Sunday, January 27, 2013

An Albino Visitor.

One morning recently when I had to get up quite early I spied this busy little fellow rushing across the lawn.
 It had an amazing turn of speed, so I had to run for the camera. The second photo I took is a blur as it wasn't wanting to stay still and pose for me.

 I had run out of fruit bread that I really liked so popped on the bread maker and made this. It is really moist so I am very pleased.( maybe it didn't distribute the fruit totally evenly.) It has seeds and sultanas and cinnamon in it.
 After a slow start the tomatoes are really ripening well now. 
 The wee red ones on the right are the new variety called Tomaccio.
 They were  advertised as being good to dry, so this is what we are doing with them. ( they are really nice just to pop in your mouth too! )
 We are then storing them in jars and pouring good oil over them. We are not sure about just leaving them dry? ( we are new to dehydrating.)

 Down in the home orchard ( which is some distance from the house ) we are having a battle with a possum.( an opossum but no one says that any more ) We have put out a cage trap and a yellow Timms trap with nice apples, as bait , but no way....he wants to climb the trees. He ate all but one apple ( so I picked it before it was ready ) and both the Nashi  part of which he dropped on the ground. So no nashi for us to try this year. Hopefully as the trees get bigger we will get some for us.

 There started of being 12 plums . I picked one before it was ready - it was delicious cooked so I picked 3 more and 3 remain not quite ripe on the tree. ( where did the other 5 go? ) ( I think it must be one healthy possum! )
 As you can see I am picking a small number of blueberries every couple of days. We know they are not getting enough water in this heat so I have been taking them water to try and size up the remaining berries. I also discovered they can be picked before they are totally black and they ripen within hours of picking. We have 4 blueberry bushes 2 very tiny and 2 bigger. My friends L and B first gave me a plant as a birthday gift 7 years ago and so that tree and it's mate are growing quite well. To get enough for a really decent pick I think I need about 10 bushes. Maybe I will plant some in between the ones there and make a hedge.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Meanwhile Down on the Farm...

Meanwhile down on the farm....orchard actually things have been busy......yesterday and today and possibly still tomorrow we are picking avocados ( 2nd pick for the season )( there may yet be a 3rd pick in April! !!) 3 hydraladas; 2 ground pickers ( R and me ) one tractor driver R.  We have Lisa and Gavin back as our lada drivers. ( we asked for them as they do an excellent job )
 Lisa manoeuvring around a tree.
 She not scared of heights! 
 Let's not be sexist here, Gavin is working hard too. ( note how my garden weeds / rubbish is growing and flowering nicely under the trees..... lots get squashed - it is meant to be mulch 1)
My tractor is working hard too.
I do not drive it up the steep hill when fully loaded with 3 bins on the bin trailer , R has to do that - it is a big load for her, she only just makes it.
 R's tractor has the bin fork on it for lifting and loading bins. The truck is carrying gear and the Hustler mower is being used as transport back and forth. Only the car is lazing at home.

 Here is a lovely sight...late last evening this is the days work waiting for the truck to arrive to take it up to the pack house.

 Note in this photo, the pumpkins growing down the bank, firewood rings drying ready for splitting before Winter and if you look really hard see the fancy mowing in the car park area.
 A funny thing happened last weekend  We discovered a great big pumpkin under that black picnic table in the photo. We think a rabbit must have chewed through it's stem up on the slope and it rolled all the way down to the table ( it hadn't been cut but raggedly nibbled.) Instead of discarding it we tried it and although early in the season it is delicious steamed and coated with butter. Naughty rabbit you are asking for it! ( you know eh Leanne! )
 We are watering everything almost. But we are picking courgettes;  strawberries; silver beet; tomatoes; 
beans and digging potatoes. ( oh and pumpkins ! ) When I went to the supermarket at the weekend it was lovely to walk through the vegetable department and only select a piece of root ginger and red capsicum ( ours aren't red yet ).
 The worm farm is doing okay I think after an initial invasion by ants - think I have that sorted now.
 Sorry I haven't been commenting much this week I just have not had computer time - I will try and rectify that. The Chaste tree at the front gate is coming into flower the bees ( bumble bees especially ) are loving it.I do too.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Get Them While They're Young.

