Sunday, July 31, 2011

Thinking of spring...

Even though we are mid winter right now and our garden is giving us its winter veg I have to apply my mind to the next season. My family all knows what is in store for them in September as we will then spend every weekend in the garden...we rearrange, pull out, compost, dig over, rebuild, sow seed and honestly by the end of it we are all a little glum. It is really hard work when spring rolls around.

But before we can get to the physical work I have a lot of background stuff to do...I am not by nature a logical ordered person - that's Superman - I would just put a seed here and there and be happy for a small yield, but because of the time, money and effort we have already put into this garden over the last 3.5 years, I make sure to do a thorough plan (which sometimes goes arry).

This means that the last few weeks of winter are a time to go through our seeds and order what we need, make a garden plan, by materials like wood for new beds, coir for strawberry baskets etc. Then I start to talk to Superman Inc. and get them all ready in their mind for the upcoming slog.

Yesterday as I was about to switch off my PC I recieved an email which has got me all excited! Delicious Jane has created an online garden planner. The only ones I have ever coveted have been for the Northern Hemisphere, but she has worked with one of these companies to create one specifically for South Africa...hooraaaah! I gave it a test run yesterday and it is absolutely fabulous and well worth the R170 per annum.

This planning tool offers me a huge amount of relief and time savings in the planning of our extensive garden...after we have done our chores today, I know what I will be doing :-)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Urban Homestead Happenings

Even though I took a short break from blogging, real life has carried on. It was back to school this week after a delicious school break and a weekend away at the apple farm. But real life hits with a thud and we need to keep on keeping on. On the whole it has been a good week - a busy week - and full of learning curves.

I have nearly finished my first sock with the self striping wool. I knit so intermittently with everything else going on, but its almost there. I hope to finish it tomorrow while we tour the pennisula with some visiting friends.

On Monday evening a friend organized a crochet evening. She taught us to do a simple wash crochet skills are improving but it is still very halting.

Last Friday I made Almond Oil and Rose Geranium soap. The recipe is on my herbal blog.

I have been very blessed to have had a young American girl here for the last 3 weeks. She is here to visit her fiancee who is studying at Bible College down the road, but we have spent some good quality time together. At 18 she is a kindred spirit as she loves the Lord and wants to live a sustainable "green" lifestyle.

Today they came over and I showed her how to make soap and then we all got stuck into the garden. The young men sifted the compost and carried it around to where we needed it, cleaned the coop, weeded, dug, carried and all those jobs that required muscles.

The gals pulled out spent lettuce, gave the asparagus their winter haircut and transplanted the curly Kale. We gave a good covering of compost to the asparagus and while I look with wonder on these "dry twigs" sticking out the ground and I know that in spring we will be eating our own asparagus for the first time. It's been a 4 year love relationship that I have had with these plants...

With all the cold evenings I have eventually got into the routine of making our own firelighters. It was a tip shared on my Green Website which I have been meaning to implement for absolute aaaages...its so simple once the routine is in place, I don't know why I didn't do it earlier?

The best surprise of the day is that I see our broad beans are starting to appear...I can almost taste them...the anticipation will kill me! :-)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Lying Fallow

In winter we loose about 1/3 of our growing space. The house casts a shadow over these areas.

All I do is dig them over and leave them until September when the sun's angle changes.

I am going to do likewise for a bit - lie fallow that is...I need to take a break from blogging.

See you all in a little while.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Beetgreen Quiche

Yesterday I harvested our first beets. These are Chiogga Beets and are deep pink. When you cut them you get red bands between the white layers. I actually planted them because I love the color...not for any other reason!

Luckily not everyone in my family likes beets so I only need about 10 for a meal. Then I got to thinking about all the greens...surely we could eat those too? And yes we can!

Once the beets were cooking gently I washed the greens and chopped them like spinach. I fried up some French Shallots in butter and then sweated the greens. In a bowl I mixed up 8 of our eggs, salt, pepper, a cup of milk and about 500ml grated cheese.

The beet greens and onions are put into a greased baking dish and the eggs mixture poured over. Bake until brown.

I served this with chopped avo and a simple salsa with tomato, coriander, red onion, lemon juice and olive oil. A delightful filling meal.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Mamma's day out!

On Monday I told my family I was having a day off. Starting with my normal gym session at 7 am, I then headed off for a facial. GROUPON is a real win if you can make sure you only buy what you need. I bought a facial with a salon around the corner for 75% off a couple of months ago which I used on Monday and thoroughly enjoyed my hour of spoiling.

Next I headed to a new hairdresser recommended by a friend. She works from home and is super cheap and does exactly what you ask - so no pink hair mistakes!

