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

 

Friendship, Food and Music

Hello friends,

It’s been quite a few weeks since I’ve posted anything. Yes, I think I’m slack too, but I’ve been fairly snowed under with work, a nasty stomach bug and (as always) constant study and assignment deadlines!

A la Game of Thrones, winter isn’t coming – it’s well and truly here! At least winter had the good grace to wait until Dark Mofo had finished before settling in properly. And the colder weather’s brought some very icy mornings and plenty of work to do around my little urban farm. I’ve been weeding beds, transplanting lots of volunteer greens that that have sprung up and covering as much as possible with spent straw from the rabbit hutches. It looks like it’s going to be a really good crop of garlic this coming summer and I can’t wait to see how the later varieties fare in my microclimate. We’ve enjoyed the first few lemons off my tiny tree and the Blood Orange, Lime and Valencia are both surviving the cold weather so far *crosses fingers*

I’m waiting on another order of fruit trees on dwarfing rootstock that I’ll be putting up into wicking tubs like the apples last winter and trying to clean up the last of the chestnuts’ spiky husks and collect all the leaves for compost. I confess I’ve been putting off stripping out the greenhouse in preparation for spring. It’s such a big job and something of a domino effect – once I start, I can’t stop!

I was thinking about tackling it this morning but a visit from some friends saved me 😀 Matt was interested in trying one of my farmed rabbits to eat and arranged to call around with Robyn (another musician friend). Being winter, I had no fresh kits but had one in the freezer from the last litter for him. Robyn and I found about 500g of good chestnuts from two large buckets of spiky husks and I gave her and Matt fresh eggs, herbs and a jar of crabapple jelly for Matt’s elderly mother. We drank coffee on the balcony in the winter sunshine, discussed music, books and life in general.

Matt and I have known one another for many years and today was a delightful catch up. (We recorded “Clementine”, a song of his last year but I’m not sure when it’s going to be released!) He’s in the process of recording again and wanted to borrow my electric 12 string guitar (affectionately known as Dean), which I was happy to do. Meanwhile, I’ve been toying with buying a flat-back mandolin for playing in live sets and was utterly blown away when he gave me this today, saying it was just lying around, not getting played….

I’ve been tinkering around with it most of the afternoon and I think it’s going to be a fabulous addition. And I’m sure every time I play it I’ll think of my dear friend – I might even have to write him a song ❤

A Fool for April – Muesli Recipe

Chestnuts!

Happy April Fool’s Day! Well, there’s been a notable shift in the weather here, summer is clearly over and autumn is finally properly with us. I think this is my favourite time of the year, with generally lower overnight temperatures, crisp mornings and calm, often sunny days – perfect for gardening!

Soil temperatures are still quite warm – there’s a lot of growing still happening! – and I’ll be picking zucchini and especially tomatoes for bottling for a little while yet.

Salad from yesterday – kale, mustard, endive, rocket, silverbeet, red orach and tomatoes.

In the meantime, I’m madly preparing beds for kale, broccoli and garlic, which I’m planting in the coming weeks (later than usual for me), so it’s still very busy. Boudica Bunny is making a nest and should birth her kits (the first with Bernard Black) in the next week, the chestnut crop is still to come as you can see from the photo above, and the chickens are beginning to moult too so the egg supply is gradually slowing down. Having a mixed flock means that there’s usually someone laying and I rarely have to buy eggs except in the very middle of winter when day length is shortest.

Also, I’m pleased to say the jam melons are starting to get bigger – I haven’t grown these since I was a kid in South Australia and it’s exciting! I’ll keep you all up to date with what I end up doing with them, but I’m thinking Melon & Lemon Jam 🙂

Jam Melon sizing up at last

Recently, I made my version of toasted muesli, something I love this time of year, after the summer and autumn fruit drying is mostly over. Many recipes call for added oil, honey, corn or golden syrup and even peanut butter, but this is completely unadulterated. For me, the dried fruit provides enough sweetness and means the muesli keeps well in an airtight jar. If you need it you can always add a little honey, syrup or even a spoon of jam when serving. Personally, I love this with just a dollop of home made yogurt. Here’s the recipe:

Deb’s Sugar-free Muesli 

4 cups rolled oats (ordinary oats, not the “instant type”)

1/2 cup sesame seeds

1/4 cup pumpkin seeds

1/4 cup sunflower kernels

1/4 cup wheatgerm (optional)

1/2 cup coconut (I prefer flakes for this)

* 1/2 cup chopped nuts (use what you have on hand, for me it was almonds this time and see the note below)

1 tab fresh lemon zest or 1/2 tab dried lemon zest (optional)

1-1/2 cups of chopped dried fruit (again, use what you prefer or have on hand!)

