Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Belated Season's Greetings

Well our Xmas came and went here in the Northern Hemisphere - thanks to my sister for having us and all the lovely food. We were treated to a steam train ride on Xmas eve. D loved it. We had the traditional turkey dinner with all the trimmings, carols playing in the background, a pretty Xmas tree in the corner and presents galore. No snow, but it was cold and very icy outside.

Unfortunately we came down with the "dreaded lurgee" and G was in quarantine Xmas day, I joined him on Boxing day. Not the greatest. All 3 of us are still suffering with colds as I write.

We are now up in Norwich, Norfolk. Many thanks to our dear friends P & V who are kindly letting us reside in their house while they are away for a few days. Today is a rest day, so nothing planned apart from a toddle down to the town later to get a few supplies. It is cold, about 3 degs C, but no snow or frost. Hoping to get out further north for a trip tomorrow.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The cold UK weather continues

We had a family party on the weekend at a local hall. It had snowed a fair bit a couple of nights beforehand.
So while the adults stayed inside in the warmth chatting, eating and drinking, the children ventured outside to play in the snow.
We've been up in Banbury (north of Oxford) for a couple of nights, and it has been pretty chilly, a lot of frost and ice and no sign of the sun today.
It's expected to be a white Christmas yippee!

Thursday, December 17, 2009


It's very cold over here in the UK. We're up in London at the moment and had snow today! It hasn't settled, but later in the week we are expected to get a reasonable amount (in the SE anyway) - see this link.

Took a bus trip to Regents St to the big toy store Hamley's today. Dylan had a great time.

Summer in NZ is a distant memory!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Yikes, where have I been?

Time has disappeared into a black hole recently and I've been neglecting my regular posts..........sorry folks! That's because we are in the Northern Hemisphere for a bit, spending time with my family over the festive period and tripping around England for a few weeks.

Currently we're on the south coast near Portsmouth. It's cold and frosty, snow is predicted for Friday and it's dark at 4pm which makes us feel very tired!

We're enjoying ourselves but missing home hugely. Dylan is having a great time, very excited by it all.

Will see if I can post some photos soon.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Update for the end of November

Well time is marching on and it's nearly the end of November already. So what's been happening here? G has been out mowing the grass, weed eating around the young trees and mulching hedges and trees, so that all looks a lot tidier. He's been planting some more trees (including pohutukawa along our roadside fence) that we've had sitting around the place too.

I've been having a bit of down time, with one thing or another but I have been gradually repotting quite a few pot plants, a job I'd put off for far too long. A few more to go and they should all be a bit happier (and nicer to look at!). Photos to come.

The tomatoes ('Brandywine Pink') are coming along well, as are the potatoes, and we even have some fruit on our little currant bushes (although the white currant has turned out to be red!)

And we're munching our way through strawberries, artichokes and broccoli. YUM!

Monday, November 16, 2009


We've been doing well with our strawberry harvest so far, getting about 2 punnets a day. The birds are a slight problem since we haven't put netting over the berry patches, mainly because they are planted along banks etc. However we have plenty so the loss is minimal! Some nice big ones too as per the photo.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Flowers from the garden

Put together some flowers from out of the garden today - Chives, Borage, yellow/red ?cinneraria, Blue Nigella (Love in a Mist), and from a friends garden a lovely pink/white geranium. She gave me some cuttings which I hope will take. Also some of a scented pelargonium, looked similar to the lemon one I have but different leaves and not such a strong citrus scent so I'm not sure what this one is. Also some cuttings of a very small geranium, again we were unable to pinpoint the scent.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


One of our neighbours brought round a big bag of cherimoyas for us. These huge subtropical fruit are delicious. Not usually seen for sale except up here in Northland and then only in a very few green grocers.
I took the opportunity to make some ice cream (recipe no. 2) and also some sherbet from this site. Delicious.

Kumara and date loaf

This recipe was for kumara and apricot loaf but I used dates instead. Sliced and buttered, it was nice and moist, and went down well with the rest of the crew here at CTF.

