Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Rolling on towards Christmas

If you happen to drive down our road on a cool, still morning, you'll most likely see something like this... A group of walkers and a dog. The eldest walker, Granny Pat, is waaaayyy up front. The dawdler is me. If you have to go for a walk, then there couldn't be anywhere nicer to do it. Summer is coming, and with it the flies. Walking now without a fly net is not an option anymore. 
There are some vegetables that I just don't like growing. Brassicas fall into this category. I find them finicky and temperamental. So I kept my planting to a few plants only; cabbages, cauliflower and broccoli. We had success with the broccoli. They grew into beautiful tight green heads, but what an investment in veggie bed real estate they require! After the head of the broccoli is cut off, you're left with this useless stalk with big green leaves. The chooks didn't mind the leaves... much. Then there were the caulies. Fail. Brownish looking heads appeared, all pock marked with insect activity. Gave them the heave ho. They bypassed the chooks and went straight to the compost pile. Then there was the cabbage. And oh my.... what a successful crop we had! The only problem was that we had to pick them all at once. It was then that the great cabbage cook off of 2013 began! 
Each cabbage weighed an average of around 2kgs. After the outer leaves were cleaned up and the odd slug removed, the nice looking leaves were blanched in boiling, salted water.
Some of the heads were shredded for coleslaw. 
Back to the blanched leaves... We stuffed them. Two ways. The first variation had rice, mint, feta, herbs and an egg to bind all the ingredients together. The rolls were gently poached in a little chicken stock in the pan. 
The second option we stuffed with rice, minced beef, herbs and baked them in an Italian style tomato sauce.
The final cabbage selection on the menu for dinner that night was a very simple one. Bacon fried lightly, then cabbage chunks stacked on top of the bacon. A few dabs of butter dotted on the top and the lid placed on and the stove top turned down low. The steam wilted the cabbage and the bacon flavours carried through the leaves. 
The final verdict at the dinner table was that this one, this pale insipid looking dish was the most delicious. My favourite was the rice, mint and feta stuffed rolls. Or was it the other lot? We've been asked by many who knew about the cabbage night if it was windy at our place the following day. Happy to say.. NO. Only a light breeze or two.
But let us not forget the sauerkraut..... Who's idea was it again? I had a lovely pottery crock that was begging to be used for something like this. So we followed the instructions from my preserving book. It all looked quite good. I then popped the big urn in the pantry cupboard where it needed to remain at a constant temperature as it started to ferment and do what sauerkraut has to do. I was starting to get complaints from fellow family members when they opened the cupboard. 'what smells in here'? Finally I dragged out the pot and left it on the kitchen bench. After a couple more days and more complaints, I decided to investigate what was happening. First the water filled zip lock bag came off the saucer holding all the 'stuff' down. Then came the saucer and the muslin. Looked ok. I bent down and took a deep breath, came up and started heaving. Words fail me. It was revolting. Another vegetable that bypassed the chooks and went directly to the compost pile! Epic fail. 
Fortunately not too many flops come out of our kitchen. We've been in Christmas baking mode for a couple of weeks. A few pre Christmas markets have allowed us to experiment and make some fun goodies to eat. We've turned out shortbread, fudge, coconut ice and Christmas cakes!

Market day at Birregurra. Pretty cakes all lined up along with the sweet treats!
Who fancies a mince pie then? Jayne's pies jumped off the table!
It was a great market. The day was lovely. The music excellent and chatting to our local friends and customers was a nice way to spend the morning. We'll be back again in January, sans the Christmas fare. But wait.. there will be more! Our berries are ripening and the picking has begun in earnest.

Sometimes we have ideas to change something on the farm, but we don't have the time or something else gets in the way. Netting the raspberry patch completely with a proper door was one of these jobs on our 'to do' list. Along came Andre', Frans' brother. He got stuck into the enclosure and in a few days we had a fantastic area where no birds could get trapped and we were guaranteed of getting all the berries. Thank you Andre'!
Picking these berries has become a twice a day ritual. 
A full colander holds about a kilo of berries. It's easy to spend an hour in the morning and the evening picking a load like this. 
In between berry picking, digging up garden beds to get rid of the weeds (I should have mulched them earlier!), it's good to stop and enjoy what the garden has to offer. The cornflowers are starting to bloom. And the blue is truly 'cornflower blue'! 
See those red geraniums? I brought a cutting with me from our house in Melbourne. A lovely old gentleman lived around the corner from our house. He's lived in Ashwood for over 60 years. These geraniums have been grown continuously from plants he has had in his yard over the years. Before we left Melbourne, he pressed a few scraggly cuttings into my hand and said to take them with me to our new home. Well,they are thriving. When I look at them I always think of Jeff and Leslie. 

