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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

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.

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