Method:

Pre-heat an oven to 160 C/325 F. In a large bowl, mix the oats, seeds, wheatgerm (if using) and coconut. Chop the nuts fairly roughly and add to the oat mix.

I love lemon zest and the sherbet-like flavour it brings to my breakfast muesli (I keep a jar of dried zest in my pantry cupboard just for recipes like this) but it’s not to everyone’s taste. Try just a little if you’re uncertain.

If you use dried lemon zest, you can mix the chopped fruit thoroughly with the oats/seeds/nuts now, bypassing the toasting step and put the muesli in an airtight jar but I really think the toasting is so worth it for bringing out the flavours of the the seeds and nuts.

Lay the oats/seeds/nuts/fresh lemon zest evenly on a baking sheet or roasting pan and toast, turning every 10-15 minutes with a broad spatula. It’s fiddly but really worth it as you can determine exactly how toasted you want your muesli to be. I use coconut flakes that brown quite significantly and are my best indicator. Now for the dried fruit – the real star of this recipe – and where you can make it truly your own, with seemingly endless combinations of sweet, luscious, fruity goodness! Chop the larger pieces of dried fruit to a size that you prefer (I like mine fairly small, about sultana size). For this batch, I had a lonely piece of apricot fruit leather that needed using, plus this year’s prunes and dried nectarines. Kitchen scissors worked really well and I find them much easier than a knife for this job.

When the oat mix looks the right shade of toastiness, allow it to cool completely, mix in the chopped dried fruit very thoroughly and put into an airtight jar. It should keep well for ages but mine usually gets eaten in a couple of months.

Finished toasted muesli

*A note on the nuts. If you don’t like/can’t eat particular things or want a nut-free muesli, be bold and take them out of the recipe! Substitute nuts with more seeds and fruit – it’s entirely up to you and I encourage you to try different things. For instance, my muesli usually has linseeds but I didn’t have any in the house when I made this (sad face). Next time, I should have dried apples and some walnuts to add as well as my beloved linseeds and I might add a touch of ground cinnamon for a slightly different combo 😀

Apricot Fruit Leather, Prunes and Dried Nectarines for the muesli

In other news, The Superstars and Callum are playing at MONA next Saturday (8th April), which is huge news and I’ll do a separate post about that soon. Uni study is relentless but rewarding, and I’m loving my current unit CWR211 Writing Crime & Contemporary Romance, though romance literature isn’t my strength or preference. Nevertheless, I managed a very high mark for my first assessment and I was frankly, surprised and thrilled.

Finally, I’m sorry to say that Felicity lost her battle with cancer earlier this last week. While her death was entirely expected, it was still utterly heartbreaking and my thoughts go out to all her fabulous friends, family and especially her husband Dave. I plan to buy a shrub or small tree in the coming weeks to plant in her honour – a “Felicitree” ❤

Meanwhile, take care good people, be gentle to each other, this beautiful planet and never be afraid to tell the people that matter to you that you love them ❤

And So It Goes – Day 30 NaBloPoMo 2016

Today is the last day of the blog challenge for 2016. I think this is the third year I’ve been involved with NaBloPoMo and this one’s probably been the easiest in many ways.

Life has been no less busy, in truth I’ve probably been more stressed than I have in years but after three years of NaBloPoMo and three years of constant writing for university under my belt, I tend to make time in my day to make these blog posts happen.

I’ve got back into the habit of writing!

And perhaps more to the point, I’ve got into the habit of seeing and doing things that I want to write about and share here. Today was a very good case in point – as soon as I saw this in the yard I wanted to write about it!

