Friday, December 31, 2010


For the past week every morning when I'd go out to inspect my garden I noticed the straw on my potato pile knocked off and potatoes lying exposed to the light.  The first time it happened I thought one of the little monkeys had been mucking about in the potato patch.  But I asked them and they didn't know what I was talking about.  Monkey Man said he had nothing to do with it either.  This was getting annoying because I know potatoes that are exposed to light can go green and green on potatoes are poison.  This is the first time I've grown potatoes and it's been very easy - but I know they're not all ready.  There's still some green foilage happening and I need to wait 'til this dies down before all the potatoes are ready. 

Well the other day I was sitting out enjoying the sun with a cup of tea and I noticed a bird flitting about - always with a worm or something hanging out of its mouth.  All day long this bird whizzed from my veggie patch or potato patch and back to a tree near the back window.  And then I realised why.  A nest and three hungry little beaks to feed.  The potato patch must have been a very good restaurant for that little bird family.  So I've picked out the big potatoes and once again covered the rest up to hopefully grow some more and am enjoying the sounds of baby birds being fed. 
This will be the first time I've tasted potatoes fresh, straight from the garden.  I do love roast potatoes but today we're heading for a top temperature of 40ÂșC so turning the oven on is not a good idea. Instead I decided to make potato salad.  When I was peeling the potatoes I noticed some of them had in fact turned green in places so I had to ditch them.  I had a few from the market already in the cupboard so used a combination of fresh and market potatoes and here's what I discovered. Fresh potatoes aren't soft when you cut them.  They sound and feel crunchy like you are cutting celery.  Can't wait to taste this potato salad.  I didn't measure anything out you really just use your instinct - can't go wrong.

Potato Salad
salt & pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil.  Peel and chop the potatoes into bite sized pieces.  Cook the potatoes until just soft but still holding shape.  Allow to cool in a colander.  Dress with mayonnaise, salt, pepper and chopped chives.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Making of a Chick Coop

Monkey Man was hard at work constructing a chicken coop in the week before Christmas.  I gave him Christmas day as the deadline for finishing.  It's now three days after Christmas and ... it's not finished.  Not surprising really because Monkey Man always under-estimates how long things will take.  And you can't predict that the drains will block and you'll have to spend Christmas calling emergency plumbers and when that fails hire for double the price a big metal snakey thing to poke down the sewer.  And encourage your guests not to eat and drink too much because there is no flushing of toilets until it's fixed!  Needless to say, the chicken coop is not finished.  The chicks are five weeks old on Saturday - maybe they'll have an outside home by then.

But I can give you a preview of the work in progress.  The coop is made from re-salvaged timber Monkey Man has lying around.  He won't throw anything away.  He has so much stuff hidden away (or lying around looking messy).  This usually drives me crazy, but occasionally I'm grateful.
Here he is building the frame.  See the monkey expression on his face?  I didn't need much imagination to come up with his nickname.
The floor to the indoor bit is wire that he had in storage.  But a friend suggested that the holes in the wire might be too big for these chicks to manage so we may need to change that.  Any advice?  I got the wire idea from the workshop I attended by Very Edible Gardens.  This way the chicken poo just drops straight down into the the straw run below.  Makes cleaning up a lot easier I imagine.  Here's a youTube link to VEG's chook house and straw yard.
There's a ladder for the chicks to get up - also made from old timber bits nailed together.  Actually, these bits were from Monkey Man's Father's broken bed.
This is their nesting box.  It is made from an old wooden crate we were storing shoes in.  Monkey Man has put some plywood around the outside and made a hinge door with a latch.  We did need to make a trip to the hardware shop to get latches, hinges and some more chicken wire.  And we did have a bit of a tiff in the shop about just what sort of latch would suffice.  I think Monkey Man was starting to get a tad tired of this whole chicken caper at this point.  Not me of course.  I was just loving the whole chook house building three days before Christmas, when I had a house full of inter-state and overseas relatives arriving and more Christmas presents to buy and a bezillion presents to wrap for spoilt monkeys and the market to negotiate for Chrissie food - not to mention chick dust to wipe off the furniture...
Anyway, enough complaining - here's a peek inside the nesting box.
So hopefully in my next post I'll be able to show you the finished coop.  For now we have lots of guests staying with us and a party happening this arvo so I'm off to do some cooking.  Hope you all had a great Christmas.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

One Ripe Strawberry, a Big Basket and Strange Art

First Strawberry
One ripe strawberry.  And no snails, birds, earwigs or mice had yet discovered it.  (Yep, last year I found a mouse nibbling on my strawberry patch!) Yum - the strawberry not the mouse.  Now I must put a net over them because I know once those others start ripening I'll have way too much competition.

