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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Weeds

Weeds I Know and Don't Love.
A photographic journey through my weedy garden.
Weeds in the baby tears...
... and in the fern.

Weeds around the pond.
 Pretty jonquils in a mulch of weeds.
 Weeds climbing up the Kangaroo paw.
Weeds everywhere in the broad bean bed.
 I can't tell the leeks from the weeds.
And growing up the fence in the chook shed... giant weeds. You'd think the chooks would help me out a bit but clearly they're much too well fed.

Weeds look bad.
They suck the nutrients from the soil and inhibit the growth of nearby plants.
Weeds hide sneaky little pests like slugs and snails that come and eat my seedlings overnight. 
Weeding is a never ending, mind-numbing chore that I know I must do - but when the weather is gloomy I feel the same. Instead, I'm leaving my fingerless gloves on and my gardening gloves remain in the shed. I sit on the heating vent, look out to the grey and curse myself for the jobs out there I really ought to do.

I have confessed before to being a tad lazy and have just confirmed this with photographic evidence of the current state of things in my patch. I don't believe in magic and know I will have to do some work, but surely you gardeners out in blog-world have some tricks you can pass on to me. I used to mark year 12 exams and the only way I could get through the torturous hours in that week was to reward myself with a piece of chocolate after completing every five. I don't think that'll work for me with these weeds. How do you deal with your weeds when they're out of control?

Monday, May 23, 2011

To Annual or Perennial and Things I Don't Much Like

Eggplant - Slim Jim
I don't like to pull up living plants. I don't like to thin out seedlings. And I don't like to pull out weeds (but that's 'cos I'm lazy, not 'cos I have some strange love for weeds).

So it is with reluctance today that I pull up my eggplant plants.  I'd read that you can grow them as perennials. To be honest, I'm such a novice, dodgy gardener that I had to google "annual" and "perennial" just to make sure I knew what was what this morning. Then I googled eggplant and annual and discovered that they'll probably only keep if you have warm winters. I don't think we qualify. I'm already sporting my red scarf and fingerless gloves and grizzling about Melbourne weather... and it's not even Winter yet. While I'm onto things I don't like, that's another one - Winter. Don't like it. So much so that I'm tempted to stop reading one of my favourite bloggers Hazel who has a countdown to Winter on her header at the moment.  Grrr. Makes me grumpy. Now I know some of you international visitors are rolling your eyes and tsking your tongues at my whining and moaning. I know, I don't even know what Winter is... 15ยบ is not actually cold... and I've only ever seen snow three times in my life! So I'd better stop before too many of you decide to stop reading and I have to re-name myself The Grizzler.
Back to the eggplant plants - I will pull them out. But look at them - they're so pretty. And they're still alive. Such a pity but out they must come. These are little skinny ones called slim jim grown from a packet of Diggers' seeds. Probably, a few of these eggplants needed some more time to grow but given the cold that's not going to happen. Reminder to self for next year to plant more of them and to plant them earlier. Anyway, today I snipped them off and decided to put them in a pot for lunch. Actually, what I really wanted to do was fry them but I knew I'd need to use loads of olive oil. Nothing like an eggplant to suck up the oil. I had a big slice of apple pie with double cream last night so I've decided I'd better go easy on the kilojoules this week. Instead, I sauteed them in a bit of veggie stock and added leftover roast veggies. I was about to take a photo but decided it all looked a bit grey. Those eggplants definitely looked better uncooked. So I fancied it all up with some chopped parsley. Nothing like a garnish to make you look like a masterchef.
Chilli plants
Now, I will bring myself to pull up the eggplants but I will not touch these chilli plants. They are in a nice warm spot and surely can survive a Melbourne Winter.

