The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul. ~ Alfred Austin

Thursday, 27 February 2014

The Bee's Knees

The bee's knees
Meaning - excellent - the highest quality.

Not sure where my fascination with taking photos of bees has come from, but I can spend an inordinate amount of time out in the garden, camera in hand snapping away at the bees! You hear about the plight of the honeybee and how viruses are attacking and killing off many bee populations and what drastic things that can mean for the future. I think that is why I am so happy when I see so many bees in our garden. Today it was the chive flowers they were all over, but no matter what time of day I go out there, I am virtually guaranteed of seeing numerous bees, and that makes me very happy!

This photo has nothing to do with bees, but I just thought I would add it in. We have a gum tree that at the moment is shedding copious amounts of bark. I am forever picking it up in the backyard and not really taking much notice of it. Yesterday afternoon I was sitting outside for five minutes and this piece of bark was at my feet. I picked it up and for the first time looked really closely at it. I was amazed at what I saw. It's funny how when you really look closely at something you notice all the tiny detail. I couldn't get over the wrinkles and that you could actually see the wood grain in the bark. This piece of bark is paper thin and yet the detail is truly amazing. I just wish in the photo above the detail showed better than what it does.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

The Wild Sunflower

At early dawn, like soldiers in their places,
Rank upon rank the golden sunflowers stand;
Gazing toward the east with eager faces,
Waiting, until their god shall touch the land
To life and glory, longingly they wait,
Those voiceless watchers at the morning's gate.

Dawn's portals tremble silently apart;
Far to the east, across the dewy plain,
A glory kindles that in every heart,
Finds answering warmth and kindles there again;
And rapture beams in every radiant face
Now softly glowing with supernal grace.

And all day long that silent worship lasts,
And as their god moves grandly down the west,
And every stem a lengthening shadow casts,
Toward the east, ah, they love him best,
And watch until every lingering ray is gone,
Then slowly turn to greet another dawn.

~By Albert Bigelow Paine~

Such beautiful sunshine-y happy flowers! I love that even though I forgot to plant any sunflower seeds this summer, they still came up all on their own. They are such a beautiful, happy and cheerful flower to have out in the garden. How could your spirits not be lifted seeing such a gorgeous yellow against such a vibrant blue summer sky!

Monday, 17 February 2014

The Great Tomato Harvest

Sunday morning I spent a bit of time in the vegie garden weeding, feeding and mulching. In the bottom corner of one of the vegie beds was a huge tomato bush. I am not sure what variety of tomato it is, as it was a seedling I had bought from Bunnings. All it said on the label was Diggers Heirloom. The bush has always looked sick as though it might have had a virus or something. I have been picking tomatoes off this bush for a little while but they weren't really well liked by the teens of the house. The photo above is a bit deceptive as they look nice and red, but really they are very mottled with a few nice red ones amongst them. I knew on Sunday morning that there were tomatoes there to be picked. Well, I started picking them and kept going and going. In the end I ended up with eight kilos worth! The chooks ended up with some that were too far gone and had turned mushy. Now what to do with the rest!?!

First of all I decided to make a roasted tomato soup to put in the freezer for when (if) the weather cools down. I just sliced the tomatoes and quite often had to cut out pieces that weren't quite right. After putting them in a couple of large baking dishes I drizzled some olive oil over them and put chopped garlic from Mum's garden plus some herbs from my garden plus a few dried herbs and a sprinkling of salt and pepper over them and into the oven.Once they were done I transferred the wonderfully smelling tomatoes to a large dish and used the stick blender to moosh them up.

The result was two containers of very tasty roasted tomato soup. Again this photo is a bit deceptive looking as the containers are fuller than what the picture shows. Before putting it into the containers I had to try just a bit to see what the flavour was like and Yum! It had a really lovely flavour, am really looking forward to having this soup for my lunch once  the weather cools down.

