Home Grown

The Autumn Vegie Garden

We have been very lucky this autumn so far, to have not had any frosts!  As a result quite a few of our summer veggies are still producing quite well.  The tomatoes have finished up, as it has been quite cold, but the chillies and capsicums are still going well.


I also grew jalapeño chillies which we prefer so didn’t pick too many from this bush.  Lots of new plantings though, and because the weather has been so mild, they are bursting with vigour.


The brassicas are so healthy, and there’s even the beginnings of some broccoli and cauliflower heads starting to poke thru.  Bottom left, above is Brussel sprouts- but they are a bit slower.


Above is, from left, beetroot (under a cage because every pest in the world seems to want to eat me beetroot), then carrots, and spuds.  Below is one of my pumpkins.  Our local tennis club has a pumpkin growing competition each year.  Originally it was the biggest pumpkin, but this year we got mystery seeds – 5, and its the most overall weight from all the pumpkins. Mine were prolific however a lot haven’t ripened properly.


I tend to plant a row of beans every couple of months, so I have a yea round supply.  This latest planting has just started flowering. As have the peas.



I visited an old friend a month or so ago and she gave me some rhubarb that she had divided off from her patch.  I wasn’t sure they’d survive as I didn’t get them in the ground for a couple of weeks after getting home. But they are growing superbly.


I still have some more planting I’d like to do, but first I need to do some more cleanup of old plants left over from summer.  I still have 2 rows of old corn stalks to pull out, as well as some cherry tomatoes. Then I have garlic and onions to get in! And maybe some more peas….

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6 grapevines planted

When we planned our orchards, we planned on having one side of our farm driveway as an area for stone fruit, and also apples, pears, and figs. The other side was to be for grape vines and citrus. Well the first side has been in for about 5 years now, and is growing nicely. On the other side, we decided to first plant a couple of rows of natives to act as a wind break, as it does get a lot of wind from the south west.

Well the natives have been planted, so I visited our local nursery a couple of weeks ago, and picked up 6 varieties of grapes. I loaded to garden cart up with some fresh compost (the soil is not great over ther), the shovel, trowel, kneeling pad and grapevines, and headed over to plant them.

As I started digging the first hole, I noticed it was extremely wet. I knew we hadn’t had enough rainfall lately to account for this much moisture in the soil, and sure enough, when, I wandered up the hill, it got wetter and wetter until finally I traced it to a leaking water pipe.

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Although it wasn’t that warm, Jessie, one of our kelpies, felt the need to cool down in the puddles. After digging a trench so the water could drain away, I discovered that a “t-piece” joiner had split, so I replace it, and that did the trick.

Unfortunately though the ground was waterlogged, so I had to wait a couple of days before I could get back to planting the grapevines. But they are all in now, and hopefully some warm spring weather will encourage them to shoot.

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Here’s the varieties we chose, in the order they are planted.

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Green Tomato Pickles

After my vegie garden update, I had a number of questions regarding my recipe for Green Tomato Pickles, so I thought I would do a post about it today.

I had actually never tried Green Tomato Pickles before, but we always have a jar in the fridge – that I buy – because Cam loves it on sandwiches with cold left over lamb. It always looked a bit off putting to me! Anyway we had all these green tomatoes in the garden , so I thought why not give it a go. The recipe I found is quite an easy one, that uses a bottle of Wilds Ezy Sauce, which is a product made in Australia, that has a nice mix of vinegar and spices, great for adding to sauces.

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So here’s the first lot of ingredients in the big pot….
5.5kg green tomatoes
2kg onions
1/2 cup salt
You mix all this around in the pot and leave to sit overnight. By morning there is a lot of juice in the bottom of the pot. Bring it all to the boil, then add 1.5kg sugar and the bottle of Ezy Sauce.
Simmer this uncovered for 2 hours. The first hour is fine, but by the second hour you really need to watch it and stir frequently as it sticks and burns if you’re not careful.
After 2 hours, I mixed:
1 tbsp mustard powder
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tbsp cornflour (corn starch)
2 tsp turmeric
With a small amount of water to make a smooth paste, then added it gradually,stirring it in quickly. Cooked it for a further 10 minutes, then filled hot sterilized jars and sealed them.

