Last oranges of the season

My sister and I enjoy drinking hot chocolates after dinner. No 2 are ever the same, I never measure anything, I add all sorts of weird things for different flavours.

A little while ago, in an effort to get more orange flavour into choc orange biscotti I put orange zest in vodka and left it there for a couple of weeks. I added this to the biscotti recipe. It didn’t make a discernible enough difference to warrant doing it each time I planned to make the biscuits. So I had orange essence sitting in the cupboard for quite a few weeks more with no plan for it.

Making hot chocolate one night, I added a few pieces of chocolate for some depth of flavour. Was looking around in the pantry for something else to add and stumbled upon the orange essence. Popped a healthy dash in, well knock me over with a feather, it was delicious. Choc orange hot drink.

It is coming to the end of orange season in Victoria. So I bought a bag of oranges and my sister zested the lot. I didn’t look up a recipe the first time for ratios of orange to vodka and I didn’t this time either. So I am hoping this works.

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The oranges weren’t a really deep orange on the outside. So I am unsure how orange this will get in colour. This is 750mls of vodka. I am expecting that to last for a really long time. If I was more organised I could have done this for Christmas gifts. I think it would make a great alcoholic beverage mixed with some soda water. Or give as a gift with a recipe for hot chocolate attached. Anyway, I digress, it is not for gifts, it is for me!

This is the last of the old batch, quite different in colour. Smells delicious!

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I didn’t strain the zest out of the first batch, after a month or so I may do that with the second. I will be interested to see how much the colour changes.

I juiced all the oranges and got so much delicious juice. Still making my way through it.

Looking forward to many choc orange beverages in my future 🙂

Misc

I had intended to write about beginning my Christmas present making, one part of my gift is garlic salt. I have dehydrated the garlic, all ready for the weighing and adding of salt. Unfortunately I accidentally deleted the photos I took. So that will have to wait til the next batch I make.

I am also giving herbal tea from the back yard. I am frantically singing to the plants on a daily basis to make them grow faster. I constantly have stuff drying. I think I should have started this process earlier. Oh well live and learn.

Instead I will just ramble on about stuff that is playing on my mind.

I have an employment conundrum. I have a job that I like well enough, there is no stress, but the pay is terrible. I have been offered a job in the area that I am actually trained in, the pay is way better but the stress levels are really high.   Oh money why do you make the world go round????

I have gotten rid of the kitchen bin. I have a small bag that is there for when I slip up or if people bring rubbish into my home. I try not to shove my beliefs/ways down peoples throats, so when they ask where the bin is I tell them about my attempts at zero waste but I let them put stuff in a bin. Although I really am tempted to make them take it home with them so that they can really think about the rubbish that was generated. But I won’t be that person just yet. Tempting though….

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I have finally come up with a solution for the kitty litter. I buy recycled paper litter but have been throwing it in the bin as it shouldn’t be composted if you intend to use that compost on your food. I am going to “borrow” my grandmothers old compost bin that she doesn’t use any more and have a separate compost for kitty litter and material scraps. This will be used only in the flower areas. This had been playing on my mind for a while but I didn’t want to buy another compost bin. I thought about just digging a hole but the chickens are relentless in their love of being naughty and I don’t think I would handle it well if I found them playing in the kitty litter. Gross.

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The little lamb is not allowed on the bench, he is pushing the boundaries and sleeping on the dehydrator.

 

 

 

 

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I buy the cat and chicken food in bulk (cats 10kg, chicken 20kg bags) I have not worked out a way of getting this package free 😦

Otherwise I am pretty happy with where I am at in reducing my waste.

My driving on the other hand is not where I want it to be (I am an excellent driver! I mean usage) It turns out I can justify nearly anything and I can talk myself out of riding my bike way too easily. I really need to work on this. Stop Being So Lazy!!!

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Melbourne weather is so unpredictable, 33 degrees (91F) yesterday, so windy my corn fell over. Today hail and rain.
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Hopefully this afternoon or tomorrow this one will open. Despite this mornings hail it is now sunny again. Melbourne!!
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Hopefully the first zucchini of the season

I suppose that is enough drivel….

 

garden tour

It is getting quite exciting in the garden, the warmth is promoting glorious growth. As per each season I have successes and failures. I don’t know what I would do if everything I planted grew. There most certainly wouldn’t be enough room! I plant my seeds based on future failure.

This has been a hard year for my cucumbers, the earwigs killed nearly all my plants, one was fine, 2 are trying to make a comeback but are really struggling. This is the cucumber that is healthy on the left, the climbing beans are on the right.

