I have had a lovely week. I approached it with trepidation, but I had no choice. Once again our power was off for maintenance. In an effort to catch up for the time lost during the lockdown, the power company decided to make one final push to get the job done to replace all the power poles in the area for once and for all. We were without power between 9am – 3pm for three days in a row. Initially I was indignant – how could they do this to us?! Don’t they know we have work to be done? For us out here in the country, no power not only meant no power but also no internet and no water. But as resourceful people in an unchangeable situation, we adapted. Hubby the Un-Gardener packed up his office and went and worked elsewhere, where there was a power supply, so he could continue working without skipping a beat.
For me I took a different tack… I decided to leave the office completely. Over the last month, while trying to #MakeMayCount, I had done a lot of extra computer gardening and was in need of a break from the demands that glare at me from the glow of the computer screen. On looking about the garden, while in control, some of the edges were beginning to show subtle signs of…. Of…. well not quite neglect, but love and care had been tossed at it in the haste of the month instead of being lovingly placed and it was beginning to show. I needed some time with just me and my garden, no one else, no distractions so we could reconnect, one on one with each and every garden bed. I needed to feel familiar with each one and recognise its needs.
It may be winter, and I am taking the opportunity to slow down and listen to the suggestion of the season, with its cold sluggish rain lazily and sporadically falling from the sky, the chill of the morning that suggests lingering a little longer in bed and starting the day a little later when it is more comfortable. This all suits me just fine. But the garden is still my baby and it still needs care and attention and will always do so – although fortunately in winter, not as much as in the coming season of spring.
However, in these slow days, there are things that can be done to get ready for the next season. If I prepare the beds now in a no dig fashion, by adding compost, nutrients and goodies to the soil and allow the worms do the work of incorporating it into the structure and making it readily available for my plants to absorb it when the time comes, then I save myself the stress of preparing beds while tending seedlings in the busiest window of the entire gardening calendar.
I need to ensure I maintain my daily sector sessions and take care of tiny weeds and hoe the paths and tend to the needs of the plants still lingering there. It is so easy to look out and think, I did it last week so I’ll be fine to skip it this week, and then something comes up the following week, preventing any gardening being done at all and before you know it, it is a weedy mess again and it makes a complete mockery of the whole sector system that actually works really well when it is used properly. I really need to work on my self discipline and allow it to become a routine in the fabric of my days.
I filled my powerless days with jobs, chores, tasks, and projects. Each with varying degrees of excitement or a reluctant willingness for something simple yet ever so slightly boring. I have stepped up my battle with the rats who have expanding their domain to include living under the dome. They have become so brazen I saw, in the middle of the day, one creature trying to get out of the compost bin through the gaps in the side and he was so fat he got stuck half way and had to wiggle his way like something out of a kids cartoon. Each evening I bury the holes in the base of the greenhouse hoping that they won’t be there in the morning. This is a war I will win, even if I have had to increase my battle into weapons I’m not entirely happy using.
I’ve also repotted all the seedlings I have in the greenhouse, and it surprises me just how many there are. But all going well they won’t be there for long. Then I can give it a jolly good clean out ready for the new season. I’ve also tried to save my strawberries but that is a story for another day because at this point I’m not sure if there will be a happy ending or not. I have enjoyed my downtime in the garden so much I have decided to make one day a week a ‘powerless day’ in the garden and just lose myself to the pleasures of the soil, the pleasures that can so easily be lost when you march to the beat of a different rhythm.
Come again soon – I have also been sorting out the asparagus and I can’t wait to tell you all about that.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
Sometimes you get an idea or see something on the great big internet and something compels you to give it ago. Sometimes this is a good idea and other times it is a case of never mention it again. I have loads of ideas rattling around in my head. I’ve started writing the more viable ones down on a ‘to do’ list so they don’t become forgotten. I also have a few ideas bookmarked on my computer that could be worth my time attempting.