I had to say goodbye to my apricot tree a while back (my favourite fruit). Sadly, it had brown rot and I really couldn’t save it. In anticipation, I planted another two years ago. It’s doing really well and I decided to let it bear a couple of fruit this year so I could at least have a taste of apricot goodness. Unfortunately, we had some high winds and I found the few fruit I’d let stay had fallen 😦

And then, this morning while I was weeding around the tree, I found this!!!!

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It is quite big and won’t be ripe for at least another month, possibly six weeks, it might not even make it – who can tell? But it’s the only one on this little tree and I’m unbelievably thrilled.

Meanwhile, the rabbits and chickens are incredibly indignant. We’ve had workmen in to remove English Ivy from the backyard. The rabbits were upset that we had to move their hutches near the chickens and the chickens were indignant that the rabbits were there at all. And then there’s been all the noise and power tools upsetting everyone’s calm – it’s been bedlam! Hopefully, it will all be finished tomorrow and we can get back to the usual run-of-the-mill bedlam that passes for normality in my place 😀

I might take a break from blogging for a few days – I have baking to do tomorrow and my birthday to celebrate on Friday – but there’s things afoot that I’ll want to write about coming up.

So thank you for reading, and take care dear friends wherever you may be on this beautiful little planet. I’ll see you soon ❤

The Sweet Spice of Variety – Day 24 NaBloPoMo 2016

It’s been a hectic day, and it’s not going to ease up – so here’s a quick post for today.

After yesterday’s rain and being stuck indoors with books (bliss!) today couldn’t have been more different.

I spent a busy morning with the animals and trying to get my brushcutter working. I only use the thing a couple of times a year but it’s handy when the grass starts to get long, which is certainly the case at the moment. All the rain and then the sudden burst of warm weather meant the weeds have boomed this week and really need attending to.

Because I use it so infrequently, the brushcutter’s not running properly. So it’ll have to be serviced before I can really make an impact on the jungle!

Meanwhile, I had a delivery of sheep manure this morning. This is my preferred means of feeding garden beds and I’m pretty happy to have got 11 bags delivered to my gate by a really nice young guy who’s trying to make a living out of garden supplies. This much should last me almost two years, though a good deal of it will go around fruit trees, asparagus and the ever-hungry rhubarb bed!

Then I had to quickly get changed and pop down to a nearby coffee shop to meet my friend Jenna Cesar. She’s a fellow blogger and another online writing student who lives in Hobart. We had a lovely chat, and she interviewed me about the work I’ve been doing at Oak Tasmania with Callum and The Superstars. Jenna’s writing her piece for uni but will be publishing it on her blog in weeks to come and I’ll put a link up here when that happens.

After a quick lunch it was back to the yard to carefully move all the bags of manure into a pyramid (more like a ziggurat!) so it’s easy for me to access with my problematic spine!

My dear friend and former neighbour called around this afternoon too. I miss her very much – and so does the lovely Oscar. Karen rescued him a couple of years ago and when she and her daughter moved, there was only room at their new home for one bunny. So Snowflake (her daughter’s rabbit) went with them and Oscar stayed here with us, which is really lovely as he’s a beautiful little fellow. He was so excited to see Karen today he really wouldn’t sit still – it was just gorgeous.

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He’s a dwarf lop and such a character! We couldn’t get him to keep still for a photo until we got Bernard out to say hello! This is the first time they’ve come this close to each other as their hutches are quite apart.

There was some growling – but to be expected with buck rabbits! Also, we realised that Bernard Black at 10 weeks old is already larger than Oscar. Not difficult really – but how big is he going to grow?

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But once Oscar was removed from the scene, my little camera hog was his usual chilled and affectionate self ❤

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For something different, tonight I’m going to gather photos together and put up some ads on Facebook for plants that are extra to my family’s needs. I realised that I really do have too many tomatoes and basil plants!

And tomorrow I’m at Oak with The Superstars ❤

Life is good here – hope it is with you too 😀

Volunteers and Patience – Day 22 NaBloPoMo

Hi everyone,

I spent a lovely day out in the yard today – no uni work to do. Woo hoo! So I had a chance to actually pay attention to a few things.

