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!

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In My Kitchen-March

I really should try to get my blogging mojo back I think! I miss the time focussing about what to write, planning ahead for what needs to happen and putting the ideas together to string some form of ‘story’ together. I’m finding that I’ve fallen a little into the trap of using Instagram (IG) or as I am now renaming it “Instant Gratification”. This is OK but it doesn’t really give me the same satisfaction as writing a post. Thank goodness for ‘In My Kitchen’, a forum where bloggers put up some snippets of what is in their kitchens each month. All of these blogs are linked to a common point by the wonderful Liz over at Bizzy Lizzy’s Good Things. Go and have a look at some of the great things going on.

Not a lot this month In My Kitchen as we went camping for nearly 2 weeks. I did manage to still bake bread while we were away but this time I cheated somewhat and used the oven in the camp kitchen. I baked in a pasta pot we have in the camping kitchen and it was a great success.

img_2012We brought some great bacon back from the butcher at Merimbula. This bacon is beautiful, they also had some nitrate free bacon which really appeals to me so I got some of that too. Down side is that it is packed in cryovac plastic packaging. This is a shame, but sometimes when weighing up the options an outcome that is not ideal is the result. My delight in getting good quality over what is available at home that would still be in plastic won over.img_2117Also In My Kitchen is some sourdough starter I am dehydrating. I have shared quite a bit so needed to replenish my stock. This is my original ‘Vesuvius’ starter that I began about 10 years ago.img_2112 I have been making some potholders. I am using an old woollen blanket that is beyond its useful life as the thermal filling in these. I am also using up scrap cotton I had in my cupboard for the covering but I have bought a couple of extra pieces. Next week I’ll scout the op shops for suitable garments I can re-purpose.img_2113 This years glut! NOT! Nowhere near any previous seasons harvests, very disappointing. I’ll be buying a couple of boxes for making passata I think. Not a lot, but the flavour is really good this year. My experiment of having half the tomatoes staked and laterals pruned and the other half just doing their thing without attention has bombed. I have not had one tomato that hasn’t been eaten even when very green in the free range plants. img_2118 Finally In My Kitchen this month is a pic of todays wholemeal bread I made and tested out a couple of different baking methods. The top 2 loaves were cooked in the cast iron dutch oven, the pumpkin seed shaped loaf was baked in a clay cloche and the bottom one was baked in my Falcon enamel roasting pan. All work well but I prefer the cast iron.img_2136So that’s the little peek into my kitchen this month. Are we going to get a peek in yours?

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In My Kitchen February 2017

Well we are back and rearing to go! A shout out to Liz over at Bizzy Lizzy’s Good Things for taking the time to hook us all up. Head on over and have a peek at some amazing kitchen happenings from around the world.

So what have we got going on this month? Bread, bread and lots more bread I’m afraid. I have become quite obsessed with trying as many different grains, methods and styles as I can. I have set up a Facebook Page too hoping to get more ‘local’ sourdough lovers to share their stories, learn more about making sour dough and offering tips for local suppliers of baking supplies like flour and equipment. If you are interested or have a friend who is interested tell them to come and join in. Sourdough Baking Australia & New Zealand is a closed group so people need to ask to join or be invited by Members. Some of my recent baking highlights have been; barley bread,barley breadSome home milled wholewheat blend.bestand I’ve been working on mastering the making of sourdough croissants. sweet-starter-croissantsThe finished croissant.Sourdough croissantsWhile doing some research on dough lamination, I stumbled across this youtube video  where the chef uses what he calls a ‘tarp’ for rolling his pastry. I had never heard of this concept so off to the Google Research Centre and I discovered some really interesting information about the benefits of using a pastry cloth to toll pastry on. Seemed too good to be true, so off to Spotlight for fabric and using these basic instructions I made a couple of pastry cloths. I found them to be everything they were touted to be and I love the fact many mentioned that they had their family ‘hand-me-downs’ from mothers and grandmothers tucked away in their drawers. I made a double layered large one and 2 smaller single layer ones, but after using them I think the double is much better, so I’ll just fold the smaller ones when I use them. I only dusted flour twice while rolling out these croissants. No sticking whatever. pastry-clothOf course I had to have croissant for breakfast didn’t I? Here are a couple of the finished items along with a cup of tea made in the delightful cup with a china infuser and hat that I was given for my birthday. The spotty pots are a couple of my favourites too.tea-croissants The little cap on the infuser acts as a drip tray when you remove the leaves from the cup and as a lid for the cup when not in use. I love it.infuser-cupWe have finally been able to hang some pictures that were stored and this photo is one my nephew (who is a very talented photographer) had at his exhibition. She is a peanut-seller at the market in Vietnam and he really captured the essence so well it came home with us. Unfortunately my photo doesn’t do it justice at all!peanut-lady When I left work our Parents & Friends Association very kindly gave me a voucher for my favourite shop in Warragul, String & Salt.  String & Salt  have an excellent selection of quality homewares and cooking equipment, they run some incredible cooking classes and they also sell Falcon Ovens which is where we bought ours. The key factor to being a delight to deal with, is their level of service, not easy to find these days and they shine. Anyway, I used my voucher to get this gorgeous little Burgon & Ball Trug. We are starting to get a run of tomatoes coming in, not much else I must say, I know I’ve not been as attentive this season but things just seem sparse. Neighbours and friends are all saying the same so I’m glad it isn’t just my neglect.Burton Ball TrugThen finally In My Kitchen this month is something a bit different. I’m finding undoing the car seat, high chair and pram clips are causing excruciating pain to my dodgy fingers so I went back to the Google Research Centre and found this little thing called a buckle bopper.  You rest it in the palm of your hand and the knobby bit pushes in the clip and releases it.buckle-bopper It was ridiculously expensive for what it is and there are no Australian sellers so postage was also up there but if it reduces pain levels it’s not too bad.

