Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Ho, ho, ho

Happy Boxing Day holiday everyone :-)

We had a good Christmas Day here - much of the day was taken up with volunteering at our community's first every Christmas lunch - open to anyone that wanted to share a meal. It was a fun time with loads of volunteers and community members - and even a few passing tourists! The organisers had done a great job - the hall looked very festive with a tree, presents, and decorations and streamers made by the kids a the local primary school.  The kids had also done loads of drawings that had been laminated and were used as place mats which was a lovely touch.

We enjoyed turkey roast with veg and gravy, followed by Xmas pud, icecream, custard and strawberries. Then shortbread with tea/coffee. Many local businesses had donated items for the day, and community members had also donated small gifts for everyone that attended. There was also a pianist playing carols. I think we had about 80 people there - not bad for a community of around 3,000.
 After we'd finished cleaning up we went to mums for presents. Jerry bought me a fab bag...
or so I thought - it's actually a knitting bag!! Much more glamorous than the old shopping bag I've been using! The ball holder / yarn loop arrangements is VERY groovy - no more tangled wool!

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Season's Greetings

Hello friends old and new!

This year we've been incredibly slack on the Christmas card front, and haven't managed to get our cards out in time (although it was tempting to blame the snow in the UK !). So on your behalf we made a donation to Oxfam in lieu of the cards you won't get this year. We thought the choices were appropriate :-)

We would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas, and a safe and happy 2011.
Margo & Jerry xoxo

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

The beginning of berry madness 2010

Well, brambleberry madness has started - Jerry picked just over 6 kg last night so needless to say I've been cooking today - I only managed a berry tea cake and some just under 3L of berry cordial - that only took care of 2kg of berries, and I froze about 1kg. I'll need to make some more jam tomorrow

The 7 year scarlett runner beans from last year that re-sprouted a month or so ago have started producing beans - picked just over 1/2 kilo today.  It's nice to finally be getting something from the garden after the spring "hungry gap"

Redcurrants and Jam

I finished making the redcurrant vinegar over the weekend - after soaking 1.5kg of redcurrants in 900ml white wine vinegar for a week and then letting them drain overnight. Next step was to add 450g of sugar for each 600ml of vinegar, warm to let sugar dissolve and then boil for about 8 minutes. Let cool and bottle in sterilised bottles. Lovely colour isn't it? Will let you know how it tastes

Tis also the season to make jam out of the unused berries in the freezer to make way for the new crop. We were also down to our last few jars of jam as well. So over the weekend I made 8 jars of brambleberry jam and 6 of raspberry jam

The weather wasn't that good either (cold, wet and windy) so in between jam making on sunday I re-watched Harry Potter 1, 2 and 3 and did some knitting.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010


This year has been fabulous for bird watching in the back yard. We have more welcome swallows than you can poke a stick at, dusky wood swallows, shrike-thrush, bowerbirds, blackbirds that mess up the mulch, thornbills, "yellow buts", red browed finches, king parrots, crimson and eastern rosellas, red cheeked wattlebirds, kookaburras, and 3 or 4 different honeyeaters. I've also seen a forest kingfisher or 2! I was delighted to discover that a pair of yellow faced honeyeaters has built a nest in a tree right by the house - here's one of them collecting nest material from our doormat. They seem quite fearless - particularly in the berry cage where I have to get to within about 1/2 metre of them before they will flit off to a safe distance (and another berry).
We also have a pair of wagtails nesting in the garden, and it's always entertaining to watch them "buzz" the magpies that come to be fed. They just keep on dive-bombing the poor thing until it retreats out of the territory.

Today however was the bonanza - the local pair of wedge-tailed eagles perched in the trees in the neighbour's paddock and I managed to get a couple of not very good pics using my digital camera through the binoculars. They flew overhead a few days ago and Lily and Freddie went nuts barking at them - I wonder why? They don't like the ravens either and will chase them across the yard.
Any good birds in your backyard lately?

Friday, 17 December 2010

This is on my mind

Redcurrants. Lots of them - and more need picking today. I've already made 12 jars of redcurrant an mint jelly and am working on a batch of redcurrant vinegar.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Freedom for Freddie!


After 15 weeks, 2 cruciate ligament surgeries incl arthroscopy (each with an 8 screw titanium plates), 3 lots of x-rays, 6 local vet visits, 6 day trip to Melbourne for the specialist vet surgeon (5am starts and 8 hrs driving each time), and unmentionable credit card bills, Freddie got the all clear to "be a normal dog again" yesterday. Hurrah for no more being tied to a tree, and no more being on a leash outside the house! Hurrah for being allowed to jump up into the car, on the sofa and on the bed! Hurrah for no more "barking all day cause I'm bored".

I've been so impressed by his recovery from lame to walking normally almost overnight with the surgery - it made the recovery period harder as he seemed to feel just fine after about 3 days. He'll never sit "like a lady" again due to the knee realignment, but he is walking and running with no limp in either leg and no signs of discomfort. That's the most important thing.
 What a nice Christmas present for everyone!

Sunday, 12 December 2010

It's redcurrant season again

Yep, it's currant season again. I spent an hour picking yesterday - 2.4kg later and I couldn't really tell where I had picked from - and that was only 1 of our 2 plants!

I love my steam juicer at this time of year because it makes perfect juice to use as the jelly base with no fiddling with muslin, draining, and no chance of cloudy jelly. For this first batch I made redcurrant and mint jelly.

Redcurrant Jelly
Bring the redcurrant juice to a boil, then for every 600 ml of redcurrant juice add 450g of sugar. Stir until dissolved, bring back to the biol and boil until setting point is reached (about 10 mins for me). Add in a few tablespoons of mint (I used 5 cause I like it minty) 2-3 minutes before the end of boiling. Pour into warm sterilised jars and seal. 2.4kg of currants gave me 1.8l of juice and 8 jars of jelly.

