Sunday, June 27, 2010

On the Rise

Danish Pastries: this is another product that has been degraded from the special
to the everyday by a food industry eager to advance the illusion that luxury can
be a perpetual condition, forgetting that it is only in contrast to the plain
that the fancy has any meaning. The road from treat to commodity is paved with
cheap ingredients, manipulated to make less seem more.
Andrew Whitley, Bread Matters

The tax deadline falls nicely in the middle of winter and has been the perfect excuse to stay inside for two weeks. Of course you can't spend all that time on paperwork and the kitchen has seen a flurry of breadcraft, the perfect antidote and side track that has got me through to another year's meticulous accounts (meticulous now). This book is great and can't you just tell from that quote that it would be right up my alley. The recipe for Danish Pastries is sufficiently difficult that they may never grace our table but there has been no lack. I've made the best wholemeal fruit loaf ever and am gearing up for the Stollen next.

Had a mishap with the sourdough due to insufficient heat. Mr Whitley suggests purchasing a small plant propagator to achieve consistent results. Bill has pointed out that if I wait for the annual police auction I could get propagator, fluorescent lights, hydroponics kit and automatic watering system at cut price.Think I'll carry on with the hot water cupboard.

That photo incidentally is self-sown coriander seedlings outside the house beside the struggling grape vine. I could hardly put the rhubarb below as my top shot ; who would still be reading? The house is brick and even in winter can put out some heat at the end of the day on that North face. I haven't exploited it, beyond planting the grape and a black boy peach, because it is also very dry and the soil is poor, but I have it in mind.

Now this is a sorry sight. Somebody can correct me, but it seems like this particular rhubarb wants to grow all year round but just gets killed off with each successive frost. See the new shoots coming through from below that keep growing and then get hideously burnt off. As long as it got water it grew fresh stalks right through the summer and they are always a beautiful red. I read somewhere that wood ash will secure the colour but I have another variety amongst them that is quite green and in the same conditions so in this case it's a plant thing. The green rhubarb is the wallflower of the garden, unpicked and unloved and hence soon to be replaced.

Thought I'd get all the ugliness out of the way in one go: the path that I really wish I had got around to woodchipping in Autumn. They are all in this state, or worse, and preclude even going in for a look without gumboots and gardening clothes on. Even then, I emerge with thick dirt hoofs on my shoes and sludge and slop home. Could I be doing anything in there anyway?

Well, I could finish cutting back the asparagus and I have a big pile of muck sequestered away and 3 bags of seaweed especially for them. I want to get a bit more cover on the beds because the first spears come up too early and just get frosted off. If I can't slow them down I will have to use frost cloth or hay? or neglect?

The promised Kale shot. This is Red Russian and I also planted Squire because I liked the name. I'm embarrassed to say the seed was planted at the end of March. I have no idea what I was thinking. It should probably have been in before Christmas. There's nothing teaches like experience but it can be a hard way to learn. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Big Wednesday

I never normally consider the fact that this is a household of boys but there are times when there is a gender weighted divergence of interests. Happily, for all its faults, the TV caters for me on a Wednesday night: 'Flash Forward'. The couch and chairs are full with the line up of five who sit mesmerised and only break into life in the ad breaks to punch/pinch/chew nails/argue/discuss the programme, and all manner of boy things. I have the computer to myself and I don't need to see the screen to know that I'm not missing a thing.

These remind me of little birds peeping for food, actually, emergent lupins; planted a month ago in the glasshouse. At this time of year, indoors or out, growth is either nil or death by freezing. I have only really grasped the fact that in this climate there are only two crops a year and one of those is a cover crop that will germinate and grow through the coldest months.

It seems painfully obvious that winter crops need to be fully grown here before winter starts. I didn't quite manage that. For celery and cabbage I bought plants in early February which bought me time but the brussel sprouts should have had a lot more growing and the Kale, well I'll save that for a blog of shame.

The brussel sprouts, freshly shampooed and glistening. The spray had to be used in 24 hours and the recipe made 5 litres which even for me was too much. Next time I'll freeze half. It's active ingredients were chilli, garlic and onions and there was speculation that rather than annihilate, I might instead incite some sort of mexican party. No sombreros to be seen and the aphids turned from grey to black so I consider it a success. Each leaf has a sprout in its armpit until you get to the little cabbage on top which is the last thing to eat.

Getting back to the two crops per season, that main crop needs to go in as early as possible and the fennel also went in too late. I finally got one beautiful fennel, the only one that didn't bolt to seed and had to pick it because it was beginning to freeze. Now what? Well I feel like we need a culinary success here to justify growing it again. Just don't quite know what form that will take. Have used some in a salad to get the benefit of fresh, there's nothing like it but then you knew I would say that.