1 cup mashed cooked kumara
2 cups SR flour
1 cup chopped dates
grated rind of 1 orange
1/2 cup wheat bran
3/4 cup soft brown sugar
1 Tbs golden syrup
1 cup warm orange juice

Preheat oven to 180 deg C. Butter a 22 x 12 cm loaf tin.
Combine all dry ingredients in bowl, add golden syrup and orange juice. Stir to combine. Pour/spoon into loaf tin. Bake for around 45 mins.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Progress in the veg garden Oct 09

We've made a little progress in the veg garden. The weather has been a bit off putting for outside chores. Now have about half the potatoes planted. Varieties are Cliffs Kidney (earlies), Urenika (Maori purple skin/flesh, yam shaped) these can be either earlies, are waxy when young, or maincrop when they turn floury. I prefer them waxy. Kowiniwini, which are another Maori potato purple blotches on white skin, quite a 'knobbly' type of potato. We also have Red Rascal, Rua and Desiree to go in.
Also have planted 2 eggplants 'Long Purple' and 'Black Beauty', chillies 'Rocoto' and 'Asian Fire', some basil and mesclun, and 2 passionfruit. We're going to try red, white and black currants and see how they go for us.
G has finished planting the feijoa hedge by the citrus orchard. Most of the citrus trees are looking a bit sad as they are too exposed to the elements. Also have taken a bit of a hammering from slugs and snails.
We've been eating lots of fresh sprouting broccoli, globe artichokes and strawberries. Also some freshly dug potatoes last night for dinner, very nice.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Wet weather again

It's been pouring with rain for most of the day. Which reminded me of the few days we took up in Hokianga to get away after the loss of Lawrence.
Here are a few photos of that trip:

Our accommodation

Just kidding! This was it, a lovely old farmhouse.

And some views of the Hokianga harbour (a short way from the house):

Thursday, October 8, 2009

First of the spring asparagus

Not out of our garden unfortunately, but still delicious. For dinner tonight we had lightly steamed asparagus, organic broad beans (from a kind neighbour), a handful of peas, all in a creamy white wine sauce with a little lemon zest, and some freshly made pappardelle pasta. Oh, and of course a little grated romano cheese on top.
Am now just having a little shot of Lemon Z limoncello to round off the meal - yum!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Seeds and seedlings

With spring in the air, it's time to focus on getting those seeds sown for all the summer veg we require.
Some of my broccoli, tomato, basil, zucchini and butternut seeds have germinated. A few Jalapeno chillies are starting to come up, but none of the other chillies or aubergines are as yet. I think maybe it's been too cold for them, so I will try sowing them again. I was given a handy tip to get them going - cover and wrap the containers tightly in glad wrap. Might give this a go as these seeds especially need all the warmth they can get to germinate.
Today I ordered some more seeds from Kings Seeds, tomatoes - 'Black from Tula', and 'Cocktail Mix', Cucumber 'Mini White', Eggplant 'Tsasoniki', Pumpkin 'Musquee de Provence' and some dwarf beans 'Fin de Bagnol'.
Still have a bit of clearing to do in the veg garden, a few old bunching onions etc to remove to make space for all of the above!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Beautiful flowers

Just a few pics of the beautiful flowers we received:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Sad news

Sad times here on Cabbage Tree Farm, as we are grieving the loss of our stillborn baby boy Lawrence (born 11/9). Took us completely by surprise.

We had a small family ceremony here yesterday. What a beautiful day it was too. We planted a kahikatea tree down in our patch of bush in remembrance of Lawrence and scattered his ashes nearby.

Our heartfelt thanks goes out to all of our friends, neighbours, family and the wonderful Maungaturoto community for all the gifts of flowers, food, kind thoughts and offers of support.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Beef, beef and yet more beef...

At last we have had one of our cows 'done' and now have a 300L freezer completely full of wonderful organic beef. The cow was the smallest of our tiny herd (5), but even so it clocked in at a whopping 230kgs! (dead weight with bone).
The local home kill butcher did a great job of turning it into lots of lovely cuts of meat for us: steaks, roasts, casserole meat, schnitzel, mince (lovely quality - nice and dark) and sausages (no MSG).

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Yes, more fruit trees

It's coming to the end of the planting season, so today we grabbed a chance to purchase a few more trees to get in the ground before it is too late and would have to wait another year.

So we bought another pear - 'Winter Nelis', an almond - 'Monovale' (the almond we purchased a couple of years back seems to be a plum..), and 3 more fig trees: 'Brown Turkey' (a larger size tree than the one we just planted), 'French Sugar' and 'Brunoro Black'. OK, so we're going to heaps of fruit in years to come but rather that than not enough. Also our thinking is that we can feed the birds as well as ourselves, rather than worry about not getting to the fruit in time. That's the theory anyway!