Over the last few months my You Tube feed has been inundated with a similar type of video, tempting me to try and have a go. I don’t know what the internet is trying to tell me, but I felt like it was speaking straight at me and it would be rude to ignore it. Besides, what it was suggesting was it was not only really cool, but quick – most of the videos were only 15 minutes long, and importantly easy – every single version got great results every time!
I rounded up two beach balls left over from the summer and a neglected cheap bouncy ball. The kids have loads of balls – they’d never notice it was gone! I ordered a large bag of cement, dug up a bucket of ‘good sand’ without an excessive amount of plant debris in it and nabbed and old winter sheet that had seen better days an cut it into small pieces. That part was probably the hard part as your really don’t appreciate how large a queen sized sheet is until you have to cut it up into small pieces. I ended up with a blister!
I laid down a tarp, so my nice new deck didn’t get ruined and set to work. I made a 50:50 mix of sand and cement and added water to make a rather runny mix. Then I mixed in a handful of shredded sheet and began applying it to the balls like doing papier mache. My expectations were at odds with reality and I learnt a few things in the making.
It is worth persevering with because eventually you get something to be pleased with. I was at a point where it was almost round enough and every time I applied a new layer it wasn’t smooth and lovely like I wanted it to be so I thought I’d give it a gentle mist with the hose to smooth it over. That didn’t work but I got a lovely texture that disguised all the lumps and bumps and I happily decided I was done.
I didn’t take many photos because with the gloves and the cement and the mess it was a little tricky, so I have a before and after for you. The rest of the images are from yesterdays efforts on the nook. The day was nice and sunny so I was pleased I’d been out on the rainy day before to get paint so I was able to finishing the painting. Then I dug down a spades depth all around where we want to put plants, to remove the kikuyu roots. They don’t seem to go down too deep, but I dug up a mountain of them! I think I’ll need to put in some kind of barrier to keep them away. After that effort I was stiff and sore and a little weary. I’m pleased today is a rainy day again, so I can get a break from making hay while the sun shines to do some computer gardening.
Come again soon – the veggie patch is calling to me and its cries are getting louder.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
Sometimes Making May Count means I’m so busy Making May Count that at the end of the day I collapse exhausted into a comfy chair and remain there until I recharge enough to get up and send myself to bed.
Yesterday was one of those days. The boffins had said it was going to rain all week, which turned out to be untrue and after a bit of a foggy start the day cleared to be one of those fabulous sunny days we have become accustomed to. Unlike today, which is back to the gloomy foggy rainy situation we found ourselves in on Monday. I hadn’t expected to get anything of note done in the garden at all. I’m not mad enough to work in the rain and the risk of catching a cold would mean people looking sideways at me when I sniff or sneeze when I do venture out and about. It is really not worth the risk. So I set myself up for a day of computer gardening in the cosiness of my office.
I do have to say it is a lovely spot and I have the heater going so it is warm and I love my lights, they contribute to the cosy feeling by delivering a warm glow from their chandelier bulbs. Although it does need a bit of a tidy up as Jasper the Dog has made a bit of a mess. (Nothing I have done could possibly have contribute to the mess…) But he does like to pull paper out of my waste paper bin and shred it. And his big boofy feet have tramped sand everywhere. Maybe if I get all my computer gardening done I should probably clean the office… if it is still raining.
But yesterday it was unexpected lovely, so I fiddled about with the beach balls again. Two days ago I was ready to write these off as a failure, but persevered and am glad I did as they are almost how I thought they’d be and all going well will be able to do a bit of a ‘did-dah’ thing very soon.
Then I decided to paint the wall. I was going to break it up into four sections so it didn’t seem overwhelming, but it was actually quite pleasant and I kept going until I ran out of paint almost at the end of the third panel. It looks fabulous, even in its unfinished state. Although it was raining today I decided to go and buy more paint so when it stopped and the wall dried out I’d be ready to pick up where I left off. But alas the store didn’t have the paint I was after so I will need to go further afield to find it. But it wasn’t a wasted trip as I came back with some plants, some hanging basket stuff and other bits and bobs.
