Christmas is sneaking closer

Today is the first day of Summer!! So exciting. The sun was shining, the ladies were talkative, the garden growing. Glorious.

 

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A gaggle of geese, a murder of crows, a dazzle of zebras, what is the collective noun for sunflowers? So many, so lovely!

This also means Christmas is just around the corner. On the weekend I started preparing my gifts. This year I am giving a jar of salted caramel. A jar of home grown herbal tea, and a jar of garlic salt.

It is a testament to my love of jars that I have enough in the cupboard for this.

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Somewhat obsessed with sunflowers. They look like happy flowers ๐Ÿ™‚

The salted caramel is done in the oven. It is a fairly lengthy process but hands off. Minimal attention is required. My favourite type of cooking. I have done 9 jars. I still need to do about 3 or 4 more.

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It tastes really good, I will take another picture when I have made them a bit pretty.

Then I need to start testing the ratio for the tea I want to give. It will be a peppermint/lemon verbena/chamomile blend. I hope people like it.

I have dehydrated the first batch of garlic, I think I will need to do another batch and then that is done. I already bought a large jar of salt. I will not do the final mix til just before I give it.

I generally like to make 3 things to give at Christmas (except last year when I knitted dish cloths for everyone, that was way too time consuming so they only got 2 gifts) It takes me ages to think what those 3 things will be, this year it was November before I really knew what I was giving. Last year I started brewing the vanilla essence and knitting in June so November is quite late for me.

Despite the effort that goes into making gifts each year I still prefer that than buying for the sake of buying when you don’t even know if they will like it but if you buy it anyway so that they are ticked off the list,ย  job done.

I hope everyone’s Christmas preparations are going smoothly and are as stress free as possible!

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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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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.ย  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 hereย 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

 

 

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.ย  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.

Pumpkin Pumpkin and more Pumpkin

I have mentioned before that I grew a lot of pumpkin this year. I have finally finished it all!!!!!!!!!!! This is quite momentous. So. Much. Pumpkin. Has. Been. Eaten. I have a pot of soup on the stove now and it represents the last of the pumpkin.

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The freezer is looking a little less packed after taking these jars out.

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Onion from the farmers market, garlic from the back yard, cumin and red lentils package free, water from the tap, pumpkin from the backyard. The only culprit is

IMG_4171I didn’t have stock in the freezer like I thought I did. So I threw in a stock cube. I guess I need a better system in the freezer so it is immediately obvious what is in there.

I cannot express the satisfaction I feel at finally getting through all the pumpkin. I did plant 2 vines again but they are both good storing varieties and I think probably less prolific.ย  I may have planted the corn too early though as they are massive and blocking the light to the baby pumpkin vines. Trial and error, I can’t say I would be devastated if the pumpkins don’t thrive….

Cake

This is absolutely not a zero waste cake! The cake itself is pretty close, the decoration not even close. My sisters friend just had a birthday and she is in charge of the cake for the celebration. We made this yesterday. It kills me that the M isn’t centered. I swear it looked centered in real life, the camera, I blame the camera.

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His name is Minh. Hence the M. It is a vanilla cake with chocolate butter cream. There was enough batter and icing to make a second small cake. We ate that yesterday, delicious!!!

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Preparing all the colours of the rainbow (or the mm’s). We thought about doing the decoration in this way, all the colours separate, but it turns out I have a little OCD in me. I wanted to measure out the wedges so that they would all be equal in size and look perfectly symmetrical. Glorious in my mind. My sister wanted to put them on as they are on the table (despite there being way less yellow than green!) but take one of the green ones out and put it in the blue. I could not have this!! No way. Crazy idea…

Hopefully Minh likes his cake ๐Ÿ™‚