What We Spent, What We Harvested (and other things)

We’ve harvested the first of the ginger and turmeric this week.  I just love digging the yellowing plants up to find the tubers underneath.  Nothing beats the taste and smell of freshly harvested aromatics.

Here is our small garden harvest tally for January-May.

Our garden harvest tally for the year to date.

We’ve not spent a single thing on the garden this month, so all the harvest has gone straight into the positive side of the balance.  Chokos are still a-plenty, and there’s about three-fourths left for the ginger and turmeric harvest.  We grow them in pots more than 40cm wide, and reserve some tubers every year for replanting.  I would love to grow galangal but, having tried twice before, I hesitated to replant them last summer.  I might give it another go this year.

Work has started on our small kitchen refresh, and we expect it to continue until the week of the Queen’s Birthday holiday.  We’ve gotten all the quotes in and it looks like we’ll be coming in at slightly under $5k (the budget we’ve set).  Fingers crossed it all works out…

Mr Meagre hard at work. Today is the day for smashing the splashback tiles and sanding. We’ve chosen Taubman’s Endure Crisp White for the walls (there aren’t many brands approved as asthma-friendly).

This week, I’ve also completed my fermenting/bread-proofing setup for the winter.  I’m using a Mangrove Jack’s Heat Pad coupled with an MKII temperature controller.  As a first project, I’ve made up some kimchi using the freshly-harvested ginger.

My trial setup for winter ferments, and bread proofing. I’ve set the temp to 20 degrees Celsius for the kimchi.

My second batch of Kombucha had sadly developed mould, probably due to prolonged cold weather.  I will have to find another scoby now and pop it onto the fermenting heat pad next time…

I miss my breadmaking challenge but it will probably have to wait until the kitchen is done!

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In the Garden: May

We went for a quick drive up to the Macedon Ranges today and got back early.  It has given me enough time to roam quickly through the garden and see what’s out there.

A sea of choko leaves covering the archway. We’ve harvested 4 kilos of chokos this month — more than enough to eat and share with friends. The vine is beautifully impressive. Hard to imagine it grew from just two chokos chucked into the ground. Just below it (in the foreground) is one of the garden beds dedicated to early season garlic.

The potted dwarf mango with its last flush of growth before the winter cold sets in.

Saffron Crocus potted up and Blue-Eyed Yellow African Daisies flowering in the background. In the front yard, we’ve just planted up the tulips after cooling them in the fridge for four weeks.

I love the Blue and Purple Salvias growing in the mini orchard. They’ve been interplanted with lavenders to attract pollinators for the citrus and pome fruits. Soon, they’ll be replaced with a sea of yellow daffodils.

Winter is definitely citrus season. These are small, round cumquats potted up beside the back door. The Lisbon lemons are still green, but the single Yuzu has been picked off the tree. I’m hoping there will be seeds to plant up when I cut up the fruit later.

We’re eating the fresh pomegranates this week and cannot wait until the silverbeet is ready to harvest.  Lots more to do in the garden in the coming month!  How are you going with yours?

What We Spent, What We Harvested

Not much came from our garden this month, apart from the eggplants and some persimmons.  Of course, the first of many chokos has also been harvested.

Our garden harvest tally for January-April.

As a result, the “money saved” for the year running has actually fallen sharply, from $75 last month to only $50 this month (we’ve spent a fair bit on compost and organic fertilisers).  Our harvest in terms of weight is laughable at about 3kgs.

On the brighter side, the seedlings have continued growing and we’re nearly ready to put a few in the ground.  The silverbeet I planted directly have come up, and they’re about a foot tall now.  The early garlic is going gangbusters — we just need to weed the beds from time to time.

We’ve been discussing the possibility of growing tomatoes in the greenhouse over winter.  We have kept tropical plants in there in the past and they have survived.  Maybe the tomatoes will be a good experiment?

How has your garden been this month?  It’s getting a tad cold for my comfort now and my feet are always chilly.  The plants are obviously feeling it, too.  I am looking forward to better times in the garden, as well as some soup and slow cooker meals with the harvest.

