Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Fruits of Spring

Its been two months since I last had a blog post. I haven't fallen off the face of the earth, just gotten really busy. Unfortunately not as busy in the garden as I would have like to be, so I think this seasons produce will be quite low.

I don't grow a lot of fruit, but the two varieties I do have are doing very well.

Cape Gooseberries are taking over the far right of the office garden 

 

And with all the wind we have been having, so many end up on the floor


So I gathered them up, peeled off the husks and sorted out those that had been half eaten by slugs.


And ended up with a fair amount to work with


Not sure what to do with these tart little berries, I decided to quickly throw together a simple pie. It's not the greatest looking desert I have made, but it sure tasted good.


The other fruit I am so grateful to be able to grow in Durban is bananas,  and yesterday we again harvested another huge bunch of ripening bananas. 
I see a lot of smoothies in the near future....

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Frogs!!

Spring is a lovely season, my second favourite after autumn. But it does bring with it a few things that I would rather do without... flies, mosquitoes, other insects that munch my veggies, strong wind and FROGS!
Don't get me wrong, I am a nature lover. A few frogs in the garden would be awesome, but this is another story all together.
What I have in my garden are actually toads, Guttural Toads to be exact. Big fat squishy toads. They congregate in my tiny pond like its the neighborhood hang out.

Our little pond
  While watching TV the other night they started croaking, and it was okay. We all smiled and said springs back, the frogs are here. Then it gradually got louder and louder. Eventually we couldn't hear the TV anymore, only the toads. So we went out to catch what we could and relocate them to a nearby park.

I have tried to put a file in here so that you can hear the sound, but its not working but if you would like to hear you can use this link. Its a local site with a few different toad calls

That night we managed to catch 17 toads! And that wasn't all of them.
The next day we went out searching and found another 6.

Not so pretty Guttural Toads

Now every time we hear the toads start up in the garden, my boys come and ask: "can we go frog hunting?"


Sunday, September 1, 2013

HAPPY SPRING!

HAPPY SPRING DAY!

Today is the first day of spring here in the southern hemisphere. Its been a chilly few days with a cold front passing through, but today was gorgeous. It was still a bit cool in the shade, but is was a perfectly clear day and the sun was warm and pleasant, a great gardening day. My boys even had their their traditional spring swim, although they never made it past waist deep.

I didn't get as much done as I would have liked to but I did manage to compost a few empty beds, remove a lot of my winter crops that were not producing or were full of aphids, and did a whole bunch a weeding (a sure sign that its getting warmer)
I am looking forward to the garden show coming up in a few weeks so I can get lots of seedlings to fill my empty beds. I also have a table full of babies that I seeded myself but forgot to take a picture of.

Here are a few photos of the garden today.

A tomato plant that self seeded is starting to produce ripe cherry tomatoes

Strawberry spinach is doing very well. The berries actually look better than they taste. They are quite bland and plain but you can use both the berries and the leaves to make a nice looking salad

Lots of spinach (chard) at the moment.


Watercress in a pot in my pond. I started this with a shoot from a bag of watercress from the shop. It's doing extremely well.

Gooseberries are going to be ripe very soon

The last of my brassicas that hasn't been attacked by aphids.

A garden FULL of self seeded fennel. Thankfully the rabbits love it. I need to find some way I can use it in the kitchen

 Two pawpaw trees have popped up, I am hoping that at least one of them is female.

How did you spend spring day? Or perhaps your side of the world is headed into autumn?


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Welcome to Blogger, Firefly Farm!

I would like to welcome my amazing sister-in-law (and dearest friend) to the blogger community!

Lawrie and her husband stay on a beautiful plot in Northern Kwa-Zulu Natal near the small town of Hluhluwe, with their two small children. They have pigs, chickens, horses, dogs and a fish breeding facility. Lawrie does so much to try make her family as self sustainable as possible. Now she has decided to share her journey

You can follow her blog here, I know it's going to be full of useful tips.

Here are a few images from Firefly Farm

View from Firefly Farm over False Bay
A beautiful veggie garden


Monday, August 26, 2013

How to Stretch Your Milk

No matter how much milk costs, its one of those things we just can't do without in our house. We generally use about two litres of low fat milk a day unless I bake or cook with it, then it will be more. With the price of milk skyrocketing and no goats in the foreseeable future, I knew there had to be a way to bring our costs down.

