Last of the Autumn Salad

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You have heard of ‘Last of the Summer Wine’?  Well, this is a little different.

Our meal this evening was Zucchini and Corn Fritters.  You can find the recipe here.

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The accompanying salad was sourced entirely from our garden.  Lettuce, cherry tomatoes and coriander were picked today while the cucumber is the end of the last one which we picked about 3 weeks ago.

We found that cucumber stored really well in the crisper section of the refrigerator.  The lettuce is going to seed but in our mild climate there is a good chance that we will even have some more self-sown ones during the winter months.  There are still fruit on the various cherry tomato plants scattered throughout the garden.  We do not experience frosts here so it is likely that we will continue to harvest a few here and there but it will not abundance we have had during the summer and autumn.  Coriander has self-seeded throughout our garden area and we are thrilled as the flower heads are particularly loved by the bees.

I made the sweet chilli sauce from chillies from my sister’s garden.  The details and recipe are in an earlier post.

Seasonal eating means that we value and appreciate the produce from our garden.  It is probably about 5 months until I next eat cucumber and I know that by then I will be really looking forward to that first crisp crunch.

Money For Jam

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We have all heard of the phrase, ‘money for jam’, this post is about jam for very little money.  Making your own jam is probably one of the best ways to save money.  Commercially prepared jams often contain very little in the way of fruit and ‘premium’ brands are ridiculously expensive.

In the blog post from yesterday I shared how I had sliced and soaked the homegrown grapefruit.

After being soaked for about 15 hours I was ready to make the marmalade.

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Like most jam recipes this one is very simple.  The original from Annabel Langbein is here.  I chose not to use the whiskey.

You will need equal quantities of fruit and sugar and an equivalent volume of water.

For example, I used:

1.2kg of grapefruit Scrubbed, quartered and thinly sliced
1.2 litres water
1.2kg sugar

Cut the unpeeled grapefruit into quarters, then slice finely by hand or using the slicing attachment of a food processor. Place in a wide, non-corrosive preserving pan and cover with 2 litres of water. Cover and leave to soak overnight.

The next day, place the pot over a high heat, bring to the boil and boil for 40 minutes. Lower the heat and add the sugar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved, then return to the boil and boil for an hour, stirring every 10 minutes or so to prevent the grapefruit from catching on the bottom – you want it to almost catch, but not burn. If you feel it starting to catch, remove it from the heat for a couple of minutes, giving it a gentle stir to stop it burning on the bottom, then continue boiling.

After 55 minutes do a ‘set test’ to check if your marmalade is ready. Chill a saucer in the fridge for a few minutes, then drop a teaspoonful of marmalade onto it. The marmalade is ready when it forms a skin that wrinkles when you hold the plate on an angle. At this point add the whiskey and boil for couple of minutes more to burn off the alcohol.

Pour straight into sterilised jars and seal with sterilised lids. If properly sealed Grapefruit Marmalade will last indefinitely.

To prepare your jars for preserving: For this recipe you will need a selection of jars that will hold just over 4 litres of marmalade. This is a great way of recycling, as the jars and their metal lids can be used over and over again. Wash the jars as usual, then remove the lids and place the lids and jars in the sink. Cover them well with boiling water then drain off the water. Pre-heat the oven to 100°C then pop the jars and lids in for 15 minutes to sterilise. Once removed from the oven, put the lids on the jars immediately so they remain sterile until you are ready to fill them.

The end result of 1.2kg of homegrown fruit, 1.2kg of sugar and about 1.5 hours of my time and we have about 2.5kg of jam added to our stock cupboard.

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Garden Edge and Grapefruit

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While there are plenty of photos of our vegetable garden there is much less evidence of the rest of the garden.  Some of it is quite naturalised and, in parts, overgrown.  We want to keep it as natural as possible but some areas require clearance of invasive weeds which are a real pest as they thrive in our high rainfall,  sub-tropical climate.  Little by little, we are planting native shrubs, in many cases, indigenous to the local area.

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This area alongside our western boundary fence had long been neglected.  As part of the preparation for the soon to be assembled garden shed we cleared the area and have planted 3 new shrubs.  In order to be able to maintain the area we have placed a rock edge about 1.5 metres from the fence.  The rocks were all sourced from our property.  Rocks are an abundant resource here and we use them for a multitude of purposes.

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As I mentioned in this post we have an orchard of about 10 citrus trees and were unfortunate enough to have an infestation of citrus fruit piercing moth a couple of months ago.  Whether it is their lifecycle, the cold weather or simply a natural progression, they appear to have moved on and I think the Valencia oranges may have been spared as well as some of the grapefruit and the netted mandarin.

