Sunday, April 27, 2008

Garlic

Not much happening in the garden this week. We went for a road trip to Mudgee and visited the wineries up there to see how the real winemakers do their thing. One particular point of interest: as we drove into town we noticed that some grapes had been left on the vine. Apparently, they were shiraz grapes, left to rot because the weather (ie. rain at the wrong time) had ruined them, and the wine would have been undrinkable. Aha! Given our experiences with our grapes this season, perhaps that is exactly what we should have done too.

Apart from that, I planted this year's supply of garlic. I bought 2 heads of Russian garlic and 6 heads of "normal" organic garlic, and planted them out last week - About 120 cloves in all. My eight year old daughter was a great help, and a potentially tedious job was done in less than half an hour.

Garlic's great. You just plant and forget until late spring. Oh, you have to keep the weeds down, but I'm not perfect by any means in this regard, and my garlic last year turned out just fine. The only thing I did was add a little lime to the soil, as I read somewhere that the allium family appreciates a little lime.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Chooks


The other day, all our girls lined up for a communal dust bath, overseen by the man of the house, Mr Rooster. Dust baths are a common indulgence for all the girls, but I had never seen all seven bathe en masse before, hence the photo.
We all love the chooks. They each have their own persona - the shy, inquisitive, annoying, determined. We have them all.
Some of our ladies are rather elderly (think 3-4 years old) so we generally average around 3 eggs a day. This tally has been decreasing lately, and today we had no eggs at all. Around this time of year for 6-8 weeks I buy our eggs, so the chooks get labelled the bludgers, living in a welfare state.
Not pictured are our two Chinese silky chooks, named Jack and Fluffy. These guys are purely pet chooks, although fluffy does lay her cute little eggs occasionally.
Lately we have added ducks to the poultry house, which has added another dimension to the personalities. At the moment we have muscovies, pekins and another small grey duck that does a good line in being indignant. Although I like their upfront manner, I do not like the mess the ducks routinely make of the water supply.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Quinces and pesto

Today I am going to pick the quinces and poach them for the first time ever! Yes, we've lost a few to the dreaded fruit fly (see previous posts), but I have about 8 relatively unscathed quinces to cook today.

Quinces are a strange fruit aren't they? Hard as rocks, fuzzy skin, boring beige when you cut into them and then a beautifiul jewel ruby colour when you cook them. My neighbour picked her quinces a few weeks ago and gave me some quince paste she made. She said it was her first attempt at quince paste. It was quite soft and jelly-like, I think she should have cooked it a little longer so it was a little more solid. Also, she added a heap of sugar, so that is what the paste tasted of. Hmmm...

I've been trawling my cookbooks for directions on poaching quinces. I found a recipe in the current issue of delicious magazine that calls for 1KG of CASTER SUGAR! 1KG, people? This was for 1 kg of quince! Why 1kg of sugar? I know quince needs a little help but not that much!
Fortunately, I found another recipe, far more sensible, that uses 3/4 cup of sugar, so I'll give that a try.

Not sure how I'll serve up the quince once it's cooked. I have quite a few eggs, so I might make some custard.

Over at the vegie patch, work beckons. Corn and tomatoes to rip out, garlic to plant. The weather has been beautiful lately, so hopefully I'll be out there very soon. The seedlings I planted two weeks ago have all survived so far, but haven't done much despite assiduous watering, weeding and fertilising. They are all cold weather crops so hopefully they will get a move on soon.

At the other end of the vegie patch is the basil bush which needs to be cut and turned into pesto. I was in Sydney on Monday and visited my favourite food shop, the Nut Roaster and bought 500g of pine nuts for $12.15. Compare that to 50g of pine nuts for $5.00 as seen at the local Coles this morning. So Sunday looks like it might be a good day for a pesto making session, using our own basil and garlic. I normally co-opt my son, whose favourite dish in the world is spaghetti with pesto, to wash and pick the leaves off the stalks. Some of the pesto I'll keep in the fridge for a month or so. The rest I freeze in 1/2 cup lots to use for pasta throughout winter. True, the colour does suffer, but the flavour is still there, which is enough for my pesto fiend.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

We caved

Confession time, people. This year we saw our tomatoes, peaches and plums decimated due to fruit fly. Then it was the quinces, feijoa and guavas. Now it's the citrus: pink grapefruit and limes, and if we don't make a stand NOW, it'll be lemons, mandarins and oranges.

We've tried organic, we really have. We've made bizarre looking fruit fly traps. We've covered tomatoes in panty hose. We've gathered fallen fruit and placed them in plastic bags and left them in the sun for 5 days. But the power of the fruit fly has been too much. In the face of everything we have thrown at them, they've increased in number, dammit. We're exhausted, we've run up the white flag. We've caved and gone against our organic principles.

Yes, we've sprayed.

I resisted for as long as I could. I really didn't want to spray. I mean, what's the point of growing fruit at all, if you're just going to spray it like a fruit you would get from a shop? Why? Why? Organic fruit makes me feel all smug. I won't feel smug about eating my sprayed fruit, but at least I'll get to eat some.

And here's a rationalisation for you: my fruit may not be strictly organic, but at least the "food miles" are about 0.1 kilometres, so on that score at least, we'll be doing fairly well.

In other news....there is no news. Well not quite. It's been fairly quiet on the produce front. Summer crops have come to their end, although the zucchini which I had written off has suddenly perked up and started producing. God only knows why. And the pumpkin vines I thought were a bit of a dead loss actually have more pumpkins on them than I thought. Bonus, and bonus. Meanwhile, the winter seedlings I put in last week are looking pretty healthy, although something has already taken a swipe at the broccoli.