Like these little origami seed packets, taught to me by Morag Gamble from Our Permaculture Life. Such a pleasure chopping up junk mail and turning it into these, and it makes sharing seed so barrier free.
Back in midwinter, I posted a picture of my new, very beautiful fruit bowl – a Yule gift – filled with winter fruit – oranges, mandarins, lemons, limes, grapefruit.
Then in Spring I posted a picture of it filled with spring fruit – pawpaws and strawberries in my part of the world.
And now it is full of mangoes and grapes. The first of the mangoes is j-u-st getting ripe. I admit we’ve cut a few a bit too early, impatience winning out. And still, really not quite there. Another week or so and it will be properly mango season. I have some jars of green mangoes salted on the bench and tomorrow I’ll make green mango pickle with them, and in a few weeks when the stringier, later mangoes get ripe I’ll make some mango and tomato chutney. But most will be mango smoothies and mangoes in salads and mango oatcakes for breakfast and lots just eaten as they are.
The grapes too are just coming on, maybe enough for a small batch of mosto cotto this year, but most will just be eaten as they are. Always something to fill the bowl.
I went out and mowed this morning early. Not as early as I would have liked – the mower is noisy and there are neighbours within a hundred metres of the community centre lawn, so I held back till 7.30 am. I’m normally up before 5 these mornings, so it meant I had a couple of hours in the garden and shadehouse before mowing. And still, that gives me a nice hour and a half before 9 am, then another half an hour to unload the mulch and I am in, showered and cool by 9.30.
Next week is predicted to be heavy rain and a nice thick layer of mulch will mean the chooks aren’t squelching around in mud. The garden needs lots of mulch to survive days like this, and I need an hour or two of physical activity. I can spend the whole middle of the day writing now without compunction.
I put sprinklers on when I first got up, and moved them around in those few hours, so that by 9.30 every bed had had a good deep watering. It is days like this that I reap the value of soil with a lot of water holding capacity. Years of adding organic matter pay off in being able to water heavily and have it all sucked up by the soil. Luckily, though it is a much drier year than average, our water storage is good enough now to afford the water. Some years I have just had to watch the garden die on days like this.
We don’t have enough to water all the fruit trees, but I use all the grey water on them. We have a couple of trees full of mangoes just about ripe too. It looked like a bumper year a few months ago but a spell of severe dry made them drop most of the fruit. Still though, there are enough in our seven fruiting trees to make a few year’s supply of green mango pickle and mango chutney and still have more than we can eat.
I have heat tolerant tall climbers – snake beans, indeterminate cherry tomatoes, tromboncino, cucumbers helping to shade beds. In winter and spring, tall climbers are restricted to the south side of beds where they will never shade anything else. But starting in mid-spring I begin planting them with an eye to heat waves, so that they extend around the western side and give the lettuces and rocket and beets and basil a bit of respite from the afternoon sun.
Not many lettuces in. They need a lot of water and still they bolt to seed this time of year. I have a few, of heat tolerant varieties, but my summer salads are not much based on salad greens. This time of year, salads are best based on tomatoes (at their best now) or beans or capsicums or cucumbers. A heat wave sometime about now is so predictable that my garden is pretty clear of the things that are really vulnerable, and the few there are I can afford to sacrifice and replant when the weather changes.
The shadehouse is full of fairly advanced seedlings, each in its own little pot of good compost mixed with creek sand. It is much easier to keep them watered and cool in the shadehouse. I’ve recycled quite a few seedlings over the last month. Germinated them in the seed raising boxes, transplanted them into pots, waited for a spell of the right kind of weather for planting out, recycled them into the seedling raising mix again and planted a new batch of seed when it didn’t happen. There is a small amount of work wasted in doing this, but it saves a lot off work trying to establish seedlings in tough conditions. I’m hoping that the rain predicted for new year will herald a few weeks of good planting weather and I can get all the seedlings in the shadehouse now out and established.
I don’t get frost in my sub-tropical garden, so winter is a good growing season here. It is the frizzle days of summer that are the challenge, when a whole garden can be wiped out in one brutal day. But just like gardeners in frost-prone climates, you develop a range of strategies to work the odds.