IMG_4367The tomatoes are growing well. The corn is taller than I am, but I fear I planted them too closely together for good pollination. Time will tell. Due to this dense planting the pumpkins are growing quite slowly as they are not getting enough light. The zucchini have come good. The melons are hit and miss, some great, some eaten from the ground up by snails.  The capsicums seem to be doing ok. The kale is slow but steady. The flowers are going beautifully!!

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The fence around the veggie garden is finally starting to look less white. I plan to grow stuff in each narrow bed that will grow through the fence and bush up on both sides. So far so good! A few more beds to go though.
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First time growing Queen Annes Lace, quite lovely!
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First time growing Cosmos, I am suprised by how much I like them. They will be back each year.
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Smaller sunflower, happy bee visitor.
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This sunflower is SO tall, it is over 2 meters tall!
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Who knew that Lambs ear flowered. Not I. What a lovely suprise!

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Kimchi

I will not proclaim to be a kimchi expert. To be perfectly honest I have only ever tried the kimchi that I have made. I have no idea if it tastes how it is supposed to. This is the third time that I have made it. I have thoroughly enjoyed it each time and I haven’t killed myself accidentally. I originally made it because I had grown really large purple drum head cabbages (because I thought they were pretty) but then didn’t have a food plan for them.

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I certainly know how to make a mess. Quite a talent I have there…

It is cabbage time again. I still don’t grow daikon (I really should so that most of this is from my backyard). My ginger experiment was a flop, next years goals: ginger and daikon.

I got my recipe from here http://www.gardenbetty.com/2013/07/red-cabbage-kimchi/ I change it up a little bit depending on what I have. This time I had more daikon and less carrot than the recipe said, I ran with this. I don’t put the fish sauce in, so I guess I already do know that it doesn’t taste like it should. I have no comparison point, I don’t miss what I don’t know.

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I went with a hands on approach. It smelled like heaven!

 

 

 

 

IMG_4349I love the vibrant colours. It made 4 and a half jars. It would have made the full 5 but I had some fresh like a coleslaw with my dinner (delicious!!)

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I now just have to wait for this batch to ferment. I like to leave it out about 6 or 7 days. I am the only one that eats it so I need only impress myself. Let the count down begin 🙂

 

 

My new fire pit

When my brother moved into his new house the people before him had left their old washing machine as it no longer worked, it was quite large, old, and unsightly. It sat in the garage for almost a year, there was a hard rubbish collection but they don’t take white goods. Its destiny was to sit there collecting dust. Til I had a look at it and saw that it had a steel drum in it. My brother managed to get it out and now we have a fire pit. The fire gets plenty of oxygen through the small holes around the drum and we have somewhere to put the wood.

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We had our first fire in it the other night. I had a fair bit of wood that had been lying around for quite a while from taking down some trees and trimming others. It was well and truly dry enough. So we had fire cooked apples and a grand evening with 2 of my siblings and my brothers partner. For free, my favourite.

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There is a salvage place near me that also offers fire wood from trimming up wood that they are trying to get a second life out of. It is very cheap and would other wise be going to land fill. I am sure that burning it isn’t the most eco friendly option, it won’t be a frequent occurrence but much fun will be had I am sure.

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The power of zoom on a camera. Looking into the fire. Mesmerising.

Happy Happy Gardener

I don’t generally enjoy growing things that grow under the ground as I can’t see the progress. Carrots, beetroot, and garlic are the ones that come to mind first. Obviously I still grow them but they make for boring garden tour specimens.

Today I decided to tentatively pull out the first garlic. I have a hit and miss history with garlic, a couple of bad years with tiny bulbs and a couple of good years. Last year was the best. I pulled a few out just to make room for some transplants. I was pretty excited!!! The joy oh the joy. I love love love gardening!!!!

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Turns out it is infectious. I couldn’t stop there. So I pulled the lot out.

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There were 66 bulbs in all. I planted 74 so that isn’t too bad. These are the sorts of sizes I got.

IMG_4282I separated them in to 3 groups, no science, scales or measuring involved. Small, medium, large. Pretty self explanatory in the photo above. When I sorted them the lines got a little blurred as to what constituted S/M/L.

IMG_4283Of course nothing has truly been achieved until it is assessed and approved by both the boys.

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I counted

Large 16

Medium 26

Small 24

Some of them were in the wrong pile but I won’t actually do anything with this information so inaccuracies don’t worry me. I put them on my upside down green house with a fly screen on top for aeration. When we moved into this house my grandfather made these for us as a housewarming present. In Australia who sells a house without fly screens is beyond me! He also made one for the laundry window which we have never been able to open so I treat this as a spare. It is good for drying things on. He certainly made it well.

