Post Christmas Musings

Considering I didn’t really give Christmas much thought this year, I seem to be doing a really great job of needing to recover from it. Yes, I did party way too hard on Christmas Eve, yes, I did eat too much and yes, I had an awful lot of dishes, tables, glasses, bottles and paraphernalia to cleanup, but nothing like we usually deal with. I like to think it is because its been a big year and we now have the opportunity to slow down, so I have. Yesterday was a day of getting up, having a shower and then getting straight back onto the couch. Justification was that I could do some research on kitchen cabinets, tiles, window coverings and all sorts of things for the exteno. I also managed to read a really good book!

Christmas came and went. We had about 25 family and friends gather here on Christmas Eve sharing food, laughing, singing and generally letting loose. I do recall at some time one of the kids made a comment that the tables had turned and they were now watching the oldies do what we used to criticise them for doing. Fun times! This was taken very early in the evening, before everyone had arrived and the fun began. Goodness, I wonder whose rude children they are giving the camera the finger?

Back Yard Xmas EveSome of the food we shared included a platter of assorted roast veg with marinated mushrooms, roasted red capsicum and almond dip, tomatoes baked with sumac, olives and assorted crudite.IMG_3479 Smoked trout served with assorted sourdough crispsIMG_3477 Indian Vegetable Pakora. This is always a standout favourite and is requested at most family get-togethers, I use a lot of cauliflower in these and the batter is made using besan (chickpea) flour and beer. Served with mint yoghurt sauce.IMG_3496 I made some vegetarian ricotta, feta, kale and chilli rolls, wrapped in filo pastry and served with sweet chilli sauce.

IMG_3497A surprising hit of the night was a chick pea dip I made at the last minute. Purely a can of drained chick peas, lemon juice, parsley, olive oil zapped together in the food processor. Served with some olive oil drizzled over it and some turkish bread. This got lot’s of yummy!

Chick pea dip Dukkah served with sesame and rye ciabatta. I cooked this bread on the barbecue and was really pleased with the result. I added black and white sesame seed to the dough which worked really well with the dukkah.IMG_3474 Some mini chicken tikka kebabs served with a vietnamese style dipping sauce.IMG_3489 There were only four of us here for Christmas Lunch (which turned into tea due to our Christmas Eve shenanigans!). We went to our sons for breakfast and after that decided it might be best to do tea rather than lunch. I am a bit of a sucker for traditional Christmas fare, didn’t take any photos but we had pork, turkey that I had brined before roasting (that went well), ham, roast veg with all the trimmings, pudding and it was all lovely. All cooked on the barbecue to perfection. Who needs a kitchen?

Garden catch up

Today I was back up and rearing to go so I got stuck into the vegetable garden. It’s the first time I’ve focussed on it since our open garden weekend and it was in dire need of some TLC. With more hot weather forecast, I put up extra shade protection around the tomatoes. The late afternoon sun is ferocious and I noticed there has already been considerable damage to some flowers which will reduce the yield dramatically.

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Shade cloth overhead

I also hung some netting on the north facing side of the bed to reduce the impact of the afternoon sun.

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Light netting along north facing side of wicking bed.

The winds have been awful and the wicking beds have been struggling to keep up. I think mostly due to evaporation from the surface of the beds so I have placed a really thick layer of mulch on the surface. Hopefully these measures will assist in the tomatoes coping with more extreme heat. I trimmed off the growing tip on a few to allow the side shoots to take off. These will have many more new flowers which will hopefully set fruit and not get burned off.

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To assist in pollinating the tomatoes, I have for a few years now used an electric toothbrush. You just start-up the toothbrush and touch the stem of the flowers, the vibration shakes the pollen onto the stamens. Much easier than going around with a paint brush or shaking the trusses that can be too rough on the flowers. If you look closely you can see the pollen. A bit like fairy dust to me!

Pollinating tomatoesThere are still a few raspberries to be found if you look hard.

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The grapes are going really well, looking forward to those.

IMG_3529Tonight we had the first bruscetta of the season. The tomatoes in the greenhouse have been producing well and we have been picking these since mid November. Tomatoes, basil, feta, olive oil on top of grilled wholewheat sourdough that had garlic and olive oil rubbed into it. Heaven!

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Tomorrow it’s back into the reno I think!

 

 

 

Farewell to 2014. Hello 2015.

I must admit, I don’t really ‘get’ the hype that many have in relation to celebrating New Year. To me it is just another day, but I don’t mind any excuse to spend some time with those we love and to indulge in just a bit more food to well and truly top of the festive season.

My last weekend of 2014 was spent…….

Preparing the vegie patch to cope as well as possible during the anticipated hot spell (36c tomorrow and 40c Sat). With a camping trip coming up I like to leave things pretty well self managed as much as possible. First up was to offer the chooks some extra protection from the overhead and hot westerly sun by installing some shade cloth on the coop. I also added an extra water source that is in the shaded part of the coop to extend the water availability and it will be cooler there. Chooks don’t like hot water!

Chicken shadedBecause the summer sun is so much higher, it means the shiitake and pioppiono mushroom logs are exposed to a bit too much sun. I’ve rigged up a temporary shade cover that will do until I get a chance to make a more permanent structure (I hope). I’ve also put the plug into the bath they are stacked in to maintain the humidity to a higher level. I don’t anticipate harvesting anything from these logs for quite a few months yet, but I want to maintain the best the conditions I can. I am considering installing an automated misting system here, but it is not high up on the very long list of priorities!

Shiitake shade coverMulching of all the beds has been done in earnest. The ability to keep surface roots cool and minimise evaporation by mulching has proven to be extremely effective. I use organic sugar cane mulch just because its easy and readily available. I’ve mulched the asparagus bed, tomatoes, the potatoes growing in a bathtub, the wicking beds in the greenhouse and I will do the last couple of wicking beds over the next couple of days. The photo below is of the wicking bed in the greenhouse where I have had to heavily cut back the sweet potatoes (on right) because of their vigorous growth that was threatening to overtake all the strawberries. I doubt whether I will get tubers and as I only use the tops for greens in stir fry it doesn’t present an issue.

Sweet potato

One of the compost bins and the worm farm need a little more sun protection.  Some shade cloth and a piece of carpet should insulate the worms. They seem to hold their own pretty well if they have a deep place to dig down into.

IMG_6896This is what’s happening in the greenhouse. I’ve rigged up the gravity fed ‘auto pot’ watering system for the tomatoes (on the left). The old olive drum is full of nutrient made from an organic mix and it syphons into the pots when the water level drops to a specific point. It can go for several weeks without extra watering. There are cucumbers (yellow flowers) capsicum, lemon grass (gangbusters!) all doing well and the tomatoes I have trained along bamboo stakes have been maturing since mid November. I am now starting to harvest larger varieties which we welcome very much.

IMG_6901I planted up our camping herb planter box. By the time we head off, these lettuce, basil, coriander, chives and parsley will be a good size for adding to our evening meals. These little touches add greatly to our camping meals and saves buying large quantities that end up wasted. Not to mention how I can avoid having plastic packaging when I buy supermarket herbs.

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The exclusion bags I put over the blueberry fruit have proven to be excellent! I now need to go in and pick these luscious beauties. Some are as big as marbles. Hope the taste is big too!

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We spent New Years Eve with friends and their lovely guests and I have some interesting reports to make on the food I took to share. That will be covered in my IMK post tomorrow.

I wish everyone a happy 2015 and look forward to learning more from the wonderful bloggers I have hooked up with in 2014. It is such a fruitful and rewarding way to share knowledge and learn so much more than you would normally.