I did say we're doing a lot of pulling out of plants this week didn't I? Here the broad beans are catching their last rays of sun before getting picked. 
I'm letting the Florence Fennel climb right to the sky! I'm no longer interested in the bulbs, rather the seeds. Fennel salad is a firm favourite in our house. More salad green seeds have been sown. Evening meals are a constant feast with salads made from all the different leaves picked from the garden. We're not averse to throwing in a few nasturtium flowers, dill sprigs, raw broad beans and a smattering of raw, sweet peas. Only the simplest dressing is required; a little lemon juice and olive oil or a little aged balsamic vinegar.
The broad bean haul of the day!
A few hours of shelling and we have a little over 5kgs of shelled broad beans. What are we going to do with them you may ask? Soup. Delicious broad bean soup. And we've frozen a lot. When we need them we'll dump them in some boiling water for a few minutes, then pop the soft dark green fleshy bits out of the tougher outer shell. These will be served with lamb chops or smashed as a topping for bruchette. 
It's been a while since I gave you a cabin update. Will all the wedding excitement and start of Summer preparations on the farm, the cabin renovations have been on hold. But this week the work has begun again! Yay! 

Frans and Andre' have plastered the internal walls and the girls helped lift the ceiling sheets into place. It took five adults to do this task, two ladders, two dogs and about an hour of discussion to decide which way was best. In the end it came down to the two boys lifting the sheets with a little help from this girl, and the other two girls, well, one girl and an eighty year old granny, moving ladders and holding things in place. It all worked like a dream. We are just miffed that we didn't film it for uTube. Our efforts could have entertained a few millions!

There are some tasks that are much easier to do if you call in the experts. So the plumbers have come to fix our pipes. Frans' buddy Wayne from the Camera Club and his son Reece (great name for a plumber!) have started plumbing in the internal pipes, putting up the spouting and gutters and preparing for the very big and messy job of digging a big hole for the septic tank.
Looking at the picture above, you can see a 'little' burn off conducted by the DSE yesterday. The seat of that fire is 3kms from us. We're happy to see them burn now before the heat of summer.
As soon as all the outside work is complete on the cabin, we'll start the landscaping around it. 

We pulled a little test bed out of the ground this week. These bulbs are an early variety called Glenlarge. I have to say it's not my favourite variety. It has a tendency to split. But no garlic needs to be wasted. These little cloves will be used in stocks and our wonderful Worchestershire sauce.
Cleaning up the stalks before they get bundled is best done outside, in the shade.

Jayne learned how to plait a hank of garlic. I'm not the world's best teacher. My plaits tend to verge on 'rustic'. 
Strong fingers and hands are required to manipulate the stalks into the plaits.
Ta Da! This little plait will hang for a week or so and then the 'beard' bits will be trimmed off and it will look oh so pretty!
The sunflowers are starting to bloom. I plant them for Frans, the bees and because they look lovely. When they are past their prime, they get dried and the chooks enjoy the seeds.
Bees.... Doing their thing. Wonderful.

And finally.... this is what we have to look forward this week. A stinking day is coming up. I feel a little panic when I see these high temps. I know my lettuce plants, parsley, coriander and half a dozen other veggies are going to bolt! Not much I can do about it, except cut them down short if possible and keep the water up. 
It is only a week to go before we sit down to Christmas Eve dinner. The menu is half planned. We wait for the final touches when we wander through the garden on the morning of the dinner.

Hope you all have a wonderful week preparing for Christmas. 
Remember to enjoy the ride!

1 comment:

  1. Oh Ami, stop growing broccoli and instead grow broccolini or sprouting broccoli. Instead of all that growing for one big head, instead you are picking delicious, tender broccolini for about 2 months! 6-8 plants will keep a family eating heaps of regular broccolini and the stems are so tender you don't even have to cook it. IMHO :-)