Another year has ticked over.

It keeps happening, turn around, blink, lose focus for a minute and another year has passed. It seems amazing that our baby grandson has now turned one year old and his brother will be turning 3 in January. We are so lucky to not only have these 2 little tackers in our lives, but we are extremely fortunate in that they live close enough for us to get to enjoy them often.

Such a cutie, but starting to demonstrate some extremely strong straits of determination and stubbornness.   Just the thing to get through this maze of life. His mum (my daughter) doesn’t do many cakes these days, a shame as I think she has an amazing talent. This blue whale white chocolate fudge cake managed to turn everybody’s mouths blue as well as look stunning.Both the boys love getting out into the garden, a sure-fire way to soothe a bad mood and redirect anxiety when necessary. A special little basket makes collecting and harvesting a real delight. Then there are questions to be answered, goals to strive for when things catch your eye. Made it!The freesia are huge this year, late-blooming but superb.One of my favourite flowers in the garden are these irises. I absolutely love them and look forward to their short display every season. These are another re-housed lot of bulbs from my sisters place that they lifted before moving. Thanks Margaret.

After an adventure outside it’s back inside to an afternoon tea of sourdough French Toast and a cuppa. On the bread front, these are some baguettes I baked for the 1st birthday party. Colour is a little uneven as I tried to fit too many on the oven shelf. Tasted great though. I’ve never made bagels before, in fact the closest I’ve ever been to a bagel is the ones I’ve seen mentioned on the tele in New York delis and movies. I’m expecting a quite dense and chewy result but we’ll see.I managed to get summer vegetable seeds planted for germination last week, hopefully they will go well and the weather will be a bit consistent for a change. Just have to wait and see I suppose.

Very happy to see the first asparagus for the season appearing. It really must be Spring!

 

Elderflowers and pomegranates.

Well this first pic has absolutely nothing to do with pomegranates or elderflowers but I always get excited when I play with compost. We are starting to sort out the area down the west side of the house where the clothesline is and up until now I’ve had one of my 6 compost bins there. This needed to be moved to make way for a couple of garden beds for espaliers and so we can put toppings on the ground. This is the area I mean. The espaliered pear on the left is the one I planted in 2012 before we moved in. This is the thumbnail pic of way back then. So anyway, compost out of the way, now Mr ATMT could get busy building beds and shovelling crushed rock. Just about tamed this area now and the soil certainly smells a whole lot better than it did when we started out. It doesn’t look anywhere near as ‘nursing home’ as this in reality! Trust me.

This is the area when we purchased. No sunlight had touched the house for years and everything was mouldy, damp, smelly and even though it had that ‘old world charm’ feel to it it was pretty gross. We also had fencing installed between us and our immediate neighbour.

So on to elderflowers and pomegranates!

One of the first things I planted was what I had bought as an elderflower plant. The goal was to screen and offer protection from summer afternoon sun to the chook house and to create wonderful cordials and beverages. Sadly this plant has only reached one of these objectives. It has worked extremely well protecting the chook house but sadly not one berry to be had and the cordial I made from the (very pretty) flowers tasted of freshly chopped grass. Time to rethink me thinks.

I’ve started the cut back here so the winter sun can reach the chook house. This plant shoots back amazingly well.

This pic shows the floret remains where berries should form, or so I think. These are the very pretty flowers that adorn the bush prolifically but according to some lovely visitors we had at our food gardens open day, they didn’t have the right fragrance. They were quite experienced in elderflowers apparently so I’ve started to wonder if we actually have a legitimate variety. Further investigation to take place now as I love the idea of elderflower champagne.  I planted a little pomegranate bush near the doors of the greenhouse last season and it is just going nuts. I absolutely love everything about pomegranates, and will be beside myself if we actually get to harvest a homegrown one. The bush has been continually in flower for a  while so Ive been giving the flowers a tickle with a little paint brush between male and female flowers in the hope pollination will be more successful. Well, lookie here! I do believe we may actually have a baby pom in the making. I’ve found another 2 now so these are going to be watched closely to see what evolves. I have such fond memories of fresh pomegranate juice at all the roadside stalls throughout Turkey.

And a couple of tag alongs!

The coriander I have been drying to save seed from is now ready to be thrashed to separate the seeds. I always feel a little bit clever when something so easy takes place. I get better results growing it for seed than I do as a herb as it just seems to bolt quickly. The grapes in the berry house are turning in colour. These grapes taste of passionfruit and are absolutely delicious. Just need to make sure there are absolutely no little points of access for the birds who think they are delicious too. Then there is this! I planted some pumpkin seeds I had saved from a perfectly normal looking butternut pumpkin and this is whats growing. I’m going to let it continue and see what evolves, it may be something stunning. We’ll wait and see. So that’s the little catch up, if you have any knowledge about elderflowers varieties, pomegranates or dodgy looking pumpkin plants I’d love to hear from you.

