Saturday, December 27, 2008

Growing Challenge Update 4

Well it has certainly been a while since I blogged. Things have been quite hectic with harvest and Christmas and children. Emme is 7 1/2 months and has decided to crawl, sit on her bottom, on her knees and pull herself to standing all in the last couple of weeks. Thankfully she is a lot happier now she can move!

Anyway, back to the update. Nothing at all has been planted as it is quite hot now and I don't have enough time to care for little seeds or seedlings.

  • really just watering and weeding
  • have cut up old stockings and have been using them to help keep the tomatoes staked
  • lots of zucchini
  • brown onions
  • spring onions
  • silverbeet
  • lettuce- only 1 left
  • enough basil to make pesto once a week
  • carrots
  • rhubarb
  • potatoes
  • the first bean from the scarlet runner beans
  • plums
  • pumpkins are running well and the first of the fruit is starting to set
  • eggplant, capsicums, mini rockmelons and beans are flowering well
  • cucumbers don't look fantastic- probably won't get many this year
  • tomatoes actually look really healthy and pretty much disease free at the moment (last year the wilt was revolting), lots of staking, pruning and love seems to be working, green tomatoes are forming now, bit later than usual with the cool November and December
  • leeks are really fattening up
Little gem squash that I think I got from The Digger's Club, they are on quite a long vine, I haven't grown them before so must go and look up exactly when to harvest

One side on the vegetable patch
The tomatoes just outside the vegetable patch with a some self-sown zucchini in the foreground and the Japanese pumpkins behind, just infront of the asparagus patch. All a bit droopy with the midday heat.
My aim for this week is to really try and menu plan and see if I can cut out some of the 90km round trips to the closest large town I seem to do quite often (usually once a week or 10 days, there is a shop 10km down the road but it is quite limiting and their fresh is a little to my fresh so I tend to only buy dairy and the real necessities there). Shouldn't be too hard now the summer vegies have really taken off.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Our Weekend

With Ian finally out harvesting the girls and I had a quietish weekend.

Emme is up on her knees- not quite crawling or sitting but very close, still manages to get everywhere by rolling and wiggling, found her stuck under the TV shelf earlier.

Lyssie had her first real header ride on the weekend- she loved it! Lucky our header is equipped with an extra seat and seatbelt to keep her out of trouble.

Lyssie helped with some shortbread stars, she did a good job but I really had to try hard not to redo the ones that weren't perfect. She is really enjoying 'helping' now.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Rhubarb Vanilla Mincemeat

I love Christmas cooking and with Lyssie away at Mum and Dad's for a few days now is the perfect time to start and prepare for the upcoming festive period.

I never use to be a fan of fruit mince pies at Christmas, but I have discovered that they don't have to be heavy and gluggy like I remember. I really like Nigella Lawson's take on them in Feast. This morning I made Nigella's Rhubarb Vanilla Mincemeat and bottled it ready for use closer to Christmas and also for next winter. It really is delicious- the vanilla works surprisingly well. It is suggested by Nigella that it may also be nice mixed through a sharp apple crumble, I will definatley be trying that when we find ourselves with excess apples.

This is definatly a recipe I would recommend to others, very simple but really tasty.

Fresh rhubarb awaiting the pot!

The fruitmince quietly stewing away- I love the colours

Bottles and ready for storing- shame all the colous have gone. Strawberry and brandy sauce in the background.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Growing Challenge Update Photos

I had a quick feel under the potatoes today and found these! Should be quite a few in there I think. Ian will be happy as he is quite a potato fan.

One of the potato spots- my potatoes have never been this vigorous before- think all the rain may have something to do with it! They are grown in layers of straight pig compost and straw all rotting together.

Triamble pumpkins just starting to run
Some sows of carrots which I thinned out a little today, some are much bigger than others as I had to replant most of the rows when they mysteriously disappeared. Baby leeks and spring onions behind. The bare patch in the corner is ready for the second planting of corn that will go in next week.

Half of the garlic harvest on the veranda to dry. Probably picked a fraction early but seems to be drying well. Glad it was harvested before the big rains is it would have done it a bit of damage I think. Last year I left the garlic in the ground a bit too long and some of it rotted. We have been using it this week and it is really zingy!

Growing Challenge Update 3

It has been a while since I have updated the challenge, not a huge amount to report- mainly lots of rain, 2 inches in the last week! It is good for the garden, but not really helpful when we should be harvesting canola, wheat, barley and oats- all of which will not be worth significantly less. The rain also has consequences for the sheep as it ruins the dry feed so they have to be fed grain and fly strike is a constant problem.

