Revisiting and seeing with new eyes after being away.

We have just returned from a month-long holiday in New Zealand and it is nice to come home and revisit things I haven’t looked at closely for a while and ponder on how much we have done in such a short space of time. We had been anticipating our return would be to chilly and rather wet weather, but we find we have entered into a lovely balmy Indian summer. Great so we can get stuck into a clean up and tag jobs that need doing in the garden before the winter really sets in.

The leaves have begun their descent down to the ground so the cycle of breaking down and being returned to the soil in the form of compost and leaf mold next season can start. These few were on the deck, just the start of a continual fall for some weeks.We mow over them first before placing them into collection bins strategically placed around the yard and let them break down over the year to then spread over the garden. A sprinkling of lime and blood and bone between layers is also added and sometimes lane clippings too.  Still plenty more up there! The pin oak in the front yard has a nice soft leaf that is much nicer to handle than the English Oak out the back. There are signs of winter bulbs peeking through. Some sooty mould and scale is on some of the citrus trees and although I sprayed with Eco Oil before we went away, another couple of coats will be needed I think to really knock the scale off the orange tree. This mandarin tree has gone berserk since the fence has been extended, must be a nice little micro climate for it. It’s now heading into its fourth season and it is loaded this year, last year we only has 3 fruit! This pear tree was planted July 2013 and is starting to look quite established and espalier shape is taking form nicely.Even though there has been a couple of branches snap, they have regrown well once I tied grafting tape around them. I still need to install a support to the fence though! Some of the first plants we put in were 20 Camellia sasanqua ‘Asakura’.  They were reasonably well established and the ones that were planted down the western fence line are doing a great job screening the fence. Quite amazing when you see how much they have grown in the next pic.The flowers are in full bloom at the moment and it is great looking out at them from the bathroom and bedrooms. This is the same spot now but the exteno where we have increased the bathroom size comes out into the area a bit. It’s often the little things that I missed most. We hadn’t had a proper clothesline since we moved in, a small one that could just take 2 loads of washing and this was moved when the exteno started. Clothes horses chased every drop of sun and also drove me nuts. I enjoy hanging out clothes, must be the methodical nature of it, so I really love having a proper line again that will take everything we happen to throw at it. Australian made too, extra bonus! Some of you may have seen on Instagram the gorgeous picture of the gingko biloba trees we saw around New Zealand. This is our little one, but as I say, plant trees for the future generations, not for today. The little flowering gum is again showing us how stunning natures can be. This flowers every other year and I could look at it every day. The garlic I planted before we left seems to be a bit patchy with appearing. I’m wondering if this is due to the fact I covered the bed with netting to prevent the birds scratching everything up. I’ve done some filling in the gaps and discovered quite a lot of bulbs are just about to pop the surface so if I end up doubled up I’ll transplant the extras. This works quite well when the plants are young. The leeks, turnips, beetroot and lots of self-sown tomatoes seem happy. I have removed the tomatoes and weeds since this pic.

There are capsicum aplenty in the greenhouse. Time though for a bit of extra fresh air and an anti fungal spray. I’ve used both a milk one and a baking soda one in the past but the milk one seemed to perform better. A few straggler tomatoes ticking over. This bok choy has really taken off, I sometimes find it bolts but not this lot. Planted a few days before we left and now ready to use. The celeriac in this bed is also doing well and you can see a little bit of ‘miners lettuce’ peeking out from under. Jon from Herbalicious nursery told me I would never have to replant it. Great as a salad add and also some greens for Rene. A moulting Rene is happy to be out again.   I love these little daisies. When you go away and come back you see things differently, I am a bit re-motivated to get back into the exteno finishing off and to plan the next 2 rooms being the bathroom and a spare bedroom. I am also ken to get the courtyard area landscaped. Just a few more things to keep chipping away at!

 

Weekend Wrap

Leave it!

It’s about this time of year we get fed up with the leaf litter and do a major clean up. Even though there are more to fall, it gets a bit out of hand. Everywhere you look, leaves, leaves and more leaves!