End of Summer season in the patch

I take my hat off to all our dedicated food growers, especially those who are committed to growing organically. It’s when we have seasons like this I can’t help but wonder how this nation ever got off the ground at all!

As the summer season comes to a close I’ve been trying to sort out the veggie garden to have it ready for some serious, more dedicated growing throughout the year.

I started by moving the 2 compost bins that were in the area where we have just moved a small outbuilding from. This area will become a courtyard and I don’t really want to look out the kitchen window to the bins. The bin made from wire and lined with weed mat contains last seasons leaf mulch and it’s not quite ready to use. I need to work out where this years leaf bin will go. This area does become a natural collection point for the english oak leaves so it can’t be too far away. I will have to move the little blood orange that you can see in the front. This was being espaliered on the wall of the building we moved, so it may end up against the fence.I have previously mentioned how when you clear the compost you discover insidious bits of plastic that you didn’t know you had. Here you can see the remains of a spinach box. I bought it in a box thinking it was plastic free, but as with so many packaged items the plastic is hidden. GRRRR!You can also see here that the paper vacuum cleaner bag still has a bit of decomposing to do. I will just put that into the relocated bin. I am cutting back needing to use bags in the vacuum as I now have a barrel unit that can be emptied directly into the compost (unless it has bits of glass etc in it). The big vac with bags will be used much less frequently.From these 2 compost bins I got enough compost to top dress the big 6 meter long wicking bed and the 3 smaller wicking beds as well as give the orange tree a really good top-dressing.As  always, our last chook Rene was on hand as oversee to the works!

Last men standing.

I removed all of the tomato plants that were passed it and their remains have been put on the bed that will be where corn will be grown next summer. I really should remake this box as it was put together as a temporary bed when we first moved in, but it still has another season in it I think.The remaining tomato plants in this big bed, have had exclusion bags put on the last fruit and I will be planting a green manure crop of mustard seed and assorted seeds that are well beyond their prime and that I am unlikely to plant here. I keep  saying I will rest this bed for a season, but space is just too precious. I guarantee I will still end up using half of the bed for something!I have had marginally more success with pumpkins this season, but they are still not what I would have a hurrah over. The plants that were not going to give any return have also been pulled and put on the pile with the spent tomato plants and I’ve let the ones still performing in, hoping that they will develop and mature some more.There are quite a few small ones still developing but I don’t think they will develop enough  before the cool weather hits. They are pretty though!Remember my experiment of trained versus free range tomatoes? This is a couple of pics of the issues I had with free ranging tomatoes. I don’t think I’ll try that again!

The big success this season is our grapevine, this is performing really well and these grapes are delicious! Although it is a slip grape, supposedly for winemaking, it tastes like passionfruit and we use them just for nibbling on. They do have a few pips but I don’t  mind that.

There are still a few jobs to do but I really enjoyed getting back out into the garden and claiming some thinking time as I worked.

Sourdough

This is a pic of my rye dough that decided it wanted to take over the world. I thought the overnight temperature was going to be quite a bit cooler than it turned out to be, so I gambled on leaving it out on the bench overnight. The lid was nearly at right angles before I removed it! Fortunately I saved it in time and managed to produce some lovely loaves of 50% rye and 50% organic Laucke T55 white flour. The tang in these is amazing!So now I have to decide on what my next ‘get back in control’ jobs will be in the garden. Well, everywhere I think!

Trifle. Or is it just a cake in a glass bowl?

It all started a few weeks ago when I was clearing out cupboards and posted on Instagram and Facebook a call for ways to use some old crystal bowls I have and am never likely to use for a number of reasons.

CrystalThat horrible dilemma when you really don’t like something, you can’t imagine ever using them again but they do have sentimental value and aren’t worth anything to sell. Some have been wedding or engagement presents and  have emotional ties.  If I gave them away I would prefer they go to someone I know or who is part of the family. I don’t usually have any issues discarding things I cannot see value in keeping, but these have worked their way into and under my skin. I think it stems from being brought up thinking these things were ‘the good’ stuff only to be used for special times and they demonstrated we weren’t poor when people came to dine.