Because the chooks love grasshoppers…
My favourite lunch at the moment – salad from the garden with a soft boiled egg – aka grasshoppers – aka kale – through it as dressing.
If you are a vegetarian, probably better if you click away now. But if you eat meat, I’d be interested to hear what you think.
We hit a wallaby on the way home a little while ago. It was just on dusk, right when the wallabies become most active, and it just jumped out right under the van.
We stopped. We always stop. I can’t bear the thought of an animal dying slowly and painfully injured on the road. But this was a clean hit on the head at speed on the main road. A fully grown but fairly young male red neck – the most common species in my area – in good condition.
I think if you eat meat, you have to accept that an animal dies. This wallaby had a good free range life, and everything becomes food for something, one way or another. Throwing it off the road didn’t seem like valuing the life. So we took it home and my partner skinned and butchered it into roasting pieces while I made a marinade.
Wallaby is very very lean meat with muscles that have done some work. In some ways the meat is like wild goat meat, and so the kind of methods used in the Mediterranean countries to cook goat work well – curries, tagines, khoresh, and long slow roasts. It was the Greek slow cooked goat shoulder last week that prompted this post in fact.
For the wallaby, I decided on a Greek-style marinated slow roast, and invited 15 people for dinner the next night.
Cut the wallaby into large roasting pieces and put them in a plastic container with a lid. For a large wallaby, or a kangaroo, an esky makes a good container.
For this wallaby I made three cups of marinade. Adjust to size.
- 2 cups olive oil
- 1 cup lemon juice
- 1 cup of fresh oregano, thyme, lemon thyme and rosemary (go easy on the rosemary and heavy on the oregano).
- lots of garlic
To get to falling off the bone tender, it should roast for about 4 hours in a low oven, being basted every hour in the beginning and half hour at the end.
Spread the meat out in baking trays in a single layer. I fitted it in two large baking trays. Divide the marinade up and pour over. Add a cup of water to each baking tray. Cover with a lid.
Cook in a medium-low oven for about 4 hours. After an hour, using tongs turn the meat. Repeat after another hour, then every half hour. Don’t let it dry out.
Depending on how tightly lidded your baking trays are, you may have to add more water, or, at the end, remove the meat and turn the oven up high to reduce the last of the liquid. You should end up with falling off the bone meat in a very small amount of concentrated jus.
This wallaby served 15 people for dinner. It was tender and lemony and not at all gamey. The opposite end of the spectrum to the polystyrene trays that meat comes in at the supermarket, but it felt very honourable.
A container of cooked Madagascar beans. I cooked them today in the slow cooker while there was heaps of solar power. We’ll probably have them for breakfast tomorrow as Cheesy Beans or Chili Beans, or just beans with eggs.
In my fridge is a little packet of goat’s feta. I don’t have any specific plans for it, but goat’s feta (or even ordinary feta) goes so well with the sweet little cherry tomatoes, basil, red onions, and rocket I have in the garden right now that I add some to the shopping regularly.
In my fridge is a jar of preserved limes. They make the best cold drink, just a slice added to soda water with some ice.
In my fridge are half a dozen duck eggs. Our ducks – Simone and Daphne – only lay for a few months but they are worth feeding all year for those few months of duck egg pasta.
In my fridge is a very small container of left-over slow cooked goat shoulder, ethically harvested and slow cooked with preserved lemon, garlic, rosemary, thyme and oregano till it was falling off the bone. With a tray of roasted beetroots, carrots and red onions and a Greek salad, it was a great dinner party. Thus the very small container of leftovers.
In my fridge is a container of yoghurt. Necessary for curries, fruit salad, smoothies, and mixing with cucumber and mint or coriander and mint as a dipping sauce. And for making labne which is what I mostly use instead of cottage cheese or ricotta.
In my fridge is a litre of local, permeate free real milk.
In my fridge is my container of sourdough starter. It seems strange to say but I haven’t once bought bread at home since Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial introduced me to sourdough nearly six years ago. It’s just become a routine part of my life and I cannot imagine going back to fake bread.
In my fridge are a dozen bars of dark chocolate. What? It was on special!
