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Friday, March 13, 2015

Elderberry Preparation and Preserving


I have already written before about elderberry tincture and you can easily make it into a cordial, elixir, shrub etc. and benefit from it's wonderful healing and health properties. Remember to follow directions, remove stems and strain the pulp containing the seeds as both stems and seeds have an emetic effect. A number of blogs are failing to advise this important step.

Due to popular demand within the family and friend circle I have harvested three times as much as in previous years. One day this week I spent 5 hours in total removing the berries from the stems and usually the staining washes off but this time the deep purple has remained quite stubborn around my nail areas. I now have about four kilos of berries macerating in vodka.

Pick them at their peak when heads are heavy and full of plump healthy berries. I harvest into woven baskets and let them sit a while somewhere cool, this allows the critters time to escape and find new lodgings. I always give them a good swishing wash in a sink full of water to remove any webs, dust and bird poo. You will have a couple of days window of opportunity to de-stalk but I have found the sooner you do it after harvest the better they pop off the stalks. Some people use a fork to rake the berries from the stems but I'm a bit fussy. 

The rest pictured above are washed and drying. on teatowel covered racks. Once they loose a bit more moisture I will hang them in a calico bag to completely dry off for emergency dry stores in case we run out of tincture. Once dry the stalks are easily rubbed and winnowed away and they can be re-hydrated. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Pee-Wee Pot


Just Look!
I found a half size Fowlers pot to match my big Bertha one.
I ummed and aahhed about buying it, wondering if I was just bringing more "stuff" into the house but it has turned out to be a wonderful buy.
It is perfect for doing small batches at the start of the season, for instance if I only have enough for bottling six #27 of tomatoes instead of the 12-13 that I can fit into the big one.
It is also PERFECT for processing my #10 bottles which I use for tomato paste, chilli sauce and pickled nasturtium seeds.
And for the height of the season like this morning...
I have both of them going at once!



Friday, February 20, 2015

Retro Table Setting


Want to know what was chic and what was not 50 years ago in table settings?
Genevieve Antoine Dariaux writes (1965) - 

Very Chic-

  • Monochrome colour schemes or rather several shades of the same colour, such as pink to burgundy, ciel to dark blue, etc.
  • A combination of fruit and flower, vegetables and flowers, or feathers and fruit in your centrepiece.
  • An unusual flower container in the centre of the table, such as a hunting horn (where can I get one of those I wonder?) or a curious porcelain bibelot ( pronounced "bib-low" I checked because I had never heard of it before! I think she is referring to those little porcelain donkeys pulling carts and plaster cornucopia)
  • Unpretentious rustic settings (with menu to match) (not entirely clear what she means by rustic 50 years ago)
  • At least one set of plates that is different, such as dessert plates with a fruit or floral motif or marine motif plates for the seafood course.
Not Chic At All-

  • A huge floral centrepiece that is overwhelming, pretentious and obviously prepared by a professional florist.
  • Mustard, sauce etc in their original bottles as well as plastic gadgets for pouring honey etc, All of these are useful but they belong in the kitchen.
  • To have absolutely everything match. (I remember Johnson Bros in the 90's going completely overboard and manufacturing patterns like "Eternal Beau" in every conceivable accessory including napkins, placemats, candlesticks...it was ghastly en masse.)
  • Napkins folded in an elaborate fashion. (I'm sure I remember napkin folding becoming very grandiose and chic in the 70's and 80's. Now they are just in downright decline!) 
Taken from "Entertaining With Elegance"


What do you think of Genevieve's list?
Do you have any trend additions to make?
What's your hot and not list for today's table-scaping and do you have some favourite table-scaping links/bloggers?



Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Summer of 2015


I find posting about our garden helpful each year as it makes a good reference resource for subsequent years plantings and designs.
If you are slightly interested I'll run through some of the variety and how we feed ourselves for a year from our garden. If the thought of yet another set of suburban garden photos bores you to tears, click away now, I'll certainly understand.

The arch and gates and fencing have all been made by Craig from recycled materials. The cubby house has been moved further down to the back fence in order to expand growing space in optimal sunlit spaces. 


Zucchini and coloured chard grow side by side with asters and sunflowers. Mallow is allowed to grow moderately and several edible perennials and herbs all have their place within the abundant landscape.


Pumpkins have self sown as usual and have been giving the dahlias grief as they compete for space and over run borders. Beyond the dahlias are the 20 odd tomatoes now ripening rapidly. Sounds like a lot but we have worked out that this number is what we need as a minimum for a years supply of bottled tomatoes, sauce and tomato paste.


The Russian Giant sunflowers are almost touching the fascia board but the herbs below are still thriving and the lemongrass well protected. The apricot tree espaliered on the fence (not pictured) had a huge crop this year. The fig tree is laden but hasn't had enough water this year making the fruit slow to ripen though the boughs are laden. A cucumber climbs into it's branches trying to break free from the pumpkins and dahlias. 


Subsequent sowing of carrots, beets, lettuce and radish ensure constant food supply. Coloured chard and spinach are also a daily part of the chooks diet. In the foreground above you can see Granny Smith apples ripening. A new (to my garden) bean is climbing on an old gate placed in the bed. They are an old Cherokee variety called "Trail of Tears" and I watch them daily with great anticipation of the beautiful pink pods to come. Parsley and lovage enjoy constant picking and towards the top right of the bed, spring onions are almost becoming too big. I've started harvesting, washing, chopping and freezing them for the year to come. Seedlings sown for autumn/winter are starting to emerge so that when the summer glut is over we will be picking greens, black Spanish radish, kohl rabbi, brussel sprouts and cabbages...
(The growth to the right of the path is the fairy garden)


A new house is under construction on the block next door and it is massive and right on the boundary. It is two stories and in winter we will not see the sun due to its low position on the horizon and northerly track across the sky so this bed will be undergoing a radical change. Where once we grew all year round, this bed will now hold berries of all kinds and deciduous plantings that will hibernate happily over winter and be relatively shade loving.
For now potatoes bloom under the nectarine tree and more plantings of carrot, beets, spinach, kale, asparagus and popping corn. The Tasmanian pepper berries are also ready for harvest.