I had many interesting responses on what to do with them or how to repurpose them, ideas such as creating some garden ornaments similar to these,

crystal-garden-ornaments

or a bird feeder like this,

crystal-bird-feeder

or even as pretty vessels for burning tea light candles in.

crystal-tea-light-holder

There was even a suggestion some could be used as the missile for the annual smashing  of our Christmas gingerbread house (cheers Stuart). That, I wasn’t going to entertain! Glass in the grass is not good when you don’t wear shoes.

Then came the trifle ideas, many voted that the larger bowl was definitely a candidate for trifle to be served in. My niece is a really good cook and sent me a couple of links for some nice sounding recipes, one was a limoncello one that looked pretty good. Celia reminded me she had a recipe on her blog that was easy as well as delicious and Francesca said she had a whole book dedicated to trifle and would like to send it to me. The selection in this book has to been seen to be believed, I will revisit this in the future I think.

img_0678I’m not convinced about trifle, childhood memories still make me gag at the thought. I hate custard, not the good stuff like creme pat, but the packet or store-bought goo labelled as custard. I also have memories of soggy peaches stuck into horrible, grainy  cake that tasted like sawdust. I do remember though that I liked the jelly and cream, especially if it was a nice dark jelly like port wine etc. Convinced by my cheer squad that a good trifle is great and I should go for it, I decided that my quest was to create a trifle to share with guests at our Australia Day BBQ. The research began and I must have looked at 100’s of recipes but could not decide on a finalist. I started to see the pattern of ingredients emerge so I winged it, convinced we would end up with yet another soggy, grainy mess.

Basically I was making a black forest cake in glass bowl.

This was my concept,

  • Layers of chocolate cake which had been sprinkled with booze which is traditionally kirsch in a BFC.
  • Thin Layer of  chocolate mousse
  • Layer of cherry jelly made using the juice from canned cherries and a splash of booze
  • Layer of black cherries
  • layer of whipped cream

Pretty simple  really. So this is how I did it, I made a jelly using the juice from the 2 cans of black cherries thickening it with corn flour and throwing in a splash of rum.

I made a simple chocolate mousse but thinned it down slightly so it wasn’t too thick. This was the alternative to custard part of the creation.

Annabelle Langbein’s Ultimate Chocolate Cake was baked  in 2 small round tins rather than one big springform tin.

Cream whipped, what can go wrong?

My cake was cut and ready to start assembling the layers in the bowl  but not unexpectedly, I had not been able to get Kirsch at any of the bottle shops. My next option was Cherry Brandy but no, not available either. I considered making cherry juice but gave that a miss. I took a leap of faith and decided to use some white rum as we had a supply of it in the cupboard. So here we have my Black Forest Rum Chocolate Trifle.

But look at the bowl………………..please ignore the creamy smudge. I know you wouldn’t notice it if I’d used the cut crystal but that’s karma I guess.

Chocolate Black forest Trifle After all of that I just couldn’t bring myself to use the crystal. I just don’t like it but I do think it might make a nice bird feeder! This was a winner with all of our guests, people could take a small spoonful portion or dig in and take as much as wanted. The rum was an absolute winner and I think that will be repeated if I make this again. There was no graininess, just boozey, chocolatey, creamy, rich yumminess. Now, a couple of days later the flavour and texture has improved even more. Verdict by Mr ATMT is that it was a cake in a glass bowl, a delicious cake in a glass bowl, but not a trifle. My internal psyche must have overruled I think.

Here are a few of our Australia Day BBQ snaps. Beautiful afternoon, great people and some great food for sharing. As well as my Black Forest Chocolate Trifle I made a Pavlova and peeking in the background is a lammington roll that a friend brought along.DessertsI baked a selection of sourdough breads. From L to R, baguette, baguette, sesame loaf, tomato paste, thyme and feta, baguette, caramelised onion and parmesan loaf (DELICIOUS) and a roast tomato focaccia. I believe the focaccia was great but the vultures devoured it too quickly to sample.img_2247 I was going to say we are so lucky to have such a beautiful area to share these events with family and friends, but it is mostly due to some very hard work on our part to create this space. Australia Day 2017

All worthwhile and we are lucky, very lucky.

 

 

 

 

 

So, 2017. What is planned?