Like the worm farms. I’ve got two of them I bought a few years ago for converting all the kitchen waste that my chickens can’t have, (tea leaves, coffee grounds, potato peelings and so on) into lovely rich compost. I haven’t really taken a lot of notice of them since I emptied the bottom trays some months ago and put the compost out for the potato beds and wicking barrel fruit trees.

Well, imagine my surprise when I looked closely at the plants coming up in the gap between the trays today.

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In the picture above are mostly Roma bush tomatoes that I dried back in autumn, and after saving what I thought was the best of the seed, put in the rest in the compost bucket. Note a tiny potato plant in the right half of the photo – that has come up from a peeling! I’m planning to pot the strongest tomatoes up and let them do their thing. I’ve found Roma is a great variety for growing in tubs.

Volunteers are actually really common in my garden beds. At the moment, I’m picking from several Golden and Ruby Silverbeet (Rainbow Chard) and Curly Endives that have popped up in quite unlikely places and every autumn I have Corn Salad (Valerianella locusta) and of course, there’s the potatoes.

It’s really hard to find all the potatoes at harvest time and it only takes one to see a new plant sneak up in the middle of whatever’s in the bed next. Usually, I pull these out as they are like weeds – unwanted interlopers! On the other hand, in spring, I always find new plants of the perennial Wild Rocket (Diplotaxis tenuifolia) that has made a home in front of the asparagus bed that I like to transplant or put in pots.

This is the asparagus I grew from seed last spring and planted out in autumn. Despite needing a thorough weeding, it’s doing really well – much better than first year crowns should – but I did spent quite a few months preparing the bed with copious amounts of sheep manure, seaweed and spent straw from the rabbit hutches. Also, I haven’t seen any berries yet (which identifies female plants) but with the slow start we had to spring, they might not appear until next month. The biggest stem was about pencil thickness so I might take a stem or two next spring but I won’t start cropping properly for another couple of years.

Most of the food I grow is fast to produce and crop – gone in a season. Apart from the fruit trees, asparagus is the only really long term food project I have, but I know it will be worth it. After weeding, I’ll be piling more manure and seaweed over it – and wait.

Patience is a virtue 😀

Speaking of which, this young fellow has no patience! This is Bernard Black charging in to eat ALL the food this morning, giving me the “get out of my way woman!” look on the way ❤

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Well Hello Summer! – Day 20 NaBloPoMo

Today was quite spectacular – brilliant, sunny and really quite hot. Too nice to be stuck inside with assignments, so I spent the day working on getting the garden up to date because it looks like summer’s here!

It was too hot to work in the greenhouse today, so I set up a work area outside on top of the currently empty rabbit nursery hutch. With a cold bottle of water and a good audio book (Mr. Midshipman Hornblower by C. S. Forester) I spent quite a lot of time getting seedlings into tubes.

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It was a lovely place to work but here in Tasmania the sun is deceptively intense. I’m quite fair skinned and burn easily so I usually wear long sleeved cotton shirts, long pants and a hat when I’m out in the yard. Silly me forgot to roll my sleeves down after I did the watering this morning and after 10 minutes sitting working, I could feel my forearms burning. It’s not too bad tonight after a shower and plenty of soothing skin cream but I really try and avoid getting too much sun.

I potted up a lot of seedlings today – especially eggplants and basil – into toilet roll tubes. It’s an effective means of recycling an otherwise useless product and because the cardboard tubes disintegrate, it pretty much eliminates transplant shock when the seedlings go out into a garden bed or into a larger pot. If you’re interested in reading more, I wrote about it here.

Later in the afternoon, I made a wonderful discovery. I was weeding the path in front of the main raspberry bed when a flash of colour caught my eye – raspberry season has officially  started!

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And they were delicious – worth getting a little bit of sunburn earlier in the day 😀

To finish, Bernard Black is very well settled in and getting very inquisitive about his surroundings – and eating lots!

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Tomorrow is submission day for final assignments and discussions about future units. In particular, what am I going to do for my final year project. I’ve got a few ideas but I really need to run it past some of my tutors.

Lots to think about!

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