Redolent

That’s about the only way to describe the smell in my car this morning as I drove home from the nursery with bags of compost cow manure and potting mix.

Luckily I was able to temper the odours a bit by stopping at the local coffee shop to pick up a large bucket of coffee grounds. I even had time for a cup of hot chocolate and a quick sketch. The coffee grounds will be used as a barrier to dissuade the local snails and slugs from completely destroying the lettuce and kale seedlings.

Much more pleasant was the glorious scent of the broad bean flowers, next to where the lettuce were planted out. And yes I even managed to plant out all the new seedlings and pot up my new Bay tree.

Must be the scent of spring!

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Busy

Today I am keeping busy. A friend has given me 2kgs of tangelos that I am currently making into marmalade. I have included in the mix a very few of my Australian Red Centre Limes (a cross between an acrid mandarin and an Australian Finger lime). I am not sure if there will be any impact on the flavour, my previous experience with finger limes is that they imparted a noticeable flavour to my marmalade.

My Australian Red Centre Lime is cropping well this year.

This afternoon I am cooking the fruit in two batches. The first to derive the juice and the remainder to include in the jam.

The fruit of the red centre lime.

Here it all is cooking away.

On the boil, my tangelos and limes.

Meanwhile I am preparing some toilet rolls so I can get some pea seeds started. Hopefully it’s not to late to get a crop in. I tape 3 toilet roll cores together before filling them with seed raising mix and getting the seeds underway.

On a roll, sorry about that.

Once the seeds sprout the rolls will be separated and planted individually. This way I can set up the best defenses against the ever present garden snails.

Don’t get ahead of yourself

Spring is getting very close indeed and the urge to get out in the garden and “do something” is growing. But I need a bit of restraint as weather in these parts is quite variable just now.

So today I restricted myself to two urgent tasks, transplanting a rhubarb corm for a friend and tieing up the broad beans.

As you can see the rhubarb was rather bigger than I originally thought.

So into a larger container it went, along with some interference from the girls who wanted to pick the good bits out of the compost first.

With a little ‘help’ from my friends.

I left it a bit late to do this job so I hope the plant survives.

Thankfully the broad beans were a bit easier to manage, particularly after I put the chooks away. The plants are growing away nicely and we can expect a big growth spurt once the warm weather really arrives.

Broad beans at the end of winter.

In went the poles and out came three t-shirts worth of ‘rope. I can’t remember just how long we’ve been using this to tie up the broad beans but it’s been a few years now. As you can probably see there is no real rhyme or reason to my tieing pattern. Just keep winding until it runs out.

A crazy cat’s cradle for the broad beans!

Oh and I did manage a bit of weeding while I was there. Enough to keep the chooks happy at least.

Three of the four chooks, the other one was trying to jump up and eat my camera.

We’re back!

There was a short hiatus as we were gallivanting around Europe for three months. We left in early autumn and have returned in late winter.

Prior to leaving we planted garlic and broadbeans, which with the help of friends and the watering system, are growing strongly. Starting to clean up the spent summer crops yesterday I harvested these bean seeds. The strong, healthy seeds in the larger bowl will be used to grow next summers crop. The smaller seeds, some damaged by too much rain, will be used as part of a green manure crop.

Waking up in Autumn

It happens every year, after a summer of tending plants through stinking hot days, you wake up one day and the overnight temperature has dropped and those tomato bushes are past their best. Well that’s where it starts.

About a week ago we did decide to pull out the spent tomato vines and in the time-honoured way it has led to job after job in the garden. Once the tomatoes had gone the rest of the bed needed to be cleared of weeds. Then it was clear that the whole bed needed re-aligning to rectify some long-forgotten design decision we made years ago.

Thankfully our garden beds are not permanent, so up came the concrete block edge. Three days in and all the strawberry and sorrel plants that lived in those concrete blocks were transferred temporarily into tubs so the blocks could be re-laid. In the interim one of the chooks offered ‘assistance’ by eating the one sorrel plant remaining in the main part of the garden down to it’s roots.

Then it was off to the tip to buy a trailer load of compost. I’ll skip over the hard work of shoveling soil etc, because I was lucky enough to avoid that task. I injured my shoulder some days earlier, (the other half did an excellent job of the task).

At last we reached the fun bit, planting out. This bed now has lettuce, spinach and kale planted in it. Today the strawberries have gone back in. The sorrel, having proved such a hit with the chickens, has now gone back into the main part of the bed. Around the edge I have transplanted an allium, possibly a variety of garlic chive, whose white flowers look quite decorative. Of course the finishing touch is miles of plastic mesh and spiky sticks and tubes, which we hope may forestall chicken attack. Although we doubt it will work. 😊

PS defences were broken through, but we are retaliating with bigger and better defences.

Production line

Today we have been spending some time doing prep work for making doubangjiang, or chilli bean paste. My partner does the fun work and I get to help with peeling the skin from dried broadbeans and here, scraping the membrane and seeds out of the chillies.

After de-seeding, the chillies are left to soak in a salty water brine for several days before the prepared broadbeans are added.

Having made this style of chilli bean paste in previous years, my partner is going ‘off piste’ this year with his own version of the recipe.

If you would like to try it yourself, here is a recipe. The pictures will guide you through the process.

Tomatoes still going

We still have tomatoes to harvest. Today we picked several more kilos.

Some are being saved by the easiest method of all – pick, wash and freeze. Just throw them in a bag and put them in the freezer. Then on those cold winter days pull them out of the freezer and put them into your winter soup or stew (and no they can’t be sliced and eaten like fresh tomatoes after freezing).

Over the past few weeks we have been making various cooked tomato products. In the foreground of the photo below, baked tomato passata and behind regular boiled tomato passata.

There remains the prospect of green tomato chutney, a favourite of mine, and our newly discovered ‘explosive mix‘, courtesy of Pietro Demaio – you need to watch past the initial preserved eggplant recipe video to see the ‘explosive mix’ part.