 While the tomatoes were in the oven roasting, I also chopped up the rest of the tomatoes to make a pasta sauce. First of all I cooked off two large (and I mean large!) onions from Mum's garden, then added some garlic from Mum's garden. Then filled this large pot to the top with the chopped tomatoes. The photo above is from when they had been cooking for awhile already and had reduced down. After a bit I added about a tablespoon of brown sugar while it was all coming to the boil and then turned down the heat to a simmer and left it for a couple of hours. Oops I added herbs in at that stage too. After a couple of hours it had reduced down and thickened I mooshed it up with the stick blender too.

This was the result. A really yummy full of flavour tomato pasta sauce, that we all thoroughly enjoyed for tea Sunday night. It made enough sauce for probably about another four pasta dishes. In the past I have never really been any good at preserving what we grow. We eat so much of the produce from our garden fresh, but I have just never really gotten into the habit of preserving anything and if I am too be honest that means quite a bit ends up being wasted and goes into the compost. I was really determined I was going to do something with these tomatoes as I knew the kids wouldn't eat them fresh. They have grown up eating lots of different vegies straight from the vegie garden all their lives, but as they have become older and none of their friends eat home grown vegies (which I find really sad) they have become fussier. This was definitely a win as both said the house smelled really good while all the cooking was going on and they both enjoyed eating the pasta, so I am happy! As much as I love my chooks they weren't getting all the tomatoes, as it was they ended up with quite a few that had gone mushy, and I think if they had had anymore, they would have been well and truly sick of them. This has given me the incentive to have a go at preserving more of our garden harvest's. Now what to do with the capsicums...

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Pantry Organisation

Something that has been bothering me for a long time is the state of my pantry. With shelves that measure 34" wide x 23" deep, I was forever losing things in the deep recesses of that cupboard. I seemed to always be buying items that I was sure we had in the pantry but couldn't find. This morning I decided enough was enough it was time to do a major clean-out and try and re-organise this cupboard to work more efficiently. First of all I jumped on-line looking for inspiration but most of the images I found were of pantry's that had much narrower shelves than what mine are.

BEFORE: This is embarrassing to show how bad they were, but this is the two middle shelves. It's obvious the two blue baskets are just not working at keeping things tidy.

BEFORE: This photo shows the next two shelves with just a peek of the very bottom shelf which holds the slow cooker and electric frypan. Tea towels in a basket, which just never worked, they will be going back into a drawer. Way too many cereal boxes. That is the work of a  certain teen who gets part way through one box and then for whatever reason that I can't fathom, he opens another one!

AFTER: Much better! This is the first two shelves. I wish the spaghetti jar that is up on the top shelf would have fit on the next one down along with the pasta, but it wouldn't. At least it's not too far from the rest of the similar ingredients.

AFTER: No more upteem cereal boxes! For the last 12 months or so I have had all the baking stuff in another cupboard and once again it just wasn't working, so I moved them all back to the pantry and think this will work much better. I have all the gluten free flours on the shelf above and the wheat based flours on the same shelf as the cereal which isn't gluten free. I also had two of those expandable tiered shelves, so I used one behind the jars of gluten free flour to store gluten free packet ingredients.

AFTER: the bottom two shelves are where the potatoes, onions and garlic are stored along with the container for snacks. The very bottom shelf just contains the slow cooker and electric frypan. Much neater.

With the pantry shelves being so deep the canned food wasn't really working in there. The tins all sit on one of those tiered expandable shelf thingys but if it was put towards the front of the shelf stuff would fall down behind and become lost in there. If it was put towards the back of the shelf stuff would get piled up in front and become a real mess. After thinking about it for awhile I thought the best option was to store the tins separately from the pantry by using the lower shelf of one of the upper cabinets which was just the right depth. First of all I had to pull out all the bpa free plastic storage containers and drink bottles that were in that cupboard. The canned food is much easier to see and get at now, so hopefully this should work much better. You can just see the top shelf which badly needs organising too!

It feels kind of strange putting photos of my cupboards on here as I don't have a nice kitchen like so many you see on blogs. Mine is just an ugly old 1980's cream laminex. It is cream laminex cupboards and cream laminex benches, one word for it UGLY!! It is a fairly good size kitchen, I have plenty of cupboard space and lots of bench space and it is reasonably well laid out so for that I am thankful, but it is certainly not an inspiring place to be spending any length of time in.

