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?

In My Kitchen November-

Might need a cuppa for this, I’ve rambled on a bit!

It is really Spring, but we keep going back to winter and then back to Spring repeatedly. I was going to start this post saying I think Spring is well and truly here but it’s currently 11 degrees with 30km per hour wind and it feels like it could snow up on the hills. I have deferred planting my tomatoes for a week or two, hoping to see some improvement. The tomatoes in the greenhouse are doing well, but everything else in the veggie patch is way behind its normal schedule so I don’t have the space for tomatoes free quite  yet.

In My Kitchen  is all I have left from last years garlic harvest.

Garlic sproutingIt has lasted really well but there are signs of sprouting so I went through the remaining bulbs and discarded any that were soft and had sprouts showing. The remainder I have placed in the fridge to delay shooting (theoretically) hoping that this years harvest will soon be ready.

In My Kitchen this month are a few goodies I bought while in Melbourne a couple of weeks ago. Last year I bought some smaller clay dishes after Celia wrote about them and I love them but they are a little too small for a whole serving per person. I bought these at Chef’s Hat in Melbourne. I love this store, they have an amazing array of cooking gear for both commercial and domestic purposes.

img_9966 I grabbed a bottle of this gorgeous smelling Turkish Rosewater from Sonsa Foods in Collingwood. It is a freshener and smells just like when you used to make rose-water from pulling the precious heads from your mums best roses and mixing them with water in a jar. The description vaguely translates as “A Turkish toilet waters (Kolonya), as it should be. Pleasantly refreshing, not too pushy and a fragrance that makes happy. the EST Kolonya “Hatiralar” smells fine and gently green leaves, rose, water flowers, Indian grass, sandalwood and some sweet fragrances. The refreshments for the start of the day and also in between for the face, neck or hands”.  I broke the rule of not buying plastic but I just couldn’t resist it.img_9968 I love this little find I had at the Turkish Suppliers in Campbellfield. This is a Guvec, a Turkish clay pot that is glazed inside and is used for cooking stews and casseroles. It can be used in the oven and on the stove top. I just love its simplicity and rustic look.img_9970 Then there is the Sucuk. This is a spicy beef cured sausage and will be going into gozleme, on top of pizza and just for nibbling on. It is often served in Turkey as part of the breakfast dishes. img_9974 and I couldn’t resist a couple of bottles of Sulcer Biba, or pepper paste. I find I am using this more and more as you would tomato paste. It really adds a delicious depth and zing to dishes. This one is a mild version but I also got a hotter one.img_9976I stocked up on chicken feet and chicken pieces at the Footscray market. I bag these up, freeze them and make fresh stock when needed. Our older son was suffering with a good dose of tonsillitis so I made up a care kit package for him. I made chicken stock, turned this into some chicken soup loaded with vegies, made some sourdough bread and a couple of rolls. This along with some freshly squeezed orange juice and I felt like a ‘real mum’ again.

Chicken Soup Care KitI had a few things that needed to be used up in the fridge so we ended up with a roast capsicum, broccoli, broad bean, bacon and greek yogurt quiche. I made the shortcrust pastry using a recipe Lorraine from Not Quite Nigella had  posted and it is beautiful. I did cook this a little too hot, still tweaking with the oven.Red pepper quicheThis was accompanied with a salad I made using coarse bulgur rather than the smaller variety. It is basically a tabouleh but using red capsicum instead of tomato (no decent tomatoes around yet). Soak 1/2 cup of burgul  into hot water until fluffy, add a good splash of olive oil, juice of a lemon plus another half (maybe) S&P, fry off a red capsicum and an onion until slightly soft. Chop a very generous handful of mint, parsley and mix all together. Adjust tang to your liking by adding either more lemon or oil. Top 10 list for us!Capsicum TaboulehI finally got the chance to use my ‘Big Bertha’ (almost 3 wine bottles long) rolling-pin when making the pastry.  It is impressive I must say and did a great job in a flash.img_9946 I got to add a few treasures to the sideboard, still have to do the door and drawer knobs, they are on the list…..img_9934 Nearly finished, hang in there!

