Thursday, January 28, 2010

Little Spinach pies

I like Silver beet, so I grow quite a bit of it. It's a good value plant to have in the garden and it's tough, (you can't kill it with a baseball bat) out here we can grow it year round. As I'm not to worried about crop rotation I grow it wherever I have a hole. Because the roots store plenty of the carbohydrates necessary for additional leaf growth it can be quite denuded of leaves without a problem. Since we usually have way more than we can use fresh, I make it into little spinach pies and freeze them for a snack or quick meal. Just pull two or three out of the bag and into a hot oven for 10 minutes or if it's to hot for the oven, nuke them.

It's just a Spinach and feta fatayer recipe I have fiddled with a little. Fatayer are usually three cornered pies but since there is a bit of waste with cutting circles in the pastry I simply quarter the sheets and use a bit more filling.

500g fresh spinach or silver beet,
250g Persian feta
1 onion, finely chopped
2 big mushrooms
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
Good pinch Cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon lime juice or fresh lemon juice
Frozen puff pastry sheets

Blanch the spinach (no salt) then make sure that all the excess water is squeezed out, and roughly chop.
In a fry pan heat some olive oil; fry the onions and finely chopped mushrooms. Add the spinach, spice and lime juice and season with a little salt and pepper. Then add the broken up feta. Make sure all ingredients are mixed well then let the mixture cool.
Cut the puff pastry sheets into quarters and put about a heaped tablespoon of mix in the middle and fold in the corners.
Place the pies on a baking sheet and bake in a hot oven (200°C) for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

The heat has let up a bit over the last week so the garden has picked up a little. The tomato plants that where not looking to good have had a bit of pruning and are showing signs of life, we may get a few off them yet. I have some seedlings that are ready to go and if it stays cool for another week they will be planted out. The second lot of corn is holding up OK and it looks like we will get something there and, since the silver beet is doing fine I'm still getting my greens.


Monday, January 25, 2010

Bloggin on blogging

Now, I have a few interests besides gardening and one of those is climate change, so I like to cruise around a bit to see what's going on. I'm firmly on the side of the Warmists by the way, but I do like to check out how the sceptics are thinking, so I spend a bit of time poking round in those blogs as well. Anyway, this last week I have been looking at one particular blog that has left me spitting, so much so that I had thought of dedicating a post solely to that. But, hey, it's a free country and he is entitled to his say, but by the same token I'm entitled to not have to listen to him, so I'm not. This particular blog is at what I consider to be the butt end of the sceptical and attracts the type of commenter's that can't quite foot it with the big boys. You know the type, takes weeks to scrub the stupid off after a visit.

Thankfully there is a saner blogging world outside those echo chambers and you will find a few of them in my blog list over there. <<<<<<<  If you care to follow the blog lists on those sites you are sure to find thousands more. This is where the action is, these are the folk who don't worry too much with the bull, they just get on with the job. A community, sharing ideas, tips and tricks to make life a little easier in a changing world. I think these are the folk who will make the difference, they know the real problem is greed. If a few of those plonkers took a look outside their petty little world they would get the fright of their lives. There are people everywhere working on all sorts of stuff, from backyard wind farms to growing veg in a pot.

This is where I want to be, crack on folks we'll show those useless pollies and gabfest clowns how to get the job done.

PS. The cartoons are from an exchange I had with my American mate Glen, on a building forum while building my house. Glen lives in a real neat hobbit hole in California.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Time for a change of strategy

Its been an up and down week and a bit since I last posted. We have had a bit of cooler weather and a good blast of hot. The garden has taken another pounding so bits of it are looking decidedly sad. On the good side the blackberries are doing OK in the shade structure I built for them, we have had a couple of good picks with a lot more to come. These are destined for the trading post as we already have a good supply in the fridge.

The beans I planted outside the shade areas have been dealt to by the hot wind and are not looking too perky but I think they will pick up if we get a bit of cooler weather. Those in the shade house garden are fine. I have given up on the first corn crop and planted another lot with a bit of wind protection, I think we will get them through to maturity before it gets to cold. The first plants did produce a few cobs but definitely not the best corn I have seen. I will pull them out and get the ground ready for a few tomatoes I hope to carry into winter. Last winter we had tomato plants growing well right through the winter. The tomatoes we got off those plants at the end of winter where some of the ugliest looking things you would ever see but they had a taste you wouldn't believe. It was the first time we have had tomatoes survive a winter outside. They stayed happy and healthy right through with very little damage from the unusually light frosts we got. This year I will try them in a polytunnel and see if we can have them fruiting in the winter, we get enough light so if I can keep them warm it could be a winner.

