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™‚

 

 

Garden Tea prepping

Even though here in sunny Melbourne we are in the midst of a glorious Spring I am preparing for Winter. I only really crave hot tea like beverages when the weather is cold but the chamomile plant is at it’s most prolific for me now, so I will make hay while the sun shines (or tea…)

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I grow my chamomile in pots, it is self seeded, I haven’t planted any seeds for years. This is probably what makes it a Spring crop for me, I cannot keep up with the watering requirements of a pot in Summer. It would need watering every couple of hours on a super hot day.

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This is my 4th harvest. I cut the flowers every 4 or 5 days. I am hoping to get a jar full. That ought to get me through Winter. The Lemon verbena is looking lovely and healthy. I will start cutting leaves off that soonish.

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My peppermint (which I forgot to take a photo of and am now to lazy to get up a go get) is not looking too great. I think it is root bound and needs some TLC, I’ll get on to that soon. I will harvest that in Autumn.

Then I will be set for tea in the Winter ๐Ÿ™‚

A Spring in my step

Yesterday Spring arrived with a bang. Beautiful, sunny, warm (ish). It was just a sampler as today is back to overcast, I don’t mind. The sampler reminded me just how glorious the weather can be. Spring arrived as per the calendar, but there are signs in the garden that it is here too. The tree out the front is sprouting leaves, the days are feeling longer. I don’t lock the chickens up til around 5:30pm, in the depths of Winter I was locking them up just after 4pm.

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My seeds are sprouting, each day I check them and see the changes and get a flutter of excitement. I am in the process of acquiring some concrete reinforcing mesh that I am going to grow my cucumbers and beans up. A friend of my brothers was going to get rid of it when he found it in the house he just moved into. Free for me!

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Future Pesto!!! Basil.
Future Pesto!!! Basil.

IMG_3769The first sweet peas are so close to flowering. They smell heavenly when they open.

My Spring cleaning is continuing (albeit at a leisurely pace) I have taken a large amount of clothes to the thrift store. I also visited a different thrift store and exercised all my powers of inner strength and only came away with one book and one cardigan. Considering the amount my sister purchased this is incredibly modest.

Got some slow cooker baked beans cooking now, my Spring clearing moved to the kitchen and I found dried beans that really should be used. Hopefully they taste good.

The ladies are enjoying the burst of sunshine.

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Spring ready

I have planted the first round of my Spring/Summer seeds. Beyond exciting!

IMG_3677My markers are sticks that I collected from the ice-cream shop tasters and washed. I reuse the sticks quite a few times before they get moved to the compost. They do darken with age, you can see some in the pots in the background that are older.

Bring on an abundant garden!

A more natural clean

In my efforts to rid my home of chemicals, gone are all the antibacterial sprays and whatever else one uses these days to kill 99.99% of germs and bacteria. I clean the whole house with vinegar, water, bicarb soda, and soap.

The vinegar is great, I have it in a spray bottle and use it to clean surfaces like I would a supermarket spray.

I do sometimes like things to smell nice while I clean, enter the infused vinegar.

When it is citrus season, like right now, I fill a big jar with orange peels. I cut the flesh of the orange away to leave the zest and a thin layer of rind.

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Yes I know it isn’t quite full, I will add to it as I eat more oranges.

Cover them with vinegar. IMG_3629They will sink over the next day or so, then they should remain completely submerged.

Put the lid on.

Put it in the cupboard, and shake it whenever I remember, generally every few days.

After a few weeks the vinegar is orange in colour and smells like quite orangey vinegar. I make a couple of batches each Winter. When I am satisfied with the level of orangeness I tip the vinegar into glass bottles where it stores for months and months on end. When I need more spray I fill up my spray bottle somewhere between 50 and 75% of the way and top the rest up with water to dilute it a bit. It’s not an exact science. IMG_3655This is all I have left from last year. It is already diluted.

Then in Summer I do the same thing but with sage leaves instead of orange peels. Sage has antimicrobial properties all of its own, add that to the awesomeness of vinegar. Winning. I have year round cleaner. 2 scents. No chemicals. Clean benches. Money saved! If only I brewed my own vinegar…. A project for the future!

This also works quite well with my attempt at Zero waste living ( I am currently at very low waste living, have not achieved zero). There is a place near me that refills my 2L vinegar containers, so no packaging. The orange peels are from the farmers market, I purchase them without packaging, I eat the rest of the orange. No waste. The sage grows in my garden. Zero miles and free.

This is a cheap and easy alternative to some fairly harsh chemicals. Give it a try!