Saturday, September 29, 2012

Planning for the new season

To mark the changing of the seasons I decided on a new look for the blog. I hope that you also find the new permanent pages helpful!

When we first started out on this veggie growing adventure I felt I had to have all my plans on paper before I could start. It was a good thing that I did this as I am really not very good at sticking to things when I start something big and this was a worthwhile discipline to force on myself.

As time has gone on however I have become more knowledgable and if I am completely honest, I really do just wing it most of the time now. Last year I used an online garden planner and it was good as it helped me get the right quantities of seeds sown for the season ahead and it also reminded me when I tried to plant the same type of veg in the same bed again. This was a great help.

Now that I know what I can grow in each season our garden planning is simply making sure that we have right seeds in our stockpile, compost to go into empty beds and a stash of newspaper pots to start of seedlings.

In our Cape spring we can sow the following:

Squash (marrows-butternuts-pumpkin)
Beans (bush and runner)

There are more that other people grow but these are our main crops. By the time summer hits I need to have all my squash plants setting fruit as we get hit by milddew around the end of December and then it is impossible to keep our plants healthy.

Corn needs a full 90 days to come to maturity so we can plant new seeds until the end of December but by January we do not have enough warm days left to bring this crop to fruition.

Tomatoes are grown and planted until December and harvested through to the end of Autum. A friend had tomato offerings through winter which is not normal, but they were most welcome in her home.

While we can grow potatoes and onions all year we loose 1/3 of our growing space in winter and I prefer to use the remaining 2/3's for broad beans and brassicas so we grow potatoes in spring and summer only.

Other parts of the country get frost, but we are very fortunate not to have to worry about that which means that in Autumn we can begin planting out the slower growing winter vegetables.

Tomorrow will be another big garden day as we have loads of seedlings ready to go into the soil. This signifies an end to our chickens free ranging for the next few months. We then make sure that we bring them piles of sand to pick through, snails from our walks and vet (yes!) and extra greens while they are limited to their coop, large as it is.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Promise of things to come

For the last 8 days we have been blessed to have Superman's Dad with us while my mom in law is overseas. He is a gentle loving kind Oupa and he fitted into our lives so nicely. He quietly got on and did his day time thing, listening in on our Bible study in the morning, the school time reading and watching the busy in and out of the afternoons.

Asparagus today
He was also so full of praise for our vegetables that were fresh from the garden most nights. He hasn't eaten broad beans since he was a kid and he entertained us over dinner times with his stories of growing up around South Africa in different little towns as his father was a station master on the SA railways.

He related fond memories of his lambs he raised, the huge peaches that grew in their orchards and how the local boys always tried to steal them. It was so lovely to hear him say that we have done a good job in the garden. It didn't puff us up it just gave us some well needed encouragement at this time in our journey.

I have thought about his comments over the last few days about the vegetables that make it to our table within an hour of harvest and wondered whether I was taking it for granted. I look at all the work we have put in, the hard times (there have been many of them), the hours planning, sourcing seeds, compost making, weeping over lost crops and failures, excitement as the promise of the next season comes...I have come up with a resounding "no", I do not take it for granted.

Berry blossom
We have worked hard to get to this stage where I more or less know what I am doing. The hardwork of the first years establishing beds, feeding the soil, learning the ropes are all paying off. I know there is still so much more to learn but the pace almost seems slower now that we have laid out all the areas that we can and now we need to learn how to better our production levels.

 Most evenings we have some offering from the garden on the table. This is amazing for me when I think back to our first year when at this time of the year we had only salads and some peas.
This early spring season we are eating spinach, broad beans, peas and asparagus. We have a small crop of about 10 broccoli plants growing around the fig tree and these will be ready in the next few week. This really surprised me as I had some plants needing a place to grow from seedlings and the only spot I had was a pretty undernourished bed near the pool where a tree once stood. We moved the fig in there in winter and added the broccoli. This area has enjoyed full sun all winter and the reward is in the soon to eat brassica!
Strawberry setting fruit
The promise of strawberries is showing in the baskets around the home. We have found this to be the best way to grow strawberries and the most contained way for growing new plants from runners. Last year was not a good strawberry season...funny season its glut and another want.

I grew peas wherever I could this the tubs where we had planted asparagus which dies back in winter, around the long awaited garlic, in between the beds where we have more asparagus.

Most of the peas are eaten raw as we go about the garden, but we will pick the remainder in the next weeks to blanch and freeze for later eating.

And my favourite flower is in full bloom...I know they are edible and gorgeous in salads, but I enjoy then trailing up the fence and sprawling around the pond. They are a bright face amongst the green.

