Archive for the 'Mini Me Sustainability' Category

The Pump House Vege Garden Grows!

Ok, it was a bit of a slow start – and the wind does still wreck havoc on the odd occasion and totally flattens my tomatoes – but it turns out that the garden is quite resilient and bounces back every time! I attempted to take some photos of the vege garden and all you can see is green, green, green….. I hope you like green….

I am going to start with a before picture – back when seeds were being planted and the weather was bitter and all hope of summer and sun and veges growing was fast disappearing…..

But, summer did turn up in the end and seeing we have a ‘micro climate’ here at the pump house cottage the results were very lush…

It is hard to tell what is there from the pictures – but we have been eating:

Yellow, green and purples beans (purple are best!)

Courgettes (and some marrows..)

Baby carrots – pulled, washed, steamed, eaten!

BBQ corn

Three type of potato par boiled and fried in butter on the BBQ – is the best way to eat new potatoes!

Towering Tomatoes

 Yellow and red cherry tomatoes – the bubs eat them like lollies straight from these gigantic tomato plants!

Spring onion (bbq’ed with sausages in blankets)

Apple cucumber & Lebonese cucumbers (the best cucumbers I’ve ever grown!)

Gherkins – not sure what to do with these – suggestions anyone?

Stawberries & blueberries – these are fought over and I even think the repilers have been pilfering them….

Eating stuff from the garden makes our friday night camping trips to the pump house cottage feel like we are living off the land – I harvest and the produce gets thrown straight on the BBQ or in a steaming pot of hot water on a gas ring. We are like some ‘back to basics’ reality show!

Now all we are waiting for in the garden are the pumpkins, onions, and parsnips…..

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Jam Off! Elderflower Marmalade Mania….

The Jam Off on Tuesday was great fun! CFD convinced me to bring my elderflower marmalade – and I am glad she did!

Turns out the elderflower marmalade had an appreciative audience and scored the ‘fruitest blend’ award! Awesome! Check out the Jam Off Aftermath… And there is a great after match analysis on the Xero site too…

The feedback has been great – and pressure to produce the recipe immense. Unfortunately it is a top-secret family recipe – yeah right!

It is no secret –  it was completely made up one balmy summer evening in an attempt to reduce my ‘carbon footprint’ and not let the cast-offs of elderflower cordial making go to waste. So here is…

The Pump House Cottage Elderflower Marmalade

40 Elderflower heads –  Rinse and de-bug and place in a large container/bucket (4L or bigger).

4 Oranges & 10 Lemons, pare off zest, cut up the remainder and add all to the elderflowers.

Combine 1.25 kg of sugar with 1 Litre of boiling water – stir until sugar dissolves.

Pour the boiling sugar solution over the unsuspecting elderflowers, zest etc.

Combine 50g of citric acid together with a cup of boiling water, stir to dissolve, and add to the elderflower party.

Stir, stir, stir… a good 10 seconds of industrious stirring should do it.

Cover the container with a tea towel – and leave for 5 days.

After the 5 days of steeping, sieve through muslin – keeping both the elderflower/citrus mulch and the liquid – Viola! You have now made elderflower cordial & have the ‘pulp’ for your elderflower marmalade!

Bottle up your elderflower cordial – it will be good for a couple of months – and is excellent diluted with a dolop of Gin & a splash of soda water…

Take the elderflower/citrus mulch leftover from the cordial straining and remove the elderflowers (thanks but we don’t need you anymore!)

Cut the zest and pulp up (I don’t like to have great lumps in my marmalade so I cut it up as finely as I could).

Place in a saucepan & ‘just’ cover the pulp with some of your elderflower cordial. Cook gently until a test piece of zest is tender to bite.

Weigh the mixture and add 75% of this weight in sugar i.e. if it weighs about 800g, add 600g of sugar (mine is usually around this…). Cook until suitably jammy. My setting test was pure guess-work (i.e. hey man it looks like jam now!) You may want to use a more scientific method.

Pour the hot marmalade into jars and ta da! Elderflower marmalade – Yum!

