Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Merry Christmas


Just though I'd show off the ham I glazed for our Christmas lunch. It was a beauty, and looked even better than this. It didn't look like this for long though. The Christmas puddings I made also went down very well too.
Our family - my parents, and my four brothers' families as well as our own - had a nice day together. It was mercifully cool, and we even had some decent rain for the first time in a long time. That was a Christmas present in itself.
Today is Boxing Day - we've had a beach walk, ham and salad sandwiches for lunch, and I've been listening to the cricket while doing some drawing.
Hope you have all had peaceful Chrismases too.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Asian hand cultivator

I'm not one for accumulating the latest gadgets, but I do revere a good tool. Thought readers mightbe interested in this Asian hand cultivator that I bought from Green Harvest online a few months ago. The Green Harvest blurb has it as a tool dating back to the Bronze Age. By golly, it's a beauty.
Since buying this, the spade, garden fork, hoe, hand trowel and hand fork have all been relegated to the corner. I do all the vegie gardening with this one tool - cultivating, digging, planting, everything. It is an excellent weeder. This makes me very happy, as weeding is my least favoured chore. You just have to go trawling through my past posts on gardening to see the evidence of my aversion to weeding. This tool makes weeding a snap, whether the ground is wet or dry.
It's other upside is that using this tool instead of more conventional tools takes the strain off my dodgy elbows. All the action is in the wrists.
It's not cheap (about $40 or so from memory) but it seems well built, in Korea of all places.

Here's the link if you're interested - Asian Hand Cultivator

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A plumcot!

I admit I spend a bit of space on this blog whingeing about our garden challenges, but today I'm happy to share an unexpected surprise.
Nine years after planting, and unexpectedly, our plumcot has yielded it's very first fruit. To be honest, whilst it is a very nice specimen of a tree we had just about written this one off for ever giving fruit. So it just goes to show, you never know what Mother Nature has planned.
As the name suggests, plumcots are plum and apricots crosses. It's about the size and shape of a nice apricot with a lovely rosy colour. We have about a dozen or so fruit on the tree, and ripening before Christmas, they haven't fallen prey to those foul fruit fly.
Can't wait to try it.

In other news, and very sadly - our male silky, Jack, died this morning. He was advanced in years for a chicken - we got him from a family who had had him and his mate Fluffy for 5 years, and that was 5 years ago. All in all, a long life.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Chicory

After yesterday's vegie patch post, I thought I'd give you a close up of this leafy green you may not be familiar with.
My parents spent six weeks in my father's home village in Italy this year. Mum brought back the seeds for this salad vegetable, which my family calls radicchio. It is a huge favourite at dinner, and even a bit of an obsession.
While we call this radicchio it is actually chicory.The seed  packet has it as chichorium intybus. Yes, if you were wondering, Mum did declare the seeds to quarantine. Apparently, it caused a bit of debate with the quarantine officers, and sent them off to their reference materials. Lettuce seeds aren't allowed in, but chicory which looks and behaves like a lettuce, but is not a lettuce is ok.
This is a great vegetable - a real cut and come again plant which keeps giving and giving for minimal effort. I love that. It does have that bitter taste which I've grown up to love, but to the uninitiated who are used to mild lettuce it takes a bit of getting to.
The other good thing about this gift is that the seed came in a big packet, with 50g of seed. Why isn't it possible to get lettuce seeds in 50g bags here in Australia? Wouldn't they be useful.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Vegie Patch - December

The weather this spring has been stop and start - some blastingly hot days, interspersed with decidedly cool stuff, and not a lot of rain. It's been a challenge. I'm only just now starting to pick vegies after a winter where we put proper borders on the beds and then planted green manure. Essentially, we've started the vegie patch from scratch.
We live near the coast, south of Sydney. I read somewhere recently that our area has the "3rd most temperate climate in the world". I'm not sure what that means exactly, but I'm guessing that it means that our winters are cool, but don't get that cold, and our summers are warm,  but never that hot. Not a bad place to live, and you would think, not a bad place to grow vegetables. But temperate climates throw up challenges. Our winters aren't cold enough for vegies that love the really cold temperatures. They'll grow all right, eventually.  In summer, tomatoes, pumpkins, eggplants and capsicum - all the vegies that enjoy warm weather - take their time as well. For example, seedlings that I put in the garden in October are only just now starting to take off. They might be ready to pick in a month or two. Our eggplants and capsicum are sulking in corners. They have done precisely nothing. And the pumpkins aren't much better. And the beans are taking their time too.
Still, leafy greens fare all right pretty much all year round.  They are going well, as are the beetroot, cucumbers,  zucchini and potatoes, which I expect to pick soon.
Today I planted seeds of lettuce, chicory, beans and more beetroot, after cultivating the soil and adding spades of compost and worm castings. Hopefully with some warmer weather these seeds will get a wriggle on fairly quickly.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

I Heart Composting

A few weeks ago I was watching Gardening Australia. They showed a segment where people were telling the interviewer what they liked most about gardening. One youngish girl, maybe in her 20s said, I like composting best.
This totally chimed with me - strange as it may seem, I too get the more satisfaction from the compost bin than almost out of anything else in the garden. It's just the thought of turning green waste into something useful that appeals to me.
My compost bin at the moment  contains Compost of Awesomeness. Along with kitchen scraps, I have a pile of dried grass clippings and sheep droppings which Action Man has swept up in the mower and dumped next to the bin. When I dump a bucket of kitchen scraps into the bin, I cover it with grass clippings. Occasionally I add chicken manure and shredded paper. Turn over with a fork, and water every week or so. The heat in the bin is amazing. And the stuff at the bottom of the bin is amazing too. The worms just love it. And the smell. I love it.
The other thing I like about composting is that if you follow the recipe, it never fails.

Which bit of gardening gives you the most satisfaction?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Christmas preparations

In the last week or so, I can't count how many people asked me "Ready for Christmas?" Er, no. Apart from making this Christmas pudding, which I made about two weeks ago I have done zero, nada, zilch.
I do enjoy Christmas. What I don't enjoy is how it seems to go for so l-o-n-g. It seems to start about the first week of Noivember. By the time Christmas day rolls around, you're completely over it. The ideal to me would be to start thinking about it a week before, have a great day, decorations down. Wait for next year.
But I do live in the real world, so I guess I should get myself organised this week. I need to make another pudding, so I need a day (not too hot!) to do that. Christmas cards written and sent.
Presents bought. I am pretty lucky in this regard. I have a large family on my side - four brothers, their wives and nine nieces and nephews. We used to do kris kringle among the adults, and give presents to all the children. A few years ago the adults just looked at each other and agreed - too much! So now we don't do presents among the adults, and do kris kringle with the kids, so they receive one present each. My brothers will receive some of our 2011 Merlot and a bottle of homemade limoncello. Apart from my mother-in-law there are no others to consider on Action Man's side.  Action Man and I have agreed no presents to each other this year.

As for Christmas dinner, my family gathers at my parents' place, which is big enough to accommodate everyone. We all contribute something - our contribution is a leg ham, which I glaze on Christmas Eve and the two puddings. So getting ready for Christmas dinner isn't too bad, but I do tend to find myself stationed at the sink for long periods on the day.

So that's it really. Not too onerous. Hope your Christmas preps are going well.