What's growing in your garden?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

How do you eat an elephant?

So this is how the joke goes: "How do you eat an elephant?"...."One bite at a time!".

My elephant is my to do list right now and it is longer than my arm. Add to this that it is my busiest season with travelling to homeschool expos as well as our busiest ordering months, my to do list is starting to weigh me down.

Here are some items on it:

Get pine needles for blueberry bush
Plant squash seedlings
Plant cucumber seedlings
Make chicken stock
Make bread
Make laundry liquid
Do school planning 4th term
Pay copyright fees
Sort every single cupboard in my home
Take books to second hand store
Get kids summer clothes sorted
Check olives
Make soap
Do meal plan for next month
Send out toddler ezine
Knit dishclothes
Help son practise making pancakes for kids market
Defrost freezer
Place meat order....

I decided that yesterday afternoon I was going to attack it one bite at a time and keep going until I ran out of time or energy!

Yesterday morning my younger two children took Lucky to a puppy party. Her walking buddies turned a year a few months ago and the dress up party was yesterday, but the afternoon was mine.

The sun was out intermittenly so I decided to start in the garden and the courgettes that are escaping their newspaper pots needed to be planted out. My son had cleaned the bed out last week, but we have these pesky "uiltjies" wild onion type weeds that are a big problem so I had to turn everything over and try to remove as many of the little bulbs as I could before planting the squash into domes.

These squash are golden courgettes or zucchini, the seeds I sent back from the UK when I was there in April. I also have some normal green ones and then I also bought some lovely stripey ones from Living Seeds. We should have a real rainbow selection when the time comes.

I know this may sound strange but I do pray that the Lord will bring the increase in our little garden as we sow the seed.

Thereafter the cucumbers were next to go in...last year cucumbers were a dismal failure, we have about 3. The year before we had so many I even tried making cucumber soup....we still vote that meal as the low point in my cooking career! I have planted about 20 plants along the wall to clumb up the trellises Superman made a couple of years ago.

 Minnie, the matriach of the flock and about 3yrs old now, always comes to see what I am up too. I throw her weeds, worms and snails (if any) whenever she comes to say hello. Today while walking in the forest my little guy who looks after the 10 girls realised that chickens don't live long and had a little check with me on her age. She is healthy and strong and still lays an egg once a week or so, so we all hope she will be with us for a while yet!

While outside I also had to tie the blackberry bramble back to the fence. It really was not planted in the right spot 4 years ago, but it is so well established that I just take the new shoots and tie them to the fence. It grows vigourously during the summer and we have enjoyed it's yield in the last 2 years so I am loathe to move it.

It was then time to turn my attention indoors as the day turned really chilly, so it was to the kitchen I headed. I set the calendula blossoms to infuse in the rice bran oil and then made 10liters of laundry liquid. I use Down to Earth's recipe and since starting it about 2 months ago I am quite happy with it. I ran our last week and have been using the soap nuts in the meantime. I find they work better if I start off the saponification process in hot water before adding them to the cold wash in my machine.

I then got the chicken carcasses saved from the last two weeks meals from the freezer and set them to stock making. This will do us for some soups this week. Oh, by the way, if we don't have soup and I need to use up my stock I have now started using it to cook our brown rice in. It is so yummy if you add a cinamon stick or some cloves to the stock and then the rice....

My father in law has been with us for 8 days now and is missing bread at meals so I set on a 50% rye "sourdough" bread for lunch today. It rises slowly overnight so that I can cook it for's in the oven as I write and is filling the air with wonderful smells. You can find the recipe here.

I will serve it with left over soup and curry for the men but I will eat it with avo and lemon curd....!

Then I turned my full attention to the soap making process. I started making soap 4 years ago also using Rhonda Jean's basic soap recipe. I have stuck to that one mainly but every now and again as the seasons allow I like to try others. We loved the lavender soap that was made a couple of months back from lavender collected at my daughter's art teacher. This time it was my own garden that yielded the Calendula blossons. I will make the Sage and Lemon Grass soap next weekend.

It was then time to start supper and a curry was on the nice for the cold evening...what happened to the hot spring days earlier in the week?

My last job I had time for was checking over the 10kgs of olives that I starting curing back in June. I was concerned as I could see mould growing on the top of some bottles. It was a little saddening to have to throw away about 1kg of them but I tasted a few of the unspoilt ones as I made new brine solutions and they are doing well. They should be ready to put into herbs and oil in a month or two and then be jarred for family gifts in December.

