Thursday, 31 October 2013

Lemon, dill and pepper

It's been a lemon, dill and pepper sort of week.

I've been on a mission to use up a stash of lemons kindly given to me by a neighbour and I also have a good crop of dill. And the pepper?  Well of course I don't grow my own pepper (although I wonder if it's possible here?), but it's just one of my favourite spices, no, it's my favourite spice -  the only one I can't do without.

What have I been making? I'm making limoncello,

Lemon peel steeping in vodka
I've made a lemon cake,


and I've marinated some home-made feta in lemon, dill, pepper and olive oil.


 I'm making pecorino cheese, unfortunately the pepper seems to have clustered!

Curds before being weighed down
 and tonight's dinner is a lemon, dill and smoked salmon pasta dish.


Yum.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Monday, 28 October 2013

Harvest Monday - 28 Oct '13

It's been another  big week for harvests but for the first time in many months I haven't picked broccoli. The broccoli glut is finally over but has been replaced by  gluts of another kind. There has been cauliflower,


cauliflower and one pathetic garlic scape, 


more cauliflower, and


more cauliflower. The other glut has been sugar snaps, 


piles of sugar snaps,


and sugar snaps gathered in t-shirts along with a breakfast's worth of strawberries.


There has been huge bunches of spring onions,


and I have pulled the first of my garlic.  I am not sure that I should have pulled them yet.  This is the first year I have had any success with garlic and I might have got carried away and pulled them too early?  What do you think?


They are Purple Monaro. They are looking quite sad in their bed. Their leaves are drying off from the bottom and their tops look like they are yellowing too. They don't seem to be responding to the water I give them from time to time any longer. I put them in at Easter I think, so well before the recommended planting day of the winter solstice. I guess it makes sense then that they'd be ready before the summer solstice?

The only other harvest of quantity has been some radishes.


Finally, this week I harvested my first harvest from my fruit trees - two little mulberries. They are tasty but quite dry. I am thinking that the mulberry needs a lot more water?  Or perhaps it's just struggling with it's first produce?


I am contributing this to Daphne's Harvest Monday. Pop over to hers to see other people's harvests.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Twenty-five trees

Over winter and into spring I've planted 25 trees - fruit trees all of them.

When we moved to Highfield, nearly a year ago now, there was only 4 peach trees and 3 crab apples many of them in a poor state. The existing trees have been pruned and watered and they have somewhat revived. But now the fruit tree stock has been dramatically expanded with my cooler season plantings. What's in? Here is a list.

Apples
Jonathan apple with sheep and alpaca
Jonathan
Bonza
Pink Lady
Gala
Granny Smith

Peaches
Ellendale

Apricots
Moorpark

Nectarine
Flavourtop

Plums
Satsuma
Mariposa

Citrus
Valencia orange
Minneola tangelo
Eureka lemon
Imperial mandarin
Ruby grapefruit

Figs
Brown Turkey

Mulberry
Black mulberry

Pomegranates
Seedling (3)

Olives
Manzanillo (2)
Picholine
Barnea
Picual

All seem to be doing very well (with one exception) - in fact, the Mulberry is already fruiting producing the odd berry - they are tasty but a little dry - I think the mulberry needs more water.

The exception performance wise is the fig which is still struggling to put out a leaf. I think it will manage to wake up after its winter slumber but it is certainly taking its time...

I have plans for more trees too - more pomegranates, more olives, a Tahitian lime in a protected little pocket, perhaps more apricots and some cider apples? I fancy a mini grove of pistachios and almonds. I fancy a walnut or two over by the shearing shed.

What are your favourite fruit trees? Is there a variety you grow  that I MUST have? What haven't I thought of that would work in our Mediterranean climate which also gets a frost?

Friday, 25 October 2013

A late cauli glut

Right now I am in the middle of a cauliflower glut. The caulis I am harvesting now are my second planting of caulis - planted around Easter I think? This was the little stash from recent pickings I had in my fridge this evening. Clearly something needed to be done with them.


What to do with so many cauliflower?  Tonight I made Cauliflower Fritters and they were very good.

The recipe was stuck in my recipe folder and had obviously come from a newspaper or one of those newspaper magazines. I can't credit it better than that I am afraid, it was cut out in some dim and distant past.

The recipe calls for three eggs and parsley as well - all of which came from my chickens and my patch.

The fritters were shallow fried and were brilliant with a little Brinjal pickle.

Thankfully there is an excuse to have this again tomorrow night as there is plenty of batter left over and of course plenty of cauli still to be used up.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Breakfast Twitch at Highfield - you're invited!

White-browed woodswallow
Apologies for the almost daily blogging... there is so much happening in the garden, with our animals and generally on the farm - like a Breakfast Twitch!

Like stomping around farms and bushland looking for birds? How about breakfast and a comedian with that?

On the 8th November (7.30am- 10.30am) we are hosting our first event. The Breakfast Twitch at Highfield is an event of the Riverina Highlands Group.

Comedy writer, author and bird watching enthusiast, Sean Dooley will be our guest presenter at the bird walk at Highfield. Laugh while you twitch.
Gang Gangs
Highfield is a special place. Highfield is a farm and a conservation area. Two-thirds of the property protects critically endangered grassy box woodland and the species that depend on it including many beautiful birds. To date 86 different species of birds have been seen at Highfield including all those pictured here - all photographed at Highfield. Check out our birdlist.