Courgettes or Zucchini  need to have a close eye kept on them once they finally decide now is the right time to produce. Check and pick daily. Approach from all sides to make sure none are lurking out of sight cause they will be marrows in the twinkling of an eye if you let them be. Fritters have to be one of my favourite things to make. ( all types ) So fritters it is with some of these.
 Recipe for Courgette Fritters.
 In a large bowl place : 1/4 cup of polenta ( fine cornmeal ); 2 tsps of Thai spice ( or seasoning of your choice ) add 2 large eggs and mix in.
Grate 2 large or 5 small courgettes then
 1/2 cup grated tasty cheese ( parmesan or cheddar )
( Other ingredients are not necessary but bread crumbs and finely chopped fried onion could be added to extend the mix.)
Place spoonful lots into hot pan; of  shallow olive oil or rice bran oil ( just so they don't stick ) Fry till golden then  turn them over and fry the second side. Place onto a plate cover with a paper towel to absorb any excess oil. Serve immediately with sweet chilly sauce or whatever you fancy. Nice cold and can be reheated.( can even travel in lunch boxes or to picnics. )
There are many other tasty ways to use your Zucchini supply. from young raw ones to baked or fried . They can be used in a cake like you make carrot cake and in muffins. Don't waste a single one!
 I am making more letters of the alphabet ( to add to the ones I have which can say Happy Christmas  or Cushions ) so various banners can be composed. I will hand sew down the binding and hand quilt these. I like making these . We had fun at Christmas, secretly  changing the message from Happy Christmas to other anagrams using those letters 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Colourful Things.

 When I was last in the garden centre I spotted a bright red chair with a very pleasing design. It was comfortable too.  I do not care for plastic chairs but these were a cut above. We decided to get 2 and found they were half ended up getting several. They give a real splash of colour and I already have a garden seat under the copper beech tree that is this colour continuing a red seat theme. These are very easily moved into where ever the shade is at the time.
 With the larger space on new deck we needed extra seating. The table and benches  we got before Christmas  are still sitting on the lawn being washed daily to stop the stain leaching onto timber.
 Something else colourful! R first spotted this while water my garden. We have had them before many years ago when we had a clerondendron tree; it housed lots.
 It is a one centimetre long, female  two-spine spider making a web under a rhubarb leaf.
 It's full name is poecilopachys australasiae. I found good information about it on Te Papa museum's website, where it said they have been found in NZ since the 1970 ( I would verify that ); they like citrus trees  - (guess rhubarb is close) ; and hide under leaves in the daytime and by night make a cartwheel shaped web where they can catch moths and other insects much bigger than themselves. Their egg sac is spindle shaped. They are harmless. ( and very cute I think ) I know where ours is living and will keep an eye on it and see if it makes an egg sac.
 Meanwhile out in the orchard it is very hot and sticky. Yesterday we had a gang in to help us by doing some basic fruit thinning in the largest 2 blocks.That will just get us ahead a bit.
 We are spending the evenings watering and picking produce. ( beans; the last few peas; tomatoes courgettes and  strawberries ) ( we have potatoes and carrots too ) It is great to be able to have whole meals where we grew all the veges.
 The worms have had to be moved as they were getting too hot....still not sure I have them in the ideal spot.......they don't say a lot! 
I feel for all our neighbours across the ditch ( and now in Canterbury as well ) who are struggling with bush fires or floods. Once again Nature is having the last say. I think it is possible some stupid people may be assisting by lighting fires - quite unbelievable behaviour.
 I have pressed some fabric and cut out some 6" squares for a project.The machine is back on the bench and it looks like I might be doing something...who knows!

Sunday, January 06, 2013

A Can of Worms.

For Christmas  I asked for and got a worm farm ( or as it is called on the packaging a Worm Cafe ). We didn't have any old sink or bath suitable so R got me a Tumbleweed Worm Cafe. The photo shows it with the stage one layer  and lid. It has 3 more trays or stories to add as it fills up. The legs are supposed to be ant proof.
 This is what it looks like inside before the first worms and their bedding were introduced.The island in the middle is so they can never drown and have somewhere to climb up on and at the front is the drainage hole with tap underneath for letting the extra water and leach-ate and tea drain out.
 This morning we had time to visit a neighbour who kindly gave us some starter worms. In this case an ice cream container full. Where are they? Hiding underneath away from the light.
 This is when I have just spread them out across the soaked  coir bedding block that came with the cafe. I have then added 2 sheets of wet newspaper and for a blanket I have provided a soaked partly worn out cotton hand towel which was just the right size.
 I now have a designated small bucket to put things worms like in especially my daily coffee grinds. I know not to put in citrus  peel  or onion skins ( too acidic ) or  dairy or meat .  I have read the instruction booklet from cover to cover and taken advice from the neighbour who supplied the worms. She has 2 lots ( farms )  one get all their food scraps minced and so produces a much quicker and finer lot of castings. That is what she recommended.
 There are plenty of dos and don'ts.
 If you have a worm farm ( Leanne ) and have any hints or encouragement I would be grateful to hear.
 We will continue to make compost as we have always done. This will I hope give us an additional and more readily available to plants, product ( liquid and castings ) to use in our garden and on pot plants. To make enough for orchard use we would need a huge set up.
Note ; there are 2 main categories of worms - earth workers or composters. These are composters. but are they Tigers, Reds or Dendras? 

