Archive | January, 2013

Countdown to Kindergarten – lunchbox baking

20 Jan

J starts big school on the 31st of January, and I’m almost as excited as she is. We are counting the sleeps, labelling clothing and packing her bag (yes already!). I’ve also been preparing food for the freezer to make packing her lunchbox each day just a little bit easier.

Today I salvaged a whole load of woody carrots from the garden by turning them into carrot and pineapple mini muffins. It worked brilliantly!

The recipe was from the Coles website here

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I didn’t ice them. I simply made them according to the recipe then threw them into zip lock bags and straight into the freezer. They will go with some blueberry muffins I made earlier. Hopefully I’ll have time to make quite a few things that I have planned (including savouries) so she can have a bit of variety in her lunchbox from day to day.

The ideas I have so far are:


Blueberry (and other sweet or savoury muffins)

Cheese and bacon scrolls

Cheesymite scrolls

Zucchini slice made into muffin trays

Home-made muesli bars

Mini quiches



Corn and Zucchini fritters


Hard boiled eggs (could boil a dozen at a time and leave in the shells in the fridge)

Veggie sticks for dipping…

Does anyone else have any good recipes for kids’ lunch boxes? I’m hoping to avoid lots of packets of things and the rubbish that goes with it.

45.8 Degrees Celcius

18 Jan

That’s what the temperature hit in Sydney today – 114.4F – the hottest day ever recorded. As you walked outside the heat hit you violently and even the grass was too hot to walk on.

I watered the garden deeply in the morning, yet at lunchtime many of my plants looked like they had given up.

The new growth on the citrus was frizzled

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The silverbeet had melted


And the daikon was suffering.


I hope there is no lasting damage. A friend of mine in the mountains (where it was 46.5C/115.7F) lost a number of plants today, but i’m hoping mine will pull through.

Luckily we were safely in the air conditioned house, but I really feel for those (particularly sick and elderly people) with no way to keep cool.

Last summer we had only two days over 30 degrees. The difference this year is staggering, and much more like the years I remember from my childhood, although with more extremes.

I hope all the other Sydney gardeners coped OK today and that the weather in other parts of the world has been kinder.

Slowing the summer bolt to seed

17 Jan

I’ve been musing about something I’ve noticed over the past 2 years about green leafy herbs. Specifically, parsley, coriander and basil.

A few months ago I sowed a few separate patches of continental parsley at the same time. One was in full sun on the south-most corner of Bed A. The other was right up against the house in Bed B, getting only a few hours of sun per day. I would have expected that the parsley in full sun would be more prone to bolting to seed, but quite the opposite has happened.

Here is the patch out the front in full sun.

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And here is the patch in part shade. It’s bolting.

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The difference is water. The one out the front gets water from the tap when it drips, whereas the other only gets the rain (and when I think to water it).

I observed the same thing with my potted coriander. Going along quite happily until it dried out for a very short time, then wham! Off to seed.

So my new theory is this (probably bleeding obvious to those who have a clue about these things):

Stress of any form (heat, water, transplanting, lack of nutrients etc) will cause bolting. That’s why coriander seedlings also fail – transplant shock sends them straight to seed.

Has anyone tried growing coriander in a self-watering pot? Do you get longer out of it? I think I’ll try it, and also be sure to keep it well fertilised. I’m getting confident that I might be able to grow coriander more successfully in summer that way.

A great summer for chillies

16 Jan

With all that rain last year I struggled with chillies, but this year it has been hotter and the plants are thriving.

My Tobago Seasoning chillies are prolific and much hotter than last year. Who needs a Christmas tree when you have gorgeous ornaments like these?

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Most of the chillies are habanero-esque like last year,

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While others look more like Liz’s scotch bonnet (or bishop’s crown).

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My old faithful bird’s eye is going through its green-black-red sequence

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The jalapenos are producing amazingly well and my long red thai chillies (retrieved from my restaurant curry) are starting to produce now.

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Also enjoying the heat are the lebanese eggplants, which are approaching first harvest rapidly.

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And I’m happy to report that the fruit fly have been far less destructive this year, although number are increasing now.

Happy Summer everyone! Hope you are enjoying the tennis 🙂

Update from a lapsed blogger

1 Jan

Well it’s the day for it, isn’t it? New year, resolutions and all that? Actually it’s just that today is as good a day as any for an update on what’s happening around here.

In October I had more demands on the family front and decided to switch off the computer in the evenings. I started playing jazz music after the kids went to bed, took up competitive canasta with P and enjoyed a few months of down-time from the Internet. Our end-of year is always crazy with 5 family birthdays, our wedding anniversary and all the usual Christmas events so the timing was good. This year I’m back but I’ll be blogging more ‘sustainably’. That is, at a schedule I can maintain rather than pushing myself to update every Monday on harvests (and the like).

I’ve still been gardening and harvesting, but I admit that I have dropped the ball a little over December. So first the walk of shame:Image

I killed one of my Nellie Kelly blueberries! I let it carry too much fruit and it dried out one day in the summer heat. The rest are OK, and I’ve harvested almost a kilo of blueberries so far this year. The lesson I’ve taken from this is that I really need to thin the fruit, because the fruit size seems to be inversely-proportional to the number of fruit set. My younger plants with less fruit are producing enormous blueberries.

And my tomatoes. They look terrible.


The ones in the main bed have suffered terribly from fungal disease and lack of nutrients. Despite this they have actually fruited well. I’ve used them fresh and even canned a few bottles for a later date when I don’t have an excess.


I’ve discovered a new variety that I love – Speckled Roman.


I pulled put my dwarf mulberry tree because it was getting too big and donated it to friends who have more space. Now I have an ugly gap that I need to fill, but I’ll probably just space out the dwarf citrus trees that are already there.

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And my banana:


Strangely the flower stopped descending, but the bananas themselves are still developing.


But there are highlights too. My caper bush is loving the hot weather.

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The apple trees have been really productive. I’ve lost no fruit at all to fruit fly, even the ones that I didn’t bag. I guess the eco naturalure trap has helped with that.

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I let about 30 fruit develop on the trees this summer and most of it has been quite sizeable.

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The Golden Nugget pumpkins are sprawling across the front lawn as usual preventing proper mowing.

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And the chillies are really exciting. My tobago seasoning chilli has set loads of fruit

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I also have many young plants, such as the mini mana capsicums and scotch bonnet chillies grown from seed from Liz and the jalapenos grown from seedlings this year.

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I managed to kill my old reliable bird’s eye chilli over winter, but my friend Vincent gave me an established (that’s understatement) plant to replace it.

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This variety first came from Sarah, who gave small homegrown chilli plants to some of her friends for Christmas. They ripen from green to black and then red, and we’ve all loved this variety ever since. He’s is one of the ripe bird’s eyes with the tobago seasonings:

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I’ve had dreadful trouble with broodiness in the chickens. It’s common for us to have 4 of them broody at once, and it really impacts the egg production. But they have still managed to keep us supplied with eggs, albeit with no excess for gifting.

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And on the preserving front – I reestablished my supply of bottled tomatoes with my friend Emma in November when we processed a large tray of fresh seconds from a tomato farm local to her in-law’s place. I’ve been topping up my store a few jars at a time when I have a small glut in my home grown ones. I’ve also canned applesauce made from my home-grown apples and made loads of Liz’s bread and butter cucumbers.

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And just today I’ve pickled 2 jars of jalapenos from the ones I picked today. The plants are loaded with young jalapenos too, so there should be more jars to come.

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Well that’s what’s happening around here. Now I’m off to see what everyone else in the blogging world has been up to over the last 2 months.