And now I need to get on with the computer gardening that I should have done yesterday.
Oh and as a side note… did you know boiled peanuts was a thing? I didn’t until the other day. I had pulled my peanuts out of the ground and really didn’t know what to do with them. Then the lovely Donna from Rainbow Gardens – I’ve been following her on You Tube for probably a decade, well she put up a video all about peanuts including a recipe for boiled peanuts and I thought I’d give it a whirl. Oh my goodness – we have a new favourite in our house! Check out Donna and her peanut video >Here<. Be sure to tell her I say Hi!
Come again soon – I may need to put my eyes back on the veggie patch for a moment to keep it in order.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
I have been busy again in and around the garden in the last few days. I have been tackling those beach balls as promised but with mixed results. I still haven’t finished yet, so I’ll save the big reveal for when I’m done. But just to say things aren’t as easy as they look on the internet! I suspect my attempts will be less than perfect! Wait and see!
In the spirit of making things I took some time to make a soil sieve. I used to have a plastic one, but its life span in a heavy use garden isn’t very long and it fell apart. I have been making do with some mesh I found about the place that I cable tied to the bottom of a plant pot tray with a wide open bottom. It was useful for what it was, however, the long skinny shape wasn’t practical. I’d kept my eye out for something to replace the broken plastic one but never really saw anything I was prepared to spend my money on.
Rummaging about the place I found Hubby the Un-Gardener had a stash of plastic mesh, so I liberated it for my own purposes. I did ask but to be honest, he didn’t really have a choice. We have also acquired a lot of leftover bits of wood and I’ve become a bit of a wood hoarder. I think I got it from my dad as he would never throw out a good bit of wood. We once sat around a bonfire and he wouldn’t left us toss half of the firewood into the flames proclaiming, ‘don’t burn that, it could come in handy one day.’
So with my collection of wood, my pilfered mesh and my fabulous drop saw that I picked up from a recycle centre for a mere $24 dollars and a spot of imagination I ‘whipped up’ a rather cool soil sieve – if I must say so myself.
I only really built it because I wanted to, rather than having a need, but it is strange the way life works, as Hubby the Un-Gardener and I continued working on our fire area nook and we have been trying to get rid of the Kikuyu grass so we can create a beachy feel around the fire that in summer, we can dig our toes into sun or fire warmed sand. In the winter we are so rugged up as the bits not directly exposed to the flames can get rather chilly and can dampen the experience. But this work meant digging over the sand down to a certain level – about a spades depth to remove roots. And in perfect timing my sieve was called into action to return the sand to the nook, minus any plant material. It couldn’t have worked better. I’m so pleased with my efforts.
We’ve also been tree shopping and bought some trees to create a hedge for the nook to make it feel cosy. We have had to change out design a little as originally were only going to put them down one side of the nook, but once we placed the trees it looked a little out of balance. This means going back to the nursery… Self-control will be required!
However, the highlight of the weekend so far was my visit to Chelsea Flower Show. I’ve always meant to go. A few years back it was a new year’s resolution to go the following year, but then we decided to move a house and all plans of travel went out the window. This whole global pandemic has been a dreadful situation. But even in the face of such a horrendous time, there are glimmers to goodness that allow for moments of joy and happiness. One of the events to be affected is the Chelsea Flower Show. While it is incredibly disappointing that the Flower Show has been cancelled, especially considering the amount of effort that goes into it many, many months before hand, it has become more accessible this year to keen gardeners like me in far flung places.
The Royal Horticultural Society have created a virtual Chelsea Flower Show that can be viewed on You Tube. There is something for everyone – tours of designer gardens, hints and tips from seasoned gardeners, Q&A sessions, and fabulous nursery folk extolling the virtues of their best plants and so much more. There is even a message from the Queen. As much as it is a lovely way to spend a chilly almost winter evening, it has made me all the more determined to get to the real one, one day.