We knew 2016 was going to be a big year and it was. Our first grandchild (I cannot believe he turns 1 on Saturday), a wedding, an overseas trip to Greece and Turkey, our exteno close to finished. In what was an unplanned and somewhat hasty move I decided to pull the plug on a job that was sending me nuts. Best decision I could have made and most importantly, yes, I have a kitchen. A kitchen with everything in the same room, an oven bigger than a pocket handkerchief and a space that is a delight to work and entertain in.

img_1617  Consequently, I find that I am spending a huge amount of time ‘playing’ in this new space. I do struggle some days trying to justify my ‘playtime’, but then remind myself that it has been a very long time since I have had the opportunity to really enjoy being in the kitchen. I love the fact I don’t have to get anxious about fitting whatever I decide to make into a tight timeline but can cruise and enjoy. That is a little hard to get used to but I’m practicing a lot at getting it right!

Because of this my vegetable garden has also been a bit neglected but things seem to be taking care of themselves pretty well considering. A bit of water has been splashed around on those really hot days but the wicking beds seem to be doing their job well. The basic food stuffs are growing  and starting to bear,  tomatoes, capsicum, eggplant, cucumber, pumpkins, chills, beans and herbs. I must add some salad greens next week. I made this little video doing a tour of the veggie patch.

 

So what are the plans for 2017?

Painting is definitely up there. The windows, both new and old all need painting. Mr ATMT is planning on cracking on with painting the outside of the house and that is huge.

We are heading to New Zealand for  4 weeks a little later in the year so I am looking forward to eating (and drinking) our way around both islands at our own leisure.

As always there will be tinkering in the garden with setting up a couple of new areas, moving an old building (the visiting dentist’s room) to create a courtyard off the kitchen and tarting up the front yard a bit.

Bread-lots more bread! I really want to focus on developing more and more skill with sourdough baking. I am concentrating on milling my own grains, using lower hydration starters and creating more baked goods using sourdough. Things such as muffins, pastries, crackers (dry biscuits) and more. These are some sourdough croissants,

15936863_10155014395349455_8363030558073077763_oThese loaves are made using my home milled whole wheat and blending it with organic white flour.15800610_10155009828704455_2292718470782370349_oI have so many friends who want me to do some classes that I need to plan and work out the logistics of how this can happen.

I also want to get back into cheesemaking. I won a few awards at the Red Hill Show many years ago and have done intensive study at Gilbert Chandler University in Werribee. We dug out these old awards when moving ‘stuff’ out of the dentists room we are moving.cheese-awardsI stopped making cheese for a couple of reasons, due to arthritis I had undergone joint fusion in my fingers so I was a bit nervous about lifting 20 litre containers of hot liquid without incident, it was overtaking our home (the old home), kitchen, lounge-room and garage and the family were having to live around all of the paraphernalia and then there was the change in health regs and it became increasingly difficult to source a milk supply from local dairy farmers. This last point is going to be a challenge still, as many of the dairy farmers have opted out of dairying due to the hammering they got from major supermarkets squeezing the cost down to a point where it was just not viable. I would never be able to sell my cheese but is a process I loved doing and friends and family that ate the results loved it. Ah, our nanny state……. one wonders how Europeans have survived for so long.

These things along with spending time with our delightful little fella will take up more time than I imagine now. I might fit in a bit of work too, who knows what the wind will blow in?

 

 

 

 

 

A quick whip around the patch.

I haven’t done a post for a while on what’s happening in the veggie patch/garden. This is most likely because I haven’t really been doing much out there. With us now being into the third season of establishing the garden, we are finding that it is much more about maintenance rather than building new areas. We are still working on developing paths, contemplation spots and have yet to start tackling the front yard so it won’t be all sit back and relax for a while yet.

Peeking into the greenhouse.

I have a couple of sugar baby watermelon seedlings that appear to be happy and growing well. These may just take over the entire greenhouse!

Sugar baby watermelon
Sugar baby watermelon

One of last years capsicum has over-wintered well and is throwing flowers with some baby caps appearing, this is much earlier than usual.

Capsicum flowering
Capsicum flowering

I have taken some cuttings from the perennial Rocoto chilli and these seem to be quite successful. I’ve used the method similar to planting laterals that are removed from tomatoes that grow so well.

Rocoto cutting
Rocoto cutting

There is a flower on the mature Rocoto Chilli. It was very rude and wouldn’t look at the camera!

Rocoto flower
Rocoto flower

Out in the Patch

The flowers on my Souvenir de la malmaison rose have suffered badly from the excessive amounts of rain we have experienced but it is growing nicely.

Souvenir de la Maison Rose
Souvenir de la malmaison Rose

I have however, had some good results from the roses in the laneway but I didn’t get a good photo. The lilac is magnificent! First time flowering this year and I am in love.

Lilac
Lilac

This years garlic crop is looking terrific.

