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Friday, March 18, 2011

Wine Settlement Day, Farmers Friends or Cobblers Pegs, Sliced Fried Zucchini with Mint and Lemon Juice, Tough Snake Beans

Wine Settlement Day

Every vintage after the last grapes are picked and processed a date is set some weeks forward to visit the vineyard, go over the ins and outs of vintage and settle the account for the grapes picked. This date is usually in March when the vineyard has finished its picking and processing and all is relatively quiet. There is never any pressure to settle quickly as we have established a routine spanning seven years. During vintage we arrive with plenty of warning, don’t leave a mess, don’t create a fuss and ensure we work in with the vineyard and winery staff. Our faces are familiar to all and if the boss is not about all are only too happy to point us in the right direction. Maintaining good relations is important.
Discussion on settlement day covers what went well and not so well with the grapes, what changes may occur next year, whether we were happy with our lot and how it compared to previous years. The grapes are always perfect. The wine is handled and made to suite the conditions of that vintage. Each vintage is a new surprise and challenge but always interesting. The entire settlement process is over in 15 to 20 minutes. Some handshaking takes place, thanks for generosity of vineyard time and commitment to contact in the lead up to the next vintage. The last impressions are those that will ensure a warm response next time.
The final wash up was we purchased 390 kilograms of grapes and grew another 40 kilograms of our own. Yields varied from 53% to 70% resulting in an average of 60% overall for an outcome of 267 litres.

Farmers Friends or Cobblers Pegs

Wow, there are a lot about this year. They are a nuisance as the seed sticks the garment fabric with ease. Socks are the main recipient with the seeds working their way through the wool and providing an annoying scratching.
Farmers Friends/Cobblers Pegs
The Orchard was let go a bit while the renovations proceeded. The suspicion is that a lot arrived in the manure coming from the dairy farm which was spread around the fruit trees and covered with weed matting. The best solution appears to be a regular slashing with the edge trimmer to keep the plants from flowering.
The positive angle is that it provides an incentive to keep the orchard looking tidy.

Sliced Fried Zucchini with Mint and Lemon Juice

This is such a simple entrée or vegetable dish.
Slice the zucchini length wise. Not too thick to maintain the subtlety. Say no more than 5 mm thick.
Fry the pieces in a pan with olive oil until a few bits of colour appear.
Serve the dish warm drizzled with lemon juice and sprinkled with finely chopped mint. If to your taste you can add some chilli flakes.

Gee Whiz the Snake Beans are tough

Something has happened to the Chinese Snake beans. A broad spectrum of sizes was picked, topped and tailed and cut into 50 to 75 mm lengths. Steamed until they started to change colour and served with olive oil and a sprinkling of salt. They are too tough to eat. Back into the steamer for some serious steaming until they really changed colour and still they are tough. Can’t be, they’re too young. These are not the old beans that have sat around on the vine to get woody. No idea what is happening.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Cider and Perry, Last Fruits of Summer, Mushrooms