This huge basket I've planted the strawberries in was given to me on my 21st by a bunch of friends who thought it was hilarious at the time.  I don't know why they thought I would like it.  It was completely impractical.  I carted it from rented house to rented house and it would take up most of my room in those share houses.  It wouldn't even fit through the front door in some of the places I lived and so stayed in storage for quite a while.  Then I had kids and used it as a toy box for a while.  But even for that it was impractical - too big to reach into.  Although occasionally the monkeys would cover it with a blanket and hide inside.  Finally, 20 years later it has found a good home in the garden.  I filled 2/3 with sticks, lined the rest with the plastic from the potting mix bags and poured in the soil.  I suppose it'll eventually rot away but I like it now.  It's right beside our wood shed, little water tank and Harry Ubu.
Harry Ubu
Harry Ubu is another strange present (sorry mum) I received years ago.  He is supposed to be a CD storage unit - but he's enormous and kinda ugly and scared the life out of the monkeys when they were little.  So he's gone into the garden too.  And he likes it there much better.  Especially now I have managed to train this pretty creeper up his CD stacking bits.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Fallen Branch Christmas Trees Revealed...

So here they are.  Thank you to everyone who took the time to send me their photos.  I reckon they all look great.

Ali claims she failed 8th grade art and that her contribution won't be impressive but that we all "have to make impressive noises".  
Ali's decorated branch

My mum's Christmas tree entitled "Sticks in a Jar".  Well done Mum!  Sorry mum's photos is smaller than everyone else's when I tried to make it big the photo wouldn't work. 
My mum's tree
Phoebe wrote:  "I have no children, so christmas isn't a big deal but I still like things to be festive"
Phoebe's tree

Sophy's first fallen branch Christmas tree.  She wrote: "I found these branches steps from my door. It looks quite pretty in person...better than the photos :-) I hung a paper lantern in the back so it kind of looks like it's floating there and stuck with mini ornaments. I thought it was cool that the ornaments were almost exactly the same size as the pods on the tree!  I may do another for a centerpiece and spray the branches, or I thought about tipping them in fake snow."
Sophy's tree
Close-up of Sophy's tree
Magazine tree from Sophy

This year's veggiegobbler family tree. 

And a new edition from Diana at Elephant's Eye.  Thanks Diana love your blog.

Happy Christmas everyone.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Re-Using Bits for the Garden

Our silkie chicks almost 3 weeks old.
Even though it is almost Christmas and like everybody we are busy, busy, busy, we have had some time to fiddle about in the backyard.  Mind you Monkey Man had to be strongly persuaded.  Our little chicks are now not so little and they still don't have a coop!  In a couple of weeks they'll be able to regulate their own temperatures and will no longer need a heat source so they will go outside.  You can see them in the photo above having a scratch about on the grass.  I've been taking them out for a few minutes on warm days and they love it.  Monkey Man is the type to under-estimate how long everything will take.  So I know he needs to get cracking on this coop-building job.  And I'm useless with that sort of stuff.  If it were up to me I'd have bought something flimsy and expensive and even then would need help assembling it.  Luckily, Monkey Man is handy and thrifty.  We have all the materials already.  He's using recycled timber that he salvaged from our neighbours and we have some leftover polycarbonate from a friend's cubby house making.  We'll use that for the roofing.  Monkey Man was most impressed by the heritage nails he removed from the old timber.  He reckons they must be about 120 years old. 
Littlest Monkey has saved them for some craft making.   He loves to make things.  I'm a bit the same. I found this old bit of piping while clearing space under the fig tree for the chook run and I'm planning a bit of garden art.  Not sure what it will be yet but I'll take a pic when I'm done.  
So with a bit of luck we'll have a chicken coop before Christmas. 

