Saturday, December 27, 2008

Update for end of Dec

My posts have been a bit thin on the ground lately, just enjoying a nice quiet holiday period for a change :-)
Anyhow, things are growing in the vege garden. The garlic is about ready to harvest. The next dry day we'll take it up, leave in the sun for a short time and then hang up in our garage to dry properly. I'm hoping to make some nice plaits.
We're getting lots of zucchini now. The Costata Romanesco is very tasty, almost a nutty flavour. Zucchini can tend to be a bit on the bland side but not this variety. A slight downside is that it the fruits are a little prickly but cooking seems to sort this out. The yellow hybrid are nice and smooth, but not many fruit as yet. What I've done so far is grate it up and put in the freezer, to use later in cakes etc. I'm quite impressed by the vigour of the heritage Romanesco. Definitely a winner.
The tomatoes are growing fast, some plants have fruit developing. I'm giving them the odd feed of worm liquid. What I do need to do is set up a barrel for some liquid comfrey fertiliser.
Yesterday I planted a couple of chilli plants (Jalapeno). Bit of disaster with my other seeds, these have just not germinated, I guess I need somewhere a lot warmer/sheltered. I am not giving up however, will just try again now that it is a little warmer. I'll just have to wait longer for the harvest. The Ancho's take 70 days to fruit and the 'Pasilla Bajio' take 50.
We had a lot of mustard growing along one side of the garden, which brought the bees and insects and was good for the soil, also provided a little valuable shelter from the wind. When it went to seed we collected the dead branches and scattered them in the orchard so that we get more mustard coming up there.
At last I've made a decision about where to locate the compost piles, which are now going to go in the middle of the garden so we can readily access the compost. I've started a loose pile which will have to suffice until we have the time to build a permanent structure. We've been buying in our compost, last year it was sheep manure. Also I made up some liquid sheep manure (great smell!) which we've used for the corn, seems to be working well.
Lastly, we bought in a couple of truckloads of nice peat topsoil recently, to use on the vege garden mainly. While this will be great to build up the vege garden, as there isn't a great deal of topsoil, we eventually want to get to a point where we are not having to buy in materials like this. Will just take a bit of planning and effort to reach that goal.
On the chicken front we have 5 more baby chicks hatched out yesterday. The others are doing well. Unfortunately we did lose one more to a hawk as it escaped from the run G built to keep them contained. I'm only letting them out for a short time now and mostly when I'm outside or can keep an eye out for the hawks.
Photos below of our cactus, which has about 20 flowers on it, only 2 or 3 seem to open at any one time however. They open at night (this pic taken early this morning) and only last for 1 night.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Chocolate cherry tart

Yesterday I had fresh cherries in the fridge and some dark chocolate on hand and wanted to make something a little different for dessert.

I found this recipe online. It was quite easy to make and only required chilling for a few hours before serving.

The verdict: nice, but VERY rich. A small sliver is enough!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Strawberry jam

Today I made some strawberry jam. I used the bread maker as I'd noticed a recipe in the booklet and thought I'd give it a go. The resulting jam was a nice colour and the fruit distributed well, however it is slightly more runny than I would ideally like. I'm not surprised though, as from what I've read, strawberry jam is notoriously hard to set and very easily spoils if you over cook it.
Anyhow, the recipe was 500g strawberries hulled and halved (I quartered most of them as they were a bit big), 1 1/2 cups sugar (I used vanilla sugar) and 1/4 cup jam setting powder (a premixed sachet containing glucose, pectin and citric acid). This quantity makes 3 small jars (I filled a small 200g jar, and 1 1/2 larger jars (300g).
I've got a few other recipes to try, some using lemon juice. The strawberries have slowed down a little with their fruit production right now, so not sure if they just need a boost of liquid fert. or what. Some plants are also starting to put out runners which I guess might account for the drop off in fruit. Any ideas folks? Should we pick off the runners now or later? (we want to get more plants going).

