Saturday, January 30, 2010

garden meanderings

About those artichokes, ahem. It may not look like many in the basket but it took ages to trim them down to almost nothing with a small knife and have another go. Too late I looked up Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Simone Beck, Louisette Bertholle, Julia Child) full of loads of ideas. Too late I read my trusty Koanga Garden Guide (Kay Baxter) and found out they were a seasonal harvest. Somehow I imagined they would flower on indefinitely and I could play around with them but looks like that might be this years bounty and now they are boiled and sitting in french dressing in the fridge and they don't look good. As for eating them, I'm on my own. Sorry Jen, I'm going to need some direction.
(Saw this wheelbarrow while we were in Waimate and it just took my fancy. What a workhorse.)

One thing about growing vegetables you quickly get into a seasonal rhythm because unlike the supermarket, in the garden things aren't normally available all year around. Or if they are, like potatoes, they are changing all the time. New potatoes at first that are good for boiling whole, potato salads etc. As time marches on the skins get tougher and won't scrape off anymore, now they need peeling. Later still the starches in the potato change, they are drier and can now be mashed and baked and make great roast potatoes and chips.
Well runner beans are one of those few things that you can just pick every other day for weeks. There will often be both a flower and a full grown bean on the same spray.

This magnificent example is at Mum's place growing behind the clothesline. I took a lot of photos of thrifty, creative gardens in Nelson; this would have to be the smallest. Note to self: a small garden is easier to maintain.
The vegetable garden is in such disarray at the moment that I've taken to my own flower garden at the house with new enthusiasm. I can get great results in a short space of time and everytime I look out the window I can enjoy seeing the difference.
I have ventured out to the vegetable garden to water the broccolli which has little heads peeping through. There are a few particular times when plenty of water pays off for yield and this is one of them. If something is producing continually of course then it's going to need continuous water too.

So getting back to those potatoes which are turning a little starchy.
Spiced Indian Potatoes
Scrub and boil them whole for 15 mins then cut into cubes. Oven: about 200 C. Grease the tray. Spread out one layer deep. Drizzle over a little oil, finely grate fresh ginger over and sprinkle on spice mix: 1 t cumin ground, 1/2 t cumin seed, 1 t salt, pinch of cayenne. Mix and bake about 25 mins. Enjoy. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

End of the long hot summer

It hasn't been hot enough or nearly long enough and school starts on Monday. Too soon. It was always too soon.
Marble Hill DOC camping site on the Lewis Pass and here's the key to carboot camping: a Polish coffee in a cup. Never mind that young delinquints had tried to jemmie the donations tin off the post in the night, or the family who arrived at what felt like 2am but was only about 12.30 and set up noisily beside us, that coffee in the morning set everything right for another great day of holidays.

Home to some serious gardening. The weeds are up to my armpits, or at least kneepits and for the first few days I just contemplated where to begin. I can be at home and feel overwhelmed about all the things to do but once you walk around the garden it quickly becomes apparent what is the now job. Well I know there is garlic in here somewhere.

First thing I like to do is clear the path so I can walk and bring in the wheelbarrow easily. The easiest way I find on a dirt path is to use a sharp spade and just whip along slicing the tops off all the weeds. It's easy and fast. Note the hose snaking along the path as they often do. It's a good idea to identify such things and move from the line of destruction...nearly hacked a hole in it; whoops.
The drought has broken and the ground is unusually wet. The skin on the garlic is starting to break down and a few bulbs have rotted so I want to get it dug and drying.

Half the row done and it's fragile at this stage and needs a few days to harden up. Then it's clip the roots back to a tidy nub and buff off only the damaged outer layer of skin which will give a clean groomed bulb that we can use until next year's crop. The more layers of skin you leave on the better it keeps. I'll move it onto racks with good air circulation in a dry room, the garlic room as it happens.

