When the weekend comes around, we spend time playing catch-up. There are so many jobs that don’t get proper attention during the week, just a cursory glance. I get stuck in and pick tomatoes, Zucchinis, pumpkins, etc.
Janine has been doing all the garden harvesting during the week while I’m flat out being builders labourer to our wonderful, sensitive and highly skilled, couple of brick layers.
Saturday is the time for washing, sorting and chopping all the sub-prime tomatoes. The best ones are put aside for the weeks lunch time salads. All the rest are chopped up and boiled down into passata, starting with frying brown onions in good olive oil, then adding a knob of peeled and chopped garlic. This batch, I’m adding lots of capsicums and chilli, as well as the usual bay leaves, a sprig of thyme, some sage leaves, and loads of sweet basil. The sweet basil is trying to go to seed just now, so I have to continuously pay attention to pick off the flowering heads, with a couple of leaves. Back in the kitchen, I strip all the useful leaves from the somewhat woody stalks and florets. I eventually get about 3 hands full of leaves and my hands smell divine for an hour.
I usually bring the chopped fruit to the boil and then continue for an hour longer on a low simmer. Once the vegetables and herbs are well and truely reduced to pulp, I put the pan aside and let it cool. Later, I come back to it and pass the boiled pulp through a moulii sieve to extract most of the stalks, herbs, seeds and skins. I choose not to use the very fine screen in the moulii. I usually use the medium screen. This lets a few tomatoes seeds through, but it also passes some of the herbage. I like the rougher texture. It somehow feels more honest and real.
This time, I also add 2 teaspoons of salt to the pan, just for that little extra savoury hit. I generally avoid salt in my cooking, but tomatoes and eggs, both really comer alive with just a little of the poison. I do this because salt is in everything that you buy, and in excess, it isn’t good for you. As nearly all processed foods are loaded with the stuff. I think that it’s best to keep my consumption of self-inflicted salt as low as possible. The result of this self-imposed restriction, is that Janine and I both have blood pressure that is at the lower end of normal. 110 over 60.
The resultant puree is again brought to the boil to reduce it by about 1/3 and then bottled. My 5 litres of original chopped fruit, is reduced to 2.75 litres of tomato sugo or passata.
This stuff is magic. It’s so hard to describe a combination of aroma and taste, but trust me it is amazing. This ritual of making tomato sauce every summer is the closest that I come to having a religion.
We chopped up one of our big greenish grey, glaucous ‘Queensland Blue’ pumpkins and Janine made pumpkin soup that will last for a day or two. Even feeding our two brickies.
We have been supporting our brick laying brothers by mixing lime mortar, stacking bricks up onto the high scaffold, passing up queen closers and snap headers to them and generally being helpful and supportive in whatever inept way that we can, whilst staying mostly out of their way. It can be a bit dangerous working below a scaffold, with occasion objects falling down at times. The odd trowel, but mostly brick spalls.
I had to go into town and buy us two safety helmets to keep us safe. Appropriately identified as belonging to the King and Peasant.
The work on the southern facade progresses this week with the home-made double story scaffold including safety rail. The arch is now completed, fitting the two keystones that close the archs. A ‘keystone’ is the last brick that fits in the arch, joining both sides of the span securely. The key stone is no more important than any other brick in the arch, every brick is equally important, it’s just the last one to be placed. Once the arch is secure, the wall is closed over the top, requiring me to cut a few special tapered ‘wedge’ bricks to bring the coursed brickwork back to level over the arch.
A well constructed arch is a beautiful thing. I built over 300 kilns over the course of my kiln building career. With the assistance of my good friend Warren, who was my right hand man for over 25 years, we prided ourselves in creating perfect arches in our brick lined pottery kilns. I know the whereabouts of some of these early kilns, and they are still working well after a very long life of untold firings over 30 years and more.
A well constructed arch is a beautiful thing!
We have spent two days on it and there is still the best part of a day to go the get the gable facade complete. It will require another small centre section of extra scaffold to allow the ridge to be reached comfortably and safely.
As the rain has started to set in, and is forecast for the remainder of the week, we finish the day by wrapping the new brickwork with its soft, freshly laid, mortar joints and covering it with black plastic to stop the rain from washing the joints out over night. If we are lucky, the rain will be very light or hold off for another day so that we can get the wall finished.
If the rain persists, we will be working under the verandah area and try to finish off the front wall around the door and windows instead.