You are currently browsing the monthly archive for August 2010.

The dog alerted me to a very large carpet snake today, on its way into the chook pen. I stayed with it until it decided to go to the neighbour’s property, but I’m certain it’ll return… I will have to watch out for this one!

Apart from a small forage into the vegie garden today to pick some absolutely gorgeous leek for dinner, I was spending too much time on fixing a colour laser printer problem, only to find out the USB port had been damaged and the ‘cheapest’ answer would be to replace the entire printer! All because of a tiny plastic part…

Because this is so very much against my grain, I have decided to find my own solution by using another connectivity port available – ethernet printing. This may involve inconveniences in equipment location, but will avoid the replacement of a perfectly good printer.

We live in such wasteful times, it is unbelievable!


Jam-making Day!

This morning I went to a local strawberry farm to buy a few kilos of fruit for making jam. Once I got them home I started my production line: washing, chopping, adding sugar and lemon juice, cooking, adding sugar & pectin and putting into jars.

Here’s the sequence in pictures:

Take 6kg of strawberries and 6kg of sugar, some pectin, plenty of fresh lemons and clean glass jars, cook strawberries and fill into jars, label and let cool –> Makes about 30 jars of strawberry jam or one year’s family supply for one morning’s work.

Life is wonderful and the house smells of strawberries – I have another 2.5kg waiting to be eaten straight or transformed into something fruity and delicious!

For those interested, here’s what I do:

For every kilo of fruit, I use one kilo of sugar.

For each batch I chop 2kg of fruit into a bowl and add 1kg sugar. I add the juice of four lemons (two per kilo of fruit, helps the gelling and to keep the colour). I then mix several teaspoons of pectin (2 to 4) into the second kilo of sugar to add to the jam later.

How much pectin is needed depends on the water and natural pectin content of the fruit – I find that farmed strawberries need more pectin as they contain more water. Fruits like lemons or apples contain their own pectin and ‘gel’ more easily.

I transfer the fruit, lemon juice and sugar mix to a large stainless steel pot and bring it to the boil until it foams, turn down the heat and stir in the remaining sugar and pectin mix, bring to the boil again and leave to simmer. To test if the jam will set, I use a glass of cold water and let a drop of jam fall into it. If it floats apart at the top, it needs to cook a little longer or needs more pectin – if it stays together as a drop (or a few) and sinks right down, it’s done.

I fill the jam into clean jars with a ladle, put on the lids tightly and turn the jars upside down to let cool. After half an hour they can be turned over and I check the metal lids have all sealed or push down the centre button to check the seal. Should any not have sealed, they will be used first and kept in the fridge. I wipe off any spills on the outside of jars, label them with content and date and store them in the pantry.

This morning I got up early to have a walk in the garden – I tried to imagine what an oak tree might like and where it would like to stand for a – hopefully – very long time.

I decided on a spot away from the house, but near the chook pen and the nut trees, overlooking the downward slope which will one day be a lovely forest. I think it will be a great place to plant the little oak tree…

Today I spend a few hours clearing weeds and masses of flower bulbs from the garden bed in front of the deck because I have plans to grow my tea here as well as some more flowering bushes.

I planted both, the pink and the white, tea camellias where I can easily pick leaves from all sides. The flower bulbs were thinned and mostly replanted – no need to waste good plants.

I also managed to plant the Walnut tree near the Hazelnut bushes and added the new Northland Blueberry to my nut grove. I still haven’t found a place for the oak – it will have to be a special place for a special tree.

Before having a deserved afternoon tea we used a foliage fertiliser on all the herbs and cabbages which are suddenly bursting with growth. I picked myself some Tuscan Kale and a well-hidden, but now found, capsicum for tonight’s pizza. The dough is rising in the afternoon sun…

I received an exciting package in the mail today – my Diggers Club tree order.

It includes an English Oak, a Black Walnut, two tea camellias, a Persian Witch Hazel, and another Blueberry variety. Planting plans for the weekend!

I also had a lovely lunch with the girls locally and bought myself a bunch of daffodils – today is Daffodil Day in support of cancer research – and we also supported the UNICEF fundraiser at Montville School to raise money for the Pakistan flood victims.

A day of feeling gratitude.

This week I spend more time on getting the garden ready for summer. The Sharpe Blueberry  has bunches of berries fattening – I’m reluctant to remove them to give the plant a break… I like to eat them too much and hope they will ripen soon – I’ll give the bush a little extra attention this year.

Not all was work this week as I had a lovely dinner with a friend on 25 August – enjoying the seasonal produce as a cauliflower soup for our first course.

Family Day in Montville

We spent most of the day in the park, listening to live music,
flying a kite in hardly any wind – quite unsuccessfully – and playing table tennis.

Federal Election day today.

After going into Montville to vote – even though my green vote makes no difference at all in our conservative electorate – I relaxed in my tidy garden and enjoyed the scent of lavender and the taste of fat youngberries.

This week I have been busy getting the garden back into shape.

I have spent some time each day mowing, slashing, pruning and clearing.

Everything is coming into flower: apple trees and broad beans… spring bulbs and sweet peas.

The scent of orange blossom is divine.

The monthly local farmers market was on today. I donated some of my herbs and oranges to the school stall – seeing that the orange blossom is starting to break out on the still heavily laden trees.

It was a most enjoyable morning with friends.

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All artworks and photographs in this blog are original and all rights are reserved by the author, © S Gneist. Please ask before reproducing any of my work.
August 2010
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