Birthdays, Books & Basil

Well, I’ve managed another trip around the sun. I had a lovely, relaxed day, read books, did some work in the greenhouse, hung out with friends, ate junk food for dinner and watched stuff. If I’d have played music and baked myself a cake, I would have covered all my favourite things πŸ™‚

The perfect present for a film-nut like me!

After the unseasonably hot weather throughout November (it was Tasmania’s hottest spring on record) we’ve had a cold and very wet start to summer. I spent some time yesterday and today in the greenhouse, potting up basil seedlings and some replacements for the inundated early tomatoes. It’s currently about 10 C (50 F) and it’s been raining pretty well constantly since Friday.

This morning, there was water pooling in garden beds and I had to empty the overflowing rain gauge. The zucchinis and leafy greens are loving it but I seriously don’t want to think about the potatoes right now! Sadly, the beans, tomatoes and corn are all looking quite poorly and will likely need replacing. It looks like I’ll have late crops again! My heart goes out to folks in Victoria though, who are getting the worst of this wet spell.

I’m hoping it won’t do too much damage to the baby stone fruit and apples but the berries are looking very sad. I’ve braved the rain and picked what I could but they won’t be the tastiest this year. Hopefully, the rain will ease in the next few days and we’ll get some sunshine to help convert the starches to sugars in the remainder of the crop.

Because of Hobart’s unpredictable weather, I tend to grow chillies, eggplants and basil in my greenhouse in pots. I’m really pleased so far with the eggplant (above), which is sporting some beautiful purple flowers and the Habanero chilli (below) is setting fruit already πŸ™‚

I managed to pot up 35 or so mixed basil seedlings, which is about half of what I’d like to have for oil and preserving but I’m going to plant more seed next week. There’s shiso/perilla still to go into pots and I have to see if I can salvage more chilli seedlings from the ravaging slugs – they decimated my early plantings and this wet weather is only going to encourage them!

On a positive note, I saved an aloe vera at the start of the year, (it was literally dying of overcrowding and neglect) bought it home, divided it put it into a good potting mix and fed them all. The main plant or “mother” is on a shelf in the bathroom and loving its new home, and I left the offshoots or “pups” in the greenhouse to see if they’d survive. When I was given the plant, the whole thing was a very sickly yellow/green. So I was thrilled to see this morning that the pups are setting out new pups of their own πŸ™‚

Meanwhile, the cricket’s on the TV and that book about the Coen brothers is giving me “come hither” looks again. I’m off to snuggle under a blanket and read.

Maybe tomorrow it’ll be summer πŸ™‚

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.Β 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

Tuesday Treasures – Day 28 NaBloPoMo 2017

I was absolutely thrilled today – because I had to go to work πŸ™‚

It’s a wonderful thing to look forward so much to something that too many people consider a chore – but the crew I work with are fantastic, and this time of year is pretty awesome. We’ve got the Oak Food Garden up to a point where we’re starting to harvest a lot of food!

Today, we harvested the rest of the broad beans and they’re going to be (mostly) blanched and frozen for use by the Wednesday Cooking crew in the next few months. We also pulled our experimental garlic crop, one of the first things planted back in February and they’re now hanging inside to cure. This was grown from a head I provided – the same garlic that more or less failed for me this year. It’s given me some clues as to why mine didn’t do well this season, my soil is just that much heavier and holds a lot more moisture.

Beautiful huge heads of garlic – note the $1 coin for size reference!

Although they’re a bit late to be going in, we planted a lot of tomatoes today, that we hope we’ll make into Passata come autumn. The Wednesday Cooking group are making healthier lunch options and have been making pizza and salads. We harvested a lot of salad greens for them today, Cos lettuce, endive, tiny white celery flowers (absolutely delicious in salad!), silverbeet and red orach.

This is the first pick of the orach, which we planted fairly thickly from seedlings I raised only a couple of months ago. While we were picking, I discovered a volunteer tomato, looking very happy. I thought it might have come from someone’s lunch tomato that could’ve ended up in the bed (we’ve only reclaimed the area in recent months), but further along the row, I discovered more healthy tomatoes! Every one up against an orach plant!

