Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Fixing stuff..roof, chimney stack and driveway..just before Christmas 2013

All these needed doing..first the roof and the chimney flue..

And now the driveway needed repairing and widening...

The morning before work begins.

I really would like to drive one of these..

Monday, 24 February 2014

Uff...been laid low for a few days. Serves me right..salt deficiency and the humid weather brought it to a head. Forgotten true humidity..27C and almost 100% saturation..sitting still and breathing brings perspiration all over...

Friday, 21 February 2014

Hot and humid and the power of weeds..

Today I am determined to try and knock back the weed growth..not my favourite task (is it anybody's?) but it has to be done..check these..

Weeded all this area and these are before Christmas

This was going to be the melon bed..lots of cow manure..yummm..lol..had it delivered with 1 days' notice by a neighbour (farmer) who turned up with a trailer loaded with it..and I'd read that melons like rich soil..had no idea that weeds do as well and they came in the mix..

Pretty organised yes? Strawberries, herbs, and had just sown spinach and beans..new potatoes..

And this is this beautiful sight today ha!

Well..it still produces so much..melons coming along  peppers beans courgettes and cucumbers and pumpkin...and tomatoes. So why weed now? Think I'll wait until they've all finished and clean out the entire lot.

Looking for an excuse for a glass of wine..

Thursday, 20 February 2014


OK..so I chose this house as it had more character and charm than anything I'd seen. I'd vowed not to get involved in renovations again: it's too disruptive and leaves little time for living.

Sigh..famous last words. At the moment I shift between needs and find myself juggling projects e.g house v garden and 9 months on it's still the same. These are from the first few days.

 I moved in during the start of Winter last year so the weather had calmed down. My main need was to order firewood and settle in  - winter was approaching fast. Lighting though: no light fittings at all and no curtains. So first thing was to get light fittings..I desperately needed something that made the place look better as all I could see were bare rooms and things that needed fixing... and that was a path to getting a bit fed up....

This was originally a bedroom and now it is a TV room and study..

And this is now my main bedroom, waiting to be redecorated. It'll be a while..

Light fittings purchased and installed and all the furniture quickly put into place so at least I could be comfortable and make my own 'territory'. It's important for a home to be created - a house is only a structure - a home is atmosphere and feeling good about living within it's walls..

 The walls have yet to be painted and so many other things to be done..

It will happen...it's still rough and there are paint splotches on the walls..it will get better

Chutney time....

Today is raining so plans to go outside to do long overdue weeding are being put to one side - no real effort in that decision. It's the first rain in a while and very welcome - I have rain tanks for my water supply so I'm reliant upon the seasons and what they bring. So today I'll prepare some food for Winter. I sometimes think it's a good idea to prepare food when I'm hungry..I think of the flavours and how it will taste and I sure I become more creative.

 CHUTNEY..well Spiced Pear Chutney to be precise. Not all this stuff is going into the one chutney. The wine is for me! Once I started to see what I had to use up I realised I'm going to have a go at different types.

I've green tomatoes from a plant that wasn't doing so well and in looking for a suitable recipe for those I found one that uses peaches (good ol' Delia Smith). I've used up all my own supply of peaches so went to a local Charity Shop to drop off some items for them and saw bags of them for $2 a bag of 8 ..they'll be organic most like. And they looked better than mine uff!

 So, I'm going to put the recipe here for the first one (Spiced Pear Chutney). Pretty much a standard recipe except looking at one a few years back from Gordon Ramsay, I liked some of his 'additions' e.g fresh tomatoes tomatoes towards the end. Chutnies are very easy once one understands the basics: acid (vinegar) to preserve, heat (as in boiling) to remove the natural enzymes that will encourage food to spoil and also create potentially nasty health problems and boiling also to concentrate the flavours and achieve the right consistency. Sugar to counterbalance the sharpness of the vinegar. Pinched from India by the Brits chutnies are originally Hindu in origin and using that source certainly helps me understand what flavours can be used, especially the spices. The only hesitation for me is the heat common in Indian foods, specifically chilli. Just can't handle it. In my defence - if I actually needed to defend my dislike - Indian palates are accustomed to such heat and mine isn't; I also think that such a sensory overload masks other wonderful flavours e.g clove, cinnamon, nutmeg. So I change such recipes to suit my own preferences.