Anyway back to the very well watered garden!

Planted since last update on the 9th
  • 3 punnets o9f basil (need plenty to make a years supply of pesto)
  • punnet of lettuce
  • punnet of silverbeet (didn't actually need it as I have found many self-seeded silverbeets popping up with this rain)
  • Ned Kelly passionfruit- a present from my mother-in-law
  • 2 rosemary plants that I had dug up and had in the greenhouse waiting for a good spot
  • pulled out rest of the pansies that boardered the path in the vegie patch
  • lots of weeding (al least it is easy with the rain)
  • continued to put pea straw around- nearly all done
  • harvested 40 bulbs of garlic-thankfully before the big rains
  • gave most of the vegie patch a dose of seaweed fertiliser to give them a boost- they look like they could really do with a few nice warm sunny days
  • continue to help train tomatoes up, some through a ringlock fence and some with stocking tie
Harvesting at the moment
  • English spinach
  • garlic- all gone
  • rhubarb
  • a couple of potatoes
  • onions
  • strawberries
  • the usual herbs
Thunder is getting a bit close again, will post photos later, had better unplug computer!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Strawberry Jam

The last couple of weeks have been really busy and with Emme still getting up 5 times a night I haven't had a chance to achieve much. The last 3 nights have been quite manageble- especially last night she only woke up at 11.30 and 3.30- it was like a dream come true! So finally managed to achieve something.

Last year was the first year I have ever made strawberry jam- I still can't get over how easy it is (and how delicious). I admit that my strawberry jam is really quite runny- but that is actually how I like it, I don't like jam that doesn't spread itself.

This morning was jam making morning- well it only took an hour or so (as long as you are prepared it really doesn't take long). I washed, cut and weighed the fruit last night so today I just had to prepare the jars while the jam was cooking. Ian took the kids for a drive so I didn't have to worry about them.

I wish I could say that all the fruit came from my garden, but I can't as the slugs and earwigs really seem to love strawberries! Below the fruit I picked yesterday, I made it up to 2kg with some seconds my mother-in-law picked up last week from a local grower in her area.

Simple Strawberry Jam

2kg strawberries, halved if big (I like jam with texture)
2kg sugar
juice of a lemon or two

Put the strawberries in a large, heavy based pan with the lemon and gently cook for 15 minutes, stirring every minute or so. Add the sugar slowly as you stir to dissolve it, then let it boil for 15 minutes stirring a few times. Let it sit for 5 minutes and then pour into prepared jars and seal.

I always store my strawberry jam in the fridge as I'm not sure how long it will last as it is quite runny.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Growing Challenge Update 2

There is lots of planting and maintenance happening in the garden but not a lot of harvesting as we really are in between seasons at the moment. All the winter produce has now finished and I am awaiting some summer vegies to get a move on! We have had a couple of quite cool weeks so things are really quite slow.

For harvesting at present
  • rhubarb
  • garlic all needs to be pulled this week
  • still asparagus, although probably for not much longer
  • English Spinach
  • Strawberries (there would be bucket fulls if it wasn't for the bugs)
  • lots of herbs although the coriander has now finished and won't be replanted until the end of summer
Planted over the last week
  • 2 punnets of leeks
  • 1 punnet of spring onions
  • 1 punnet of basil into old laundry troughs
  • 6 Japanese pumpkins (don't really need them, but couldn't resist grabbing a punnet and having a go as I haven't grown them before)
  • 3 zucchini I raised in the greenhouse
  • row of climbing beans
Maintenance this week
  • Pulled out the rest of the silverbeet (all gone to seed) and gave to the pet lambs who loved them
  • pulled out rest of climbing peas and moved frame to put climbing beans on
  • finished putting pea strew around tomatoes, eggplant and capsicum, Ian brough more down from the shed so there is more to go around this week
  • potted more baby asparagus seedlings
  • gave most of the vegie garden and pots a good dose of seaweed solution
'The Boys' waiting for another wheelbarrow load of scraps from the garden
Henry, Alex, Charles, Lawrence and Bruce

Friday, November 7, 2008

Asparagus, Asparagus Everywhere!

When I was growing up asparagus always seemed to be a really fancy and exotic vegetable. Living in rural Western Australia we never saw fresh asparagus and it wasn't until my late teens that I actually ate fresh asparagus. My mum always had a tin of asparagus in the pantry and often put it in quiches. I was never a fan of the tinned variety but was quite quickly hooked on it fresh.

