Monday, January 31, 2011

What the neighbours are up to

Bobbie, Sheila and Sonya, all very busy on our pear bottling day. Sheila has a lovely pear tree in her garden, and with help from the neighbours with the picking and bottling, it has been a huge success especially for those who weren't familiar with the bottling process.

Campbell owns this pack horse, which should come in handy in our street. What a shame they don't have hitching rails at the Supermarket, then we could all borrow the horse to get our groceries, which would add to our car-less days. Haha.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Bottling, Preserves & Vegies for the Freezer

I have been quite productive in the kitchen, and have so far stewed Andy's lovely rhubarb and made about 15 jars, more coming your way Andy, and have given Bobbie a couple of jars which she and David love having for breakfast, a couple of jars of pickled onions in curry sauce, preserved sliced beetroot, and one small jar of pickled gherkins, (that is the start of more jars when we have more to pick, bottles of lemon cordial, and of course lots of jars of Cabbage Pickle.
I have also started freezing surplus fresh vegetables to use next Winter. So far I have done a large bag of Cauliflower, Broccoli, and Beans. I have been doing this for a number of years and find that I only ever need to buy some carrots, and onions. Big money savings here!!
The following Cabbage Pickle I have been making for the last 40 years, and it is a good way of using up those extra cabbages we are left with after having given the family some, and eaten some ourselves, (why do we plant so many??).

Cabbage Pickle

1 Large Cabbage
6 Large Onions
About 1½ – 2 ltrs White vinegar (depending on size of cabbage)
Cut up cabbage and onions, then boil in white vinegar until cooked.

2 cups sugar
½ cup Flour
1tsp Curry Powder
2 tsp Mustard
A little vinegar

Mix these ingredients to a paste with little vinegar, add to the cooked cabbage, onions, and vinegar, and boil until it thickens. Add Tumeric for colour, then ladle into hot jars and tighten lids, and leave until the lids have sealed and the jars have cooled down, then store. I sterilise my clean recycled jars in the oven at 100 degrees for about 20 minutes.

My family love this pickle especially the sons-in-law.

Footprint Progress, Giant Scallopini and Garden Hints

At least two of us have gone into the KCDC. Website and have redone the Enviromental Footprint questionnaire, and lo and behold 2 earths have been saved off each of our original footprints!! Hoorah.

This is a photograph of a large scallopini grown in our garden, the others have been the normal, smaller size.

For garden compost some tips which are helpful are to try and get hold of old used coffee grounds, and spread in your compost bins, or just simply spread on your vegetable gardens and under shrubs, flowers, rose bushes. Coffee grounds contain nitrogen, magnesium, calcium, potassium and other trace elements, and are excellent for garden use.  Here is an excellent website which lists a myriad of things you can do with coffee grounds -

Liquid Horse Manure: Half fill up a sugar sack with horse manure and using an old metal rubbish bin, (with lid), or a similar plastic bin, you tie off the sack and hang it in the bin and fill up with water. Dilute the water until it has achieved a consistency of tea, it can be used to water around the vegetable garden. Keep topping up the water in the bin to replace liquid taken out, and when the tea eventually becomes too week then remove sack and start again with more more horse manure.

Rhubarb Leaves: Take the old leaves and cut them up and boil in large pot. Strain off the liquid and discard the leaves, and the resultant liquid can be used as an excellent spray on vegetables as it repels white butterflys and other insects.

Don't forget to use your old banana skins as feed for Roses – they will love you for it.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Living Off the Land

One of our key strategies for reducing the environmental footprint in Te Roto Road is to live off the land as much as possible.  We know we have an abundance of fertile soil and land area, so we have given this special attention.  And not just what we grow for ourselves, but how we can contribute as a community and distribute our produce with one another.  Today is a living example of this in action.

It started with a walk to visit our neighbour Steve Yung who operates a market garden at the end of the street.  Steve has very kindly offered to give surplus produce to street members and today's haul saw us departing with a trolley full of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower - each the size of basketballs.  And a 'couple of handfuls' of runner beans to boot.  These veges are so fresh that a neighbour said her broccoli lasted for over three weeks in the fridge while they chipped away at it.  Wow!

It was a lovely walk and it gave us the opportunity to discuss our own vege patches and our favourite recipes.  So now we have a plan to put together a street recipe collection.  Personally, I am not a huge fan of cabbage but after hearing about Pat's Cabbage Pickle, I can't wait to make some (recipe to follow at a later date).  And we are going to hold our own cooking demonstrations so the experts can teach the novices how to make jam, pickles and jellies.  This is so much fun!

And it was interesting to talk to Steven too.  He has been in Otaki since 1947 working the land like his father did before him - and now his son is involved too.  Boy, he could tell a few stories and pass on a few skills about growing veges.  It gave us an idea for a community project ...

Campbell's Garden November 2010
 And talking of vege gardens - here are some before and after shots of the Campbell's garden.  How impressive is this?  The first shot was taken on our launch day in mid November.  They grow such an interesting array of veges - sourced locally from Watsons in Bell Street, Otaki.   And they know a lot of tricks about keeping trees healthy and vege plots productive.  And Pat has loads of recipe ideas for us.  So a 'Hi 5' to Te Roto Road and Otaki!!!

Campbell's Garden January 2011

Oh, and we called in to see the street piglets that we've acquired as part of our sustainable food project.  They are growing quickly and are being fed on vege scraps from the market garden.  It reminded my of 'River Cottage' - I bet Hugh would be impressed if he came to visit.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Strawberry Birdcages

My sister gave me a fantastic idea yesterday.  She has a strawberries growing in her garden and the birds usually win the race when it comes to picking the ripe ones!  Well I don't know if you call it ironic or not, but she has devised a plan to outwit the birds.  She just so happened to have some empty birdcages in her shed so she removed the bottoms and plonked them over her strawberry plants.  Now guess who gets first pick of the ripe and juicy strawberries?  Consequently I'm on the lookout for birdcages.  They're decorative and functional!

Pick Your Own Raspberries

The berry house has been my best friend this season.  It houses raspberries, blackcurrants and redcurrants but it's the raspberries that I favour.  They are proliferic producers and with over a dozen bushes, they do keep me busy as they require a gentle picking every day!

 But the week of rain just prior to Christmas was more than the raspberries could bear and I could only watch as about 50% of the crop turned to mush.  (Taking solace of course that the garden was getting a well needed drink.)

Fortunately, Cameron, one of the neighbour's boys, came to the rescue and offered to help pick raspberries.  It had been suggested to him by another neighbour - Campbell, so 'thank you Campbell'.  School had finished for the year and Cameron was full of energy so lucky me!

Well - we spent about three hours in that berry house.  Mostly picking off the ruined raspberries and also harvesting the crop of freshly ripened ones which seemed to be ripening right before our eyes.  Two huge punnets went home with Cameron (one for Campbell's family) and two went into my freezer. 

And the berry house was tidy and rid of all the rotten fruit which would have spoiled the rest of the crop.  Thank heavens for helpful neighbours!

So far this season the raspberries have been eaten fresh (delicious with vanilla icecream - unbeatable), mixed into Raspberry Cocktails (thank you Tracey - I must get the recipe from you), and made into a Raspberry Syrup (there are lots of recipies for this simple, delicious syrup but I used Annabel Langbein's one from 'The Free Range Cook' - absolutely outstanding!).  

So if you're not growing raspberries then I recommend that you do.  They are the most wonderful and rewarding berry to grow.  They are the most beautiful colour.  The prickles don't really prick you, and the fruit literally falls off into your hand when you pick them.  And, of course, they are sensationally delicious. So they are a thoroughly worthy crop to grow.