In my kitchen is some Oolong tea or as we have now named it, Rabbit Poo Tea. We drink a lot of tea and this is a good way of going through the ceremony without consuming the added sugar we have with our strong black tea.  This is a sample pack and I have arranged for Tea Leaves to now fill my BYO container at the store. Tea Leaves  is an incredible tea shop that really needs to be seen to be believed.img_9952There are a couple of loaves of sourdough, these are sesame seed loaves. I simply toasted a cup of sesame seed and added to the dough and rolled a few on the surface before baking, it smells wonderful. Sesame Seed sourdoughI have been crocheting some shopping bags. I bought some 8 ply cotton from Bendigo Woollen Mills and am really thrilled with how they have turned out. These, along with some dish cloths, might make up some Christmas gifts I think. The pattern for the red one can be found here. The pattern for the green one, here.

Market bags crochetedFinally, In My Kitchen this month is this gorgeous little fella! Now 10 months old and discovering that pasta is not only tasty but fun!CharlieThanks to Liz over at BizzyLizzyGoodThings for being the “In My Kitchen” link up host. It is a great way to see what people are up to and get some great ideas along the way. What’s happening in your kitchen this month?

Sourdough sharing, garden and exteno update.

It has been great to be able to share some sourdough loaves with our friends at their social gatherings over the last couple of weekends. Home-made bread always seems to go down so well!

After being away for 5 weeks, it took a couple of days to re-invigorate Phoenicia (my pet name for my starter) into action by feeding her twice a day, she was back in form and rearing to go after 3 days. Good sourdough culture is pretty resilient and strong and can easily be revived after quite a long time if it has been kept refrigerated. IMG_8423-002With this dough made of 80% bread flour and 20% rye flour, I made an assortment of loaves to share and 2 loaves for ourselves.IMG_8433 I have quite a few people ask how I manage to bake the bread in a barbecue. It has taken quite a bit of experimenting but I seem to be coming up with some fairly consistent loaves these days. This cold weather does mean a lot of watching as there is a massive amount of heat loss in the barbecue. It then leads to over-tweaking which can lead to easily burning. It is usually only baguette style loaves I do in the barbecue as they just won’t fit in the ‘toy oven’.

I shape the loaves and prove them on a couche (heavy linen cloth but you can use a T-towel) until about 30 minutes before baking. Barbecue is then turned on, I light the two outside burners on medium and the 2 centre burners on low. I have a large floor tile over the hot plate and grill rack to diffuse the heat and an old cast iron pan with hot rocks in it which will be used as a steam injector when baking. These 2 loaves are ready to be slashed/scored and baked.

IMG_8442 They then go into the barbecue on a little rack to lift off the really hot base and I pour about a cup of water over the hot rocks to create steam then close the lid. The 2 middle burners are now turned off, just the 2 outside ones remain on. These 2 loaves were cooked for 8 minutes then turned and the outside burners turned to low, then cooked for a further 15 minutes.IMG_8444This is the Sunbeam barbecue I use, it’s been a great workhorse for about 10 years.IMG_8443 Finished loaves included, an olive, chilli and cheese loaf, a rosemary baguette which I sprinkled sea salt on top of mimicking Carol Fields’s ‘panmarino‘ yeasted loaf which I baked last year. 2 plain baguettes and 2 crusty 900g loaves. This is the basket of goodies ready to take to a party.IMG_8450Things obviously didn’t stop growing while we were away! This is my garlic bed which has had self-sown poppies decide to take up residence. I thought I eliminated these last year but obviously not.IMG_8418-002 Now that’s more like it!IMG_8421I found a couple of giant celeriac which I’m yet to cook. I hope they aren’t too woody, they may end up frozen and used as stock flavouring if they are.IMG_8419-001In the greenhouse I was greeted with loads of cheery rocoto chillies so these along with  a couple of red capsicum, were turned into some Turkish red pepper paste. I’ll let you know how that goes later!IMG_8414 I was very concerned that my precious oyster plant had croaked it but I notice some new little shoots appearing. This must be a perennial, I can’t find much info on the internet so if anyone can share their expertise I would love to hear from you.

IMG_8416The eucalyptus caesia (silver princess) turned on a beautiful show for our return. The wattle birds are loving this tree.IMG_8412-001and what a delight seeing some cheery jonquils in flower.  IMG_8408It is nice to be home and to get back into the exteno for its final stages. Floors are now done so kickboards can go on, bench tops in this week, architrave and skirting boards ordered, painter booked and most exciting part is I can organise for the oven to be delivered. Ironic isn’t though, our son, who is our plumber left the week before we got home to go on his 12 week honeymoon. One day the planets will align.FloorsIt is lovely to be home!

