Tuesday, November 23, 2010

15 Ducklings

Little things have been niggling lately. In my last post, I was bemoaning my moulding coffee beans. My last couple of days at work have been quite challenging, not to mention exhausting. Outside work, things have been crazy-busy and I'm longing for a chance to do some stuff I enjoy. Christmas is around the corner and this year I don't want to know. I've been feeling a bit peevish, and fear I'm turning into a grump.
Fortunately, in a nick of time, our Indian Runner duck hatched a clutch of 15 eggs, our first batch of ducklings ever. It's impossible to stay peevish when you watch the antics of these little cuties as they cavort around the yard.
Grumpiness averted!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Coffee beans

This year is looking to be our best crop yet with coffee. We've already harvested quite a bit, and there is still more to go out there.
The problem we are having this year is that the cool, wet weather is playing havoc with our attempts to process the beans. After husking the berries, we have been leaving the beans in the sun to dry out. This only works if you have sun for a few days at a stretch. Consistent sunshine has been at a premium around here the past few weeks. And it doesn't help when someone, okay me, leaves the beans out overnight and there is a big downpout. Back to square one.
So the beans aren't drying out, and instead are going mouldy. We tried been putting them in a very slow oven, but even the lowest temperatures seem to be too high, and instead of drying, they are cooking.
I'm conscious that I've been chronicling a lot of failures and challenges in the garden lately. I'm trying to see the bright side of things, really I am. But sometimes, in life and the garden, you get a run of outs.
Here's hoping for some more cheery news next time

Friday, November 12, 2010

Too much water

Man alive. Has it been wet here lately. We've had a couple of late-afternoon tropics style downpours this week, on top of weeks of constant rain. The ground is absolutely saturated, so any new rainfall immediately forms enormous puddles.

Since we moved here in 2003, we've only had to deal with dry conditions. Looking longingly for rain year after year, it never occurred to me you can have too much of the stuff. You can.

Check out the garden. The weeds have run amok. The grapes are succumbing to fungus due to the extraordinary humidity, and it's too wet to spray. My valiant attempts to get one step ahead of the fruit fly have come to naught. Again, too wet to spray.

Over in the vegie patch, not much is happening. The seedlings I planted a few weeks ago have hardly moved, because until only a few days ago, it's been pretty cold too. The tomatoes are only about a foot tall, but are already fruiting, which is a bad sign. I've knocked off the tomatoes in an attempt to get them to put on some more growth.

The snails and slugs are having the party of the century, at the expense of whatever is in the garden. I've had to replant beans twice thanks to these blighters. Action Man picked up a bucketful of snails out of the agapanthus and fed them to the ducks. The sight was of a bucketful of snails was...mmmm..unusual. The sight of the ducks in a frenzy tucking into those snails was hilarious.

Meanwhile, I've been trying to raise seedlings for the first time. They've put on the first two leaves and stopped, and I have no idea why.

The only thing that seems to be thriving is the mushroom box.

Hope all your gardens are thriving...

Friday, November 5, 2010

Issues with mulberries

Mulberries are causing me issues at the moment:
1) Age old problem of getting mulberry stains out of kids' clothes. I've tried using glycerine, as advised by Shannon Lush in Spotless. Purple stains reduced to small blue dots on fabric. Sigh.
2) At one of the schools I teach at, there is a big mulberry tree whose branches trail into the playing oval. Unfortunately, this tree belongs to a crochety old man who lets fly with the language at the kids, as they pick his mulberries. It is the thankless task of the teacher on duty (ie. more often than not - me) to keep the kids away from said tree. This turns you into a crochety old woman. Double sigh.
Still, we love our mulberries, although the cool spring weather has meant that they aren't as sweet as normal. I'll stew this lot up with a tablespoon of sugar, and we'll have them to eat with some baked custard tonight after we get home from swimming club night. (That is, if it is on. Talk about rain the last few days!)
Hope you all have fab weekends.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


We have about 100 shiraz, merlot and chambourcin vines out the back, as well as 5 vines growing under the verandah eaves around the house. A lot of vines, a lot of vine leaves.
I've thought that I should try and make dolmades for a long time. Today was the day.


About 30 vine leaves
2 finely chopped onions
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup currants
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1/3 cup basmati rice
salt and pepper
Juice of a lemon

Blanch the vine leaves for one minute in boiling water and leave to drain.
Soften the onions in about half the olive oil over medium heat for 10 minutes. Add the currants, pine nuts, parsley, and rice as season with salt and pepper. Add a cup of water, bring to the boil and simmer covered for about 5 minutes or so or until the water has been absorbed. Leave to cool.
Line the bottom of a large saucepan with a couple of the leaves.
Take a vine leaf,(cut out the thick centre if needed), put two teaspoons of mixture at one end. Fold over the two sides, and roll from one end to make tight little parcels.
Cover the dolmades with a cup of water and the lemon juice. Put a small plate over the dolmades. Simmer for about 45 minutes (I did these in the pressure cooker at low pressure for 7 minutes).

Thanks again to all those who left comments for my 200 posts blogmark. It seems that incognito blogging is quite common, and that the question of how much or how little to reveal on your blog is a dilemma for writers everywhere.