The dent has been made in the to do list, the bites have been taken of the I rest!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Harvest of a different kind

Yesterday evening I picked all the Calendula blooms I could find to dry for soap making. I also picked a good deal of sage leaves. I have been cooking with sage quite a bit, but these leaves are also to be dried  for soap.

On the weekend I hope to make this Calendula soap which I have made once before and it was lovely.

I also want to make Sage and Lemon Grass soap which I have also made before and the recipe is found here at Slow Living Essentials.

It's a pity I have to take the glorious blooms from the garden but I always leave the rest that come at the end of spring to enjoy then shake the seeds out all over the place for them to pop up and surprise me next spring.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

I have been busy with life....

Life just hasn't let me sit here and put up a post for a while but it's been a good little break. At one stage I thought that perhaps the time for blogging was over for me as I don't see things letting up for a while but then three things happened this week.

The fig survived its transplant and is showing its summer promise

At my daughters choir concert I meet up with the mum of a fellow homeschooling mother and she shared how much my blog inspired her. What a blessing...I mean I know you guys read and sometimes comment and I love hearing from you and getting feedback. But it was that this Granny, who couldn't grow her own for certain reasons, was able to enjoy from afar our endeavours and that I delighted in.

Delicate blueberry flowers
The second thing was a visit from another blog reader who came to fetch some of my sons chickens. She also was so encouraging and it made me see that even though I simply blog about what I sometimes feel is "samey", anyone can come and jump in at any stage and learn from our mistakes and successes.

The last thing was that my tulips started to bloom. I planted these bulbs in a container outside my bedroom door just after I got back from visiting my sister in England. My sister had the most beautiful show of them up her driveway and all over the countryside people had planted beautiful arrays.

My first tulips.

Tulips in British April

My sister works so hard in her home and with her boys and she still finds the time to support new mothers with baby care and breast feeding and helps woman get the best start with their new little ones. We don't often have the time to phone one another but a quick email reminds each other how much we love each other. This week when I looked at my tulips I remembered a comment she made while I was there that sometimes after a long day her favourite thing is to read my blog to see what we have been up to.

So the blog continues and while the posts may be a bit erratic over the next while they will be here every now and again.

The garden this week:

This week we have been planting potatoes, sweetcorn, beans directly and tomatoes squashes and more corn in newspaper cups. 3 beds are planted with potatoes, 1 with sweet corn and 1 with beans. I have about 6 other beds to fill in the next few weeks. This season I am only growing the main summer crops being tomatoes, corn, beans, potatoes, squash, salads (lettuce, cucumber etc) and melons. Melons have never worked so far, so let's see.
Seedlings planted 2 weeks ago are out of the starting blocks...

Strawberry plants are flowering....oh come on summer!

The kitchen this week:

Asparagus is giving us a starter portion every few days which Superman and I scoff (no excuses made!) with jared Hollandaise Sauce - just like my sister taught me. These are so delicious - from garden to mouth in 10 minutes. It was worth the 4 year wait.

We have been using my son's free range chicken mince to make sausage rolls for lunch every now an again. These are truly yum and will get him to put the recipe up on his blog soon.

Broad beans are coming in 3 times a week and are eaten steamed with mint jelly, in stews or with butter salt and pepper. Such a humble vegetable with so much to offer.

3 weeks ago I bought a new masticating juicer as my Kenwood Masterchef juicer attachment is just not doing the job properly. This new Greenstar juicer is quiet, the pulp is dry, the juice plenty that we now juice again each morning.

And then on Thursday we had this quick and easy lunch using up things in the cupboards. Using a pkt of flour tortillas I made toasted cheese sandwiches. I took a can of organic red kidney beans and added it to fried onion, garlic and chilli to make refried beans. I had one ripe avo and half a container of cream cheese which was beaten in guacamole....topped with garden fresh coriander it was a scrumptious lunch.

How as your week? Are you getting reeady for the next season?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Weekend at Oupa

This weekend my littlest one and I went through to Hermanus to stay with Oupa while Granny is away. Besides for spending time with Oupa we were able to enjoy lots of alone time which is a real luxury.

On the way through we saw the lovely white flowers all along the road side and just had to stop.

An evening walk on the beach, sandcastles, showing off :) and a wet cold child

A walk on the cliff path looking for whales and finding Dassies

The cutest little face
Throwing stones at Mossel River
Breakfast at the lovely market and while I caught up with a friend he played with cockatiels.
 Such a lovely interlude in a normally busy weekend....memory making time.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Spring sprung

Bees hover around the broccoli gone to flower

Lucky a happy dog as she can walk almost daily - no rain

Daisies out on the common

Calendula in bloom around the pond

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Slow Living August

This morning the Hadidas woke me at 5:30 serenading the first spring morning. The year is flying past, my children are growing fast, life is full and busy and God is good!