Apples, Pears, Cider and Perry

December/January is the time that the Tropical Apple is ready for harvest. The fruit was left as long as possible to maximise sugar content and we harvested making cider. As usual timing was poor. We hadn’t tasted last year’s cider before we bagged up this year’s crop to protect it from parrots and fruit fly. The previous year’s cider was great. Now we wished we had gone to the trouble to bag more fruit to make a greater quantity. The cider was not sweet but it was sparkling and very refreshing at the end of a hot day.
Well we still had the pear trees and the Cider Apple trees to harvest later so maybe we would still get a reasonable quantity.
On the Orchard map the harvest months are noted. Well it turns out they are wrong. The dates are for trees in Tasmania not NSW north coast. Our fruit ripens 4-6 weeks earlier. Well luckily we were checking the fruit and discovered it was ready. For some reason some of the apple trees failed to mature any fruit in the bags while others were fine. Still there is enough to make a little more cider. The best tree this year was Stokes Red.
The Buerre Bosc produced a goodly amount of fruit as it always does and we were able to make Perry for the first time. Next year a big effort will go into bagging as much as we can. There are still two more pear trees to harvest a Williams and a Packham. We may not have sufficient cider and Perry to bath in but there will be enough to taste test some more experiments.
The process is fairly simple using our Champion Juicer. The fruit is cut into pieces and juiced. The sugar level is tested. All the batches we did came in at around 15 Brix which is fine. The juice is warm and the yeast starts quickly. We used Chardonnay yeast as an experiment. As opposed to beer yeast which we tried last year.
Fermentation is done in demijohns with an airlock. Once the bubbling stops it is racked into 375 ml bottles and half a teaspoon of sugar added to create the fizz. Then leave it. It will be fizzy in two weeks but a little bottle age is better.
This year there will be four distinct (trial) batches. The trials are on pH, yeast type and sulphur addition (or not). This should give us a good feel on how to proceed next year. Very exciting.

Last fruits of the Tomato Bed

The relocating garden in the paddock that we call the Tomato bed is still producing food. The tomatoes have gone although there make be a second flush in another month. The rockmelons are still going albeit slowly. The bitter melon is coating as is the okra and capsicum. The pumpkins and squash are coming on and some were ready. The Hungarian wax capsicum is still flowering and forming fruit as is the zucchini. The big surprise is a cucumber plant  has germinated and we may get another crop before the cold sets in.


Sometimes we wish we lived in France so that all the mushrooms could be taken to the local chemist and identified before we poison ourselves. Trying to identify edible ones from a book is damned hard trying to use photographs. Every time some gorgeous looking mushroom forms we find two possible candidates in the book. One is edible and the other is poisonous and we can’t tell the difference.
A recent email to a friend at the nearby university asking if there were any experts about proved fruitful. The friend as it turns out studied mushroom as part of his science course many years ago. All we need is a sample.
Of course by this stage these massive white oyster shaped clusters weighing kilograms had finished their life cycle and nothing remained but a brownish black smudge.
OK we’ll be ready next time.

Ramifications of Renovation, Newly Tiled Floors, Weeding and Planting for Autumn, Gordon's Birthday

Ramifications of Renovation

One of the bonuses of renovating is in packing up all the belongings in a room. It inevitably leads to review the need for each item. Our rationalisation saw a lot of books and unused bedding going to the Salvos. Nothing wrong with the books it was just that they were not of use to us e.g. Some Pritikin Diet cook books, many old history texts and technology books. The bedding was for a double bed which we no longer have since upsizing to a King size. The added space on the shelves will enable a better presentation of the many treasures we keep.

Newly tiled floors

The tiler was very quick only four days to completely finish the lounge room, hallway, dining room and laundry. Hardly any inconvenience other than to the dogs who had to be tied up all day and then kept out of the house while the adhesive dried. But what a spectacular change to the feel of the house. So much brighter and cleaner looking lines. Should have been done 20 years ago.
Of course the work only started when the tiler left. The grouting dried overnight and allowed the vacuuming and washing of the floors the next morning before starting the re-assembly of all the furniture. The hard work is in the cleaning of all the furniture to remove dust from crevices and rubbing the wood items with furniture polish. Another tedious task is to sort the books into some type of order on the shelving given their different heights and topics. After two 10 hour days for both of us the lounge and dining areas are complete and the the books are all back.
Gradually over the next couple of days the laundry came together and the skirting boards renovated and replaced. Still to come are the linen cupboards and the welsh dresser. Easily another few days work.

Weeding and Planting for Autumn

With all the effort devoted over the last 6 weeks to renovations the unused garden beds have become overgrown. Because we have been living off the produce from the Summer Tomato bed little attention has been given to anything else. Well now the time has come to clean up and commence planting for Autumn and Winter.

