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Archive for the ‘gardening’ Category

It’s such a committment to grow your own gherkins and then pick every day to maximise the crop. Last year the wind at our new home on top of the hill wrecked the vines and hardly made it worth the effort. This year I decided to grow them in my little greenhouse, making a zig-zag trellis back and forth across with chicken wire and had bamboo stakes holding it up. I tied the vines up, planted tomatoes around the edges, then watered every day and watched them grow… and grow and grow. They loved the sheltered environment. It took the bees a while to find them so for a while I used a little paint brush and transferred pollen from male to female flowers to make the most of the early flowers. Eventually the bees and bumblebees found them and the main crop came on. They’ve nearly finished now, thank goodness, from one packet of twenty seeds I have about 60 jars of different sizes. That’s plenty, tomorrow I’m pulling the plants out so the tomatoes can ripen, they’ve been smothered in gherkins long enough! Recipe at the end.

Gherkins in greenhouse

Chicken wire and bamboo were strong enough to hold them up.

Gherkins pollinated

At the start it was disappointing when some didn’t pollinate but didn’t care by the end!

Gherkins vine

Were easy to miss so had to really hunt them down.

Gherkins picked

A couple of handfuls every day soon added up

Gherkins brine

Soaking in brine overnight

Gherkins pickled

Jar by jay they added up

Gherkins stored

Nearly finished doing this year’s crop.

Pickled Gherkins

This method only does a small amount at a time.

With a scratchy pad or rough cloth clean off the sharp little prickles and soak overnight in a plastic bucket in a brine of 3 tablespoons of plain salt to a litre of water. Make as much as you need to cover. Next morning tip them into the sink and wash brine off.

To pickle, have a mixture of 2 cups of white vinegar, 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar boiling on the stove. Drop enough gherkins for one jar into this for 2 minutes only. Have hot jar ready, put a few whole spices into the bottom of the jar (I use 2 coriander seeds, 2 whole cloves and a black peppercorn). Put gherkins into jar and cover to the top with the mixture they’ve just boiled in. Screw on hot lid.

Hint: if your gherkins have grown a bit too big, soak in brine then peel and slice before cooking for a minute.

Leave for a month before trying, get better with time!

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Funny the things you never notice. I’ve carted around a clump of varigated iris bulbs from house to house and always admired their attractive foliage. Out in the garden after work and for the first time noticed these very small and nondescript iris flowers. Nothing to get excited about and I still love the foliage, but nice to finally notice the flowers after all these years!

varigated iris flower

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What a difference some fine weather and hard mahi makes. Thanks to Stan and Ivan we now have a leveled section and grass seed sown. First a pallet dragged behind the ride on lawn mower to smooth out the major ruts. Then a borrowed hand driven rotary hoe with Stan holding on as it bucked and fought it’s way around and around the house. Ivan spent hours on a rake to take out the hundreds of pine cones and sticks. Grass seed on and … DONE! Next day both were feeling sore to the bone but hey, it looks great out there. Today Stan, Cody and John brought the greenhouse up from the last farm and put some posts in so it won’t blow away. Woo-hoo, now it’s been washed and all ready for the frosts to finish and planting to begin. From this …

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To this!

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Getting it just right

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Washed and ready to go!

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It felt like the final pick in the garden this afternoon. The last of the beans, courgettes and blackberries. Then the pumpkins came in and the kumaras dug. There were some beauties amongst them but they seemed really hairy this year! Yonks ago I remember Dad experimenting with wrapping the perfect kumaras in newspaper to keep them for longer. Not many of mine escaped some sort of fork prong abuse so I was only able to try the method with the few survivors. Looking forward to seeing how it works.

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Just when I should have dug the garlic this year the rain came down and the mature cloves sat in wet, sticky mud. Two weeks later than they should have been dug, there came a fine few days to dig it. There was so much mud still sticking to them that I went against the rules and blasted all the mud off with the hose. To help it dry quickly I pegged each garlic onto the clothes line and let them wind dry for a few days until the rain came again. For a month they sat in the garage, spread out on chicken wire laid over the top of my clothes drier frames. After a month of hot, hot days they were all dry and today I plaited them ready for storage following this guy’s youtube clip. His was simple to follow so long as you got the first three garlics positioned right.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqqgLJx_1rQ

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A few had rot spots that I rubbed off

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Getting a trim and a quick tidy

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If you start right it will be fine!

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From the back

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63 garlics plaited up

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Last year I preserved my tomatoes by baking them but this year it is way too hot to have the oven on. I wanted a method I didn’t have to stay in attendance with and that wouldn’t heat up the house! The solution was to rough chop the tomatoes, green chillies and garlic then put them in a slow cooker in the garage for two hours. Another hour without the lid got rid of the excess tomato liquid. I don’t have a mouli so it was into a colander then mash the tomato pulp through the holes with a bowl. It was very fast and worked rather well, some of the seeds got through but it kept back nearly all the skins. From here it will be into snaplock bags and into the freezer.

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I love to grow berry fruit and eat it but the task of processing needs to be quick and painless! Kudos to those that top and tail their blackcurrants, your commitment to the task is beyond my level of dedication. For me, it is just as good to leave the odd little green stalk on and totally ignore the little dried flower end. The end product when you use a blender stick on your simmered fruit is a smooth jam with a dense texture and a strong, rich flavour.

Blackcurrant Jam

  • Weigh then wash your blackcurrants and put in a deep saucepan
  • Add a cup of water per kilo of fruit
  • Gently simmer until the fruit is soft and cooked.
  • Blend in the pot with your whizz stick
  • Add the same blackcurrant weight of sugar and stir in until dissolved
  • Now bring to a rapid boil and continue to boil for 20 mins, stirring often to stop it burning on the bottom.
  • Take off the element and stir for another 20 mins
  • Have your jam jars heated and your lids boiling in a small pot, fill your jars and cover with the hot lids.

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Not well done but I’ve let the raspberry canes engulf the electric fence. In spite of a kill switch to disconnect the power, I keep getting cracks across the back or anywhere else when I daydream picking raspberries. Since they’ve upped the power unit supplying the farm this year it’s been a particularly shocking start to the season! At last Stan took pity and had a look at why the kill switch wasn’t working… took him two seconds to work out I had both ends connected to the power.

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Over winter I dug up a few wilding apple trees that were growing at the side of the road, no doubt germinated from apple cores thrown out of car windows. Now that spring is here they are leafing up quite nicely, who knows what the apples will be like, but in the meantime I’m hoping they will help pollinate my peasgood nonsuch this year. The cuttings I took last year from that tree are flowering at the tips, not sure if that means there will be roots underneath but it looks hopeful. The greenhouse has been planted way earlier that I can outside too, it’s warm today but I’m sure we’ll get more frosts yet here in the South Waikato!

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At four and five our grand kids really enjoyed ‘doing’ these crafts with some help. The borax crystal names were ready by the next day and the miniature gardens were an instant success with their little solar light glowing at night and a swing suspended from the handle.

For the crystal names, help them form their name in cursive writing with coloured pipe cleaners, then suspend them in a borax solution: 3 tablespoons of borax to 1 cup of hot water and some food colouring. I added extra borax to make it work well but shouldn’t have, the solution over crystalised. The name was then suspended on a skewer with fishing line. Next day we hung them outside to drip dry.

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