Eggplant Stew with Leftover Roast Veggies
• Eggplant, chopped (I used about 10 slim jims but 1 big one will do)
• 1 big tomato, chopped
• a little stock
• 30g low fat feta, crumbled/chopped
• leftover roast veggies
• parsley, finely chopped
• sourdough toast to serve

Saute the eggplant in a pot with a little stock until soft.  Add the chopped tomato and leftover roast veggies. Cook stirring for a couple of minutes. Add the crumbled feta and parsley and stir through. Serve with a piece of sourdough toast.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

On Cake, Spaetzle and Eurovision Glitz

We had a Eurovision party on the weekend.  We've been doing this annually for five years now and it's a highlight of our social calendar.  Not that I have much of a social calendar mind you. Most Saturday night's I find myself alone sitting in the indent on the couch watching trash TV, reading blogs and playing bejeweled. (Yep, boo-hoo bring on the violin strings.  Never marry a musician or have kids).  But Sunday night party we did. Usually, I'm not one for costume parties but Eurovision is such an easy dress-up that we encourage our guests to make an effort with their attire.  Trashy and glittery.  This year I toned down the trash and vamped up the glitter. I wasn't too keen to reveal my thighs so I opted for a long, sparkly frock from Savers. And I brushed my hair which is a shock. My hair is curly and only gets a weekly de-tangle brush with loads of conditioner under the shower. A dry brush results in a mountain of fuzz - which is big even by Eurovision standards. And of course I applied loads of make-up. 

Monkey Man didn't need to hunt the op-shops for his costume. He has several wardrobes full of stage clothes. If you haven't already figured it out, Monkey Man doesn't like to throw away anything. And that goes doubly for clothes. Every item he has ever worn is hanging in the wardrobe. He has the biggest collection of political t-shirts in the country. And he has a lot of very tacky, sequined suits. This year he opted for the white suit with a silver, sparkle shirt open to the navel.

Now I'm very tempted to post photos of ourselves but I fear future repercussions. I know that youngsters nowadays (adopting nana voice now) give no thought to what they publish on the internet  and how embarrassed they'll feel when they grow up, but I am a grown up. I also fear I may need to do a lot of photoshopping to hide the bulges the dress revealed so I might just give you a hint of the glitz from our cozzies. More of a hint from Monkey Man and just a sliver of a hint of my hunched back and fuzzy hair...
We have a friend who's a roadie and he loaned us a big screen and projector. So watching Eurovision with us was equivalent to watching the footy grand final on the big screen at Federation Square. But in our lounge room and with much more entertainment... and of course there was food.
Each year when voting starts I say a little prayer for Italy to win. Or Greece or Spain or some country with food that I know I can do. But almost every year I am thwarted by some  dreadfully cold country with sausage and fish as their national dish - which is fine if you're a meat-eater but I make vegetarian food. And sometimes it gets a bit tricky trying to find vegetarian party food from the host country of Eurovision.

Fortunately, this year Germany was hosting and that's not so bad. Monkey Man spent ten years living in Germany so you think he'd be a help. But he wasn't. All he did was correct my pronunciation. So after several night's of googling I decided on the menu. I bought pretzels (of course). Could've made them but ran out of time and motivation. Pumpernickel rounds with toppings, a big lump of the stinkiest cheese I've ever touched (tilsiter) and strawberries. Monkey Man assured me that when he lived in Germany he once tended a big strawberry patch. I find this hard to believe given Monkey Man's lack of gardening skill but I was happy to put strawberries on the menu as they look and taste good on a party platter. I considered putting out the saukraut we'd bought at the market but decided I was wasting my time. I also made kartotoffel kroketten (fried potato balls) and spaetzle. Our friend Sabina taught me how to make this last year when she was here on a holiday. It was definitely the hit of the night. Extreme comfort food. Layers of home-made little egg noodles and loads of cheese topped with caramelised onions. I reckon I ate four plates full in between several glasses of bubbly. Luckily I did this after I'd squeezed into the sparkle frock not before 'cos this dish is packed with kilojoules and naturally tastes de-lish.

