Busy, busy

Things have been plodding along nicely around the homestead. We’ve had a few ups and downs of late, the downs being that we are down to 1 duckling out of 11! Damn hawk! No chicks (not sure if I mentioned that they vanished after about day 3) and number 1 rooster killed number 2 rooster (number 1 rooster is now counting the days…). The ducks found that they really really like bean leaves so they have happily stripped all our bean plants of their leaves and flowers, at least they left us the beans *sigh* All those adorable little kiwi fruits I photographed a little while back have all vanished, most likely dropped off due to a sudden heat wave or something so we only have what is now starting to form on the slower second climber. I noticed some of the wild blackberries in surrounding areas have started to flower so I must remember to check our wild bushes around the property, I’d love to get a good blackberry stash this season, yum!

We have been enjoying our glut of beans and are now into zucchinis! They will join all the other bits of preserving we’ve been doing and become all sort of yummy delectable for future eating when there are no more in the garden. We’ve made some wonderful mixed berry jams (purchased ingredients I’m afraid), Lemon and Orange cordial (sooo yummy), amazing strawberry sauces (on purpose ones and the accidental jam not setting so now we have sauce), orange marmalade, beatroot chutney and in vinegar (ala slices for your burgers) and lastly some Scottish shortbread. 

Loads of new seeds and thus seedlings have been making the circuit through the green house to the garden beds, the main beds are SLOWLY but surely coming along and we’ve almost kept ahead of the planting. I’m very excited, B and I grew pink Hopi corn (great for grinding I’m told) last year and I just planted a massive quantity of the seed about 3 days ago and they are already starting to sprout, we thought that they might not do anything. So it will be great to have our normal sweet corn picked by the time the pink Hopi starting to mature (no cross contaminating of the DNA so we can save seed). If all goes well in the garden we should have a nice little supply of corn, amaranth and quinoa, all yummy grains that B can eat. It will be interesting to see how much we grow, and thus how much flour we can grind from them.

We’ve learnt a lot over the last few months since moving here, we now know not to let the poultry raise their own young, that ducks can do just as much (or more) damage in the vegetable patch as chickens, we seriously need to plant more peas, it really is worthwhile planting things in the greenhouse prior to warmer weather outside, our glass house and green house are way too small for our needs, and much more that I’m probably not even aware of right now.

Life for the most part is plodding along very nicely I must say. B’s been doing some sewing, Craig has been banging away in the wood shop and I’ve finally gotten around to buying some fiber dyes. Summer is a lovely time for being busy, watching everything grow and still having hours in the day for a good balance of work and play.

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Beans Pod, Butter and Tomatoes

Well my gardening plans have been a little foiled of late, the new patch I was about to start working in has a family of paper wasps living in it. I hate to kill them just because I happen to want to use that spot (ok and going near them scares the dickens out of me) so I’ve decided to pass the spot over for a little while.

In the mean time, I’ve harvested some of my climbing bean seeds:

beans

from about 5 or so beans I have about 25 seeds, this isn’t nearly enough for a full supply of beans but it’s a good start and I have a few more pods maturing up for seed collection.

I believe I mentioned my awesome Christmas present from Buffie, a set of butter paddles, well they are wonderful and I love them and they certainly make the process of getting the liquid out of the butter way way easier.

Tracey & Butter butter

I used 4 bottles of organic cream and made about 4 small tubs of butter (probably around 100-150 grams each, I forgot to weigh them). I didn’t add any water to this batch of butter but did and quite a bit of salt (to help preserve the butter). I placed 3 tubs in the freezer and have just been removing them as I need, we seem t be going through about 1 tub per week but I’m also not doing any baking which of course would gobble them up much faster.

I’ve purchased some freezer blocks to place in the bowl with the butter churn to keep it nice and cool and also to sit the finished butter on while I work each block. I was finding that each new block was a little softer and took a little longer to firm together and get out all the liquid otherwise.

My little hanging basket of cherry tomatoes are starting to produce more tomatoes now, I think I will have harvest about a punet’s worth by the time the finish. Not a great many but they have been lovely to just pluck off as they ripen and put straight into your mouth, fresh, warm and juicy.

tomatoes

Oh my! 2 weeks since my last post!

I’m horrified to see that I’ve let two weeks slip past without posting!

