Just a little bit of progress!

* photos to come once I figure out the visual editor stuff and make it work again.

18/19 June

  • established new pink eye potato bed – C9 using Poly carpet underlay from the second floor (we found a sewing machine bobbin in one roll identifying the source) and horse manure bagged by the Connect students as a fund raiser. So a Poly Potato Patch.underlay
  • planted broadbeans in C5 in back half.
  • Planted Up to Date potatos in O1/O2/O3 under the fruit trees in the orchard in wire circles. They should be relatively protected from frost there for an early crop.
  • Started the 'under the clothesline' redevelopment.
  • Gathered two huge trailer loads of hessian carpet underlay from work on Thursday night. Hooray for scavenging. Although it did rather look like we were rolling bodies wrapped in blankets down the back nature strip in the dark. No-one called the police though.
  • Moved C8 (previous strawberry bed) slightly uphill and re-edged. This now fits better in the space between the chook shed and nashi pear tree. Strawberries from there were removed and most are still awaiting re-planting. With this cool weather I'm hoping they'll cheerfully sit jumbled in on top of each other in the large tubs until next weekend. I trimmed and potted up about 50 already. Once they've settled we'll plant out into the front garden.
  • Carpet underlay rolled down the access path through the raspberries

11/12/13 June – Queens Birthday Long Weekend

  • Established blueberry patch where old chook shed and grapevine were.
  • Moved 3 Blueberries from C8, planted out 2 from pots loitering near the deck, and 3 new ones. Top 5 are Brigitta, 2 are Blue Rose and 1 Blue Crop. Tucked in along the edge, some oregano and a chamomile. All berries got tree guards to save them from frost. It would appear that blueberries curl up their toes at being in the main frost pathway of our garden. I'd rather not count up how many we've killed. Let's just focus on the better location shall we?
  • Planted from top to bottom Peach – Redhaven, Nectarine – Fantasia, Peach – Elberta, on side of driveway.
  • Garlic along inside edge of C3 Snowpeas in S2 Now on the right side fence we have, from top to bottom S1 Sweet peas (self seeded from last year), S2 Snow Peas Melting Mammoth, S3 and S4 Green Peas – Greenfeast
  • Planted Apricots 2 Moorpark and 1 Tilton (furthest from gate) over the back fence.
  • Bought a Black Genoa Fig to go in the front garden. Despite leaving it in the pot I have not killed it yet! (proving my track record wrong)
  • Planted out about 20 strawberries in the front garden in gaps.
  • I think it was this weekend I tucked about four more brassica seedlings into C6 and C0. We lost a few plants to aphid overload and their apparent hatred of mushroom compost. These were some of the 'random red brassicas' I got as a freebie in early autumn and had potted on in the greenhouse to fill gaps.

Preserving 18/19 June

  • 18 jars savoury applesauce from all our own apples. Still more on the trees to eat and preserve
  • 7 jars fig jam (10 mins at 15psi in the pressure cooker to get the runty little end of season ones soft enough to make jam)
  • 7 jars caramelised onion (once cooked down equivalent of half a kilo of onions each!!!!)
  • 4 jars meat balls in tomato – a number#20 jar holds enough meatballs for the three of us, just needs more tomato and other veg to turn it into a meal.

Ferber Musings

Well, the library wants their copy of Christine Ferber’s Mes Confitures book back. Sad Day.

This book is, unsurprisingly for the French speakers out there, a whole bunch of jam recipes. Which is good, but we don’t eat that much jam. So I have used the book more as flavour combining inspiration. I did make the Quince, Cardamon and Orange Marmalade (p152). Which is to die for. Luckily I have more bottles of quince juice tucked away  so I can make more later in the year.

I used the Pear with Caramel and Spices (p187) as an inspiration for some bottled pears which turned out delightfully.  My tweaks were: replace making caramel/ toffee with a scoop of dark brown sugar when making a spiced syrup with cardamom, star anise and cinnamon. This works equally well with stewed apples and makes for a quick dessert warmed through. This has got me thinking about more of our preserved fruit next year being ready made combos – eg crumble fillings with apples and berries.

Future combos to try:

Orange, Rhubarb and Apple in a 1:3:3 ratio

Apricots with slivered almonds

Apricot, Nectarine and Ginger 5:5:1

Citrus with cinnamon, cardamom, cloves

Apples with raspberries 2:1

Blackberry and Raspberry 1:1

Oranges with gingerbread spice, cinnamon, star anise

Yellow Peach with Orange 1:1

Fig and Pear 2.5:1

Mes Confitures cover


Technique tips for jam making to preserve the sparkling colours and whole fruit

Fruit, lemon juice and sugar are combined and brought to a simmer then immediately put into a bowl, covered and left overnight to macerate in the fridge. Sometimes fruit, lemon juice and sugar are combined and simply left overnight to macerate.  Softer fruit may only be left an hour or so, and is not strained in the next step.

