Sunday, December 19, 2010

GROWING FRUIT AND VEGETABLES ORGANICALLY IS FUN AND REALLY EASY...



Well, I was tapping away on the computer a couple of weeks ago when a bird suddenly flew into my bedroom, but left just as quickly. At first I thought it was a sparrow, but after a closer look, lo and behold, a baby budgie and no more than six weeks old. Hastily grabbing the cage Tweety was in, I tied it to a branch close to the little bird and before long curiosity got the better of him, landing down to make his acquaintance.


-*


It took less than ten minutes to catch the little chap. I just walked him into the room as he sat on the cage listening to Tweety's chatter. He was fascinated with his new friend, particularly taking in what he was saying which was mainly, "Dear wee boy and good little bird."

A phone call to the radio station as well as the Bay of Plenty Times did not bring any results and I am rather inclined to think he most likely escaped from an aviary nearby. Anyway, we now have two budgies.

Meanwhile, I have the aviary up for auction on Trade Me and there are several bids and it's just shy of its reserve price. If it doesn't sell I will pop Blue-boy in there and track down another one to keep him company. As Tweets is talking more often now I need to keep him on his own:  he can chat to us instead.

-*

One thing about living in the Bay of Plenty you can be sure of rapid growth in the garden and mine is no exception.

On that subject here are the new fruit trees bought online from Wairere Nurseries in Hamilton. Wonderful service from this firm also. The trees arrived by courier several days ago and I intend to espalier both apples as well as the pear.
I cut the new trees back to three buds. These will soon sprout new growth.  One will be trained horizontally to the left, the other to the right. The middle one will grow vertically then will be cut back at the required height. I will repeat the process once more to get the three-tiered cordon I want. Meanwhile, I need to bus down to Cookes to buy wire and eye bolts in order to attach the espaliered branches to the fence. Leaving a decent gap between allows for good air circulation.



Finally getting the chop. Well and truly munched, attracted quite a few intrigued onlookers also.


"That the end of it mate..?"   Well, until next time....................





The pear tree has two different varieties grafted on to it and should do well in its sunny position. Will espalier it in the same way as the apple trees.


This semi self-fertile Burbank plum tree is growing up close to the deck beside the bedrooms.  Mmm.... juicy plums at hand. What could be better?

The last thing on the agenda is to get someone in with a splitter to deal with the pile of firewood. We thought our chainsaw might do it, but such chunky pieces makes this impossible..............
Growing our fruit and vegetables organically is providing the healthy food we thrive on and sustainable lifestyle we enjoy. Putting sea lettuce and comfrey tea around the garden, with a new lot of comfrey tea in the making is really beneficial and of course, our compost heap grows by the day. It will be ready in time for winter planting and soon enough we will be putting in brassicas, lettuce and so on.



Monday, September 27, 2010

Frugal living can be fun with good planning....

I came across this recipe which will do nicely for lunch tomorrow served with a fresh salad:  a quick and easy light meal. My new freezer is packed full already, but I should be able to squeeze the leftover tart in somewhere.


Caramelised onion tart

Good Food magazine
Recipe by Mary Cadogan
Serves 4

Ingredients:
375g pack ready-rolled shortcrust pastry
500g onions , finely sliced
3 tbsp olive oil
few sprigs thyme , leaves only
3 eggs
300ml milk
100g cheese (grated)

Preparation and cooking times
Ready in 1¼ to 1½ hrs

Heat oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5. Slide a baking sheet in to heat. Roll the pastry out enough to line a deep 20cm flan tin or a shallow 23cm one. Chill for 10 mins.

Put a few balls of crumpled foil in the base of the pastry case and bake on the baking sheet for 10 mins. Remove the foil and bake for 5 mins more, until light golden.

Meanwhile, cook the onions in the oil until starting to soften, then add thyme, pepper, and salt. Cook slowly for about 15 mins until the onions are soft and tinged brown.

Beat the eggs, beat in the milk and half the cheese and some pepper. Spread the onions over the flan case and pour in the egg mix. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top and bake the tart on the baking sheet for 30-40 mins until the filling is firm and golden, and the pastry crisp.

We are planning a quick trip into town in the morning for some new sandals before heading to City Market for fruit and vegetables. Well, the recession has brought about lean times for retailers, it's a buyers market and what better time to stock up. In many ways it has given us all a good shake up:  a timely reminder to live within our means, clear up debts and put a bit aside.






Friday, August 20, 2010

An abundance of spring vegetables and Speaker of the House...

Our cauliflowers are ready, most of them now.....   Anyway, they are pretty much part of our daily fare. Delicious accompaniment to the New York steaks we came across at the supermarket, roast chicken dinners and stir fry.

