Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Seven New Citrus Trees


It has been a cold and wet winter here this year. Although the rain has been welcome, it has not been any incentive to venture outside into the garden. So as one can expect due to a previous lack of enthusiasm there is a lot of work to be done outside at the moment.
With so many deciduous trees in my garden it is very bare looking over the winter months. In an effort to 'green up' my fence lines I have been planting citrus trees. Five oranges in the front garden two years ago are now becoming established and I am hoping for some extra fruit this year. My back fence is very bare but there is little room due to well established fruit trees to plant anything that will become bushy. So I decided to espalier citrus along the fence. I am aware that they will compete for root space and nutrition with the other trees but one can only try and see what happens.
So today I planted out seven new citrus trees. One Lemonade, two Emperor Mandarins that have been in pots in the Courtyard for around ten years. One Tahitian Lime, a Summer fruiting Orange. a Seedless Japanese Mandarin and a Ruby Grapefruit. That takes the number of citrus that I have planted out in the garden to 20!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Dry!

It is just so dry here at the present time that I don't feel at all inspired to walk around the garden with my camera in hand. I have been watering the garden since September last year and with no sign of any Autumn rain I am left to wonder how much longer I am going to have this daily ritual. We now have watering restrictions forced on us as our water supply is below 50% capacity. Normally this time of the year I would be planting new seedlings, but at the moment I don't feel at all inspired.
There is produce still in the garden, I have apples, pears, crab apples and a few tangelos beginning to ripen. Twelve years of previous drought is not far from my mind.........I hope that it rains soon!     

Monday, February 1, 2016

Rain, Rain, Beautiful Rain!

Lovely soaking rain fell over the weekend, everything feels fresh and lush. Although this may not be unusual for certain areas, here in the Wimmera it has been a very poor season. We have been facing drought conditions and record breaking high temperatures. Farmers have had to face crop failures due to lack of rain. There will be no need to water over the coming days, but it has made me contemplate how the introduction of water restrictions would impact on my own garden. Since the end of a previous 12 year drought in 2010 I have made a lot of changes to my garden and put in a lot more fruit and citrus trees. As they are not yet fully established, they take a reasonable amount of water. Quickly forgotten were all the buckets that I carried trying to keep it all alive over the severe restriction that were in place at the time. Now I look around and wonder if I would have the energy for that now. I still use the grey water from my washing machine on 5 orange trees that I have planted down the side of the house in an old rose garden. But my new green machine uses so little water I am afraid that I would not be able to keep anything else going with the water. It is not yet doom and gloom but in the back of my mind I feel that I should maybe stop planting out so many new gardens.

The garden is very productive at the moment we have potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants. capsicums, grapes and satsuma plums to eat. We are sharing the grapes with the birds but the pergola is laden and there is enough for everyone.   

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Years End

It is hot again here today. I am not even going to bother looking up what the forecast temperature is, I just know that it is hot and I am over it!
Most of my time seems to be taken up with watering. I should not complain, as at least I am on town water and as yet there are no restrictions on using it. I live in the street that has the water stand pipe. Every day for weeks I see the water carter there up to 6 times a day collecting drinking water to take to people who live outside of town and rely on tank water collected from run off from their roof. An indication on how little rain we have had this year.   
This is the season of thunderstorms and although they can bring much needed rain. They also start most of the bush fires that we have here in Southern Australia. My local Grampians Region has seen many significant fires these past years and the loss of homes on Christmas Day in the Otways fires is heart rendering.   
Happy New Year to everyone and may you stay cool and safe.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Eve

Here it is Christmas Eve already and it is hot! I have been up since 5am picking my second apricot tree to save the fruit from the birds and giving it a heavy prune at the same time. I have spent the week dealing with produce from my Trevatt apricot. So now I am onto the Moore Park Early apricot. Jars are full of chutney and jam. The dehydrator is full of apricots and now I have many many kilos more to deal with. That can wait until Boxing Day. The days are hot and dry and the garden requires a lot of watering. I am holding my breath as we are in drought conditions here and there may be water restrictions enforced early next year. Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas.  

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

How to Attract Birds into Your Garden

My new bird bath was delivered this morning along with 12 bales of pea straw to use as mulch for the front garden. Coen questioned why I needed another bird bath? I suppose for a teenager with no interest in the garden it was a reasonable question. Once again we are facing drought conditions here on the edge of the Wimmera. With no rain in urban areas there is no water for birds to access easily apart from the lake and wetland areas in the town and nearby dams are the only other source. As you can see from the photo I took on Sunday, water is not the only attraction. I never net my apricots as the trees are too large, so we have to be content with sharing the crop. Apples are a different matter.
I grow six different varieties of apples and if I don't net the trees, the birds ruin them while they are young and green like these. The Rainbow Lorikeets come annually, the week between Christmas and New Year. I have gardened here for over 35 years...I was only 20 when I started!  Rainbow Lorikeets are not endemic to this region. Years ago if you heard one in the garden, you would rush out to admire how pretty they are. Now the sound only means that they are out there 'eating'. I don't like having to net the apples as they do not ripen until March here and to me that is a long time to have nets on trees. My reasons are that unless you secure them well birds will actually become trapped in the nets. Once they realize that they are trapped they panic and become more wound up in the net. Last year I had to cut a  Rainbow Lorikeet out of one of the nets as it tried like mad to bite me! I also had to cut my neighbors cat out of the net as it was trying to take on a Wattle Bird. By the time the apples are ripe and we have had enough, I take the net off and leave fruit for the birds.
As you can see by the purple droppings on the branch, we shared the Mulberries with them. But there are also plums, pears, nectarines, peaches, crab apples, nashi pears persimmons and grapes that I will have to fend them off from. As for the two almond trees, they are almost bare already as the Crimson Rosella's have beaten the Yellow Tail Black Cockatoo's to them. But I am looking forward to seeing what other birds my new bird bath attracts. It is deep enough for the Magpies who turn up when I put the lawn sprinklers on the take a nice cool bath.     

