Sunday, August 26, 2012

Burning and planting

We love having visitors. Last Sunday, our friends Martyn and Eugenia came to stay for a few days. Frans and Martyn got to work in the yard and cleaned up more dead branches under the Cyprus Pines. It's a never ending job. Frans welcomed the extra pair of blokey hands. Some jobs are just easier with two pairs of strong arms! Branches were piled high in the cow paddock and a few of us put on our 'paddock shoes' and trudged through the mud to view the spectacle of the big bon fire. The wind was cold, so the girls left the men to admire their handy work. The following night another fire was lit. This time the fire pit in front of the old shed got a look in. Martyn was obviously a boy who liked to play with matches! He constantly shuffled pine needles around to get the flames burning at their best. The air once again was cold. By the time the flames died down it was time for dinner inside.

Frans and Eugenia enjoying a pre dinner drink.
I love this picture with the fairy lights, daffodils and darkening sky. And yes, it's cold!
I recently read a book called Plenty by Alisa Smith and J.B.McKinnon. This Canadian couple set out to eat produce from within 100 miles from their home for an entire year. It really got me more determined than ever to grow as much of our own food as possible. Our aim is to keep our food miles low and to buy local meat, dairy and produce wherever possible. The difficulty comes with staples such as flour, rice, tea, coffee, chocolate! I was lucky enough a couple of weeks ago to stumble onto some locally grown and ground flour, that also happens to be free from sprays and pesticides. This sits very well with me! I make our bread every couple of days. To date I've been buying our bread flour in large 10kg bags at the local co-op. It's economical and the bread tastes great. However, it does come from South Australia, and that's plenty of food miles. I will experiment with the local flour and if it performs well enough I will be able to add one more local food item to my minimum food miles list. We are lucky to live in an area where we have wineries, olive groves, berry farms and orchards. We have to make some exceptions to our rule or go without. Salt for instance. Can't really cook without it. Another South Australian import. Besides shopping locally for our food, it is also a bonus when we get to swap produce with friends and neighbours. Take the three huge pumpkins I photographed a few weeks ago. Nearby neighbours Paul and Wendy gave us these beauties. I gave them eggs in exchange. Lovely bright yolked eggs! Actually, our yolks are not unlike the colour of the pumpkin below! This past week, they stopped by again with a couple of punnets of freshly picked shiitake mushrooms that they grow in a huge big purpose built shed. I gave them eggs! I decided to make a Thai pumpkin, mushroom and prawn soup.
Cutting up pumpkin can be a challenge. I tried a variety of knives until I found one that did the job for me. 
I could not simply throw the peels and pips onto the compost or feed all the waste to the chooks, so I separated the pips, washed them and allowed them to dry overnight on a kitchen tea towel. The following day I tossed the pips in a little olive oil and salted them liberally with garlic salt. I placed the pips on some baking paper and put them into the oven to bake slowly. I was rewarded with tasty pumpkin pips, aka pepitas. They will be used to add crunch to our salads in the next few weeks. 
Thai style soup. I hunted through the vegetable garden and picked a sad piece of frost bitten lemon grass which miraculously still had the pungent lemony aroma and added the flavour I needed. I picked kaffir lime leaves, coriander and a baby leek. Last season's garlic is almost gone, but I managed to find a few firm cloves to add to the soup. It felt great to make a meal where only a few ingredients (the lite coconut milk, the prawns and the fish sauce) were bought. And the verdict.... Fantastic. The pumpkin was creamy and sweet. I chopped the excess up and froze the pieces in zip lock bags. Next time I want to cook pumpkin, I won't have to peel it! Now I just need to peel and chop up the last remaining LARGE pumpkin the same way. I can see quite a few roast pumpkin salads coming out of the kitchen this summer.
On Friday I went to town to do a few chores. It was cold and windy. The rain clouds were black over the southern skies. I got all my shopping done and headed home. I have been meaning to stop at a little nursery on the way home for ages and I decided I'd make a quick stop to see what they had. I was after some nut trees. I got out of the car, dashed into the nursery (wind blowing my hair like a tornado around my head) and started looking at the bare rooted trees. The manager came over to help me and I asked him what trees to plant. He was most helpful. I decided that I couldn't think straight with the rain hitting my face in stinging bullets and I promised the man I'd come back next week. But he was a good salesman and said that I would fit the trees into my little car without a problem, and he'd help me. Then I felt bad. What if he had had no customers for the day? So sucker that I was, I was soon on my way home with two new almond trees. He told me that I had to put them into the ground the same day or the next day as the trees were starting to bud. No problem.
Saturday morning, Frans and I headed out to the paddock that runs along the driveway. It is the paddock that sits highest on our little farm. But it is still wet. Very wet! Frans started to dig. We realised that our trees would drown, so we shovelled mulch into the holes and gave the trees a good surround of the free mulch the power company left for us.
We not only planted our two new almonds, but we also planted an olive in Memory of Armando. (previous post). The olive tree is almost as tall as Frans. I wonder how long before I'll get to bottle a jar of olives??

We still have room in this paddock to add more trees. I'm keen to try a few more nut varieties. I've also got two avocado trees that I grew from seed sitting in the greenhouse. I wonder if they'll do any good here....
His and hers..
The first magnolia buds
Frans and I cut the netting that we threw over one of our veggie patches. The broad beans are starting to tower! The netting was to keep the bower birds out of the bed. I'm leaving the netting over the cabbages, beetroot, garlic, parsnips and turnips. The carrots are no longer under the netting as you can see. There is a row just in front of the broad beans. Hopefully the bower birds won't notice them! They snap off the leaves and burrow into the roots. Sneaky birds!
And finally, this weekend I've been fiddling with beads and crochet. The Birregurra Festival is on in October. We'll have a stall again. I've got a long list of things I'd like to sell. So the next few weeks will see me working in the garden when it's not raining or working inside if it is! 

Have a happy week!



  1. Your soup looks divine Ami! Tell me, do you have an easy way for getting the outer layer off the pumpkin seeds and just leaving the yummy green pepita?

  2. Dy, I didn't bother! Just roasted the pips whole. No wonder they were a bit crunchy! But still delish!