So it's cauliflower cheese for a light meal tonight. Here is a quick and easy recipe:

CREAMY CAULIFLOWER CHEESE



Ingredients:

1 large cauliflower
300ml milk
110g cheddar cheese
3 Tbsp Plain flour
50g butter
½ tsp mustard
nutmeg
salt & black pepper

Trim the cauliflower, boil in salted water for 10-15 minutes or until just tender.  Drain and place in a flameproof dish.  Add the milk, flour and butter to a saucepan. Heat, stirring continuously until the sauce thickens, boils and is smooth. Allow to simmer for a further 2 minutes.  Add three-quarters of the grated cheese, mustard, a pinch of nutmeg and seasoning.  Cook for further minute stirring well.  Pour the sauce over the cauliflower.

Grate the remaining cheese over the top and garnish with chopped parsley and place under a hot grill until golden brown.

Of course, it's not only cauliflowers we're inundated with. Several cabbages are ready as well.




On another note, something strange has happened here.  It's our budgie, Tweety-bird. No — he's not strange, it's just that he has learned to say something new. Of late, he has been saying, "Hello, it's me Tweets speaking."  Where he picked this up is a mystery, but it is amusing all the same. We now call him  'Speaker of the House.'  I reckon he does a pretty good job of it too.

His tail has grown back since this photo. A close encounter with a couple of cats resulting in shock moult, but was back to his old self in no time.




Saturday, June 26, 2010

A sad week.

Our household has not been the same over the past week. Sadly, Corban was put to sleep on Monday, leaving an emptiness and sadness in our home.

Our lovely boy had a grand mal seizure three days earlier, followed by another, two days later. His ready smile had faded over the last few weeks and it was apparent there were several age-related problems. Prolonging them was not a consideration. He was unlikely to get through the winter. One main concern was the possibility of another seizure as he made his way downstairs.

Craig and I weighed up all the possibilities before making the appointment, knowing it would be his last.

He had always loved dropping in to see the vet, often trotting off down the corridor uninvited, probably not always welcome, but Corban had a way about him. On this occasion, he had a broad smile on his lovely face as he lapped up the attention. He was in his element.

We shared his journey together and told him again and again how much we loved him. With these words in his ears, our little brown dog slipped peacefully away and we knew our agonised decision was the right one.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Easter...

We've had a quiet day, spending Good Friday doing little, just enjoying the day in general. After watching The Passion on television, we caught up on a few chores, cooked a meal and pottered about. Corban had been limping quite badly yesterday, but seemed better today. Perhaps he raced down the stairs too quickly and twisted his right leg: we don't actually know what caused it, but he's getting older and reminders to be careful, help to jog his memory — most times.
                                                                   
It is nearly two weeks since I purchased the freezer online, but there's still a problem with it. The serviceman called a few days ago, trimmed a bit off the fan, but did not check further, after deciding the plug into the wall was faulty. Well..........

Assuming all was well, I loaded it up once again: meat, homegrown beans, stewed peaches and then wandered off to do other things. Once again, Craig alerted me to the same problem as before and sure enough, everything had thawed out. Another call to Fisher and Paykel Customer Service a couple of days ago, then yesterday a further visit from the same serviceman. This time he removed the cover at the back and discovered it was low on gas. A new freezer is to be sent down from Auckland asap. With Easter in the middle of it, I dare say we will see the new one later on next week. Maybe, it will arrive with the new fridge/freezer I ordered as well. It may appear I am getting a little carried away, but it all makes sense. The new fridge is lower, so the microwave can sit on top of it, giving more bench space. Both appliances have the same dimmensions and could sit side by side. However, the freezer fits comfortably alongside the washing machine. Now, both kitchen and laundry are compact as well as functional.

And what about the existing near new fridge/freezer....?  Well, we've been selling off a few things on Trademe lately — and a successful auction should just about cover the cost of the freezer.

Perhaps you're wondering about the hapless contents?  To be quite honest, I'm a bit sick of juggling them back and forth — so I'll resist the urge to load up the new one, until I know for sure —  it's behaving ...................................

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Just the tail end I guess..........................

 I have finally got around to making the green tomato chutney, using up the last of the tomatoes before pulling the plants out to make room for cabbages, cauliflower and beetroot.


This year's yield was disappointing. From the thirty or so healthy plants, we had little more than  sandwiches, salads and a few topped grilled cheese buns. Any ideas about making tomato pasta sauces, spaghetti and so on went right out the window. But — we can't complain. For a start, the scarlet runners are still doing well — months on and with eight large bags of them stored away in the freezer, I guess our iron levels will be well up after getting through that lot.

