My Garden ~ away from it for a bit

Happy New Year folks. Himself and I shut the gate and left the garden (and the cat and cattle) in the capable care of our friend Trish. So many things would happen in our absence. I knew the possums would ravage the ripening peaches, that the climber beans would grow like triffids, that the courgettes would mature into marrows. We left rapidly growing grass that would be knee-high when returned and need mowing. C’est la vie! I’d just have to get over it.   

We drove south to the Waikato to join Mum and my family who live near Matamata (Peter Jackson constructed the Hobbiton movie set on a local farm when he produced Lord of the Rings). Tourists still visit the site.  We had a big gathering on my younger brother’s farm (where I grew up) on Christmas Day. Lots of talk and laughs. Different people gathered 02 January to celebrate my other brother’s significant birthday at his newly built home. It was nice for Mum to have her four ‘baby-boomer’ children in one place for a change. For each occasion, both sisters-in-law excelled themselves. Baked hot ham, new potatoes (my steamed heritage potatoes went down well and were subject of interest and conversation), salads, new beans, fresh strawberries, traditional Christmas pudding and custard, pavlova and trifle. The weather was so warm, we sat outside in the shade – cold drinks in hand. In this rural community, the talk inevitably turns to dairy farming.

 Wearing off the Christmas excess is easier in the saying and harder in the doing. Himself and I did some day trips and walked at local tourist spots. If you ever come to New Zealand, Rotorua is a neat place to visit. We used to spend a lot of time there as kids and then later for weekend escapes. When we lived in the Waikato, himself and I used to do quite a bit a trout fishing in this region. Always we soaked in the mineral pools.  The sulphur smells from the boiling mud pools and springs is always there. Below are a few photos snapped during our latest getaway.

historic-government-house.jpg This historic building is a museum.

lakeside-walkway.jpg Lakeside walkway – stay on the path. Great views across the lake of course, boiling sulphur springs and muddy pools. The foliage is Manuka or Tea-tree as it’s sometimes called.

mineral-pools.jpg My favourite place. The spa baths both public and private – different temperatures and minerals. We booked a private lakeside rocky pool (see last three photos) and soaked up the minerals and the view across Rotorua lake and watched the adult birds feed their chicks. It’s a noisy colony. A cold shower, drink lots of water and back in. Bliss. Who wants to garden?

Something really nice when we returned home hot and tired after six hours driving. Someone had mowed all our lawns! I just love my neighbour. What a nice thing to do. It more than made up for the loss of the peaches to the possums.

My Garden ~ something special for Christmas dinner

We’re getting ready to drive south to join my family who live in a dairy farming community near Matamata in the Waikato. This will be the first Xmas we’ll have spent together in my old home since we moved to Northland some years ago. My brother will celebrate a significant birthday in the New Year and I suspect an Uncle may surprise us and fly out from England for the occasion. I want to take something special for Christmas dinner that my family would not normally eat. So right on cue, my heritage potatoes were ready for harvesting this afternoon.  They’ll go nicely with roasted spring lamb. I’ll steam these potatoes with mint leaves and arrange a colourful platter display of the five potato varieties. I like to cook the blue potatoes separately because the colour  ‘runs’ and tends to stain. 

heritage-potatoes.jpg The soil is warm and friable and the potato growth has been prolific. This is the first time I’ve grown these two potato varieties. Top row: Kowiniwini (some refer to this as ‘zebra’).  Bottom row: Maori.

potatoes-for-christmas.jpg I’ve written about Swift (an early variety) and Red Rascal in a previous post. Similarly, I’ve described Urenika (a blue tuber-like potato). I prefer to harvest these at an early stage when they are fairly small before they get too large because I find they tend to be floury when cooked.

My Garden ~ Crimson Christmas Cheer

pohutukawa-collage.jpg 

Hi! My special season’s greetings to you and the people who are special to you and best wishes to you all for a happy and peaceful New Year. 

 pohutukawa-in-flower.jpg

I’m celebrating that the Pohutukawa trees I planted earlier this year are in bloom in time for Christmas. The drifts of white in the collage are the carrot weed flowers (wild carrot) which proliferate in the paddocks at this time of the year.  The cattle love the flower heads and the pukeko gouge and gorge on the roots.

The grandkids and their school-mates sang a neat New Zealand Christmas carol at their end-of-year playcentre and school prize-giving ceremonies – A Pukeko in a Ponga Tree http://folksong.org.nz/nzchristmas/pukeko.html which is sung  to the tune of The Twelve Days of Christmas.  Enjoy our Kiwi down-under spirit.

My Garden ~ the heat is in the garden and in the kitchen

 

 

As the weather gets muggier and warmer, growth in the garden is rapid and a conflict of interest happens as work gets busier with end-of-year reviewing and forward planning and pre-Christmas socials. The heat is also on in the kitchen. Friend Trish brought some grapefruit picked from her tree for me to make marmalade – just as my thoughts were on making cauliflower pickle. And I keep hearing the retail message that it’s-55-shopping-days-to a jolly Christmas. So, Christmas baking has been added to my To Do list. This year I’m making it easy on myself and like my sister, am using a favourite boiled fruit cake recipe which only needs three eggs and is quick to make. Food prices here have increased of late – but it’s still cheaper to make my own cake.

base-recipe-1.jpg   boiled-fruit-cake.jpg  I sometimes wonder why I say I use a recipe when I nearly always modify it in some way and the end-result is different every time. This time, I substituted organic muscovado sugar for its rich flavour and texture and added brandy.  What my sister and I tend to do because we’ve usually cook for large numbers, is to double quantities in such a basic recipe. The texture is lighter and slightly more crumbly than the richer cakes I usually make. Later, I’ll cut the double-sized cake into smaller pieces and then wrap them to be given as gifts.

grapefruit-marmalade.jpg  The marmalade set well, is sharp to taste as we like it and clear so the shredded rind shows.

The cauliflower has been cut into small florets, the onions are finely sliced and salt has been sprinkled over the vegetables to be left overnight. I have two recipes I’m using. One includes finely chopped fresh mint leaves, turmeric, cayenne pepper, allspice. The other includes crushed pineapple, dry mustard and curry powder.  Both simmered in white vinegar and then thickened.

Well, it’s Saturday evening. People throughout the country will get together, may be enjoy a barbeque and set off some fireworks to ‘celebrate’ Guy Fawkes. Fire-fighters don’t ‘celebrate’ – there’s always the idiot factor at work somewhere, I guess. Local councils are doing their best to encourage families to enjoy organised public displays. Sales of fireworks were restricted to about four days and then it’s only over-18 year olds who can buy them. Not the same sense of freedom as when we were kids.