Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Orchard origins

Where the orchard is planned is probably the flattest area on the block with only the gentlest of slopes towards the dam.  It would have been the perfect spot for a vegie patch aside from the need to plan an expedition, pack rations and don hiking gear and a Nepalese basket just to fetch some ingredients for dinner.  The driveway curves deceptively gently into the area and out again, making it difficult to design a staggered layout without adjusting the driveway which involve far too much lugging around of heavy gravel and result in me doing more staggering than the trees.

We decided to start the first row at the narrowest part and work either down towards the dam or each side of the row in the hope that there would be enough room to stagger the trees.  On marking it out it won't quite work that way but we should be able to fiddle with the edge of the driveway just a tad to make it right.

We started with the row marked Pecan, although the citrus will actually be there instead.  Still deciding whether to do a row above or just continue down towards the dam
I was trying to fit all the fruit trees of one family (eg citrus, rosaceae) together in a row but I'm not sure this is going to happen now unless we massively expand the citrus collection or abandon the lime as we'll only fit four trees across in this row. No doubt the former would mean a huge haul of citrus right through winter that we would then need to ply on our neighbours, families, work colleagues and perhaps even complete strangers when desperation finally set in.  The deciduous trees (rosaceae - apples, pear, stone fruit) were planned to be closest to the dam so that the cool air would help them get as much chill time as possible in winter.  This means we'd better decide what's going in the middle before we make the final row.

Despite all these grand plans we've so far managed to dig the grand sum of a single hole (a much easier job here than at the last place - no broken tools this time), mix in some mushroom compost and, nearly a month later, buy the first tree: a Washingon Navel Orange.  Something tells me this orchard will be a very long-winded work in progress.  At the present rate we'll end up starting row two as the first tree starts to bear fruit!

Just because I like things to be on the difficult side, currently there's no water supply to the area so a new hose attachment to the dam pump will need to be sorted out soon unless the rain decides to arrive. There's only so many times I'm willing to walk a bucket from the house to the orchard especially as I discovered yesterday I may now have to run the gauntlet of a swooping butcher bird.

To add insult to injury, all the fruit trees at the old place exploded in flowers shortly after we left. It's almost like they're celebrating our departure.  The only consolation is that we can still go back to harvest them for a short while.

The Washington Navel Orange looking a little exasperated at having to put down new roots

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Potager progress

It's about time I updated everyone on how the potager is progressing.  It's been plodding along quite slowly but it's getting there and the general idea is starting to take shape.  Planting seedlings in containers has given the project the nudge it needs as the beds have to be ready in time for the plants to have somewhere to continue growing.

The first corner bed.  It will eventually be for herbs and flowers but to start with it will most likely have some vegie seedlings in it until the main beds are done.

The asparagus needed planting first as these two crowns were transplanted from the old place and were threatening to shrivel away while trying to shoot in a bucket in the garage.  I planted herbs and seeds around them but so far only the cosmos has come up.  The edging rock is basalt which was already on the property and the landscape supply man tells me it's from Beaudesert.

Completed beds in grey.
Now to find some materials for the first archway.  One of the winged beans is up so it will be the first climber to go in.  I can't wait until we have fresh vegies again, straight from the garden.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Easy vegie fritters

I had a hankering for some vegie fritters the other day so I thought I'd throw together some for lunch and take the rest for dinner at work.  We were out of creamed corn so I had to take inspiration from the vegies in the fridge.  Sweet potato and pumpkin were the obvious winners. We've still got a few extra eggs even though we've been giving some to the neighbours for their growing boys so it was a good opportunity to use up a couple.  The Colliwat pumpkins are still in abundance too so this helped get through some.

Five fabulous fresh flavoursome fritters...and what's left of number six.
Here's a rough guide to the recipe which makes approximately 10 (although I wasn't really counting because I ate them as I cooked):

1 finely chopped spring onion (bulb and green bits)
~1cup grated sweet potato
~1/2-1 cup grated pumpkin
2 eggs
~1/2 cup wholemeal flour or gluten free flour if needed
Spice and/or herbs of your choice - cumin combines well with anything in my books but I was in a hurry so some curry powder did the trick
Some cheese might also make them a little more filling - try ricotta or feta

Combine the ingredients except the flour in a bowl, then sprinkle the flour over the top and mix in until you get the right consistency.  Add enough flour so that the mixture isn't too wet.

