Sunday, 31 October 2010

Hens are sitting

It has been a busy weekend... I went to the Barossa market on Saturday morning.  I always enjoy the market, though in fact I have enough food growing in the garden that is even more "fresh and local" than the Barossa.  It always takes longer to shop over there though, as I run into so many people that I know that it takes quite a while.  The most important reason for going there this time was to collect some fertile eggs for my broody chickens to sit on.   A friend of a friend had collected them during the week,  and by now,  I have three sitting hens and the hatching should be some time around Nov 20 - 23.  We'll see.

I have also been to the Kapunda show where I learned about dairy goats, watched the judging of wool and grain crops, watched the horse riding and driving competitions and checked out all of the exhibits in the art, craft and needlework department.

For dinner, I was able to try a new broad bean recipe... with mint, onions and sumac.  Really good, although next time I will add more sumac... it was new to me, so was rather cautious with it.  It tastes very good with the beans and mint combination though,  so I'll try it again.

I have been out in the garden potting on some trees, ready to plant them after the summer.  The zucchini plants are growing fast... and the tiny vegetables are beginning to look like zucchinis.  I found another ladybird today also... on the romano beans... and I couldn't find a single aphid.

The other news today is that I have used up all of my space for photographs on Google and so I can't upload any more without paying for the privelege.  My descriptive language is about to become greatly improved!

Friday, 29 October 2010

Cactus, Black pearl lilies and potato flowers.

I have been away from home overnight, attending the Local government meeting.  Yesterday morning, the first cactus flower was out and the perfume was in the air all over the yard....
 ... these are beautiful flowers and they always seem to just suddenly appear....  in fact there were a lot of other buds as well....  I even took a photograph of those as well....
 As I left Adelaide this afternoon to come home,  it was raining.  We have had quite a bit of rain already and I have been to check that the water is all runnig into the tanks.
But look at the flowers now... that is the same patch and many of those buds are now open....
 The flowers are all spangled with rain drops.....

I went to pick the broad beans.... two days worth!  But I also found this....  a "Black pearl lily" (also known as "Arab's eye")  which is Ornithogallum arabicum.
 .... and the first of the potato plants is flowering... this is a coliban variety.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Preserving Broad Beans

Broad beans are very easy to grow in Kapunda.  The can be planted at any time from April until August and grow in most kinds of soil despite irregular rain and little care.  The soil in Kapunda is quite alkaline, has a thin layer of topsoil and beneath that is limestone... not very promising, but even before the soil has been improved,  broad beans seem to grow quite well.  They flower as soon as the days begin to get longer, and as soon as the temperature is above about 16-18C, they begin to produce little pods.  By now, when day time temperatures are in the 20's, my plants produce more than we can eat.  I have about 60-80 plants that are currently producing.  Aside from eating them pods and all, and later as beans in an assortment of guises, there are plenty to preserve for later.  Not only that, but these are one of the easiest vegetables to keep for later.
One of my Facebook friends asked me how to freeze them and it generated quite a bit of conversation, and so here is my method...
This is a typical daily "pick" at this time of the year...
 These are shelled to produce about 500g of beans like this....
Now back to yesterday's crop.... and these have been dropped into boiling salted water for about 4-5 minutes and then cooled quickly in cold water, dried and spread onto a baking tray and frozen overnight.
... carefull removed from the tray....
.... bagged and in the freezer....
This is the way that I preserve these since I have had a freezer (12 months now.)

Before that,  I used to bottle them using my Fowler's Vacola bottling outfit.  They are a little soggier and the liquid is slightly milky,  but they are just as useful for making my "risi e fagioli" when the beans are out of season.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Coriander and hover flies