This month of August along with other at Slow Living Essentials

I probably sound like a stuck record saying “Soup Again!” but we are still enjoying soups every day for lunch. This means that the stock pot is on the go at least twice a week.

We have enjoyed the harvests from our winter garden, in particular broad beans, spinach, peas, spring onions, beets, the last of the purple sprouting broccoli and cauliflower and loads of herbs for lovely meals. The first asparagus spears disappeared into Superman and my mouth in a flash…

 Keeping with my plan we are still enjoying delicious homecooked “restaurant” meals from Jamie’s 30 minutes meals. I know the book is expensive, but if there is one cook book that I can recommend to a struggling cook, it would be this one. The emphasis is on good wholesome whole tasty food a couple of nights a week and for us to learn some more cooking skills.

Baked oatmeal and homemade yoghurt has been a hit for breakfast on some days. I use this recipe but add a layer of blueberries and apple to the bottom of the baking dish then the oatmeal. So yummy!

Scones for tea, with fresh lemon curd, 5 minute bread once a week,  muffins, cheese twists for picnics, cookies and more were churned out as my daughter got back into baking.

This Asian beef soup was an adjustment of one in another cookbook which called for chicken…

Brown 4 cloves of garlic, 1 chopped red chilli and a thumb size of grated ginger in some sesame or peanut oil.

Add you cubed beef and brown.

Add in 125ml of soya sauce, a tablespoon of fish sauce and a tablespoon of sweet chilli sauce. Then pour in 1 litre of beef stock and 250ml boiling water.

You can either cheat here with 2 packets of 2 minutes noodles (do not use the season sachet) or make your own egg noodles and add to the broth.

Lastly add in about two big handfuls of chopped Asian greens.

Cook for as long as it takes for the noodles to soften and then serve into bowls.

We are preparing for spring…this month we got the compost sifted out and dug into beds that were empty.

The kids have been making newspaper pots by the hundreds for spring plantings.

Loads of lemon curd was made as I picked up a pocket of lemons for R20 at the market and we were rained out the one Saturday leaving too many eggs over!

Normally, when it comes to containing our newspaper pots I was going to the liquor store to collect old beer pallets. Now with my sons bringing in so many eggs each week for clients, we have all these cardboard boxes lying around. We cut them off about 7cm up and there we have our own trays. The cut off part is shredded, soaked and put in the compost.

Still using the citrus cleaner and homemade laundry liquid and am happy with both.

Seed planting is high on the agenda and we planted about 120 seeds of courgette, tomato, spinach and peppers. It was with great excitement that I fetched my seed potatoes from the Post Office this week. I also found myself impatiently sticking my fingers into the soil around my garlic to see IF there were any bulbs forming there. It is a little early as they are only due to come out in December!

Well I have not even managed to finish my winter pair of socks…creative time actually is in the kitchen and for now this is what needs to happen. I really don’t have time to knit. By the time school is done for the day, sports and cultural activities attended to, business needs met, it is 8 o’clock at night. We have family devotions most nights and then I am ready to turn out my light at 9. We have given up TV for the most part over the last 6 weeks making our evenings free for real life and this is such a good thing. I was never an addict but everyone else loved their 7-8 TV slot. We all wonder now why we didn’t do this sooner.

So stretching this category to creating a home that is more in line with God's word and a place where we can truly nuture relationships built on the Lordship of Christ.
Discover & Enjoy
The last three Fridays have been a special time for my littlest one and I. We have done three outings for his history and science lessons and they have all been special. A rock classification workshop and treasure hunt in the Company Gardens, a sustainable fishing workshop and visit to the aquarium and then yesterday a visit to Vergelegen.

I think we chose the wettest, windiest, coldest day and headed out to Somerset West to visit the farm of the infamous William Adriaan Van Der Stel. The home and gardens are hugely impressive as is the later owner’s personal library of 4500 books.

I loved the formal garden with the veggies and herbs planted in between the low hedges, the gorgeous camphor trees and strong flowing Lourensford River. My son and his friends ran around in the rain without a care in the world, spotted the old slave bell, the owl in the tree and the hollow oak that featured in a story we read before visiting.

My son and I have been selling his chickens at the market. We have met some lovely folk and even some who follow this blog have popped in and said hi. We have however decided that the 5 hours spent there are too demanding on me and will not be continuing with this, but will continue selling from home and to friends.

We believe that these fabulous chickens and eggs that he sells have enhanced the community as they are the best that we can get for people around us. We even have repeat customers who have come to the market especially to buy from him.

So that was the month that was yours?