Chillies

Even though we are just two weeks away from winter, we are still managing to harvest a small bowl of little ripe tomatoes every few days. There are loads of chillies too. The chickens are still laying an egg each, almost every day, so we decide to have tomatoes and eggs on toast – with some chilli.

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Tomatoes with chilli simmered in a little olive oil has to be the best accompaniment for fried eggs. It’s so aromatic and tangy. It has to be one of my favourite winter breakfasts, and the pan juices are just crying out to be mopped up with some nice bread.

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Chilli seems to make so many dishes sing. We grow a range of chillies and capsicums each spring, but they are quite slow to grow for us and don’t decide to fully ripen the whole crop until autumn. I decide to look them up in my favourite plant book, “The Oxford Book Of Food Plants”. We were given our copy as a gift from the late John Meredith in The seventies and it has been an invaluable guide to information on the origins of food plants. I google this book and find that it is still available 2nd hand;

Oxford Book of Food Plants by S. G. Harrison (1970, Hardcover)

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With an authoritative name like S. Harrison, it would have to be a good read!

Pages 128/129 are all about peppers and chillies, including black pepper.

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Capsicums or sweet peppers (Capsicum Annum) are described as an annual plant grown from seed and originated in tropical America. This spices includes all the larger fruited kinds and are often picked while still green. These ‘peppers’ vary greatly in their pungency. In General, the larger the variety, the milder the flavour. In some parts of Europe, these fruits are called ‘Paprika’, while in Spain they are called ‘pimento’. The fruits  can be very high in vitamin ‘C’. Although often quite round in shape like the ‘bell’ pepper, they can be long and pointed. I don’t know what they are called in Korea, but there were huge quantities in the street markets, sold by the sack full. I believe that they were the hot variety of the annum family. They were quite large, long, tapered and pointed, and ripened to a very dark mahogany red colour.

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On the other hand, ‘Red pepper’ or ‘Chilli’ (Capsicum Frutescens) is a perennial plant or can be in the tropics, but the frost kills it here. It has less vitamin ‘C’ than capsicums. Pungency is described as being variable, but in general, it is much greater than in the capsicums. There are two main forms. The short spiky variety where the fruit often stick upwards. Sometimes called ‘birds eye’. These a smaller and smooth skinned.

The other main variety is longer and narrow with undulating skin and the fruit hang down. S Harrison in The Oxford Book Of Food Plants describes the longer gravitationally influenced variety as ‘red peppers’ while the short spiky gravitationally resistant variety he calls ‘chillies’. We grow them both and call them both chillies – long or short.

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I like the flavour of chillies , but I’m not any kind of masochist, just hot is hot enough. once I break out in a sweat, that’s hot enough. Two of our small hot chillies is about my comfort level in a meal.

Last night we had steamed capsicums stuffed with both red and green chillies, along with brown rice and some other condiments! Keeping it all the family!

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Another Little Portable Wood Fired Kiln Leaves the Workshop

We have been keeping busy rolling out the latest batch of little portable wood fired kilns. Another little wood fire Gem leaves for a new life of fun and fulfilment for another potter. All the remaining kilns are set up with gas burners for dual fuel firing.

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I spent most of last week making the burners and fitting them to the kiln on removable mountings that slide into place when needed.

These are the last of the first batch and while I wait for collection of these first orders, I start on the 2nd batch. There isn’t enough room in my small kiln building workshop for more than seven kilns at a time and still be able to move around safely and engage in productive work.

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I go to the garden after work and pick a load of vegetables for dinner, do a quick bit of weeding and do a little watering, as it is still incredibly dry with no rain storms to speak of for 14 months. The dams remain dry.

I cook a fresh snapper for dinner, steamed on the stove top in a big frypan with a little garlic, lemon juice and white wine.

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One Minute in My Life

At breakfast I finish my coffee and see the shadow of my fingers through the porcelain bowl that I’m drinking from.

I’m moved to capture the fleeting moment on my phone.

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I realise that it is a bit of a multicultural moment. I’m drinking Italian style coffee grown in New Guinea in the French style with milk at breakfast from a bowl made by and Englishman living in Australia, thrown and fired while in China. The table is made from Japanese cedar, grown in Australia.

At least the organic full cream milk was produced locally in Picton from our local dairy, but the cows are Friesian and Jersey.

 

Stihl Crazy After all These Years

As we have been whittling our way through this epic journey of felling, cutting, splitting and stacking all the wood from the 5 huge, dead, eucalyptus trees in and around our 7 acres. We experience a curious sense of exhausted comfort in working our way through the last tree. Tomorrow should see the end of it.