Place spoonfuls in a hot pan and flatten with a spatula.  Turn once when brown.  Remove from pan and place on absorbent paper long enough that you don't burn your fingers when you pick them up to eat.  Enjoy!

Friday, 6 September 2013

Yoghurt Bread

We bought a tub of plain yoghurt for a curry the other night (hubby wasn't impressed with my home made yoghurt attempts so we have to stick to store bought for now) and there was far too much. Unfortunately there weren't any smaller tubs available at the local grocer so to use up the yoghurt and a few eggs I thought I'd try a sweet yoghurt bread recipe.  The recipe called for figs but you can add any dried fruit that takes your fancy - I used dried apricot because that's what I had in the cupboard but you could try fresh blueberries, raisins, dates, apple, or something a bit more out there like dried pineapple or mango.

I also skipped the icing but you could add it on to get a real bakery finish for a special morning tea.

The recipe is from Bake It by Murdoch Books:

650g white bread flour
1 tbs ground cinnamon (or any other spice you like or leave it out if you don't like)
3 tsp dry yeast
2 eggs, lightly beaten
250g Greek yoghurt
125ml (1/2 cup) lukewarm milk
90g honey
60g butter chopped
100g chopped dried fruit of your choice

1 egg
2 tbs milk

375g icing sugar
80mL lemon juice

Combine 600g of flour, spice, yeast, 1tsp salt in a bowl (or use electric mixer with dough hook).  Make a well in the centre and pour in combined eggs, yoghurt, milk and honey.  Mix to combine then mix in butter and dried fruit.   Knead by hand or machine for 10 mins until dough is smooth and elastic adding extra flour as needed.

Grease a bowl with oil and sit the dough in it to rise until doubled.  Cover with plastic wrap or a damp tea-towel. 

Punch down dough gently then divide into 6 equal portions.  (Some people prefer to carefully turn out the dough and divide it before punching down).  Roll each portion to 30cm long logs.  Plait three lengths together and tuck in the ends to form a braid loaf.  (If you braid with two lengths doubled over then cut 4 portions instead of 6).  Transfer to a greased baking tray and leave to rise again for about half an hour until doubled again.  Preheat the oven to 220 deg C (425 deg F).

Mix egg and milk to make glaze and brush loaves.  Bake for 10 mins at 220, then reduce head to 180 deg C (350 deg F) and bake for a further 20 mins until bread sounds hollow when tapped.  Cover with foil if they are browning too quickly.

Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.

Combine icing sugar, lemon juice and 2 tbs boiling water to make icing.  Drizzle over cooled loaves. Enjoy once the icing has hardened.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Open Garden at Birdhaven

It had been a while since we'd gone to an Open Garden and this one came at an ideal time to explore what will grow in the local area and for a refreshing take on gardening.  Birdhaven is a vast collection of native flora that - as you probably guessed - provides a habitat and food source for many types of bird.  The garden lives up to its name with plenty of small birds and larger nectar feeders flitting through the garden the whole afternoon.
The block is about 2.5 acres in size and the owners have largely left the natural landscape untouched; including a huge natural rock formation that provides a fun place for kids to play or a lovely spot to sip a cup of tea in the afternoon.

Plantings consisted mostly of grevilleas and acacias with a huge number of different specimens of each.  Natives have also been allowed to remain or regenerate with dianellas dotted around the place and some large and medium trees acting as canopy.

As well as the extensive native garden there was a large vegetable garden and orchard complete with two beehives.  With the citrus and nasturtiums in full bloom, the bees didn't have far to go for a meal.

One of the few non-natives: Arbutus menziesii

Birds weren't the only wildlife around

The grevilleas captured the afternoon light and took on a real glow

Busy bees

A perfect winter reptilian hideaway

One of the many dianellas

Lechenaultia biloba - a real show stopper and native from WA

The scent from this was amazing but not overpowering

Doryanthes palmeri - a striking plant and flower that definitely needs a large garden with 2m long leaves
Congratulations to Denis Cox and Jan Glazebrook on a beautiful achievement both aesthetically and environmentally.