Friday, December 26, 2014

Season's greetings

Season's greetings to everyone, hope you had a lovely day. It's always a bit of a rush in the build up to Xmas day, especially here in NZ as it coincides with Summer and school holidays. We had a really nice day with family, the weather was warm and overcast and it was pleasant to sit outside on the deck without cooking in the hot sun!

I successfully made a gingerbread house this year. It took quite a bit of time but I did it in stages - baking the gingerbread (cutting out the parts of the house with special cutters) then I froze the cooked gingerbread, before icing it closer to Xmas day.

I will now share a photo of my first attempt at a gingerbread house from last year. You will see just how truely awful it was.....!!!

Some things I learned since are to use my usual gingerbread recipe, not the one I found online containing molasses which no one liked! Ice the house pieces first before assembling, and use the correct sort of icing - royal icing - which is icing sugar, egg whites and creme of tartar. Lastly, put the house together in stages so that the joins are dry and it can withstand the weight of the roof.

Anyway I was pleased with the outcome, will do it again next year. D enjoyed helping me with the icing so it was a lot of fun.

Thursday, December 18, 2014


At last we have our new piglets. These two are quite small, only a few weeks' old. They are the first pigs to be in our new pig area, a large grassy paddock with an electric wire running round just a little way off the ground. They have rings in their noses to stop them turning the ground into mud!

They seem to be very happy and content in their new area, although as yet they are not eating any grass! Guess they haven't figured out what it is yet. Meanwhile they are eating all the scraps we give them, and chomping down the kumara (sweet potato) which they love.

They're small, but won't stay small for long!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Farm roundup early December

Yikers where does the time go......? and sorry once again for slackness in posting...!

It has been hot and very windy during the day here on CTF. Not my favourite time of the year I have to say, the wind drives me nuts and is very tiring. Everything is getting very dry and I am bad at watering my plants. Still there's no point moaning!

On the plus side everything is looking very pretty with lots of flowers out now in the potager garden.

Nigella 'Love in a Mist'

Nigella self seeds freely and makes for a pretty display

'Pinks' - these have also self-seeded


Sweet peas

I'm harvesting loads of peas, we're eating them fresh and also I'm freezing them for later.

Looking forward to harvesting the garlic next month, it's doing really well, just need to give it water now!

On the pig front, we're enjoying delicious bacon and pork from our last lot of pigs. I will be cooking one of our hams for Christmas lunch.

Sadly though the little pig died - was squashed by the big pigs when they broke into his pen. We were all very upset about this. Makes us realise how very strong pigs can be to break through corrugated iron fencing!

Currently we have no pigs but are hoping to get some piglets soon. Will update on that when it happens. These piglets will be in a grassy paddock with electric fencing and rings in their noses - hopefully will avoid the 'too much mud' situation. They have a shelter and water supply hooked up ready to go, G has been very busy with getting that all ready.

The relocation of the pigs means we have freed up the last pig pen area. This will now be a fenced vege garden. At the moment we are using it to grow pumpkins (pig food mainly) but next year I'd like to have raised beds in there - it's a nice flat area and has some hedging to provide shelter from the westerly winds. The bulk of the tomato plants are in the other pig pen (where the little pig was). Anyway, the raised gardens will be a job to add to the list for next year!

That's all for now!

Friday, November 14, 2014

The flu, hail storms and bread!

Well it's been a funny week. Firstly I came down with the nastiest bug, really knocked me off my feet. I've only just started feeling human again in the last day or so, but NO ENERGY whatsoever and not the greatest appetite either (unusually for me....). Anyhow, my hubby no doubt is pleased to have me back to almost normal - I don't make the best patient - let's just say 'miserable' is what I do best when ill!

Yesterday we had hail storms, sudden freezing showers straight out of the Antartic. Here's a photo of me holding a load of hail which had just fallen:

and this is what they looked like up against the ranchslider:

and (less impressively) outside on the deck:

The shower was preceded by this spectacular double rainbow:

So as you would imagine with this weather the temperatures at the moment are not very high, with the cold winds blowing. I felt the need to bake some bread for lunch:

This bread was made with using mainly white flour, with some spelt and rye added. I generally use my breadmaker machine to knead the dough. I then prove the dough in tins before baking in the oven. These 2 loaves came out nicely with good texture and taste. Went down very nicely with my homemade curried kumara soup for lunch.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Halloween 'Fright Night'

Here's me and D dressed up for 'Fright Night' - a function run by a local sports club. There was a good turn out, lots of fun for the kids - some great costumes and make up on display. The club did a really excellent job of the 'Haunted House' walkthrough, with zombies etc jumping out of nowhere to spook us! There were games and a lolly scramble outside on the sports field. Music and dancing. Ended with supper - BYO plate of halloween themed food - there were some cute ideas - I especially liked the mummy pizzas with olives for eyes and strips of cheese for the bandages!

Hope you had a great Halloween!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Flower photos - garden and orchard

Just sharing a few photos taken around CTF. We are in mid Spring and things are blooming nicely.

