The elderflowers are flowering like crazy at the moment, so it is time to make elderflower champagne! It is really easy to make, and tastes delicious! Also there was plenty of rhubarb in the garden so made a batch of rhubarb champagne at the same time. It looks so lovely and pink, can’t wait to try it! Every day we have to release a little bit of air from the bottles until the fermentation slows down, then the lids get tightened and it is nearly ready-yum!
We have had a very busy spring this year, though we think we say that every year!
Sometimes it is nice to just make the garden look nice! Yes, the mulch will help with water retention as the hot summer comes, but…… it just looks so good!
Here’s a couple of before and after shots:
Of course more than mulch spreading has been happening:
We had a great harvest of perch to stock up the freezer!
And some yabbies too!
And of course now the weather is warming up, the trout are harvested, smoked and vacuum packed for the coming year!
We love growing our own luffa/loofah, which we then use in a hand soap. It is great for cleaning off the dirt after a day in the garden!
Growing loofah is much like growing pumpkin, though they do have a longer growing season so don’t leave the planting too late. Here in Perth we plant in September/October. If it is cool in September (which it certainly is this year!), it is best to plant in trays under cover. Usually though I have no problem sowing seed directly into the soil. This year we had a good crop, though for some reason they were quite small.
When young, the loofah can be cooked and eaten, but we prefer to grow them to maturity to use the dried sponge inside. When they have matured, they dry out and you can hear the seeds rattling inside. After picking, we allow them to dry out some more, then peel them, and shake all the seeds out-saving for planting the next season of course.
After being peeled, cleaned and air dried they look like this:
The loofah need to be really dry, so we leave them another week or two to be sure, then make up a batch of melt and pour soap. This is a really quick way of making soap, though we have plans next time to make a cold press soap and see how that goes. Melt and pour soap comes in a block- we just got the plain glycerine soap from Aussie Soap Supplies and added some lemongrass essential oil and a hint of yellow colour. The loofah were cut to size and placed inside these handy, non stick cylinders (we also tried in the soap moulds to see how they would work).
Once set and cool, the soaps in the moulds were turned out-but a lot of the detail of the mould is lost with the loofah inside so next time we will try plain moulds. With the cylinders, we just carefully cut off the closed end and pushed out the soap, then cut into slices.
The final product, is a gentle, lightly antibacterial (from the lemongrass) loofah soap that works a treat after a day in the garden- you know?- when the dirt is ingrained in your fingers and you think they will never be the same again!
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 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– 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.
- 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!
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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!