Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Back in tomato-land

The last time we grew tomatoes on a large scale was in the summer of 2007. I hated every second of it

I can't remember if I knew it at the time, but I spent that entire tomato season pregnant with the very beginnings of Miss Pepper and the morning sickness was awful.

I remember crawling up and down the rows of tomato plants on my hands and knees gagging at the intense tomato smell. I remember being repulsed at the wet, tomato condensation dripping off the roofs of the poly tunnels and onto my head and down my neck and into my clothes. And that black tomato gunk that stains your fingers and cannot be washed off almost threw me over the edge. Yuk!

We picked thousands and thousands of heirloom tomatoes that year. Tomatoes of every shape and variety and colour. But I'm pretty certain I did not even eat one.

Since that summer, for almost the whole of Miss Pepper's life, I've avoided the strong smelling, super flavoursome, summer treats. Until last year. Last year we bought five big boxes of tomatoes from our friend Florian to preserve. It was like an intermediate step. We didn't grow them, but they were local and organic and smelled out my kitchen for a few March weeks.

And then about six months ago I found myself doing an interview for a magazine article answering a question about my gardening goals. I wrote that my gardening goals were to grow enough tomatoes to last us the whole year long. Some to eat fresh, some to semi dry and some to preserve as sauce and as passata for the rest of the year.

And that was that, it was no sooner written than decided. We were back in the tomato growing business again.

We sowed the seeds, when they were big enough we planted them in the ground, we fertilised them, we irrigated them, we pricked out the extra growth, we trellised them and now we're picking them.

For the past few weeks every tomato that's been picked has been eaten that very same day. Until today. Today we had enough to eat and to mix up with garlic and olive oil and to oven dry. They'll be jarred up tomorrow morning in olive oil. Deeeeeeelicious.

I am so grateful that we've had a hot, sunny summer this year to ripen my reds and I am getting more and more hopeful that I will realise my gardening goal. Or at least get close.

It feels great to be back in tomato-land, even if I can't wash that stinky, black stuff off my hands and arms.

I say tomato, you say ??

Happy last day of summer for tomorrow peeps!
Can you believe it?
Are you ready for it?
Have you got a gardening goal?
Care to share?


Sunday, February 24, 2013

apple pie

And so the weekend that began with swear words and tears, ended with fresh apple pie.

This morning we rose early to beat the heat. We strapped on our picking bags, climbed our orchard ladders, and we picked, and we picked, and we picked. We filled our bags, then we filled our crates, and then it took two of us to carry each crate to the car.

Red apple deliciousness. Crunchy with that perfect apple balance of sweet and sharp.

After the day before, we felt better and happier with each apple we gently pulled from the tree.

When the girls got tired they climbed a tree and made a pulley system with some rope and a tin can and me and Bren took turns emptying the apples out at the bottom.

And we thanked the trees for their abundance of apples and the birds for leaving some alone.

And after all of us, including Jo Jo had eaten our fair share, we stacked the full crates in the cool room.

If organic farming is a roller coaster, it's great to be back up the top for a while. 

Thank you guys so much for your comments on my last post. Your own stories and your kind words really helped me feel better. 

We'll keep picking this week. And eating. And baking.

I hope you have the most delicious week to come.
I hope you get the perfect balance of crunch and sweet.


Saturday, February 23, 2013

insert swear word here

There are times when organic farming feels like the most wonderful profession in the whole wide world. When working for Mother Nature, growing delicious, seasonal, old fashioned produce with intent and love feels like the most honorable thing to do. It makes sense.

And then there's this.

A crop that takes an entire year to grow devastated in a few hours by a bunch of birds. No Cox's Orange Pippins for us this year.

I hope the greedy cockatoos enjoyed them.

Over the past 12 years we've tried hanging shiny, noisy things from the trees in our orchards, a gas gun, fake hawks, netting a few trees and probably a few more things I've forgotten to keep the birds away, but nothings worked. We've also had quotes written for netting the entire orchard but the cost is prohibitive and would take years to pay off.

Realistically, we'd be happy for the birds to take 10% of our apples. We live in a forest and that seems fair.

But this mess doesn't seem fair.

This makes me question everything. This makes me wonder about the hours and days and weeks and months spent growing those apples. The irrigating, the fertilising, the worrying, the weeding, the thinning and then some more irrigating. This makes me yearn for a regular job with regular hours and a regular wage. Something safe and predictable. 

Sometimes farming hurts. All that hard work for the birds! And some scraps for Jo Jo too. At least he look happy with himself. I feel awful.

We're going to start picking some of the other varieties this morning, earlier than we intended but hopefully in time to save them from the birds.

And I'm going to enjoy the sunflowers. I can't believe there's only one week left of summer, I'm not ready to say goodbye just yet. Are you?

I hope you have a wonderful weekend peeps.
And do me a favour when you take a bite of a fruit over the next few days, just imagine the miracle that it took to grow it to full term and get it delivered to you. And enjoy it, the farmer would be so happy you did.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

1,000 doilies

I blog for so many reasons.

I blog to record, to archive, to catalogue, to get it out of my system, to display, to tell our story, to journal, because I like to, because it's good for me and I blog to connect and be connected. I blog for community.

Blog land is made of wonderful little networks of like minded souls all connecting through our blog posts, our comments, swaps, clubs and different projects.

I've spoken before about starting my blog a few weeks too late to join in with Kirsty's quilt project all those years ago and I think I've been waiting for another big project like that to pop up ever since.