Lucky I like parsnip!

I pulled the entire parsnip crop on Sunday because I needed more space for tomatoes. I am really chuffed with the results, most are a pretty good shape and a decent size. They probably should have stayed in longer to develop some more, but, oh well…………….

IMG_6189 The oddly shaped ones will go into one of my favourite childhood foods. Carrot & parsnip mash! Just boil carrot and parsnip until mashable, drain well add salt and pepper (I like heavy on the pepper) and a good dollop of butter. Mash or give it a stick blender whizz and it’s done. The better shaped ones here will go in with the roast lamb I’m cooking from the recipe posted by Kylie over at  Town Mouse Country MouseParsnips cleanedOnly problem is that It’s hard to fit the joint and the veg into the ‘toy oven’ so I cooked the veg on the barbecue on a cast iron pot.Roast lamb Jamie OliverWorked out OK but unlike Kylie I wasn’t that thrilled with the gravy. I was having a bad day and even spilled olive oil on my keyboard while reading her recipe! Presentation is pretty ordinary too but the lamb tasted great! Our parsnips, our broccoli, our thyme and parsley in the rub.  All clean, fresh and full of flavour. This is why we do these things!Roast lambOther weekend jobs in the garden were, pulling the first of the garlic to make room for even more tomatoes. Looking great, another couple of weeks will really make it shine I think.Italian garlicThe berry house was out of control! First time I’ve been in there since the spring growth started, boy, things had gone ballistic! IMG_6173I found some baby grapes on the grape-vine. This variety is a slip grape we got from a man who used to supply Mr ATMT with winemaking grapes and it also makes a great table grape. First time its fruited so I’m a bit excited really.IMG_6175 Couldn’t see or get to the strawberries because of the growth of the raspberries. A bit of jute, a couple of bamboo stakes, some judicious trimming and its back in control in there.IMG_6178 As I was collecting the trimmings to go into the compost I realised I was about to waste a great resource-vine leaves. Fresh, organically grown and no blemishes at all. Gold! I will use these to make some dolmades and there will be enough to preserve a few as well. Glad I came to my senses before they hit the compost!IMG_6204

Not this year birdies! These blueberry plants are about 7 years old and I think we’ve picked about 10 fruit at the most. We have however been tagged as an easy target for the birds who love them. Not any more, tonight I covered several with my exclusion bags in the hope they will ripen and we will reap the rewards.IMG_6220 IMG_6236Today is remembrance day in Australia, a time to reflect and remember our soldiers from all the wartime conflicts we have sadly been involved in. The Flanders poppy is a symbol of remembrance day developing from its association with poppies flowering in the spring of 1915 on the battlefields of Belgium, France and Gallipoli, this vivid red flower has become synonymous with great loss of life in war.

I didn’t plant that variety but I did grow from Diggers seed “Poppy Ladybird” and it’s very pretty as well as fitting to watch and reflect on remembrance day.Ladybird Poppy

Lest we  forget.

Can’t think of a title for this post!

