Sunday, August 29, 2010

Insect Hotel

With snow only days ago, today I am in a T-Shirt. I had planned to begin my spring planting this weekend - but have resolved to start in a couple of weekends time. Just letting everything warm up a bit. I have planted some basic herbs in the herb garden however (this time with herbs we will use!) basil, oregano, parsley, thyme and lemongrass. Our lush herb garden, while bountiful wasn't used much and was pruned during winter to get ready for our 3rd spring here. Looking forward to renewing this area, now we have a better rhythm to the seasons (and to our cooking pleasure!).

But the big news around here today is that with the able assistance of A's 8 year old girl and 10 year old boy we built an Insect Hotel. [ You can view some stunning ones here ] An insect hotel is a place where all types of insects and critters can hang out and hibernate during winter and provide safe haven until emergence in next spring. Things like ladybugs, solitary bees, etc but even frogs if near a pond. (which ours kind of is). The insects will hopefully then ward of unwanted pests around the vege patch and help pollinate our plants (and fruit trees). You build it with a steady foundation, then adding recycled materials like old pipes, logs with different sized drill holes, straw and hay, things where things can hide basically! The only thing left to do for this one is to add some succulent plants to add some living matter.

Here it is!
From various for blog

Thursday, August 26, 2010

It snowed today....

It's so cold in Katoomba today it briefly snowed! With wind chill factor the Katoomba weather station is reading sub zero temperatures. Somehow I don't think I will be starting my Spring planting this weekend. Maybe next!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Banana Bread (take 2!)

With more overripe bananas lurking on our kitchen bench I dived in for my second attempt at Banana bread in as many weeks. Again using duck eggs this time I used a different recipe than previously - this one being far yummier than last weeks. The recipe is below (i think it has been adapted from the 'Joy of Cooking'). I baked in a loaf tin and did as the recipe suggested and placed sliced bananas on top.
Here is the result - (half eaten!)
From various for blog



BANANA BREAD 
Adapted from Joy of Cooking

INGREDIENTS:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
1 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 ripe large bananas, mashed well (about 1-1/2 cups)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Garnish: (Optional)
A few slices of banana

METHOD:

  1. Preheat oven to around 180c (350f) . Butter and flour the bottom and sides of a 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a medium-sized bowl combine the mashed bananas, eggs, melted butter, and vanilla.
  4. With a rubber spatula, lightly fold the wet ingredients (banana mixture) into the dry ingredients just until combined and the batter is thick and chunky. (The important thing is not to over mix the batter. You do not want it smooth. Over mixing the batter will yield tough, rubbery bread.)
  5. Scrape batter into prepared pan and place the slices of banana on top of the batter for garnish.
  6. Bake until bread is golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 60 minutes. Place on a wire rack to cool and then remove the bread from the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.

    Makes 1 – 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf of banana bread / banana cake.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Lost Seed - my spring seeds have arrived

My first lot of spring seeds have arrived. I ordered them from The Lost Seed (www.thelostseed.com.au) which specialise in old heirloom and heritage varieties of seeds and seedlings. To start with:
CUCUMBER - BOSTON PICKLING - dates back to 1880
CORN - GOLDEN BANTAM - dates back to 1898 - American
TOMATO BUSH - NAPOLI PASTE - Italian heirloom
TOMATO BUSH - CHERRY MIX - mix of cherry type toms. (Cherry toms grow much better in The Blue Mountains.
BEETROOT - CHIOGGIA - Italian heirloom dates prior to 1840
BEAN RUNNER - SCARLET EMPEROR - Heiroom dating back to 1633.(in UK_) - and introduced into America in 1800s - and used by the native americans. Have a look at this beautiful old illustration of the scarlet emperor
From various for blog

This time last year (this weekend) I planted my spring crop. I will try and do the same this year - I will also be planting my corn (and more of it) a lot earlier than last year probably late September. Although it's not high yielding - it's just so wonderful picking fresh corn!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Baking bread

Yum. I have been going mad baking bread in an old Breadmaker machine that we had in the back of the closet. I don't think I have ever used one, and once I discovered it I have been like a woman possessed! In the past few days I have made three normal white loaves and one foccacia type bread. (made on the dough setting! Yes! and then popped into the old fashioned oven).

Ooooh - the delay button - what's this!? [she asked, pondering the possibilities]. The next morning at 5am on cue the dogs started barking madly as the bread machine turned on like magic to bake us some Saturday morning bread.

Below is a photo of my very first one. I have worked out that with the bulk breadmix I bought - that it comes to about $1 a loaf - but we would go through 2 for every one of a normal shop bought sandwich loaf - so that works out about $2 a loaf. Still pretty good. {not sure about all the power used to bake it though!). I have also made with just normal flour, yeast etc, rather than the breadmix. My next experiment will be to use the 'dough' setting for pasta. And make some more home made pasta.

