Well I must have been tempting fate a bit last weekend with my “it’s been mild” statement. Friday was up to the high 30’s and Saturday came in with a top of 42 in our area! It was harsh. The air conditioner was going most of the day, the dogs napped inside and the poultry got their coop watered more than once. Trying to convince my dear Muscovy Panda to leave her nest while broody was an exercise in futility, but the trust levels are so high that I don’t get nibbled at these days – just a bit of huffing and squeaking (Muscovies don’t adhere to the ‘quacks like a duck’ adage).

Anyway, on to the veggies! I’ve been checking the garden semi regularly and while there seem to be several green tomatoes coming along nicely I’m still without ripe red ones to make myself a Greek salad. A friend from work is taking in some from his father’s garden tomorrow and I’ll be taking some zucchinis as a trade.

As you can see, I had another few hundred grams of Thai chillies. My tiny erstwhile compatriot and garden companion, weary of merely being a fetch and carry assistant, took it upon herself to select a few not quite ripe and blatantly green chillies. She only opens the fridge to get milk out so I’m sure she hasn’t noticed the storage issues I’m currently having!

Jalapeños! These are fairly small and reddened quite early. My plants seem to be producing small jalapeños which I’ll use for pickling and probably some jalapeño jam soon. Bread and butter jalapeños are almost a condiment in this house at the moment, and every jalapeño we grow will be supplemented with stock from a Riverland family that travel to our local market every Sunday.

Here are the first habaneros of the season. The picking of the green ones is a similar story to the Thai chillies, however instead of standing on a strawbale and reaching over, this time Olivia pulled the chicken wire up and pulled off a small branch!

Cucumbers. I was so sad that I didn’t have any a few weeks ago and now I’m wondering what to do with them all. Four plants like the zucchinis, but you know, climbier. It’s getting a bit foresty out there.

What can you really say about zucchinis? They’re crafty, throwing their spiky leaves up to shield their fruit so you only notice a flipping giant specimen because that shady patch looks a little..too..shady? I’ve been pruning their leaves to make locating fruit easier and the chickens have been pleased for the extra greens.

Speaking of spiky! Eggplants! I popped some in the barbeque the other day when Pete was using it, hopefully I can make some baba ghanoush with them. He was smoking with mesquite so I’ll have to see how much flavour they’ve taken on.

And finally, my little plums. I picked these to see how they’re going (apparently still quite tart). Not that it’s stopped Olivia sampling them!

 

Frugal Friday – Almost Free Ricotta

On Tuesday I returned to work after the New Year’s Day holiday. I’d like to say “like everyone else” but a lot of the people at my work wisely booked the extra leave, which my team are unable to do at the start of a new month due to our reporting responsibilities (boo!). Coming back from leave to a whole lot of repetitive fiddly work? Not the greatest!
Somehow, a mistake had been made with our milk delivery company and all we had left in our fridge was a bunch of milk expiring that day. Some people were really leery of using milk at the expiry date, so we ended up with three two litre (approximately half gallon) bottles that were unused at the end of the day, which would only have been tipped down the sink by our cleaner. What a waste!
Instead of letting the inevitable happen, I took the unopened bottles home with plans to make ricotta to go with some mushrooms I’d bought and frozen a while ago.
The idea started when I was telling a friend about a meal I used to make when I worked at Maggie Beer Products – staff would sometimes receive stock with a short code so it wouldn’t be wasted, and I absolutely loved the Mushroom Pate in an individual Beef Wellington. I can’t find it on the website anymore (is it gone? I loved her vegetable pates!) but after leaving the company and not having my favourite snack easily accessible, I made something similar by sauteeing some mushrooms with butter and rosemary and mixing in some cream. The memory of fragrant rosemary and mushrooms and flaky pastry wormed it’s way into my mind and I thought – why not mix it with ricotta instead of cream and make mushroom rolls instead of sausage rolls?!
Back to the point – this unexpected bounty of free milk made a trip to the supermarket unnecessary!
This time I used this recipe from Super Kitchen Machine as I wanted to be able to do small manageable batches right after work. However, if you don’t have a thermal cooker, this recipe over at Little Green Cheese works really well and I’ve used it before.
I’ve priced up the cost of making the Super Kitchen Machine recipe using my free milk (super cheap because free ingredients), a supermarket home brand, a home brand cream (right here), unhomogenised milk (this one) and based the cream amount on this table. Costs can be reduced by using a home brand cream, or free if it’s available to you!
1.5 litres (cost) + 200ml cream (cost) + salt (cost negligible) + vinegar (cost negligible)
Free milk:
1.5 litres milk ($0.00) + 200ml cream ($0.86) = $0.86
Inexpensive milk:
1.5 litres milk ($1.00 litre) $1.50 + 200ml cream ($0.86) = $2.36
Unhomogenised Milk:
1.5 litres milk ($1.50 litre) $2.25 + 200ml cream ($0.86) = $3.11
My combined yield from two batches was 700g, and I did drain it a bit longer than instructed.

