Our New Intern from Korea

We have a new intern working with us this January. Our visitor is Ms. Kang from Korea. She has come here to experience our sustainable approach to life and our ceramic work.

We have been working together crushing and grinding porcelain clay body and glazes from local rocks, throwing pots, working in the vegetable garden growing our food, cooking the food that we harvest and doing a little bit of sightseeing as well. The three of us have been doing some tourist activities together, like a trip to Sydney with a ferry ride on the harbour, and a trip to the local National Park and the south coast beaches.

Ms. Kang has been learning to use our foot-powered ‘Leach-style’ kick wheels.  We have just finished making sufficient clay work today to fill the solar powered electric kiln for a bisque firing. Last week we calcined some local white granite rocks, to make our local blue celadon/guan glaze.

Pretty-much life as usual, but with a hard-working and dedicated student-guest.

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Seasonal Vegetable Pasta

We are now harvesting the late yellow peaches and although the early youngberries are long gone now and just a memory for another year, the thornless blackberries are in full swing and they integrate very pleasingly with the constant supply of blueberries. All the early season blueberries have finished, but the crop seamlessly flows into the mid season varieties and we still have un-ripe late-season berries slowly colouring up in the bushes. Either it’s a very good season for the blueberries, or after 10 years, the bushes are hitting their stride.

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Breakfast is just the freshest and most delicious meal of the day. Mouthwateringly vitamin C tangy, crunchy, succulent and sweet. Each mouthful bursting with sunlight and vitamins. All the ingredients picked fresh every day, straight from the garden. They couldn’t be fresher or more vibrant. Such a refreshingly interesting way to wake up the taste buds and kick-start the day. We are now vegetarian this month, as the fish truck that comes up from the South Coast 2 days a week, is now on summer break for the whole month. We won’t be seeing him again until February. But as there is so much coming in from the garden each day, we haven’t noticed any lack in our diet.

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Last night we picked tomatoes, capsicums, chillis, Zucchinis and fully formed scarlet runner beans. These are too coarse to eat whole now, so I peeled them and we added the fresh beans to the vegetable marsala mix. Starting off with my Xmas present of lemon myrtle infused olive oil, onion and garlic, then sweating down the vegetables in the juice of the tomatoes, aided by a little dash of white wine. To keep the lemony theme going I add a little sprig of lemon thyme, some basil leaves and two quarters of diced, preserved lemon rind. This is simmered down to a delicate crunchy softness.

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I served this super-fresh garden passata-like sauce over soba noodles. I love watching soba noodles cook. They take one minute to soften, then as they loosen up, they start to roll in the boiling water, for about 2 minutes, and then as they swell and expand, they slowly stop rolling and tumbling, about one minute, and they are ready. To keep the fresh lemony zangy flavour profile going, I served the meal topped with a very tiny sprinkling of Japanese Sansho pepper. 

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This stuff is exceptional. It has a delicate lemony fragrance and initial taste. The taste is so good and so complex that I want to taste more, zingy, zesty, bright, savoury citrus-like flavour. It is so more-ish, but when you have that little bit more, it starts to make your tongue go numb. So I restrain my self adding just the very smallest amount. We buy this pepper in the markets in Japan each visit, freshly ground each day and then vacuum sealed in a foil sachet. We buy it on our last day before flying out and take it straight to the freezer compartment of out fridge. Here it keeps its freshness and full flavour for a year, or until we run out. last trip I bought several packets, some as gifts, but mostly because I’m greedy.

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Now it just so happens that I have the perfect pot to serve the right amount of sansho pepper in. This tiny little dish was once an ancient, broken Chinese Bowl. The only part left in tact was the foot rim. The remnants of the bowl body was ground away down to just the undamaged foot itself. Measuring about 30mm across and 25 mm inside and just 6 mm deep. It is ideal for presenting just the smallest amount of sansho pepper. A perfect re-imagining, reworking and re-use of a remnant of a gorgeous ancient Chinese bowl. Perfect!

 

The Glorious Weeks of High Summer

We have entered the glorious weeks of high summer, where it’s just too hot to do much physical activity in the middle of the day. Having both had skin cancers removed – fortunately at early stages, we are careful to wear long sleeves and a hat when we are out. We start early in the garden and orchards, as we want to be out of the sun before it gets too hot in the middle of the day. We work until lunch time and then stay inside until the heat has passed in the afternoon, then we get back out there and do some more.