Before growing asparagus I always imagined it would be a difficult plant to grow as I didn't know of many people with their own asparagus patches- how wrong I was! It really doesn't need a lot of loving care, just some good compost, bit of straw and a deep water once or twice a week and with a bit of luck it should continue producing for 20 years! Some of mine has been in for 4 years and this year we have been getting a nice bunch every second day. Asparagus seems to grow from seed quite easily and has self seeded itself all through the compost heap which is next to the asparagus patch. They are popping up everywhere and Lyssie and I have been potting them for friends this week. When I say they are popping up everywhere, I mean everywhere. That is everywhere I have moved compost, in the corn, in the lettuce, pots of basil and even under the orange tree, all over the garden.

Some of the asparagus Lyssie has helped me pot- 2 year olds are such help in the garden, especially when they insist that they wear the gloves, use the spade and hold all the pots!

A baby asparagus popping up in some lettuces growing in an old laundry trough

A two year old asparagus plant under the orange tree (and a few weeds!)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Growing Challenge Update 1

We have had quite a lot of rain over the last week which has been just lovely for the garden and to finish off the crops on the farm, so much so that we are ready for it to stop now and dry out ready for harvest. It has been great weather for the seeds I have planted to get going.

Potatoes in front, just mounded more pea straw up around their stems, scarlet runner beans on left down fenceline, little corn seedlings where it looks bare then onions behind

Here is a quick update on the seeds in the vege patch
  • all the corn are up and happy- waire cages are now off
  • most of the pumpkins and zucchinis are up and their first real leaf is forming
  • some of the Minnesota Rockmelons are up
  • 2 out of 3 varieties of cucumber are up- Chinese snake and Lebanese mini muncher are up, still waiting on sweet and striped to appear
  • Scarlet runner beans are up- I am surprised at how big their leaves are!
In the greenhouse
  • something has eaten the Tuscan kale
  • the spinach is developing real leaves
  • the corn and zucchinis are ready to be planted out
  • the butternut pumpkins are a bit slow- I had a dig in the toilet roll pots and they are beginning to germinate
I have never been one to save my own seeds except for maybe a pumpkin here or there, but this year I did try and grow my own chillies with some seeds off another chilli- and to my surprise it actually worked! I have just pricked out some little baby two leaf chilli plants into a punnet. There are still a lot more left. If they grow like I imagine the will make great Christmas presents.

The chilli seeds germinating

Seedlings that have just been pricked out and out into a punnet, English spinach in front of them

The rain has kept the fruit trees looking fresh. The old plum and apricot have been netted as we have quite a parrot problem here. Would like to do the quince this weekend and the two little apple trees, a pink lady and Granny Smith. They are tiny- not even as tall as me which is annoying as they have been in nearly 4 years! At least they are covered in fruit, not sure if it should be thinned out or not?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Finally I have found a pastry that is actually relatively easy and not too time consuming! After trying many versions of 'classic' butter and flour style shortcrust pastry for quiches and pies I was beginning to think that I really wasn't cut out for making pastry. But I had one more crack and decided to make Maggie Beer's sour cream pastry. It is surprisingly easy to work with and forgiving!

Ready for tart making, fresh eggs, asparagus and the very last of the leeks

I made a version of Maggie's Asparagus and Leek Tart as we are getting a nice bunch of asparagus a day at the moment and it is just divine! It is such a treat to nibble of fresh asparagus as you wander around the garden, even Lyssie has a go. The tart worked out really well, although I did swap the 12 egg yolks for 6 whole eggs and the two and a half cups of cream for one cup.

My little helper. Every time I walk even remotely towards the kitchen Lyssie is following me with her chair to stand on. Here she is ready to help, snotty hay fever nose and all! Not sure why she needed a beanie as it has been a bit warm this week!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Growing Challenge

Time to join the Growing Challenge!

I am located in the Great Southern region of Western Australia and fall into zone 4. I have been an avid vegetable gardener for 4 years and find the whole process very rewarding. I get most of my seeds and a lot of my ideas from The Digger's Club and their associated books.

Something new I have tried recently is the idea of raising seeds in toilet rolls which I have seen in a few blogs lately including Towards Sustainability. I really like the idea of reducing the transplant shock as many times I want to plant things before their roots are developed enough to withstand being moving out of a container.

Two weeks ago I planted
4 into corn (unsure of variety)
4 into Tuscan kale- haven't grown before
2 into blackjack zucchini
2 into Lebanese zucchini
2 into trombocino zucchini
4 into butternut pumpkin
4 into Spinch Winter Queen (these were into an old punnet as I had run out of toilet rolls)

So far the corn are popping through, the Tuscan kale and spinach are up and the blackjack zucchini are just about up. Hopefully the other's aren't far behind.