Thereafter I met a friend at a coffee shop for a quick lunch and chat...then we headed to a special little shop found in a very quaint quarter of Muizenburg. Gina's Wool Studio stocks all sorts of hand crafts, but we were going to look at her hand spun hand dyed wool.

She also sells completed items and while we were very tempted with her gorgeous beanies and socks, we remained focused and bought our wool we were after.

Heading home at 3pm I felt rested, spoilt and full of eager anticipation to get stuck into the wool...

However I have already started knitting some socks with Nuturing Fibres self striping wool. This is such a novelty and I am constantly thinking about how you can hand dye wool so that it self stripes as you knit....and it works....

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Stockpiles, fast slow food and my fridge.

Last week I stocked up on the basics I need for cooking nutritious fast food for my family. Once everything was in the fridge I realized how much the contents of my fridge have changed over the last 3 years.

No more convenience foods with lots of packaging...just the raw materials to make good wholesome meals. Not the most glamorous pictures, but this gives you an idea.

3 kinds of stocks, yoghurt, veg and tomato sauce....ready for some fast slow food. Not seen here are the bags of grain - spelt, organic wheat, barley and rye.

Today I had 9 people to feed over lunch and it took me a few minutes to throw a delicious nutritious soup and bread together for us all.

Leeks, sliced and softened in butter, 4 beef shin pieces, chopped carrots and turnips. 1 jar of beef stock, 1 jar of tomato and veg sauce (tomatoes, carrots, celery). Add 1 cup of barley and 1 cup spring water and allow to simmer for about 3 hours. Season to taste and serve.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

While the sun shines...

Today has been typical Cape Town weather - changing seasons in 4 hrs! But this morning we all had garden jobs to tackle while the sun was shining. Superman and Son tackled the terribly smelly job of the coop. The front part has been left open on top, but during winter the rain makes the ground smelly and sludgey. Last weekend they extended the plastic "roof" right to the front and made a fold down flap to protect against the slanted rain.

However the ground was still yuck and I don't believe it is a healthy environment for the girls. So they dug out the top layer of soil which was enough to make us all gag (can you picture this?) and put it into the compost. Then they took some loose bricks we had lying around and made a "floor" which can be hosed off. We then sprinkled Diameteous Earth all over the place. This will have to do until we can make another plan.

Superman and I also added two more levels to one of the first raised beds we did back in 2008. We have potatoes in here so instead of digging down and banking we could just add a few loads of compost to the bed and this covers the stems of the plant. When he designed these beds back then, he had the uprights intentionally longer so that we could simply hammer on two more boards like this.

The girls took over the cleaning out and planting up of the neglected herb tower. It was completely overgrown in Dec 2010 and then being in shade most of the day during winter, alot of the herbs died off. I also made the mistake of planting herbs that get too big in such a small space.

The sages were moved out to other beds. I used all the celery yesterday in my stocks so it was a blank canvas again. I decided that since it is right outside our kitchen door, that I would just plant culinary herbs in there. So in went the oreganum, majorum, thyme and celery.

It felt so good to be back in the garden after all this time but then the rain chased us inside.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A busy kitchen week...

I took the gap this week and spent some time every day building up my food bases. These are things that we use all month in a variety of dishes and I need to make them every 2 - 3 weeks.

This month we ordered a whole lamb from our free range organic butcher as it works out much cheaper and we do have the freezer space. I never like cooking with ribs so I made them into lamb stock which I will use with all the yummy lamb stews we can now make.

The other thing I use a lot of is a tomato based source. I use it in all my pastas and some curries. I don't follow a recipes - it's simple about 5kg tomoatoes, washed and quartered, a good handful of chopped celery, about 10 carrots grated and 2 heaped tablespoons of garlic. I leave this to cook until soft then cool and put in bottles in the fridge.

My son helped me squeeze lemons and oranges for lemon curd which is our winter jam.

I fed the sour dough starter and made two delicious sour dough rye loaves which were just superb with the lemon curd.

I also picked the last of our chillies and made 3 jars fo sweet chilli sauce and pickled the remaining ones.

Besides all of these, I made 4 litres of yoghurt, chicken stock, beef stock and two delicious pies. My mom and dad were here for the first two days and I wanted to treat them so I made Jamie Oliver's steak and guiness pie and followed it with a blackberry and apple pie with old fashioned short crust pastry for dinner the one evening. It was just delicious.

On Tuesday night before home church started we shared pudding with the other family we meet with. This is such a simple recipe and is great for all types of juicy fruits. I have given the recipe before which you can find here on my blog.

A week of good food memories.