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As well as what you can see here, there is another very large jar in the fridge that we are using, and I have given one away already. I’m amazed at how good it is. For lunch one day we had it with cold lamb and fresh hot bread, straight out of the bread machine. Another day I spread it on bread then topped it with cheese and cooked it under the griller. Yummo!

The recipe I used called for sliced tomatoes and onions. Next time I will chop them smaller, as it’s quite lumpy, not ideal for sandwiches. And I’ve since found an alternative mixture, if you can’t get Wilds ezy sauce.
350ml vinegar
Black pepper, cloves, chilli – to your taste.

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Vegie Garden Update

We’ve been having some very wintery weather here these last few days. It’s been quite nice actually, because the first two weeks of winter were very mild. Today we have had almost non-stop drizzly rain and cold, cold winds.

With lambing well and truly underway, the vegie garden has not got a lot of attention lately.

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I’ve picked the last of the pumpkins. The butternuts have been ripe and have been turned into some wonderful pumpkin soup already. I hope the Queensland Blues will be ready also.

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I’ve also been picking leeks and some rogue potatoes. The last of the tomatoes that were ripe were bottled and stored away, and I made some green tomato pickles out of a large stash of unripe ones that were still on the vines. I’ve picked the lower leaves from the brussel sprouts to give the developing sprouts room to grow, and laid the leaves out down the rows of onions to try and kill off the grass weeds that are growing between the rows. You can see this in the photo above.

The boys and I had a bit of a working bee on the weekend. Here’s Archie planting the garlic.

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I usually plant two full bulbs of garlic, which yields at least 20 plants. This keeps us going for about 6 months. If I get time I will plant some more in the next couple of weeks, as it stores really well so long as I let it dry out properly.

While Archie was planting garlic, Danny and I were preparing the beds for the potatoes. Danny never feels the cold. Archie and I were in coats and beanies – Danny, shorts and t’shirt!

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And here’s Archie planting the potatoes.

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This year we’ve planted Dutch Creme potatoes. I haven’t planted them before, but the packet said they were a good all rounder, suitable for mashing, roasting and baking.

We’re still picking lots of celery, spinach, silver beet, broccoli and leeks. I made a great soup on the weekend with pumpkin, celery and leek.

I covered the capsicum bushes a couple of months ago, with a big tunnel of plastic, as I’d heard that if they don’t get frosted they can be biennial. Besides running a bit of water under the plastic I have pretty much ignored them. But today I had a peak underneath, and this is what I found…..

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I’d love to know what everyone else has in their garden at this time of the year!

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Starting the broccoli harvest

I picked the first of our broccoli last night. They are massive heads, and I think I picked them just in time as they will start spreading if I’d left them much longer.

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Obviously this is much more than we are likely to eat in the next week or so, so I cut them up into chunks and froze them. I know some people blanch it first, but I just didn’t have time so into freezer bags and into the freezer. It’s not great just boiled and eaten when I do it this way, although it is fine.  However, it is perfect to grab a handful to add to a casserole or stir fry.  Particularly when I am doing a slow cooker recipe, adding a handful of frozen broccoli helps to soak up some of the extra juices that always seem to be present in slow-cooker casseroles.

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There’s still lots more growing out on the bushes, so we should be well supplied for broccoli for a while.

We’ve had a couple of minor frosts in the last few weeks which has killed off the pumpkin vines, so I need to get out and collect the pumpkins now. That might be tomorrows job, today HAS to be an office day!

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Mushrooming Time!!

Its mushroom time!!  Besides our middle son – Danny, the rest of us LOVE mushrooms.  And we particularly love this time of the year when they are growing wild in the paddocks and we can pick them.  This was yesterday’s collection, just from the paddock around the house where Pickles our dairy cow spends some of her time.