We also picked up a kowhai tree (we don't actually have one on our property, but overlook several on a neighbouring farm). The kowhai are all in flower at present and are putting on a real show with their yellow flowers.

And lastly 2 kahikotea trees. We only have a single specimen in the bush on our property.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Another week gone by

So what's up here on Cabbage Tree Farm?

Well during the week we had a visit from a bunch of students and their tutor to learn how to prune fruit trees, which was handy for us as we needed a little professional guidance ourselves. Although we had made a start on pruning some of the bigger trees (basically into the vase shape) some required further pruning. We gleaned some handy tips from the visit.

G has planted a few more trees into the orchard: Apple 'Bramley's Seedling', Plumcot (cross between plum and apricot), Plum 'Billington', Plum 'Duff's Early', and Pear 'William Bon Cretian'.
Next job is I have to update the orchard map which is a bit scrappy and disordered jotted down on bits of paper. A good map is essential so that we can identify which tree is which (since the labels often blow off in strong winds, or fade in the hot sun). Does anyone have any suggestions for computer software that helps plan an orchard/garden? I have downloaded Google Sketchup but haven't had time to learn to use it yet, and am not sure if it will do the job I want it to.

The weather is warming up now and it's time to think about getting some seedlings going for the summer veg garden. Tomatoes are top of the list, as are chillies, More to come on this topic.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Not so much going on

I've been pre-occupied with getting ready for the arrival of the new baby lately, hence the lack of posts sorry.
Consequently not a lot happening out on the farm at present. We collected a couple more fruit trees, 2 figs "Batley/Brown Turkey" and "Totara House/White Adriatic". They are only tiny trees so it will be some time before we get any fruit however! We put in another apple "Monty's Surprise", the one that is heralded as having superb anti-cancer properties. Also a pear tree "William Bon Cretian" (grafted onto quince to keep it at a manageable size, otherwise they grow enormous). I've heard that pears take ages to mature to fruiting stage - the adage "plant pears for your heirs" springs to mind, but hopefully we'll be able to eat some even if it does take a while!
In the kitchen this week I've made lemonade with 'lemonade' fruit (similar to lemon), so busy with the juicer again. It turned out really well so I'll make it again soon and post some pics/recipe. Also made up some more candied peel with the spent fruit, and put some of that in some buns along with the candied orange peel, this time adding a little splash of orange blossom water and omitting the sultanas/raisins. Came out very well.
We've had homemade pasta again, seems to take no time at all to make now that I know what to do.
We've had another goat curry and I also made a Thai red curry using up some duck out of the freezer. Not had a great deal of success with the ducks, but it came out well in the Thai curry, chopped up small, marinated in the red curry paste and then stir fried prior to adding the coconut cream and veges.
Very shortly will be getting one of our cows slaughtered so we need to get ourselves another chest freezer. Will post some info on that in the next week or so.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

More fruit trees

On the weekend G planted some more fruit trees in the orchard, in amongst the yellow flowering mustard. The mustard encourages the bees for pollination and is good for the soil. He planted 2 more peaches (bringing our total so far to 8) - Kaitaia and Camden, and 2 apricots - Trevatt which is supposed to be frost hardy and Sundrop. Hopefully they will all do well.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Candied peel

We juiced up a whole lot of oranges and rather than waste the peel I decided to candy it for a change. The method is simple, just clean off the pulp from the peels and slice. *Then place in large pan and cover with cold water, bring to boil then drain. *Repeat this step twice more (removes the bitter taste from the peel).
Weigh the peel and add same weight in sugar, plus the peel, back into the pan. Stir until sugar dissolved and then simmer for about 1 hr or until the peel becomes translucent.
Drain on a rack or in a sieve. Use a dehydrator until the peel is dry but still pliable. Then dust with caster sugar and store in an airtight container in the fridge.
I chopped some of this peel and put into buns and it was very good.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Update for end of July (nearly)

Well we've had 3 great days in a row, sunny and calm, it's been great to enjoy being outdoors again. We've even been eating al fresco at lunchtime.

