Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sunday brunch

FRESH from the oven Saxon Hot Cross Buns from 3RRR were a great success - a nice and chewy texture with the cranberries and orange peel giving the buns a lovely fragrance.

Best enjoyed fresh from the oven or toasted

However, Sunday brunch is not just about buns at the Jan Juc Surf Shack.

No sireee.

The preferred brunch menu during autumn can range from rolled oats porridge with some blueberries, Greek yogurt and passion fruit - low cost high taste - through to pancakes with lemons from the neighbours and sugar, or sourdough toast with Darryl's Dry Roasted Peanut Butter which it leaves the others which are way too oily in it's wake like steeplechaser Moss Trooper racing against the donkeys. 

Another favourite is poached eggs from the gals on sourdough with fresh spinach and corriander.

Hot fresh coffee is not optional, as are the Sunday papers and back issues of the New Yorker.

Meanwhile, the feather riot are served left-over pancakes or toast, before allowed out to chase insects.

Any leftover buns will be toasted by the fire and eaten later.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Heritage Apples

AUTUMN is the perfect time to enjoy an apple, especially a delicious heritage apple.

Chat to fruit growing experts and learn about growing your own apples and other fruit.
For more information:
Petty's Orchard has over 100 varieties grown in the Heritage Apple Collection.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Cranberry Hot Cross Buns

HOT cross buns are on my mind and in my tastebuds this weekend.

So it's time to haul down the blank books where I have glued recipes torn from magazines,newspapers or downloaded and decide which yeast-based buns to make on Good Friday tomorrow.

One recipe which is a delight to bake and eat are Susie's Buns (scroll down to the second recipe under chick chick sandwiches).

I first heard them mentioned on the 3RRR Breakfaster's program a few years ago and I've made them each year since as they are sensational! Easy to make and yummy to eat and everyone seems to come back for seconds.

The cranberries add a different take on the usual spices and I like to use a little lemon zest along with the orange.

While the recipe says you can freeze leftover buns, they have always been consumed in my home within a couple of hours of coming out of the oven.
This is one time the chooks won't be getting to eat the leftovers.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Last of summer

WITH the temperature set to plummets tomorrow and rain due to pour tonight (hurrah!), it's good to look at which vegies and edible plants have survived having less water and TLC than usual.

While the fruit trees needed heaps of water, the pumpkins, beans, potatoes and coriander all seemd to do great with a bit of neglect. The fig tree has gone gangbusters despite the ravens stealing the yummy fruit and the parrots have enjoyed a run on the apple trees but there's plenty to feed the household and a friend's goat - not to mention the chooks.

Now I'm looking forward to the tank filling up, wearing gumboots and enjoying those traditional autumn days with a chilly start, golden sunny noon and rainy evening. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Pumpkin training

KEEPING a pumpkin vine inside a garden bed is akin to herding cats.

While it is exciting to see my vigorous vines swarm around the garden, it can be a bit disconcerting to have to evade their tendrils when walking around chasing chooks or doing the watering. 

Gidget checks out the pumpkins

Growing pumpkins is so easy, their triffid tendencies can get out of control.

Constant vigilance is the key, otherwise you wake u one fine autumn morning and realise a cucubit the size of a VW bug is sitting in the middle of the grass and moving it will require a forklift or at least a friend with bigger biceps than I.

But the joy of seeing these amazing vegetables grow is unbelievable.
Now my pumpkins are looking pretty good and each morning I do a dash about and tap them to see how ripe they are.

A good way to to work out when these pumpkins are ready to be harvested is similar to spuds - when those big elephant ear like leaves start to look wiltered, miserable and sparse, this is a sign. A reliable method of testing for pumpkin ripeness you give them a sharp knuckle-tap. If your pumpkin sounds hollow then it's ready to be cut free and cooked or storied.

Another sign I picked up from (Sir) Peter Cundall, is when pumpkin stalks begin to shrivel and wrinkle and form tiny, vertical cracks, it means the darlings are fully mature.

My little darlings are stored in and on a wooden box, close together but not touching. By leaving them exposed to full sunlight for a couple of weeks it completes their ripening, hardens up their skin and ensures long storage so you can enjoy them all winter long.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Behind the wire

KEEPING the chooks off the new seediings and seeded garden beds can feel a bit like coming up againist the escape planning committee in a classic British WW2 film.
Keeping the chooks off new garden beds can be a challange...