Finally I am going to take my own advice Marg, who I merrily told to save her runner beans to eat as shell out beans. I haven't tried them yet in this form myself but I am drying them very carefully. How easy it is to assume that voice of authority ... and really know nothing at all. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Personal Cares

It's a beautiful sight. A bit like gopher holes on a lawn, not that I've ever seen them, leaves ready to be collected, stamped down, watered, covered and stored for two years. We trailer them off to the compost bins and I keep them seperate because they take so long to break down. I still have a stash from our very first year here that I use in seed raising mix, strawberry potting mix, anywhere where I need a weed free, nuetral base.

Coupled with that, I've run out of bin space so first job was to put a thick layer of last year's leaf mold on top of the compost piles. In the bottom bin you can see it's black and earthy, it's broken down roughly and is just nicely moist. The weeds are just beginning to regrow under the cover, (top bin) so it seemed a good idea to smother everything under a blanket for the winter.

I've been turning over the grass under the fruit trees and covering it with newspaper, cowmanure, pea straw, wood chips, anything I can get my hands on. The mulch helps retain moisture, feeds the trees, creates a nice medium for other plants (some more welcome than others) and means the lads can go through the property on the ride-on mower to cut the grass without getting their heads clipped as they negotiate around trees. A trailer load of leaves is already waiting for my next lawn annihilation.

I'm gearing up for a new spectacular artichoke season. The boys have been less than enthusiastic but I have seen Julie and Julia and besides, I have the books (Mastering the Art of French Cooking, volumes 1 and 2) with more recipes than I can count on one hand. Success awaits me. So, I've cut back the artichokes for the winter and the promising new shoots for Spring remain. Some are under sacks for the minute until I put hay around them; these ones have pea straw loosely about them, a combination of sacks and hay may be the best protection.

Quite off the topic, there's a substantial grey aphid colony parked on the brussel sprouts. I have been researching whitefly and come back to Kay Baxter 'Keep in mind that if you have a pest problem it is a sign that the plant is not happy and spraying the pests will not make much difference or help.' So therefore it is likely a soil nutrition problem. I'm inclined to agree but have a chilli, garlic, soap spray to try on the symptoms anyway. If nothing else they will be clean.

It looks like a dead stick stuck in the ground. I had to use a crowbar to get this walnut tree out of the forest a couple of years ago where it was languishing amongst the pines. The ground is on a slope so the little rock wall is not a collar around its neck but a dam wall tapering away at the sides to hold in the earth and water.
The tree is already quite old and has a poor structure. It has never bourne any nuts and self sown walnut trees are a lottery with the same poor strike rate. If it gets large enough it will be able to withstand the frosts better which at the moment, strip its leaves in Spring.

Unusual for me but I did a double take; it doesn't have to produce anything, it can be a poor specimen, it's allowed to be cared for even with its poor prognosis. Expectation nil. Enter Nurse Graham, and the old sanitorium has a hospice.

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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Winter gave Autumn a cold shoulder

The week's gardening fits into a neat nutshell. After 4 inches of rain (2/5ths of last years annual rainfall), the trailer was needed in a hurry to rescue some stock grazing near the river. It was on my mind to empty all the horse poo off it earlier but it was very cold outside and deliciously warm inside. Owing to the sudden urgency, I had 5 willing helpers barrow off horse manure and finished covering every bed in the glasshouse in about 15 mins. Some of it went over lupin and peas sowed the week before and some over oats now about 6 inches high. It really was the icing on the rain-cake and it's not often you would call manure that.

This is the Taeiri River down by the green bridge. Normally it's a thin winding strip and the trees on the left are on the bank.
On Wednesday the school bus couldn't get through at one point and turned around and dropped our kids back off again, home for the day. The next two days were snow days, inside/outside, every radiator draped with wet gloves, hats, coats, and children everywhere. Is it any surprise that by Sunday Mama and I decided to head off for a drive and explore the snow from the comfort of the car with the prospect of a coffee stop at Black Forest Cafe? No it is not.

Kyeburn diggings, the cliff face scoured away by the gold miners and we followed it into the hills as far as we could go... not much past here. We were planning on driving as far as the Dansey's Pass Hotel but the road was closed in a very convincing fashion, it looked completely swept away. Couldn't see any smoke rising from the cribs. One had a prominent sign 'NO visitors, NO callers'. Guess we won't be popping in there then. You can see the mountains reflected in the windows. This building looks like an old hotel to me. The current hotel is only a few kms away.

Those same mountains that were reflected in the windows. I have a poem complete with permission to use it, both courtesy of Mama. Many thanks. Poem by Nelson poet Carol Don Ercolano.
Seasonal Talk
You're one hot baby
Summer, said Spring
I'm off before
I get burnt
Very wise, said Summer
who spoke in cliches
If you can't stand the heat
get out of the kitchen
Autumn went to
Summer's funeral
in her finest colours
Winter gave Autumn
a cold shoulder
and sent her packing
With one look Spring
Melted Winter's heart
and he dripped sleepily
to bed
you're one hot baby
Summer, said Spring...
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