Sunday, May 29, 2011

Ugly but functional - probably a little like me

Citrus love to be planted into a raised bed. I have an old dryer frame that has been kicking around the yard for years.

It will be next year's tangelo container. Poor little tangelo did it tough last season. $50 from Perry's then I put her in a little pot - I think she wanted to stretch her legs a little more. I'm getting a little fruit - golf balls - but I know it can do way better.

So next year she can. I'll give hr a heap of that compost I'm making, mix in a little soil from that old vegie bed. It'll be great.

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Golden Autumn Day

Leaves are still hanging, I would like to be holed up in my office cranking outputs but the garden begs.

I did 2 hours of marking this morning and will do two hours of proposal revision tonight but for now the sun is out and the returns for doing the right thing are so good when nature is your partner.

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Lots of material in a compost heap

Yep, it's a trailerload. The dual benefit of tidying up last years stuff and building for next year.

It was funny when a well meaning friend suggested I could get a compost bin. What, with three trailerloads a year of leaf litter?

Still for those dinky little applications I think I will get a worm farm. Currently the kitchen scraps go to the chooks which eventually becomes goodness for the garden, but I'm told that worm liquid is pure gold. That's a job for after Europe, late June.

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Spray for rust with sulphur

At 95% leaf fall one of the plums is showing rust spots.

Okay, two things to do. One is to clear all the leaf litter from underneath. Done. Second thing, spray with a fungicide.

Here's the rub. The normal compound - copper based - will kill all the earthworms that will probably be close to the surface on that freshly exposed soil.

So I'll use good old fashioned wettable sulphur which is not as harsh as it might sound. In fact sulphur is considered to be ok for commercial organic production. And leftover spray is worth getting over the nearly empty grapevines too, given that it's good for powder mildew which tends to come on in the late season.

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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Riedel varietal specific wine glasses

I'm sold. I know the Riedel glasses are great, I've had a pair since my bud Damien Wilson got them for me back in about 2004.

But I was at that Chardonnay function on Thursday at the Qwoff Boys where we were using a shorter, fatter little glass. Sure, the wine tasted good but I thought it was just because it was good wine.

But just tonight, at a show called #winedup (many thanks to HomestyleSA, Feast Fine Foods, Yalumba, Lazy Ballerina and McLaren Vale Beer Company) I really learnt something.

Spriggy did an experiment with me. He said "oh, you like the Chardonnay glass?" I said "I did the other night".

Before I knew it, Spriggy had whipped out a Riedel Reisling glass put some (nice) Chardonnay in it and got me to swirl, sniff and taste. It was nice. We tipped the glass into a varietal specific Chardonnay glass and we repeated.

Without exaggeration, it was an entirely different wine. I'm not good at putting words to my tasting, but it's as simple as that - the wine was entirely different. It had gone from tasting like a $20 wine to a $50+. Honest truth.

There is something to this varietal specific stemware, I'm sure.

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Fun and games with a Golden Elm

I'll call Malcolm Campbell tomorrow about this and also post a question to his blog, because this one has confused me a little.

After disturbing the roots of the golden elm (rear) it suckered. That is not a problem, I quite like the idea of getting a tree in that forward spot. But look at the leaves - green and not gold. Now that is strange, it hints to me that the elm I bought 20 years ago has a golden grafted top wood. I can't see a graft there now, but it's a 20 year old trunk.

So my question to Malcolm will be: "are golden elms normally sold as grafted trees?"

After a bit of a chat  it was a simple answer - yes, Golden Elms are grafted. So next season I will insert a half a dozen or so buds into the green wood that has suckered. Should be fun.

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Friday, May 27, 2011

Make a pumpkin soup for Sylv

My lovely wife Sylvia is working Wednesdays at a nice school where they rotate the role of bringing soup in for the rest of their workbuddies.

And June 3 is Sylvia's day. So that's great, I've got the chicken bits (don't think about it too much) from last week, bought a few pumpkins and will make it happen.

Here's how:

  • After the chicken roast I cleared all the bones to a Tupperware container and kept it in the fridge.

  • I deglazed the pan (heated it and poured in boiling water) and kept the liquid with the bones.

