I don't think there has been many days in the past few months when the preserving pot hasn't been in use. In fact, I'm about to order a second one along with another jelly straining bag - hopefully then, it won't be such a juggling act!
Madam Secretary gave me a garden diary around xmas time (probably to write notes about the garden in!) but it has been repurposed into writing what I've made each day - looking back I've even surprised myself!
January - Jamaican Pineapple Jam (heaven on fresh bread with cheese and pickled onions)
February - bottled Black Doris plums, Plum & Rum jam (I hate the smell of rum - it all went in the jam!), Black Doris Plum chutney, Rhubarb and Orange jam, scoured charity shops for Agee jars (along with lots of other people - you can never have too many), picked blueberries with my daughter (which became a competition to see who picked the most - she won!), Blueberry jam, preserved 36L of peaches (from our trees), first honey extraction, Damson Gin (from damson plums) - I have to wait until August to break into this :(, Damson plum paste (tasty but too sticky), more Jamaican Pineapple Jam (everyone who tasted it wanted some)
March - Peach, Honey & Vanilla jam, preserved more peaches (getting sick of peeling peaches), picked quince and figs, Quince paste, Fig & Apple chutney, preserved 1L jar figs, first batch of pickled onions (anyone who knows my good husband knows this is dangerous!), Blackboy Peach jam and jelly, Quince jelly, Pear & Walnut chutney, pruned the plum trees with my good husband (heartening they had grown enough for a prune!)
April - Spiced Pear paste (learnt some lessons about pear paste not to be repeated!), preserved pears, put in a test batch of Ploughmans chutney, Feijoa chutney (smelt delicious cooking), preserved feijoas (for my mums breakfast), bottled Ploughmans chutney, my good husband broke open the first batch of pickled onions (a success he said), second test batch recipe underway, Quince chutney (after finding juniper berries)
... and I've still got some quince and feijoas to do something with...
Anyone who cooks knows that in any kitchen there is a certain element of trial and error - some recipes sound fabulous but they just doesn't turn out like the picture - let alone taste like they say!, other recipes turn out better than expected.
Most importantly, cook what you, and people you know like and will eat! With four boys in the family, there is never a shortage of tasters - let alone a number of friends who like to peruse the larder for new offerings (you know who you are)...
My goal is to produce food straight from our farm to the jar. My daughter is always saying "can't you just make plain strawberry jam!", well yes next year I will I say, when my strawberries in my vege garden are ready. Lucky for her the vege garden is progressing and Madam President has sourced me a lot of healthy looking strawberry plants.
For the next little while I'll be out on farm duties, helping with thistle control, working on getting some of the nursery plants in the ground, psyching myself up for lambing season (a crazy crazy crazy sleep deprived time) and waiting for the grapefruit to ripen. Whiskey marmalade is a favourite in this house. Hopefully the lime trees will produce a few fruit for me this winter so I can experiment with some lime marmalade.
Things I've learnt so far - I have a love/hate relationship with quince (mostly hate). I love to eat it but I hate making it, although jelly and chutney is almost a pleasure compared to paste and jam. It spits like molten lava - literally everywhere! and I still have the scar on my face from two years ago from misjudging the next "plop" - if only it didn't taste so good. If you do decide to have a go yourself - make sure all skin is covered, you have long dishwashing gloves on, a splatter shield in action at all times and biceps that can stir for more hours than you could think possible (ps. a full glass of wine or two and a comfy stool helps to pass the time).
Plum jam is my favourite to make.
Old Agee jars are hard to find, a must if you want to preserve your own fruit (and vege). I'm constantly on the hunt at charity shops and the like trying to find them. They can range in price from $0.50 each to $8.00 each. New screw caps and seals can be bought from most supermarkets - there is a difference on some old jars (rim thickness) which dictates whether you use the green or gold screw - so check what you need before you buy. I now have a good supplier of new jars (albeit in Wellington) which arrive within a few days of ordering.
