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Roses and Lavender

Roses and Lavender

Just because…..

Its pretty and smells nice and makes me happy.  These are the reasons that we live where we do and live how we do.  Just because.

Winter potatoes

Winter potatoes

Well, here we go again – the seasons have come around but this year we had a wet winter.  Not flooding but consistently moist.  And it appears that we planted potatoes in April and totally forgot about them.  I’m a bit pleased about that because the Victorian floods seem to have inflated the price of potatoes to nearly $3kg (thought I’d put that in there for historians in the years to come).

So having relocated the potato patch that we forgot about, gave no attention or water, we decided that it was time to dig them and voila’ as they say.  Went down there with one bucket and ended up going back for more.  And more.

At least one of the potatoes weighed over a kilo on its own.  Not sure why these did so well.  Ordinarily I would say fresh ground but it wasn’t.  All I can put it down to was the extra water that we don’t usually have over the winter.

Of course, it has destroyed the mango flowers but I guess we all want to eat potatoes a lot more than mangos.  And in the supermarket in August, they trotted out last season’s potatoes that had been cold stored, sold them very cheaply (before the price rise) and they sprouted like mad.  So every day of the last 6 weeks, we have been planting the sprouted bits of the supermarket potatoes in the morning after I cut them off the potatoes we had for tea.  Some of these are already knee high and I have high hopes of them.  It was the perfect staggered planting to keep up digging fresh potatoes all through summer.

Despite being terrifically lazy, I have good snake beans coming on for summer and some butter beans so I’m feeling optimistic about future tea times.  If only I had a pen full of fat piggies, I would be ecstatic.

Onions is onions

Onions is onions

To know one’s onions.  As sure as eggs are eggs.  Two fabulous and interchangeable sayings that are probably unique to the English language.

But is any meal complete without onions?  I have to say no, both from a culinary aspect and from a nutritional aspect.  Onions contain sulphur which allows the body to use amino acids.  So therefore, all meat meals need onions.  And virtually everything else.

Luckily they store so well, both dry stored and pickled.

But I read on the internet (where else) that you could regrow onions.  So every onion you cut for a meal, cut the root end off with about 2cm of flesh and just pop into the soil to regrow.

As you can see, these sprouted good green leaves in double quick time.  They just shoot up from the base within a week to ten days and keep growing from there.

I’ve yet to see if they form an onion base or how long this takes.  But I’m positive that they might do this.  I grew a beautiful onion in a load of horse poo that I threw on the garden one day.  I’m not sure how it got there but I’m thinking that some kitchen scraps may have been thrown in with the stable trash.

As they grow leaves, I have to assume that they form roots.  I’ll move the ones with leaves into a more permanent garden and leave the boxes just outside the kitchen so I can pop out with the onions bases anytime I’m cooking.  It doesn’t matter if they dry out for a day or two before you plant them.

Ultimately, once I have built up the prerequisite number of onions for my household and I have some idea of how long the new fruit will take to form, I should theoretically never have to buy another onion.  It also gives me a chance to grow some speciality onions like the Spanish red and I will only have to buy a few and keep recycling them, rather than having to try and source them and pay the extra when I want them.

Up until now I have bought exclusively brown onions because of their better storage but I can see me diverging into a sweet white onion.  Well, hoping for the best and remember, things are always worth a try at least.

Snake Bypass

Snake Bypass

Its been a bit quiet at the ranch while we struggle with the monsoon season.  Not that it is bringing any downpours.  This time last year, the river was in flood and I could quietly and dishonestly tell work that I was flooded in and have a day at home.  Of course, hubby was actually flooded in to work.  Imagine having to sleep at work.  But me and pets were snugly enjoying wet season 2015.

Not so this year.  We just have to endure the endless humidity and sticky high temperatures with no respite except going to work because there, someone pays for the airconditioning.

But we’ve finally done something worthwhile putting on the blog – the start of the grow tunnel empire.

This all came about because we had a horrendous year for snakes this year, especially the chook eating pythons.  We specialise in hens who sit their own eggs and mother so we are always thrilled when we get some chicks.  Its very different from loading an incubator and coming back in 21 days.  The thrill wears off a bit when we are nightly removing pythons and we started to lose not only chicks but full grown hens and roosters.  That was a bit scary – wondering which Jurassic python was waiting to drop on us when the chooks were no longer enough.

We considered ways to protect the chook pens, from tiny wire to electric wire.  Then at the same time, while patrolling for snakes, we realised how many possums, bandicoots and rats thought we were the mcdonalds of the vermin world and were getting a free feed at the expense of all our produce.  Again, there had to be an answer.

Enter the snake proof grow tunnel.  While rats cannot get through shade cloth, neither can snakes.  So we started building these with the idea that this years half grown chookies could live in there for a while, scratch up the weeds, fertilize to their hearts content and generally condition my grow tunnels.  Then we’ll rotate them onto the next grow tunnel while establishing crops after them. 