In the Garden: April

Here are some photos from our warm temperate garden this month.

Baby chokos hiding. The winds have been very strong these past few days, and the trellis supporting the choko vine has been under constant threat of collapse. It is obviously very heavy, laden with small flowers and fruit.

The pomegranates are slowly turning bright red. When do we harvest them?

Bitter melon fruits have been harvested and turned into stir-fries, much to Little Miss Meagre’s disgust. I haven’t seen anyone so glad to see the bitter melon plant has finished for the season.

Our dwarf persimmon tree is keeling over from the sheer weight of its fruits. They’ve turned a bright orange and we’ve tasted a few. They’re nice and crunchy but still not ripe and sweet enough.

Has anyone else noticed how spring-blooming flowers and fruit are coming up so early?  We just saw some new asparagus spears popping up, and the muscari have been sending out shoots as well.  It worries me that they might not have enough energy left when springtime comes around for real.

What are you doing in the garden this week?  I have some saffron bulbs cooling in the fridge crisper and I can’t wait to plant them!

What We Spent, What We Harvested

March has really marked the start of the leaner season for us.  Clearly, we have entered that in-between period when the summer plants have finished, and the winter plants are still too young to harvest.

Our garden harvest tally for the months of January-March.

With passata season formally over, the chilli and eggplant have taken centre stage.  We have also harvested a few of our less-than-spectacular performers this season, namely, the watermelon and bitter melon.  

The lone watermelon vine yielded a single fruit the size of a large grapefruit — it was very sweet and tasty, nonetheless.  As for the bitter melon, we could have harvested a lot more than just three.  However, we had misjudged the picking day and it had turned orange when we got around to it.  I washed the pulp off the seeds and left them to dry;  we will be replanting them in the Spring.

We also spent a fair bit this month.  The figs were getting too big for their pots, and that meant a trip to the big green shed to buy bigger ones.  I also spotted a redcurrant plant which will hopefully be as successful as our blueberries and raspberries in a few years.

Despite the reduced harvest and a bigger-than-usual outlay, we are still running in the black.  Hopefully, this will continue well into the winter .  We just need to focus on feeding the autumn/winter seedlings and manage the fruit trees well.

How has your garden been this month?  Have you been affected by the recent storm?

In the Garden: March

Here are some photos from our warm temperate Australian garden this month.

Sorting the home-grown garlic. The big cloves have been replanted, and the smaller ones are in deep freeze. These varieties are the early-planting, short-terrm storage ones. Those that store for a year are kept in the pantry.
Autumn-bearing raspberries have started producing. We aren’t expecting much this year, though. Hopefully the plants will recover soon.

The bitter melon crop is finally growing. We are hoping it becomes ready before the weather cools.

Eggplants are still producing. We only grow the slim ones, and these are called Slim Jim.

The Perennial Capsicum crop has been picked. We have roasted and stir fried a few. If we don’t use it up soon, they will be sliced and frozen. Also in photo (on the left) is the Moringa we grew from seed. We pick the leaves for soup — they are packed full of nutrients.

Beautiful ladyfinger blossoms are still appearing. We pick a handful of okra nearly everyday.

We are still harvesting a lot of tomatoes but have started pulling a few plants.

What is in your garden this month?

Preparing for the Winter Garden

March is a busy month here at the Meagre home.  As the days cool and the summer harvest dwindles, we find ourselves thinking more and more about the autumn/winter crops.

In the past few days, Mr Meagre and I have been discussing the crops to plant, what has worked (and not) this season, and what preparations we need to be doing in the coming weeks.

Our first year growing multiplier onions (brown and white). They have been cured/dried in the laundry room for a few weeks and are now ready to use. We will be keeping most for replanting, with a view to becoming self-sufficient with onions in the future.

Here is our list of garden to-do’s for March.