Well to make up for it, here is some pictures of the potatoes I just harvested this morning. I replaced them with a late season  crop of “Rainbow Beans”, sorry about they graininess of the photos but I had to use my old camera phone as I can’t find the digital camera. Also on my list today is to bag the heads of the onions to save their seed, transplant some marigolds and sort out and store the seed potatoes for August planting – but I think I’ll wait for this evening and a bit of cooler weather first.

potatoes

potatoes 2

What else haven’t I shared with you? Ohh, I just got my invitation to Ravelry a web site for crafters, it’s a very cool site, I had to wait about a week for my invite and it was so worth it.

Ok so in the workshed we have been finishing off the router table (which means we can get on with building our bed)

Tracey at work

Craig playing with the router

The table is now fully complete, painted and everything.

On the cooking front I’ve made two batches of preserved plums, 1 batch of peaches, 1 batch of rhubarb and two batches of tomato pasta sauce. I have enough basil to make some pesto and cream to make more butter (I was given two butter paddles for xmas which I’m very keen to play with).

Preserves

Peaches(soooo yummy)

And finally my two boys doing what they do best:

Craig & Bootlace (note the very cool Utilikilt Craig is wearing)

I’ve just finished spinning my second bobbin of fleece and as soon as I get my hands on a lazy kate (or make one) I’ll be able to spin it into my first 2ply. I’m so excited to see how it comes out, I know it’s far from perfect, over spun, inconstant  thicknes, slubs etc but I’m still excited.

And we’re back!

I have so much today now that we are home and rested a hardly have the time to stop and write this post.

I’ve just ran around to the house of a lovely lady from Auckland Freecycle who has given me several bags of Romany fleece (white and black). My Ashford Book of Spinning tells me that Romney is a great fleece for beginners to spin, which would be me. If you don’t know about the Freecycle network you should seriously research it for your area. It’s a great resource for those 3 R’s.

Ashford Spinning WheelAmong our clothing and christmas gifts I also managed to bring back my spinning wheel and spent a lovely time (except for the bit when I was swearing at the stupid screw thinging that wouldn’t go back into the hole it had come out of and had to grumble until Craig came and fixed it for me – love husbands *grin*). Anyway, I mostly happily put my spinning wheel back together, which gave me a much better understanding of how it all works, oiled up all the oiling up parts and now have a lot of reading and practice to do.

My new drum carder should arrive on Monday (yay), so I need to make sure that I wash at least some of the fleece I now have (I think I now have about 8 big bags). Researching my drum carder and my spinning wheel as made me realise there are still few things I need to add to my arsenal of wool craft tools. The most important ones right now being that it seems I have only 1 bobbin for my spinning wheel – which will become a problem very very quickly and I don’t have a Lazy Kate (but I may be able to make one or improvise) *sigh*

Aside form the crafty things today, I’ve also been in kitchen whipping up a batch of Kombucha Tea (or Manchurian Tea, whichever you prefer). This tea is apparently renowned for all sorts of health wonders, it’s a fermented iced tea, basically, and I tried some and liked it so am now the proud owner of my own “Kombucha mushroom” (which is the started, somewhat like you would do for yogurt or sourdough). Once I finish writting this I will FINALLY get around to having a go at making my sourdough starter.

Woodworking wise, Craig and I purchased a bed on TradeMe.co.nz, only to get it how and find it was WAY too short so we drove al the way back to the North Shore (North East of us) to give it back (long story) and thus we have decided to make our own bed again, so this Saturday is early morning farmers market shopping followed by bed making in the workshed, should be fun.

Gardening – my three sisters are doing wonderfully and people have been telling me how many courgettes they’ve been taking, the corn is coming along wonderfully and the climbing beans look so cool  winding their way up the corn stems. I also purchased a bunch of new seedlings for the balcony planter box (spinach, basil and chives) as well as an aubergine (egg plant) to go in a garden somewhere. I need to clean out the last of the “potato box” broadbeans and tulip bulbs and I’m going to fill it with some lettuces. I left paper bags over a few things – spinach and celery) to collect their seeds but it didn’t really work – partly because it seems that a few bugs really like to nibble at the paper resulting in big holes *pout* so my seed saving in that regards has failed. It also seems that all my broad bean plants have been harvested and sacrificed to the new clothes line/pagola and nobody has mentioned saving much of the seeds (which was the point of that planting) – so my seed saving efforts for this past season have gone a miss, ahh well, it’s the journey and the learning right 🙂

The last thing I wanted to share today was the recipe for tonights dinner, I really enjoyed it and before I forget what I did I need to get it down:

Chili Bean & Pork Mince

  • Heat pan and oil
  • Add garlic, chilli and onion – fry till fragrant
  • Add 1/2 kilo of pork mince – brown
  • Add a dash of saki, tamari and sesame oil
  • Salt & Pepper to taste (frehly ground of course)
  • Add a handful of flat beans  cut into 2cm lengths and cook  to taste (we like our beans to still have some crunch).

