Late harvest

Cleared up the last of the summer vegetables today. It was quite a haul.

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Choughed

This morning there was an avian invasion at Chez Fork, a family of White-winged Choughs dropped by. As with previous visits by these family birds our chickens retreated into the corner and looked on as the chough family did a thorough search of the yard for food.

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.

Dilly Dally

I was just outside harvesting some dill seeds. It may seem odd to leave the seedheads sitting in the paper bag outside for a while, but I am doing this for a reason. The stems of the dill had quite a few aphids on them, visible in the photo below. I really don’t want to encourage them or end up with ‘extra protein’ in my seeds.

Shortly after I hung the bag up I spotted a more welcome visitor. This lady bird (lady bug, or lady beetle), Hippodamia variegata (the Adonis lady bird), like many, is an aphid predator. I am more than happy to see them having a munch on the aphids.

This particular species has a fairly worldwide distribution. I was able to identify it via the CSIRO’s very helpful gallery of lady birds.