The coriander in my garden is flowering profusely at the moment...
... my plants have pale pink flowers that grow in clusters and because I plant the seeds thickly,  I seem to get a forest of flowers that can remain for weeks.  Coriander seems to be one of the plants that is beloved of hover flies.
Hover flies are striped, and remind me of tiny wasps, but they don't bite and, in fact they are beneficial to the garden.  Larval hover flies are often parasites of aphids and reduce the pest population significantly.  I tried to photograph them today and this one is hovering near to the flower (there's another one on the flower anyway)...
 ... and this one shows you the stripes really well....
The other flower that they seem to love is rue.  They are " all over" that today as well.
(ed.  next day... the rue plant and it flowers have a cloud of hover flies around them, and I don't like the chances of any aphids in my yard!)
Coriander seems to be one of those flavours that, either you really like it a lot... or you just can't stand it.   I happen to love it and, back in the days when I used to buy it from the supermarket,  I was known to buy two bunches at the same time,  as I knew that a single one wouldn't make it home...  one for cooking and another to eat on the way.
Coriander is a winter herb here.  It grows slowly in the cold weather, but doesn't seem to mind some frost or uneven climate.  Once the days are longer than the nights (after the equinox)  it flowers, along with the parsley,  and "goes to seed" and it is time to plant basil and summer vegetables.  Once again, the benefit of eating seasonally means that when the new season's specialties arrive, they are all the more thrilling.

One person in our household doesn't like coriander.  This is disappointing,  as there are so many wonderfully flavoured dishes that include this herb as an absolute requirement.  It has meant that I have learned to make a wonderful coriander chutney that I have described before...
... it is a very dark emerald green and loses none of the coriander flavour that coriander devotees (including myself) love.  This can be added to "non-coriander" versions of many dishes.  The aversion to the taste doesn't seem to extend to the seeds.

My coriander plants are beginning to produce fruit...
... and when they are dry,  they look like this.... (thanks wikipedia,  mine aren't dry yet)...
These are used as a pickling spice, in bread (instead of caraway), in some kinds of beer and, ground, they are a component of many curry powders.  In fact,  the seeds are easy to buy in bulk at food stores and are often my source of seeds for planting.  They cost me about $3.50 for 500g, much less expensive than many seed sources and so I can also afford to use them extravagantly and as an attractant for my hover flies, making aphids rare in my garden.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Sunday exhibition opening

Yesterday it was my day for sitting in the Barossa Regional Gallery.   There is a wonderful exhibition of drawings and photographs from the gold mining area of NSW around Ophir and Hill End. When I am there,  I always stay for the whole day.  It's worth it because, once over there,  it seems much more worth the trip.
This is the view from the desk.... though there are many more paintings in the two rooms available...
 ... it is definitely a great place to spend a day.  Early in the day (on Saturdays anyway) it is quiet and there is plenty of time to look around slowly and think about the works there.
This particular exhibition includes a few drawings from Ken Orchard's sketchbook (2007) including this one that I like.
 I have used the same pen and ink wash to make some drawings in my sketchbook... this one is from Pogonip  (Santa Cruz)....
 As soon as this election is over,  I will be back to drawing at least.  There is a formal opening this afternoon and I will be there!

Earlier this morning I picked some more broad beans.  There are plenty of "greens"  still out there,  but they are  always available, so I don't need to store any.  I have been freezing at least a couple of bags of broad beans every couple of days.
They make a lovely risotto (previous post) and we'll enjoy those later.

The garden is warm this morning and the flowers are looking lovely....
In the front are three Hidcote lavender bushes, an assortment of bulbs and lilies and behind those,  another group of salvias.
On the LHS, the potatoes are looking healthy and spectacular.  The tall yellowe flowering plants behind them are mustard plants, grown from the brown mustard seeds from my spice shelf.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Powdery mildew on the zucchinis


It has been a busy week, but, along with the various meetings that I've been to, I have kept an eye on the garden and picked a lot of broad beans each morning... enough to eat them daily and to freeze some for later (they are good for making a version of risotto that is more like risi e bisi, though it should more correctly be called risi e fave.
The zucchini have the tiny beginnings of female flowers with tiny fruits in different shapes...  the long green "normal" zucchinis...
 ... and the little round yellow version.... yellow squash...
 What I did notice yesterday morning though was the beginnings of powdery mildew on the leaves of just one plant....