So that’s my lot for “In My Kitchen” this month, I’m popping over to Liz’s now

for a peek into some of the others.

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Lots of Up-cycling going on here.

Now that we have pretty much got the main components of the exteno done, we can focus on sorting through all of the things that have been in the shed, in the ‘Dentist’s and in boxes throughout the house. As we cleared through each area I insisted we be ruthless and tag things to go, repair or keep if they had a good purpose. Determined to minimise landfill, we eliminated quite a bit through a local buy/swap/sell site and the couple of items left from that will probably go to the op-shop. We placed a couple of bits on the nature strip and they miraculously disappeared, the op shops have received a large amount and we are left with the things that needed to be repaired. All of these have been moved into the room we used as the temporary kitchen and I’m working through them one at a time. Fly-screens, piano stool, old wooden train, cupboard, a toy cradle and a few other bits and pieces. This chair is a folding directors chair that Mr ATMT’s grandfather made. It is beautiful, comfortable and very special to us. I’ll re-glue the joints, paint it and make some new covers. These original covers were made complete with hessian backing and I am excited about giving life and purpose to it. We also have a couple of card tables made by Grandpa hiding in this pile.

grandpas-dir-chairFor my first repair task I tackled this cute little cupboard which I believe was a chamber pot cupboard. It has been in Mr ATMT’s family for years, he can remember it being at their holiday house in Sorrento and moved to the replacement house at Blairgowrie where it was used for toiletries in the bunk room bathroom. I forgot to take a pre photo but it was pretty awful. Stained mustard yellow, rusty latches some ply wood missing. I wasn’t prepared to invest a lot of time or energy on it, so a sand, some filler and a couple of coats of paint and I think it will serve as a bedside table well.  I couldn’t bring myself to straighten the latches!potty-cupboardI found this old woollen army blanket that certainly looks like it has seen better days but the area out from the centre is quite good so I’ll make some pot holders from it. Wool is a great thermal barrier so I’m hoping they will work well for the hot, bread baking pots. The scrap will go into the compost or somewhere in the garden that needs some weed suppression. moth-eaten-blanketI had a cake stand that the stand had separated from the base so a bit of glue and it’s as good as new. This is it having a bit of ‘gentle weight’ applied while the glue dries.

img_0694Then there was Mr Squiggle, Mr Squiggle is one of Australia’s iconic childrens TV programs that aired for many generations.  This Mr Squiggle was a much loved toy of our older son and  now that we need to have a few things on hand to entertain our grandson, I thought I’d see how he came up with some surgery.  He was in a sad and sorry state, legs off and his innards suffering a serious prolapse, his head attached by a thread and he was generally in need of some TLC.

img_1801mr-squiggle-pre-surgeryimg_1802

With some stitching (I’m telling myself is as good as a Japanese embroiderer), a bath, a hair cut and a rubdown he is back in action. I should do a red tie just to finish him off. You know I’m not going to let him anywhere near the toy box now, don’t you!mr-squiggle-post-surgery Here are a couple of items not in our room of repair but acquired from the op-shop.

A Phil & Teds stroller (I’m told that is a good brand). It makes life easier for everyone not having to unload and transport half the house when we have Charlie so I went to the op shop on the odd chance and bingo! $20.00 later, a good go over with the pressure cleaner and we are set. A little bit of sun fading but everything else is fine. This came complete with a baby carrycot, extra seat so you can fit another child in, rain cover, sunshade cover, bag and it is great to handle. Thank you to whoever took this to the op-shop.

strollerI also stumbled on this book at the op-shop. What are the chances? Our grandson is Charlie and their dog is Baxter. Spooky…………had to get it!

baxter-book

baxter-charlie-book

Then there is the most dramatic up-cycling of all. We have moved the room affectionately know as ‘The Dentist’. It was either move it or lose it, as you looked directly out to it from the new kitchen window. By moving it we can create a courtyard area than we can access from the kitchen verandah, keep the history and still get to use the room for whatever we want.

dentist-after-move That concrete in the middle is the original steps into the room. It has opened up the space wonderfully and I am thrilled. future-courtyard       A couple of chains, a couple of jacks, a few logs, someone who knows what they are doing and snap!

img_0654 img_0659

We have managed to dispose a lot and thankfully not to landfill. If any of the repair jobs become bigger than I envisaged they will be re-assessed and dealt with accordingly.

I am delighted with being able to keep the dentist room. I can see this being an integral part of the landscape and not just a room in the wrong place!

Now, if only I can come up with a use for THAT crystal.

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New FB Sourdough Support Page.

Just putting it out there that I have started a Facebook Closed Group for anyone wanting to learn, share and chat about sourdough bread and other sourdough baked goods. I find that the big overseas groups are brilliant but it is difficult when ingredients and equipment they discuss are not available locally. Seasons and use of fahrenheit too is also a challenge, we are always arse about (or they are).

So anyway, I plan to try to post some weekly tips for anyone starting out, put some links for really good reliable information and have people share their baking results and ask questions. Although target audience is Australia and New Zealand, others are welcome to request to join. So, if you know of anyone who may be interested in learning more or sharing knowledge please pass on my link.

 

Facebook group is Sourdough Baking Australia and New Zealand, link is https://www.facebook.com/groups/SDaustralia/

bestThanks, Maree.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

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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?

 

 

 

 

 

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