All the weeds and vegetables gone to seed are composted. Most of the area is covered in chicken litter and heavily mulched while a small amount is fertilised with compost and planted with a few cabbage and Kale seedlings. A few more lettuce are planted and a row or two of beetroot. A few weeks ago we sowed some Chinese vegetables to give us an interim crop of brassicae. The radish ready and they were under sown with carrot. The rocket is also large enough to be harvested. And so the transition starts.

Happy Birthday Gordon

Gordon turned 20 on the 1st of March. Gordon is one of our cats, the last survivor of a litter of five found 20 years ago at the local produce store. Mum had disappeared after being dumped at the store with her babies.
Gordon Full Tummy Asleep on Food Dish
They were tiny back then only an eye dropper could be used to feed them as they fitted into your hand. We guessed them to be 3 days old. The workman at the store was glad to get rid of them. Gordon was very weak and he (the storeman) commented “He won’t last the night”. Well he was very wrong. Gordon outlived all his brothers and sisters. His brother Silva would look after him and play with him in those early days.
The original plan was to raise and then adopt them out. But that just never happened. They grew up with us and because of the early intervention were particularly bonded. Allowing all sorts of handling that cats normally don’t accept.
Gordon is a bit special. He was born with a withered leg which means he cannot hunt. If moving slowly he has to drag his withered paw awkwardly. If moving quickly he has a three legged hop. The nearest thing to hunting is chattering at a blowfly in the window. Sometimes he would use the withered poor as a club trying to beat something into submission (with no success).
When one of his siblings brought home a baby rabbit, Gordon quickly jumped on it smothering it with his body. He looked up with a glint in his eye “look mum I’m a big hunter”.
He is an undemanding little bloke. Always eats what is put in front of him, drinks his raw milk afterwards and loves to sleep on your lap. His favourite food is meat especially in the form of mince and consequently for his birthday he was treated with top grade mince over a number of days. At his age he has a limit to how much he can digest in one sitting.
Now days he joins us for breakfast then sleeps all day until dinner time after which he sleeps again.

Calving Time


The last days of Summer and the first days of calving on a neighbouring property we look after. Five little ones on the ground already, just a wee bit early. Could be premature or could be the calendar work is poorly done. None the less its been a week since the last one but yesterday one girl was spotted with the telltale signs of an impending birth, just that little bit of mucous and the need not to run into the fresh paddock like the rest of the herd who kicked their heels in delight.
Resisted the urge to go back in the afternoon as it would serve no purpose. This morning arrived to find she had just calved. It was dead, the body still warm. What a sad sight. She was licking it vigorously trying to get it to do what newborn calves do but nothing happened. She looked at it “why won’t you get up? I’ve got warm milk for you”
Left her to mourn and checked the rest of the herd. Returned to find she was sitting on the ground beside her calf just looking at it sadly as she came to terms with her grief hoping it may still get up.
Harrowed the paddock keeping a distance so that she was undisturbed. After finishing swung past to check on her. She had moved about 10 metres away in acceptance of the inevitable but she still couldn’t quite leave it. Food was of no interest she was truly grieving.
As she sat there something at her rear end caught my attention. Something in a past experience said “that looks like another calf on the way” still don’t know what it was that created that thought all that sould be seen was a ball of watery blood inside her vagina which was twisted open by the angle of her seating. Maybe just hoping she gets a second chance.
Gently guided her into the new paddock and left.
At 5pm returned. Saw it straight away, a white patch in the grass. Another calf, same cow same situation – dead. This time a little boy the twin to this mornings little girl. Mum standing over it licking furiously trying to bring it to life with love. How much sadder can you get but to lose two babies in one day. Left her to grieve.
Her sisters stood nearby sharing her sadness. These things permeate through the herd. They are not unfeeling.
In another corner of the paddock her sister had given birth to a big healthy son. Mum was busy humming at her son and working hard at devouring the not so small after birth. Maybe the sad girl can be the doting auntie or manage the crèche to let the others forage.
Cattle are such stoic animals. They put up with pain, thirst and hunger and say little. The feel grief just like we do and their kin demonstrate an empathy to all this. Don’t understand how we can mistreat them.