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They get piled into one spot and this week I will be mowing them to chop them up a bit and making a couple more leaf mould bins. The chopped leaves will be layered with lime, manure, some greens and mature compost. Wrapped up for 12 months then the resulting leaf mold will be spread onto the garden beds. This acts more as a soil conditioner than a fertiliser and I love watching the process take place.

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We hadn’t seen this area for months!  The before shot is on the right above. There has been the fire wood that I mentioned a couple of weeks ago dumped here, the trailer stored and then the leaves started falling. I’ll bet by tomorrow it will be covered again!

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Some more work was done on thinning out the  ‘spooky’ area out the front,

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Compost and coffee grounds are collected from work, I even have the cleaner bring me in spent coffee grounds from her husbands bakery. I’m sure she think I’m nuts, she’s probably right! Great for the worm farm and compost bins though.

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We have ordered another garden shed and started marking out where it will go. We will need every bit of space possible when the back of the house comes off when the extension starts. Had to move a couple of plants, hope they cope with this! I really like the way this bed is coming together, hard to imagine just 2 years ago it had a revolting old bungalow here.

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I finally cracked it about my tiny little oven! As good as it has been, I had to take something to work for morning tea last week and it took me over 2  hours to cook a standard size batch of mini muffins as I could only fit a small tray in to bake so it was done in succession. I’ve been trying to think of ways around this for a while but the problem has been that it doesn’t matter what we bought, it would have to be moved/disconnected when the kitchen reno begins. That seems a little extravagant and wasteful so I have bitten the bullet and bought an LPG gas pizza oven that I hope will pretty much function as a normal oven. I have set it up on the side verandah along with a temporary light and table. This area should (in theory) work well and when the building works start I can move the oven anywhere. As I write this, my first loaf of bread is in cooking. Bit nervous about taking the lid off the dutch oven! I can’t believe the delight it brings being able to put a pot in without having to take the knob off first so it can fit in!

I’ve just been out to remove the lid, temp up to about 230c and loaf looks pretty good so far. Might be a challenge learning to manage the temp control but I can cope with that. I could actually take the lid off the dutch oven without having to remove the whole pot. Yay, progress!

The loaf I am testing this week Is Josey Baker’s ‘Your First Sourdough Loaf’, I wasn’t that pleased with the way the dough was behaving so I might need to make some adjustments because of the whole-wheat flour I am using. I have a bag of Callington Mill organic whole wheat and it seems to take up less water  than other whole wheats I’ve used.

Drumming my fingers in anticipation for the timer to go off……………. Drum roll please!

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I’m pretty happy with that! Think the temp might have been a bit too high for starters but it smells great, I am looking forward to tweaking and learning how to use this oven more effectively now.

 

 

 

 

Lamb, oranges and leaf mold.

Citrus is in!

I pulled up the blinds in the lounge this morning (yesterday really) and noticed how many oranges were now singing out to me to be picked. Excuse the photo, it is taken through the 90-year-old glass!

Orange tree

With 2 of our 3 kids and their partners coming for tea I needed to think of a way to put some of these beauties to use. From another angle, you can see how this tree is loaded with fruit. I’m really chuffed as the first season here we only had 2 oranges that were like golf balls and as dry as a ….. Lots of chicken poo and water later and this is now a really valuable asset. Need to work out a plan, as its root zone is right where we are planning to build  a fence.

Orange Poppy Seed Cake and slow cooker roast lamb!

Dinner menu for the family was Slow cooker roast lamb, greek style roast potatoes served with carrots and broccoli freshly picked from the patch. I’d taken a leg of lamb I bought from ‘Wayne the great’ at Trafalgar Butcher Shop a couple of months ago out of the freezer to defrost, cut some slits and put garlic, rosemary into them and then rubbed some, chopped oregano and mint over it and poured some olive oil and white wine and lemon juice over, let it sit for about an hour turning a couple of times, then into the slow cooker.

