This winter we have been blessed with great gardening weather, which enabled us to spend a lot of time in the orchard. Of course it is fabulous to pick fresh, delicious fruit straight from the tree- the flavour is always amazing! But to continue with this the trees need a bit of TLC. So, they have been pruned, fed with blood and bone, potash, trace elements and chicken manure (the citrus trees). The area around the trunks has been weeded, and the stone fruit sprayed with copper spray to reduce the leaf curl we are prone to get.
We have the most amazing orange tree- it fruits prolifically and the oranges are delicious. Only problem is, there are SO MANY oranges we can’t possibly eat them all so we need to preserve them.
One days picking
Another day’s picking, after giving loads away!
One of our favourite ways is to make Orange Brandy Liqueur. It uses up lots of oranges (and brandy!) and tastes divine, however we still had plenty left from last year so really didn’t need to make more with this year’s harvest.
Last year we also froze a load of whole oranges so we could juice them when we wanted- except we didn’t and they were still in the freezer! So out they went, and after a search of the recipe books we settled on:
- Litres and litres of orange juice- some to drink straight away and plenty for the freezer.
- We also cut heaps of orange wedges for the freezer- these are great to add to a drink instead of an ice block and are great to suck on on a hot summers day.
- Orange chutney (18 jars!) – this is delicious, and while it took ages to peel the oranges the result was worth it.
- Orange, coconut and apple crisps-we happened to have some apple sauce left over, so whizzed up some with oranges and coconut in the Thermomix to make a paste. This was then dehydrated and broken into pieces for a delicious snack!
Orange crisps and orange, coconut and apple crisps
- Orange crisps– we did this last year too, and is well worth maintaining a supply for quick snacks or to add flavour to cold drinks or tea. The oranges are sliced with a mandoline and then dehydrated.
- Orange infused vinegar and oil- the dehydrated orange slices give a great flavour to white wine vinegar or a light olive oil. Great for cooking with or for salad dressings.
Orange infused vinegar and orange infused oil
- Marmalade- it is hard to not make marmalade with a surplus of oranges, so 20 jars were made, which is more than enough for us and for gifts!
- Orange paste– by now we were wondering what else to do with so many oranges still. We kept giving them away, the last basket was starting to linger, and we love the fruit pastes that go with cheese so decided to try Orange Jelly (paste). It is quite a simple recipe and really delicious! We made 16 jars, so plenty to last a long time!
Orange jelly- a fabulous paste to have with cheese
And that, finally, saw the end of the baskets of oranges. Now we can enjoy the wonderful flavour in so many different ways for many months to come, and we have added to the shelves in the produce room!
Just love this time of year when the greens are growing prolifically both in the aquaponics system and the vegetable garden! Lettuce, kale, chard…. they just grow amazingly before it starts to get hot and they all bolt. We are getting so much we are sharing with family and friends as well as eating plenty ourselves.
Endless supply of fresh greens!
The waiting was worth it- the pineapple growing in the aquaponics system was finally ready- at the end of July in a Perth winter! Who would believe it? But, all who have tasted it agree it is the most delicious pineapple!
Juicy and sweet!
The other pineapple growing in a pot (see the May post), should be ready in a couple of months or so, it will be interesting to see if there is a difference in the taste (aquaponics vs dirt). When this one is finished, the top will be prepared and planted ready to grow another pineapple!
Now the weather is warming up and the Silver Perch in the swimming pool are more actively eating (they slow down a fair bit over the colder months), they are easy to catch on a fishing line. They like prawns, but their favourite is worms! The tricky part is catching more than one- it seems that once the first good sized one is caught, the others know and avoid the bait. We have our great net system now though, which means we can hop in and catch a few-selecting the ones to harvest and releasing the others. These two beauties were caught for a lunch with guests- the biggest was 1.2kg!
Well, the hives are going well. We decided to re-queen both hives- we had read a lot of advice on re-queening annually, plus with the billabong hive still behaving aggressively we decided that replacing the queen was the only option. Never having done it before, we did some research and found it surprisingly easy. The hardest part was finding the old queens and removing them!
After re-queening, we left the hive for 10 days and then checked, and sure enough the billabong hive was calmer already, so we knew we had done the right thing. With the weather getting cooler, it was also time to reduce the number of supers again. We had already removed one super from each of the kitchen and billabong hives, and harvested heaps of honey, and we now reduced them further. For winter, each hive has the brood box and one super, which is more than half full of honey. We will keep an eye on them but hopefully this will keep them going over winter. Mind you, it has been amazingly mild so far and the bees are continuing to bring in pollen at a great rate!
Produce room full of honey
Well, it certainly has been a hot Perth summer, but autumn has finally arrived and with the cooler weather the plants are recovering. We have loads of pears, guava, citrus and apples growing at the moment. This is the first year we have been able to pick guava, and they are delicious!
Strawberry guava- delicious!
We also have had a huge amount of honey from our busy bees- the shelves were full of jars of honey and we did another harvest a couple of weeks ago. This is a 20 litre bucket!
20 litre bucket of honey- second harvest this year!
Our olive trees have also fruited this year, much better than the dozen or so olives we harvested last year!! Enough to fill a couple of 2 litre jars. These are soaking in water, changed daily for 2 weeks. Next comes the brine solution which they will sit in for a year- such a long wait!
Olives in water
We have had such an abundance of birds lately- particularly the Splendid wrens. They are so comfortable with us being quite close- the only trouble with photographing them is they flit so quickly!!
They have become very regular visitors to the vegetable garden and aquaponics garden, and are very welcome indeed as they are eating the caterpillars!
Checking out the caterpillars in the veggie garden!
Winter is the time when turkeys start to nest. This year our poor turkeys have been laying eggs, which have then been stolen by the crows. We have now had to lock them in a more secure enclosure, but made them a nice little nesting spot!
Turkeys like to nest in the scrub, so we brought the scrub to the turkeys! There are now 8 eggs covered up in the corner, so soon one of the turkey hens will sit on them, and we will be able to let the others out.
Like the rabbits, fish, ducks, sheep and poultry, we breed the turkeys for meat- just enough for us. They take longer to grow, 20 weeks or so, but are worthwhile for the amount of meat they produce.
We had great rain in May, though so far in June it has been warm and sunny…not really what is needed in winter!
The ‘complex’ complex has had a bit of a revamp which includes a fence around it. Traditionally what we have done is bury the left overs once we have prepared rabbits, chickens etc for the freezer, plus use animal manures freely. We haven’t been able to do this in this new raised bed garden as the dogs are big and agile enough to jump in and dig it all up again! The gardens were suffering from a lack of nutrients, so fencing was the easy answer. Once the fence was in, we were able to really nourish the soil in the raised beds and replant area, and it is really starting to take off now, especially with the rain we experienced in May.
Secure from the dogs!