Red Orach and sneaky Volunteer Tomato

Then the penny dropped.

Two years ago, my friend Sara gave me some Roma tomato seedlings she had no room for. I had a great crop and dried most of them, the seeds ending up in the worm farm. The following winter, I must have used that tray of compost in one of my wicking barrel dwarf apples – and got a bonus crop of tomatoes last summer!

I dried some of those too and would’ve put the seeds in the worm farm – I hate wasting anything. And of course, I used some worm compost in my potting mix when I grew on the orach seedlings a month or so ago. So, the interlopers will be cossetted and cared for, eventually overwhelming the orach, and I hope they crop as well as they have for me the last two years πŸ™‚

 

 

Mad Monday – Day 27 NaBloPoMo 2017

A quick post tonight after a very mad Monday!

I realised fairly late in the day that I had no burritos or tacos to go with the wonderful beef and bean taco mix the Gentleman of the House (aka GotH) had made up while I was out at work. I usually make fairly big batches of my own wheat tacos with bread flour, a little water and a dash of oil – just enough to pull it all together – roll them out and freeze the leftovers. Sadly, the freezer was bare!

So, while I was feeding Wee Beastie, my sourdough plant, I struck on an idea that turned out to be a total winner. I love having real sourdough but we don’t go through a lot of bread in this household, so I’m always looking for ways to use up excess starter.

Here’s the recipe:

Wee Beastie Burritos (Makes 4)

1 cup strong bread flour

1/4 cup sourdough starter

1/8 – 1/4 cup water

1 tab olive oil

pinch of salt

extra flour for dusting

Method:Β 

In a mixing bowl combine the bread flour and salt. Make a well in the center and pour in the sourdough starter. Mix with a wooden spoon until it resembles bread crumbs. Add the water a little at a time until it comes together in a ball and mix in the oil. It should come away cleanly from the side of the bowl.

Turn out on a lightly floured board and knead it for a couple of minutes, it should be quite smooth and elastic but a little drier than a bread dough.Β Put it back in the mixing bowl and cover, leaving it for about an hour.

Prepare a heavy-based fry pan on medium high heat. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knock any air out of it. Cut it evenly into four pieces. Roll out each piece to a thin, roughly pan-sized circle and cook in the dry fry pan a minute or two on each side. Be careful not to burn them!

Wrap the cooked burritos in a clean tea towel – I take them to the table like that!

Fill with your favourite taco or burrito mix (we had Chilli Beef and Black Beans tonight), grated cheese and chopped leafy greens, Italian parsley or coriander leaves.

I’m going to make more of these for the freezer later in the week I think – they were delicious! If you try this recipe, please let me know what you think – I’m keen for feedback πŸ™‚

Shortcuts & Syrups – Day 23 NaBloPoMo 2017

I resolved to have an indoor day today, trying to survive this Tassie heatwave, and decided to get some kitchen jobs done.

Realising I was all but out of yogurt early this morning (enough to change my breakfast plans) I decided to do what I call a shortcut jar, and it couldn’t be easier. I have an ancient EasiYo passive yogurt maker I bought new about 20 years ago. It’s probably one of the best purchases I’ve ever made as my family go through a lot of yogurt! Although EasiYo sell sachets of starter, I generally use a dollop of the last batch and refresh it with new starter culture every few months. My preferred starter is plain Greek style.

To save having to go to the shop for extra fresh milk, I took a favourite shortcut, and used powdered full cream milk. It’s a great thing to have in the pantry cupboard in case I run out of real milk, and I also use it to enrich sauces, puddings – and yogurt! For my 1 litre tub, I use 1 1/4 cups of milk power mixed thoroughly with about 500 ml cold water. Filtered or rain water is best for this, as tap water additives can inhibit the culture.

Once the milk powder is well incorporated, I add a generous half cup of yogurt from the last batch

Mix thoroughly and top up with cold water if necessary.