Arrived early to move the herd to a fresh paddock. The grieving mum still standing near her baby. The girls moved easily into the new paddock. The childless girl moved in the direction of the gate but stopped looked back. She could go and tried to eat a little grass then moved back to her child. While harrowing was in progress she started towards the fresh paddock but each time turned back just not able to leave her little one.
After harrowing walked to her and slowly she turned to the gate and joined her sisters. It was as if she needed someone to make that decision for her.

A week Later

The after birth is retained requiring manual removal and some antibiotic as a precaution as well as a pessary.
This is not the same quiet girl of a few months ago. She is difficult move, standing her ground aggressively. Went off her feed for a day or so but is OK now. Keeping her separate for a few more days until fully recovered. She certainly seems traumatised by this sadness in her life. Maybe time will mend her.

Slate Floors, Vintage 2011, Vintage 2007 Tasting

Slate Floors

Slate floors must have been a popular at one time, they are certainly an environmentally friendly solution. Ours (Black slate) has been a pain ever since we bought the house. The polyurethane coating had worn off leaving a matt black finish which shed minute quantities if black powder. We tried repainting once but the stench of drying polyurethane put us off and it only lasted a short time with dogs claws. We put up with it for almost 20 years and then one day recently we found a ceramic tile which we really liked. Having bought the tiles and booked the tiler the next step was jack hammering the slate off the concrete slab.
The important step in this is spraying water over the surface to be removed as a consequence there is very little dust. It’s a slow hard work requiring three passes. The first pass with a 40mm bit to remove the bulk of the slate. Clean away the mess and then slowly and steadily with a 75mm bit level the surface by removing the cement bonding, first in one direction then at right angles. Finally running a straight edge over the surface and marking any high spots, then chiselling those out. 47 square metres takes about 47 hours.
It will all be worth it.

