Catch-up time

So much has been happening that time has flown by, with no post entered here for several days at least – time for a catch-up of news from this little farm in the valley.

Many classes have been happening in the cooking school over the past week or so –  Preserves, Easy Cheese Making and the first run of Confectionery.  Daughter Stephanie conducts this class.

It’s the season to be thinking about celebratory sweet treats, and so lots were made – honeycomb, triple decker marshmallow, raspberry snowballs, toffee apples, nougat, many kinds of toffee, several kinds of taffy, peanut brittle, fruit jellies and so much more. It was great fun, as indeed we hope all the classes are here.

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I’ve been preparing another book, due to be released next April – it will be called “A Kitchen in the Valley” and details are available on the HarperCollins/ABC Books website.  This hard cover book will contain lots of colourful photos.

The garden here is growing astronomically, though the lack of rain and wind is drying out the grass rather alarmingly.  The garden beds are pretty though.  I have implemented a system, perhaps a little unorthodox.

I’ve taken to ‘adopting’ poor forlorn plants sitting on reduced price trolleys at garden stores and hardware shops. Most of these specimens are unlabelled, and I like the mystery of what the plant might turn out to be.

I’d been going through a planting purple stage here recently and asked a young shop assistant if the sad little ground cover would (if it survived) produce lilac or mauve flowers.  “Oh yes” she said “Definitely!”  Well they actually turned out to be orange, but that’s ok, it’s a very pretty little plant. I’ve since been told it’s called Monkey Musk.

IMG_2851 A plant that was promised to be chocolate mint was in reality golden oregano, but it’s a nice green ground cover, edible even I expect, so that’s welcome to grow here for sure.

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We take cuttings too, of agreeable people’s plants.  This has led to some wonderful carnations this year.  My Nan used to grow them, and even as a child I thought that they looked like they’d been painstakingly planted by some unseen hand. (The reason this photo is a bit off-centre as the wind’s blowing the carnation every which-way).

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Dianthus are another surprise flower from the $2 trolley at a hardware store – what a show they make, and require very little attention.

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I apply the mystery box of gardening to seed planting too.  I choose two or three packets of seeds and strew them out over the garden beds under the trees and wait to see what comes up.  This year Sweet Williams have thrived and are making a lovely show.

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Last winter the snow took its toll on some of the shrubs here.  The two lovely acacias that sprawled alongside the front steps were among the casualties.  I replaced them with small lavender plants (still in the purple planting phase) and they are thriving.  Rather mysteriously tiny tomato plants keep appearing alongside them.  I then transplant them elsewhere in the garden.  (If you look closely, you can see one hiding under this lavender plant).

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We have dozens and dozens of tomato plants now, between these and the great number Stephanie grew for us from seed that have been planted out in a specially prepared bed in the far paddock.  All-in-all it should be a good year for chutneys, sauces, dehydrating and bottling them all. Plus I do also want to try making my own tomato paste this year.

So, despite this random way of gardening (and the considerable amount of weeding that must be done very soon), it’s all looking quite attractive.

Our sheep were shorn a day or so ago too, an event unto itself, but that’s a story for another day.

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