Potager garden
 I need to remove the large overgrown lemongrass plant (in middle of photo), split it up and replant elsewhere!

Flowers on the bank
 The bank is looking a lot better, covered in flowers at this time of year. Plenty for the bees to feed on.

A bicoloured Californian poppy (self germinated)

The original Californian poppy
Californian poppies - self seeded
Unknown variety of rose
Apple blossom

Quince blossom

Quince tree in flower
Now for a question: does anyone know what this palm is? It was given to us but we don't know the variety.

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'!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

I'm a winner!

No folks I'm not the mystery Lotto winner from last weekend, sadly.....!

But almost as good as winning the lottery - I was lucky enough to be drawn as the winner for this gorgeous book of things to make for children:

 It came my way via a blog giveaway on Homegrown Kitchen, thanks again Nicola! (and of course Melissa - the author! - you might like to check out her blog too Tiny Happy)

While there are some lovely patterns for making clothes (I really like the idea of upcycling good garments/fabric from charity stores etc), and some very cute teddies for littlies, I am particularly taken by the bag patterns like this messenger one:


Can really see D using this:

And this tote (even though I'm not a 'new mama'!) would be very useful for work and trips into town:

So I'll be keeping my eye out for some nice fabric to give these two projects a whiz in the near future.

Meanwhile, it's back to the knitting, with a good coffee on hand, as I don't feel much like venturing into the garden - cold winds and heavy rain showers today. The raspberry canes can wait another day!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Cupcake fun with D

Our seven year old son was home from school today, and we were wanting to do something creative together, so I suggested maybe we could do some baking.

D loves cupcakes and I am wanting to improve my piping and decorating skills, so we decided to make some cupcakes together. I made the actual cakes and then D did most of the decorating, even had a pretty good attempt at piping the frosting on top! I only managed to do a couple of the large pink ones before he was eager to take the piping bag off me! Then he went to town a bit with the silver cachous and sprinkles. We thought they looked very pretty by the time they were finished.

I am pleased that I have been able to source a supplier of natural food colours again. I really don't like using artificial food colours and would rather use plain buttercream icing/frosting. In the past I have used berry juice (like blueberry or blackberry) to make a pink/purple colour, but that is a little extra work and can add a little too much liquid to the icing/frosting especially if wanting a darker colour. I used to buy natural food colour from the supermarket but they don't seem to stock it anymore which is a shame. So if you live in NZ and you're wanting natural food colour, I suggest you check out the Naturally Cakes website.

The sprinkles are also natural colours, again though, I'm not sure my supermarket still stocks these so when they run out I will try the ones from Naturally Cakes.

Do you make cupcakes? What is your favourite way to decorate them?

Note: by the way I am not associated in any way with Naturally Cakes, just thought I would share this info about natural colours in case anyone is interested :-)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Shepherd's delight?

This was the sunset a few nights ago, after we had quite a bit of rain and wind. I have to admit that the next day was a little sunnier perhaps there is some truth to the old saying "Red sky at night, shepherd's delight".

Not too much going on in the veg garden, because I hurt my knee not so long ago, and it has stopped me from doing all the things I wanted to do..aargh!

I am gradually trying to replant the strawberry plants into new beds, which have been given a good dose of home-made compost. There are more to dig up and move but I'm getting there slowly. Apart from keeping them watered it will also be crucial to keep them netted from the birds. I might try placing red painted stones around the beds, this is supposed to work to deter the birds from eating strawberries. Has anyone tried this?

Apart from the strawberries, I'm also in the process of tackling the raspberry canes which have spread all over the place. These are also going to be moved to another, less dry and slightly shady spot where a patch of them did well last year. Sadly I have now used up all of our frozen raspberries from earlier this year. I made a few jars of raspberry jam, one of our favourite jams. I do like to have frozen raspberries on hand for smoothies and baking though, so it will be good to get bigger harvests in future years. One can never have too many raspberries don't you agree?!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A feeling of Spring in the air

Today is sunny with a light breeze and warm - i.e. I can be outside gardening without a jacket. It feels like Spring although we are still in our Winter.

We were lucky to receive a gift of beautiful fresh lemons (thanks L x). I shall be whipping up lemon honey (curd) someday soon. Yummy.

This morning I've been hauling compost around and spreading it on the garden beds. Have transplanted a few strawberry plants and planted the rest of a bunch of leeks I bought a week or so ago. I find it very easy to get distracted when outside as there are always so many things to do, like weeding - my least favourite job! Anyhow, the veg garden is looking reasonably presentable for a change. I just need to finish off laying gravel on all the paths, which will make it look a lot better, plus be a lot less muddy.

The new calves are getting slightly less wary, and let me get close enough to take this photo without zooming
in much!:

I've also picked a few calendula flowers to dry, so I can make some oil for soap. Over at Down to Earth, Rhonda has a new recipe for calendula soap that I'm going to try soon.