Vintage 2011

Lots of rain during the season, mild weather over December means a late vintage and then bang a few days or 35+ degrees Celsius and everything comes in a rush. Received a call from the vineyard manager of the winery where we buy our grapes. “Come tomorrow the Verdelho and Traminer are ready and the machines will be here the day after. Dropped everything including jack hammering.
Up at 4.30 am. Chores out of the way first then turn on the 3 upright freezers and the air conditioner in the Cave to keep it all cool and improve the performance of the old discarded freezers. They may be inefficient power wise but for the few weeks every year where they are used to chill the must and control fermentation they are perfect and free. Although we will only need two freezers we use the third as a backup in case there is a change of plan and another variety is available.
We are at the vineyard by 7 am after an hours drive. There is some delay before we finally start picking. Only 50 kg of each variety and as it happens the Semillon is perfect for picking which we do leaving the Chardonnay for a special trip in a few days. The grapes are in good shape requiring very little triage work at the picking stage. The Traminer is the most tedious to pick as the stem of the bunch is hard up against the wood making it difficult to find. With two of us going it only takes 2 ½ hours. The sky is overcast and pleasant picking weather. We are really fortunate to have access to such quality fruit. The wine makes itself with no interference.
Back home the 100 litre plastic drums go straight into the freezer to begin cooling while the crusher de-stemmer is setup and we take time to have a bite to eat. Crushing and de-stemming is a straight forward process and the berries are put back into the freezer until the morning. Overnight soaking will add just a little more depth to the wine. The freezers are turned off once the must reaches 5 degrees Celsius which requires staggering out of bed every two hours or so.
5.30am and the basket press is setup. The skins received between 14 and 16 hours contact. Semillon first then Verdelho and Traminer. The cake is not emptied between pressings to save time hence putting the Traminer last as it has the most distinctive flavour.
The whole process takes about 4 hours. The slowest part is adjusting the yeast to the cool temperature at which the must will be fermented. Ideally 12-15 degrees Celsius. We use timers to cut the power in and out to each freezer. By trial and error the temperature can be held reasonably constant. There is some fluctuation but not enough to affect the end result. The must is in 50 litre containers under airlock. Once two thirds of the sugar is consumed it goes into glass demijohns and temperature is no longer controlled. Medium toast French Oak chips will be added at this point to the Verdelho and Semillon.
A couple of weeks later we get the word to pick the reds. There have been 10 days of searing heat over 35 degrees Celsius which have affected the vines despite constant watering. Sugar levels are not all that high, pH is about right but there is heavy rain expected. The usual step is to pick at least some at lower sugar levels as insurance and take a gamble that there will be some to pick later that are ripe and unaffected by the rain (or the rain doesn’t come).
We rise at 3 am and are at the vineyard before 6. It is a very busy place. The picking machine has been at it since 1 am and as we arrive the hand pickers start turning up. They will clean the box ends where the machine can’t reach.
Suddenly the vineyard manager rushed out of the winery jumps in his vehicle and with spinning rear wheels heads up the vineyard to the picking machine. He returns shortly afterwards. The drama is explained. Some rocks have mixed with the grapes and damaged the rollers on the de-stemmer. The source of the rocks? They are used as markers on top of the end strainers to mark which rows have been sprayed. Some of the vineyard workers have forgotten to take them off after they finish an area. The vibration of the picking machine dropped them onto the conveyer and they went straight into the bin.
The manager takes us to the Merlot. Although it has been picked two short rows remain untouched for us. With those rows and the odd bunch left behind by the picking machine we make up our 50 KG. It is slow going as there is some bird damage. Prior experience deems it necessary to pick off any damaged fruit at the picking stage otherwise it leads to the formation of off odours mainly vinegar.
An hour and a bit later we move to the Shiraz. Huge bunches easily reached. In another hour we have 100KG. Finally the Malbec. Smaller bunches and a little more difficult to pick but another hour and we are all done. An hours drive home and then the work begins.
Everything goes into already chilled freezers then a batch at a time is weighed, crushed and de-stemmed. The sugar level is measured as is the pH. Some adjustment is needed in both. The must is chilled overnight and the next day yeast is re-hydrated  and then slowly cooled to within 5-7 degrees of the 15 degrees to which the must has been allowed to rise. Fermentation is kept as close to 15 degrees as possible and when two thirds of the sugar is used up the batch is pressed, oak chips added and stored in glass under airlock while the fermentation finishes. This year no stems were added to the initial fermentation. In past years about 10% have been put into the must. Because of the long cool fermentation time I’m interested in finding out how different the outcome will be. Gradually over the next few days the fermentation slows and the demijohns are topped up to minimise the air space.
We keep three yeasts suitable for reds on hand. This year we selected the CAB90 strain for all batches. Why? A little fuzzy logic really. After reading the detail on each yeast it seemed clear that given the season, the fruit etc CAB90 was most suitable. Last year we used all three yeasts matching them with different red varieties.

2007 Vintage

We still have a few (very few) bottles of the 2007 shiraz, merlot and malbec. Wow, how it has changed. The aging process has altered it completely. It tasted great when it was young but now it is drier on the palate that youthful sweetness has gone and it is still a lovely wine. A very pleasing result to have a non preservative wine still developing and tasting good after 4 years.

