Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Letters from Wetville - new blog

It seems time for a spruce up, a tighter focus. Or something. I feel like my blog has become a bit like parts of my garden. Sprawled out with weeds everywhere. No longer with a clear function. So this is my attempt at a slightly altered direction.

Letters from Wetville

Either over on the new blog, or here, I would really appreciate any feedback, any thoughts on what you would like to see and/or what you think could be improved.

Thank you :)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

rose nursery

The April edition of New Zealand Gardener features a useful guide to propogating your own roses from cuttings. I decided to try it, using several shortcuts from their version as I know that if I put the cuttings into a pot or propogator tray, the garden murderer will kill them for certain.

The garden murderer went to sleep soon after 4.30pm, sleeping off days of toddler partying. So the gardening began...

I've decided to turn the garden along the back of the house into a rose potager with garlic and other vegetables and herbs around them. Roses climbing up a brick wall which gets full sun almost all day seems a gorgeous plan to me. So I weeded the next section (I've got my first rose cutting growing well along here already, plus raddiccio, rocket, broccoli, welsh bunching onions and florence fennel) adn then tipped a 40 litre bag of sheep poo over the top. I've had this bag decomposing for about six months. Then I tipped a 40 litre bag of potting mix over the top. It would have seemed wildly extravagant to go and buy these especially for the job, but as I've had them a while and it is improving and building up the soil no matter what goes in after the rose cuttings, I thought it was worthwhile.

I trimmed the big branches of roses poking through the fence from our neighbour's place. Shirley is a very keen rose gardener who grows as many roses as she can possibly squeeze into her small section and shows the best blooms locally and at shows throughout the South Island.

I made eight cuttings, all with four leaf nodes on them. I trimmed the bottom leaf node off, scraped down the sides of the bottom 4 centimetres and cut the leaves back to just two on each of the top three branches. Then I pushed each one into the soil, making a bed of eight cuttings in a space about 100 x 70 cm. If they all 'take', then I will transplant six out. There is room to have two growing there long term though. I watered the area thoroughly, mulched with pea straw and watered again. I will be watching with interest. If even one of them turns into a flourishing rose bush, then it has created beauty without the expenditure of nearly $20 per rose bush.

While I had the gardening window, I also weeded and watered and mulched around my youngest cavolo nero plants and planted daffodil and freesia bulbs. I admired the pretty pink flowers coming out now from some bulbs gifted by a friend in early summer. Not completely sure, but I think they might be autumn crocuses (croci?).

Friday, April 3, 2009

bread and Maori potatoes day

It's been a hectic week, made more intense by waking up with flea bites on Wednesday morning. That would be the return of fleas after treatment which was guaranteed for two months then. I turned into a laundry zealot and washed all the sheets, the wool underlay, the duvet covers and the duvets themselves. I got my super-sucker Dyson out and vacuumed the mattress and the pillows and put the dehumidifer on in the early evening to help be sure that the duvets were properly dry.

I also rang Piner the Pest Man who arranged to visit the next morning. That night, in our super clean bed and bedroom, I slept well and woke with no new flea bites. But I was too freaked and itchy to be leaving it to chance. On Thursday Mr Piner nuked the bedroom with even stronger chemicals than last time and goodness what things I could find on google to freak me out about the gas he put on.

But I haven't been bitten since.

Tonight I dug the first of our Maori potatoes. They look beautiful and tasted lovely, cooked up with my home grown zucchinis, cauliflower, thyme, garlic, chives, parsley and eggs. Only the onion came from elsewhere.

This afternoon I made some rye bread. I missed a few beats on the cooking temperature front, due mostly to the rather unsuccessful combination of tired Sandra, tired two year old and tired six year old. I guess most of you know that motherhood isn't always easy to recommend. So it is in plastic bags now because I am not supposed to cut it until tomorrow. Whereas earlier attempts were too dry, this one is possibly too wet, based on Whitley's troubleshooting guide and the sunken top.

I've also started some pumpernickel bread. The kibbled rye (finally getting used) is soaking overnight, as is the sourdough fermenting. I notice the pumpernickel should be cooked very slowly and gently and I'm wandering about using the slow cooker. No luck finding this option on google so far, but I'd appreciate hearing from any other pumpernickel makers.

On my baking plans for the next few days: crispbreads (now that I own semolina flour) and hot cross buns. Should be able to fit that in around planning for May Day. I'm not in the garden much because my garden murderer is possibly at the peak of her powers.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Agent Provocateur

Isn't that from a movie? It conjures two images for me. Firstly of some incredibly sexy French woman from a James Bond movie. Or secondly when I think of 'provocateur' I think of the history of the seedy Soho area in Inner London, the Seven Dials and the prostitutes who propositioned.

Both less and more significant, it turns out that a provocateur merely provokes and I might be doing some provoking on May Day in Blackball this year. Some details below

Forum: The legacy of neo-liberalism
Can we think the system or does the system think us?

What should we be talking about?
Workers rights? Money?
Social dysfunction? The planet?
Food? Revolution? Culture?
Housing? State surveillance?

And what action should we be taking?

May Day always seems important and appropriate to me. But this year, it is hard to overstate it's significance. The world around us changes and shakes and the money system turns out to be rusted through. It's time for some careful thinking and vigorous discussion.

Scottish morning rolls

This recipe is taken from Andrew Whitley's Bread Matters. It is absolutely the best bread book I've encountered (though I've not encountered them all) and I am very glad to own it. Ask your library to buy it!