Don't forget to send me your fallen branch Christmas tree pictures if you haven't already.  I've had a couple of terrific photos sent to me which I'm looking forward to posting next week.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Impatience is no Virtue

Garlic - not ready yet
I couldn't wait any longer.  The garlic looked like it must be ready.  The leaves had all flattened to the ground and they were yellowy brown... ish.   Surely those garlic would wither and die if I didn't get them out of the dirt right now.   I had checked one a week or so ago and it was small and the cloves not quite formed but I was kind of pushing this information to the back of my memory and imagining a startling, dramatic growth spurt.
Hmmm.  Small.  Not ready.
And I thought I'd planted much more than that.
I'll try again next year.  I need to plant more and I need to plant them in a sunnier spot and I need to be patient.

The garlic may be slow growing but the chicks aren't.  They have doubled in size and already seem to be entering their teenage years and getting a bit ugly.  Today their brooder box was upgraded to the kids old shell swimming pool with a bit of gutter guard around the top so they don't jump out.  They have lost some of their fluff and now have wing feathers.  When we put our hands in they come up and stand on them.  I was secretly hoping that I would be their mother hen and that they would love me best, but when Monkey Man put his hand in the other day four of them hopped up.  I tell him it's just because he has bigger hands and the chicks are too busy pecking at my freckles to want to all stand on me - but I'm a bit miffed not to be top chick. 

Fallen Branch Chrissie Tree Photos
I have so far had ONE response to my request for photos of your fallen or pruned branch Christmas tree and that was from my mother!  Ali from Mud Pie has promised me one and I have promised not to laugh at her attempt. And Greenfumb, Hazel, EcoMILF, Phoebe either have done or have seen these sorts of trees around.  But I have no evidence!  Now there is no deadline - some time before Christmas will do.  Although, I think we'll all get bored reading my repeated requests for photos by then.  So I am now extending the request.  It doesn't have to be your Christmas tree.  It could be a friend, relative or neighbours.  Come on now internet friends - help me out. Send me a photo. My movement is losing momentum before it's even started.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Fallen Branch Christmas Tree

Littlest Monkey decorating last year's fallen branch Christmas tree.
For the past fifteen or so years I've been using fallen or pruned branches as Christmas trees and I reckon they look great.  I was first inspired by my cousin Kath who one year had draped a branch with lights around her mantlepiece and I've taken her lead ever since.  But I've never seen anyone else do it.  Why not?

I was inspired to write this piece after reading a post from a blog I like
There is a debate about whether real trees or artificial trees are better for the environment.  I did a little research and according to wikipedia it takes at least 20 years of re-using for an artificial tree to leave an environmental footprint as low as a real tree.  Real Christmas trees can be mulched but you only have to take a drive around the neighbourhood in January to see that lots of them aren't.  In my local municipality only 15% have a green waste bin and I'm not sure there'd be too many others doing their own mulching and chopping.  So my guess is lots of these trees are ending up as landfill.  And I wonder about the distances real trees travel to end up in our homes?   Of course, those potted Christmas trees that are brought in and decorated each year can't be bad but they've never really appealed to me.

Wikipedia artificial Christmas Tree
Unlike most of my friends and acquaintances I LOVE Christmas - especially since having kids.  I loathe the shopping centres of course (I loathe them at the best of times but at Christmas eeek) but I do love lots of the other little rituals and excitements of Christmas.  And the hunt for the tree and decorating it with the family is fun.  For the last two years finding the branch has been easy - our Silver Princess gum needed a prune.  Actually last year the whole tree blew down in a storm so we had a fantastic tree.  The white trunk on the Silver Princess looked beautiful. Fortunately, the tree sprouted from the roots again and it is growing back.  But it's not big enough to use a branch this year.  And after last year's beauty this year the branch from the maculata doesn't quite measure up.  We haven't gotten round to decorating it yet but I'm sure it'll look better than this one from the wikipedia site don't you think?!
Monkey Family Fallen Branch Christmas Tree

Whenever my friends visit I always boast about how great my fallen branch Christmas tree is and they make affirmative noises but I'm beginning to suspect I'm a tad delusional.  No-one I know is doing this too and certainly none of my friends have followed me on this one.  So come with me internet friends -
I'm starting a movement!  I can't believe more of us aren't making our own trees from fallen or pruned branches.  Check out my tree last year.  Tell me it doesn't look good?!!  