IMG_4288In a couple of weeks I will plait them and hang them. I will probably rearrange them a couple of times before then to even out air exposure. Hopefully they last all year. I just composted the last of last years batch last week. This is almost a month earlier than I harvested last year (crazy weather!) So that is around 11 months of storage, fantastic. I would love to have that again. This batch right here were grown from that lot so hopefully I can expect a similar storage length.

ADDIT: I forgot about the garlic in the corn bed, upon closer looking I can actually see it in the photo above that has the corn in the background. Oops. I harvested another 3 Large, 5 Medium, and 2 Small.  This brings the total up to 76 from 74 intentional plantings. I think that I was not careful enough when separating some of the cloves and some doubles got in. These resulted in 2 heads of garlic growing almost joined to each other. They only grew to small or medium in this sort of non ideal planting scenario.

Mint Care

I grow both Mint and Peppermint. Both are essentially weeds, they should be grown in pots unless you want them to take over your whole garden bed. Invasive is quite the understatement. Luckily I like them both. Peppermint mostly just for hot tea, I suppose I could have cold tea too, that hadn’t occurred to me, I will try it next hot day. Mint I like fresh in my food, I dry a bit for tea but not a lot. My fear of running out of food comes into play and when I am trimming the plant to encourage good growth I cannot discard the off cuts I must keep it, use it, love it, drink it. I throw the stems in to the chickens not the compost or it will grow there.

The down side of growing in pots is their immense root system, they are forever trying to put roots and runners out in their attempts at world domination. So they do become root bound. I am not an expert, but this is what I do. I last did it about 2 years ago, I will probably do it again in 2 years. They looked a bit lame, woody, sad.

The peppermint on the right does not usually have a bald patch in the middle, this mint should have quite a lot more foliage.
The peppermint on the right does not usually have a bald patch in the middle, this mint should have quite a lot more foliage.

The mint looked the saddest…

IMG_4251As I said, they are weeds, so you don’t need to be very careful or gentle with them. I tipped them out, had a look at their roots, so many!

IMG_4253I was a little bit more careful with the peppermint as I have only had it for 2 years and I don’t know if it is as hardy as the mint (turns out it is…) so I hacked away at the whole thing and took a segment, roots, leaves and all.

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Then I refilled the pot with some of the old soil and some of my compost.

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Put the bit that I had hacked away in this. This should give the plant new nutrients in the soil and heaps of soil to put new roots through.

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Then it looked like this. I turned my attention to the mint. It is super hardy, never buy mint, it grows from a cutting that you have taken from a friend, forgotten about, left in the the car over night, then put in soil and forgotten again. Hardy stuff! Always take a cutting, never pay for it!

The mint I did differently. I know how hard it is to kill this so I felt more confident leaving less roots, less plant in general. It didn’t kill it last time, it came back so healthy. So I did the same thing with the soil, some old, plus compost. Then added these.

IMG_4260I just pulled on some of the healthier bits and some of the root came with it. Even if no root had come I would still have planted them. They will put new roots out super easily. IMG_4261Probably only needed to put one or two. But put 4.

It is always a group activity, even when I am in an area that is fenced off from the ladies…

IMG_4257The rest of the plant that I didn’t put in the soil I stripped of leaves and threw the rest in for the ladies to clean up.

I watered the pots and called it done 🙂 Mint family likes to be watered regularly and to be in partial sun, not full. I really should move these. They live here in Winter so they get enough sun, then I move them in Summer so they don’t dry out and get sad.

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Due to the nature of my gardening (messy) there was a fair bit of dirt hanging around. I don’t usually bother but I did wash the leaves this time. Then *arranged* them on a clean tea towel. I separate the mint from the peppermint as I find them a bit hard to tell apart when they are dry.

IMG_4265So pretty

IMG_4266I leave them a few days, then move them around a bit and hope that this allows the bits that were touching the tea towel to now be exposed to the air. There is no science to my process. After about a week they felt dry and crumbly.

IMG_4277It has been quite warm, sometimes it takes longer than this. I haven’t had any go mouldy in the jar so I assume I am letting them dry sufficiently. Once they are dry and crumbly I write on a glass jar Peppermint November 2015. It helps me know what to drink first. Sometimes I pull the leaves off before I dry them, sometime I pull them off after they have dried. Sometimes I leave them on their stems.   That is my process, please let me know if you do it differently. I am very open to some actual reasoning behind actions.

The plants still look super happy, no shock, no death. Winning!

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I am ready for my first pot of tea from this batch.

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