Serve on a bed of lettuce (next time we would add some light items like cucumber to the lettuce and perhaps also serve with some asparagus).  Delicious!

Seedlings & yellow bean leaves

Seedlings are still popping up, the tomatoes and capsicum’s I re-potted the other day are growing nice and strong.

Tomatoes

Capsicum

In the new batch of seedlings I have quinoa, amaranth, hulless oats, mint and basil which after the last few days of rain are starting to peak their little heads up. The Pink Hopi corn (which we are attempting to grow for it’s flour) haven’t as yet began to sprout.

Quinoa

Hulless Oats

My climbing beans leaves started to wrinkle up recently and I noticed lots of little bugs, I wasn’t sure it they were too dry or if they had been infected so I decided to spray them with Garlic and Pyrethrum (an organic pesticide). I think they were perhaps a little water stressed, but I’m not sure if it was because they didn’t have enough water or if they had too much… Anyway, now that it’s rained the leaves are turning yellow, the veins are very dark so I’m not sure again why, could it be a reaction to the pesticide + water or are they coincidentally low on nitrogen? Beans usually draw up nitrogen from the soil and in pots they probably don’t get access to quite enough, I think I need to find some worm tea for them soon.

Beans

The other geeky gardening thing I’m excited about at the moment is my hulless pumpkin seeds. I just discovered 5 plants have started to pop up, considering we didn’t know if any of them would work due to the accidental early picking this is great. I planted more then three times that many seeds and a few more might also poke up their little heads but I’ll be happy if we can get these five to grow successfully.

Hulless pumpkin

Successes & disasters

I have cleared one particular area of garden beside the common house of all it’s weeds and it is now ready to compost and plant into again. I removed all of the old sprouting broccoli except two as they need to cross pollinate and I’d like harvest the seeds from these guys as they really did well. I’ve also left the lettuces as they were also really good producers and are just about ready to “bolt” (go to seed). I pulled up a golden beetroot without remembering what it was so I’m going to attempt to “can” it or preserve it like I would a red beetroot and see what happens. There are still bunching leeks, a few bunching onions and some spring onions coming up in that area so it will be interesting to see how they go. Now that the warmer weather will be starting up I’ll need to start watering that area again once I plant it out.

Now, the disaster.

I have had to scrap the cloak I had on the loom as it just became a hideous mess of tangle and bad tension.

Cloak

I did attempt to fix the tension which just made the tangle worse and in the end I decided it wasn’t worth it and will start all over again. This time I’m going to try using a warping board (perhaps my inkle loom) and attempt a few techniques from my new weaving book and see how that turns out. I will however salvage the 30cm or so of weaving I did manage to achieve and start up a physical diary of my weaving. I’ll attempt to wash some of that weaving and see how it looks – it’s not finished unless it’s wet finished – apparently. I also need to wet finish my shawl and table runner, it will be interesting to see how they turn out too. First I need to acquire soap flakes.

Peter, peter pumpkin eater

Well actually you don’t eat this pumpkin, just the seeds.

Hulless pumpkin

This is one of the hulless pumpkin’s Barbara grew, we are harvesting the seeds from them and going to attempt to grow a few more of the pumpkins, they are notoriously hard to grow, and hopefully we will get a good batch started so that we can start harvesting the seeds to eat.

Pumpkin seeds

These seeds taste delicious roasted in the oven with some soy sauce splattered over them and olive oil. The go fantastically scattered in a salad.

Planting and seed saving

Seeds/Seedlings planted in Joel and Judy’s garden (bad soil with a little organic potting mix)
Carrots        Yellow Austrian                    .5 Packet
Beetroot        Bulls Blood                        6 Plants
Cabbage        Palm Cabbage                        6 Plants
Broccoli        Sprouting Broccoli                    6 Plants
Spring Onion                                    7 Plants

I harvested two types of lettuce seeds from the garden today. Taking the fluffy topped heads and the yellow flowered heads. I removed the flower body, revealing the little seeds (black seeds in one variety and white seeds in the other). I scattered these into separate seedling trays with organic seed raising mix.

I have also cut about a foot off one lettuce, this had many flowers coming up, some almost coming up to flower and a few fluffy heads. The theory is that if I hang it upside down there is still food in the stem to bring the remainder of the flowers to seed. I’ll collect these seeds and bottle them up for later this year.