I was trying to come up with a catchy title for this post but it just didn’t happen. I had toyed with Friends, food and ….mmmm, got stuck, fun, friends and ……. stuck again. SO here it is, the post without a title! We had a lovely evening at a friends home in the Dandenong Ranges on Saturday night. There is something soulful about getting together with people who you can relax with, share ideas with and most importantly, have so many of the most wonderful belly laughs that it hurts! I wanted to take an offering so with the batch of sourdough I was working on I decided to make a couple of sourdough bread sticks to take. Should have proved a little longer but it just had to go on due to time restraints. As most of you know, I have limited cooking facilities so these were baked in the outdoor BBQ with the hood closed. I was very happy with these, the crust was crunchy, the crumb soft with a good flavour, sort of came out with a ciabatta style structure. This was sliced and we ate it slathered with beetroot relish and brie cheese. Very nice! My friend had made some Georgian cheese bread which is similar to puri and it was lovely, rich, but soft and full of flavour. Sourdough ciabatta bread sticksThe bay tree I’m working on establishing as a ball top with a straight stem needed some straightening so I bound it up with soft tie and cleaned any side shoots off. It’s at the right height now so I pinched the top out and will keep trimming to get the desired result.IMG_5622 Mr ATMT started extending the veggie garden path to where it will finish at the old stables. Neatened things up and now just need to infill the pavers with toppings.IMG_5627My garlic is going really well, This lot is planted in a separate box in the garden,IMG_5629 And this lot is in the asparagus bed. I’m a little concerned that the asparagus hasn’t yet started showing and I have read that garlic and asparagus shouldn’t be planted together. Waiting game now to see what eventuates.garlicThe succession planting of the broccoli is coming on nicely,IMG_5647 I pulled the last scrappy beetroot and will make some relish from these as they aren’t pretty enough to serve whole. Couple of baby parsnips here too that I pulled to see how they are progressing.IMG_5650 IMG_5632I put an old sewing machine base in the vegi patch and plonked a surplus sink onto it. This is proving to be a great asset as a workbench, potting bench and I can chuck stuff into the sink and hose it off before bringing it inside. I’m considering adding a foot pump or caravan sink type water tap to it to add to its use. IMG_5648 I’ve bagged the kale seed heads to keep the seed,IMG_5637 Such a lovely afternoon the workers downed tools and enjoyed the sun too!IMG_5635The backyard is shaping up nicely. Mt ATMT top dressed a few patches in the grass and put down some new lawn seed. Last time he’s says, it will have to fend for itself now. Let’s wait and see how that pans out!

Weekend Round Up

What a cracker of a day it was yesterday! Promises of things to come in spring, blue sky, lightest of breezes, warm sun and no deadlines that had to be met. Pure and simply, a beautiful day that makes you feel warm and motivated.

I spent the day ‘pottering’ around doing all sorts of jobs. At this time of year, I start to list things that need to be done and I get a bit panicky that the sky might fall in if I don’t get to them. Hasn’t happened yet, but I do usually manage to get the jobs done so I don’t want to tempt fate! Some jobs on the list were, spray the fruit trees with copper and lime (bordeaux), feed fruit trees and roses, make sure tomatoes are started, top up veggie beds with compost and manure, clean out the chook house, plan spring and summer plantings, plan where I’m going to put things that won’t fit in the veggie garden and prepare the soil to give them the best shot. I need to make up some potato beds and find space for more tomatoes. I’m a bit disillusioned with spuds (potatoes) after the trouble I’ve had the last two seasons with them being eaten by earwigs and all sorts of other critters. I’m hoping that as the garden gets more and more established and natural ecosystems kick in this will be less of a problem…. I’ll persevere to test this theory.

I’ve just about got all the tomato seedlings potted up. I am in need of more coffee cups/milk containers to finish off the last few remaining ones. 14 Varieties totalling 354 seedlings, gee I hope my stall is a success!IMG_5177I planted some cape gooseberries I bought. Never had anything to do with these so It will be interesting to see what the outcome is. IMG_5186 I’ve been putting off getting this apple espalier  started until the fence around the veggie patch is complete but it really needed to go in and have the branches commence their training. The branch on the left is quite rigid so I’m hoping to slowly coax it down to close to a right angle. Depending on how successful this is (or isn’t) I may have to break the branch and re-graft it to the angle I want. Fingers crossed. This apple along with all the fruit trees, raspberries and roses got a spray of bordeaux mixture. It is possibly still a little early for best effect so I will most likely do another spray before blossom opens. This spray is a fungicide that helps prevent leaf curl which along with being ugly, debilitates the plant somewhat. Mix 50g copper oxychloride that has been mixed in 2.5 litres of water with 60g of hydrated lime which has also been mixed in 2.5 litres water. Combine both solutions together and using a pressure spray pack, spray all parts of the tree/plant. Make sure all safety precautions such as gloves, glasses etc are observed.IMG_5185 The garlic had its net removed for an extra dose of sun and some compost was added to the bed. Looking good at this stage.IMG_5181 Gave the whole veggie area a bit of a tidy up. Looking pretty good I must say. I also planted some carrot, snow peas and lettuce seed. Frosts should have finished by the time the snow peas flower avoiding damage to them. The garlic I planted in the asparagus bed is also going well.IMG_5231  I collected this pink grapefruit off the ground many weeks ago waiting for it to ripen to have a look inside. Yep, its crap!IMG_5224 Thick pith, no colour but the taste wasn’t too bad. I think the ones still on the tree should be a lot better. Will pick and compare shortly.IMG_5227Silver beet and parsley that I have planted at the end of wicking beds to utilise some extra space got a top up of compost and were fed.IMG_5234 Patiently awaiting the broad beans to grow. Such a pretty flower.IMG_5237 What’s that? Wasabi!IMG_5228I was fortunate enough to source a wasabi plant and have planted it in a damp, dark part of the garden. Trying some various techniques to keep snails and slugs away from it. Bit of a long shot but like the concept.