Next week I'm heading off back to Bunnings to buy blackberry, boysenberry and blueberrry plants. We should be harvesting the fruit from these by the end of the year. In anticipation, I lashed out and bought an upright freezer to accommodate copious amounts of fruit and vegetables. Well, what a surprise when Craig noticed the motor was clicking on and off, all too readily. On inspection, he found a pool of water in the base from the thawed out produce.  A quick call to Fisher and Paykel;  a serviceman will be here first thing in the morning. I touched on the subject of spoiled food and it's under consideration. Seems some people get carried away and try to claim for enough food to sink a ship: most of it being crayfish, shrimps, prawns and other delicacies. I can understand F & P pausing for thought. Our small claim for a couple of roasts and a bit of tenderised steak shouldn't make too much of a hole in the budget — I dare say insurance covers it, but after all their claims due to the disasters and suchlike — they're probably feeling the pinch as well.

'Anyway...............



 you thought you'd had a few things go wrong...........!'



'See what I mean. From this .............


to this, in a week or so — and — I've got my eye on you.....................!'



Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Too close for comfort.........

An encounter with two cats left Tweety-bird without his tail.



And that's not the only sore point. You see, they managed to relieve him of one of his wing feathers as well.

Craig heard Tweety screeching more than usual and dashed outside to where his cage was suspended from the pergola, only to find it empty, with the door open and two cats lurking nearby. He called out to see if I had him upstairs with me, as is often the case when I'm at the computer. But, not so on this occasion; however, we soon found him crouching behind a tub at the front door.

He was traumatised, so after holding him in my hands to keep him warm, we brought the cage inside, then put him back and kept him covered overnight. There wasn't a peep out of him until lunchtime the following day, but soon enough he rallied around, back to his old self and chattering away, but his repertoire has fallen short. He was also a bit muddled in some of the things he was saying. 'Baby's Tweet' or 'Hello, dear wee.'  However, today he managed, 'My name is Tweety-bird and I'm a dear wee boy.'  So, things are starting to get back to normal. He used to say 'I love you so much.'  But, I imagine the shock has blanked out some of his memory, for now.

The amazing thing about all this, is that the cats managed to push the cage door up, despite being pegged down. I guess they must have fished him out before he fluttered down to the ground due to his clipped wings. Now, all three cage openings are securely fastened with plastic ties and the outdoor chair close to where he was suspended has been moved well away.

It was a nasty shock, but as they say, all is well that ends well. Well, it will be —— when a new tail appears........................





Saturday, February 6, 2010

NATURE'S BOUNTY








BOMBAY LAMB CURRY

Serves 4-6.
1.5kg leg lamb, boned,
2 Tbs ghee or oil,
2 onions, finely chopped,
2 cloves garlic, crushed,
2 small green chillies, finely chopped,
5 cm piece of fresh ginger, grated,
1 ½ tsp turmeric,
2 tsps ground cumin,
3 tsps ground coriander,
½ - 1 tsp chilli powder,
1 – 1 ½ tsps salt,
425g can crushed tomatoes,
2 Tbs coconut cream

Cut the meat into cubes, trim the fat and sinew. Heat the ghee or oil. Cook the onions over medium-high heat until golden brown. Add garlic, chillies and ginger. Keep stirring until fragrant but not burnt. Mix turmeric, cumin, coriander and chilli powder with 2 Tbs water to make a paste. Add into the onion mixture. Keep stirring and add in the meat, a handful at a time. Brown the meat and add more meat when they are all browned and coated with spices. Add salt to taste. Stir in the tomatoes. Bring to the boil, cover and reduce to simmer for 30 minutes. Add in the coconut cream and simmer for another 30 minutes or until the meat is tender.
Source: Family Circle: The Complete Asian Cookbook.
 

Following the philosophy of permaculture:
 
 

The aim is to create systems that are ecologically-sound and economically viable, which provide for their own needs, do not exploit or pollute, and are therefore sustainable in the long term.
Permaculture uses the inherent qualities of plants and animals combined with the natural characteristics of landscapes and structures to produce a life-supporting system for city and country, using the smallest practical area.  (Bill Mollison)
What is Permaculture?

What Bill Mollison describes in his books is a totally integrated design system that's modelled on nature. If you design your garden or farm like a natural system you can save yourself a lot of work, save energy, and eliminate waste.
Nobody digs and sows, plants and weeds, or sprays bugs in a forest. The forest grows and feeds its inhabitants in a sustainable way. If any task in your garden is an unpleasant chore, there is a a better way to deal with it and nature has already developed a solution to every problem that you could possibly encounter in your garden.

It is also the ultimate recycler. Everything goes round and round and there is no such thing as waste: everything is a resource.

A permaculture garden takes little effort. Mainly looking after itself, it is incredibly productive, beautiful and attractive to wildlife.