This blog of course is supposed to be about things I am growing and food I am making from the garden. So let me tell you about the item on the menu from the garden - plum kuchen (cake).  I had frozen a couple of containers of plums in syrup after our summer crop and I de-frosted some for this recipe. The instructions for making the cake I got from this website. It was yummo, straight from the oven and topped with cream. A sweet de-lish treat after all that potatoey, buttery, cheesy, noodley food.
Plum Kuchen. Apologies for the not so good photo. I may have had a few too many glasses of bubbly by this stage.
So now I am planning next year's event. Italy came second. Drats. I'm looking for food from Azerbaijan. No idea!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Oi Blogger! What'd You Do with my Post?

On Friday, like many people I believe, I was locked out of blogger.  Couldn't get in at all.  Oh I could see my blog there all right, but I couldn't get onto my dashboard or check my stats or sign in or write a new post.  And it was a wee bit annoying.  But not as annoying as it was the next day when I could get back in but discovered that my last post and all the comments had disappeared into the blogosphere! 

Lucky, the draft of it was still there. I just needed to make a few additions and add some pics and it's now back to what it was originally I think. So apologies to all of you who have already read the post below and got confused and read it again. And double apologies to all of you who have already read and commented because all of your comments are somewhere out there in cyberspace. 

The Dirty Chook Bott

If you're reading this blog  over a nice cup of tea and a biscuit, I suggest you don't. 'Cos I'm about to chat to you about my chook's bottom and a big lump of stinky chook poo that had accumulated there.

Poor Puff. Or Fluff. I still can't tell them apart. She had been going about with a dirty bottom for a couple of days and I hadn't cleaned her up. But her bottom did look quite dirty. So I picked her up, wrapped her in an old towel, put on some gloves and took her inside to the laundry trough. And then I upended her to inspect the damage. Pooey! I wonder if this is common with silkies? I'd heard about a condition called pasty butt in young chicks but didn't think this affected older chickens. I did once own a chinchilla cat (are you seeing a pattern here with me and fluffy pets?) and she did sometimes need her rear end fluff trimmed. Mind you she used to sleep on my bed so you'd be wanting to keep her rear free in case any nasties were left on your pillow. Anyway, Fluff/Puff's bott was not a pretty sight. But luckily I'm quite the pet-bott-cleaning expert and luckily we have a very effective laundry hose. So I set to work cleaning her up and quickly managed to wash away most of the offending matter. But one spot seemed to be taking quite a while. And then I realised that I was directing the hose and swooshing away with my gloved hand on her skin not chook poo. Silkie chickens have black skin. I'd forgotten. Poor Fluff/Puff.

Once the washing torment was over I took her to the bathroom and gave her a blow dry. Which made us all laugh that I was turning the bathroom into a pampering silkie salon. But I didn't want her to catch a chill when she went back outside.

She didn't complain at all about the whole ordeal. In fact she sat still and gave a few little cluck clucks as per usual. But I was feeling a little worried and guilty that I ought to have cleaned her up earlier and that maybe it was a sign of illness or maybe I'd have to make this a regular routine. So I googled about a bit and discovered some disturbing things about humans.
www.indoorducks.com

Look! You can buy shoes for your indoor pet chooks so they won't slip about on your polished floor boards. They even supply shoes especially designed for silkies (silkies you know apart from the fluff that sets them apart, have an extra toe).





www.indoorducks.com
And look, some people make nappies for their chickens so they can wander about inside and instead of making a mess on your floor, make a mess on their own botts. This one is designed for a duck and comes in a range of bright spandexy colours.









And lastly, look! Famous people have poor pet silkies that they keep alone, dress up and carry about as accessories!
Oh dear. Now I know my chooks are a bit spoilt - and one of them just enjoyed a blow dry ... but really!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

One Green Capsicum

I attempted to grow a few capsicum plants over summer and was quite unsuccessful. Only two survived. Of those two, only one grew a capsicum. One green capsicum. I allowed that green capsicum to grow to a reasonable size and then I let it hang on the bush. For weeks. It's now getting close to the end of Autumn and getting colder here in Melbourne. I was waiting for that green capsicum to change colour to red but it never did. Last week I was having a little looksie at it and the whole branch twisted off in my hand. So then I thought I'd have a go at sitting it on my windowsill in the hope that some sun might turn it red. But it hasn't. I hate green capsicum.