Sunday breakfasts are becoming a favourite part of the week. Today we had freshly squeezed orange juice from our oranges, toast from my sourdough, poached eggs from our chickens, mushrooms and a lovely pot of tea. All this sitting near the lounge bay window looking out at the magnolia that is just out in flower. Nice way to start the day!

IMG_5214As I am writing this post, I hear the rain bucketing down and think that all the bordeaux spray will probably be washed off everything I sprayed and will need to be redone. Oh well, that’s a gardeners lot!

I

Dinner Winner!

On our recent road trip, as we were leaving Spear Creek Caravan Park in Port Augusta, we purchased some of their grown on the property frozen cryovacced (vaccuum sealed to exclude air) Dorper Lamb which we were told was ‘great’, they say the flesh is naturally seasoned by drought resistant saltbush plants the sheep eat while grazing the property. Not being huge meat eaters we were none the wiser and  thought it might be nice to have a couple of camp oven meals on our journey home. Two frozen parcels, one of lamb shanks and another of a small roast went into the camping fridge, we were looking forward to making a  feast in the camp oven on our journey home.

When camping in Mildura we cooked the lamb shanks in the camp oven and I must admit were very disappointed with the results, consequently I wasn’t in a hurry to try the roast and be even more disappointed.  The now thoroughly thawed joint had been sitting in the fridge since we returned home and I wasn’t sure it was still even fit for consumption as I have no knowledge of how long  cryovaccing can extend the shelf life. On inspection there was no swelling of the packaging, no discolouration of the juices and absolutely no smell when I opened the pack so I thought it was safe to give it a road test. With the weather returning back to winter out came the ever faithful slow cooker again.

In went a  couple of sprigs of rosemary,  10 garlic bulbs, juice of 2 lemons, about a half cup of both white wine and my home made stock. Topped with a sploosh of olive oil with some potatoes ready to throw in after a couple of hours.

Lemon garlic lamb roastThis went on slow at about 9.00 in the morning. Added some potatoes at about 12.00 which I took out at about 5.30 and put into my mini oven to brown and crisp up. I also added some cherry tomatoes to the oven to roast while spuds were browning.

Finely sliced some cabbage and threw into the microwave with a dash of stock and some black pepper, Julienned some carrots, cooked them with some honey and mustard and the tiniest dob of butter (because I’m supposed to behave myself), cooked a handful of peas and tried to work out what sauce to use. I put some of the slow cooker juices into a saucepan cranked up the heat and let it reduce, after a few minutes the taste test said it was a little too lemony so I chucked in a couple of cherry tomatoes. Back on the heat for more reduction and it turned out well, still flavourful but the tomatoes added enough sweetness to work.

Plated upMight not look neat and tidy but boy did it taste great! The lamb was stunningly beautiful, tender and juicy. It took me back to when little and we had a roast that really tasted wonderful. All the other strange elements actually went together really well. The potatoes had absorbed a beautiful lemony flavour and were wonderfully crisp.

This is my girlfriends plate, says it all!

IMG_1587In the garden.

I’ve given up on waiting for the weather to improve so some of the tomatoes have gone in!   I’m hoping these are black krim variety but due to the fact I’ve had some labelling issues they may very well be roma, san marzano, gross lisse or big beef!

Black krimExciting, 1st sign the beans are on their way through.

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Should be a great crop of garlic by the look of this.

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I love these little spaces that can be used for planting bits and pieces. I’ve put spring onions and a couple of mini yellow pear tomatoes in this one.

IMG_1595

Radishes are booming along!

IMG_1594Hopefully the weather will improve as next week is the Melbourne Cup which is our traditional ‘plant your tomatoes’ day. I’ve still got several to plant, just need to make a bit more room!