  • Now - Friday night - I have put it all in a big pot and brought to the boil. Skimmed off the yuk that comes to the top, then throw in chopped carrot and onion w some parsley bay peppercorns and maybe some salt.

  • Simmer it down until you can tell the liquid holds all the goodness.

  • Strain it, give the solids to the chickens

  • Chill the liquid, when chilled pick off the solid fat and give to the dog or the chickens.

It's almost impossible to make a bad soup after you've made stock this way, but that's probably tomorrow's blog.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The circle of life with trees, pruning, firewood and stumps

In another life I have recently come across a fantastic bunch of people who - I think - really LOVE nature and want to work with it.

I reflect on this as I stoke my fire with a little bought redgum but a mountain of pruning from my own garden. I have managed to keep my trees and heating needs - more or less - in equilibrium for the last ten years. I moved into a quarter acre empty (gardenwise) block twenty years ago so all the trees here are ones that I've lovingly planted. But they need care.

This year the sunburst in the middle of the back yard needs about 200kg of wood to come off it, the plane about 200kg too. The gums at the back keep dropping stuff and probably don't need pruning, but they'll give me 100kg randomly, I expect. Fruit trees will give me 100kg. I probably still need to buy a tonne of redgum from my bud (ex student) Clayton Prater at Keelan grain and fodder.

The huge gum at the front, ETSA helped out because it was in their lines (phew) but I have a Eucalyptus Cinerea (Vicks Vaporub tree) that I'll just need to take down in a year or two because it must be 25m tall. Sadface. I planted it with love as a seedling 20 years ago. But everything has its time. And she'll make great firewood.

And that's how Austral Tree and Stump see it. I think they love trees, as I do. I love the circle of life. Tell that to the 20 year old plum tree that I'll probably take out this winter too. But there are two I planted two years ago next to it.

So I'm proud I got to meet these people this year, and I'm honored that friend (and once an MBA student) Lorraine Caruso felt comfortable introducing me.
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A fridge full of Nando's? Bring it!

Last month, up in Cairns, my Dad gave me - among much else - a gift pack of Nando's sauces ranging in heat and flavour. So I have a fridge full of Nando's.


Simply, one thing that works is to toast a split muffin, cook two of my home laid eggs perfectly (over easy) and put those eggs on the muffin with a little marg.

Runny eggs and Nando's sauce. This is pretty good.

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Sunday, May 22, 2011

9.1mm yesterday

The season has mostly turned. It's a time for doing the important stuff, get those leaves into a compost heap, I'll be putting a little chemical fertilizer onto my kikuyu lawn just to give it a little kick into winter.

But as an old post of mine said, spend time on the soil:

You can start to spend time on getting soil under control. Really low returns on planting right now. Still I'm trying to buck the trend with some stuff growing under plastic and some winter veg (leeks and broccoli) my best returns are always from the "workmanlike" stuff.

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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Look at that baby tamarillo

In that little pot at the bottom is a seedling version of the bigger tree. And that tree has only taken a year to get to the size it is. I got that small yellow tamarillo from the rare fruit society for $3 last week and I hear they grow well from seed.

I think I might have my next Christmas presents worked out.

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Leeks and Dutch Iris

On the right is a bed of leeks, the two terraces are my "nurseries" of Dutch Iris. Tended well, I hope the nurseries will return a couple of buckets of great bulbs for spring 2012.

Hmmm. I wonder what I'll be doing in spring 2012? Life is an adventure.

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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Squid, baby

Easy, peasy. Only problem nobody else in the house eats it. But I got some squid tubes around $13/kg. Fed the family with other stuff, then made my squid. Cut it to tubes, sliced a couple of chillis. Got hold of some garlic aha! Confession. Whenever I need garlic now I use this. It just solves too many problems. Sorry.

So, turn the tubes into rings. Get the pan vhot and put some good olive oil in. Throw the squid in, garlic and chilli on top, some salt. Stir, stir, stir maybe a minute at full heat. Spray some lemon juice on it and then get it onto a metal plate to suck the heat out of it. If you can manage to eat it while it's still warm then fine, otherwise get it cold quickly. Great cold for lunch antipasto or anything, and cheap.