So send me a pic with your fallen or pruned branch Christmas tree and I'll feature it in a post before Christmas.  Email your pictures to  Now don't disappoint me - I know there must be someone out there who wants to do this?!!!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

First Day of Summer - Eat the Leeks!

The problem with me in the garden is I very often grow something, use some of it and leave the rest neglected.  I keep looking at it thinking I must make something with the rest of that but weeks pass and I don't.  That's what happened with my leeks.  I picked the fat ones ages ago and made soup and leek fritters and then left the little ones to fatten up.  Well I think they're as fat as they're going to get.  In fact some of them have started to bolt.  I was wondering if I'd wait and and collect the seeds but really it is time to use them.  The patch where they are is soon be converted to a chicken run and I have purchased two of those skinny ballerina apple trees to squeeze in there either side of the fig tree.  So, given that today is the first day of Summer they'd best be gone.  No-one wants to eat leek and potato soup in Summer. Yesterday I picked them all and made this leek and mushroom risotto.   My leeks were a bit of a miserable bunch.  I didn't hill them up enough and by the time I chopped off the green there wasn't much white to actually use.  But that's OK.  I'll still grow them again.  I keep learning tricks with each thing I grow each year.

I also could not resist pulling up a couple of my garlics to see what was happening.  This is the first time I've grown it and I'm really excited.  You are supposed to wait until the leaves have yellowed and are starting to become brown.  Well mine aren't quite there yet - too small.  But they didn't go to waste.  I chopped an entire bulb up and popped it into the risotto too.  Young garlic isn't as strong as the matured dried type but is good.  

Leek & Mushroom Risotto
•  1.5 cups aborio rice
•  2-3 leeks, chopped
•  1/2 glass white wine
•  1 ltr vegetable stock
•  6-8 mushrooms, chopped
•  2 tbs butter
•  1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
•  1 tbs chives, chopped

In a large saucepan, cook the leeks slowly in 1 tbs butter until golden.  Heat the stock in a small saucepan and allow to simmer.  When leeks are cooked, add the rice and stir until coated.  Add the wine and stir.  Add a ladle full of vegetable stock at a time, stirring frequently.  Keep adding stock as the rice comes away from the edges of the pan and it is absorbed.  Continue until the rice is cooked.  In a separate pan cook the mushrooms in 1 tbs of butter.  Stir the mushroom mixture, chives and parmesan cheese through the rice when it is cooked and allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving. 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Here They Are.

Eight healthy silkie chicks.  Four white, three black and one brown.  
One last egg is still in the incubator.  I don't hold out much hope for it but can't yet bear to give it up.  The last chick was hatched this morning with a little help from me.  I know you're not supposed to help them along but she'd been struggling for too long and I think the humidity in the incubator wasn't high enough.  Here's a good link for advice on helping the chick along. After hatching she (they're all being called she) wasn't too happy about being alone in the incubator for a few hours to to fuzz up so Little Monkey shared one of his favourite soft toys which did the trick.  She happily cuddled up to it and went to sleep.
Here they are in the brooder box.  It's just an ordinary plastic box lined with newspaper and wood shavings.  We've got a red lamp in there which apparently helps them sleep and not get too cranky.  I've put a spoonful of sugar in their water to give them a kick start and some chick crumble.  Chicks easily drown so I've turned a cup upside down in their water.
Eldest Monkey Boy is happy to sit watching and cuddling individual chicks for long periods of time.  They are very cute and funny to watch.  Littlest Monkey doesn't have as much interest.  But he did make a hen house from cardboard boxes and this little paper chick to go in it.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Diary of an Expectant Mum - Part 1

Day 18, Monday:  I've worn a path on the floor to the incubator with my constant checking, worrying and excitement these past few days.  This morning I made a mistake.  I'd read to put damp paper towel under the eggs when you fill up the trays to increase the humidity for hatching time.  But this caused problems.  I suspect there wasn't enough air flow because I'd blocked it with the paper.  The paper also sucked up the humidity and dried quickly.  The temperature dropped and I had trouble getting it back up.  So, now I've removed it and things are back on track but I'm filled with anxiety that they've cooled down too much.

