Sunday, April 21, 2013

Dried Apples, Jelly and Vinegar

Last year was a nashi year, but this year I ate only two. Instead, this year has been an apple year. I dried four large Agee jars full of cooking apples, then quite a lot of eating apples: it's hard to say how many because we keep eating them! I am so glad to have invested in a bigger slicing blade for my Magimix food processor, and in my wonderful Excalibur dehydrator.

 As you can see, one bag is almost empty, even though we haven't finished eating the fresh apples yet.

After I mentioned on Facebook that I was dehydrating apples, one of my FB friends, Mac's cousin Emma, suggested that I turn the peelings and cores into vinegar.
 Why not? Here's the last lot soaking in a bucket with water and a splash of cider vinegar.
 Something's definitely happening - whether it ends up edible, we will discover in time.
Meanwhile, the feijoas started to fall at the rate of a bucketful a day. After getting a new stockpot at Farmers with a 60% discount, I started out with the promise of not having to spend hours afterwards scrubbing chacoal off the bottom as I had to do every time when using my late mother-in-law's preserving pan. I boiled up the feijoas,
then put them to strain through cloth bags, into the very useful buckets I got from a fellow beekeeper. They originally held the rather disgusting filling that you get in slices from bakeries.
 They come with lids, which keep the wretched plague of small flies that have invaded us, out of the jelly bags.
 After boiling up the liquid with fair trade sugar from Trade Aid, I end up with beautiful jelly, which will be distributed to family. Thanks to the Edmonds Cookery Book.

Meanwhile, outside the rain was falling and the garden was gasping with relief and enthusiasm after the weeks of dry weather.
The leeks have grown a few inches.
The pumpkin vines, which had started to die off, have sprouted new shoots and flowers, in a burst of unwarranted optimism.
The broad beans and peas have sprouted, and the brassica seedlings are standing up again, instead of lying limply on the dry ground.
The rhubarb is looking healthy again, not only from the rain, but also from being released from underneath an over-excited pumpkin vine, and fed a couple of buckets full of worm wee.
And the Meyer lemon tree - there's really nothing more joyful than the globes of sunshine adorning a lemon tree - hmmm - there might just be enough eggs to make a couple more jars of lemon honey tomorrow.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

April in the Garden

For a long time I have loved the idea of growing as much of our food as possible. And I have loved picking it, and eating it and preserving it.

 Red onions - the seedlings were from someone Mac works with - there's a group of them who share surplus seedlings and produce.
 I uncovered the rhubarb from its covering of pumpkin leaves but.....
...... under the rhubarb leaves were two large pumpkins!
 I cut the mint and lemon balm back because they had gotten rust, and trimmed the thyme - what a sweet job - the scent was divine!
 Best capsicum season I've ever had.
 The pumpkins are everywhere this year; some I planted, some just appeared from the compost.
 A little silverbeet, leeks, and NZ spinach
 A few beetroot, carrots, capsicum, parsley.
 The cucumbers are still producing, and there's a whole bunch more pumpkins in there too. The bare patches have all been sown with a cover crop, and are just waiting for the rain due this week.
The next set of beds: closest - broad beans; next - celery, brassica, a couple of lettuce, peas; and furtherest - a few last tomatoes, capsicum and courgettes; and dried up sweetcorn plants awaiting removal.

However, the sad truth was, I didn't really like the actual gardening part of the process!

Today I spent all day in the garden, sometimes listening to Chris Laidlaw on National Radio (great item on bees), sometimes just working in the quiet. Usually I get bored and fed up after an hour or two, but today, for the first time, I just enjoyed gardening, kneeling on the grass, hands in the soil, clearing weeds, uncovering plants and produce, watching the insects and bird, chatting to the dog, enjoying the sun on my back, and the wonderful feeling of working hard and successfully.

My elbows, wrists, neck and shoulders are aching, despite a soak in the bath and rubbing in pain relieving cream. But I feel great. I think this will be my first winter garden that makes it through the dark days, because I can't bear the thought of not gardening for months. I'm so lucky to live somewhere that I can garden all year round!