The jobs vary, but they are never-ending. There is always something to be done, often needed in a hurry. The morning starts with picking fruit. We have passed peak young berry and although we are still getting some each day, we are no longer picking kilos a day. At the peak, our biggest day was 3 kg. We will continue to get less and less, picking only every second day now, up until Xmas day, or thereabouts.

We have reached peak blueberry season today with 2 x 200mm. plastic containers of blueberries. We have about 20 plants, some doing well and others not so well. They are high maintenance and very demanding.

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Blueberries won’t do well unless all their demanding criteria are met. They need to grow in a bog of fresh seeping, acid water, or at least watered every second day. They also need to grow in acid conditions, preferably a very well-drained situation. So here, where we are, up on top of this dry, stoney, drought ridden ridge, there is no natural place for them. We have tried them in the ground in a couple of places, even mulching with huge amounts of acidic leaf litter and the addition of a little sulphur powder to the soil, but they are not happy, even though we water them well, I suspect that they are not sufficiently well drained. They are growing, but not too well, hardly putting on any growth. They do flower and set fruit, but only in moderate amounts. They have only grown 700 mm. high in half a dozen years. Our second attempt, also in the ground in the vegetable garden, where we dug in copious quantities of acidic leaf litter and she-oak mulch, they did much the same, they didn’t thrive, but we do get some fruit from them.

Our best effort to date was to plant them in tubs filled only with naturally acidic leaf litter and detritus from the wood pile and from around the wood splitter, this being almost entirely made up of coarse, fibrous woody compost-like material. These 7 plants have grown 1.2 metres in one year and have flowered and set a great crop. They still need to be watered regularly, but boy are they productive. I’m still finding it hard to believe that a plant can grow so well in nothing but tree bark and saw dust! A medium that has no soil in it. It’s certainly well-drained and is naturally acidic. It seems to be just a matter of keeping up the water to them.

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We have just started to pick the first santarosa plums along with the last of the apricots. Now that the apricots are over for us, the net is no longer needed there and we have decided to move this big net off the apricot tree this morning and along with its poly-pipe hoops and have set it up over the second plum-tree. The elephant heart plum.  These plums are still green now, but will be turning red soon, and that red colour always attracts the birds. So far we have managed well with the birds this season.

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Once the poly hoops are set up and the netting transferred, I drag the last of the netting over and manage to trap one luscious Janine and two chooks under the net. Now we can relax a bit. All that is left to do is to move the DAK pots and fruit fly lures across from the other tree. I try and keep at least one fruit fly lure inside every net. I spend $50 each year on fruit fly trap re-fills and a bag of dynamic lifter. Even growing your own fruit isn’t free + the hundreds of hours spent in the maintenance and watering, but this isn’t really work. It’s better described as fun and recreation, otherwise you wouldn’t do it.

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The late peaches are ripening, I suspect that it won’t be long and we will have these on the menu too. The late peaches are luscious, dense, yellow fleshed and so flavorsome. They put the super early white peaches to shame for flavour, but the early peaches are always first, so we are so glad to get them and really appreciate them for their sweetness. We don’t realise how thin the flavour is because we are so looking forward to eating them after 12 months without peaches. Now in the midst of the high summer heat and ever so long days, the solstice is just a few days away, we are getting picky. For instance, we have stopped picking and eating the mulberries, there is always so much more and better fruit at this time of year. We let the birds have most of those, we just take the easy low hanging fruit these days.

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The strawberries are still continuing to produce regular pickings since spring, never too many, but just regular and steady, we have the strawberries mulched with pine needles that Janine sweeps up from under the big pine trees after every storm. We have a constant pile of it down where the truffle trees are growing. We use it for litter in the chook run and in their nesting boxes. After I rake it out of the chook rum every few weeks, along with a load of pooh all mixed in with it, it gets wheel-barrowed to the citrus grove and used for mulch around the trees in there. Nothing is wasted, everything has a use and a re-use.

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Looking back at our mornings work, I can see that there is a lot of grass grown up under where the netting has been. I get out the whipper-snipper thing and see to it, then think that I should also do all the paths in the veggie garden while I’m out here and into it. Couch grass never sleeps in this hot weather. I can’t afford to let it get a hold in the garden beds. One thing leads to another. There is no end to jobs. But the sun is right up there now and its almost 12-ish and time to put the mower away and go inside for lunch and then some inside work till it cools off. It’s a good thing that the days are so long right now, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to get it all done.

I get out there again and dig out a nasty patch of couch grass that has got a hold of part of the garden path. I set too with the mattock and dig it out roots and all. It’s hot sweaty work, but very rewarding when you look back after you’ve finished!