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Marinated Artichoke Hearts

I have an abundance of Artichokes at the moment, but I doubt that I will be using up this one any time soon. I have never seen actual thorns on them before and even the leaves have thorns on the edges!
Today I picked a large bucket of the much more friendly type and made up a jar of Marinated Artichoke Hearts. You can use them in salads, vegetarian pizza, pasta dishes and they are nice in a vegetarian lasagna. 

Marinated Artichoke Hearts
2 lemons
6-8 medium or 10-12 medium artichokes
1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for bottling
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon chilli flakes
2 tablespoons chopped oregano leaves
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon salt
Method
Finely grate the zest of the lemon and set aside. To make the lemon water, squeeze the juice of both lemons into a large bowl and add 8 cups of water. If you don't have surplus lemons use 3 tablespoons of white wine vinegar. To prepare the artichokes, cut off the top three quarters of each head and discard. Use a sharp paring knife to trim the bases and stems down to their pale centers. Scoop out and discard the hairy choke in the center, dunking the hearts into the lemon water as you work to prevent them from browning. Cut in quarters if large or half if they are small and soak in the lemon water, turning to ensure that they are fully immersed. If soaking for more that 15 minutes place a plate in the bowl to keep them submerged.
Combine reserved lemon zest with all remaining ingredients in a medium pot. Add the well drained artichokes and bring the oil to a strong sizzle over a high heat. Reduce the heat to very low , cover and cook, stirring now and then, until artichokes are tender. This will take around 15 - 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool in the oil. Transfer to clean jars, then pour the unstrained cooking oil over the top. If storing for more that a few days add more oil to cover and seal hot in sterilized jars.
If you don't have fresh artichokes you can use two tins of artichoke hearts and cook them for five minutes in the flavoured oil.

Lime and Ginger Syrup


I have an abundance of Tahitian Limes at the moment and they have begun to fall off the tree. The days are warming up and already we have had a few days of total fire bans. This early in the year it shows how dry and hot the weather is for mid spring. With the warmer weather cold drinks are very welcome.  

Lime and Ginger Syrup
6 cm piece of root ginger, peeled and sliced 
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 cup lime juice strained

Method
Simmer the sliced ginger and around 2 cups of water for 20 minutes.
Strain the ginger from the water and measure the water to 1 cup, adding more water if it has reduced down too much.   
Combine the sugar and water and cook until reduced by about 1 third. Take off the heat and stir in the lime juice.
The syrup will keep in the fridge for a few weeks but if you would like to make a larger batch you can preserve it by putting it in jars and boiling them in a water bath for about 8 minutes to seal them.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Almond Blossom Already

It looks like spring may be on its way after all. It has been too bleak and cold to do anything much out in the garden. A lot of jobs are waiting to be done. Maybe when the sun shines, but the Almond trees are trying to tell me it may be soon.

Apple and Olive Oil Cake, Scented with Lady Grey Tea


I have six different varieties of apples in the garden, but most years the birds beat me to most of them. The Rainbow Lorikeets come between Christmas and New Year when the apples are small and green. I netted three trees this year and the Lady Williams apple still bears a few fruit. Generally they are a tart apple a possible cross between a Granny Smith and Johnathan. This year as they have had a chance to ripen for a long period on the tree they are much sweeter. I still have 3 buckets of different variety apples to use up so I decided to try this cake. 

Apple and Olive Oil Cake, Scented with Lady Grey Tea    

180g of dried muscatel grapes
freshly brewed Lady Grey tea
5 small Lady Williams apples around 500 grams
150ml olive oil
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 and 3/4 cups self raising flour
2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt

Method
Preheat the oven to 180 C (350 F). Grease and line a 20cm (8 in) springform cake tin.   

Place the muscatels in a bowl and cover with the hot tea. Cover with a plate and set aside for 20 minutes. Peel and core the apples and cut into small dice. Beat the oil and sugar together until well amalgamated. Break the eggs into a small bowl and beat them, add the eggs in small amounts at a time to the mixture, beating all the time. Sift the flour and cinnamon and add the salt.  Add the flour to the mixture to form a stiff batter. Drain the muscatels and reserve the liquid, fold the muscatels  through the mixture with the diced apple. Don't be alarmed if the apples are not completely covered by the cake batter.
Place the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for around one and a half hours, or until a skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean. Check the cake halfway through and cover with foil if it is browning too quickly. 
Add 1 tablespoon of sugar to the reserved liquid and reduce until it forms a thick syrup. Brush the cake while it is still hot with the syrup.