Some of Craig's chillies, he has planted 50 this year! Bit of a fan. These enjoy the hot spot next to the house.


The corn and sunflowers reach for the sky almost hiding the bird house on it's tall pole. Below them are bush beans and another couple of zucchini and a cucumber. Beyond the corn is a lemon tree and a Tahitian lime tree with tomatillo/cape gooseberries below that. Climbing the stair railing is another variety of climbing bean called "Purple Torfino". Towards the front of the yard are the blackcurrants, strawberries, blueberries and my yet to fruit pomegranate. New Zealand yams are coming up in all sorts of places (as a member of the oxalis family is wont to do!) 

These are the sort of quantities and the scale of planting that we require to eat fresh and preserve for later. This is how we achieve the variety and seasonal traversing. You see it's not all edible but mostly.
(PS do you see a little someone peeking out of the window above? Probably Miss Bella!)

Thank you for your indulgence but it does help to place things and give perspective because you always think you'll remember but much does slip away and the years merge.





Saturday, February 14, 2015

A Remote Dinner Date


The Shearer has been working away for a while on a very large property up near Gladstone in the very far north eastern tip of Tasmania. I joined him for dinner one night mid-week and arrived on sunset. The weather was mild with no wind and picture postcard.


It's a 2 hour drive from home.
He cooked me a lovely stir fry with vegetables from our garden and then it's a pretty early turn in for exhausted shearers.
The nightly concerto of snoring from three bedrooms and the occasional bump and shuffle from the ladies in the shed were the only sounds except for the young working dog far away, on guard, probably barking at a possum.
Next morning it's an early rise and as the shearers head over to the shed, I start the 2 hour drive back to town.





Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Workers Cottage Kitchen


Come inside 30 Smith St.
Grand historical homes are somewhat preserved but it's the ordinary cottage that is fast loosing a lot of their original fixtures. Many of them were cheaply built and time has worn them out.
Before being sold in 2011, it had been in the same family for 100 years and altered little.


Kitchens of this kind are becoming endangered as they are becoming renovated all over the city.
This cottage was probably built in about 1840 after George Smith's land holding was subdivided creating Smith St. 
Kitchens with recognisable built in cabinets similar to today became popular in the early 1920's. In modest homes these were often owner built and often from recycled and salvaged materials. By today's standards this kitchen is considered inferior, impractical and most definitely rustic...but let me show you some golden charming features.


The cupboard door slides open beautifully in its hand cut channels to reveal a below bench drawer. This slides out smoothly and easily on simply constructed runners.


Inside a perfectly cut square of 1940's linoleum to line the drawer.
Layers and layers of history.


The cabinetry on the other wall is constructed of strong timber frames, the shelves are like packing case off cuts. As the cupboard is built onto the rough hand made brick wall, the back and sides are lined with a metal gauze to keep them vermin proof.

It's tiny but modest kitchens had far less equipment and appliances than one finds nowadays.


Could I live and work in this kitchen? If it were my property would I rip it out?
Yes absolutely, but it's such a shame isn't it. So I had to take some photos and preserve some of it's glorious ordinariness for posterity because it and all it's fellows will be changed and we will lose those hand made gems.


A wonky old cottage with sloping ceilings and old tin roofs and up and down floors...


Beautiful ornate vents on lathe and plaster walls...


Heavy, sturdy internal doors with layers and layers of paint and keys long lost.


The houses have tiny or no front gardens and these golden pencil pines enrich the street scape and are considered historically significant. The council had them recently trimmed sensitively to ensure easier pedestrian access but maintain their profile.

There are plenty of glamorous mansions and significant properties of old preserved in time but it's the humble workers cottages and the homes of the ordinary that I also salute. On the face of things they stay relatively the same but within they are getting radical makeovers.
It's precisely the make do and mend of these plain cottages that is what Suburban Jubilee celebrates.











Saturday, February 7, 2015

My Mister Is Sew Hot!


All week the weather man has predicted a scorching weekend so we were out and about early and back in doors to wait out the worst of the heat.
So what to do?
I told the man I had some linen repairs so I was getting the sewing machine out.
"I need some new singlets for work, I'll get my sewing machine out too"
(He was fortunate enough to pick up a very good Singer model for $10 at the op shop)
So we spent three or four hours together, drafting, cutting, sewing and repairing, side by side.

On the line are five newly made singlets.
Note shearing singlets are extra long as they need to cover the back when they bent over so they don't get chilled in the back. They also need to absorb lots of sweat. The Shearer goes through five singlets a day! (not to mention shirts, dungars and thermals)


I also repaired some hems on sheets and towels and dealt with some holes in a bathmat.
It had a very nasty hole and a couple of smaller spots that would have headed that way too. If it had been terribly threadbare I would have tossed it but I think there is still quite a lot of life left in it yet. I cut up an old hand towel and made some random patches. I thought there was no way I could do invisible mends so they might as well be a feature.
Meanwhile the man tackled some dungar repairs too.

So we escaped the heat, spent some quality time together and saved a fortune in repairs and new clothes for work. He constantly astounds me with his creativity. One minute he is cutting and welding up a plane in the garage and the next he is designing himself some new singlets! Our points of difference make us interesting but our commonalities make life fun.

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