It's not a pretty pantry full of co-ordinating storage containers, with pretty labels, but it is much neater and better organised than it was this morning. For the time being it has to do as that is the best I can do for now. There is plenty of food/ingredients in that cupboard and that is another thing to be thankful for.

Now that I have told you how ugly my kitchen is, I will leave you with a picture of pretty much what my DREAM kitchen would look like :)

There were so many beautiful kitchens to choose from it was hard to pick just one. I love everything about this gorgeous kitchen. In fact house of turquoise is a beautiful blog to look at, if like me you love the colour turquoise.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

This and That

I was really surprised to find the Delphiniums flowering again, although much paler in colour
than last time. They look so dainty and perfectly formed.
I think they are very pretty flowers.

I have ever only grown kale in the winter months previously. Earlier in
summer Mum found a punnet of kale at the hardware store I think it
was. We didn't know how it would go, but thought it was well worth
a shot. Mum kindly shared half the punnet with me. Mine were slow
to get going, but once they started they were well on their way. Mum's
on the other hand were all gone within a few days thanks to some
very pesky bugs. This is a different variety of kale than what we 
usually grow, but it certainly has been nice having fresh kale throughout
the summer months.

The vegie garden has really suffered this summer with the intense heat,
but for whatever reason, the capsicums have been going crazy! We have
harvested so many. We have been eating them fresh in salads, giving them away
and I have also been dicing them up and putting them in the freezer for use
in casseroles in the winter. Quite a lot of them have been sunburnt on one side,
they are mostly the ones I have been freezing, just cut the sunburnt part off and
that goes into the compost or the chooks have been eating them.

It never gets old seeing and taking photos of bees hard at work in the garden :-)

The bottlebrush are just starting to come into flower.
I love this pink one and I noticed the little birds did
too early this morning, they were having a great time
going from one flower to the next.

The roses have done really well this summer coping with the heat and have looked pretty good
most of the summer. A few weeks ago they started to look the worse for wear,
but I noticed this  morning that quite a few of the bushes have buds on them once more.

About a month ago we found ourselves with four new chickens.
This one and the silvery grey I think are definitely hens,
but I fear the other two are roosters!

A little while back I bought a cheap blender. It is only a small one, just
big enough to make one  smoothie. I have been enjoying mixing up
different blends. This one is spinach, mixed berries and chia seeds
and tastes really yummy. I love going out to the garden and picking a
bunch of kale and whizzing that up with some spinach, apple, pear
and the chia seeds. They never come out the same in colour, depending
on how much of each fruit/vegetable is included.

The vegie garden and I are not the only ones that have had enough of this summer, BJ seems to have
struggled with the heat more this year than in the past. I suppose it doesn't help that he is a little bit
overweight. He will also be 13 in two weeks time, so he is getting on in years. Although he does have
his moments where he gives a good imitation of being a young pup again. But it must be all too
much for him and he has to go and have a sleep for the rest of the day to recover!

Five weeks since I was last here. Six weeks of school holidays gone in a blink. Not sure where the time goes or how it can go so quickly, in the blink of an eye. Both children went back to school last Monday, year 10 and year 12 this year. Suddenly I am feeling very old. I haven't blogged because honestly I felt like I haven't really had anything to contribute. Life or maybe it is just me is feeling very ho-hum at the moment. Work has basically dried up. The average seems to be about 2 hours a fortnight and it has been like that since about mid November. I need to find another job, can't very well live on two hours pay. There are no jobs in our little town which means travelling to our neighbouring town. I would love to move, but houses are not selling here. With the extra time on my hands I should be able to get so many more things done, but I haven't. Procrastination seems to be in full force. Having said that, yesterday I made myself write out a to-do list and although not everything was accomplished, probably about three quarters of that list was. So I am thinking I really should get off here and go and write today's list out, and then at least I will be achieving something, instead of wandering around wondering what to do as I have been doing for some time now. I might even find that by doing that I will have something to blog about! I really would like to be here more often and on a regular basis each week. Something to aim for!