Netting Grapes, Reading, Sparkling Wine, Tomatoes, Bottling Wine

Netting Grapes

The mild (until now) summer has resulted in a slow ripening of the grapes. As soon as the first bunch started to turn from green to various shades of pink, red, purple and black out came our nets. Last year the nets were left off too long and the parrots quickly removed the bulk of the crop. The weather has surged to hot suddenly and the bunches all quickly commenced and completed the transition to red.
We use white bird netting because tests have shown they let through a touch more UV light. They also look spectacular in the vineyard contrasting against the green grass background.
The vineyard consists of only 150 vines, a mixture of Isabella, Chambourcin and a few Tannat. The Isabella are slowly being either replaced or grafted over to Chambourcin. The Chambourcin were chosen because their hybrid nature makes them more tolerant of the humid conditions and no spraying is required to fight mildew. It is possible to make good wine from Chambourcin but it does need to ripen well and to do this requires minimising the number of bunches per vine.
The harshness of our rocky outcrop results in vines which send out roots horizontally as that is the only place they can go. This makes them susceptible to suffering in dry conditions but every now and then we manage to make some wine from our own crop. Mainly it is just to have a vineyard of one’s own rather than a sensible agricultural pursuit.
The most recent investment involves re-trellising the rows. The original trellising was a Hodge podge affair established quickly without a lot of forethought. Now that we know we can keep the vines alive a new trellising system is in progress. Experience has shown that a taller trellis seems to produce a better result. Based on the investment in material and time each bottle costs in the hundreds of dollars. Well we don’t own yachts or racehorses.


This year has been the first time we have both used the festive season to relax and do as little as possible. The flurry of activity leading up to Christmas involved getting the place ship shape with mowing and weeding.
Part of the preparatory process was to stock up on a large number of library books both fiction and non-fiction. A real kaleidoscope of genres and authors to make sure that all moods were catered.  A few library DVDs rounded out the stockpile.
What a wonderfully relaxing couple of weeks sitting around eating, drinking and reading. Occasionally pottering around to settle a meal or a little exercise to justify the next feast.
All this rest and recreation will come to an end soon enough and gardens will need weeding and planting, the lawns will need some attention as well as the long list of jobs that need doing will be unearthed.

Sparkling Wine

One of the pleasures we are enjoying with the hot weather is sipping on a glass or two of sparkling wine. The pleasure is doubled because this is our own sparkling Semillon. For whatever reason (and these experiments are always in the lap of the gods) this batch tastes splendid. It may be the hot weather, it may be that we are taking some time off or it may be just that it is good wine. There is only a very small amount of sulphur used barely 50 ppm.  We only made 9 bottles of this sparkling with the rest bottled as is.
Looking at the vintage diary again after almost 12 months. The grapes were crushed and de-stemmed with the skins soaking for 12 hours and the temperature chilled to just below 11 degrees Celsius before pressing. Brix at 22 and pH at 3.24. The fermentation proceeded in glass under airlock until Brix had dropped from the original 22  to 8. The temperature was kept between 10 and 15 degrees Celsius. The lees were stirred each day except for the last day when the must was racked and French Oak added at 5 grams per litre. Bottling was left until the wine had completely cleared in August. Some years we have cold settled before bottling but this was unnecessary this time.
We cap our sparkling with a crown seal and don’t proceed to the stage of disgorging.  When opening the bottle it’s only a matter of decanting the wine in the same manner as a homebrew beer, leaving the sediment at the bottom of the bottle.


As with the grapes the tomatoes have also been slow to ripen. Although there are always plenty to eat it has been difficult to gather enough ripe fruit to bottle. Still because of the previous year’s bounty we don’t need to make all that many jars. As long as the tally reaches 50 or so by season’s end we should be covered. There is also a backlog of dried tomatoes which we can use as filler.
In terms of eating fresh tomatoes we have been very impressed with the smaller varieties such as Red Grape and Cherry. A very intense sweet flavour that enhances a salad. Unfortunately trying to collect several kilograms of these for pureeing is just too hard so the larger less tasty varieties such as Roma fit the requirement. Particularly tasty has been Black Russian, our first planting of this variety. It has good size, firmness and is delicious.
Some of the other larger varieties have failed to perform this year but that happens from time to time. Their turn will come. Now that January has arrived it won’t be much longer before the fruit fly takes over the larger fruit leaving us dependant on the smaller varieties for day to day eating.