Unfortunately it is a seasonal recipe as elderflowers only make a 6 week appearance in october/november time here in NZ – so mark your calendars and plan to make a big batch next summer. I know I will be!

See you next year at Jam Off 2011!

Potatoes and Peas at the Pump House Cottage

Check out the produce from the pump house cottage garden. Finally there is something resembling a harvest!

This was the pea harvest for christmas dinner. We didn’t even bother cooking them – the kids love to eat them raw – they treat them just like lollies!

The peas have been great – no only feeding us, but providing a wind break for the only tomato plants producing tomatoes.

Talking of tomatoes – the first was eaten from the garden tonite!

After being potato rustlers for a couple of days – snatching a peeping potato here and there – we decided to go for it and dig in. Laurie controlled proceedings, I dug and Laurie shouted and pounced each time a red skin peeked out! They were dutifully collected in her green sandpit bucket and delivered up to the house for everyone to ooh and ahh over.

We ate these for dinner tonite – steamed and served with Paul Newman original salad dressing on the side for ‘dip’

There was lots of ‘hmmmms yummmmms’ all round.

How Does Your Garden Grow

Well mine grows, and grows and grows – oh the pleasure obtained from watching the little cerubs scoffing peas, straight from pods, not 10 seconds picked. This is the life! If only my precious peas could be used to barter for stuff – then I wouldn’t need to do any work! Dreams……

To confirm – Yes – the ever expanding (check out the latest photo!) pump house cottage garden has yeilded some produce! The stocktake found – three raspberries, 5 pea pods and a lump of dirt. Ok the dirt doesn’t really count – but it came out of the garden and was consumed – so maybe a little leyway is required….

Elderflower Cordial & Marmalade!

Hey man! I have turned all domesticated! I have made elderflower cordial and marmalade. It was easy! Any Ex Engineer turned domestic goddess could do it.

We have 10 elder trees at the pump house cottage (and counting) so it seemed appropriate to make use of the produce. Apparently elderflower season is a mere 6 weeks so I took advantage of this transient time and sent the IT guy up a ladder picking flowers – lovely!

Pump House Cottage Elderflower Cordial

40 Elderflower heads – beautiful fresh ones, not a hint of brown, smelling intensely like a cats toilet, collected on a sunny day at midday, turn around three times and touch your toes before plucking, rinse off bugs and place in a big bucket.

Acquire 2 Oranges & 5 Lemons, pare off zest,  cut up the remainder and add all to the elderflowers.

Combine 2.5 kg of sugar with 2 Litres of boiling water – Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and caldron bubble until dissolved.

Using the appropriate face of intense concentration pour the boiling sugar solution over the unsuspecting elderflowers, zest etc.

Quickly whip 100g of citric acid together with a cup of boiling water to dissolve and add to the elderflower party.

Stir, stir, stir… a good 10 seconds of industrious stirring should do it.

Cover the bucket with a tea towel – and leave for 5 days.

At this point the elderflower aroma was quite intense and got me a little bit scared of the potential product – but over night the smell matured and became quite a pleasant background for activities at the pump house cottage. To the left is the mix brewing…

After the 5 days of steeping, sieve through muslin. Keep the elderflower/citrus mulch to the side and bottle the cordial in sterilised bottles – Dilute to taste with water, lemonade – or my favourite – soda water – and enjoy!

The elderflower cordial has been popular – even Auntie Ann took home a bottle – watch out tea lady rellies – there is going to be elderflower cordial all round for christmas presents.

Now for the Marmalade:

Elderflower Marmalade – The Pump House Cottage Recipe.

Now before we begin – a few disclaimers – I am not a jam maker and kinda played this one by ear – but the result was not bad….

Take the elderflower/citrus mulch leftover from the cordial straining and remove the elderflowers (thanks but we don’t need you anymore!) 

Cut the zest and pulp up (I don’t like to have great lumps in my marmalade so I cut it up as finely as I could).

Place the pulverised mess in a saucepan & cover the mixture with elderflower cordial. Cook gently until a test piece of zest is tender to bite.

