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?!