I also made a batch of Julie's honey toasted muesli but using sunflower oil,  no nuts or coconut, but with rolled oats and rolled spelt as the base. For fruits I added in home dried apples and pears, currants and raisins. Smells great!
For dinner we had some local grass fed beef (check out the marbling!) with home made low fat oven chips, and char grilled courgette and asparagus. Followed by rhubarb crumble. Lovely.
 Low fat oven chips (recipe by Ainsley Harriot)
  • Cut potatoes into chips
  • Bring a pot of stock (best) or water to the boil and cook chips until JUST tender.
  • Drain (save stock for the next batch if you're making a lot)
  • While still hot toss in a small amount of oil (olive, sunflower, canola)
  • If cooling straight away spread on a tray and into the oven for 10-15 minutes at 220 until golden and crisp on the outside.
  • Otherwise let the chips cool completely after tossing in oil then bag into serving sizes and put into the freezer. If cooking from frozen allow 15-20 mins
Et voila! Healthy oven chips....Mmmmmmmmmmmmm chips.

Friday, 10 December 2010

This is on my mind...

Rain, rain and more rain - more than twice as much as last year. 103mm on Wednesday, and more of the driveway washed away, 110,000l water tank overflowing yet again.....wondering how much more rain we will get this year, and what it will be like to have our main veg season in a year with so much water?

This is on my mind....inspired by Rhonda

Friday, 3 December 2010

This is on my mind Friday

A lovely, sunny, relaxing week away at Jervis Bay, south of Sydney...was it only last week? Dolphins, snorkelling, sun, sand and sea eagles - what more could a girl ask for?
Great idea Rhonda

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Garden waste mulch update

A few weeks ago I posted bout using unwanted veg/plants gone over etc as a soil conditioner / mulch, and I wanted to give you an update because I'm so impressed with the results.

Just a reminder - I used our electric mulcher to mulch up old / gone to seed vegetable matter that the chickens don't eat  (eg turnips, carrots, broccoli stems) to add back into the garden beds. I dug in the chopped up veg matter, gave a water and covered with mulch - this year pea straw/sugar cane mulch.

This week I peeled back the mulch to take a look at a few of the beds and I was amazed at the worm activity. The soil was still lovely and moist, and almost all the vegetable matter had disappeared / ceased to be identifiable in the soil. And the worms!  Amazing! You can get the same impact by growing a green manure crop and then chopping/digging it on to the soil, but this method skips the growing part!

If you don't have a mulcher you could run over the garden waste (not weeds) with a lawnmower. The picture shows unmulched soil on the left, and mulched on the right - you can easily see the difference in moisture content.

Elsewhere in the garden - potatoes (kipfler) and tomatoes
 Comfrey and violas (for viola cream)
 Red Kale seed pods (for seed saving) and sugar snap and snow peas

Scarlet runner / seven year beans - no need to replant, they apparently DO go on for 7 years...or at least 2 so far in my case, and a pumpkin

 Cornflowers, and oca and yacon

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Rain. Again.

We had 88mm of rain between 5pm yesterday and 9am this morning. That is the single biggest 24hrs of rainfall here in 3 years. It brings our annual total to 1140mm. Yep, more than 1m of rain, and no we haven't moved to Queensland! This is 70% more than 2009,  and a whopping 108% more than 2008, and there is still 6 weeks of the year to go. 
Mad really. 
But "what has it done to the chart Dave?" ( with apologies to Dave Gorman's Important Astrological Experiement). I'm glad you asked........
Needless to say after refilling the small amount of water we've used since the last lot of rain the tank just overflowed.......

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Weekend kitchen capers

Yesterday was warm and sunny (hurrah!) so we spent most of the day tidying the strimming and tidying the garden. I also cleared out another garden bed (mostly broad beans) and ran them though the garden mulcher (after saving the beans, of course!). I put a few buckets of these scraps into the composter, and the rest I dug into the beds along with some "moo poo". A quick water, then covered the beds with mulch. these will rest for a few weeks before planting out. This strategy seems to be working a treat - I peeled back the mulch on a bed I did a few weeks ago to plant some more beetroot, and the worms were all over the place. The beds were still lovely and moist as well.

In the endless quest to use up all the lemons, I also made a batch of lemon jelly marmalade (basically lemon marmalade without the peel)- sadly it only took 11 lemons to make 11 jars!

Lemon Jelly Marmalade:

Thinly slice 1kg lemons (use a mandolin if you have one) and soak overnight in 2.4l of water. Next day put the lemon/water mix in a pan and simmer for 1.5 hours. Strain the liquid and return to the pan (discard lemon bits). Add 2.4 (!!!!!!) kg sugar, and stir until dissolved. Boil until setting point is reached, pour into sterilised jars and seal.
I also made Nigel Slater's blueberry and pear cake - but without the pear and blueberry and with brambleberries.

  • 130g softened butter
  • 130g sugar
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 130g sifted plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon sifted baking powder
  • dash vanilla (optional)
  • berries or other fruit for the top
Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Grease and line a 20cm cake tin. Cream the butter and sugar, and then gradually add in eggs and the dash of vanilla if using. Stir in the flour and baking powder, and pour / spoon the batter into tin. Squish the berries (or any other fruit you fancy - apple and raspberry is lovely), into the top, and sprinkle with sugar if you like.  Bake for 55 minutes or until cooked through. Cool. Consume. Lovely.
 We will be having another slice tonight after our roast (local) lamb. Mmmmmmmmm more lovely

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Spring flowers

You can never have too many irises in the garden
  Cornflowers and apple blossom
 Flowering brambleberry - can't wait for them to turn into berries!
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