The supermarket brand at Woolworths ends up being $8.00kg; if my yield is 350g then I believe mine works out to about $6.74 when using the inexpensive milk (and obviously if you get free or clearance milk then you’re making out really well at $2.03 for just your cream).

Because I haven’t tested it, I’m unsure if the inexpensive or unhomogenised milks would have a higher yield of cheese but I do believe you get different yields depending on milk quality. Making your own ricotta is probably a bit of a labour of love if you’re buying all of your own ingredients at an expensive rate but if you enjoy cooking and science experiments then it’s a fun way to spend an hour or two.

That’s it from me for today, I’m going to go and start dreaming up this rosemary mushroom roll!

Harvest Monday – Welcome back, Summer!

“This time of year in suburban South Australia is generally pretty warm” is a pretty big understatement. We’re normally watching the long range forecasts in the first few weeks of December trying to figure out contingency plans for Christmas Day, working out who’s got a pool or the best air-conditioning and enough space to host a family get together. New Year’s Eve is a similar affair, and a lot of people generally celebrate at the beach.

This last December has felt a lot milder than previous years, which I think is evidenced by the fact I’ve only seen a handful of ripe tomatoes from a now deceased self seeded Sweet Bite (Konrad has a lot to answer for).

Right now, the Thai chillies are winding up;

This took a while to collect and involved co opting Olivia and her toy bucket to help me. I taught her how to use the front of her shirt to carry things and she stole and ate two underripe plums from the tree. It was pretty cute!

I picked these eggplants (but had a little accident and also cut off a branch with NINE flowers blossoming);

And these zucchinis, after a bumpy start with my flowers mostly being female and hand pollinating for a while;

We’re still getting quite a few eggs, and Panda, our Muscovy, is back on the lay so I’ve been giving Pete’s mum eggs to salt for his dad lately too. As soon as Panda starts making that high pitched nesting Muscovy cheep, the chickens know she’s looking for trouble!

I’m going to get to bed now and don’t have time to try and figure out why my images are displaying sideways.

What have you got going on at the moment? Lots in the garden?

Ouch

One kilogram. That’s about two pounds. It’s better than nothing, and I’ve been feeling better with all of the additional fruit and vegetables in my diet over the last few months, but I was hoping for more than one. I might have to try being a bit more proactive on the exercise front!

Tonight I’m going to give blood for the second time and I’m hoping the same scales are still there.
Sounds a bit weird, right? What do scales have to do with a blood donation?
For me, revisiting the Blood Centre’s scales been a gentle goal over the past few months. Because I used so many blood products during my pregnancy because of my requirement for anti D, I felt that when the waiting periods allowed I should give back; especially since constant blood tests and shots wore down my aversion to needles. So I booked in and almost three months ago walked over after work. I filled in my paperwork, worrying over points I thought might prevent me donating, and was directed to weigh myself.
Surely not, I thought as I looked at the scale. Surreptitiously, I stepped off of the scale, turned it off with my toe, and turned it on again. Blinked. Swallowed the lump in my throat.
I knew I wasn’t as fit as I was pre-pregnancy. I knew I didn’t want to try putting my old jeans on, and that I wasn’t getting time to exercise. I knew I was eating better than I used to but nowhere near as well as I could. I didn’t know I was still the same weight as around the day after I gave birth.
Since then, I’ve been trying to move a bit more, eat a lot better and fill up on healthy foods without snacking too heavily on energy boosting sugary treats. I’m not hoping for a miracle, just that a little bit of the weight might have shifted and that I won’t be looking at the same unwelcome number on that scale tonight.

Ah Lubba Doo

Learning to understand how toddlers communicate is a bit of an uphill battle, and I remember asking a friend how he managed with his kids during Olivia’s first birthday. His two girls are one and two years older than Olivia and he has a son who’s about six months younger, so his experience is much greater than mine.

He told me that he tried to concentrate on picking out any identifiable word in a sentence and provide a response to that word. HIs younger daughter raced in a moment later, excited because of the new and different cats she was meeting. A stream of toddler happiness punctuated by a couple of obvious words poured out, he winked at me and started talking about the white cat she mentioned seeing.