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Today I picked several grapefruit – enough to make a batch of marmalade.  I sliced and soaked the fruit and will be making the marmalade tomorrow so will post all of the details then.

I started to cut them by hand.

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However, that proved too difficult so I heeded the advice of the recipe and used the thin slicing blade of my food processor which made short work of the job.  It was a simple matter of retrieving the ends of the quarters and slcing the last bits by hand.

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Soaking overnight.

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Patched Pants

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Some would say that these shorts are not worth mending.  They are at least 25 years old and once upon a time they were 3/4 length travel pants.  After much wearing the knees finally gave way and I cut them off into a fairly unflattering pair of shorts.  They were only ever destined to be worn around the yard but they get a good workout fulfilling that role.  An incredibly comfortable pair of shorts that are lightweight and perfect for our hot summers.

They have been patched several times but the most recent rips almost saw the end of them.

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I decided to make an attempt on one more patch.

I selected a piece of strong cotton fabric which would generously cover the two large rips.  I then cut a matching piece of double-sided iron-on interfacing and ironed it to the wrong side of the patch.

 

Remove the paper backing and place on the wrong side of the area to be patched.  Make sure that the rips are closely aligned then press again to fuse the patch to the garment.

Use a wide zigzag stitch to stitch over the rip.  You may need to do several runs to cover it.  Finally, use a narrower zigzag stitch to finish the edges of the patch.

The outside and inside views when completed.

This is not invisible or even particularly neat so is really only suitable for clothes where looks are not important.

We spend a significant amount of time in the garden or painting and renovating so functional ‘old’ clothes are a must.  It makes sense to extend the life of them as much as possible.

My shorts with multiple patches have survived to see another summer but that is a few months away yet.  It is good to be prepared, though.

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More Than Washing

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What does doing the washing mean to you?  Grabbing an armful of used clothes and tossing them into the washing machine and then transferring them to the dryer?  Or do you have a careful sorting and separating process?

I sort my washing into light and dark fabrics, check the pockets for errant coins, tissues or slips of paper and then turn the articles so that they are the right side out.  They are then washed and hung on the clothesline under the verandah.  When the clothes are dry I sort them into the items that need to be ironed and those that can be folded and put away immediately.

All of this process allows plenty of opportunity to examine items for any damage or wear and tear which requires repair.  The old adage, ‘a stitch in time saves nine’ is very true.

This week I found a small hole and run in the front of one of GMan’s merino thermal tops.

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My darning skills are somewhat limited but I do have a rudimentary understanding of what is required.  Since this is an undergarment, a perfect result is not essential.   I found some similar coloured tapestry wool and split it to extract a single strand to use.

The end result is functional if not particularly pretty.

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Regardless of the type of garment, it is worth checking clothes regularly to ensure that they are maintained which will prolong the life of the garment.  Things to look for include loose buttons, hems coming down, breakage of side seams near pockets or armholes.

Leftover Lasagne

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Not lasagne that is leftover.  It is lasagne made from leftovers.

This post is not so much a recipe but a demonstration of what can be done to minimise food wastage.  A germ of an idea that grew……………….into dinner.

I make my own refried beans and for some reason 2 different containers were opened and in the refrigerator.  I decided that they needed to be used up.

From the freezer I sourced a small container of cooked brown rice and a bag of cherry tomatoes.  The tomatoes are from our garden – at least a year ago.

Once the rice was thawed, I heated it then added a beaten egg and pressed the mixture into the bottom of the dish.  Next was a layer of refried beans.

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Next, I headed to the garden to harvest one of the giant bok choy.  The stalks and leaves were chopped separately.  I wilted the shredded leaves in a pan and cooked the finely sliced stalks until tender.

Meanwhile, I made some white sauce.  I use potato starch and besan flour to thicken the mixture so that it is gluten free.  I then mixed in the bok choy.

The tomatoes were simmered and reduced, herbs and seasonings added.

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Then it was time to assemble the remainder.

Half of the bok choy/white sauce mixture then half of the tomato mixture.

Repeat with refried beans, bok choy and tomatoes.

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The final step will be to sprinkle with crumbs and grated cheese and bake until heated through.  I use flaxseed meal instead of breadcrumbs for a nutritious and gluten-free alternative.

This will make 4 generous adult serves so we will have half of it for dinner and the remainder for another meal.