Summer tomatoes have been almost a total failure this year, even the shade house ones have produced only a few small fruit. The hanging pots have kicked the bucket, another total failure. The pumpkins have suffered badly with only a few runners surviving. Today I pruned those back a bit and planted a few seedling pumpkins I had ready to go. I may have to work out some shelter for them to get them through the next month or so until it starts to cool a bit. Surprisingly some NZ yams I planted have made it through everything the summer has thrown at them. They are not a heat loving plant and usually turn their toes up if it gets over 35 degrees. I managed to get hold of a few seed yams last spring (even though they are rationed by most seed suppliers) and planted them in the shade house. As it warmed up I planted a row of dwarf beans on either side of them in the hope that cooling effect of the transpiration from the beans would help them. So far it's working and we may get a crop off them.

The Kumara are powering along under a rough shade cover and should provide us with a feed or two. The summer so far has been pretty tough and it looks like this is going to be the norm for the future. From here on it looks like we will have to start our summer crop at least a month early so they are well established by the time the heat gets at us. The shade cloth structures are going to be a permanent fixture around here, along with some wind breaks to keep the hot northerly winds from giving us the blast furnace treatment. It looks like we have to find new ways of doing stuff if we are to have any hope of an easy life on a Tough New Planet.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Managing your money

From Rhondas blog

" Who knew that having a cup of coffee five days a week would cost you about $750 a year.  That's an extra mortgage payment."
down---to---earth: Managing your money

Well worth the visit.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Another scorcher

Ten in the morning and it's already past 35, one of my crazy neighbours is out mowing his lawn down to the dirt. Tonight it will be water everywhere trying to make it grow again, some people just can't get their head around drought. Anyway, as it's forecast to reach 43 today I made an early start, (4.30am) I've finished all my outside chores and have retired to the computer to get on with a bit of blogging. Since it is going to be another hot one I thought today's blog may as well be about our keeping cool strategy.

When I designed the house it was passive solar all the way, but of course for us passive solar is as much about cooling as keeping warm, it's quite a mild winter climate out here. We have a wide verandah around three sides of the house that keeps the sun off the windows for most of the day. To the east my neighbour has some decent trees that keep the summer morning sun from frying us and I have supplemented that with a shade cloth awning. On the western side there's a grape trellis, a carport and now a pergola. To the south I have a shade garden that supplies cool air into the house through louvre windows. House pages here and here, you may also notice that I weakened and put in aircon, but, hey I'm a senior citizen now and I melt in high temperatures.

The house is fully insulated, walls, roof and under floor so it maintains temperature quite well. At night we open the place up to the cooler night air. In the morning as soon as the temp starts rising it's batten down the hatches. Most hot days we can get away without turning the cooler on until late in the day. Some days though, like the last few and when the nights are hot that baby gets cranked up early I can tell you. The system we run is evaporative, not too hard on power but it can get through a bit of water, so we like to use it as little as possible. It's a bit of a dilemma though, water shortages and evaporative systems, but we do manage to keep our water use under 250 litres a day average for the year. Next year I hope to have it running on tank water, we'll see how it goes.

One other trick we use is quilt insulation on the windows. My fearless leader is a keen quilter so she knocked up some that fit snug in the window frames (they're not snug in these pics because I needed light for the camera work). They work a treat hot or cold. I made up some permanent rod holders and they are simply hung as the need arises.

Working hours around here when it's hot are, early start 4 - 4.30 am, weeding or watering by the light of the moon or the street lights on the nature strip. Any other quiet work until 8 am then as much noise as possible until midday. Lunch, then a nanny nap until it cools down enough for the evening shift. In this neck of the woods it's Mediterranean lifestyle all the way.


Friday, January 8, 2010

It's official!

According to my bank I am now a senior citizen. As a bonus for making the grade they are no longer going charge me for the embarrassment they feel at having to look after my money. It's like getting the 100 year telegram from the Queen, I am honoured (cheeky devils).

Anyway back on track. Although I have been a bit slack with the blog over the last few weeks I have not been totally idle. I have managed to get my pergola built without getting my brain fried, we have had a few days of less than 40 degrees over the new-year period. The pergola shades the north-west corner of the house and is built over a brick courtyard where the clothes line is. No more sunburnt washing and hopeful I can look forward to looking like a rainbow in my colourful smalls (no more sun bleached underpants for me).

The garden that had been a bit frazzled with the heat started to pick up a bit with the cooler weather over the last week or so, but the forecast is for more heat over the next week, so it will probably go backwards again. Still, the shade house has done its job and we have had a bit of produce. I think next year we will start the summer crops about a month early and use the shade house to hold them through the heat.

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