OK..the original recipe is:

2 Onions
2 Apples
8 or 9 Pears depending on size
2 large handsful of sultanas
4 Oranges, juice and grated rind
4 Tomatoes

Grated ginger - about 2 teaspoons, more if you wish
Ground clove 2 teaspoons
Ground cinnamon 2 teaspoons
Grated nutmeg - about 1/2 teaspoon
Saffron strands
Cayenne pepper 1 teaspoon

Other stuff:
500ml vinegar, Malt or white or wine by preference and budget
400g soft brown sugar
2 tablespoons of Olive Oil for cooking

First off, I change some of the components: I've dropped the type of sugar and cayenne pepper as I always try and be a bit healthier, especially with sugar: I rarely use white and mostly avoid recipes that use white unless I can substitute. If chutnies are dark in colour then use raw. The flavours are better anyway. The amounts seem huge; remember though that the goal is to concentrate the flavours and achieve a blend that stimulates the palate and the mix will reduce markedly.

 Firstly, chop and peel all the fruit except the oranges. Sweat the onion over a gentle heat  in a suitable amount of olive oil and when almost clear add the spices (not the saffron) mix and then add the sugar. Doing it this way allows the sugar to melt correctly and gradually. It should look like this..like treacle.

Once this has happened add the vinegar. Then add all the chopped fruit and sultanas except for the tomatoes which go in last. Grate the oranges over the mix - this is where you get wonderful heady scents and an idea of how it will be - then cut them in half and squeeze to add the juice. Add the saffron and now boil until reduced to the ideal consistency. One of the ways to test is if you 'draw' a line across with a spatula, a channel should form and last for a few seconds and without filling with liquid i.e hold it's shape.

The one on the left was made last week with white vinegar; this batch is darker as malt was used. Given it's pear e.g. lighter and more subtle I think I prefer the appearance on the one made last week. This batch certainly has a more mellow flavour by comparison but both are delicious. Ideally store for 1 - 3 months in a cupboard or darkened area to let the layers of flavour develop. It made 2 x 750ml jars and one 500ml jar.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

First room to be renovated

Just before Christmas I had guests coming for a few days.  I really couldn't put one specific lady into the main spare bedroom - just wasn't fair..have a look:

The walls were a chocolate brown and the curtains..umm..not sure how to describe those..

I think it's more the previous owners having different priorities and seeing no value in spending money when their true passion is self-sufficiency from the land

Am I being too kind? It's certainly a distinct colour..

So I had planned to re-decorate the room at some stage - I have 8 to do, well 10 if I include the laundry and basement bedroom - so used her visit as an incentive. Once I had started it was easier to keep going.

Very pleased with the results; not quite finished yet but the extra details can wait..

Now I'm encouraged to tackle the next spare bedroom...the laundry comes next..phew!

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Now it's early evening and I've been outside most of the afternoon watering and trying to tidy the vegetable garden.

  We are in near drought here and it's been a long Summer - 5 months of sun so far with another two months if the usual weather pattern holds - so 7 months! That has to be a record.

 Similar to some gardeners I'm sure I've a tendency to buy plants before I know where to put them and I can see them ..waiting. I'm seduced by what I imagine to be the ultimate effect of the finished garden. I then find myself working to keep them from dying as they sit in their pots waiting to be planted - I'll get there though. As long as I can keep these shrubs going until Winter then they will be more secure. It doesn't help that I'm choosing deciduous shrubs and trees, more suited to a cooler climate.


It's a calm evening and a time I like most..it's is a gentler warmth and the intensity has gone from the day. It's too easy to sit here and watch the light gradually fade with a glass of chilled wine. At times like this I forget the hard work  and it all seems worthwhile...


I've copied this phrase from a charming lady here: 

 Getting a bit overwhelmed by almost everything coming into fruit at the same time. I driven by the though however of being deep in a raining Winter when none of this will be around..

and it's ORGANIC!!

 Almost forget about these. I shut the door to the greenhouse to stop the thieving blackbirds, having first taken out some seedlings. Remembered a few days ago and look! Couldn't help showing them off.

And the figs..oh my! There's a tree of them outside the kitchen window and all I was aware of was the noise it made in  the wind scraping against the house. I'd been too busy to notice the developing fruit. And they taste wonderful. I'm very fortunate as all these came with the house.

Peach cobblers, freezing the beans, courgette fritters - all into the deep freeze. I live in an area where growing food organically is the main desire and I will be following this principle all the time. Knowing that all of this is fed only by rainwater and good natural soil is very very pleasing and satisfying.