This post was entered into the "Grow Your Own" roundup, created by Andrea's Recipes and hosted this month by:  House of Annies


Saturday, January 23, 2010

Saying goodbye to Mischief

An appointment with the vet today ended sadly after our little blue budgie was euthanised due of a cancerous growth. It must have been really aggressive as his abdomen soon became very distended. Although he seemed happy, with a good appetite, I am sure he would have been in discomfit.



Mischief, with Tweety-bird to his left, having a break from the aviary: I think we were expecting a thunder storm, hence the decision to bring them inside. Anyway, as it turned out, it didn't come to anything in the end.


 
However, the sky was looking rather ominous again last night, once again thunder expected, but apart from a good downpour that was it.

Storms come and go, as do pets, and it is always sad to let our pets go. Mischief was eleven or thereabouts and unable to fly due to his malformed wings. He'd had a bad start, but lived longer than expected and was a real little character.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Balmy days in the Bay...............

On overcast day here in Tauranga today; warm 23 degrees all the same. The lawns have dried out after all the wind and heat, so not much mowing needed.


These runner beans continue to thrive happily: a few daily rounds to remove the green shield beetles — and it's paying off.


The tomatoes are showing signs of ripening at last: keeping the garden well mulched promises a good yield. Placing straw from dried-off clippings helps to retain moisture and ensures lush healthy growth. I am pleased the rhubarb is coming along well at last, seen here growing alongside a red dahlia.

Late afternoon and time to make something for tea. Hmmm.....................................


Quick and easy chicken soup with a variety of vegetables — and guess who is sitting there with his nose twitching.........?



Just another day in a dog's life.................................. patience is a virtue so they say, but like all labradors, I am willing to sample anything that comes from the kitchen... especially chicken.....





Sunday, January 3, 2010

FRIENDS COMING OVER FOR LUNCH TOMORROW...


Time to organise a special lunch and I won't be taking my eyes off the table once everything is set out — this time.



This salad will go well with the chicken pieces, garlic bread and cheese board.




Easy enough to throw several crumbed chicken pieces into the oven and the cake should round things off nicely.  Coffee and time to catch up on things since we got together last time.


CARROT CAKE


Ingredients:
1 cup (100 grams) pecans or walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
3/4 pound (340 grams) raw carrots (about 2 1/2 cups finely grated)
2 cups (280 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups (300 grams) granulated white sugar
1 cup (240 ml) safflower, vegetable or canola oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For a moister carrot cake, add 1/2 cup of crushed pineapple (well drained) or applesauce to the batter when you add the oil and vanilla extract. You may have to bake the cake a few minutes longer.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Butter or spray two - 9 x 2 inch (23 x 5 cm) cake pans and line the bottoms of the pans with a circle of parchment paper.

Toast the pecans or walnuts for about 8 minutes or until lightly browned and fragrant. Let cool and then chop coarsely. Peel and finely grate the carrots. Set aside.

In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and ground cinnamon. Set aside.

In bowl of electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the eggs until frothy (about 1 minute). Gradually add the sugar and beat until the batter is thick and light colored (about 3 - 4 minutes). Add the oil in a steady stream and then beat in the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat just until incorporated. With a large rubber spatula fold in the grated carrots and chopped nuts. Evenly divide the batter between the two prepared pans and bake 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. After about 5 -10 minutes invert the cakes onto the wire rack, remove the pans and parchment paper, and then cool completely before frosting.

To assemble:
Place one cake layer, top side down, onto your serving plate. Spread with about one third of the frosting. Gently place the other cake, top of cake facing down, onto the frosting, and spread the rest of the frosting over the top and sides of the cake. If desired, press toasted and finely chopped nuts on the sides of the cake.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

1/4 cup (57 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
8 ounces (227 grams) cream cheese, room temperature
2 cups (230 grams) confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon (4 grams) pure vanilla extract
finely grated lemon zest of one lemon
1 cup (100 grams) toasted and finely chopped walnuts or pecans

In bowl of electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the cream cheese and butter, on low speed, just until blended with no lumps. Gradually add the sifted powdered sugar and beat, on low speed, until fully incorporated and smooth. Beat in the vanilla extract, and lemon zest.

Now, not to be forgotten —  a little something for Corban........

He will remember the egg sandwiches I'm sure. The last time these friends came to lunch, he helped himself to the entire plateful left sitting on the coffee-table. A brief, but timely oversight that he took full advantage of.  Hmm..... so much for gazing at the view from the deck.



Anyway, we returned to find him licking every last crumb from the plate. Did he look guilty you may wonder.......... Well, of course not: he's a labrador and his tummy rules his life —








But, will there be a little something for me as well......................................?