From various for blog

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Lettuce Seedlings

I am attempting to grow Lettuce from seeds. Many people probably think why bother - but I want to establish a routine of collecting seeds each year from various crops (starting with lettuce) to grow the next season. To become closer to a self sustaining vege patch. So the two types of lettuce seeds I have chosen are Red Romaine and Red Velvet - both heritage varieties from 'Eden Seeds'. They dont have a high 'cross pollenating' tendency - so hope they will be ok. I haven't had any luck in growing seedlings - not enought patience nor attentive enough...but I keep persisting. This time I have sown some into egg containers - which also mean that once the seedlings are ready I transport them - container and all to the ground - so they don't have to be moved. - Another thing I have learned to avoid. The other seeds I have in fact grown into pots - to eventually replant - see how I go. I have placed them on a north facing window sill. will keep blog up to date with pics of progress.
From various for blog
From various for blog

Friday, August 13, 2010

Banana Cake from Edmonds Cookbook

Today we made a classic banana cake from the classic NZ cookbook Edmonds. I actually found it from another blog here - (so thank you!).
We made the cake with our duck eggs of course! Yummy! I made it in two sandwich tins - but next time will just do the one. I also added a couple of drops of vanilla.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Lemon Meringue Pie - with Duck Eggs

What do you think? Tonight I made a Lemon Meringue Pie with some of our duck eggs. I found the recipe online here (using chook eggs, but I swapped) Both girls are laying every day now - so I need to keep baking baking baking! - Which isn't hard to do - as I have hungry mouths here - and I love it anyway. Thank god for Master Chef. Apparently our single older gentleman neighbour next door likes to bake and is happy to receive duck eggs instead of the Chook eggs we regularly give him. Now to eat....
From various for blog
From various for blog

Monday, August 2, 2010

It's snowing today

Well, my tag line under the blog title says it "snows in winter - sometimes" - but that was before global warming. Last year it didn't snow at all. But today and last night - FINALLY! it's snowing a little bit. - The kids are sooooo excited and hoped school would be called off. Alas not to be.

New Duck - Meet Charlie

Well unfortunately our beautiful Jessie Duck had to leave us. While we had all become very attached to him - with his non quacking growl like sound, his little mohawk that tried to scare you out of the pen, his 'i am the brave scary one here' attitude as he came right up to you - half wanting you to pat him - half trying to look after his ladies, and his 'I CAN fly - I CHOOSE not to fly' abilities - he did finally get a little too agressive. The other morning when 'A's' 8 year old girl was down feeding the poultry - 'A' heard a screeching terrified 'mummy, mummy, mummy'. 'A' couldn't have been there quick enough - lept over the kitchen bench and down to the back yard in about two seconds flat to find her little girl pinned up against pen fence by Jessie biting her leg quite visciously. Jessie is a Muscovy duck - and they are the one type which are known to get quite agressive as a pet. So with no fanfare or discussion - we decided to take him that very day straight down to the RSPCA and surrender him. It was sad. A was more moved than expected.
The next day we paid a visit to our local 'chookman sheepman' - who is the old guy who breeds poultry on a few acres nearby. Hes' lived in a caravan since his house burned down years ago. ANd is surrounded by all these chooks, ducks, his two dogs and the odd fox! We visit semi regularly to buy chooks and in this case our new duck! We told him our story of having two lonely girls who just lost their drake. And he sold us a beautiful calm white Pekin duck. Charlie. He also said we should have brought Jessie to him - as he would have used him as a breeding duck - as it's good to get non-related ducks into his breeding program. So we (8 year old and me) proceeded to go to the RSPCA and to reclaim our Jessie - who looked miserable and lonely in one of those awful zoo like concrete jungle cages. He kept flying away from the keeper - so I had to go in - he knew me and let me pick him up into the box. We returned to 'chookman sheepman' and gave him Jessie. He will have a happy life now. And we are all much happier for it!.
Anyway - meet Charlie... The funny thing that has happened now - is that Bob - one of the ducks has bonded and started laying. And Puddleduck - the rescued duck from Wentworth falls Lakes - has stopped laying. !
From various for blog

Sponge cake using Duck eggs

Well the duck eggs are now coming in thick and fast. So I was due to start experimenting with them. Our first go - probably unwisely- was to poach them. Ick! Put us off them. Second go, was to 'bake' with them. All the googling had led to lots of recommendations for baking with them - especially sponges and meringue. So I just googled "duck egg sponge cake" - don't you love google? Up came a Duck Egg Sponge Cake recipe! This is the link for those interested. And below is the result.
!
From various for blog