LambGreek style roast potatoes are one of my favourite ways to serve spuds. Due to my limited kitchen, I peeled the spuds, cut them to required size and microwaved them for about 8 minutes, still a little firm in centre but a little soft on outside, shake to roughen them up. I made a coating of equal parts olive oil and lemon juice, chopped some oregano and put the potatoes on a tea towel to cool. These were going into an oven dish to bake about an hour before dinner was served.

Greek roast potatoesCarrots quartered lengthwise and cooked with the lamb, broccoli cut into florets zapped with some peas then topped with chopped spring onion and a little melted butter and S&P.  Didn’t get a shot of the finished dinner, but I served the lamb shredded off the bone, roasted spuds, carrots and broccoli and peas dressed with a reduction from the slow cooker juices. Yummy!

Dessert was an orange poppy-seed cake made with our oranges served with cream. I’d been saving this recipe for about 8 years. Not being big dessert or cake eaters (kids never got dessert or cakes) I wonder why I am now keen to bake. Maybe its getting older, or living in an old home that has brought this out.

Orange Poppy Seed cakeLeaf mold time!

We keep resisting the big clean up of leaves until they have all fallen but it gets to the point where it is just too overwhelming and we need to attempt to regain a sense of control. I must admit having the plan this season to blow them all into one spot has proven to be a great time and energy saver. Notice the fence line where leaves go up to and see the next picture, gives some sense of the volume.

Oak tree leaves16 mower catcher full loads later, chopped, added to the bin in layers with lime, blood and bone and compost in between layers, watered  and sit back now to wait for it to magically turn into beautiful leaf mold which can be spread where needed.

IMG_4447 IMG_4448So many people comment on what a pain it must be dealing with these leaves, but I reckon if you love the trees you have to relish everything that comes with them. While we can manage them I intend to do so.

 

 

 

Preparing for the onslaught.

Very soon, all of these leaves will hit the ground with no concerns about me wanting to maintain some level of order.Oak leavesAdd to this the dropping leaves  from the ‘Faraway Tree’ size Pin Oak in the front yard and we will be smothered. Not complaining, I do love them but there are so many it can be overwhelming. Relentless! Last year we decided not to try to keep the yard orderly and wait until all had fallen and then do a major clean up. This worked pretty well but there were areas where leaves seemed to naturally congregate, so rather than collect and move them to the far end of the yard into awaiting compost bins (should say leaf mold bins) I am locating bins strategically so we can just mow and toss right into the bin. All part of sustainable design!

I’ve put the first bin in the little space where what used to be the visiting dentist’s room is. You can see there already some leaves settling in.IMG_3326I can get the mower in, mulch all the leaves up and chuck straight into the bin. The leaves take forever to breakdown if they are not chopped up first. Mixed with lawn clippings and other greens it helps hasten the process.IMG_3328

My first ever kale experience.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have never tried kale before and had no idea really on what to do with it. Decided to just pretend it was like spinach and wing it. This is the result and it looks darn good if I must say. Kale, potato and feta rolls.Kale, Potato & Feta rollsKale, 2 large potatoes, 1 onion, our first rocoto chilli to go into a meal, some feta cheese, 1/3 tspn of both cumin and coriander powders, S&P (not much salt because the feta is salty), 1 egg and 3 sheets of puff pastry (only because that’s what was to hand).IMG_3331Peeled and diced the potatoes and microwaved for about 6 minutes, soft but still firm. Chopped/sliced onion, rocoto chilli, removed spine from kale, chopped it into fine shreds and cooked all together in pan in a smidge of olive oil. When soft I added the cumin and coriander and cooked it out for about 2 minutes. Threw the lot into a mixing bowl that already had the potatoes and crumbled feta in it, mixed all together and added an egg to bind. IMG_3340Divided into thirds and placed a third on each sheet of pastry, folded pastry over, glazed with milk cause I’m too lousy to waste an egg on this sort of casual meal. Into the ‘toy oven’ for about 40 minutes (probably wouldn’t take this long in a real oven!).