No matter how carefully I wire off a bed with canary of chicken wire, Hilda, Gidget, et al will do their best to get around - and sometimes - over it.

This causes considerable annoyance such as last week when i planted out the been seedlings. Despite using one metre high wire, the wretched gals got in and tore them up, along with the spinach seedlings. Just doing what chooks do best.

Of course when you want a bed turned over at theend of the growing season, there's not better posse to call in these gals. I simply enclose the bed in the portable wire fencing sourced form the local tip and let them at it. Within a coule of days the soil is turned over, beautifully fertilised and it ready for me to add the compost and plant again.

But for now, it's a vigilant approach when i let the hens free-range.

Anyone who thinks chooks are birdbrained has never come up against their powers for deducing how to break into a garden bed.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Dirty Deeds

SUNDAY afternoons at 1pm, the wireless is hanging from a nail under the deck and I'm listening to 3RRR's stalwart and always fascinating gardening show, Dirty Deeds.

Gidget and the father riot gals are passionate 3RRR subscribers

From the mundane plant to the exotic, with the advice always practical, this wonderful gardening show is delivered with a healthy dose of humour by the knowledgeable, interesting and passionate presenters.

The moment you hear the ACDC opening chords, you know you are in for 60 minutes of quality green thumb radio.

Even the father riot love the show, so much u=in fact they are passionate subscribers and have their own membership card and a 3RRR sticker on their chook shack.

So do yourself a favour, and got to 102.7 FM every Sunday 1pm AEST.

Your ears,chooks and garden will thank you.

Saturday, March 23, 2013


PICKING your own ripe figs and enjoying them in the garden is one of life's luxuries.

However, it seems the local parrot population also has the same idea, so I've been keeping an eye on the bounty.

Yesterday I was rewarded with two lovely ripe figs which i ate sitting on my garden chair, while the chooks clamoured around my feet, impatient for the skins.

While i have lots of yummy-looking recipes for fig cakes, like oysters, i feel they are best enjoyed au natural and as freshly gathered as possible.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Pantry perfection

HEAVEN is a packet of small labels.

Nothing fancy, just a plastic envelope of 18 blue-boarded labels such as your favourite aunt would use to indicate the jam type and date of a batch she’s just whipped up in between weeding the garden, planning her next CAE course, going to Probus, her part-time job and her volunteer work with Red Cross, Meals on Wheels or lobbying the state government via the CWA.

Anyway. This small packet of labels have just transformed my life, well my pantry from a jumble of heaven-knows-what into an organised, well less haphazard resource.

No longer the temple of doom...

Like many an Epiphany,this resulted from cooking. While looking for the plain flour to make rhubarb and ginger pies the other day, I came across five jars of white stuff, all of which could have been the desired ingredient, scattered amongst four containers of sugar, several packets of brown powder (Spice mix? Paprika? Crushed cloves?) and a few plastic boxes of various types of lentils. Suffering a temporary memory lapse, I could not recall which flour was what - apart fro the wholemeal. One would have needed the combined skills of a detective, MENSA member, sniffer dawg and food archaeologist to work out what was what. In the end I decided against making pastry with unknown ingredients and wen with store-bought, (oh the shame, the shame.)

Yesterday push came to shove and I pulled out all the jars, boxes and food containers and had a right old tidy.

Now when i open my pantry i can tell the raw sugar from brown and the star anise from the cloves. I know it won't be long before chaos reigns again, but for the moment I'm in pantry heaven.
Now, I have to tackle the cake tin drawers, but that's a whole other story.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Dancing in the rain

IT'S raining and the hens are doing the chook victory dance.

Dashing about under the raindrops, wings spread out and acting like chorus girls in a Busby Berkley musical, in unison they are chasing crickets and other unwary insects as the rain washes away all the grime off the trees and vegetables.

Hilda, the leader of the pack also makes a dive for any compost bin where the lid has been blown off in last night's robust winds.
Hilda checking for worms and crickets...

After a couple of hot and dusty days, seeing the feather posse trundle about with their delightful gait, is a as much a tonic as the rain.