I have planted other zucchini seeds into the vege garden, so the ones above I will use as back up and the fill in spaces- you can never have enough zucchini plants (although my husband disagrees- he gets a bit over eating them in summer- not me, they are my favourite).

Above is 4 rows of corn that were planted on the 12 of October- most have popped through now. They have wire over the rows as in the past I have had trouble with birds getting the seeds. When they get a little bigger they can come off.

The aim for this week is to start the war against slugs! They are everywhere!

Sunday's Goals

I managed a couple of things ! Mainly the cooking (always seems to get done before anything else).
Things completed
  • pickled beetroot- yum (only 1 more batch still in the veg patch)
  • made quiches
  • made banana loaf (Lyssie loves it)
  • did actually vacuum- moved some furniture round first and tried to give the living area a bit more play space- bit over constantly treading on various toys and play mats and tripping over the rocker
  • packed away some of Lyssie's toys- she hasn't noticed yet or found them
  • went for a walk
Still haven't cleaned the stove or blogged or joined the growing challenge- hopefully I will now as long as no one wakes up!

Saturday, October 18, 2008


I have recently been inspired to set myself some goals (from here). Before I can set any long term goals it would be best to get through each day! So here are my goals for today.
  • pickle beetroot
  • make mini quiches for Lyssie's dinner tonight
  • make banana and date laof
  • vacuum living areas
  • Blog about a fantastic lunch last week
  • join the growing challenge
  • clean the stove (after I have finished cooking)
  • take the girls for a good walk
  • when Lyssie is asleep tonight, pack away and hide some of her toys for a few weeks (then they will be like new ones)
Not quite sure how I will go as it is 1.00pm already and I have only just managed to blog this. Best be off to bring in the washing and do all the day to day things that aren't goals before I can really get started!! Will report back in tonight- hopefully!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Local Show

On Saturday it was our local agricultural show. It is by no means a 'big' show, but it is quite a local event. For the first time I managed to get organised and enter some things I have grown and made. I was pretty pleased with how I went, but I must admit that in a couple of sections I was the only entrant!

Here is how I went
Plum Jam- first (out of two)
Pickles (I put in a jar of beetroot relish)- first (out of one)
Loaf, unsliced suitable the butter (I made a banana and date loaf)- first (out of two)
Bearded iris- first (out of about 8)
3 pansies distinct- didn't get a place, I thought they wanted three the same, but it was actually 3 different, something I have learnt for next year
Pumpkin- first (out of two)
Bunch of spring onions- second (out of two)
Bunch of silverbeet- first (out of four)
Basket of herbs- second (out of two and the first place was really quite good)
Basket of vegetables- first (out of one) this did manage to win best exhibit in the home industries section so I was quite happy with that

Silverbeet relaxing in the bath before their big day on show

Best exhibit in Home Industries- included silverbeet, kale, beetroot, asparagus, snow peas, crimson broad beans and artichoke

Friday, October 10, 2008

Everyday Sourdough

This is not quite traditional but certainly tastes great and is simple to do any day of the week. This recipe makes quite a decent sized loaf and I always do the hard work in the bread machine.

Sourdough Starter

125g white baker's flour
1 tsp dry yeast
125ml tepid water

Mix together quite well in a small bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature overnight.

Sourdough starter after ready to go into bread machine

Sourdough Bread

280ml tepid water
sourdough starter mix (above)
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup natural yoghurt
600g white baker's flour
1 1/2 tsp dried yeast

Put all the sourdough bread ingredients in the bread maker and put through the dough cycle- an hour and a half in my machine.

Prepare an average sized mixing bowl by lining it with a clean tea towel and dusting with a generous amount of flour (enough to stop the dough sticking). Turn completed dough out onto a floured surface and shape into a ball. Place smooth side down in the bowl, cover with the excess tea towel and stand for about 45 minutes (or until doubled in size).

Preheat oven to 210*. Prepare a flat oven tray (I always line with baking paper). Place a dish of boiling water in the bottom of the oven to create steam.

Fold the tea towel back and place the tray over it, flip it and carefully remove the bowl and the tea towel. Place 3 or 4 cuts across the top each way with a sharp knife. Bake for 20 minutes at 210*, then reduce to 180* for a further 15-20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Ready for the oven

Friday, October 3, 2008

Homemade Presents

It seems like a long way off, but Christmas is less than 3 months away. I decided it was time to think about presents so this week I have done a lot of reading and researching and got some great ideas from 'Blog World'. As I am really not a crafty person (never been praised for being persistent so never really became skilled at anything crafty) it took a while to find something that suited me. Finally I found the perfect homemade present- cake mixes in a jar. What a simple, yet practical idea that suits me perfectly. After reading a lot of recipes it became clear that it would be easy to adapt the idea of having dry ingredients in a jar and simply adding a couple of basic wet ingredients. This is what I came up with. Might try to adapt this cookie one this week if I have time.