Served with some lovely tomato pickles and home made tomato sauce. Tick to eating kale, happy to do so again. Yep, just like spinach in this dish.

PS: The rocoto chilli was a pleasant surprise, I would describe it as a red capsicum with attitude. Not too hot, in fact if you love chilli flavour I think you’d be disappointed. As a crop that is likely to supply a large harvest I prefer this it stays on this side of the scales. Rocoto Chilli

 

Baby steps but getting there!

With the addition of 3 new wicking beds in the area allocated as the produce garden we can start to see how the final area will look and how workable it will be. I’m REALLY excited that I have more much-needed space to plant all the things I want to grow. The first filling has been placed between the pavers and will be topped with a lighter coloured gravelly mix soon. A water feature has been added that will allow  lizards and bees to rehydrate and is soothing to listen to while in the garden. The only jobs left to do in this area is fence it, get some espaliered fruit-growing on the rear fence, build compost bays, put permanent edging on asparagus bed and build a spot for my shiitake mushrooms to live. The area is proving to work well in its layout with good sunshine, plenty of space between beds and it is reasonably protected from strong wind (this has been tested well and truly with the weather of late!).

Productive Garden layout
Fence and gates will be along the area where the brick edging finishes. Hoping to build a really rustic gate as entry and a climbing rose (or grape) will be planted to cover an arch.

 What a beautiful day!

Saturday would have to have been the nicest day weather wise we have seen for ages! We had planned on getting stuck into doing some work finishing off the bedroom but you could not possibly pass up an opportunity to be outside on such a day.

I had 3 Big and dirty jobs that needed doing, sorting out some of the compost, cleaning out the chook house and removing one layer of worm castings from the worm farm. The leaf mold I started in June has progressed much better than last years efforts! This year I chopped the oak leaves with the mower and lined the wire ‘bin’ with black plastic. Today I turned the ‘cake’ into one of the Gedye bins and I wouldn’t be surprised if its right to use in a couple of months. I got 2 big bins full of chicken muck which is going to be composted separately and used on the citrus trees. The worm farm was well overdue for a cleanse and I now have a very large bucket of lovely worm castings which will be used in my potting mix and around seedlings.

Leaf mold 'cake'

 

Our efforts at attracting more birds and bees to the yard seems to be working. We have noticed wattle birds, many different parrots including lorikeets and crimson rosella coming in. The flowering callistemon always seems to have a visitor in it!

Rainbow lorikeet Wattle bird

 

Lots of spring flowers are appearing and I love seeing their cheery faces. Rose buds are forming and my Souvenir de la Mel Maison climbing rose is in flower. Cant wait to see it climbing over the arbor entry to the vegie patch!

Souvenir de la Mel Maison rose Granny's Bonnets

Poppy Pansies, lobelia, herbs and SLMM rose in bud.

Harvesting and planting at the moment.

We are starting to get strawberries, lots more forming so thats exciting!

IMG_1493I’ve been picking coriander, silver beet, beetroot, lettuce, asparagus (which seems to be slowing down), oregano and mint. I have planted (with all that new space) beans, both dwarf and climbing, zucchini, radishes, eggplant, corn, snow peas, capsicum,black cherry tomatoes and in the greenhouse, rockmelons also known as cantaloupe. I have planted a couple of tomatoes in the greenhouse but will hold off for another week or so planting out the main crop. It is traditional to plant tomatoes on Melbourne Cup Day in Victoria, but mine might go in next weekend.

IMG_1571Baby radish seedling coming through in one of the new wicking beds. Love seeing seeds come to life!

Rocoto Chilli.

My husband was given a seedling from a workmate of a Rocoto Chilli. I had never heard of them but apparently it is a perennial chilli and can keep producing fruit for several years. I did some googling and it sounds too good to be true, so I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes.

Rocoto chilli

 

This is why I keep chipping away!

Vegetarian pasta

Vegetarian pasta with my asparagus and herbs. Mmmm, mmm.