The following day, the mixture is strained and juices are boiled until they reach setting point, fruit is added back in and it is boiled another 5 minutes before bottling.

Pectin is added in the form of Green Apple Jelly. Lemon juice aids setting. Where fruit juices are used (as in the marmalade reference above), strained juice is left to settle overnight so the clearer juice on top can be used. These technique based attention to details result in a stunning looking preserve.

Pruning an Organic Home Orchard

Franklin Penny (as we’ve decided to call her) organised a fantastic workshop that came at just the right time for us. Over the past 12-13 years we’ve planted and pruned fruit trees with varying degrees of success in our garden. Some trees have been persistent problems, others just settled comfortably into their shape and produce fruit year after year. Chris Steenholdt was ‘Expert in Residence’ and Penny’s young fruit trees were the working examples.

  • Horizontal wood will produce fruit – always good to reinforce this one.
  • Decide what final shape and size you want for the tree and prune accordingly. Chris kept asking Penny – ‘do you want fruit this year?’
  • Remove shoots growing into the middle of the tree. Better ventilation, fewer disease problems, more sunlight on leaves and fruit.
  • Apples, pears and quinces may have fruit buds at the end of shoots – leave these on and the resulting fruit will bend the whippy new growth over.
  • You can tie or weight down young growth to encourage your chosen shape and horizontal (=fruiting) wood. *See note below
  • Mulch, mulch and more mulch. Collar rot is really only an issue with citrus. You can mulch up to the graft union.
  • Spray – Chris sprays his commercial organic orchard with organic approved sprays three times per year. Copper and winter oil sprays are the key for leafy diseases and overwintering bugs. Various dusts (sulphur, lime, pyrethrum) can be used on cherry/pear slug.
  • Careful placement of underplantings, especially in the early years. Not too close to rootzones.
  • Codlin moth can be thwarted through a combination of controls – including planks of wood bound together to create larvae/ cocoon habitat. You do have to remember to remove them and kill the little critters, and then put the traps back.
  • Massively fertile soil will lead to more vegetative growth, and less fruit. Case in point our bottom apricot alongside the old chookshed.
  • stumps from pruning where you get a bit of dead wood before the next shoot should be trimmed off to minimise dieback problems.

We both came away feeling more confident we can rejuvenate some existing trees and take care of planned new plantings this winter.

Reflections on past pruning and training in our garden:

  • Gala Apple we kept short and trained some young growth to be horizontal. It has reliably fruited each year. New growth mainly happens from the middle of the tree and we could perhaps spread some of this out rather than trimming back as we have been doing.
  • Williams Pear has lots and lots of fruiting spurs. It looks crazily congested but we got a mass of fruit from it this year. There is one strong vertical in the middle we could remove which would open the tree a bit.
  • Granny Smith Apple is a bit confusing to look at. It doesn’t have lots of horizontals at waist to eye height, so we might try and encourage that more. Some of the higher growth would be tricky to reach when it fruits.
  • The yellow plum is on notice – Robin admitted he didn’t really like it’s fruit. I admitted we get so little fruit I’m not sure if I like it although I have some faint memories of golden juicy plums. It got a vicious prune last year as it had got away from us a little. The new growth provoked by that looks useful and could do with thinning out.
  • The garage apples both look good overall. The Jonagold is slightly confusing with some good looking growth, which is perhaps just a little too high to be useful.
  • Apricot pruning needs to be done as soon after harvest as possible while the sap is still active. We always have left it too late. We figure it’s best to leave most of the pruning until it flowers and the sap is moving again.
  • Espaliers need to be sturdy and built to last under tension. Not a learning so much from Sunday’s workshop as a note for future reference.
  • We’ve got better over the years in choosing our trees and the dwarf cherries we put in the front yard last year are a great shape, we rotated them so the direction of growth fitted with existing paths and all is looking well for this year. Older and wiser.

Note to self – when you come home and wander around your own fruit trees, don’t try too hard to see how far over the nashi pear can be coaxed. Bits will rip off in your hands.