Day 20, Wednesday 
11.20am: Monkey Man thinks I'm bonkers.  He came home as little monkey and I were standing at the incubator and cheeping like baby chooks.  (This despite the fact that I'm losing my voice again and have to teach three drama classes this afternoon.)  But if we look closely the eggs start to wobble and rock when we cheep!  Very exciting.  Must go and do some work and clean the house and prepare dinner and lots of other stuff but will just go look at that movement again.
11.00pm:  Nothing more has happened.  Maybe tonight.

Day 21, Thursday - Hatching Day:
7.00am:  Little Monkeys raced to their viewing chairs at the incubator.  If you look closely you can see two teeny tiny cracks in two of the eggs.  Some little beaks have been chipping away overnight.  Eldest Monkey Boy is concerned that he'll miss all the action today at school but I have a feeling this is going to be a long slow wait.
10.30am:  No progress.  Am fielding text messages from friends wanting updates and promising to let them know when they can bring their kids over for a viewing.
5.20pm:  Nothing!  Well not exactly nothing but it's taking soooo long.  Sometimes we can hear faint cheeping.  We have two eggs with little holes, one egg with a reasonable sized crack and one that is rocking about.   I bet all the action happens tonight or tomorrow when I'm at work.
6.10pm:  Our first black chick born witnessed by Littlest Monkey and myself.  Aaaw how cute.
10.00pm:  Just settling in for the show with a cup of tea.  One of the eggs has a pretty big hole shouldn't be long when... POWER FAILURE!!!  Panic.  I don't remember the last time we had a power failure couldn't have chosen a worse moment.   Luckily next door's lights were on.  I raced over and explained my predicament.  We hooked up a long extension lead and plugged the incubator back on.   All pretty quiet and still in there.  Nervous there's been major damage.  Power returns a few minutes later and chick starts to cheep and wriggle a bit.  Heart starts beating normally again.
11.30pm:  Second black baby silkie hatched.  Off to bed now they are friends.

Day 22:  Friday
6.30am:  Eldest Monkey woke us up with the news that there were three black chicks in the incubator.
9.00am:  They're all in the brooder box.  Chirruping away.  Hopefully some more will hatch today.  Other eggs are cracked so maybe.  Off to work.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Ready to Hatch, Green Lunchbox & Redbacks

Chicks Hatching This Week...
Hatching date is fast approaching and I'm getting excited.  I candled the eggs again the other night but didn't really know what I was looking at.  However, they have clearly grown so I am doing something right.  I could see a big dark shadow and the air sac in all the remaining eggs.  We have 9 left after I discarded the 3 that weren't doing anything.

So, today is day 18 and they're due to hatch day 21.  I've prepared a brooder box for chicks (more on that later).  I've stopped turning the eggs and left them on damp paper towel with their pointy ends slightly down.  The paper is to help with feet traction and cleaning up.  No more lifting the lid unless absolutely necessary.  I've filled both trays with water in an attempt to raise the humidity.  Apparently the chicks need higher humidity when they're hatching so their shells don't stick.  Unfortunately, the water mustn't have been warm enough because the temperature has dropped.  I'm not panicking yet though.  Will wait a couple more hours and hope it gets up before panicking.

I've said before, this incubator came with instructions that were unhelpful so I'm not sure if this is right, but I've put the 2nd shelf back on top.  I really couldn't figure out what it was needed for before and it obstructed my view a bit of the temperature gauge but I guess it's there to prevent hatched chicks from jumping up and getting decapitated by a spinning fan!  Unfortunately, it kinda spoils our viewing pleasure, but hopefully we'll still get a good squiz through the grate. 

Green Lunchbox Seminar...
The other week I attended a free seminar run by our local council.   It's called the Green 'Lunchbox' Seminar Series.  The one I attended was on chickens but there's another one to go on "Keeping Cool Without Fossil Fuel" presented by CERES on Tuesday 7 December, 12.30-1.30pm.  So if you live or work near Footscray you might be interested in attending.  You can register here Maribyrnong City Council.