Garlic 2016
Garlic 2016

The shiitake mushrooms are giving the best yield in quite a few years. I think the high rain and humidity is just what they demand.

Shiitake
Shiitake

I have some baby figs, YAY!

img_0045and some baby apples.

Apple babies
Apple babies

This button lettuce is proving to be a lovely variety. It is working well as a ‘pick as you need’ lettuce and bounces back quickly. The silver beet and kale behind it is all that remains from the last planting. I need space for tomatoes!

img_0059In the berry house, the raspberries, loganberries and thornless blackberries are all flowering profusely.

Berry house
Berry house

and the grapevine is starting to cover the climbing frame on the roof well with lots of grape clusters evident.

Grape vine
Grape vine

I have some pretty little daisies that bees and hoverflies just love and it is making me smile every time I see it.

Happy daisies
Happy daisies

All in all, it’s looking pretty good.

img_9909I trimmed a lot of the parsley stalks that were threatening to seed, picked some lemons from our new tree, found some beetroot I didn’t know about (too woody for roasting but I think it will be ok as a dip), some new potatoes, some self sown garlic, mint and herbs and we had enough to throw into a salsa verde for tea.

Harvest pickings
Harvest pickings

A  peek in the new bedroom.

I have decided that I will now continue working in one room at a time and it will be completely finished before I move onto the next (please remind me of my pledge when I stray). We always seem to fall into the trap of saying “we will get back to that” and it takes a very long time to get back, but no more. I am absolutely going to follow through on this! This is the new spare (guest) bedroom that was part of the exteno. Painting is almost finished, carpet is booked for laying,

img_1023We have rehung the old kitchen door on this room and that needs to be repaired and painted. Mr ATMT did the skirting in the robe space this afternoon so that now needs painting. I absolutely love this colour. The walls are Taubman’s Raincloud and the ceiling and trim is Dulux Classic White. img_1024 I have almost finished painting the window and it is looking great. The radiator that was in the old room before demolition has been cleaned and polished. This was pain, one of those jobs where you use a knitting needle with a cloth over the end to get into all the little nooks and crannies but worth it.img_1022I am already becoming aware while I write, that there will be one unfinished part of this room and that is internal fit out of the wardrobe. We will use a set of the shelving units we had in the temporary kitchen  I think. They are really good and will leave some options for the final design.

What jobs do you leave until you put the house on the market?

2 weeks in 1-Melbourne, Gardivalia and some theatrical “Cultcha”!

Well, so much for slowly getting into this not working caper! I have been so busy I am exhausted. As a little treat to myself for finishing work, I headed off to Melbourne for 3 nights to check out some places I have wanted to see and experience for a while. First was to sort out somewhere to stay. My focus was on going to food shops, in particular those with middle eastern and european specialities, looking at stores who supply bulk foods with no packaging, checking out options for ovens I can use when I begin sourdough making classes and visiting CERES, Collingwood Childrens’ Farm and a couple of markets. Most of these were more towards the north side of the city central (which I wanted to stay away from) so I booked an Air BnB in Fitzroy North. The apartment was in Barkly St, just a stones throw from everything I needed. It was scrupulously clean, in a quiet location and met my requirements beautifully.

I am embarrassed to say that even though I grew up in Preston, I had never been to the Abbotsford Convent. It was a very wet and rainy day so it was a bit ‘spooky’ walking among these imposing buildings as no one else was around.img_9553The convent was established in 1863 as a refuge for women in need. It was developed on land that had been subdivided as ‘gentlemen farmlets’ near the junction of the Merri Creek and Yarra river. By 1900 the Convent was the largest charitable institution operating in the southern hemisphere. It was one of the largest Catholic complexes in Australia and at its peak, over 1,000 women and children lived behind its enclosed walls. There were vegetable and fruit gardens, dairy and poultry farms and a piggery. Income to buy what could not be grown or made on site was generated through lace-making and commercial laundry services. I bet there are a lot of interesting stories to be told about what went on living here.

img_9550Some beautiful buildings and gardens are to be seen. Love these chimneys!img_9551The bakery at the convent is still in use.img_9552A massive stained glass window upstairs in the historical section.img_9544Love seeing these old buildings still showing signs of their former lives.img_9556 A quick walk over the road takes you to the Collingwood Childrens’ Farm. Set on the bend of the Yarra river, this is a stunning example of food productivity, biodiversity, agriculture, permaculture principles, and offers education (in particular to students) to those who never have the opportunity to see how food actually ‘happens’. It was extremely wet and miserable this day, this is a pic while I’m peeking out from under my umbrella! All the school kids were leaving in droves, driven out by the rain. I didn’t mind.