According to my sister the nutritionist, capsicum is an excellent source of vitamin C. She also tells me that red capsicum has nearly twice the amount of vitamin C compared to green capsicum.  Another reason to hate green capsicum I reckon.  If you have to endure the taste of a green capsicum you want to know that it's better for you - but it's not!

How come roasted red capsicums are so delicious and I can think of a bezillion things to do with them  but not one thing appeals when it comes to its green counterpart?  I've checked out my Stephanie Alexander kitchen garden bible and of course she has quite a few yummy offerings by way of red but nothing green.  I have a whopper Indian cookbook and there are a few curry recipes there but they require more than one green capsicum and I am definitely not buying another.  Besides, I doubt a green capsicum curry would taste good. I could chop it up and chuck it in a fried rice and serve it to the monkeys.  But I'll bet both the little monkeys would pick out every bit of green. They don't like green capsicum either.

So what to do with this one green capsicum before it withers and gets fed to the worms? Your suggestions greatly appreciated (although possibly I will turn my nose up at most of them!).

NutriNic says:  "Capsicum is a good source of flavonoids which are antioxidants found in most fruit and vegetables. They help prevent oxidation in the tissues and mop up free radicals. Capsicum is also an excellent source of vitamin C, red capsicum has nearly twice the amount of vitamin C than green capsicum, green capsicum contains more vitamin C than  oranges."




Oh, and just for your information, NutriNic is not a fan of capsicum either - red or green.
The two surviving capsicum plants

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Before and After

I do so love having a squiz at people's gardens.  Especially if there are before and after shots. I follow Sweet Bean's blog and she sometimes features other people's gardens before and after. And I remember when Enchanted Moments gave a tour of her garden.  And Missy and at the Greening of Gavin.  And I'd been thinking that I should do that - a tour of the garden. Or, even better a before and after tour.

I am actually rather proud of the transformation I've made in the backyard. When I first moved in with Monkey Man, he'd been here about ten years. The block had been owned by an old Polish woman who died. She'd planted a plum, avocado (don't get excited it never fruits) and three lemon trees and had a whole bunch of old chook sheds along the garden fence. She obviously loved her garden. But I'm afraid by the time Monkey Man had it for ten years and then I came along, it was a mess. Nothing but cooch grass and a few established trees. And then I rather hastily got pregnant and before I knew it the back room had been knocked down, we were extending and the backyard was a junk yard. It remained that way for quite a few years - as did our house. Not the greatest or safest environment for Eldest Monkey Boy to toddle about in. Check out these snaps.
Now, before I go any further, let me explain to you the trouble I have been to this morning to dig up these old photos. Following our renovation, our house is now comfortable, but it's not finished. Remember this post? There is a room upstairs that is one day supposed to be our bedroom, but for the past eight years (yep that's how long we've been renovating so far) it's been our junk room. Hidden from sight by a nailed up bit of material, behind which lurks this...
Going in here makes me feel a little ill and a lot overwhelmed.  Piled high with boxes of stuff that I'm sure we don't need. Not just our stuff, but stuff from Monkey Man's father who passed away two years ago and Monkey Man's mother who passed away sixteen years ago. And there are boxes and boxes of photos. I don't know about you, but once I start looking through boxes of photos I find it hard to stop. And photos from your lover's old life are sad but compelling. Why couldn't I have known Monkey Man when he was in his 20s and travelling the world? Is that another girlfriend? Just how many girlfriends did he have? Look how much fun he's having. How old is he now? How many years have I lived? How much longer do I have? Death anxiety... death anxiety... Quick get me out of this room!

That's probably enough insight into my mind-wanderings for one blog post. Back to the garden.

