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.

Lamb for the freezer

Here is the meat we got from a lamb G butchered last week. He had it hanging for a week as you are supposed to, to improve the flavour. The weather was just right to have it hanging outside (sheltered and shaded down in amongst our trees, under cover of a proper meat 'safe' - net contraption that you hang using a block and tackle).

Anyway, once the beast was sawn and sliced up we ended up with all this meat, 7 roasts, 3 bags of lamb fillet, 2 bags of ribs, 2 bags of chops, 3 bags of stewing meat. Hardly any waste, G saved a bag of bones (with a little meat attached) which he will cook on the BBQ and gnaw at! Our freezer is looking quite healthy now, but I don't think we have room for any beef! A bigger chest freezer required I think.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Raspberry, almond and orange muffins

This recipe is from the June issue of Taste NZ magazine. I tried to find it on their website to put a link up but no joy. So here it is:

250g butter
250g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
zest of 1 orange and 50ml juice
4 eggs
200g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
100g ground almonds
100ml buttermilk (I used ordinary milk with 1/2 tsp vinegar added)
150g frozen raspberries

Cream butter, sugar and vanilla. Add orange zest and beat in eggs one at a time. Sift flour and baking powder into separate bowl, add ground almonds. Combine buttermilk and orange juice. Add the dry ingredients and milk/juice to the butter mixture mix until just combined.
Stir through raspberries, spoon into prepared muffin tins.
Bake at 170 for about 30 mins. Leave in tin for 10 mins before turning out to cool on rack.

Verdict: nice taste and texture although I think I very slightly overcooked them in my little oven even with the heat reduced. The usual muffin recipes I use take only 10-12mins to cook and also only have one egg. This recipe was a much richer one, definitely a cake recipe, possibly would be nicer as a cake than as muffins.

Prickly pears

The Latin name is Opuntia ficus-indica. G happened upon a few of these fruit in his travels, growing on a cactus at the side of a road somewhere and brought them home. I'd not tried them before, he'd had them ages ago in Morocco. The fruit is best described as tasting like a melon crossed with pomegranate and the texture of a firm persimmon, slightly gritty (seeds inside). I would imagine on a hot summer day, eating these chilled would be very good. The only downside is the prickles! Great care required in picking and peeling them. G says the Moroccans used a piece of bamboo split around the top to open it into a cone shape to pick them. We've saved some seed and will try to grow our own plants if we can germinate them successfully.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Another duck and 2 chickens

G returned last night with x1 wild duck (Paradise shelduck) from a neighbouring acreage and also x2 of our hens. One of the hens had been repeatedly flying the coop and scratching up areas we didn't want scratched up so it had to go. We have tried clipping chickens flight feathers in the past but the Indian Game birds (this one was a cross between IG and Araucana) are pretty flighty and adept at manoeuvring even once this has been done. In any case we have an excess of birds and a strong desire for more roast chicken!