Collingwood Childrens' FarmCERES-Centre for Education and Research in Environmental Strategies

CERES is a short drive away from the Abbotsford Convent. CERES (pronounced ‘series’) is a place where people come together to share ideas about living well together, and directly participate in meeting their social and material needs in a sustainable way. Through social enterprises, education and training, employment and community engagement, CERES provides the means by which people can build awareness of current local and global issues, and join in the movement for economic, social and environmental sustainability. This is done in a number of ways, education, by doing demonstrations and showing examples and by taking education programs on the road to schools. It is a great use of space on the easement under the power lines that supply Melbourne and surrounds with electricity.

img_9532 Great classroom!img_9534 There is also an organic store where you can purchase items in bulk, BYO container or bag. I was quite surprised at the extremely  high cost of these items. I also visited Source Bulk Foods in Sydney Rd Brunswick (as part of seeking out plastic free packaging suppliers) and decided that at more than double the price of nuts available at Dandenong Market and from our own local “The Nut Bloke” (who will also let me fill my own container), it is a no brainer. Stay local!img_9539After I had wandered around CERES, I headed towards Brunswick to see how much I could buy at the amazing array of food shops that are scattered right along Sydney Road from Coburg right back to Brunswick. I was very self controlled and only bought some cheese and pasta and Mediterranean Wholesalers Sydney Rd Brunswick. I wasn’t so well controlled at BAS  Food Imports, or Kahvecioglu in Campbellfield that I went to the following day. Kahvecioglu is one Turkish food supply store I will definitely be returning to. I forgot to take photos of my purchases so I will have to do this as part of IMK this month.

Some “Cultcha”.

Every year we make sure we support our local amateur dramatic society (TADS) by going along to their annual production. This year their play was ‘What the Bride Wore’. I love these events and wish I had a little more confidence as I have a secret hankering to be involved. It is real ‘nuts and bolts’ theatre, good fun and a very good way of catching up with some locals we don’t see often. Well done guys.tads The following day we had the pleasure of seeing a slightly more refined production presented by the Off The Leash Theatre Company. We were lucky enough to see a play called Milo’s Wake. Milo planned his own wake before he dies so he can participate in it. The wake is complete with an Irish Band who sing and play and there is the opportunity to join in a few songs. I was blown away with this play, the script is powerful, every emotion is presented and it hits you hard. The acting was first class and the music was a great feature. So proud to know we have such talented local theatre groups putting on such high calibre productions. I was going to say there is a performance on the 30th at the Railway Hotel Drouin, but I see that’s sold out. Brilliant!

milos-wake

Gardivalia

This weekend we participated in the open food gardens weekend as part of Gardivalia in conjunction with the Baw Baw Sustainability Network (BBSN). The weather was atrocious yesterday but we still had some brave people turn up. Today was much better, the rain had eased, wind had dropped and we had a good attendance. You meet some lovely people doing these events and I even managed to cope with doing an interview with ABC Gippsland. Very brave indeed!

Our mascot with his shower cap on!img_9912 img_9907 img_9904 img_990132mls of rain yesterday, not conducive to having people go out and look at gardens. Thanks to those that did take the time to visit us, we loved having you.

 

 

Weekend Wrap-Garden, Sustainable Living, Sourdough

I always feel as though I’ve taken the easy way out when I use ‘Weekend Wrap’ as a post title, but it really does sum up everything quite accurately for this post. I’ve touched on a little bit of everything this weekend, in the garden, sustainable living, sourdough bread and cooking.

Garden Wrap

We have several compost bins strategically placed around the yard, so that when they are full the contents can be spread easily. This, in theory is good, but because the wicking beds in the veggie patch needed a good topdressing, I had to use compost from the bin in the veggie patch as well as raid some from the bin in our Easterly garden bed.Compost-Geddye binThis compost bin sits  hidden (almost) and I used most of its contents topping up the wicking beds in the veggie patch and then spread the rest over this bed. We have relocated the bin a little further up the bed for the process to start over and will do the same again next year.Compost readyNeed a little something to quickly fill this fence space! I love the way the compost just oozes new life into the soil.Compost spreadThis is a barrow full of compost from the bin within the veggie patch. Sorry, the light is a bit harsh! The 4 barrows from this bin went to the rhubarb, potatoes, asparagus bed and garlic bed which will house the tomatoes in a few weeks. img_9353The potato bath filled up.img_9371Rhubarb that looks like it could take over the world!Make a caption!And the very obvious evidence as to why we should avoid single use plastic rears its head. This shows just how plastic stays intact in the process of composting. I try to avoid single use plastic, but it still sneaks into my life, sometimes invisibly. Interestingly, a fair chunk of this comes from ‘eco’ coffee cups.img_9380After shovelling all that compost I needed a little ergonomic break, so the hammock had its first workout for the season. It was a stunning day yesterday and everything was glowing in the garden.img_9384 img_9391 My brother-in-law gave me some native orchids last year and I was thrilled to see how this Dendrobium is settling in. I love these orchids and do a little ‘happy dance’ every time I look at the beautiful flowers stemming from it.img_9393

A bit of sustainable living.