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Fine Weather = Work.

I asked for fine weather and got it. The 1st 2 days of 2013 have been very hot and consequently very busy. ( make hay while the sun shines ! ) ( not a bale in sight! )The bright photo is at the back door, where simple pots are giving a colourful welcome but wilting a bit on hot late afternoons.
 Meanwhile we have been thinning Kiwifruit  as fast as we can go. Block 1 is done ( cheer! ) Block 4 is done Cheer! ) block 2 a begins today if the weather holds - it does not look promising and showers have been fore caste.( we started with the smallest blocks to encourage ourselves with the progress. )
 Most things in the garden are flourishing. The 1st round of peas have finished and been pulled out. R's 2nd row is now being eaten - not quite as great as the first. My low growing Chef's Choice beans require picking every couple of days as do my Scarlet runners. ( does anyone know why green beans make such a dirty ring around the saucepan as they cook? )
 The pumpkin patch this year is on an unused steep slope, and although slow to get started is now flourishing.
 It is also a haven for insects as it is too steep to have been mowed and has every sort of weed. It seems to give the pumpkin plants something to climb on. They are buttercup squash and butter nut squash.
The flowers have to be the biggest brightest flowers around. ( male I think )
 But some fruit / veg are setting.
This will flower and if it gets pollinated will continue to grow in size. if not it will wither and fall off.
 Note the curly tendril.
 After a shakey start this capsicum bed is now looking lush. there are some flowers.
My little yellow pear drop tomato is winning the race of the purchased toms, but actually the first to have pickable fruit were my "compost tomatoes". Yes they came up in the compost I tucked around my vege patches and where there was a space I let them grow. It's quite interesting and random as to what type they all turn out.But hey they were free! ( as opposed to R's purchased grafted ones which are giants but very slow to set fruit this year. ( maybe too shaded where he has them - who knows.) Maybe they are just late this year.
 Maybe this is the year of the birds. 
 On Tuesday afternoon as we were fruit thinning we had the company of a very friendly little fantail ( I think some of you call it a wagtail) who got dangerously close to my secateurs. Hoping we were stirring up easy to gobble insects for it.
 Yesterday morning this Mrs. Thrush crashed into the carport window -I heard the bang. She had a sore head poor dear and was lying panting in the sun, so gently I took her to a shady spot in the flower garden. Later she was gone so she must have survived.
 Yesterday afternoon working in Block 4 Mrs Kingfisher decided I was too close to her nest in the clay bank and she kept dive bombing me as a warning.
 I wonder what bird (s ) I will get up close and personal with today. Probably just Percy Peacock asking for fruit bread. ( the 2 chicks were still alive a couple of days ago ).
 Having put up new calendars - it was hard to decide as we were given 11 and only need about 5, and started my new diary, nothing much else is different. I do however have several significant events to look forward to this year. ( a family wedding soon  and quilting Symposium in July )I will get some patchwork and quilting done at some stage and spend time writing minutes and letters as secretary for our group.
 I have done no sewing, so far in 2013.. I have however done some gardening tasks. As I am working towards an event here in 8 weeks time I have made myself a detailed job list by walking around the garden and making notes. Sounds serious...not really just my way of keeping myself focussed and on track to have it all done and looking neat and bright. ( hope it doesn't then rain - That happened at Christmas and we could hardly spend any time in the garden...... still here's hoping  ) .
So for now the Quilting orchardist has really turned into the Gardening orchardist - but it is a seasonal thing and as I have been a country person almost my entire life I know the weather and the season dictate what must take priority.
 I do notice that today's post features ( as it often does) the colour green.