Tag Archives: garden

The Preservation Society

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“Father: It’s been nine months since my last confession.”Nah, I’m not religious but Holy Moly has it been a long time between drinks on this blog!

Busy, busy, yeah you’ve heard it all before…work, kids, life. Doesn’t matter; here we are. And just this week life presented a lovely little window of garden abundance and time: two sweet things that rarely coincide so I grasped it with both hands and my pantry and fridge are slowly filling in its wake.

First, let me just say: TOMATOES.

And, oh what a glut we’ve had! However, I’m proud to say I’m learning from years past and this time I’ve succession planted. So while we’ve had a tremendous short-term haul of Black Krim, Mortgage Lifters, Tommy Toe and others I can’t even remember, they’re still coming! Green Zebras are ripening (although it’s hard to tell with that variety) and the orange Jaune Flammee and stripey Tigerella too. I planted six different varieties of cherry tomatoes that grew to such gargantuan proportions it was almost a little scary how much fruit we were harvesting. Reinforcements were called; it was all hands on deck!

One of the pleasures of growing so much food is giving it away to grateful friends, family and neighbours who rarely, if ever, experience the superior flavour and quality of homegrown produce. But that said, I  would still rather keep as much of it as possible to feed my own family. And so began the wave of preserving, a joyful yet time-consuming necessity.

Here’s a taster of what I’ve made so far:

  • 14 bottles of tomatoes made in my Mum’s old Fowlers Vacola system, which I subsequently overheated and broke. Ugh!
  • Tomato Ketchup (3 bottles)
  • Tomato and Eggplant Chutney (6 jars)
  • Dried cherry tomatoes (3 bottles) sprinkled with garlic salt and dried basil and marinated in virgin olive oil
  • Slow-cooked oven-baked tomato sauce (2 bottles). This is a recipe from Stephanie Alexander’s “Kitchen Garden Companion” cookbook.

This is, of course, in addition to gorging on fresh tomatoes for breakfast lunch and dinner. Eggs poached in chopped tomatoes for breakfast, bruschetta for lunch, Tray Baked Salmon with Olives, Green Beans, Anchovies and Tomatoes for dinner (thank you Jamie Oliver).

img_3692But it’s not all tomatoes. The cucumbers are starting to assert themselves in the pecking order of the vegie patch with a tidy harvest of 14 cucs in an afternoon (right after I’d just bought one from the shops – what was I thinking?!) So I thought I’d turn my hand to pickling given my son’s penchant for dill pickles. And this was the result: Bread ‘n Butter Pickles. It’s another recipe from Stephanie Alexander’s “Kitchen Garden Companion” cookbook and I’ve got to say: absolutely delicious! Surprisingly so. I’m not usually the biggest pickle fan but these are incredibly moreish and the kids we’re in there with forks, shovelling them into their mouths. So there’ll be more of them to come.

What else? We’ve made Decadent Chocolate and Beetroot cake and Beetroot Relish with all the beetroots coming out of the garden (one of my all-time favourite vegies for its versatility.) Basil pesto is next on the agenda. I do this at the end of summer every year and freeze it in ice cube trays, then bag ’em. They’re great for popping into your spaghetti bolognaise sauce, as a pizza sauce base, adding them to fresh pasta with parmesan and olive oil for the laziest mid-week meal ever (my kids love it!)

Ah yes, I haven’t had this kind of time for ages so it’s just dumb luck that it coincided with harvest. I’ve changed my work situation (for the better I hope) as there are new business ventures to explore. Stay tuned for more on that later.

The scourge of being organised

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I have a list. Actually I have many lists. I even have CATEGORIES for lists. Part of me thinks that’s a sad, sorry little confession and part of me is unrepentant, even proud of my anal organisational streak.

My problem is that the lists never seem to get any shorter no matter how hard I work. They brood silently, accusingly, ready for me whenever I open the Reminders or ShopShop app on my phone/computer.

I would happily write in this blog several times a week because I love to write but, alas, it sits low on my priority list. Events, milestones and achievements come and go at Edgefield and they often go undocumented. So  I started yet another list. This one is a reminder list of all the blog posts I want(ed) to write that may never see the light of day, some of which are already redundant.

