Friday, 11 April 2014

Garden Update

I've taken a semester off uni (again) - I have a lot or work on, and it was all getting a bit much. However this has meant I have had the luxury of time to get out into the garden and remember why I hate weeding, and I really hate couch grass!

However, I've cleared 3.5 beds, and have even planted some winter veg, so I am making progress. We signed up to the local CSA scheme again this year so our veg is still (very) local, but at a minimum I'm determined to have some Kale and garlic in the ground over winter. I haven't had to buy garlic for years now and I don't want to start now. It will be hard enough to go back to buying tinned tomatoes at some point in a few months when I run out of my preserved ones.

Here's how things are looking.

These will be garlic beds - one "resting" after a mammoth dig-over, the other a work in progress.

Beds I dug over last week - now planted with 3 kinds of kale and silverbeet, cauli, cabbage, spring onions, turnip, swede, sugar snap peas, rocket, lettuce and a few radish varieties (mixed, podding and daikon)
The "wild garden" beds - all a bit haphazard, but at least there are a few peppers (L) and chillies (R- jalapenos) still to pick, as well as cherry toms. 

 And this will give you an idea of what I still have to do.......

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Is it April already?

How did that happen? It doesn't feel like more than a month since I last posted...but if it's any consolation you haven't missed much!

I thought I'd get back in to the swing of things with some garden updates. After 10 weeks away last winter/spring, and uni and work over summer the garden is really in a "state" (to put it mildly). Thank goodness for berries and the peach tree so the harvest season hasn't been a complete bust. The tomatoes were an epic fail this year, other than the self seeded cherries and tommy toes, which just keep on keeping on. I have had small successes with a couple of chilli plants, the eggplants were a waste of time, but the parsley and basil varieties have been outstanding.

Many locals have reported poor tomato crops this year, probably due to the late start to summer and a few cold snaps in November. As for the rest I'm not sure why - this year I bought seedlings rather than started from seed, and it is tempting to blame that, but who knows. Berries have been the hero crops this year - around 35kg of them. However I must put in a mention for the peach tree I was going to pull out 18 months ago. I cut it right back to 3 "stump" branches, but it wasn't going to give up without a fight. It surged back, and this year we harvested 17kg of the most gorgeous peaches - some up to 350g. Needless to stay its survival is now assured.

The garlic did very well again, and I have enough bulbs to eat, as well as to plant out for the next crop.

Updated garden pics to come in the next post

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Stuffed eggplant

One of the nice things about buying meat from the farm is that it's really exciting to have lamb again after many month absence from the table. Last week we picked up two locally grown lamb from the butcher (cut to order), so I spent several hours packing it up using my vacuum sealer (one of the best purchases I've ever made - really protects the meat in the freezer). Needlesss to say after the long lamb drought we had chops several nights in a row!

Last night I'd defrosted some lamb mince thinking I'd make moussaka, but it was just too hot to turn the oven on. Smitten kitchen to the rescue! I made these stuffed eggplants, and they were truly delicious. I eliminated the pine nuts (don't like 'em), used veg stock, replaced the rice with pearled spelt, and used a saudi baharat spice mix rather than allspice. Served with a dollop of plain yoghurt, and some flat leaf parsley. I made a side salad as well but we didn't need it.

I think it would be easy to modify this recipe for a vegetarian version, perhaps with mushroom.....

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

DIY liquid soap - no chemicals required!!

A year or so ago I bought a bulk lot of liquid castille soap that I've been using in our reusable hand soap dispensers, but a few months ago I ran out. I prefer liquid soap for hands as it is easier in the kitchen and bathroom and doesn't leave the same mess as home made olive oil soap bars do with regular use (all that lovely glycerine gloops out). However, with increases in postage (no local suppliers) it just wasn't practical to buy more online, so I went looking for another solution.

I stumbled across this post at The Frugal Berry - in a nutshell you use a bar of Castile soap (say Dr Bronners, but of course you can use home made soap), water, a bag and some time. Seemed far to easy, but nothing venture nothing gained, so I gave it a whirl.

It worked! In a week I went from this
to this
and it really was as easy as the instructions on the blog. I did use two cakes of soap, but mine were small. In fact this was soap that didn't work so well (with calendula flower threads) so this has been a great way to use it up. It made 1L of liquid soap, and probably cost less than $5.

Liquid soap problems solved!
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