Mushroom photo

It can be a bit of risk collecting and eating wild mushrooms.  We’ve been collecting ours for a few years now, so we are confident that they are safe, and if you are ever in any doubt, you are best to avoid it.  One of the main poisonous mushrooms that are confused with edible ones, is the yellow staining mushroom.  They look very similar in the paddock.  However apparently this yellow staining mushroom will bruise a yellowish colour and if you cut the base of the stem it is quite obviously yellow inside.  As you can see, the mushrooms that grow in our paddocks are white in the stem when they are young, and as the mushroom matures the stem turns a bit pinky brown inside.
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I’ve been doing some playing lately with reversing my lens to get some closeup – macro – shots.  I thought the undersides of the mushrooms would be perfect subject matter…..  What do you think?  I still need practice, as it is very difficult to hold the camera still, while I’m also hand-holding the lens, unattached and reversed, on the front of the camera body.  Its fun though, and can give some really interesting effects. 05 Mushrooms 04

05 Mushrooms

 

Here is a little group of mushrooms that I found this afternoon, as I was going around the sheep.  As you can see they can grow fairly big.  I didn’t pick these, as they looked too big, and they have a very strong taste when they are this large.  Also a couple looked as if a sheep had been nibbling on the side….!

Mushroom photo

That’s my boot in the photo, so you can get an idea of the size of these mushies!

 

 

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Adventures in Sweet Chilli Sauce

 

 

We have a couple of chilli bushes in the herb garden – a Jalapeño, and one of these below, I call it “mystery” variety.  Its very pretty, as the chillies are quite short, and the whole bush is more of a ground cover than a bush.  Danny has been keen to make some of our own Sweet Chilli Sauce, my boys LOVE spicy food –  so he picked a bunch of the reddest chillies and off we went!

Chilli plant photo

 

The recipe we used is one I made a few years ago and the quantities of ingredients depends on the “hotness” of the chillies.  I can’t remember where I got it from originally, but I did a quick web search, before we started and the general recipe is quite similar on lots of different recipe sites.bowl of chillies photo

 

First we topped all the chillies.  If they were a bit bigger I would have scrapped quite a few of the seeds out also, but that would have been a laborious task with our babies.  The chillies and three garlic cloves (because that was all we had, probably would have preferred to add more if we had them) into the food processor with about half a cup of vinegar.Chilli photo

Chilli photo

Once they were chopped finely I scrapped them into the pot and added 4 cups of vinegar and 3 cups of sugar.  Basically all I did next was brought it to the boil, stirring until the sugar dissolved, then tasted it.    Ohhhh Boyyyyy! Very hot!  So we added another cup of vinegar and half a cup of sugar.  Dissolved and tasted!   Still veeeerrrrrrry hot.  Another cup of vinegar and half a cup of sugar.

Danny tasted it, he thought it was fine, but for me still a bit too uncomfortable to cover my spaghetti with it.  I remember reading somewhere that lemon or lime juice can act as a means of decreasing the heat in chillies, so I added the juice of one lemon, another cup of vinegar and another 3/4 cup of sugar.  Once it was all dissolved and mixed well, another taste and I was happy.  It still has a good punch, but at least it doesn’t leave you gasping!Chilli sauce photo

 

Once I was happy with the taste I left it simmering for about an hour.  This allows it to reduce and thicken.  Then we poured it into hot sterilised jars and sealed them.Sweet Chilli sauce photoYou would think with all that vinegar we would have had a bucket of sauce, but because it reduces so much, we were left with just under  2  litres.  Still with its level of spiciness we won’t need to use too much.  Also I probably should have only let it simmer for maybe 45 minutes as it is very thick – possibly a bit jam like!

I’d love to know other peoples recipes for Sweet Chilli Sauce…. let me know in the comments if you have a good link.

 

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Vegie Garden Update

We had some wonderful WONDERFUL rain last week.  It wasn’t a lot, only 17 mm, nearly 3/4 inch for those not up with metric.  But regardless, it is AMAZING how quickly the paddocks are greening up.

It has also given the vegie garden a real boost.  I haven’t been out there a lot lately, just a quick check every now and again, to make sure no critters are eating it to pieces and to pick some tomatoes or strawbs.

This is one corner which as quite a few of my autumn vegies.