I try to avoid single use plastic as much as possible and as hard as I try, I find it quite difficult getting local retailers to fill a BYO container or bag. I was thrilled when visiting the Yarragon market yesterday that the lovely people at “The Nut Bloke” were more than happy to accommodate me and put my purchases into my bags that have now been going for about 6 years with no signs of failing yet.Plastic free shoppingWhen we first started planting the garden out four years ago I put in a blood orange tree. Well this tree has struggled and struggled and I’ve kept up the vigil with TLC and lots of chook poo as a bonus. Well, this year we had a harvest, yes, a harvest. Might only be 1 orange but it is juicy, well-shaped and it has some ‘specks’ of blood in it. img_9410 Unfortunately, I think the tree will have to be moved due to a change of plans with the garden bed its in, so I celebrate this harvest in a completely appropriate manner. img_9417I can highly recommend blood orange in a glass of bubbly!

Sourdough Bread and Baking

For a long time I have read about using sourdough discard from feeding starter to make sourdough crackers (dry biscuits to me). I finally gave it a crack using the recipe from the King Arthur Flour Website. I collected discard for a couple of weeks (Kept in fridge), and as simple as mixing 1 cup flour, 1 cup sourdough discard, 1/4 cup butter, pinch salt and 2 tablespoons herbs we had wonderful crackers/dry biscuits.

img_9400I added finely chopped rosemary and would HIGHLY recommend giving this a try. I can see so many variations popping up in my mind for flavour variations of these.sourdough crackersMy bread bakes today was a high hydration/low inoculation (%starter) white loaf. Had to rush a bit to get into the oven but it was great. Light crumb, great crust (forget I dropped it from the oven at the halfway mark!). The loaf on the left is a little under-proofed due to the rush, the loaf on the right is a little over-proofed (and dented) because I had to go out.img_9404Crumb shot of the slightly under-proofed loaf. Still good enough to go with the plate of ‘nibbles’ we put togetherRainy Day Loafcrumb The weather had turned from Spring Glory back to Winter, so for the first time during the day this year, we lit the fire, sipped the bubbly with the blood orange fruit added, and feasted on the sourdough crackers (dry biscuits), soft sourdough bread, some King Island Brie, some French Blue, cheese, home-made pickled onions, some delicious prosciutto from Stellas Pantry in Warragul (they also fill BYO containers), a leftover grilled chorizo sausage sliced up and some Mersey Valley Tasty cheese. CompostAnd I didn’t even nod off after this indulgence! How was your weekend?

Catch up post. Kombucha among other things.

Well it was time to do the taste test! My first batch of kombucha had been bottled for a second fermentation which I had read creates better carbonation, 2 bottles with some ginger added and 1 plain.

KombuchaI had read that kombucha can be pretty explosive on opening, so I decided to do this outside. Good decision!img_9281This is the trail of exploded KB over the side path. Haven’t seen something like that since the kids were home and had partied hard! I probably should have taken heed of the people who recommend refrigerating the bottles before opening. I’ll take that on board for the next batch.kombuchaThis what remained in the bottle after the explosive opening.Ginger kombuchaI can say though, I loved the flavour. The slight ginger overtones were wonderful and it was bubbly and refreshing.

For a wander through the patch.

It feels like an eon since I’ve played in my veggie patch, probably because it is. We are opening again for the food gardens section of Gardivalia this year so I had better pull my finger out and get things in order.

AsparagusThere are signs of life coming from the asparagus bed,Crimson broad beansthe crimson broad beans my brother-in-law gave me look so pretty,Broad beansand the normal ones are in flower too.coriander growingWhen I was sorting out moving stuff from the temporary kitchen to the new kitchen I threw some old coriander seed into this bed and hopefully it will keep growing. I don’t have much luck with coriander so fingers crossed.De la mal maison roseThe souvenir de la mal maison climbing rose I planted last year near the green house is in bud. I can’t wait to see these bloom, one of my favourites.leaf mold compostI spread one of the  leaf mold towers we had breaking down for the last 12 months over this bed, I now need to choose a spot for the next one to be placed. So easy just removing the wire and spreading the lush conditioner over the bed.

