Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Fruit to be

 The peach tree in the veg patch is laden with fruit this year, in spite of a bit of curly leaf, and there are a few nectarines in the orchard as well.
The brambleberries have had a radical haircut so won't be incredibly productive this year, but they are flowering happily, As usual it's raspberry city (foreground)

 Red and black currants are looking good again this year
The mariposa plum is laden - although not as laden as it used to be - I didn't realise the chickens would eat off the green fruit at this stage. Oh well, live and learn. The 3 rhubarb patches are kicking along nicely and showing no signs of transplant stress
 This apricot tree doesn't look very inspiring, but there's plenty of fruit!

Friday, 21 October 2011

In the veg patch

 First salads of the season, and the nastirtium that just keep going all over winter in the frost-free bed
 The garlic is coming along well, as are the peas and broad beans.
Wild rocket that self seeded - far superior in taste and peppery-ness than arugula. Plus a new bed using some recycled plastic bed framing kit Jerry found on sale at Bunnings. because you can never have too many beds for growing things :-)
And finally a quick back garden remodel update - after a couple of weeks the grass seed has become baby grass

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Irises in the garden

The chickens followed me around while I took all these photos - in the hope that I might be making my way to their coop to give them some seed!

Monday, 17 October 2011

Cookbook of the month

I've taken up Gina's cookbook challenge, and I'm going to pick one cookbook each month to cook some new recipes from. It seemed like a good idea, and I have plenty of cookbooks to choose from!

This month it's my perennial favourite Nigel Slater (he may reappear often as I have most of his books!), and his excellent Kitchen Diaries. This book has my all-time favourite quick cake recipe, so it seemed a safe bet for some dinner inspiration.
Sunday nights in winter/spring are traditionally roast nights, so I had a nice 1/2 leg of local lamb to play with. 
Whizz up 4 cloves of garlic, a big handful of mint, the juice of 2 lemons and several good pinches of cumin seeds, add olive oil until it's just slushy enough to spread on the lamb without running off. Cut 3 or 4 deep cuts through the lamb - even into the flesh a bit. Massage the "slush" all over the meat, and make sure you get it into the cuts as well. Leave in a cool place (not the fridge) for about an hour, occasionally spooning over any marinade that's slipped off. Roast. Consume. Sigh with pleasure.
Jerry's verdict? " You wouldn't get a better roast in a restaurant"
Thanks Nigel S, once again you've made me look like a domestic goddess :-)

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Water chestnuts from Erica

Erica, a forum buddy, sent me some water chestnuts this week (swapped for some scarlet runner bean seeds) - thanks Erica!  Here they are in their new home, a laundry sink we "rescued" from the tip. The bit of branch is to provide a pathway for the frogs so they don't get stuck in there and drown.
Jerry also resized one of our garden beds that was too wide for my short arms - it's now much easier to reach across, and will be perfect for a corn crop as soon as it's warm enough to plant. Soil temps here are still around the 12-15 degree mark, too cool for many things so I'm having to resist the urge to go on a planting frenzy!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Ashmolean Dining Room, Oxford

You might know that earlier this year I spent 10 weeks in the UK for work (well, there was a bit of holiday at the beginning!). It was my first time back after 5 years of being home, and it was lovely to see friends and family again (hello friends and family!). I thought for a change of pace I'd do a few posts about my travels to intersperse with the regular gardening/cooking routine.

I spent my last weekend before flying home with my brother-in-law and my soon to be world famous author sister-in-law and my nephews in Oxfordshire. It was glorious, sunny and hot and we had a lovely time. I took myself up to Oxford one day for a last look around and a trip to the Ashmolean. It has been completely renovated since we left, and it's just stunning. There's so much light, and I love the interior use of glass - the exhibits have great new displays and the interpretive info is extremely good too.

To top off the decadence of a hot sunny day in Oxford (it got to 30) I treated myself to lunch at the Ashmolean Dining Room, on the top floor of the museum. Fortunately there was a table just inside the door so I could look out on the roof terrace and the view, but still be in the shade, and enjoy the breeze.
Some lovely sourdough bread with olive oil and butter to enjoy with a glass of wine while I was waiting for my char-grilled octopus with rocket and parmesan salad to arrive. Delicious and tender, and just perfect for a summer day.
But it is the dessert that I remember with the most fondness. A to-die-for strawberry and vanilla custard tart. I would love to find a recipe to reproduce it - the custard in particular which almost had the consistency of whipped cream - gloopy but without the gelatin-y "stodginess" that this kind of custard can have. Flecked with vanilla bean, it was the perfect foil for the strawberries. The pastry was light and almost flaky. I'm almost drooling just remembering how tasty it was!

Monday, 10 October 2011

Quick solar update

On average over the last 2 weeks we've been exporting 10kWh per day - max of 15 and min of 2. In total we've produced 133 kWh in that time, and exported 112 of them. Since the meter has been installed and we've been on the new tariff (2 weeks) we estimate that we're cost neutral one electricity - including the standing charges for just having a power supply. Of course, we have to buy in power at night and for the old hot water service (off peak), but that is a lot cheaper (17c/10c).

We're pretty happy with the results we're getting so far (although of course there's the very large hit of installing the system in the first place) - and the novelty of daily meter readings hasn't worn off yet!!

In other news Freddie has made it his personal mission to flatten out the topsoil on the ex-front garden bed :-)

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Got my bread making mojo back

Hurrah! A loaf of sourdough I'm happy with! I pretty much followed the no knead bread recipe featured in the NY Times a few years ago, but added the starter (my new one) in the first step. It has a fantastic flavour, and the chewy crust we like. The only issue is that it was, I think, still a bit 'damp' so next time I'll reduce the water. It was a bit of a gamble as I didn't know how much water to remove to compensate for the water content of the starter.
In other good news, while we were away our new bidirectional meter was installed (only took a week - what's the story SPAusnet? :-)  ), and on wednesday the electricity company confirmed they'd received our tariff acceptance, so our solar is installed, running and making us money. From signing the order and paying the deposit to now it's been less than 2 months. We'll be eligible for the 60c feed-in tariff until 2024. Gotta be happy with that! In the past week we've fed in around 58kWh. Stay tuned - I'm sure there will be a chart or 2 coming up once I have a few months of meter readings :-)

We also took delivery of an important part of our "let the grass win" veg garden and orchard strategy - a Fiskar's momentum reel mower. Funky looking eh? It's still a bit wet (we've had over 70mm rain in the past 3 days) to give it a really good test, but we had a play with it today and I think it will be great. I really like the fact that the wheels are behind so there's no missed bits of mowing under the wheels, and it gets really close to the edges of things, It's light to push, quiet, and - even better - it throws the clippings forward so it kinda mulches the clippings as it goes and doesn't give you grassy feet. Will certainly be quieter, more fun and more environmentally friendly to use than the strimmer / whipper snipper. But no, we're not planning to mow the "home farm" acre+ with it ... although we probably could, but the ride-on is more fun for Jerry.

 Hope everyone is having a great weekend!
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