I have sprayed leaves like this with milk in the past,  and it works really well.   In the past I have used a hand spray bottle from the supermarket.  These are pretty hard on my hands and they don't last long... I have usually used several each summer when spraying for this as they break down during the season.
Some months ago,  I received a gift from the Fiskars company that included this Hozelock Garden Sprayer....
When I first saw it, I wondered how complicated it was, and how easy it would be to use.... after my little spray bottle, it certainly looked a lot more complicated...  but  I put it together and gave it a try....
it is absolutely fabulous!  and I have no hesitation in recommending it for the kind of spraying that I do...  I have used it a couple of times now... for this and for spraying foliage with a weak solution of a foliar fertiliser and my trusty stinging nettle fertiliser, though I needed to strain the fertiliser through cloth to use it in the sprayer...  it worked well.  I like using it.

Next on to the potato plants... this is the newly planted patch this year.  On the left are pontiac and on the right are coliban.  The pontiac came up really quickly and the coliban took weeks longer to appear above the ground,  By now, the two rows are not very different,  until you look closely....
 ... the "moth-eaten" leaves are the pontiac variety and the uneaten ones are coliban... right together and I am certain that this is earwig damage (I've been out in the dark and found them at it.)

On Tuesday, as a representative of Carer's Link in the Barossa,  I went to Kadina... about two hours drive away.  I sat in the back of the car on the way,  and on a shortcut between the Main North Road and the Port Wakefield Road,  we came across a flock of sheep being moved between paddocks,  not an unusual sight around here....
 .... the dog was working hard, and the shepherd was riding his quad bike....

Back in the garden this morning,  it has been a lovely warm day and there are flowers everywhere....
...here is rue....
....  coriander...... 



















....Chinese broccoli  that I grew from seeds about eight or nine months ago.  I'm letting it go to seed again so that I'll have some more to plant before next winter...

...kale... also grown from seed that I collected earlier in the year...
It's amazing to see the variety of butterflies, hover flies, lady birds and bees that are spending their days in the garden now.

And last but not least,  the broad beans are producing so much now that we just can't keep up...
... and they are beautiful plants too.

Monday, 18 October 2010

35th Annual Celtic Festival, but the garden doesn't wait

This weekend has been one of music and fun,  Celtic style, in Kapunda.  There has been a probelm with the weather in the past,  and so the decision was made to move the timing from late autumn to mid October,  when the weather is reliably warmer and so the whole event could be held outside.
In fact,  we had cold, windy and wet weather.... and I heard someone suggest that we invoice the Farmer's Federation for the rain that the festival provided to finish off the year!   It was a wonderful weekend anyway, and the music was great.
Bands included The BordererS,
 and Sibin....















and The Celtic Music Club .....








.....  and any number of singers, dancers


and warriors with woad-painted faces.


The parade on Sunday afternoon was a typical country, participatory affair and of course, it rained :-)
It was led by the local policemen in their car....
 .... the Town Crier (all the way from Angaston)....
 .... the Elizabeth marching band....
 ... an assortment of local trucks including this wine tanker....
  the CFS and the SES and the local Ambulance....
 ... cars of all descriptions....
 ... the old hearse....
 ... the dog obedience club (I missed the great dane)

... and by the time that the CWA came down the street,  it was raining,  but they were prepared!

The camel man brought his camel and a baby.  If you look carefully,  you'll see a can in the mouth of the camel.  She was drinking a Coca Cola!

The local unicycling juggler.... doesn't everyone have one of those....   as the street became wetter and shinier!
 The fire truck (the same one that brings Father Christmas down the street at the December street party.)
It was a great day, and we did have a good time,  despite the weather...

Once home,  I picked another basket of broad beans (they are producing rapidly now and the garden doesn't wait)  peeled and blanched them and have two bags of beans in the freezer ready for a quick risotto one of these days.
I made bread and pressure cooked some "baked beans" for dinner.

The extra 2 mm of rain has kept everything wet, and there are ominous white patches on some of the zucchinis.  As soon as it's dry out there,  I'll spray them with milk.  I use a 10% spray and it works wonders... more about that later.