I kept that piece of information in the back of my mind and figured that sometimes you have to sound out what they’re saying to get an idea, then I got an amazing surprise the other day – sometimes, Olivia gets into cuddly moods, and she was in one when she suddenly got very quiet.

She mumbled something to me quietly that I couldn’t hear.

“Pardon honey?” I said, leaning closer to her on the couch.

“Ah lubba doo” she replied, looking downwards shyly. I didn’t understand for a second and then it dawned on me.

“I love you too baby!” and I leaned in for a cuddle. She has to be in the right mood to say it, but hearing her say that she loves me for the first time was the sweetest thing.

 

Pigeony Flock

For the last few months..well, years, Pete has been constructing a chicken coop for our flock. They used to free range in the yard because our older dog Sasha didn’t care about them in the slightest, however, Konrad the German Shepherd is a different barrel of monkeys. The type that was once caught towing a chicken around the backyard by her tail feathers, and that rushes at pigeons that dare to land on his territory.

We fenced in the bottom three feet of the coop when we built it to keep the girls safe from Konrad’s attentions, and finished the top panels a couple of months ago. We planned to put mesh over the top eventually, but the local pigeons forced our hand this last week as they’ve taken to dropping in for a feed of whatever the chickens have – their seed and their table scraps!

Pete got the mesh panels finished last night and we looked forward to our feed lasting longer..but we just came home to find 15 pigeons hanging out in our coop! Turns out they found a neat little gap between the mesh and decided to sneak in.

Pete’s managed to chase them off through the hatch we built into the front of the coop for feeding and is out fixing it up now, but his face when he saw pigeons on the roost was priceless!

It’s not the first time strange animals have turned up here and it won’t be the last, but it makes me wonder how often things like this happen to other people!

Harvest Monday – it’s finally summer!

Except it’s not. Tomorrow is the start of Autumn and we’ve just reached a period of sustained warmth that has seen the eggplant and capsicums shoot up. The chilli plants have come on in leaps and bounds and I just haven’t been able to keep up with an active toddler and a hyperactive garden!

Pete has (almost) finished our new compost bays and they’re enormous! We just need to reset the doors, pop on some latches and go and find some horse manure at the properties near a local racecourse and by Spring we should have some lovely compost to use.

Here it is!

It’s been a long time coming. The plants with smaller fruit have been providing little bits here and there, but the bigger guys have been biding their time.

I can’t remember which type they are because I gave the extra seedlings to Pete’s mum, but a couple of summer-weather days has helped a lot!

20170105_064438

Harvest Monday – January 2 2017

What a year 2016 was – as much as I wanted to be in the garden more, I had to learn to garden with a wee one in tow. It’s turned out as I hoped (chubby little hands stealing my tomatoes are the only ones I’ll tolerate) but it has been a learning process. A steep one, that’s included gardening with a certain person on my back, grabbing at plants and throwing me off balance sometimes, but it’s been fun just to see the way she makes a beeline for her favourite things, like pea pods and ripe red tomatoes.

This year, I’m going to try to record what I collect from the garden more diligently – I do know that by this time over the past few years, I was gifting people my excess tomatoes left, right and centre, but so far the season has been slow, and the vegetable patch is full of greenery and unripe fruit.

Sunday January 1

img_0675

  • 6 eggs (2 duck, 4 chicken)
  • 1x zucchini 517g
  • 1x bird’s eye chilli
  • 170g tomatoes (112g Sweet Bite, 58g Cherry)

Monday January 2

img_0669

  • 4 eggs (1 duck, 3 chicken)
  • 1x cucumber 213g
  • 1x capsicum 135g
  • 150g tomatoes (all Sweet Bite)
  • 1x bird’s eye chili
  • a handful of coriander

This is how I’m having to spot my Sweet Bite tomatoes at the moment – very carefully moving leaves and branches out of the way to look for the rosy red fruit. I only planted two of these plants, but they’re producing really well this year. I’m putting that down to sourcing my seedlings from a local nursery that grows their stock on site, so it’s all acclimated to my local area, as opposed to trucked in stock at the big green box. Next season hopefully I can start my own seeds – I normally have everything except tomatoes, eggplants and peppers from seed, but we weren’t organised enough last year!

img_0649

And what have I done with those tomatoes? Well, they’re a reliable snack for Olivia, so I hand them to her when I’m naking dinner. A bunch also wound up with some smoked chicken on pizzas for dinner tonight.

Wherever you are, I hope your garden is producing more heavily that mine!