With a little bit of research and a few trial and errors we have come up with a solution that literally cuts our cost in half!
Instead of buying our usual 2%, we now buy full cream milk and "dilute" it down. In the end it tastes virtually the same as the 2%, and way better than fat free/skim.

Here is what we do so that the milk flavour is still great:

We take our 2 litre milk and pour half into the last empty milk container. With 1 litre in each container we add 1 teaspoon of sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Top up with water and shake.

We don't completely fill with water, we leave about a 5 cm space on top. How much water you add is up to you, the more you add, the more "milk" you get but its obviously more diluted. We have found the perfect amount for our family without making the milk taste weak.



In the end no matter how much water you add, that's how much free milk you are getting, so even 500ml extra is better than nothing.

This little trick saves our family over R300 a month! Go ahead and give it a try.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Sprouting Broccoli

This is the first year that I have grown broccoli and it has gone so well. I decided to plant the sprouting variety because I wanted a plant that would continue to provide even after the first harvest. I am not sure if it was the right choice as the heads are so much small than normal broccoli, so in the end the harvest would probably have been the same no matter which one I grew.


I seem to have a problem when it comes to planting variety, I always seem to end up with so much of one vegetable. I guess the next few weeks we are going to be eating a lot of broccoli.

This head had to be harvested as it was about to bolt, the yellow petals were just showing through the green buds. Quite a small head if you ask me but very tasty.
All those lovely green leaves and stems will be used to feed our rabbits and chickens, no waste here.


I prefer to eat my broccoli raw, but I also like it slightly steamed with butter, salt and pepper.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Welcome to Our New Girls

You may remember our 3 feathered friends from an early post. These girls served us well and supplied our family with a nice amount of eggs. Since we had gotten these three as adults we had no idea how old they were and how much longer they would lay for us. We had reached a point where months had gone past and we only got a handful of eggs, so it was time to make a decision.
After reading a thought provoking post from Lindsey at  Northwest Backyard Veggies and a link she had to Northwest Edible Life,  I knew that I needed to take a firm standing on what my position is when it comes to unproductive livestock.

For my husband it was a simple answer, eat them. But I was still not sure. It's not that I am against eating my own chickens, it's just that we have never butchered a bird ourselves and we were not quite sure how to do it or what to expect. It's easy to watch youtube videos on the subject, but I know that doing it ourselves will be a whole different story.

So we came up with a plan. My dad employs a full time garden helper who maintains his properties as well as care for his large koi fish breeding facility, and he happened to grow up on a rural farm. We asked him if he would help and teach us how to cull our chickens and in return he could have one of the three. He was more than happy, and that afternoon he left with his chicken, with intention of culling the other two the next morning.
However when he returned the next day he informed us that the other men who lived in his communal housing wanted to know if they could purchase our chickens instead. So we took the easy way out and sold the other 2.
I think we made the right choice. In the end it paid for two of our new ladies and we got to put off the culling for a little while longer.

When the new chickens arrived I was a bit surprised. They came from an egg farm that only keep their layers for 1 year and then sell them for good price. They are much friendlier than our previous ones and come running up to your feet when you enter the run. They unfortunately were not treated very well and have a few sores and bare patches, and are generally quite scruffy. My sister-in-law has had them for the first 2 weeks and she said that they were even worse when they arrived. So I am sure with a bit of love, some good wholesome food, and all the extra space they now have, they will only get better.


Enjoying the warm winter sun.

As for laying, they are little egg machines! In the first 24 hrs we already had 4 eggs. No adjustment period what so ever.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

A week in the Berg.

On the 21st of June local schools broke up for the winter holidays. We left that afternoon and returned on Friday after a lovely one week holiday in the Drakensberg Mountains.


We were expecting a very cold week, but instead enjoyed mild days with temperatures ranging from low to mid 20's (degrees Celsius). We spent our days playing miniature golf, giant chess, badminton, taking slow strolls around the resort, and just enjoying the stunning views. The evenings were quiet with milo in front of the fire and early bed times. It was just what we needed.
It's aloe season here and there were so many flowering aloes scattered on the mountains.