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This is a job that won’t need doing again for another year in this spot, but there are still 3 more patches just like it at the other ends of the pathways.

I must have been wicked!

The First Ripe Tomato of the Summer

This is a special occasion for us. To get the first red ripe tomato on the 16th of December!

We have had a ripe tomato before Xmas before, maybe a couple of times in the last 5 years, but usually either just a day or two before Xmas or more likely in the week before New Year.

This is very early for us. I did buy 6 seedlings from the nursery when we returned from Korea in October and planted them out under our temporary closhe to beat the frosts and get them started extra early. See a previous posting;
Back Home in the Garden   Posted on
I have since planted another 20 plants, the most recent as recently as last week. I want to have plenty of fruit for making tomato passata in the summer. We are down to our last 4 jars from last summers harvest left in the pantry now. We’ll just make it through the year. perfect!

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The deliciously sweet tang of vitamin ‘C’

After the early peaches have peaked, it is time for the maxed-out berry season. This week we will pick a couple of kilos of youngberries from our canes each day, some times its 3 kgs in a pick. Janine has developed several recipes for using these deliciously tangy, sweet acidy berries, but there are so many that come into season so quickly, we can’t eat them all fresh from the canes. The best way to cope with the peak is to preserve them in vacuum jars. We use them later to make fruit jelly desert, or a jar of the preserved pulp is used in a berry baked sponge desert in the winter.

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Yesterday we picked just over 3 kgs. The panty is already well stocked, she made red berry juice by heating the berries in a big pan. No added water, just simmered in their own juice, sieved through a kitchen mouli, to remove the seeds, then bottled while still hot. It’ll keep for a year in the pantry.

Another favourite at this time is to use the berry juice to make a fruit/suger syrup for use in icecream. Berry ice cream is a very nice desert. Janine makes this very simply by mixing some berry juice sryup in with a packet of pure cream, then whipping it and freezing it. The mixture needs to be taken out of the freezer twice a day and re-whisked the next day to make it more fluffy. That’s it, cream suger and berries. Couldn’t be more basic, simple and deliciously fruity and tangy, totally natural and no added chemicals. Maybe the sugar and the dairy fat content of this recipe should carry a warning not to over-do it! A very small bowl of this after a nice meal in summer is pretty special.

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Peak Peach

We have reached peak early-peach season now. We are picking more than we can eat for breakfast and desert each day. When we get to this point of the harvest, it’s time to start preserving the excess for later in the year.

We still use the very old-fashioned vacuum preserving jars that we bought 2nd hand in the 1970’s. They are easy to use and keep the food well-preserved for a very long time without any extra energy being applied to keep them. Once heated and sealed, we store them in the pantry for the winter months when there is no fresh fruit from the orchards.

To store them most efficiently, we should segment them to get more into the jar, but preserving them whole retains the stone and the lovely marzipan flavour that comes with that. Marzipan flavour from peach stones and almonds is actually a very weak kind of cyanide. How can anything so poisonous be so delicious? Clearly there isn’t very much of it in there.

Janine poaches them for a few minutes before placing them in the jars and sealing them, followed by a slow-rolling simmer. Hey presto.

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The ‘Vacola’ company hand book  tells us that to get the first quality result necessary to win a prize at the local agricultural show or to take out a first at the CWA meeting. The fruit should never quite be brought to the boil, but kept at 99oC for an hour or so to sterilize it, but not overheat it and cause possible shrinkage  of the beautiful geometric packing order of the fruit!!!

Country women must have had a lot of spare time on their hands?

The First Week of Summer – Salad Days

We have just finished our first week of summer. Wow! bush fires and heat waves. What a way to start. Of course it’s not the earliest that we have had bushfires here with the new weather pattern of global warming bringing on regime of 9 months of summer. We have had a bush fire here in our village a few years back in October 2013. That is so early in the season for a wild-fire. So this is our new life, we think that we are prepared. We have done what we can.

I heard on the news that they had 47oC in the north. How can you live with that? I’m sure that it would kill off our vegetable garden. I have been constantly sowing and re-sowing successive plantings of salad greens so that we can always have a few green leaves in our salads. We have planted several types of rocket this year; normal, narrow leaf, broad leaf, red leaf and wasabi rockets varieties. These along with 3 varieties of radishes, Japanese Mizuma greens, baby spinach, shiso, and 3 types of lettuces. it makes for an interesting variety of salads.

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