The chicken seminar was presented by Dan from Very Edible Gardens and covered all stuff chickens including: why to keep chickens, what sort of chickens to choose, how to house and feed them, keeping vermin away, straw yards etc.  All in an hour, as well as answering our questions.  VEG also have information about chooks on their website here. And they run lots of courses at various places throughout the year.

and in other creepy crawly news...
Red-back I found a couple of years ago when I was moving bricks.
I cleaned up the garden during the week - you know being Spring I thought it about time I put away the rubbish that had accumulated on the back step and cut the weeds grass, etc.  (I am a bit lazy of a lazy gardener!)  And I thought it about time I cleaned the outdoor table setting seeing as we've had lots of nice weather and we've been plopping our botts on dirty, cobwebby chairs.  Well, I was surprised by three (yes THREE) red-back spiders nesting under three separate chairs.  And an egg!  Now I know red-backs are everywhere and they aren't aggressive, they've obviously been happily hiding there all year but it gave me a fright.  I am a big baby when it comes to spiders.  Scared stiff.  I've been known to burst into tears at the sight of a huntsman.  Little spiders aren't too scary to me but little red-backs are.  Apparently, no-one has actually died in Australia from a red-back spider bite in the last 50 years since they developed antivenom.  You're unlikely to get bitten by one (only the female bites) unless you put your hand right in the web or something.  But still... I don't like it!  A couple of years ago I found one when when I was moving a pile of bricks (see picture above).  But that didn't bother me - red-backs can hide in bricks and rubbish and wood stacks - that's as it should be.  But I'm not happy about them nesting near my bottom.  So now I'm obsessively checking out all the cob webs around the house and ordering Monkey Man to deal with suspicious looking ones.  Just for your information red-back webs are messy and dirty and strong and we have a plague of them in Melbourne at the moment.

Oh, and of course, I'm reminded of the old Aussie song from my childhood Redback on the Toilet Seat which I've had spinning in my head for a couple of days. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Silent Bean-Shelling

Broad Beans
I've read on a few people's blogs recently that their broad beans have done really well this year, and mine too.  It must be all the rain.  Last year I had a meagre crop that was hardly worth cooking up.  But this year I've had masses.  And they were easy to grow and they're good for the soil because they release nitrogen.  Something has been munching on the leaves of mine but it hasn't affected the beans.  And the string-bamboo monument support I built didn't really hold up in the wind but that hasn't mattered either.

I've had a virus for the last couple of weeks and then after teaching Friday and Saturday I completely lost my voice.  Nothing is more frustrating than not being able to speak and having a house full of monkeys to boss about.  I'm up to my fourth day of being speechless.  Well, I can actually now make sounds but they're barking seal sounds.  And it's not good to try to speak when you've got no voice.  Even more damaging is whispering.  So I've been pressing my lips together, stomping and clicking when I want attention and doing a bit of Marcel Marceau.  I am a drama teacher so I reckon I'm a pretty good non-verbal communicator but my monkeys keep looking at me with blank faces and whispering "WHAT?!" 

So, I've had lots of contemplating time this week.  And on Tuesday I picked the massive crop of broad beans and proudly brought them in to show.  Eldest Monkey Boy was most impressed - "Did that really come from our garden?"  "It wasn't from the market!" said Littlest Monkey.  And then I sat in the sun and started to silently shell them.  I remember reading Funkbunny's Kitchen Garden post a bit back about how she sat in the sun with her little boy and did the same and how happy it made her.  Well it worked for me too.  Before I knew it Littlest Monkey came up and asked if he could help.  "Of course" I nodded.  Littlest Monkey is a chatterbox.  I knew this before I was speechless but having no voice has confirmed that he doesn't actually need to have a conversation.  He will yak-yak away non-stop without expecting any response.  Then Eldest Monkey  sat down beside me and started popping broad beans too.  He volunteered that he thought it was fun.  I reckon it was too.  
Little Monkeys in deep concentration shelling broad beans.
Now, my sister the dietician said she wasn't a big fan of broad beans.  (Actually when she wasn't wearing her professional food face I heard her mutter under her breath "YUK eeyuew, can't stand them!") But I reckon, cooked right, they're dee-lish.  There were lots of recipes I wanted to try out in my books but I managed to narrow it down to one.  Before I tell you what I did though I'll give sis her say.