  • Plant the early season garlic from bulbs we harvested last December.  The California White and Tasmanian Purple had been plaited a few months back and are waiting in the laundry room as well.  I intend to break the cloves apart next week, plant the big outer cloves, and shove the rest of it into small freezer bags.  They last a long time separated and unpeeled, even longer if they are vacuum-sealed.
  • Pull up the Kendall Gold Pepino shrub we have growing in the asparagus patch.  It really wasn’t a very smart idea putting it there in the first place.  I had grown more asparagus from seed last spring and they are now ready to be transplanted into the perennial bed with the other established asparagus plants.  The Pepino will go in a pot where it should survive without any problems.
Easy-roast passata. Tomatoes, herbs, garlic and onions, slathered with olive oil and sprinkled with herbs, salt and pepper. In the oven for an hour at 200 degrees Celsius.
  • Start our winter crops from seed.  We intend to grow broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, silverbeet, kale, peas, parsnip, carrots, and lettuce, among others.
  • Make notes of seed to purchase and varieties to grow next spring, based on our experiences this season.  Already, we know we need to buy seed for Zucchini Black Beauty and Snake Bean from another supplier.
Let cool and process in the mouli at the finest setting. No skins, no seeds — just magic! So easy, even a seven-year old can do it.
  • Feed all plants this Autumn.  Spring and Autumn are the main growth seasons here as Winter is just too cold, and Summer too hot.
  • Prune the remaining trees especially the ones that need to be tied to their trellises.  Yes, I am looking at you — you unruly almond, plum and citrus trees!
  • Continue eating and preserving the bountiful harvest.  We still have a lot of tomatoes to go through, thankfully, and there are two big bags of chilli waiting for me in the freezer.

What are you planning to grow this autumn/winter?  I am sure the gardeners in the Northern Hemisphere cannot wait for Spring!

What We Spent, What We Harvested

This is how our garden harvest tally is looking, now that February is over.  I must say it is looking quite good.  We didn’t spend much for the garden in the past month (the $20 spend was just for potting mix, I reckon).

Our garden harvest tally for the months of January – February. Looking much better.

The tomatoes have really come into their own this month, and I need to turn some of it into passata this weekend.  Not much of the rest in terms of weight though, so our total harvest (kg) remains steady at about 7-8kg.  I am interested to see how we will fare when March is over;  already we have identified some things we need to buy for the garden, now that preparations for the winter-cropping vegetables are underway.

How is everyone’s garden looking?  Are you preparing for your winter crops too?

Misc Pics:  February

Here are a few photos of what I’ve been up to in the past week.

We’ve been picking a good mix of hot chillies from the garden. Clockwise from top left: Bhut Jolokia (a.k.a. Naga or Ghost Pepper) was the world’s hottest chilli for two years; Jalapeno (usually picked green and pickled); Rocoto chilli which survives our winter and gives an extended harvest of chillis with big black seeds; Rumba which turns from deep purple (almost black) to bright red when ripe; Bird’s Eye, popular in Thai dishes; and Cayenne Long Thin which is usually dried and ground for the pantry.

We went to the semi-annual Werribee Park Heritage Orchard grafting day. WPHO is a non-profit heritage fruit orchard run entirely by volunteers. They hold their major fund-raising event twice a year: a summer budding day in February (mostly stonefruit), and a winter grafting day in July (nearly all other fruits but notably apples/cherries/quinces/pears). This year I also saw a lot of established cutting-grown grape vines, and one-to two- year old grafted cherry trees, aside from the usual grafted apples, nectarines, apricots and plums.
Waiting in the queue for rootstock and scion. For the price of rootstock ($12) and your chosen scion ($3 per variety), you can ask them to graft a fruit tree to your specifications. I have seen them graft single varieties, two varieties (e.g., two Euro plums which will pollinate each other), and sometimes even as many as five on a single tree! Grafting is free and you can ask a lot of questions while they graft your tree on-the-spot. Seriously, where else can you buy a fruit tree for as low as $15 these days? Or you can just grab some scion to bring home and graft, and hang around to watch the grafting demonstrations.
A market stall selling fresh fruit and vegetables, books, and preserves, just beside the Old Homestead. This is what greets you at the grafting day. There is also a CWA sausage sizzle stand (it’s not an Aussie event without a sausage sizzle!), and a tour of the orchard.
Back home, I made up two batches of pizza scrolls for tea and the lunch box. I used my basic soft dough recipe, added about half a cup of flour, and reduced butter to 70 grams. The result is a supple dough that can be rolled out and filled. Great for the freezer too.