I've got plenty of photos of other people's gardens from holiday and quite a bit happening in the vege box: the first cucumber which will have to be taken on trust because I ate it immediately, without taking a photo and I haven't found any more yet. Lots of beans, and the first tomatoes. Another category to follow up springs to mind: garden casualties...back soon.
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Saturday, January 9, 2010


One of the great things growing up was that we always went out on Sunday afternoons walking, and took afternoon tea in a backpack: thermos or thermette and a packet of biscuits very carefully counted and measured out. When it really rained we might get as far as the Claremont St playground (only a few blocks away but trees to huddle under) or for lesser rain, a walk to town to go window shopping. Of course now the shops are open 7 days a week so you wouldn't have the street to yourselves or be locked out.
And here they are, noses pressed against the glass to see what lies in the world outside, thistles window shopping. It's all out of reach.
Thistles have a long taproot which can't help but bring up nutrients so in my home garden I dig them up and chuck them around the fruit trees to mulch and feed the ground, covering with other things as they come along. They have a beautiful purple flower and our En Hakkore honey has significant thistle notes. However, these are already on the compost heap. Their prickles seem to be the last thing to break down. Ouch.

The flowers are not unlike the globe artichokes if they too are allowed to fully flower. How merrily I said the first artichoke was ready to eat '... and don't worry, there are plenty more.' There will always be plenty more. I can see already that no-one else on the property is going to bother with them. For a medium/small size you boil them about 12 mins and pull off leaf by leaf to eat, dip in butter. Small ones can be trimmed and eaten whole. It probably didn't help that at the same meal we had pork bones and corn cobs. Yes it was all finger food but I had to get in a box for the debris. (corn husks, cobs, bones, artichoke everything) You only eat the little nut of each artichoke leaf and then scrape out the choke and eat up the heart. Giles said it was like eating a potato in very small slices, without it being a bag of crisps.

I can't remember whether I mentioned that from 2 pkts of seed I got 204 corn plants plus a little bundle of scrappy ones. I felt a bit like Mme Makutsi (No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, Alexander McCall Smith) with her unheard of 97 % from the Botswana Secretarial School. I know it's a very grand comparison but in my mind, I considered emailing Kings seeds to let them know, or perhaps send a photo; not that I would expect a certificate, but if it came I suppose it would have to hang down in the glasshouse. The corn had never been potted up after germination and was too big to transplant without being shocked. In those first few days of post planting trauma I must have been considering all this out loud because my friend Ruth, who was there at the time, commented that I should see how many plants made it through before totting up my record results. They look a bit shabby but are pulling through.
Here's Louis, and Phillip on the right picking blackcurrants down by the Nurses Home (in the background). My difficult lesson of the week about a stitch in time and all that.
The pruning window for blackcurrants is a large one running from Summer while picking through to early next Spring; nevertheless for various reasons I missed it. The result is masses of small blackcurrants instead of large dessert ones. What that means is that you can multiply the time it takes to pick them by about 5 and for the record, note words like tedious, frustrating and poor results. Add to that the final insult, you spend your available time for the week picking them instead of doing the other things that need to be done. Some roads you only need to go down once. I've been there, time to move on.

Runner beans are in the vege box incidentally, probably crushed under the weight of courgettes for which I am fast running out of recipes. Am digging a little garlic as needs go, which isn't really ready yet and starting to use the onions because too much water at this stage rots them. I use a big sprinkler at this time of year to water everything but it falls not only on the things that need it but also on the things that should be drying out. Careful thought and planning could help if they get the opportunity. The year is full of possibilities.
After all that today it really did rain. What better way to finish than with Hone Tuwhare's Rain. It's probably old hat to anyone younger than me but when I was at school, and University we didn't study NZ poets (!).
I can hear you
making small holes
in the silence
If I were deaf
the pores of my skin
would open to you
and shut
And I
should know you
by the lick of you
if I were blind
the something
special smell of you
when the sun cakes
the ground
the steady
drum-roll sound
you make
when the wind drops
But if I
should not hear
smell or feel or see
you would still
define me disperse me
wash over me
rainPosted by Picasa