Hearing more water pour don the roof and into the tank makes me feel like a squirrel storing nuts for winter. It's very satisfying to think off all that life-replenishing element ready to come out and revive the garden when the next inevitable dry spell hits.

There's a stormy weather warning for today so I'll need to ensure the broad beans along the back fence are securely tied up and the chooks are behind the wire so they don't get blown away - this has happened before and it resulted in one very exultant and optimistic hen and a worried owner who had to climb few fences to retrieve her.

But for now the rain is light, the garden is green and my chooks are dancing.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb...

RHUBARB and ginger pie is my new favourite treat.

After baking the rhubarb and ginger pie recipe I mentioned yesterday, I am happy to report the result while not looking as Martha-Stewarty as the recipe indicated, it tasted pretty darned fabulous.

My Ginger Rodger Pies - thankfully they taste better than they look!
Being dead simple to cook is a huge bonus too.

As I only had around 300g of rhubarb, I halved the recipe. (I'll confess to using prepared pastry as i was short of time having to dash off to hoof about the dance floor shortly after commencing cookery.) 

The pies came bubbling out of the oven just before I went to ballroom dancing classes and have been christened Ginger Rogers Pies in honour of the gal who did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in high heels.

Now I'll be looking to swap more eggs for rhubarb and next time will make the pastry from scratch and see how they freeze. They'll be just the thing to enjoy by the fire after a winter surf or cycle.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Recipe recycling

LAST night after a lovely day driving around Daylesford (great Sunday market and vintage train ride), visiting Trentham (darn it Du fermier was closed) and then wandering around Castlemaine for the festival, visiting the city at gallery, various weird and wonderful exhibitions and having a yummy lunch courtesy of the Dhaba food van (loved that Punjab curry), I sat in front of the fire tearing out recipes from a heap of food magazines.

Here's one I inend to bake tonight....

As a dedicated buyer of these glossy magazines which cost a mere 20 cents at the local op-shops - a leviathan saving on the $7 plus cover price - they offer great value for money. Once these magazines have been read through they are then passed on to other friends.

Often no recipes makes the cut but once one does, I go through it to make sure it's within the realms of my skills, budget and taste buds, then riiiiiippppp and paste, in it goes to my big cooking scarp book.

If the recipe is an absolute genius, then I pass it on to friends too.

This project started around 30 years ago and I'm still using recipes i culled from newspapers back in the day. Some recipes have never been tried and eventually are pasted over with something more suitable but the big majority have had their time in the sun.

There's something very satisfying about the serendipity of the recipes too.
Lat week a friend in my fire brigade swapped me some rhubarb for eggs and low and behold, while toasting my toes i came across half dozen recipes for rhubarb and ginger pies!

So after I finish planting out the seedlings, cleaning the chook house and run and re-planting the front nature strip garden now the new footpath has gone in (thanks to the workers who did their best and left most of the garden intact), I'll settle down and bake those pies.

Now autumn is firming in charge, they'll be the prefect way to finish off a day of pottering about in the garden.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Stormy weather and broccolli

AS soon as I had finished painting the laundry door and window sills, it looked like rain.

Why does it seem as though whenever one finally gets around to completing a task one has put of for ages, the weather chooses right now to change?
Anyway, the door looks damn fine, I'll do a second coats tomorrow when sunshine is predicted and the garden just loved the soaking.
Last Monday it was 40 degrees Celsius and yesterday it hovered around 15, so no wonder the garden loved having all the dust washed off. You could see the pumpkin leaves and the fruit trees plump up as the rain swooped down.
My water tank started to overflow but due to leaves in the filer rather than too much inside. It's 9000Lt so holds a bit but was almost empty, so it's great to tap the sides and know there's at least a couple of thousand in there.
Despite getting caught in a few showers, it was hugely satisfying to plant broccoli (green dragon), brocannini and spinach seedlings in the ground (formerly in the tomato beds,) now they are strong enough to be transferred out of the seedling trays.
Hopefully, they will be safe from the hens thanks to a few coils of green wire I found at the tip and have used to make a barrier.
Of course the feather riot were incandescent with rage when they released they could not get into the beds with the tantalising seedlings, but they soon wandered off in search of unwary insects and fallen fruit.
There are still a heap of spinach seeds to plant to ensure a steady supply but i'll leave that until tomorrow too.
Now I've fed the chooks, it's time for a coffee and the Sunday papers.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Chooks in Compost

YESTERDAY I emptied out the sixth compost bin and was happily surprised to find the contents were really great about 30cm down into the mix.