Vegetable garden photo

I am still picking quite a few tomatoes, and I literally have hundreds that are still green.  I may be making green tomato pickles yet – still hoping they might turn red though, so holding out as long as I can.  I am picking celery and lots of baby spinach.  I have stolen a few potatoes out from under the plants, leaving the smaller ones to grow bigger hopefully.

In other corners of the garden I have my brassicas.  The brussel sprouts and broccoli are healthy, in fact I have a couple of broccoli heads nearly ready for picking.  The brussel sprouts are still a long way off.  My cauliflowers are recovering after a bout of being attacked by aphids.

Broccoli photo

 

The pumpkins are still ripening nicely.  I have butternuts and another one which I think is a type of Queensland blue.  The Queensland Blue’s are enormous, as you can see in the shot below….

Pumpkin photo

 

I also have some peas germinating and even the odd spear of asparagus still popping up.

asparagus and peas photo

 

There’s lots of jobs I want to get done over the easter long weekend.  Some of my peas have been eaten off by snails – hence the snail bait I’ve sprinkled around, so I want to plant some more to fill in the gaps.

I also want to spread a lot more mulch around before the soil starts cooling down too much.

There is a bit   a lot of weeding to be done after the rain.

Finally, I want to have a go at over wintering some of my capsicum plants in the glass house.  They were very slow this year, and most of the bushes still have little green fruit on them, which I’m pretty sure won’t ripen before the frosts come.  So I thought I would have a go at digging them up, and putting them in pots, and moving them indoors, with the hope that I might be able to encourage those little ones to grow and turn red.  I haven’t done it before, so we’ll see how it goes.

 

We also want to do a bit of wood collecting.  We have lots of fallen branches around the farm, and my sister and her family are coming over from Adelaide for a few days over easter.  Many hands for carting logs!!  Ha ha.

Hope you all have a wonderful Happy Easter, and a productive one too, if that is what you are aiming for!

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Bottling Tomatoes

Well finally I’m getting some significant tomato harvest – I was so sure they wouldn’t ripen in time, as the whole vegie garden has been very slow this year.  But I have managed to pick a few good handfuls each day for the last week or so, and they’ve been steadily accumulating.  Besides tomato sauce, the main way our household uses tomatoes is as tinned tomatoes in casseroles, pasta sauces, etc – so I always try to preserve as many as I can to use in this way through out the year.  And considering that I have already made my sauce for this year, from bought tomatoes, any that come in from now on will be preserved in jars.  When doing this I literally just quarter the tomatoes (removing any bad bits), push them into the jars quite tightly, drop a garlic clove or two on top, and fill with water.

Then I process them in a water bath for about an hour.

Bottled tomatoes canned tomatoes

 

I have also made a couple of batches of semi dried tomatoes.

Semi-dried tomatoes photo

 

Balancing Rock Farm Semi-Dried Tomatoes

Quarter tomatoes, removing any bad bits

Put in a bowl, with a bunch of chopped basil and/or oregano, and as much garlic as you like.  Add enough olive oil to coat the tomatoes.

Lay in single file on a baking tray, and place in a cool oven for up to 8 hours.

Once the tomatoes have dried down to your liking (I like mine to still be a bit juicy, but slightly crispy on the outside), pack into a sterilised jar, and cover with olive oil.

Refrigerate for up to 1 month.  Delicious on toast in the mornings, or tossed through freshly cooked pasta.

 

They smell so good they may not make it to the jar!  Enjoy!

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Processing the corn!

Finally harvested the last of the corn yesterday.  Feels good to have it all frozen ready to see us out for winter.  Everyone in the family loves corn so its great to have a good supply throughout the year.

corn cob photo

 

Most of it we picked a couple of weekends ago, and my wonderful parents peeled it, cut it into meal sized portions and froze it for me.  This is huge job, and usually very messy with all the tassels ending up everywhere, so I’m so grateful for that help!

Frozen corn cob photo

Once we have picked all the cobs off the stalks I always pull them out of the ground break them off at ground level (because the ground is too hard to pull them out!!) and feed them to Pickles and BJ.  They LOVE them.  I think they are particularly appealing because there is no other green feed to be seen anywhere at the moment!

Cows eating corn stalks

This is one row of stalks – I have four more to feed out, but I thought one row a day would do them!

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