Come again soon – hopefully, there will be a beach ball reveal sooner rather than later.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
Picking up from where we left off yesterday >You can catch up here< I am sharing my adventures in making the most of the peppers and chillies I have grown this season. No longer are they all just allowed to turn red and lobbed into the sweet chilli sauce. This time I have found out what make each one special and used them to that advantage. Along the way I have discovered some newfound kitchen favourites and I have to say the next up – the Jwala pepper will forever have a place in my garden.
Now this one was fun. I was given the seeds by the good people at Yates to try as it was new to them. I was more intentional about using these in the appropriate way to appreciate they were given to me. It would have been pointless to give me something special and then all I did was mix it up with everything else in a sweet chilli sauce. Being of Indian origin and were supposed to be used green, I decided to go off on search of an authentic recipe that made them the star. I stumbled across a lovely Indian lady on the internet making a green chilli sauce. Unfortunately, it wasn’t in English, but with the blessing of subtitles and the ability to follow along, pausing the video as I cooked, I ended up with the most amazing green chilli sauce. Oh, my goodness it is fabulous. Full of spicy, heat and the freshness of a green chilli. I will miss it when it runs out. We have been cooking more curries and making poppadums just to have a reason to use it.
This was one of those random selections where it looked interesting and there was one more spot in the garden that could be filled with something interesting. It had a cute little shape and a cute little name, and it promised not to be hot – well most of the time – it suggested there was a Russian Roulette thing going one where there would occasionally be a hot one. But I haven’t found one yet and they are so sweet and delish I’ve just been eating them raw in the garden. They almost taste like apples, which is kind of weird. I’ll definitely grow these again.
This year I got impatient and harvested these too early. But they were taking forever to turn to that lovely rich chocolately brown colour. They are great in Mexican cooking as part of Mole Sauce. Apparently they should be dried whole, but I have been drying them in pieces and grinding them into a powder and using them as a spice when I make anything remotely Mexican. I really should have a go at making a proper Mole. Maybe next season.
These were a bit of a miss this year as I missed that window when they are small and a delight to eat tapas style, fried in olive oil with a sprinkling of salt as you anxiously watch your friends, hoping yours isn’t the random hot one. Experience has taught me, once you miss that window, they are all the hot one. So, I leave them to go red and into the sweet chilli sauce they go.
These are a great little pepper with a nice thick wall and great flavour and colour. There is only one thing to do with these and that is to dry them and grind them and use them as paprika spice. I need to grow more of these because there is never enough to be a year’s supply of paprika for my cooking needs.
Finally, we have these funny wee things. I first bought them mistakenly thinking they had something to do with salami – goodness knows what I thought I’d do with them. But each year they ended up bright red and in the sweet chilli sauce. But this year being intentional I decided to treat them with respect. The first clue was in their proper name Greek Golden Pepperoni. Which alludes to the fact they need to be picked while young and golden in colour. And the second clue is they are Greek, so I went off in search of an authentic Greek recipe and found they were pickled whole in a salty / vinegary brine. And they are really nice.
Aside from my sweet chilli sauce that is made up of everything, my other go to, must have is my smoked and dried chilli powder. A bundle of mixed peppers and chillies are smoked over coals and wet apple chips in my BBQ. Then I dehydrate them to a crisp and blitz them into a fine powder. I end up with more than enough to last the year and it gets sprinkled into absolutely everything. I’m certain it will be the fragrance that instantly transports my kids back to their childhoods when they are grown up and off in far flung places.
It felt great to treat each of these peppers and chillies in a manner that respected the flavour and tradition behind each one. It did take a lot of effort but now that I know what I have been missing out on, I will certainly put aside time in my late summer and autumn knowing there is a lot of kitchen gardening to be done to create so many wonderful things.