Friday, December 19, 2008

Ice cream cones

Ever since I've started making my own ice cream I've had a hankering for a waffle cone maker. At last I have obtained one (2nd hand - they don't seem to be available in the shops any more) and last night had my first attempt at making some.

The result was a nice crisp cone. Next time I might turn down the thermostat a bit though as they came out with a dark ring where the element is on the maker. Lower heat for longer might be the answer to a more even colour.

In any case we each gobbled one down with a generous scoop or 2 of home made vanilla ice cream. Yum!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Puriri trees

Our small bit of bush is largely comprised of totara, manuka, kanuka and putaputaweta trees. We have a sole kahikatea, and unfortunately no kauri. A few years ago we had it fenced off so that the sheep were kept out and it is slowly starting to regenerate. The other day we put in a few puriri trees, even though we have some seedlings starting to come up they are pretty small. The ones we planted are about 1m high. They look pretty when they are in flower (red/pink) and provide food for the native woodpidgeons (kereru).

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Then there were 7

I went down to feed the chicks this morning and counted them up. Only 7 there this of the brown ones has gone, oh dear. Yesterday there were definitely 8. For the last couple of days I've been letting them out of their cage with mummy hen so they can free range with her in the coop. The coop is well fenced so I don't think that a stoat could have got in.. although we do see them around the farm. We've got stoat traps set up on the outside of the chicken wire fencing. As yet we've never caught any though.
Hmm, maybe a harrier swooped down and got the chick, probably more likely since they regularly scavenge in the area.
Today I've kept them inside their cage, as much as I like seeing the harriers gliding around I don't want to risk losing any more chicks. Will go down later and let them out for a bit but only while I'm around.

Pumpkin muffins

Just in case you thought I'd run out of pumpkin recipes.................... HA!

This is another one from the NZ muffin queen Alison Holst (book called Marvellous Muffins).

2 cups SR flour (I used plain plus 4 tsp baking powder)
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
2 cups grated cheese (strong cheddar is best for flavour - I used 'Vintage')
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

Mix all together in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl mix 1 egg, 1 cup milk and 1 cup cooked mashed cooled pumpkin.

Add wet ingredients to dry, mix briefly then divide into oiled muffin pans (I use olive oil from a pump spray bottle).

Bake around 210 deg C for 12 mins.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Cochin coconut fish curry

I saw this recipe on a DVD called Planet Food - A Taste of South India. I used a Kahawai fillet from the freezer.

Cube fish, put in a dish to marinate in lime or lemon juice, a little sea salt and about 1 Tbpsn turmeric. Leave for 30mins.

Slice x1 large red onion
Crush 5 or 6 cloves garlic
2 green chillies sliced length ways - I used red chillies chopped as was all I had on hand.
A small amount of ginger sliced into tiny sticks

Fry chilli, garlic, ginger and onion in a pan with some oil.
I used about 1/2 tsp curry powder but the recipe called for curry leaves.
Add 1/2 tsp turmeric, coconut cream (just the watery liquid to start). Add fish, some salt, reduce heat, cover and cook for 7 mins.
Add thicker liquid of coconut cream, some tomatoes (I used halved cherry), cook for a couple of mins longer.
Serve with rice. I added saffron threads with mine at the start of cooking, then some butter stirred in at the end.

The verdict: very nice. Perhaps I'll try a different species of fish next time, as the kahawai was fairly 'meaty' rather than melting in the mouth. Also probably much better with fresh fish rather than previously frozen.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


8 chicks have hatched out this morning. They are mostly Araucana/Indian Game crosses. 5 are brown and 3 are grey/black. It will be interesting to see what they look like when they mature and also what sex they are!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Hey - look up at the sky!

Just caught a view of the crescent moon with 2 planets above, Venus and Jupiter. Since I don't have a super duper camera, I can't do it justice.
However, this great astronomy blog - Astroblog - gives a very fine description.
Oh, since writing this post a large cloud is now obscuring the view. Hopefully it will clear again soon. Check out the sky if you can.

From Comet Al's here is a good picture.