Monday, 21 July 2014

pumpkin harvest

So we have a few pumpkins at the moment. Ummm, just a few. These were grown down in my Dad's orchard over the summer. Remember the ones we've been keeping an eye on?  Well, they tend to go wild and multiply.

I know I'm going to be sick of the taste of pumpkin in a couple of months time. The challenge is always on to come up with new and exciting ways to eat it!

Any ideas? What do you guys make with pumpkin?

Sunday, 13 July 2014

the land of citrus

At the moment it feels a little like we are living in the land of citrus. Like we popped our heads through the clouds and the land of orange, yellow and green hues magically appeared.

Anything citrus-y, you name it, it all loves to grow here. Oranges, mandarins, lemons, limes, cumquats, grapefruit. We are well and truly surrounded by it at the moment.

Our own citrus orchard is nothing to be sniffed at. We grow more than enough to feed ourselves and have plenty to give away. We grow so much, we could probably sell some as a little side crop if we wanted to.

But my parents, well, they have the motherload. Acres of orange, yellow and green fruit hanging from heavy branches. I remember helping to plant them when I was a kid. Many of them are taller than a house now. Crazy big. Some so heavily laden the trees are groaning under their weight.

This year one tree actually snapped. A little bit of wind and all that fruit, well the poor tree lost a few limbs. I'm sure it will shoot new limbs again. It's a healthy old tree. Goodness, is there ever some fruit though.

It's been a funny old year for citrus. We've had a very dry year with a long summer and the trees are confused. Some trees are loaded to the hilt, while others are quite bare. It's like some freaked out and overproduced while others decided to just close up shop.

Not that we're in any danger of running out of citrus here. Hundreds of trees loaded with fruit is really a sight to behold.

Let's just say Vitamin C is never in short supply.

Monday, 7 July 2014

winter days on the farm

It's holiday time here, which means loads more time to spend at the farm. Nothing like running around in the sunshine on a winter's day.

The mornings are icy at the moment. It's a chilly old winter and Jack Frost seems to have found us again this year. After quite a few warm winters, this one takes me back to my childhood when winters were cold and frosty every morning. Fortunately the days are filled with sunshine which works its magic to warm everything up beautifully. You'd never know it was winter during the day.

But those nights, well they have taken the plants by surprise as well. The frost has wiped out the last of the tomatoes, the pumpkin vines and a few potatoes that were sprouting away.

At the farm, we've spent some time clearing the last of the pumpkins. The grammas that have been growing on the fencing are left hanging on brittle and blackened vines. They must come in as well. The tomatoes are pretty much only fit for the chooks now. They are definitely having Christmas in July.

All the produce that can be stored is carefully packed away, ready for eating over the next few months.

It's not just our bellies that need to be thought about over winter either.

The frost wipes out all the kikuyu grass, which the animals feed on for most of the year. Luscious green winter ryegrass which was planted months ago in some of the paddocks will hold the cattle over until springtime. Silage which was made over autumn will also brought out as it is needed over the coming months.

No-one on the farm ever goes hungry, you can be sure about that.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

how to make ricotta cheese- in a flash!

Ricotta cheese must be the easiest cheese ever to make. Do you have some milk near its use-by date in the fridge that you don't know what to do with? Don't throw it out. Make some cheese. Trust me, you'll be so pleased with yourself, you'll wonder why you haven't tried it before.

This is the simplest ricotta cheese to make. No adding cream. Just basic milk. Super cheap to make and great for using up milk that is about to turn.

Here's how to do it:

Heat 1 litre milk with a pinch a salt until it is almost at a simmer (I took mine to about 85 degrees on a candy thermometer). Then remove from heat and stir through 1/3 cup white vinegar. Don't stir too much! You'll see the curds and whey start to separate immediately. Let it sit for a few minutes in the pot and then strain through a muslin cloth until the whey has all dripped away (about 15 mins).

What you are left with is very basic ricotta cheese!

Dress it up any way you like. I can say first hand, it definitely turns into really great pie!

Thursday, 3 July 2014

this week in my kitchen

Joining in with Heather from Beauty That Moves, showing some glimpses into my kitchen this week.

This pie came about from a "use-it-up" exercise. I am really trying to waste as little food as possible these days (both from the garden and from the fridge/pantry). Our food budget has been playing on my mind. While we save money by growing our own vegetables, I'm trying to cut back at the grocery store as well. To use what we have first, before buying more. To work our way through our pantry and freezer. To really question my purchases before making them.  
Do we really need it? Every bit really does add up.

I had some milk in the fridge that was about to expire, but there was no way I was going to throw it away. Instead I made up some ricotta cheese with it. So easy to do, and it only takes a few minutes! I'll make sure I write up how I made it next week. It's such a useful little trick to have up your sleeve.

Then using some spinach, silverbeet/chard and spring onions from the garden, a couple of eggs, a few potatoes and onions from the pantry and a bit of cheese and homemade yoghurt from the fridge, this pie was born. I even had a few sheets of puff pastry in the freezer.

I love that there was no going to the store to buy new ingredients. I also love that it used up things that might have gone to waste. Everything was on hand (either in the garden/fridge/freezer).

Such a cheap and cheerful meal that the kids just loved.

Cost of pie (8 generous serves, enough to feed our family of 5 for 2 nights):

spinach (from the garden)
eggs (from my parent's chickens)
spring onions (from the garden)
ricotta cheese (made from milk that was about to expire): $3.00
potatoes: $0.50
onions: $0.30
homemade yoghurt: $0.20
puff pastry: $1.50
small amount of tasty cheese grated: $0.50

Total cost of pie: $6.00
Cost per serve: $0.75

It was super tasty, served up with some salad from the garden. Delicious and budget friendly.
Gotta love that!

To read more about how we're saving money in the garden, go HERE.

Wanna see what else has been happening in my kitchen? Go HERE.

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Wednesday, 2 July 2014

in my garden: right now

So this is what the garden is looking like right now.

The peas are just starting to finish up. I've only got one lot of snow peas left growing along the fence. I've ripped the peas out that were in the beds and replanted with some onions, new lettuces, carrots, beetroots, radishes and more broccoli. The peas along the fence are still producing, but starting to die off a bit, so I'll have to rip those out soon as well.

I've replanted another lot of peas along the fence and I'll also plant a whole heap of peas down in another paddock on our property to make sure we still have plenty of peas coming in. We've harvested bucketfuls of them, but we love them so much I'll keep planting them until the heat of summer forces me to stop. That's a whole lotta pea planting still to be done!

I must say, the garden is feeding us very well at the moment.

Currently harvesting: peas, broccoli, kale, lettuce, rocket, silverbeet/chard, english spinach, wombok, herbs, carrots, beetroots, leeks and early strawberries.

We've had some decent sized frosts this year which have bitten off all the basil. Everything else is powering along though and I'm loving my time out there as the sun warms up these winter days.

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