It's time for Christmas harvest on the farm
IT'S a quiet evening at home and we're enjoying steaming hot cuppas after a wonderful rain. Our farm was turning brown and crispy again, so we're excited about this good drenching.
It has been a great week for working outside, with nice cool breezes making the heat tolerable.
I prettied up the chook palace by planting elderberry bushes along one wall. Within a few weeks they'll provide excellent dappled shade for the chooks and gorgeous creamy blossoms to make me happy.
I started harvesting rhubarb, dicing the big stalks and covering them with vodka and sugar syrup to make a tart and refreshing liqueur for Christmas. In another bottle I have mulberries steeping in vodka for another week before I stir in the sugar syrup.
I've also been making Scandinavian-style refrigerator pickles. They are my favourite because they're so easy, quick and truly scrumptious served cold alongside everything from cold meats and boiled eggs to cheese platters and salad. I add a scoop to whatever we're eating and they're always good.
I made red cabbage pickles flavoured with caraway seeds and black peppercorns, and carrot pickles with cardamom seeds and cumin seeds. Next week I'll make beetroot pickles and then we'll be all set for the holidays.
Today, before the rain came, I cleaned up my kitchen garden, pulling weeds, removing old pots and dead plants, then hauling in armload after armload of soy bean straw to make a thick mulch on the floor and around every terracotta pot. The mulch has done a brilliant job of keeping weeds down and roots moist in my vegie gardens and I know it will do the same in the kitchen garden.
These days we're eating a lot more from the gardens - leeks and asparagus, cucumbers, yellow pear and cherry tomatoes, butter and purple beans, artichokes and silverbeet. Every year I'm amazed at how much better home-grown vegetables taste. The cucumbers alone make me swoon, let alone the oh-so-sweet tomatoes. It's those flavours that keep me gardening through drought and hail storms and mice devouring all my peas.
I continue to harvest and dry things. I was so excited to get my first harvest of elderberries. It's always a race to see who can get the berries first and usually the birds win. But not this time. So far I'm only getting the lower clusters but I hope to lay some fine mesh netting over the bushes next week and that should keep the marauding birds from pinching my berries.