Rich Chocolate Walnut Brownies
This mix fits perfectly into a size 31 Vacola preserving jar

For the cake mix:
2/3 cup self-raising flour, sifted
2/3 cup cocoa, sifted
1 cup caster sugar
1 1/2 cups dark chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts

Mix together in a large bowl, put in jar and seal. (Did try to make it look pretty with layers, but unless there is no air at all the layers will move around a bit and look a bit sloppy. Also with the choc chips and walnut layers the finer ingredients move through them.)

Instructions to go on gift

Preheat oven to 160* and line a square cake tin with baking paper. Tip all dry ingredients into a bowl and make a well in the centre. In the well add 1 teaspoon on vanilla essence, 4 eggs and 330g melted butter and mix well. Pour into cake tin and bake for 40 minutes or until just cooked.

No picture of the finished product I'm afraid, was quite rich and yummy, Lyssie and Ian were both pretty happy with the result!

Monday, September 29, 2008

A Nice Spring Day

With a good drop of rain last week and the sun shining today, things have really started to move in the garden. There is still an abundance of broccoli, celery, English spinach, silverbeet, spring onions and beetroot while the asparagus, peas and rhubarb and now ready to pick. The broad beans are a little slow and I can see the first of the artichokes bursting out. I am really looking forward to the garlic maturing as last seasons is long gone and I can't find any Australian garlic at any nearby supermarkets.

We have been away to Albany for the weekend to catch up with friends and celebrate a 30th and a 60th which was really lovely. I love Albany on the weekend as they have a fantastic farmer's market every Saturday morning. I managed to pick up lots of goodies including leeks, apples, oranges, free range chicken, local milk, lettuce, jerulasum artichokes (not quite sure what to do with them?) and some potted herbs. While in Albs Lyssie and I snuck down to the nursery without baby Emme and picked up all our Summer seedlings. It is a bit early to put them in so they will have to wait in the greenhouse for a couple of weeks. I got a bit overexcited with the tomatoes I think.

Dinner tonight was a risotto cake. Had to get the cake cover out as it cooled as the blowflys have returned with the warmer weather. When I make a risotto cake I just put in whatever is in season and needs to be used. Here is a basic recipe.

Olive oil
3 spring onions (or an onion or leek, just happen to have lots of spring onions at present)
2 rashers bacon, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup arborio rice
2 cups chicken stock
a couple of cups of vegetables- usually two or the following, roasted pumpkin, broccoli, asparagus, English spinach, peas, mushroom etc
half a cup of finely grated parmesan cheese
3 eggs
Fresh herbs chopped- whatever you have and like eg basil, parsely, chives etc
pinenuts and a sprinkling of parmesan to top
salt and pepper to taste

Gently fry off the spring onion, garlic and bacon in the olive oil. Stir in the rice and then the stock, cover and simmer 10 mins or so until the rice is softish, but still with a little crunch. Turn off the heat and add vegies of your choice (today I used asparagus and English spinach) and stir through with cheese. Let it sit for 5 mins or so and then transfer to a mixing bowl and let it cool slightly.

Preheat the oven to 180* and lightly grease a 23 cm springform cake tin with olive oil and line with baking paper. Stir through the eggs and herbs (today it was Italian parsely and chives), season to taste and transfer to the baking tin. Smooth the top and sprinkle with extra cheese and pine nuts. Bake for 40 mins or until top is gloden.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Frosty Nights

We have had a couple of really nasty frosts this week that could have been quite destructive for the asparagus patch. Some of the asparagus has been in for 3 seasons now so it has become quite productive. There are lots of babies in that have self seeded themselves and also some new purple asparagus planted last year from the Digger's Club. The purple and green look really pretty coming up together. Thankfully to avoid frost damage Ian rigged up a cover we can put over at night. He wishes he could do this for his 'big vegetable patch'.

The asparagus is planted in a raised bed made out of old hardwood sleepers. It use to be used as the compost heap when Ian's parents lived here so it is full of wonderful rich, moist compost that drains well, perfect for asparagus.

Potatoes thawing out and going to mush!

The frost is s real pain at this time of year as you start to prepare for summer. Usually frost intolerant summer vegies can't go in until at least the middle of October. A couple of years ago we had a frost as late as the 3rd or 4th of November- that set back the tomatoes and unfortunately the wheat as well!