While the weather is just perfect for all those gardening jobs, G has had to divert his attention to other higher priority tasks that equally require good weather. At present he's building some shelves so we can re-arrange our gear in storage.

I will take over planting duty for the remainder of the strawberries... yes, we are still working with them! Also have a few trees to stake that have taken a tumble with high winds and wet ground. It also won't be long before it'll be time to get seedlings going for the summer crops we want. All though there won't be a great variety this year (time constraints with the new baby arriving), we'll still want tomatoes, beans and salad ingredients. Also have to put in some potatoes.

I did a little walkabout of the property today, got a few photos, as below.

The globe artichokes are doing well, very bushy, hopefully they'll produce well.
Calendula is coming up everywhere in the vege garden.

The orchard is looking nice with all the mustard in flower. We haven't got on to pruning the trees as yet, some of the nectarines are a bit on the large side.

The cabbage trees by the chicken area/pond where it is boggy are doing really well, getting quite tall now. Maybe they'll flower this year.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Oat biscuits

I made these oaty biscuits some time ago - see here. This time I used standard rolled oats rather than the larger oats. However the recipe actually called for oatmeal, so next time I might try whizzing the oats first, so the texture would be different again.
In any case they turned out well and no doubt won't last long in the cookie jar!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Bad weather halts progress in the veg garden

Well we've woken to another stormy morning, heavy rain and gusty wind, so it looks as though the garden will have to wait a bit longer for any more attention, shame.
Since I am nearing the end of my pregnancy now, I really don't have the energy to do much around the place these days, so G is the one left trying to get the job done and as he works full time his time is limited. Never mind, he's managed to get quite a lot of the strawberry plants in the ground which is the main thing.
On the food front, we're steadily munching our way through our meat supplies, the occasional roast lamb or pork, and a goat curry here and there. Also roast chicken, I've done this on the rotisserie in our little oven and it came out well. The duck not quite so well, possibly not quite worth all the effort of procuring, especially since they take rather a long time to pluck (more so than the chickens). We have a couple left in the freezer, might give them away to our French neighbours for turning into pate.
Earlier in the week G came home with a large bag of oranges from a local tree, so I've been making juice, using our whole fruit juicer, just have to peel the citrus first and then pop them through the chute, out comes lovely frothy orange juice.
Some things I've made in the kitchen this week: vanilla ice cream (just got a new supply of lovely fat sticky vanilla beans), blackberry yoghurt ice blocks for D, and banana and choc chip muffins.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Strawberry fields forever

Or so it seems anyway!
Some of the new mounds that G has created for our strawberry plants. They'll get a topping of sawdust as mulch in due course.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Homemade pasta

At last I found the time and inclination to try out my new pasta machine. I made wide ribbons - pappardelle - I tried some dough through the cutting blades but the noodles turned out too narrow for the recipe I had in mind, I guess these are for making fettuccine and spaghetti. Anyway, once I had put the test dough through several times to clean the machine, and practice handling the pasta, I got started on making the noodles. The dough is just 1 egg and 100g flour per person, whizzed in a food processor until it comes together slightly then knead on a floured surface.

I made a simple pasta sauce using chopped red onion, a little chilli, some chopped smoked bacon, white wine, cream, sea salt and pepper. The pasta took a minimal time to cooked in boiling salted water (about 2mins). After draining the pasta I added it to the sauce, and served it with some grated parmesan and a green salad on the side.

The taste of the fresh pasta was amazing, much superior to using 'fresh' pasta from the supermarket. I can see this pasta machine will be getting a lot of use!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Tamarillo chutney

We were given a big bag of tamarillos the other day and as I had no homemade chutney or pickle in the pantry, it seemed the right thing to do with them was make up a batch. This recipe (a new one for me) was out of the tremendously useful book 'A NZ Country Harvest Cookbook', by Gilian Painter.

1.5kg tamarillos
500g onions
500g apples
1/2 cup crystalised ginger
2 cups vinegar (I used malt)
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp mixed spice

Peel and chop tamarillos, onions and apples. Put in large preserving pan with all other ingredients. Bring to boil and cook until thick. Pour into sterilised jars and seal. This quantity made 9 average size jars (approx 300g each).

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Update at the end of June

Well it's the 28th of June already, time flies!

The strawberry beds in the garden are coming along, the wet weather has put a halt to further digging. We need to get some mulch down next.