And then about a month ago, someone on instagram, I think it might have been the gorgeous Ellie Petalplum, sent me a link to Lisa Solomon's 1,000 doily project.

Lisa Solomon, a Californian mixed media artist, is working towards a piece of art made up of 1,000 (sen in Japanese) doilies.

In Lisa'a words;

1000 is a big deal in japanese culture. it's wrapped up in luck and hope and clearly excess. so... in thinking about luck and placing it into my lexicon, my vocabulary, my means of working. 1000 doilies it is. and because of my fascination with color and color theory... 100 colors of thread. 10 doilies in each color to get to my 1000. 

So Lisa put the call out and sent those 100 coloured threads to crocheters all around the world. Two of them landed here in Daylesford.

I've committed to making 20 doilies for Lisa's work. 10 peach and 10 bottle green. So far I've made 6 (one since the pics).

The thread is super fine, the hook a minute 1.5mm and the doilies themselves are about 2-3 inches wide. Tiny!

I love this project so much. I love the thought that people all around the world are joined by these tiny doilies, that it connects us, that every one of us is putting aside time in our busy lives to crochet for another. And I simply cannot wait for the big unveiling. Imagine a wall of 1,000 coloured doilies.

This project is such a big part of why I blog.

And in case you were about to ask, no I haven't sewn in the ends of The Book Blanket, but it's not book dead-line time either.

Happy, happy Wednesday to you my friends.

Are you making? Creating? Alone? With others?
Do you blog for the same reasons as me? Or for something else entirely?

Thanks heaps for being part of my community.
I really, really appreciate I do.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The basket family

Isn't it funny how all it takes is something a little out of the ordinary to make your day. A little shift in the routine, a surprise, an unexpected gift and everything looks different.

This morning after the usual muesli and coffee for breakfast, after the ordinary drive to school and the same old-same old school drop off, I waited in the queue at the post office with a fist full of boring bills for what I was certain would be some dull boxes of electric fencing.

But I was wrong!

This morning there was also a great big box addressed to me.

A surprise!

Fiona Kate of Fiona Kate Simply Gorgeous Storage had sent me a basket family. Three sizes of wire baskets all nestled inside one another in their box.

I was thrilled. I still am. I skipped out of there and came straight home to try my new baskets out for myself.

I started with wool, of course, for the middle one.

And then I took the baby one over to the harvest table in the kitchen garden and chucked some onions in. The big one I am saving for apples. Or socks. Or dolls clothes...

Fiona Kate sent these baskets to me as a surprise gift. That's a pretty lovely thing to do don't you think. She thought I'd like them and I do.

So thanks heaps for making my day lovely Fiona Kate!

I hope something a bit fun has happened in your day today too.
Or perhaps you've done something lovely to make someone else's.
Do tell, I'd love to hear about it.

I'd also love to hear about what you're having for dinner.
I'm a bit disorganised but thinking about roast vegies and lentils and fetta.
And maybe a purple carrot cake.


Monday, February 18, 2013

Jersey Mac

One summer's evening in the middle of last week, we were driving home from dinner with family in town. It wasn't exactly late, but it was late for a school night. It was late for the readers and sums and rituals that have to happen before they are all three tucked up in bed.

But still, it was the most gorgeous golden summer's evening and when our farmer boy suggested we stop for a while and check on the apples, we all agreed.

So we five piled out and slowly wandered down the rows of trees.

We picked some spotty Jersey Macs for cooking, we chatted with chooks and dogs, we made daisy chains and we screamed out to frighten away the hungry, greedy cockatoos. 

And we spoke about the crazy amount of seed on the Blackwood trees this season and how a friend's father recently said that that is the Blackwood's way of telling us it's going to be really dry. That he's only seen them do this four other times in his life and they were always right. It is so very dry here right now and the thought that it will continue to be dry is crazy, scary.

But the longer we wandered the more the big stuff seemed to melt away. And there seems to be a lot of big stuff at the moment so that is saying something. And for half an hour or maybe a little bit more, there was no high school, no times tables, no fire season, no empty water tanks, no dead-lines. 

There was only the now. 

There was only us. In that perfect light for photographing.

I hope you have a bit of perfect light in your life.
I hope you have a magical week.
Mine has started out a bit tired, but I'll get there.
I'm going to make pie.


Friday, February 15, 2013

Gravenstein apples are GO!!

The first apples to be picked in the season are the Gravenstein. 
According to the Diggers Club website;

Malus domestica 'Gravenstein'

Sweet, tasty and delicious, this apple was first described in 1797. Eat them straight off the tree from February to March, or bottle for use in Winter and Spring. Fruiting Feb-Mar. Pollinated by Jonathan or Snow. (NB, Gravenstein is a triploid flower, so it will not provide viable pollen for other varieties).

Our 10 Gravenstein trees are part of our South orchard. We planted this orchard about seven years ago but because of droughts and floods and birds, this is the first year we've picked fruit from it.

To say we are excited is an mega understatement.

Apple farming was the first feather in our organic farming caps when we moved here 12 years ago. Since then we've added vegies and berries and eggs. But I like the apples the best. Apples are awesome, don't you think?

So after a few hours testing for ripeness, filling our crates, balancing them on our heads and juggling them, I reckon we're going to spend a fair share of this weekend eating them. As is, as pie, as crumble, cut up and twirly-whirlied. The Gravensteins don't have a great shelf life so I think we'll probably sell some and preserve some too.

Wohooooo we've got apples!!

Have an ace weekend folks wont you.
Are you up to anything special?

Big love xx

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