Fruit Harvesting Doohickey. Not to Scale

Crazy idea #143: Make a fruit harvesting stick – an extendable painters pole with a doohickey at the end for coaxing fruit off. So that you don’t have to keep taking the fruit out of a container at the end of the stick, make a tube of semi-frictiony fabric to slow down the fruit’s journey into a bucket. Last year I made a similar device out of the kitchen broom, a small round plastic container and masking tape. It was very useful for getting at the high white peach by standing on the back stairs and leaning over the railing. Original source of idea – the mango harvesting stick Dad made in Cairns. Saved many a mango from the fruit bats. The idea was refreshed and the tube side of it came from staring at the pears 8 foot up the old pear trees in the public paddock across the road.

Garden work this past weekend

Tasks complete

Compost played with – tick!

Old chook shed site:

- concrete bits and wire netting grubbed out – tick!

- area levelled – tick!

- new edge placement discussed – tick!

- mint plants saved and potted up – tick!

Sleeper moved from clothesline mound down to the…

New bed made behind new chookshed – tick!

Peas planted in new bed – tick!

Fruit Tree Pruning Workshop attended – tick!

Ivy removed from under Gala apple – tick!

End of Autumn in the Orchard

Harvest –

Enough for a few meals: carrots, beetroot, potatoes

A laundry tub full of apples

Cherry tomatoes nibbled in the garden

New term learnt on the weekend – “Urbanite”: not quite a type of rock, rather the name given to lumps of concrete.

A Jar a Day

This week I have been grateful for the stash of jars under the house in the garage.

The preserving tally runs at over 370 jars or packets of stuff. Which means using about 1 jar a day through the year. I’ve turned it into a bit of a joke with myself – going ‘garage shopping’.

This week I have used:

  • frozen roasted capsicum pieces as part of a onion, tomato, capsicum thing to go with polenta and lamb cutlets
  • nectarines on the porrridge this morning
  • tomato puree last night in spag bol sauce
Part of the Stash

Part of the Stash: the left hand side

And this week I have bottled 8 jars of pink jam (strawberry & rhubarb). The ginger and lime pickle will be decanted into smaller jars this weekend.

Net result + 5 + ? jars

And knowing that:

  • the capsicums were bought at roughly 1/3 the price they are now fresh, or 1/10th of the price ready grilled, and formed a fun project for a couple of hours grilling and peeling. Doing 4 kilos at once is quicker work than a couple of capsicums at a time, many times over. They are like red gold in the freezer.
  • the tomatoes came from a farm on Boyer Rd, and taste of summer. To get the same flavour from a shop now we’d probably be eating imported italian tinned ones.
  • the nectarines came from Campania. I think they taste better bottled almost, and no prep is required at 7 in the morning.
  • this is also changing food shopping patterns in the house.
  • If we can’t be naffed cooking dinner, there’s a few prepped meals in jars – not even any defrosting needed. My next experiment is going to be soup in jars. Potato and leek Or minestrone Or chicken and veg…

Pink Jam

One of the interesting things about reading a lot of foodie/preservation blogs from the northern hemisphere is being out-of-step with their seasons. Many bloggers seem to be excited by rhubarb at the moment, and there has been an explosion of recipes as it is one of the first fruit to emerge at the start of spring.

Well, mine was growing all spring, summer and autumn, and this morning I finished what was probably my second batch of rhubarb cooking in 12 months. It doesn’t really go dormant in my garden. The original plants, (thanks for the correction Dad!) came from Marie who worked in the same building as Dad and had this variety in her family for generations.I think the story goes, came from Marion’s mother, Marion lived next door to my parents for a while. It is a lovely thick stemmed red-just-tinged-with-green rhubarb. Because it just sits there, quietly growing and not demanding attention I rarely pick it. The chickens dose themselves on the leaves from time to time (self-medicating for worms perhaps?).

Rhubarb! Rhubarb!

Recently I picked a batch to aid pruning access to the apricot tree growing above it. There must be a good six to eight corms there now, from an original two. I suppose I should mulch it or sprinkle some compost on it to provide encouragement.

Last night I made Pink Jam – Strawberry and Rhubarb combined with a touch of lemon. But it didn’t set. I think I am being impatient with my jam making, and many North American recipes use less sugar than a 1:1 ratio, but ensure a good gel with added pectin.

This morning, I emptied the jars into a saucepan, added another 1.5 cups of water and a packet of jamsetta, boiled briefly and rebottled. Within an hour it was a firm set which I do prefer. The taste is nice – neither rhubarb nor strawberry dominate, the flavour is very PINK! I think I need to stock up on Jamsetta or consider making a batch of pectin stock from green apples before the apple season is out.

Now, it’s morning tea time and I’ve got a pot of baked rhubarb to enjoy :-)