 

 

Construction Progress

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Today I thought I would share some of the progress on a couple of construction projects.  After some time in the design and preparation phase, the cold frame is beginning to take shape.

We bought the 2 hardwood sleepers to create the back wall of the cold frame.

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They are now in position.

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The compost tumbler which can be seen in the background was quite close to where we were working so it has been moved.  GMan is yet to decide on a final location for it.

The area under the house is perfect for storage of materials and construction jobs.  The panels of wire on the left hand side are earmarked for the top of the pergola.

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The wire will be installed once a couple more crossbars are in place.  But first the crossbars need to be painted.

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We normally do the painting under the house but on a sunny and windy day like today it was perfect to paint outdoors.  The shorter pieces on the trestles at the right of the photo are the corner posts for the cold frame.

There will be more photos when the construction is completed.

Bug-Free Brassicas

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I have occasionally managed to grow cabbages, broccoli and to a lesser extent, cauliflower but it is a constant battle to keep them bug-free.  I choose not to use pesticides, therefore, exclusion remains the best option.

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After much research, I finally bit the bullet a couple of days ago and ordered a quantity of Vege Net from eBay.  I was particularly pleased to discover that the seller was located in my home state.

The order was dispatched promptly and I received it within 2 days of placing my order.

Then it was time to wrestle with 120 sq metres of knitted polyethylene fabric.

My plan was to make a reasonably fitted cover to slip over the hoops we had positioned over the garden bed.

I cut a large rectangle which would cover the majority of the bed and 2 semicircular pieces for the ends.  Pins are useless on this type of fabric so I used some old pegs to hold the pieces in place while I stitched the seams using a regular sewing machine.

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Once this was done, it was simple matter of slipping the cover over the hoops.  Because this is a raised garden bed the extra fabric simply hangs down to completely enclose the desired area.

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View of the new seedlings safely undercover.

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I anchored one end with some rocks so that it will not blow off.

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I am considering adding some lead weights to the other edges or making a long elasticised tie to go right around the raised bed.

There is another cover to be made for a second garden bed which is not raised so I will just anchor that one with rocks all the way around.

The total amount of fabric I used to cover the 2 beds was about 24 sq metres or 20% of the total.  The remainder is back in the bag for use to cover fruit trees or other garden beds in the future.

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I spent $125 on the fabric (including postage) and believe that it has been money well-spent as it is an investment in our future food production.

I would definitely recommend this product if you are considering exclusion netting for any plants.  It is available in smaller quantities and you could also simply drape it over the area rather than making fitted covers.

Isolationism or Self-Reliance

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I have seen the following text and similar being shared in various posts on Facebook over a number of weeks.

Two can play that game China
Threaten our economy
All products from China will be left on the shelf !
Who’s With Me

However, there never seems to be any commentary from the person sharing the post as to how they actually propose to achieve this goal of not buying products that are made in China.

I believe that wherever possible we should be buying food produced in Australia.  Fresh and unprocessed food are generally the best nutritional option.  Additionally, packaged food may be produced in Australia but presented in packaging from China or elsewhere.  It is highly unlikely that you would be able identify where the packaging was sourced.

Food is not the only thing that most of us buy.  There are clothes, shoes, homewares and hardware supplies.  When was the last time that you checked where your purchase was manufactured?  Does it matter?

In my opinion, it is more important to be a conscious consumer generally rather than targeting goods from one particular country.  Buy only what you need (not want), understand what is ‘enough’, care for and repair what you have and source pre-loved items where possible as ways of stepping away from over-consumption.

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Over-consumption means that we are drowning in ‘stuff’ that is cheaply mass-produced in countries such as, but not exclusively, China.  Become a conscious consumer and you will immediately significantly reduce the products you are buying from China.

Your thoughts?

Not Only Food

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The past couple of days have focused on food recipes but those are not the only recipes on the blog.

You may have seen a recent episode of ‘Gardening Australia’ which featured a recipe for making an exfoliating hand scrub/balm with lemon and rosemary.  I have lemons growing and access to a source of rosemary from a friend so it was too good an opportunity to pass up.

Here are the details in case you missed them.

Lemon and Rosemary Hand Scrub

1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Rind of 1 lemon
Sprigs of rosemary

The ingredients and utensils assembled.

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Finely chop the rosemary and lemon zest.

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Add the chopped ingredients to the sugar and combine.

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Add lemon juice and oil.  Mix thoroughly.

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Transfer to a sealed container and store in the refrigerator.

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This could make a great gift for a keen gardener.

This recipe is indexed on the tab ‘Recipes – Other’ along with other non-food recipes.