I was tempted to save my before and after shots until Spring or Summer when the garden is looking its best. To at least photograph it when the sun was shining, after the grass had been freshly whipper-snippered and after a bit of a weed and tidy up.  But I haven't. You know I'm impatient and lazy so I did none of those things. I decided to show it warts and weeds and all and on a grey day.  So here's a little tour of my imperfect, messy but transforming garden.
This is the first patch that I dug in the yard when Eldest Monkey Boy was about 6 months old. I love ferns and this spot is right outside the back window and shaded all year. We've had such a mild Summer that the carpet of baby tears didn't die back at all and it's creeping out everywhere. In the foreground is the pond we made in December.  You can see the plants have grown. The water is covered in duck weed and I have no idea if those fish are still in there but I still like it.  Now notice to the left of the pond - lots of weeds. And look at the back right corner. That's a junk and storage pile down the side of the house - plumbing pipes, timber, extra chairs, old doors. Oh, and you can also see that the architraves around the windows and doors are only half painted. Sigh. I really ought to be painting instead of anxiously rummaging through old photos and blogging.
This is the view from beside the fernery at the back door.
And here's a bit more of the back taken from in front of the table. Check out how much that protea has grown. Look back to the second before photo when Monkey Boy was a toddler, he's standing beside it there. I got the big, colourful flag last month from the Melbourne Garden Show. It's probably a bit gaudy but it'll look better when the veggies start growing up around it. The two big sticks are from a  tree that died out the front. I convinced Monkey Man that an arbour to walk through to the second part of the garden was a good idea and he came up with this suggestion. Unfortunately, nothing I've yet planted will grow up it. Every creeper seems to die. Any suggestions? You can just make out the chook run along the back fence and under the trampoline. They also are free to wander about to the right of the trampoline but they don't. I have no idea what's wrong with them because there is a lot of grass / weeds that I know they like to eat. I think they like the security of a roof over their heads and are too timid to venture to open space. Either that or they're stupid and can't remember how to get there.
This is not a very attractive shot but in an effort to be accurate and honest I'll show you anyway.  It's taken from the back door and looking to the right. Where those pots are is the herb garden. Usually there are also a bunch of veggies growing there but I recently dug up my failed pumpkin vine so it's looking a bit bare. If you look closely you can see the teapot hanging from the lemon tree. This is the same teapot that Eldest Monkey Boy was toddling about with six or so years ago in the first before photo.
And lastly, here's the view from beside the flag looking up to the house. The veggie patches are bare but I did notice a couple of broad bean and snow pea shoots just poking their heads through the straw. And yep, that is how I leave the hose. No careful rolling and tidying in my back yard I'm afraid.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Ooooh, Oooooh... Eggs!

This morning I nearly jumped out of my dressing gown with excitement ... two eggs in the nesting box!

I'd been wondering the last few weeks when these chickens would start laying some eggs and have been checking their box periodically. I think I've done my sums correctly and they are now five and a half months old. Recently though, I'd almost forgotten that they were not intended as ornamental, entertaining fluff-balls but were in fact meant to be put to work producing food for us.

Then this morning, things were a little odd.

I filled their water and feeder and opened the gate so they could have a wander, but they stayed put in their coop. Indie and Beverly were still on the ladder which leads to their night time quarters. Which was odd. Usually they all squabble and cluck and rush out as soon as I open the gate. Except Indie who enjoys a sit on the perch for a bit longer and then sprints to join the others. So I was inspired to check the nesting box. Sure enough, two eggs.

I quickly raced inside, grabbed the camera and shouted to the monkeys to come look.
 Here they are collecting our first eggs.

Now the eggs were a tad on the small side as I had been warned. 4.5cm long to be precise. Despite their weeny size, both the Monkeys immediately wanted egg on toast for breakfast and I was happy to oblige. Until Littlest Monkey changed his mind and refused to get dressed or have breakfast. As he tends to do. But that was great because it meant the entire other 4.5cm egg was then left all to me.

Eldest Monkey Boy had scrambled egg on toast, while I had a fried egg with mushies, silverbeet and chives.  Eldest Monkey claimed his to be the best scrambled egg ever. "Sweeter than normal eggs" he said. To be honest I could not taste the difference, but I was nevertheless super-stoked to be eating our first little home grown goog.

Good girls. I wonder which of you is responsible?
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