Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Slice of Farm Life

Fresh butter...lambs bread...milk squirting into a bucket....a rooster before grown and cooked from born calves and foals...

5 ½ years ago a dear friend moved away from the city and made a new life for her family on a farm on the border of Lesotho.  It has taken me this long to get to visit them...way too long. A 5 day oasis at the end of a busy year full of surprises and changes. A special treat was that this was a trip for just Superman and I this time and the kids were champions to keep the home and businesses running.

Serious onion envy
 Experiencing a slice of their lives was wonderful. Every part of it, from the eager rooster crowing before dawn to the curveballs this lifestyle tends to throw was exciting and inspiring.

But that's just the thing - I can come home to my contained little world and not have to carry the deeper stress of isolated farm living.

Either way as I watched my friend go through her days I was inspired yet again to keep on pushing into this homesteading lifestyle.

Whether she was planning her menus for a three day market, ministering to her servants and their families, giving deep loving care to her animals or serving up a ploughman lunch she inspired me to do better with what I have got here.

Cows enjoying discarded peas collected from the neighbouring farm

They have 5 cows. Two are in milk at the moment and from this milk she makes the most delicious cheeses. Chabrie, feta, gouda, hard cheese, labnah, cream cheese - all super scrumptious. Most of these are sold at local farmers markets but we had plenty everyday.

The cows graze around their beautiful stone cottage along with the pigs and lamb, with the ridgebacks as their protection.

The welcoming or farewell committee when coming and going to take staff, go for a farm drive or off to church has a new meaning. With 5 cows, 2 pigs, 1 lamb, 2 cats and 4 dogs to meet and greet makes my two barking dogs pale in significance. Lucy the lamb was hand raised when her mum rejected her. I enjoyed giving her one of her last bottles as she was weaned this weekend. Superman gave her her last bottle. She is really "Mary's" lamb calling for attention, following people or other animals around and generally being a sweetheart. She will be a breeding sheep in time.

Just one of the many braids
As they truly grow what they eat, only eating what they can get seasonally, the vegetables grown in the tunnel and around the garden are used fresh, preserved, bottled and dried. Plaiting her enviable onion and garlic harvest was one of the first things we did together. 

In true Elastic Mom style simple food combinations are used to make wonderful mouthwatering meals. 

Delicious homegrown homemade ploughman's platter
 Friday night Marlboro Man (a.k.a) Mr Elastic Mom takes over and makes dinner. I suppose nothing remarkable about pizza except that his dough takes days to nurture and the cheese is homemade and the bacon, well that's from a wild pig he hunted and cured.

Home cured bacon
A Sunday morning treat - freshly homemade croissants

Apricot hunting
 Close friends live on the next farm and they have orchards of cherry, apricot, peach and apple trees where picking is allowed.

While we spent some time looking for ripe fruit we were a few weeks to early to get more that a few apricots.

In fruit season jars of jam, chutney and preserves are made to keep going for the whole year.

The same is for the fields of marrows, corn, brassica and other vegetables. This is not an organic farm, but fresh from the earth on to the table you cannot get better unless grown at home.
Corn fields looking over into Lesotho

Large herds of cattle and sheep graze the land and we were treated to a moving herd the day we left with hundreds of moms and babes, and a few bulls, were ushered down to the barn for attention by the herders.

Mimicking mom
Day old foal

While we were there a new foal was welcomed onto the farm and we went to visit mom and little one as well as another recently born foal. Standing on their knobbly legs they were precious to admire.

Then all too soon it was time to come home. Being with my own children, in my own space and with my own animals is wonderful. I find myself looking at my home and little urban farm with new eyes and thinking and planning how to import a little slice of all this amazing woman does into my home is giving me many fruitful thoughts.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Flowers in my garden

I mentioned a while back that I was going to include more flowers in my garden this season as I want to attract more insects to the vegetable garden. This may seem a little counterproductive to pest control but I hope it will indeed do just that - control pests.

The other reasons are to promote pollination by giving the bees and butterflies lots of good food and for beauty. I may be strange but I do find vegetable and herb flowers beautiful. Not a well tended rose garden beautiful, but as I walk through all the green foliage I see little bursts of colour here and there as some of the herbs begin to flower I marvel at the different colours, shapes and purposes.

Calendula, seen above, is such a gorgeous flower that I have planted for the last few years. They are edible flowers, bees love the dark center landing pad and I collect the petals for my soap making. I have normally planted a ring of them around the pond, but this year I gave them the circular bed at the pool below the fig tree. They have grown prolifically here and are a huge burst of colour in our rather drab back yard.

Most of my borage has died down now and has been added to the compost heap. It will self seed all over the garden, I even see some leaves popping up from the last addition of compost to the beds. Most of it I pull out quite small, a few will be left to grow to flower stage. The flowers can be eaten in salads or on cheesecakes and they have a light cucumber taste. I have been told that you can also scrape the prickles of the leaves and slice them into fritters, but have not tried that yet!

I have a few Bulbinella plants around the place. The bees love this plant and so do I when something makes me itch when working in the garden. Its also cooling and soothing for sunburn, cooking burns and animal stings.

A lot of the flowers around the garden are simply because they have been left to go to seed. My coriander is about to do that and I will soon have the delicate white flowers to enjoy and eventually seeds for sowing and cooking.

It is the same with the dill below. We use very limited amounts of fresh dill in our cooking. But I love the blooms and we can save the seeds for recipes later in the year. Dill has the most beautiful delicate leaves which we chop finely into yoghurt when eating Greek dishes. We don't eat much fish due to our boys being allergic, but when we do having fresh dill is a winner.

Nasturtiums seed themselves all over the garden in late winter and he flower has always been one of my favourite. I normally have a few small vases of them scattered around the home. They are also a spicy addition to salads and the leaves are used in juices every now and again. We have little black beetles that like to bury themselves head down into their narrow throats and gulp up the nectar.

Nasturtiums are a wonderful way to protect brassicas from the white cabbage moth as these girls will lay their eggs on the undersides of the nasturtium leaves and their little caterpillars will munch away happily.

I also have loads of sage growing in a few places. The flowers are not the most astounding but sage leaves are superb with pork. Sage is also a great companion to carrots so my son planted some with his carrots in his square foot garden.

I also collect the sage leaves and use it in a sage and lemon grass soap which is one of my favourite bars.

Besides for the herb flowers I have also planted sunflowers around the pond. Its a little later than normal, but each year these tall beauties reach up around the pond and show off their faces to the sun. This is what the will look like in summer:

Do you grow flowers specifically in your garden?