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.

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?

 

 

 

 

 

Exteno update and pumpkin seed bread.

Well it is well and truly all systems go here. I may as well just talk you through some shots of what’s been happening.

We have floor boards!

IMG_6797These were laid last week and it is thrilling to now be able to actually see the room as a unit.  You can just see on the left  a couple of doors on the passageway. These doors were originally at the front of the passage and divided the home from the doctors ‘business end’ of things. They really suit this spot and I love the fact we have put them back into the home. Wiring is all roughed in and light fittings will be fitted later next week.IMG_0349 This is a pic of what will be the laundry which is part of a second bathroom, the laundry bits will be hidden in a cupboard. This was taken yesterday and we have since done 2 coats of paint. The tiler is supposed to come tomorrow so we have tried to cover as much as possible before he starts to avoid dropping paint over the new tiles. We are notoriously messy painters!IMG_6822This pic is of the ceiling in the new spare bedroom. I really love whacky angles and think this will be a really cosy room.IMG_6824 This is taken from the door of this bedroom looking back out to the family/kitchen room. There is a storeroom off to the left and when you turn right (where the paint drop sheets are), you come intoIMG_6825 this passage that the bathroom/laundry, are off. There is also another toilet and a store cupboard in this area. IMG_6821In the shed is a divorce waiting to happen! After much research and investigating we have opted for a DIY kitchen. My son and D.I.L did theirs and their kitchen looks sensational, better than most of the displays we looked at and a hell of a lot cheaper. We have been spending way too much and because I want to have the benchtops made from the timber we took from the old parts of the house, we really needed to tighten the belt a bit. I’m really excited to see it come together.  We survived putting up a greenhouse so I think we can survive some cupboards! IMG_6826So that’s where we are currently at. After waiting sooooooo long I can’t believe how well and how quickly its coming together.

Pumpkin seed sourdough.

I thought I’d try a few loaves over the next few weeks that have extra seeds and grains added . This weekends bake was a simple country loaf dough made of 90% bread flour, 10% Callington Mill Whole Wheat flour, 72% water, 25% white starter (100% hydration), 2% salt, and 150g pumpkin seed (.075%).

IMG_0295 Love seeing such an active starter doing its thing!IMG_0298-001I went back to using my Falcon Enamel roaster to bake these loaves as I’m struggling with sore hands and the cast iron pots are having a little break for a couple of weeks.IMG_6840Crumb shot of the loaf below.IMG_6848Happy with that!IMG_6842Can’t wait to see what next week delivers with the exteno!

 

What a difference a day makes!

We have been cruising along for the last two years working on the things that you can’t really see making much of a difference, water pipes, rewiring, new gas line, levelling. The first visible (apart from some paint work) major change we have done to the structure of the house commenced this weekend. Although a lot of bedrooms, they’re all small and didn’t really have any that lent themselves to being what we accept these days as a master BR. We decided to knock out a wall between two and create one large room. This room also had sections in the flooring where some patching had been done by cutting straight lines and fitting in normal pinus radiata,quite tacky really! A visit to Hughes Renovations Paradise led us to sourcing some Baltic pine flooring that matched our original floorboards. Our builder also had to install a massive beam in the roof as we wanted the ceiling to be smooth across the whole room and not looking like 2 rooms turned into one. A few replacement timbers damaged years ago by borer and we were up and running.

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Here we go!
Repairs done, time to and mix and match boards
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Boards done, all left now is plastering, wiring, painting, wardrobe, door through to bathroom, floor boards, sanded and waxed/polished, curtains purchase of some furniture. Not much really!

Another day, another difference!

While all the action was going on inside I donned my rain coat and headed out to construct a bed for my spuds (potatoes). Collected a few bits of timber from the scrap heap, screwed them together and started to add some of the compost from the open heap that doesn’t appear to be doing much. The plan is to put the dry matter on the bottom of the bed and add the good stuff from the bottom of the heap to where the tubers will be planted. The litter was full of goodies and the girls went berserk. I’ll probably let the girls have a good old scratch in this for a week or two before planting it out.

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Mr Hans (Happy Birthday Mr Hans!), started doing the brick edging around the dedicated garden beds. I’m very excited about the development of the garden and this lovely damp but not too cold weather is great to get plants in and settled before it gets too wintery.

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I hadn’t really thought about how successful last years garlic harvest was until today. I had a big bowl of heads still plaited together on standby as gifts but needed to refill the kitchen supply. I cut all the plaited stalks off and weighed the garlic, 1.7kg! Now that’s impressive when you consider I spent $40.00 on planting stock, have given away probably close to 20 lots of 3 heads plaited together as or part of gifts, have used an equivalent sized bag since December in the kitchen as well as making garlic spray for bugs. All still really firm and not showing any signs of beyond shelf life. I am really happy with using the fruit exclusion bags for storing, air circulates, holes are small enough that scrappy bits don’t fall through and they hand easily. I also have bay leaves I picked from the old house stored in these.

Garlic

In the kitchen.

With silver beet still a plenty and some ricotta cheese that needed a purpose I whipped up some muffins to take to work this week. Look and smell pretty good. First time I have used the toy oven for baking although I had to buy some muffin tins small enough to fit in, I am very happy with this little machine. Much better too than heating a huge oven for small items.

Spinach ricotta muffins

Soul food shanks-

this weather is so suited to using the slow cooker. I had a couple of lamb (although by their size I think they may well be dinosaur shanks) so set them up this morning with a base of red wine, carrot, onion, stock and onion, bouquet garni, covered by foil to keep moist and simmered along all day. Mash, peas, some leftover cauli in white sauce, a reduction of the simmer sauce with shiitake mushrooms added and it was like being back in the 60’s with a Sunday lunch. Way too big but we did salvage enough to turn it into two meals.

Check out the shine on that sauce!

Time to do some more slow cooker stock. With all the pho and slow cooker dishes we have been using loads of it.

First step down the long, long road.

The very exciting beginning to our restoration/renovation process has officially begun! This week the electrician has started re-wiring the entire house which will include replacing and relocating the meter board, replacing the fuse board with something slightly smaller than the mini sub-station hanging from the wall at the moment and removing all of the fluro tube lights  and wall strip heaters. I can’t envisage that these electric strip heaters could achieve anything in the way of warmth when they are 12 feet off the ground! I will feel so much safer when these dangerous fittings have been given the old heave ho! The one thing we really hope to keep is the original door bell, its a doozy! None of your electronic ding dongs here! You remember, a good proper bell that continues ringing as long as you push the button,  the type where you can annoy people by being smart and pushing the ringer to SOS or happy birthday etc. Love it!

 

Wonder if the new one will last as well as the old one? We estimate about 70 years!