Then it’s just a matter of filling the maker with boiling water, making sure the trivet is the right way up, and putting in the yogurt jar and screwing on the lid. Leave it for 8-12 hours, depending on how sharp you like your finished yogurt. I generally leave mine 9 hours but a little longer if I’m making cheese from it.

The finished product is really lovely, creamy and tangy. Perfect with fruit, making smoothies and using for dips and dressings.

Once the yogurt was out of the way, I juiced a bag of oranges that were past their best but still good, and about 10 grapefruit I was given by friends a few weeks ago. I used the same standard recipe I have for lemon syrup and it made about two litres.

Finally, I bottled my stash of spring grapevine leaves (close to 50), destined for dolmades later in summer. After cleaning them all and removing the stems, I blanched them in a strong boiling brine, plunged them in a pot of icy water and (once they were cool enough to handle) rolled them up in bundles of 10. I put them in a small preserving jar and covered them with boiling brine and 1 teaspoon of Citric Acid. Then I processed them along with the bottles of syrup for 15 minutes.

It was hot work, but totally worth the bother. The syrup is sharp and sweet, perfect in iced water as a refreshing drink – even better with plain soda and a dash of vodka for the adults – and makes a very interesting ice cream topping.

The vine leaves always lose their bright green hue but are wonderful. They apparently keep very well in this acidulated brine – but they never last longer than a few months here! Now the grapevine is starting to take off, I feel better about doing more jars through the season πŸ™‚

So, now I’m sitting happily watching the cricket, (the Ashes series has started!) and I’m waiting for it to cool down enough to feed the animals, water and pick salad for a late dinner. I might have to make a yogurt dressing πŸ™‚

See you all tomorrow, and Happy Thanksgiving to all my US friends ❀

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!

 

Garlic Harvest Blues – Day 18 NaBloPoMo 2017

One of the great things about keeping a blog is being able to compare harvests over time. And one crop that usually grows really well for me is garlic. We use it a lot so I grow plenty, and this year I thought with three beds, I might have enough to see our household through the year. And in the nearly eight years I’ve been living here I’ve only ever had a garlic crop fail twice, once about five years ago and this year.

My maincrop variety (like so many great gardening stories) started out with a few cloves someone gave me. I think it was a standard Tasmanian purple skin (but who knows?) and it keeps quite well for six or seven months. Over the years I’ve built up my stocks, only keeping the best and biggest cloves to replant the following autumn. And I carefully rotate beds, mulch them well and leave them to get on with it. Generally, there’s not a lot to do except weeding – they don’t like competition.

I carefully checked a couple that were starting to die back a few weeks ago, and was shocked to see as I eased the soil back that there was very little bulb development. Also,Β they were slow to get started and we had a lot of rain – so much that it looks like 30-40% rotted in the ground. I’ve heard from friends that I’m not the only one to have problems this year – but I don’t know if that makes me feel better or more concerned!

Harvesting garlic as I’ve said before, is something of an arcane art. Too early and the heads aren’t properly developed, but leave it too late and bulbs will split and don’t keep. After some very warm weather and a thunderstorm last week, I decided it was time to pull the worst affected bed.

It was pretty “meh” compared to previous harvests but I suppose is better than none at all.

Part of this year’s poor garlic harvest

The next bed doesn’t seem to be as bad, the plants seem stronger and stems thicker, but it’s dying back and will need to come out in the next week or so.

The final bed looks like this season’s winner, all named varieties I bought from a local specialist grower, specifically for their long keeping qualities – planted later and correspondingly will be harvested later. And they’re looking very good – thanks Letetia πŸ™‚ I think I might be changing my maincrop variety next year!

It was warm out in the yard today, a really beautiful spring day, and while I took a break in the shade of the plum tree, I found some very well formed reminders that summer’s just around the corner ❀

Prune plums forming on the tree

Have a great Saturday everyone and see you tomorrow πŸ™‚

Previous Older Entries