Red-rumped parrots
Everyone is welcome to attend, we just need your RSVP for catering purposes and $5.00 (proceeds to Landcare) if you are not a member of Riverina Highlands Landcare group.

If you'd like to attend email me - louisehighfields@gmail.com and I will provide directions to Highfield for you and recommendations for accommodation in the local area.

Rainbow bee-eaters just back from their winter holiday in Queensland
Don't know if you are in my neck of the woods? Highfield is about half-way between Sydney and Melbourne and about half-way between Wagga Wagga and Tumut in the Riverina Highlands. We are not far from the Hume Hwy and just off the Snowy Mountains Hwy. For Canberra dwellers - we are just two hours away.

Hope to see you at Highfield on the 8th November. Come to the region for the weekend, there is plenty to see and do around here.

(PS: as I type two Diamond Fire-tails have resumed making their nest in the peach tree right next to the verandah)

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Eric and Leslie go to the barber

Leslie and Eric on their way to the barber
There comes a time when all hairy boys need to go to the barber - yesterday it was time for Eric and Leslie.

Eric and Leslie are our two alpaca wethers. They are guardians for our sheep, protecting the lambs in  particular from foxes and wild dogs. So far they have been pretty good at their job.

Now that the hot weather is approaching it was time for a trim.

Alpacas are shorn by specialist alpaca shearers - the method is quite different from the shearing of sheep.







The animals have their legs shackled and their necks weighed down to stop them from moving. They do a fair bit of high pitched screeching while they are being trimmed.

Thus secured the alpaca's teeth are checked, toes trimmed,


and then the shearing begins - first on one side,



and then on the other.


While I am sure the animal doesn't really like to be handled like this the process was quick and appeared pain free and safe for animal and shearer. The shearers James and Zac did a great job - no nicks at all.

I am certain that the alpacas must feel so much more comfortable with their fleece off in the hot weather but they do look like aliens.

Alpacas from outer space
While we have the alpacas primarily for their guardian role, their fleece is too good to waste and I can't wait to revive my spinning skills and get my hands on their soft coats. 


I'm hoping that spinning is a bit like riding a bicycle - a skill that stays with you? Now to contemplate what I might make with such beautifully soft fibre... Maybe I will dye the fleece with the colours of the different eucalypts and other trees here - Red Box, White box, Blakley's, Kurrajong, perhaps even weeds like nettle, thistle and Paterson's curse and make a subtly coloured rug...

Monday, 21 October 2013

Harvest Monday - 21 Oct '13

While it's been a disappointing week losing so many of my summer crops to a late frost, my harvests have continued to be diverse and plentiful.  Here has been the pickings of the past week.

I am picking sugar snaps, yay! I pick big handfuls like the one below every second day.


My saladings are coming in now too.

I am picking 'Salad Bowl' lettuce - both red and white, lots of baby rocket, mint and marjoram.

This little cluster of greens went into a warm chicken salad with piles of sugar snaps and radishes also from the garden. It was a pretty delicious salad.

The curled parsley has been a delight too. I have been making lots more salsa verde and gremolata and am eating these sauces with just about everything.


The broccoli side shoots are still coming in but these are now declining - soon the broccoli glut that has sustained us all winter will be over.


There has been baby leeks, these ones eaten in a baby leek and baked egg dish.


The first of my second planting of cauliflower are forming heads now. This little handful is the first of that crop.


I've also picked the odd strawberry but  these are often eaten somewhere between the garden and the house and don't always get photographed...

What are you picking?

I'm contributing this to Daphne's Harvest Monday. Pop over to hers and see harvests from others' gardens.

Friday, 18 October 2013

A late frost

Last night, or this morning we had a frost.  It wasn't a very heavy frost - I didn't notice any frost lying around when I woke up. Instead what I noticed was the damage it caused in the vegetable patch. Warning - pictures of dead plants follow.


These little plants were my 'Sex without strings' yellow bush beans. My 'Kentucky Wonder' and 'Borlotti' are also victims of the frost.


This plant was my 'Greenskin' zucchini. My 'Gold Rush' yellow zucchini is also affected.


The plant below is one of three 'Butternut' pumpkins all destroyed.


My potatoes have also been nipped, but only lightly.  I am hoping they may survive...does anyone have experience with their potatoes being nipped like this?


Only 2 of the 8 tomatoes I have ion the ground seem to have perished - both 'Green Grape'. Luckily I have another 'Green Grape' seedling I can pop in  to replace these two.

This is terribly disappointing but I guess to be expected. This is the first winter and spring we have had at Highfield and it is very difficult to know when the last frost might occur with no history to back me.  I have also been enthusiastic to get crops in and going so that some produce before the worst of the summer heat.

Oh well, I will have to start again with some of these crops. Unfortunately I have put in all the 'Sex without strings' and 'Kentucky Wonder' bean  seeds.... I might have to rely on varieties commonly available from the nursery so I can get going again quickly.

A late frost is one thing, but an early fire is  completely another thing. My little frost 'disaster' is certainly unimportant. Stay safe people in the affected areas.

How is spring treating your crops? Any little frost nips?

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