Come again soon – things maybe quiet in the garden, but there is plenty to potter about with.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
In my garden my pepper bed has space for 18 pepper plants. I normally pop in half a dozen bell peppers so I can have a good supply to freeze to use over the winter months as we use them in most meals. So that means there are 12 spots for interesting things.
Ordinarily I kind of panic at the end of the season, let them all go red and make one giant batch of sweet chili sauce with all my good intentions falling by the wayside as I wander back to the house with a basket laden with produce.
But this season I have been intentional with my good intentions and given each variety of peppers the ability to shine for the stars they are. Each has their own special flavour and use and after going to all the effort of growing them from seed it is important to celebrate them in a way that allows us to fully appreciate what they have to offer. It was a lot of work, but I have to say I am so glad I took the time as I now have some amazing condiments and ingredients to enrich my cooking.
Now this is a rather long story, so I’ve broken it into two parts, so it isn’t so overwhelming. It also buys me a little more time to do something with those beach balls.
We’ll start at the beginning because it makes more sense as I always plant my garden out in alphabetical order in case something goes amiss with the labels. Although strangely enough the first is the last as I’ve only just bulk harvested my bell peppers and they are destined for the vacuum packer in small batches and will be tossed into the freezer.
I could have dried them all and ground them up but to be honest it would have made a mountain of cayenne powder and if I use it at all, it is a pinch at a time. So, these helped make up the bulk of my sweet chili sauce and I’m ok with that. I did air dry some because they look really cool and there may be a recipe at some point that calls for chili flakes and then I’ll have some on hand.
I am a fool. I have grown this for many years and we really don’t like things too spicy. Every autumn I say, “I won’t grow these again – they are too hot.” But come spring and I look at those inoffensive little seeds and I think ‘why not’ and sow some. And they are prolific. This season I made a Piri Piri sauce using garlic and lemons to give it the right flavour. I also made a hot mango sauce with them, added a handful or several into the sweet chili sauce and used them in the smoked chili powder. I also made a fermented sriracha style sauce. And there are still loads on the plant! I’m not a great one for following recipes so I looked on the great big internet and got the general gist of things – making sure I kept the preserving elements and ratios correct and kind of winged it. I wish I remembered exactly what I’d done as my Brother the Chef said they were really good! High praise indeed.
(NB click on the images above for descriptions)
Now I stumbled on to this one by accident and by accident it was one of those seed catalogue shopping accidents when you click all the buttons ‘by accident’. But I’m pleased to say it was a happy accident and this little beauty will be in my garden again next season. What it is, is a heatless habanero and it has so much fruity flavour. Who knew behind the heat of a habanero was something so complex and delish? They certainly pack a punch – but in a good way. I made a habanada relish that is so lovely with a soft cheese on a crisp cracker. I also use the cute little heatless bombs in place of peppers as they give so much yumminess to a dish.
I’ve put these together here because I treated them the same in my kitchen. I sliced them up and pickled them. I got the recipe off the internet and it is a pretty standard salty / sweet / vinegary recipe. But I kept them separated as the Yellow Banana is really mild and the Hungarian Wax is quite spicy but they both give a great crunch on a platter of cheese and crackers or to lift a salad from the doldrums. Or just steal them one at a time out of the jar.
Normally these grow really well for me and my favourite thing to do with them is to stuff them with cream cheese and cook them on the BBQ. But for what ever reason this season they grew really small and not so prolifically, so I didn’t get many. But I did manage to get enough to make something I’d only heard of recently and that was Cowboy Candy where they are sliced up and cooked in a sugar / vinegar syrup until nice and sticky. The heat and the sweet go really well together. I really should look into how they are eaten as I’ve just been doing the cheese and cracker combo with them. We’ve been eating a lot of cheese lately… because of all the peppers.
Now I’m going to stop here, or I’ll end up going on and on and on and on!
Come again soon – I can’t wait to tell you about the Jwala. That is probably my favourite chilli.
Sarah the Gardener : o)