Bottling the last of the 2010 Malbec

The last batch of Malbec was 32 litres. It had been pressed and stored in the demijohn on February 12 after the addition of 6 grams per litre of French Oak chips.
The grapes were picked and crushed on February 3. The pH was 3.67 and the Brix 22.2. A little Tartaric acid was added to adjust the acidity and BDX yeast used. About 10% of the stems were added to the must. As is recommended for this manufactures’ yeast a small quantity of yeast nutrient is added. We split the nutrient into three batches adding one at the beginning, one when a third of the fermentation is complete and the final quantity at the two thirds mark.
The day after crushing 5 litres was bled off to make some Rose and fermentation was apparent by the day after. When fermentation commenced the temperature was 19.9 degrees Celsius.  By the following day the temperature was lowered to between 14 and 15 and until pressing the temperature kept between 12 and 15. This stretches out the fermentation period giving more skin contact. 
On February 10 we pressed another batch of Malbec and added the skins to this batch. This increase in the skins to juice ration should make for an interesting effect. Because no preservative is added we pressed when the fermentation was two thirds complete and the still fermenting must put in glass under airlock.
We look forward to see how this develops with age.

Mosquitoes, Peanut Butter, Farm Activity, Dogs and Beaches, Oven Baked Tomatoes, Haloumi and Tomatoes, Chillies


The trial continues with two dark blue containers on the southern side with water to see if we can break the mosquito breeding cycle. Unfortunately, with the regular rain, the water has pooled in all sorts of places and the mozzies are spoilt for choice.
In the mean time we have tried some short term remedies to prevent night time attacks while we slumber.
Three different types of citronella candles have failed to secure a full night’s rest. The overhead fan on full speed appears to provide an unattractive environment but its use is limited to warmer nights. The most reliable product is the old mosquito coil with the active ingredients being D-Allerthrin and Citronella oil. Hopefully, these aren’t the products used in gas chambers. Rather than sleep with the coil, it is started and waved around the room then left in the bathroom across the hall. Sufficient odour mingles through the house and we rest peacefully.

Peanut Butter

We have a Champion Juicer which can also grind peanuts. The peanuts come from our local wholesaler at a reasonable price in one kilo packs. The first attempt involved roasting them in the oven on trays until the colour looked about right i.e. a light brown. It does need a little stirring for an even roast. The outer edge of the tray cooks first. Just mix the cooked with the uncooked. Unfortunately, the output was a dry crumble which tasted fine although un-spreadable.  The successful method was to mix the nuts with a little olive oil before roasting. This produces an absolutely delightful paste with excellent keeping and spreading qualities. Producing about 2 kgs at a time seems to be a good quantity to justify the use of the oven and the cleaning of the juicer.

Activity on the Farm

Well the peaches are finished. The old style peach, a Cardinal, was the best. The wet conditions produced large fruit although not all that sweet but still very tasty. The tropical peach produces lots of small fruit but not of any quality. Probably wouldn’t bother with it in future. The plums followed on nicely. As always the Pawpaw weathered winter with some loss of leaves but the fruit stayed on and is now ripening regularly.
With Christmas approaching we made a big effort to get the lawns all done and trim around the edges and the trees in the orchard. The place looks magnificent. A lot of work but nice to see it looking so good occasionally.
The chooks are hard at work. One rooster was standing on a large rock and stretching up to pick low hanging grapes. These he dropped onto the ground for his small group of girlfriends. What a selfless male! Another is seen jumping several times at a small fruit tree until he finally managed to reach a spider in the leaves which he dropped to the ground and called his girls. Poor spider, lucky girls.
The Olives may not like all this moisture but the grapevines are groaning with fruit. The two hybrids, Chambourcin and Isabella, tolerate the humidity. The fruit hasn’t changed colour yet, leading us to think it will be a late harvest this year after three years of progressively earlier harvests.