Overnight sponge
2.5g dried yeast
130g warm water
50g wholemeal flour
100g white flour

Dissolve yeast in water, then add everything else and mix. Put in large bowl, cover with plastic and leave on the bench for 12-18 hours.

Final dough
285g overnight sponge
350g white flour
100g wholemeal flour
5g salt
270g water
15g butter/lard/olive oil

Mix everything into a soft dough. Knead 6-10 minutes. Leave to rise for 1 hour. Divide into 12 pieces. Roll each one into a ball and then dip it into a bowl of flour. Then put each one on a baking tray (12 to a tray). I greased and added lunch paper (cheaper than labelled baking paper and seems to do the same job) but next time I'll see what happens or doesn't happen if I skip the paper.

Cook at 230 celsius for 5 minutes, then 210 for another 10 or so.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

painting and baking

Today Favourite Handyman and Fionn painted the new lean-to. Fionn also painted his clothes and for good measure FH painted a stripe of Fionn's hair. Nobody owned up to giving Brighid a paintbrush but she got paint nevertheless. She mixed hers with soil from my precious blueberry plants.

While they were on a painting roll, I mentioned my plans for a bright red shed. The neighbour's shed borders our property and is the backdrop to the rampant garden (invited guests: mint and comfrey; admissable gatecrasher: nasturtium; unwelcome and uninvited: wandering jew, convulvulus, unidentified spikey weed and slugs). I've had this idea for a while, but photos of the Elerslie Flower Show exhibit "I see red" (pictured below) have provided fresh inspiration.

A strong slash of red would set off the deep greens of our wet west coast perfectly. I quite fancy those tall sculptural plants as well - the article I read said they are everyday, not expensive and exotic. We've been talking about paint a bit lately. I think 2009 could well be our year of paint. Certainly the lean-to looks much lighter and attractive painted white than bare wood.

Inside, as per my goals this morning, I got baking. In between doing dishes, changing nappies, managing children and doing laundry, I made two dozen bread rolls, two dozen banana muffins and a double recipe of hummous. I also made vegetable curry for dinner. The bread rolls were a doubled lot of Andrew Whitely's Scottish Morning Rolls and this time I think I got them just right. I kneaded them for longer than yesterday, upped the proportion of wholemeal flour (this partly helps because I have better quality wholemeal flour in stock than I do of white bread flour) and also I remembered to dunk the shaped rolls in flour before putting them on the oven tray. If you would like the recipe, please shout in the comments. I'm not feeling moved to copy it out if all two readers out there are gluten free this week.

Cauliflower is an overnight phenomenon. Seriously. No sign of a head yesterday and then today two beautiful cauliflowers, replete with green caterpillars and 'pillar-poo on them. So tonight's curry featured our own cauliflower (which the children LIKED), chilli pepper, celery, garlic and curly kale. How could I not like today?

I ran out of time to make new and wonderful lunch food like bread sticks or crackers-from-scratch. Hopefully another day - I am looking for a new staple for lunch boxes. I finished off my cookathon by burning myself when cooking the scraps up for the chooks after dinner. Oh yes. Woe is the idiot.

Kitchen Day

In our house, on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, we all go out in the morning. Favourite Handyman to work (all day), Fionn to school (nearly all day), Brighid to our friend Robyn's (morning) and me to work (morning). What happens a lot is that I make nice home made nutritious lovingly prepared for everyone else and once I've droppped the others off, realise that I am starving and buy something pre-prepared and of lower quality for me.

On st-ret-che-d mornings, the children get the home made lunch and the adults buy theirs.

On s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d mornings where too much sleeping in was involved, I drive FH to work with the children still in their pyjamas, then stop at the Do Duck In bakery/lunch food place and buy everyone's lunch to put in their lunch boxes. Then we drive home and have a mad scramble to look like loved and organised people instead of the chaos units which we actually are.

Today I am having a cook-athon/bake-athon to try and pre-empt all this rushed lower quality but higher expense food. Yesterday (Saturday) we went out to the very beautiful Point Elizabeth walk and had a picnic on the walk. Home made bread rolls filled with leftover roast chicken from the night before, followed by juicy oranges. After our gorgeous walk we went straght home and had ice cream sandwiches. If I hadn't bought icecream and wafers in the supermarket shop on Wednesday, we'd have been at the dairy instead, spending a lot more on inferior quality icecreams. So it can be done. And getting this completely home made food thing going right through the week is my goal.

  1. sourdough starter begun last night. That should be turning into rye bread for next weekend. Sourdough rye bread is the perfectist bread for underneath poached eggs.
  2. Started the sponge for more Scottish morning rolls last night. This afternoon I will finish and bake them, providing rolls for Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday, with the aid of the freezer.
  3. Filling for rolls/sandwiches. Need to make hummous. I think some hard boiled eggs could be made and turned into sandwich fillings.
  4. Muffins. This is one thing I have going already reasonably well. There are still some in the freezer, but not enough for the whole week. So, another batch of banana muffins today.
  5. Brighid doesn't do muffins. I am sick of the mess she makes with rice crackers and the fact that they are mega-ly processed. So if the Gods shine on me and I haven't run screaming from the kitchen before I get to number five, I am going to have a go at making crackers. I gave Fionn bought breadsticks last week and he adored them, so it is either crackers or breadsticks for today's brand-new-to-my-cooking-repertoire food experiment.

That will be quite enough for one day.