Get over the idea that squid needs to bee cooked. Remember that when it's served as sushi it's some of the best on the nigiri menu. So always, always go for undercook.

Now, to contradict myself I HAVE heard of ways to slowcook squid which sound great too - but I have no idea what they are. George on masterchef mentioned it last season. It's on my todo list. But for us mere mortals - undercook always.

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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Fresh Basil in Mid May

I never seem to get that, but here's Jonah with some that we cut from the garden just then:

But then I suppose the glasshouse experiment helps. The tomatoes are growing well and the strawberries look strong enough:

Wood ash. Forget it in the garden.

Yes it is a source of Potash. But it's so alkaline that in Adelaide it's a better herbicide than it is a fertiliser. If you must use it do it this way. Tip the wood ash out over some dirt you want to kill - like a driveway. Do that all winter, let the rain wash the ash into the dirt.

Use a plastic rake to rake out the little bits of leftoover charcoal and pile them up. Then put THOSE little black marbles into your compost heap. THAT will add value, and the composting should balance the pH. But putting ash straight on your garden is death to plants.

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The garden will still produce in autumn and winter

Just more slowly.

I got broad beans in while the soil was still warm, probably a little too late now. Last seasons tomatoes made it through the heat thanks to a judicious spray of miticide in January. Tomatoes and Basil are under the plastic on the left hand side, leeks are in the furrow up the middle and tiny bulbs are planted on the right.

The bulbs are an experiment to build them up to full size for next year. I'll fertilize them like crazy when they start to wane late in spring and then dig them up. Marigolds have selfseeded everywhere in this new moist soil which is probably not a bad thing.

I planted broccoli seed into seed raising mix last weekend so maybe next week they'll put their heads up for plant out mid June.
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Raking, Pruning, Composting

A nice time of year. I often draw parallels with life on these things. All the showy summer growth has dwindled, the fruit has fallen, leaves are falling.

This is when one gets great returns on good honest work. I manage to collect about three trailerloads of leaf litter etc and that turns into about a tonne of great compost. That's about $400 worth of gardening matter if you bought it in bags at Bunnings.
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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Moussaka for the "mother in love"

So I made the moussaka. What a fantastic dish!
I'll do the shorthand:

Chargrill some eggplant and put in an ovenproof dish
Make a pasta sauce - of some sort - and put that over the top
Make a roux based white sauce and pour that over the top
Maybe top with cheese and breadcrumbs and bake

It works OK and it was nice.

I took a plate (the big one) to my Dora and Luigi's (my "mother-in-love's") place as a gesture of goodwill and a chance to give something tiny back.

And she was happy.

And then of course we had some very nice homemade wine from Mario Falaguerra and tasted some of this season's olives. And of course I took some away. That's just so Masciantonio. It's impossible to get taken from whe one is dealing with a Masciantonio. I'm very lucky.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Tomorrow's Moussaka

On special yesterday, I now have two eggplants and the one I fried today. I've never made Moussaka before but I had it served to me recently.

So tomorrow night I'll fry them, make what is essentially a bolognese sauce put that on the top, top that with a white sauce and bake the lot.

It was nice when I had it.

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Saturday, May 7, 2011

Chookies at work

I love the turn towards winter. There is more moisture around, I start to fill up my compost heap with the leaves and mess that has fallen and the soil bacteria are clearly coming alive.

Also too are the little critters, slaters, weevils, earwigs. And so it's a great pleasure to let the chookies out to scratch around and reduce those populations.

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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Ginger, our new guinea pig

One of my great memories as a child was one of having guinea pigs. We went and got one for Mia on Sunday. She's having great fun and the little boy really is cute.

We'll get a girl soon.

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Monday, May 2, 2011

A clever way to grow mint in a garden

My father in law has done this really well. Cut the bottom out of a large (12") pot and then plant it as normal. As long as the pot goes about ten inches into the soil the roots aren't breaking out.

But what's better is the way the mint responds. It gets all the moisture of the garden bed, but mint won't put on a heap of leaf until its runners hit some resistance. And as you can see, it loves it.

I won't show you my scrappy stringy stuff that's unrestrained in my garden bed.

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