Thursday, September 25, 2014

September - nearly gone already!

and again I've been extremely slack in blogging what with one thing and another.! I'm just recovering from a cold and am feeling a bit run down right now.

It has been a very wet and windy start to Spring here. This week things are starting to (at last) dry out a bit and we can start to get on with the many jobs that need attention like mowing and weeding. Also a last minute rush on to get things planted/moved. I still have all the seed potatoes sitting round waiting to go into the ground, was hoping to have got this done by now. Oh well, everything is going to be a bit late this year but never mind, such is life and we are governed to such a large extent by the weather when it comes to gardening.

Indoors I have been a bit busier. Since being gifted another big box of lemons I made up some more lemon honey. I also tried making a batch of sugar-free lemon honey. In place of sugar I used 'Natvia' which is a stevia powder. Initially I thought it had turned out OK - tasted fine. But subsequently on cooling the texture went all wrong - the stevia powder crystallised so it had a definite crunch - not very nice! I tried heating some up and it seemed to get rid of the crunch, but it also made the lemon honey very runny. Not quite sure what to do with the remaining 2 jars I have. Loathed to just biff them out (pig food) seems a waste, maybe I can use as a (warm runny) topping on yoghurt or something similar. Any ideas?

I also bottled up several lemons in salt to preserve them. Really nice to have on hand for Moroccan flavoured dishes or in salads. Very easy to do, just wash and chop the lemons into quarters or sixths then pack into clean jars (I used Agee preserving jars) with a good handful of rock salt. On this occasion I also added some spices - star anise, mixed peppercorns and some cinnamon sticks. Keep packing in the lemon segments with more salt until you reach the top of the jar. Top off with some extra lemon juice then put the lid on. Give the jars a bit of a shake now and then. Keep at room temperature for about 3 weeks then store in the fridge. To use, scrape the flesh out and rinse off the salt before chopping up the (softened and preserved) lemon rinds. Yum!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Farewell Winter

Today is (officially at least) the last day of Winter here in NZ. It has been appropriately wet and windy for the last few days, so I hope when Spring finally does arrive it will bring more sunny days and some slightly warmer temperatures. Mostly though, I look forward to those still days when I don't have to battle the wind to get anything done outdoors! We are quite exposed to the winds here being located on a peninsula in the Kaipara harbour.

With the advent of Spring comes a busy time ahead in the garden.

I have been busy sorting out seeds for the vege garden this season and will be sowing those very soon, starting with the tomatoes of course.

We have trays of seed potatoes laying around 'chitting' - they will be going in the ground soon. This year we are growing Jersey Bennes (early), Rua, Agria and (a new one for us) Purple Passion.

Have planted the new strawberry beds and dug up nearly all the raspberry canes. The raspberries were taking over the garden by sending up runners everywhere, so are going to be moved to a new spot where they can't be too much of a nuisance.

Harvesting peas and snow peas, broccoli, spring onions, cabbages and herbs.

Thinking I might put in some more asparagus as only have 2 surviving plants in the bed I planted a couple of years ago. The bed has been heavily mulched so I hope the plants will better handle the dry of the summer. I think it will be still too early to harvest any spears though, I think they are meant to be at least 3 years old.

In the kitchen we're eating yummy bottled peaches, figs, feijoas and apple sauce. I've preserved a whole lot of lemons (in salt) - will post on that soon. Also made these sour gummies with lemon and lime juice:

They are sweetened with honey - found them while looking for cane sugar free recipes - and the recipe can be found here. I thought they would make a nice treat, but neither D or G liked them very much! Maybe I'll try them with stevia instead of honey. Not going to give up that easily!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The arrival of Little Pig - post not for squeamish readers!

Yes, we have a new pig, and have named it "Little Pig". We don't normally name our pigs, since they are not pets, but felt the need to name this one, mainly to distinguish between it and the other 3 pigs. Here he is in his own fenced off pen:

He really is very little when compared to our 3 other pigs which have now grown to "almost big enough to turn into food". They would of course grow much larger in time, but the worry is that they would then be too big for us to handle. We butcher the pigs ourselves and it's a fairly big operation, which involves first shooting the pig (and then cutting its throat). It's a very quick process and the pig has no awareness of what's coming. A much nicer life by far than the many factory farmed pigs, even here in NZ, not to mention the imported pork from China etc. In my opinion, if you eat meat then I feel you should really be able to accept the butchering part, if not visually, then mentally. It's not pleasant of course but this is a reality.

Once dead, the pig is then hauled out of the pen and dunked into an old tin bath. Why a bath? Well we use it to remove the hair, not what you want on your cuts of meat! And of course the pig may well be a tad muddy! The hair is removed by scraping the pig with a very sharp knife (G does this) while very hot water is poured over the pig - that's my job. We boil up the water outside in a wood-fired copper boiler. I keep the fire going and the water topped up all the while. Also we use a large chain to pull in a see-saw fashion to help remove the hair.

When as much of the hair is removed as possible and without too much delay, the pig is hoisted up for gutting. After this it's ready to deliver to our lovely local homekill butcher for processing into bacon, hams, pork chops and mince. We like our bacon and the quality of our home produced bacon is far superior to what we've found available in the supermarkets.

Anyway, Little Pig is happy in his new home, runs around making oinking noises when he sees us and enjoys the milk, kumara (sweet potato), pumpkin and kitchen scraps he gets fed. We are on the look out for another piglet to keep him company, since most animals prefer not to be on their own. And in case you're wondering, we're keeping him separate from the other pigs for his safety, since they are much bigger than him and we can't be sure they would accept him into their 'gang'!