Having time to grow a lot of our our own fresh food is central to how we organise our life. When the girls are thinking about what they want for dinner we want them to grow up knowing to first check the garden to see what is ready to harvest. Spending time growing food and eating it fresh from our garden is central to how we take care of our family's health - physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.
The food garden takes up most of our 1/4 acre property, now that we have ripped out most of the long driveway. A large part of the success of our food growing is the fact that we have designed it so that we walk through it to get to the front door. Close proximity is my number one tool for managing a large garden as it makes it easy to do either small snatches of work or longer stretches.
We don't manage it all. I had an almost nil harvest of potatoes this year, I'm still not planting nearly enough carrots and I can't seem to get anywhere with a lot of my beetroot. As well as this I choose to have a garden where the weeds, at manageable levels mostly, are integrated into the overall system. I don't want to do battle in my garden.
I thought I'd write some semi-regular posts on what we've been up to in the garden (and some of what the outcome is in the kitchen) since we spend so much of our lives in it.
Over the last week this is what we have been up to:
> Sowing my last lot of mustard and lupines seeds in empty beds to fix nitrogen in the soil for the next growing season.
> Pulled out the last of our tomato plants (just in time for the first frost) and hung any still with green tomatoes on upside down in the carport.
> Made a little more headway with our bug hotel. Of course we have bug habitat all over our property in small piles of branches, under rocks, in the leaves but these bug hotels are so sculptural and pretty. I liked the idea of one being part of the garden especially in the barer months of Winter but to be honest, at this stage I seem to have more enthusiasm for this project than either of the girls.
> I managed to grow a few peppers this year in a cold frame but not enough for the pizzas we make all year round. I have been buying some while the local ones are cheap, slicing them up and freezing them, ready for pizza topping in the heart of Winter.
> Plodding away at laying a new path at the back door.
> Enjoying the wealth of kale in the garden and slow-cooking it in a new favourite soup for us.
Soak 1 1/2 cups of split peas overnight.
Drain and pace in slow-cooker with some stock.
Saute an onion, grated ginger, coriander and cumin seed. I also have added a couple of leeks as we have a surplus. Grate a potato into the slowcooker and add the sauted ingredients, rinsing the frypan with some fresh water and adding that to the cooker. Slice up and add kale (and/or silverbeet if abundant). Just prior to serving up, blend with a stick blender. Yum.
> Dallying around on deciding which rooster we are going to give away. Three of our fertilised eggs hatched last November and two of them were roosters! The plan was to eat one but although we have had rich conversation around ethics, animal rights and the general consumption of meat, the girls are not ready to kill their food. We thought he was a hen for the first four months. His name was Elizabeth. You can see the dilemma.
>Hauling an armload of weeds from the edges each morning and throwing them to the chickens. They particularly love dock, puha, chickweed and dandelion - all good herbs for their health.
> Assisting the bees this Autumn with a heavy honey syrup and watching appreciatively as they forage on the few flowers left in the garden.
> Appreciating the mundane task of bundling cabbage tree leaves for the Winter fires. As I work with my hands at the repetitive task, my mind frees up, sits quietly and allows reflections and insights to drop gently into the space created. The gift of the mundane.
> Finally harvesting our large bed of corn. Moving back here last October meant that my corn went in very late. That and a cool Summer meant that it looked doomed by the end of February but our warm Autumn gave the kernals enough time to plump up. There has been corn stuck in our teeth during most meals this week and tomorrow there is a few batches of relish planned.
3 cups corn
2 onions, 4 tomatoes, 1 zucchini, 1 green pepper, all chopped finely.
3/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp salt, 1/2 tsp back pepper, 1/2 tsp timeric, 1 tsp dry mustard, 1 tsp coriander
1 1/2 cup white vinegar
Boil for about 45 minutes.
Place into sterilised jars.
The first frost arrived last week and the shadows are covering a lot of the garden most of the day. The length of the list surprises me but just goes to show what is achieved in small but regular bites of time.