son bought and never used, complete with a case overflowing with attachments and at a very reasonable price. It was a very VERY good idea!

The first thing I made with it was a main course that looks harder to make than it is. The food processor makes easy and quick work of mincing the meat but as with all these kinds of stir fries, the trick is to have everything else chopped and ready to go before you start cooking! I used a lot of fresh vegetables from the garden for the rice (broccoli, silverbeet, spring onion, mustard greens, kale, orach, over-winter carrots and celery) but I suggest you play around with it and use what you have on hand. I also used one of the first lemons from my little tree, eggs from my hens (who insisted on laying through winter, bless them), some of last summer’s garlic crop and home-grown dried chillies.

Spicy Chicken Patties with Enriched Fried Rice (Serves 4-6)

 

Spicy Chicken Patties

2 skinless chicken breasts

1 onion

Thumb of ginger *

1-3 cloves garlic (to taste)

1 fresh lime or lemon

¼-1 teas dried chilli (to taste)

1 tab sesame oil

1 tab Chinese cooking sherry

1 tab plain flour

Flour for dusting and a little oil for cooking

*Don’t laugh – I use my thumb to measure fresh ginger and find it’s surprisingly accurate! From the tip of my thumb to the first joint is half a thumb, to the second joint is a full thumb.

Method:

Peel and quarter the onion, peel the garlic clove(s), peel the ginger and put in the food processor bowl. Pulse until chopped. Cut the chicken into chunks and add to the processor with the chili, sesame oil and cooking sherry. Carefully pulse so the chicken is a fine mince. Turn the whole mixture into a mixing bowl, grate in the lime or lemon zest and squeeze in the juice. Add the tablespoon of plain flour (All Purpose flour to my US friends) and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour for the flavours to develop.

Heat a heavy based pan with a little oil. Put a little plain flour in a shallow bowl. With damp hands, form the chicken patties into small balls. Coat them in the flour and fry them over medium heat for a few minutes each side until cooked. Keep warm while you assemble the Fried Rice.

 

Enriched Fried Rice

1 cup long grain rice

Water to cook

A little oil for frying

1 onion, sliced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

½ thumb ginger, finely chopped

1 tab soy sauce

1 tab sesame oil

1 teas dried chilli

2 eggs beaten in a bowl with a few drops of soy or fish sauce

2 cups hard vegetables chopped (carrot, broccoli florets, celery, mushrooms, snow peas, etc)

2 cups soft greens shredded (spinach, silverbeet, mustard greens, orach, parsley, coriander, kale, etc)

Method:

Cook the rice by your favourite method while you get the flavour base started and the Spicy Chicken Patties cooked. (My favourite way of cooking rice is the absorption method in the microwave.)

In a large heavy pot, heat a little oil, add the garlic, ginger, onion, chilli, soy and sherry. Keep stirring over a medium heat – don’t let this burn! Once the onion is translucent, add the hard vegetables and cook a further minute. Add the cooked rice – it should be about 3 cups now – and the sesame oil. Stir it thoroughly. Add the beaten eggs and keep stirring, making sure the egg mixture coats every piece of rice and vegetable. (If it starts to stick, take it off the heat, keep stirring and add a teaspoon or two of water.) Add the soft vegetables, take off the heat and stir them through.

Serve immediately, garnished with some fresh chopped coriander, flat-leaf parsley or spring onion greens – or all three!

The verdict was pretty clear – the Kitchen Aid is a winner! I think it will really come into it’s own once this summer’s crops come in. Processing cooked tomatoes for Passata, basil, garlic and olive oil for pesto base, juicing lots of citrus fruit for bottling syrup and beating egg whites for fresh berry pavlova will be much, much easier 😀

Something in the Air

Full moon at dawn

Hello friends,

It’s been another busy week, lots of writing, reading, gardening and music! The image above was snapped on my mobile phone at daybreak Tuesday morning, when I was getting ready to head off to work. The weather’s been fairly typically cold and frosty mornings but sunny most of the day. Great weather for working outside – as long as I keep moving!!!

In my reading, I came across an interesting old method of planting peas, and it reminded me of something my dad used to do when I was an avid young food gardener. The idea is to plant the peas in a good quality mix in clean half eggshells and once the seedlings are big enough, the whole thing can be planted out. The eggshells with break down in time and offer extra calcium to the plants. My family love Snow Peas and the only variety I grow these days is Mammoth Melting, a lovely heirloom variety and I let a few pods grow on so I have a fresh supply of seed for the next year.

Although I’m a little late, we tried it out at Oak this week, planting two dozen for the Food Garden program, and was thrilled how engaged my crew were with the idea, even to sorting out a watering plan. I’m really looking forward to seeing how they fare 😀

I had a great time yesterday, weeding the incredible garlic beds in the sunshine, and picked a massive winter salad for dinner last night. But today really felt like a proper winter’s day, with steely grey clouds, cold wind and I even disturbed a bird of prey eyeing off my chickens and rabbits – twice!!! The first time was fairly early this morning, as I was feeding the animals (who are all in secure, closed areas by the way!) and again late this afternoon as I picked greens for tonight’s stir fry. It was too fast to get a decent photo on my mobile phone but I think it was a Brown Falcon, a fairly common bird throughout Tasmania. Some of you might recall a few years ago I came out one morning and found a beautiful White Goshawk perched on the chickens’ enclosure. It’s not unusual to see birds of prey here, despite being only a few minutes from central Hobart!

The chickens offered up three eggs despite their would be visitor, testimony again to day length being the trigger for egg laying rather than temperature. Despite the cold today, I get the sense of something stirring as the days slowly get longer again. We’re past the winter solstice and on the home stretch. Time to top dress the asparagus bed! 🙂

Take care everyone, wherever you are ❤

4pm Sunday 16 July 2017

 

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