We couldn’t have done this so quickly without the help of friends and students to do some of the carrying and stacking. We worked quite hard today in the light showery sprinkles of rain to get half-way through the last tree. It’s hard to say exactly how much wood we have processed and stacked to season in the last 3 weeks of part-time labour, but I imagine that it must be somewhere approaching 20 tonnes. I’ve gone through almost 8 litres of bar and chain oil and the same of two-stroke mix in maintaining the saws. Chain saws are such a great invention. They make so much work possible. I couldn’t have done all this without them.

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Of course we were aided at every moment by the chickens. They know the sound of the chain saw and the splitter, and as they are free ranging all day, every day. They know where we are and what we are doing from the sounds that we make. It only takes minutes for them to turn up. Freshly split wood means fresh bugs and termites.

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After all this work, we reward our selves with a high carb, but low GI meal of solid wholemeal pasta topped with a home-made tomato passata sauce and a side dish of lightly steamed broccoli from the garden. All this without the addition of oil, salt or sugar. Not to mention, there are no preservatives, pesticides, or fertilisers used along the way. This is wholesome, fresh, homemade, nutritious food. Simple and plain, but not boring. A green garnish of fresh-picked basil and parsley completes the meal.

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Our little small holding here produces fuel for our stove and kilns, but also fuel for our bodies. Real work with a defined and obvious purpose, that leads to a positive and creative outcome along with home-grown and home made whole foods, these are all part of a well-considered complete life. I’m not sure if all this is working, but we are certainly having a good go at it.

Autumn has finally arrived

The weather is finally taking the calendar seriously. We have had our first seriously cold evening of the year. We even lit the fire, and although it was nice, it wasn’t really necessary and we hardly stoked it as we weren’t that cold, but it was a nice thing to do, quite comforting. It seems that summer has lasted 7 months now. I’m sort of pleased that we can now have some cooler weather.

I have been finishing off half a dozen little wood fired kilns, but have been held up waiting for some parts. So in the mean time, we have continued our wood cutting epic effort. We have almost finished cutting up, removing and stacking all the timber from the dead trees that we had taken down by the arborist. It’s been a mammoth job and will provide us with wood fuel for some years to come.

Having burnt off so much energy during the day, we feel that we can afford the calories and have pizza for dinner. I make up some rye flour dough during the afternoon and it is risen and proved by evening. I roll you a couple of thin bases and we use what we have in the fridge as toppings.

   

I start with a very basic wash of tomato passata sauce and then a sprinkling of finely chopped garlic. We build up the pizza with a few olives, capers and sliced artichoke hearts, topped with some cheese.

10 mins in a very hot oven does the trick.

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We make another one with sour cream, smoked salmon and red onion.

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We have a couple of slices from each one and put the rest in the fridge for lunch tomorrow. Home-made comfort junk-food is very nice once in a while.

Citrus Season Starts

We have the first of the citrus coming on now. Lemons, limes and lemonades. The trees are so loaded that a few of the breaches have snapped under the weight. Janine has made the first batch of lemon and lime marmalade. I use the spent skins of some of the excess to give my copper pans a good clean. After washing up, I give them a quick wipe over with the lemon skin and a dash of salt.

It brings them back to a shiny new look in seconds.

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Wood Cutting Working Bee

We have recently had 3 big dead eucalypt trees removed by our local arborist. One was struck by lightning, and the other two were killed by mistletoe. We paid the minimum, to just have them dropped to the ground. We took it on our selves to cut them up and remove all the blocks to storage and seasoning.

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We spent several days cutting up al the logs into small sizes, such that we could manage to move them. Janine and I spent a week whittling away at the big number one log and   finished the first tree by ourselves, but then had the wonderful assistance of some friends and pottery students for a day.

We have been so lucky to have these people volunteer their help for a day and come along to give us a hand in shifting all the logs that Janine and I had spent the week cutting up. It’s a huge task to lift and load several tonnes of wood and then shift it and stack it for seasoning.

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This is all very vigorous work and we sweat copiously in the heat. The larger, straight pieces were all cut to kiln size ‘hob’ length, while all the scrappy, small or bent pieces were all cut to 200mm. length for splitting for the house kitchen stove. The main central log was over 600mm dia. So it was too big to manage at ‘hob’ length of 700 mm. So I cut it to 200mm. just so that we would be able to manage the lifting and stacking. I rigged up a couple of planks , so that we could roll the bigger lumps up onto the truck to be carted to the wood shed and splitter.

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This should keep us going for a few years in the kitchen stove.

All the smaller dia. logs were cut to ‘kiln hob length’ of 650 to 700mm to suit the fire-box of the kiln, and then stacked for seasoning. A year or two should do it.IMG_0752

There is about 7 or 8 tonnes in this load of 19 stacks about 1200mm high.