So we will not only rotate crops but we’ll rotate poultry as well and everyone will be safe while I turn the old chook pens into pig pens or shade houses or something else useful.

YAY for safe.  I hope to live to eat some more pumpkins.  I have visions of beans or cucumbers growing up strings in the grow tunnel, like you see them in commercial farms while pumpkins or sweet potatoes or just herbs roam the floor.  Hanging baskets or bags may grow strawberries if I’m in luck, all the while hopefully with the chookies handling the weeds on a part time basis.

Sure hope this works.  But thanks, Johnny for appreciating my scheme enough to help.  Enjoy the goodies.

The Decade of Olives

The Decade of Olives

I have a horror of nurturing fruit trees that don’t overwhelm me with abundance.  I expect to drown in peaches or wade through citrus as the seasons go.

So when hubby planted the olives, I expected great things of them, notwithstanding the fact that every one told me we a) weren’t in a Mediterranean climate and b) it was too humid here, leading to peacock spot disease and c) just don’t because we just don’t.

That is what we like to call a “red rag to a bull”.  Don’t tell me what I can and can’t do in my own paddock.  So we planted them and waited.  And waited.  Four years in I called for the chainsaw to get rid of them.  I’d had enough with no return.  Nope, hubby thinks that if they are greenish, that’s enough return for him.  So every six months, I would point out how I wanted them chopped down.

Until this year, year 10 of growing.  After 10 years of heaping hate and vitriol over the olive trees, this year we had a nice crop.  Not huge but more than enough.  I will never hear the end of this self-congratulation from hubby and I’m sure that the trees are looking smug as well.

But then I had to work out what to do with the olives.  Grabbing more of my second hand jam jars, I surfed the web trying to figure out not only how I could process them but what would be the easiest and most efficient way to do this.  Sorted into green and black, I decided to brine the green and layer dry salt into the black.

You know on the movies where they have those lovely homes with big country kitchens that you could just imagine filled with preserves and cooking?  Yeah, well they are movie sets.  And real country kitchens end up with food on the floor under the table because not only have you got tubs of brining olives on the table but jars of summer seeds, plates of drying seeds, the fruit bowl that doesn’t fit in the fridge, cuttings that you just have to plant, fermenting ginger beer and every other half finished job on the place.  So we spent weeks while daily replacing the salt water each day and waiting for these olives to get like the ones in the shop.

Did you know that commercially, olives are processed using caustic soda?  Think about that next time you have a martini.  Any wonder the food chain remains my number one concern.

Eventually, the chief olive taster told me that they were fine and you will see that they have been bottled in brine with a layer of olive oil on the top to seal them from the air.  The black ones were rinsed and soaked in fresh water and I will preserve them in olive oil for use.

All in all, if I do this again, I would brine the whole lot.  It uses less salt and much less olive oil which is an expensive bought input to my household.

Ten years to the first olive harvest.  It was a surprise and I should not underestimate the trees too much.  I’d still like to chop out those useless pecans though.

Which Witch

Which Witch

There has been a lot of media coverage lately on the use of the word “witch”.  Well, in a totally gender free and non derogatory way, I thought I would introduce you to history’s greatest witch deflector – the elderberry.

There is evidence of the flowers of this being used in Neolithic times as a tea flavouring (before real tea from China was invented).  When I was a kid, all the old farmhouses in the bush had an elderberry tree planted generally by the front or back steps and I was warned never to eat the little black berries as they were poisonous.  Even then I wondered why you would bother with something you couldn’t pig out on.  It turns out that all those little old celtic and teutonic farmwives understood the importance of witchproofing your house entrances with a good, old elderberry.  I must say, that I have not had any problem with roaming witches since planting these.

Also the fact that the photo is taken hanging out my bedroom window should tell you that its summer here and I’m not going outside, even for a photo opportunity.

But in the grand scheme, elderberry – despite its propensity to get away and feralize the entire garden – is worthwhile planting.  The flowers contain natural yeast and every year I make elderberry champagne by simply soaking the flowers in a weak sugar syrup (or honey syrup), bottling and waiting until they go critical and fizzy.  The flowers can be used to bring along a sour dough or natural brew.  They can be made into a tea which is then used to make a herbal cordial.  The berries must be cooked but they contain a high degree of vitamin C.  And the berries have recently been exploited as stabilised elderberry compound which is bought as a pharmaceutical line and used to reduce the impact of colds and flu.  I must say that I make a rather good elderberry syrup cold cure and I personalize it with extra herbs to fix what ails you at the time.  Sore throat?  Thyme.  Fevers and malaise?  Echinacea.

And bonus?  Lack of witches.