 
 As much as we love going on holiday, its always nice to get back home and back into the garden. A garden that had a very special surprise for me.
When I left last week, I had my first ever broccoli almost ready to harvest. I thought it would have a few weeks to go before it would be ready. Instead I came home to this:


Isn't it just too gorgeous? I had no idea that broccoli would bolt into such a stunning flower. I am actually glad that I didn't harvest it and got to see this. I still have a whole bunch in the office garden just starting to form heads so we won't be short of broccoli this season
And the flowers tastes great, every time I go outside I pick a few and put them in my mouth. But I must keep some so that it can go to seed and I can sow more next year.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Chilli Jam

As Autumn progresses and winter slowly creeps in, my chillies bushes seem to be going crazy.

One days harvest of chillies:

 I wanted to try something different, and I had never tried a savory jam before, so chilli jam it was.
The recipe ended up making one big, one little and one tiny jar of jam.

These ingredients are not exact because most of them I just poured in, but I will try to get them as close as possible.

Ingredients:
6 or 7 tomatoes
7 or 8 chillies (more if you like it very hot)
3 cups sugar
1 cup vinegar (I used a mixture of apple cider and white)
1 tablespoon powdered pectin

Method:
In a food processor chop up tomatoes and chillies until all there are no big pieces left.
In a pot, heat the vinegar and sugar until the sugar has dissolved. Add the tomato/chilli mix.
Bring to the boil. Mix the pectin in a little bit of sugar so it doesn't cause lumps and add to the pot.
Boil for about 15 minutes, or until the jam gets to gelling point, it could take longer.
Use a cold plate to test for gelling.

Pour into sterilized jars. This will keep for quite a while in the fridge, otherwise you can waterbath it and store in your panrty for much longer. I didn't process mine because I know it will not last that long.

Delicious with crackers and cream cheese!


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Autumn gardening

Autumn is my favourite season. The weather is mild and the garden just loves it.
Here is Durban autumn and winter are actually our biggest growing season as many of the veggies I love to grow find the summers too long, hot and humid.
I think I was a bit late with the planting this season, but it has taken quite a while to cool down enough to plant many of these crops. My cabbages are still wilting in the warmth of the day and its nearly winter.
So here is what is going on in my garden this autumn

The chilli's are going crazy. I cannot keep up with them. Last week I harvested about 50 from our 3 trees and today they were so full I could have harvested another 40. I need to give some away.

Fennel is popping up everywhere after I left our one plant from last season go to seed. Even though I harvested hundreds of seeds, many got dispersed throughout the garden bed

Nasturtiums, which have also popped up everywhere, are starting to flower. They are always such a welcome sight in the garden

The sweet potatoes in the concrete pot are doing well 

As is the chard in the other concrete pot

Coriander has bolted, but that's okay because I will harvest the seeds and plant more

I have far too much rocket for one family, and I don't even like the stuff.

Brinjals are still producing, which I am so thankful for. They are one of my favorite veg at the moment, so the longer they fruit the better

My sister in law gave me a baby elder berry plant and it is doing really well. Will need to re-pot it soon

Brassica seedlings went into the office garden last week. They are doing well and so far it looks like I have lost just one. Not sure exactly what each one is, they are a combination of cabbages, broccoli and kohlrabies.

A few gooseberries  have sprouted out of the compost, so I will let them grow and see if we get any good fruit from them

A couple lettuce seedlings next to one of the other chilli bushes. I have scattered the lettuce seedlings around the garden wherever I have found a gap.

The office garden looks a bit bare, but I have sowed quite a few seeds directly into the ground so hopefully it will look full and productive soon. Waiting to germinate is carrots in the front bed, beetroot, radishes, celery, chard, coriander and amaranth. 

The peas have just come up but only about 50 percent germinated so I need to reseed where they didn't.

Some seedlings to replace the ones that don't make it, or I will find another spot for them

The granadilla I planted over a year ago has finally taken off. Hoping that when summer comes around again we will be able to have fresh granadillas