Dogs and Beaches

We are fortunate to live near the coast. About 40 minutes drive away is our favourite beach. Most of the year i.e. outside school holidays and weekends the beach is unoccupied, the sand stretches for kilometres and the water is clear. On the hottest days the breeze is cooling.
Our dogs love the beach. Even when we are still kilometres away they can smell the ocean. They become excited in the car and their heads protrude from the windows with noses sniffing vigorously. The torrent of air passing the car forces their eyelids into slits and they inhale the numerous scents of the no so distant sea. You can almost imagine them singing to each other
 We’re going to the beach, we’re going to the beach
Hi ho the derry o we’re going to the beach”
We park the car and they tumble out all excited running from here to there with heads down smelling the remains of past visitors to the car park. The narrow track winds through scrubby land and sand hills to the beach. They run back and forth urging us to hurry. Always staying within sight.  At the last sand hill, they disappear then reappear racing towards us all wet and stuccoed with sand, mouths wide open almost shouting “we’re at the beach, yippee”.
Over the next couple of hours they run back and forth, back and forth every now and then launching into the water to cool off before running on again. They love it! The salt water cleanses their skins and they exhaust themselves. What a great experience for them. We also occupy ourselves with a swim to cool off and always carrying an old feed bag or two collect Cuttle fish skeletons for later mulching to mix with shell grit also collected from around the rocks on a low tide. In addition, from time to time, there are plenty of seaweed pieces washed up on the shore after a storm. Storms always leave behind interesting bits and pieces for the interested beach comber: bits of weather worn timber, concrete blocks, shoes, torches, ropes and plenty more.
Later, the dogs collapse in a tangle on the back seat of the car and sleep, exhausted on the trip home. Such a simple adventure provides them and us with so much pleasure.

Oven Baked Tomatoes

With so many tomatoes in season, one easy way to cook them is to halve some that are roughly the same size – smaller ones are better than large tomatoes – sprinkle salt and black pepper to taste on them. Then slice garlic cloves into slivers and place a sliver or two on each tomato half. Sprinkle a good amount of fresh Thyme over each half and add some olive oil, pouring over each half, just a little to moisten. Roast these in a moderate oven – 180 degrees Celsius – for about 45 – 60 minutes.

Haloumi and tomatoes

In July, we had the good fortune to be given some surplus milk. One of the many cheeses made was Haloumi.  This is kept in a strong brine solution in the refrigerator and lasts forever. Our favourite dish is as follows.
Slice the Haloumi into 3-5 mm slices and soak in water for 30 minutes or longer. We find pieces about 35-40 mm square an ideal size. Put a little Olive oil into a frying pan and set the heat at the lowest temperature. Fry the slices until at least one side is golden brown.  Slice a fresh tomato thickly 5-8 mm. Place a piece of tomato large enough to cover the Haloumi very well. Eat this.


There are a number of chilli bushes scattered around the garden. The most frequently used is the Birds Eye. The small fruit is about 25mm in length. They are quite hot, needing only 2 or 3 to spice up a dish. During the year we harvest the really ripe chillies and allow them to dry in the drying racks, laying down some newspaper first to prevent contact with the metal mesh. Once a suitable quantity is ready they are processed through the blender until the flakes are consistently small. The dried flakes are easier to handle than fresh juicy berries which have a tendency to leave bits of juice on finger tips just before one rubs an eye or some other sensitive part of the body.
Another preserving method is to puree the chillies in vinegar and store in a glass jar. These keep extremely well and the small amount of vinegar cooks out quite easily, given the small amount of puree used at any one time.
Of the other two chilli bushes one is Cayenne which is very hot. Because of the small quantity it produces, it is easier to puree in vinegar and use sparingly for those of us who feel the heat more easily. The remaining chilli bush produces much larger fruit, about 75-100 mm in length and mildly hot. It is always interesting to try different chillies in dishes and note the effect on the palate.