What have you been doing this past week?

Goals for 2017

Every year as the days wind down, I start a new sheet and re-evaluate our goals.  I find it helpful to know the things we plan to achieve the next year because it keeps me motivated, and helps us realign our priorities if we need to drop a few things.

I keep mulling things over during the month of January, discussing items with Mr Meagre as they come up.  Being the school holidays here, it leaves me with just a little more time to think.  The rest of Australia is in vacation mode but my head is a hive of activity, sometimes even past midnight.  Just as well I don’t have to drop someone off at school the next day.

By the time February rolls around, the goals have mostly been finalised.  A few minor tweaks here and there is all it takes to see us through the next year.

Here is the list of goals we have for 2017, broken down into rough categories:


Home and Garden

  • Save funds for landscaping the front yard and back gardens.  Nothing fancy;  just some edging, crushed rock, pavers and mulched (plantable) areas. 
  • Declutter and reorganise living areas and bedrooms.  After over two years of living here we have only just unpacked the last few boxes.  We are working on the last room at the moment, but already I can see that we need to declutter the first room again!  It never ends…
  • Keep track of our garden harvest and ongoing expenses.  We are using the method I mentioned previously.
  • Keep up with caring for our vegetable garden, fruit trees and shrubs.

          The view from our front door. We are slowly saving up to fill this with edging, crushed rock and mulch. A lemon tree might be good too.


          Financial

          • Pay off the variable portion of our loan, down to the amount we have in the loan offset.  This accounts for the bulk of our disposable income.
          • Maintain the current emergency fund level and set aside small amounts to increase it further.
          • Increase the budget we have for utilities (5% increase annually) and enrichment (swimming/karate/dance lessons).
          • Set aside a small amount for quarterly driving trips now that the toddler is nearly two years old.  This took up our previous budget for having someone mow our front lawns, so come spring we will certainly be feeling the pinch when the grass reaches our knees.
          • Increase our super contributions and start investing for retirement.
          • Start investing for the kids’ University fees (Little Miss Meagre turns 8 this year).
          • Find out how I could start a home-based food business.  I am attending a “Starting a Business” seminar in March.

                    Life Goal 2017: Great Ocean Road trip. Hello, front yard grass. LOL.


                    Health and Personal Growth

                    • Mr Meagre has started a get-fit program (office gym/karate/extra cardio at home).  I intend to get back into yoga this year;  I really miss it.
                    • Make plans for graduate studies in the next two years.  This means I need to retake the IELTS exam this year.  I have been setting aside $10 a week for the exam fee and intend to schedule it in September this year.
                    • Cut back on sugar.  We very rarely buy chocolates now but I am still baking treats every week.  I have bought a sugar substitute and am re-reading the 4 Ingredients:  Diabetes book.  When we feel a craving for something sweet, a tablespoon of peanut butter is usually our first port of call. 
                    • Volunteer and get more involved in local council events and activities.

                                Cutting back on sugar in baking. See the Rice Malt Syrup on the right?


                                Art and Craft

                                • I would like to practice playing the piano again but I need to work it into my schedule. Mr Meagre has been studying blues guitar in his spare time.
                                • I have started knitting at least one dishcloth per week, as well as other items we need in the home (the Ikea cork heat pads I was just talking about has suddenly crumbled into pieces).  Any extra items will be sold in my Etsy shop.
                                      I would love to knit a temperature blanket in these colours. Bring on the stashbusting. Photo credit: Bendigo Woollen Mills Facebook Page.

                                      What are your goals for this year?