The veg garden will be gradually overhauled over the next few weeks as things get moved about. My herb garden is being downsized, I will utilise pots and containers closer to the kitchen for the most commonly used herbs like thyme, coriander and marjoram. The big galangal plant will need to be moved further to the narrower south end. Once I get some cuttings of lemon geranium to take off, the big lemon geranium is going, it's just a bit too big and sprawling where it is, but will make a great low hedge elsewhere. A lot of the bunching onions will probably go too. I might dig up the chilli plants and put them in pots and see if they survive.

We had contractors in recently to re-do our drive. The grader took out a groove along one endge for better drainage down the steep winding part, then the tip truck dumped a thinish layer of stone chip on top of the soft limestone (which is just a base material). Looks a whole lot better and will be less messy in the rain than the lime as the drainage is better.

G prepared another 3 young chickens (cockarels) for the freezer yesterday. Today is the last day of the duck season (mallards) but it is pouring with rain today so I don't know that the resident hunter will be heading out and about. Oh well, we have 3 ducks in the freezer, so better than none!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Winter solstice

Yesterday was the shortest day/Winter solstice. The days will now start to get longer, but it doesn't mean winter is over, in fact it's really just beginning and we can expect our coldest months in July and August. Here is a short report in today's NZ Herald (national newspaper).

While over in the northern hemisphere, this report from BBC News shows the celebrations at Stonehenge for their Summer solstice.

Kereru feeding on ?elderberry

This pic taken in a local carpark, does anyone know if the plant is elderberry? or something else maybe? (click on pic to make it bigger). The kereru (wood pidgeon) was really enjoying the berries. (since found out it is Tree Privet).

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Progress in the veg garden

Yesterday G got stuck in with the rotary hoe to prepare the ground for replanting our strawberry plants. Despite the recent rains, the soil was actually very friable and not too hard to turn over. He'll be working in stages to get all the garden dug over, but this was the priority area since it is the right time of year to plant/replant strawberries.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Update for mid June

Not a lot of progress around the farm this week. I've been steadily brewing up batches of crab apple juice and then making jelly. Probably have another 3 batches to go yet! We'll certainly have no shortage of jelly for a while! Just as well it seems to be a popular gift!

We ate another one of our chickens. This time I cooked it in the slow cooker with some moroccan flavours, chermoula spice, lemon etc and we had it with couscous. Plenty left over for lunch the next day with some freshly baked baguettes.

The fence around the veg garden is coming along, the main south and east 'walls' are nearly completed. There will be a bit of a lull in proceedings shortly as attention is paid to the garden itself. It needs to be rotary hoed, liquid manure/fish fertiliser added and then our strawberries need dividing/replanting. Also time to get garlic in the ground. And onions at some point soon.

The recent heavy rains have done a bit of damage to our driveway. G has been digging a bit of a trench along one side to channel the rainwater so it doesn't carve up any more of the drive when there's another downpour. This didn't happen when we first had the driveway formed as I think we had a greater camber initially, now that the limestone has settled and been driven over the level of the drive has dropped somewhat. One of the things you learn about with having a rural property!

We also bought some feijoa plants to put in as hedging along by the citrus orchard. We got a mix of 'Apollo', 'Mammoth' and 'Triumph'. Hopefully this should give us a nice productive hedge in time.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Crab apple time again

G picked a whole bunch of lovely ripe crab apples, so it's jelly making time again. I tried making a small batch of jelly with the addition of a sprig of rosemary this time, 13 jars. Should be nice on roast lamb. The bulk though will be just straight crab apple jelly. Probably will have enough to make 4 times this amount judging from the amount of apples in the box.
After boiling up the fruit in water until it's pulpy, you strain it in a muslin bag (an old clean pillowcase works well) over a large bowl. DO NOT SQUEEZE or the jelly goes cloudy. Leave for several hours until it stops dripping. Measure the resulting liquid using a jug/cup and put it into a clean preserving pan with the same amount of white sugar. Bring gradually to the boil stirring until sugar is dissolved then boil rapidly until set (mine took 1/2 hour but it can be less, check regularly during the boiling process). Pour into sterilised jars and seal. I kept a lot of old baby food jars which are a good size for this jelly as I keep it in the fridge once opened - bigger jars which take me longer to get through tend to crystalise. Also smaller jars are quite nice to give away as little gifts to your friends.