And that’s about all. I’m a big fan of small fridges.
Isn’t she the prettiest little chick? She’s an Australian Game, a tall long-legged breed, excellent mums, decent layers, decent meat birds, and very good at foraging for themselves. They are not the least bit lazy, but spend most of the day scratching in any mulch or leaf litter or ground, finding insects and seeds and larvae. They are also good at escaping from predators.
We have a little flock of them now, in electric net fencing that we move around the orchard and “Zone 3” area. I still have my other flock rotating around my garden beds, clearing and fertilizing for me but there’s a niche in zone 3 that needs a scratching omnivore to turn over leaf litter, keep ground cover plants down, balance up insect populations, and the Australian Games are proving a good breed for it.
The garden rooster is Mr Fluffy Feet. He’s a bantam cross, very pretty, with feathered feet. He has a motley mix of girls, some bantam cross, some ISA brown cross, one Australorp cross. He must have some Silkie in him, because there are no Silkie hens and yet several of last year’s chicks look like Silkie crosses, and the white babies this year look like they migh turn out the same. The “Out” rooster is Mr Tough Guy. He’s tall and very elegant and very protective of his girls. He has a dozen Australian Game hens. We put a dozen eggs from both pens under this mum, and she hatched ten of them. Her sister has hatched another twelve out of fourteen eggs. It will give us roosters for the pot and new hens for eggs, and some very pretty chickens for admiring.
It’s been a great season. We’ve eaten cauliflower and cabbage and broccoli and kale and pak choi and daikon pretty well every day for the last five months. We’ve eaten Okonomiyaki for breakfast a lot of times, and Cheesy Broccoli Omelette has been a regular standby. We’ve discovered cabbage chopped very fine in the food processor, added to chicken and vegetable soup makes it thick and delicious and not like boiled cabbage at all. We’ve discovered Cauliflower Cheese Soup doesn’t actually need cheese, or perhaps just a sprinkle of parmesan on top, and that adding a leek makes it smooth and creamy just like cheese. We’ve had many many Roasted Cauliflower finger food dinners, occasionally alternated with Greek Crumbed Cauli or Broccoli Tempura. We’ve had coleslaw or Greens as Themselves as a side dish at one meal or another every day.
And it’s lasted well too. Here it is, nearly the end of Spring, just about to launch into summer. I’ve seen the cabbage moths around for a few weeks but the local predators have been knocking them off before they get a chance to lay eggs. But summer is here, all but, and it’s time to say goodbye.
There are many, many organic remedies for cabbage moth caterpillars (and the web moth caterpillars that will be next to arrive). There are nets and traps and fake moths and eggshells and trichogramma wasps and dipel. But the only one I reckon is worth the time and effort for results is timing.
From June till October, sometimes if I’m lucky like this year all the way through to November, I can grow brassicas and do nothing to control cabbage moths at all. From November till April or May, I can do everything in the arsenal and I still don’t get brassicas that can compete for a place on the plate with tromboncino and beans and squash.
It’s been lovely, but I need the space now for the capsicums and curcubits. So goodbye Brassicas, till next year. It’s been very nice.
Teo made his first cake. The cake was not bad at all for a two year old. The wild raspberry topping was the highlight. He and Grumpy (Lewie) went hunting and found all the wild raspberry patches nearby. Only a small proportion made it back for the cake.
Berries are only in season for a short, spring season. My strawberry patch this year is a victim of a very determined bandicoot all winter, so it’s not the big bowlful a day of some years, but still enough for strawberries and pawpaw and orange fruit salad for breakfast, with toasted macas and yoghurt.
Strawberries should be a luxury food. A couple of months of indulgence a year, sweetened by a whole year of waiting. There’s this thing with seasonal luxury foods, that they start out expensive and the price encourages every kind of scammy hereticism, pushing them to grow until you get something that is cheap and very very nasty. Like salmon. And turkey. And strawberries. Strawberries are one of the “Dirty Dozen“, and the best way to stay classy is to let them be what they are, a late spring treat. From your garden, or buy organic farmers’ market ones now, for a month or so, and remember how good they should be.