  • The ongoing reticulation conundrum
  • The Great Chook Yard Clean Out
  • Blueberries and the east orchard plantings
  • Chicken medicinal herb garden
  • Garden Planner software
  • Homesteading – beetroot relish, basil pesto, watermelon ice blocks, lime juice
  • Bio-fumigation with mustard
  • Autumn planting

So even if I never manage to write another word on the above subjects, I’ll know that I have indeed been doing something, in fact, rather a lot, in the past month. Of course, the busier I am, the more I have to write about, in less time. It’s a cruel irony.

Reticulation monster bites

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I didn’t get past Day 1 in my blog posts about Edgefield’s reticulation project because it morphed into a monster that devoured our time and money in a way we hadn’t anticipated.

I would like to focus on the positive: we have Stage 1 of a sophisticated reticulation and fertigation system, which through its network of pipes takes water/fertiliser to almost the entire property and will facilitate the building and planting of an amazing garden. I’m thrilled about that.

Unfortunately, it comes at an excruciating cost. And it’s not finished yet.

We were given an hourly rates estimate for the labour component of the job equating to approximately three days, which blew out to more than eight! We have yet to receive the final bill and I am panicked at the thought. While we expected there to be perhaps 10-15% leeway, we certainly hadn’t budgeted for such an inaccurate estimate, especially given that nothing unexpected happened, like hitting rock while trenching or any other issue that could have derailed the project. In an effort to stem the financial bleeding, Jeff and I put our own work on hold and spent several days fitting reticulation, filling trenches by hand and doing as much of the manual labour as possible.

Aside from the financial, we’ve had ongoing issues with the new pump in the well, which is supposed to automatically pump water when the levels in the holding tank drop – the linchpin of the whole system. It doesn’t. And all of this was happening right on Christmas, as we were packing up to go on holidays and briefing the poor housesitters on the nightmare they had just walked into. NOT what I would call a relaxing Christmas.

Taking a break

However, I write this now while sitting under the peppermint trees of our campsite at Ocean Beach Holiday Park in Denmark, Western Australia’s South West. Sipping on an exceptionally lovely Willoughby Park Ironbark Riesling, somehow it all seems a little less stressful. Jeff, Jamie and the five kids have gone fishing. Kate is taking a nap. Life is good (and very dirty).

We’re camping on an unpowered site up the back of the park where it’s first in best dressed for an expanse of dirt under the trees. A film of fine black dust covers everything so there’s no point being precious. The kids (Hugo, Henry, Finn, Lily and Charli) are having a ball riding bikes, playing games, competing, posturing, laughing and fighting incessantly. They are ALWAYS hungry! I’ve given up on telling Hugo to wear shoes. Showers are optional. Swims, unfortunately, are not as common as we’d hoped given the cool weather. So the kids are filthy yet unfazed, of course. We’re having a ball.

Postscript

We’re home from holiday and the retic seems to be working correctly now. Our house sitters deserve a bloody medal. They were awesome! We have named two of the four new chicks born while they were here, Bill and Sue, in their honour.

It was an epic journey. We have the final invoice from Earth and Water. They have been generous and fair given the circumstances so we are satisfied yet still licking our wounds a little.

We told our Freo and Floreat friends about our the experience while we were away on holidays and they looked at us like we’d lost our marbles. No-one could remotely grasp why we would spend that kind of money on reticulation for a garden that they view simply as hard work. It got me thinking that perhaps I need some new friends that share my love and passion or simply accept that I am seen as that “weird gardening lady”- a moniker with which I am totally fine.

No designer wardrobes for this lady: I spend all my disposable income on trailer loads of shit and poly pipe!

The cost of growing your own food

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Interesting article in the Sydney Morning Herald aimed at urban beginner gardeners, which makes a compelling economic argument for growing your own food (if you do it right), to say nothing of the multitude of other benefits it offers.

Read the full article here >>

“According to a survey released in March by the think tank The Australia Institute, 52 per cent of Australian households grow their own food and 91 per cent of these agree it saves them money.”

“The benefits of an abundant veggie patch have financial benefits beyond just saving money on food, says Pen. ‘‘There are physical, mental, community and skills-building benefits that translate to economic benefits down the track.”