BREAD

I’m finally getting a handle on how the new oven operates and made some oat porridge bread. Here is the oats cooking (on a real stove top!) waiting to cool to add to the dough.Oat porridge breadThis one of the 3 loaves I made. I used the recipe from the delightful Maurizio’s site and although once again, it’s not as pretty as his. I’m quite happy with the result. Oat Porridge sourdough breadCrumb shot! Not as fine as Maurizio’s but I didn’t mind.Crumb shot oat porridge sourdough.With spring in the air and me officially finishing work I hope to be able to get a bit more in control and do some finishing off of all our half started jobs.

Making do in the kitchen! Hot air balloon flight-Tick!

I have not been that motivated to do much since we returned from our holiday in the balmy summer warmth of the Mediterranean. I’d never understood why people head to warmer parts over winter, but I can now see why.  One bright and sunny thing we have going on is that our oranges are ready for picking to give us a daily serve of juice. These oranges are sweet but with a degree of tartness which I like to give you a bit of a zing.IMG_8488With the imminent move into the new kitchen, I’ve been trying to avoid shopping for much, as we will soon have to move everything from the makeshift kitchen to the new kitchen (never thought it would happen!). This means the fridge and freezer will need to be cleaned out and defrosted and all pantry items sorted through and some culled. So there has been a few “make do” meals happening rather than throwing things out. Breakfast today was sourdough pancakes with maple syrup, lemon and sugar, fresh juice and a lovely cup of tea. Didn’t use much in the way of pantry surplus, but it did mean I could use the sourdough starter that would normally be discarded. These pancakes are always so light. To make the batter I use approximately 1 cup 100% sourdough (SD) starter, about 3/4 cup of SR flour, a generous tablespoon of sugar, one egg and enough milk to mix to whatever consistency you prefer.IMG_8491Our first breakfast in the almost finished new family room. The pancakes look a little wonky but were fine.IMG_8493As I work through using (or chucking) anything in the freezer that should go, I’ve found that the ‘toy oven’ put on a very low setting is a great place to start the defrosting process. The item then goes back into the fridge to avoid contamination as it completes the defrosting process. I have some lamb chops defrosting on the top of the oven here. I also ran out of my normal bread flour so I am using up whatever is to hand. This Italian flour was used to make a loaf scored to resemble a sunflower about to open.IMG_8480It is quite pretty, not necessarily like a sunflower, but pretty. Sunflower loafThe chops were grilled with a pomegranate molasses glaze. I served them with leftovers of a dish I made earlier in the week. Stuffed eggplant (vegetarian), a red pepper burgul salad and some obligatory mash. Sadly the chops were as tough as old boots! The rest however was  delicious.IMG_8495 It is that time of year where we are inundated with oak tree leaves falling. This is one of the collection points from last year where we had added manure, grass clippings and other organic ‘stuff’ throughout the year. What is in the barrow is the result, beautiful black, crumbly compost. I emptied this bin and re-assembled it for collection of this years leaves. Once it stops raining I can start re-filling it. I do run the mower over the leaves to  hasten breaking down.IMG_8478

Holiday snaps – Hot Air Balloon flight, Goreme Cappadocia.

I had thought that on our return I would be very organised and would carefully put together a series of posts in correct sequence of our journey across Greece & Turkey but I just haven’t, so I’m randomly putting up a few shots. These are a few of our hot air balloon flight across Goreme Cappadocia. It took quite a lot of self-help to get me onboard and I am thrilled that I did. Being among 90 hot air balloons up in the air at the same time was amazing. I was fine once I had clipped the safety harness on, which alleviated my fear of jumping out. Over at Almost Italian, Francesca has just posted about preferring to look up rather than down. I know we’ve touched on heights before but I am so pleased (and chuffed with myself) that I overcame the doubt and fear.

IMG_2649Sunrise in the sky at 4000 feet.IMG_7283Capadoccia hot air balloon IMG_7212 IMG_7225 IMG_7242 Landing. These guys actually pull you in and ‘park’ the basket on the back of the trailer. Skill levels and brawn that would astound you!IMG_7294I think I took about 400 photos during this flight. It is still too amazing for me to sort inside my head to work through which ones are special and why.

I may still get to doing a series of better constructed posts, I hope so for my own sake.