Weigh the mixture and add the same weight of sugar. Cook until suitably jammy – picking out stray bugs and lemon pips as you go. My setting test was pure guess work  (i.e. hey man it looks like jam now!) You may want to use a more scientific method.

Pour the hot marmalade into jars and ta da! Elderflower marmalade – Yum!

Now the IT guy has caught the bug – and has been brewing elderflower champagne – watch this space to see if he is a fermenting success or all ends in a bomb squad call out.

Another Kitchen? For How Much?

Ok, so we bought another kitchen! This time we paid WAY too much – a whole $25!! Thanks Trademe! We actually bought the kitchen because it came with the option of a $50 oven – score! There is a bit of a story with the kitchen too – it came from an Island Bay home that used to belong to Al Brown of Logan Brown fame – the new owners were getting rid of Al’s much worn and loved old kitchen and accessories – so we now the new owners!

Stove SocialisingYou can tell he is a cooking fanatic as the temperature etc markings have all been worn off the stove – what temperature you are setting the oven at is pure guess work! The IT guy is on to it though and the spare parts to fix the problem are on order – I may have a working oven in time for birthday and christmas baking! Here is the stove – living it up in the dining room – having just a stove hanging out with us at meal times is great – compared to a whole kitchen!!

Al Browns Old Kitchen - ApparentlyI think that Mr Brown may be a bit horrified at the way the rest of his kitchen has been employed –  it is now my latest vege plot – housing tomatoes, rockmelon, cucumber, corguette and aubergine. I think my fellow gardener CFD put it quite nicely when she said it was ‘up-cycling’ must remember that term – it is going to be applied to alot of re-use around here! 

Using a kitchen cabinet for a garden was the inspired idea of the IT guy – not just a pretty face! Now all sorts of ideas are being thrown around – no dig gardens, cloches, cold frames! All of that may be in the pipeline – I will have to start googling!

But – when you think about it $25 is alot to pay for (effectively) a raised vege bed…. but everything costs too much these days – don’t get me started! Watch this space to see if the veges thrive in Al’s kitchen – or if it all turns to custard!

Watch this space!

Is the a Serious Vege Garden I See

Ok, so! Labour weekend is the big gardening weekend of the year – pre summer – and seeing I am telling all in sundry that I am going to grow my own veges I thought I better get on to it….

When we signed on the dotted line the agreement to buy the pump house cottage the first thing I went out and did was ransack the mitre 10 vege seedling section, how naive I was, the poor little seedlings then spent 6 weeks languishing in their crowded little pots before I managed to dig a small plot to plant them in.

The Vege Garden - Stage One

The 'Old Tea Lady' Garden

So I suppose we could call that my “old tea lady” garden –  I have moved on in my mentality now – I am all about the seeds…

So over the last week in perparation for the big planting weekend, I cleared and chopped and hacked and dug and excavated, and managed to clear an area for the vege garden.

Here is another before shot so you can get an impression of just how much digging chopping and hacking took place! I even cut down a tree! And the blackberry is all gone from the bank (don’t worry – it got its pound of flesh – literally!)

The Vege Garden - Before

Some things disturbed me during the whole process. Firstly that a previous occupant of the pump house cottage (who owned a horse) used the garden as a rubbish tip – or a Midden to put it a bit more nicely (in time team speak). Cultivating the garden is a bit more like an archeological dig then a mere dirt turning activity. The novelty is wearing off – there is only so many bottles, bricks, horse bits and spoons that are interesting before they are just a shovel stopping pain the arse.

So I spent the weekend digging in compost, cultivating, throwing out objects of national significance and pretending I knew what I was doing. 

And then- drum roll please! I planted seeds! Parsnip, carrots, spring onions, potatos, corn, beans, cucumbers, basil, and corriander! Sometimes the archeological elements won and I had to plant around deeply entrenched artifacts – But in all I am a happy camper! Check it out!

The Vege Garden Post Labour Weekend

Will they grow? Do I really know what I am doing? Watch this space.