Hilda on worm patrol while Gidget and Ledger scratch about

While the worm population was not up to the standard of the other bins, there were enough of those wonderful creatures in the bin to have converted the grass clippings, straw, food scraps not fit for the gals, shredded newspapers and other green waste into glorious compost.

The compost then went int a couple of beds to fill them up and prepare for plantings - the clay base here really eats up good soil so I need all seven bins working hard to keep up. 

Hilda, the chooks evidently agreed as when i turned my back to get the garden fork she dived in head first to enjoy the worms and hhopefully she also added some fertiliser of her own.
After emptying the bin I then moved it under the fig tree and the chooks had a good old scracth in the bin footprint, digging up insects.

Yesterday at the AngleseaTip, sorry, Landfill, I pulled out of the plastic recyling pile a perfeclt good cone green compost bin. No lid that i could find but who cares? I filled it up with grass clippings, staw, weeds, shredded paper and some already created compost with a few worms to get it started and its now under the plum tree.
Other booty from the tip included some green wire to grow the sweet peas along and some canarie wire I'll strech across the beds when i plant some seeds.

Now the new compost bin, code named 'fig bin' will get all the coffee groundsw, etc. If only it wouild keep the parrots off the figs, but that's another post.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Autumn bliss and community radio

NOW the Indian summer appears to have melted away, it's finally a proper autumn - cool evenings, crisp mornings and sunny days. Perfect for turning over the compost and digging it in to some garden beds in preparation for planting while I listen to the wireless.

Five of my six bins are doing well, so I shall empty out the recalcitrant bin and distribute the contents amongst the others and start again.

This always puts the feather riot in seventh heaven - they cawk and sqawk their way through the decomposed material, pulling out worms and beetles with gay abandon. (It makes a nice change form them escaping into the potato bed and trying to dig up all the kipflers!)

This week I'll also pull out the last of my tomato plants and do some much needed weeding - and show my support for community radio.

BTW, today is a great day to show your support for community radio -
3RRR, and community radio in general, is facing a tough time and needs your help.

3RRR  is not asking for your financial support this time around, just 30 seconds of your time to sign up to the campaign at

The Community Broadcasting Association of Australia requires funding of $3.6 million per year to maintain digital radio infrastructure for the 37 metropolitan community radio stations that hold digital licenses. Having previously committed to the full amount of funding, in the May 2012 federal budget, the Government committed to only $2.2 million per year, for four years, leaving a $1.4 million per year shortfall.

The Commit to Community Radio campaign has been established to get this $1.4 million shortfall addressed. At only about $40,000 per station per year, it’s really not a lot of money in the scheme of things, but other stations aren’t as well supported as Triple R and the transmission infrastructure is shared, so we’re committed to a “one in, all in” approach.  Unaddressed, this shortfall is likely to see community digital radio services switched off.

So make like the feather riot! If Layne, Ledger, Philly, Gidget and Hilda can show their support, you can too.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Chook chat

EVERY time one of the gals lay an egg she lets out a cawk-like cackle to tell her friends and they all enthusiastically cawk back and forwards in delight.

Today they are flapping about their run, chasing foolish crickets in between laying.

For the last oh, say two years, the little devils have been laying under their excellent hutch in he far right hand corner which entails getting a steel rake to cover their largess.

So yesterday i crawled under the chok shack and firmly wired off their cellar.

This morning i was rewarded by an egg in the hutch nest.

How long this will last it any one's guess as they pace the run like POWs.

I'm sure they will have figured out a way around the birdwire - after all, they managed to almost lock me in the run the other day when in their rush to get out into the garden when he was feeding them, one knocked the door shut.
Tricked by a chook, is not a good admission.

Gidget on cricket patrol

Monday, March 11, 2013

Indian summer

As the temperature continues to soar, king parrots alight onto the apple trees and take a few bites and eye off the figs. Meanwhile the feather riot gang meander up and down the vegie beds, eyes peeled for any unwary insects. The sprinker connected to the tank throws a gentle spray over the newly planted beans and all is right with the world...