NutriNic says: "Broad beans are a good source of fibre. A 75g serve of broad beans contains about 3.2g of fibre. Getting enough fibre helps prevent constipation, haemorrhoids and diverticular disease and may be protective against bowel cancer. A high fibre diet is also associated with a lower risk of heart disease, helps control blood glucose in people with diabetes and can assist with weight loss.  How much fibre do we need?  About 30g of fibre a day is recommended but most Australians only eat about 20g.  A little warning though, if your diet is low in fibre increase the amount of fibre slowly to help avoid abdominal discomfort and wind." 

Smashed Broad Beans with Pasta
This wasn't actually the recipe I started out making.  I had planned an Iranian broad bean dish with egg.  But by the time I double peeled all those beans the kids were crawling up my leg with hunger and I knew 45 minutes baking in an oven wouldn't do.  I abandoned my plans and smashed up the beans to make an omelette for them.  It was OK, a bit bland and not worth sharing the recipe.  But for myself I made up this simple little pasta dish which was lower in kilojoules and fat and I'd recommend.  So here goes.
Serves 1

•  1 cup of double peeled broad beans
•  1 tbs chopped dill
•  1 tbs chopped parsley
•  2 tsp olive oil
•  salt & pepper
•  100g dried pasta

Double peel the broad beans by first removing them from their pods.  Place them in a boiling pot of water for about 30 seconds.  Remove to a sieve and run under cold water.  Remove the transparent outer shell by making a little nick with your fingernail and squeezing the bean through.
Cook the beans in a pot of boiling water until tender.
Cook the pasta.
Coarsely smash them with a fork or mortar and pestle.  Combine with olive oil, chopped herbs and season well with salt and pepper.  Mix through the pasta and serve.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Little Fishies

Here are the Monkeys adding fish to our pond.  We let it settle for a couple of weeks before purchasing some fish.  I chose Murray-Darling Rainbow Fish 'cos they're native and apparently will leave  tadpoles alone.  The pond had already attracted lots of mosquito wrigglers (or "Wiggles" as Littlest Monkey called them).  Littlest Monkey and I went hunting around the garden for some more rocks and a log which we put in the pond to offer some hidey holes for the fish.  Littlest Monkey let them acclimatise to the water for 30 minutes and then when Eldest Monkey Boy came home from school, they were set loose.  These fish are small and silver and impossible to see now that they're there.  Monkey Man reckons I'm dreaming if I think frogs are going to jump their way to our pond in inner Melbourne.  I have my doubts too but I like to dream so we'll see. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Candling Eggs

Yeah, OK it's a ridiculous photo that is completely indecipherable but this post would be really boring without some sort of image! Although we didn't have any success capturing the image, we did have success candling the silkie chicken eggs.  I'd read that this was something I ought to do.  Apparently, dud eggs can develop a build up of gases and explode in the incubator causing a big mess.  I was nervous about candling them -  I thought I wouldn't know what I was looking at.  But the thought of an explosion forced me to investigate this candling business and I discovered it's dead easy.  No need to buy or even make any equipment.  You just need a fairly strong LED torch (I used the light from  Monkey Man's bike) and darkness.    We candled the eggs at day 8.  Being nervous and loving a bit of a research job, I'd spent a bit of time beforehand on the internet figuring out what I ought to be looking for.  There are plenty of good YouTube videos that were fascinating.  You can get information on the Backyard Poultry site including here.  And also on this Backyard Chickens site there are some good photos.  So on day 8 I took six of my eggs out of the incubator and popped them into an egg carton.  It takes a bit of time for eggs to cool down so no need to rush too much but I thought it better to do shifts and keep half warm.  I turned off the lights,  put the torch on an egg and gently turned it around.  Sure enough we could see red veins and a dark shape - and it was moving!  We candled all the eggs and only found 3 that don't seem to have taken.  I've pencilled a ? on these eggs and will check back in a couple of days before discarding them.  I was so excited and relieved to see life and know that I was doing something right.  And I've finally managed to capture the attention of the monkey boys!
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