I'll write shortly about the bees, but as I've booked a table at the Awhitu Country Market on 4 June - its all planning and preparation for what will be on offer at the market. Hope to see you there...
Quinces waiting for action !
I'm very fortunate that the gardener before me established an excellent framework.
My previous garden at Silverdale was a blank canvas (see pics under Our Story) - literally the house was built in a paddock and we started from there.
So now, just to have the height/age in some of the trees is a real bonus, let alone the variety of existing plants!
Much of the garden was overgrown and dear I say it, completely out of control! With the help of Madam President and my good husband (he who wields the chainsaw), I'm working to pull it back into order and put my stamp on it.
The garden has many different areas to it - none of which are finished! Experienced gardeners have advised me to finish one completely before moving to the next - excellent advice! I just haven't mastered the art of that yet - I keep getting distracted...
My plant nursery is growing - well truthfully its a collection of plants I've bought and haven't yet planted - be it because that section of the garden needs another digger bucket of dirt or because I haven't actually decided where they are going... This, I can tell you, does my good husband's head in and he is constantly reminding me that they are there waiting for me (and for god's sake water them before they die!).
SOME of my garden projects are..
Shaded garden beside garage
I would like this garden to have a circular path around one of the current lemon trees and two tamarillos (the only place sheltered enough to even try growing a tamarillo). I will border the path with old pungas (we have a few lying around the farm!). Shade and semi-shade loving plants will suit this area. I am looking for some second hand pavers for the path and will then mulch in between to keep the weeds under control (hopefully). The two large lemon trees in this area are suffering from neglect and borer but I am going to nurse them along until my new citrus orchard lemons are in full production. There is a large avocado tree (also not in good shape from a rather unfortunate prune years ago and an oversized karo which at some point may feel the wrath of the chainsaw. We are exposed to the northerly and westerly winds so have to be mindful not to remove anything that is helping to protect the more delicate plants.
Pear tree garden by tennis court
This needs my good husband to bring me a digger bucket or two of good soil!
At the moment it is lower in parts than the lawn and holds water after a deluge of rain.
The digger previously removed a weeping willow that was starting to get quite large. We took some cuttings which have taken well and these will get planted around the other ponds on the farm - they are very attractive, good food for the bees and the stock enjoy lounging under them in the height of summer.
I will keep the trees to the left of the picture trimmed well each year. While they aren't my favourite specimens, they are providing a sheltered spot for the three fig trees I have planted on the tennis court side of the garden.
Once the extra dirt is in, I will plant with cottage style plants in shades of pink and purple.
Rebuilding retaining wall behind tennis court
This speaks for itself!
There were some old tree off cuts from around the farm forming a "retaining wall" and it probably worked reasonably well until my darling chickens undermined the entire section of bank. When I suggested to my good husband that we quickly need to build a nice new retaining wall, he said "add it to the list"! The best I got was the fence posts that were removed between the house lawn and the house paddock to lean against it! Not quite what I had in mind...
Reclaiming the house paddock for the garden extension
One rainy afternoon I sat with lots of paper and coloured pencils and made a start on my proposed new use of this space (well actually the good husband said I needed to get it from my head into a form he could see).
Unfortunately its rather difficult to photograph and put it up so apologies for the dismal picture!
The second pic is of how it used to look from the house towards the house paddock, the third pic is how it looks today with the post and rail fence removed and the paddock regularly mowed.
This area does include my vision for a swimming pool. I REALLY want a swimming pool. My good husband not so much (well actually not at all). He had the chore of maintaining the family para pool as a young lad and that has apparently put him off. Madam President tells me that in actual fact he hated any chore he was given as a young lad so it wasn't just the pool. I have tried to educate him on the fact that pool maintenance is largely automated now and all he'll have to do now is lay on the sunlounger with a beer and enjoy it!
I have made a bit of progress as he now refers to where the pool will be located so all is not lost. Yeeha!
This is by no means the end of the garden project list - there is much more to come... but its not all doom and gloom, here is a picture gallery of what's brightening up the garden early April...