Tuesday, June 8, 2010

chapter 13: descent from domestic goddess to jam lunatic

I know... where on earth have we been? It seems that no amount of excuses can possibly suffice for our apparent hibernation, and no excuses will be given. All you really need to know is that we are back, and ready to talk all things jam, luna cycles and why Joe won't be eating snails afterall.

Like any good domestic goddess, I can be forgiven for toying with the idea of using my many lazy hours about the house to produce a little home made jam, as an expression of my love and appreciation for neighbours, family and of course my dear husband. With the children playing quietlty in the garden, of course, I slipped on my appron, put down my martini, and liesurely set about wipping up my very first batch of home made (organic, of course darlings) grapefruit, lemon and orange marmalade... Perhaps I'll even open up a little jam store in my spare time. I mean how hard could it be???

My goodness, I am never doing that again! After plucking 14 grapefruits, 4 oranges and 2 lemons from our trees, I set about grating off  all the rind (and part of my knuckle). Then I had to peel off the stupid white bit between the skin and the fruit, and finally cut the fruit up into cubes. TZhe citric acid from all the juice on my cut finger, made me less and less goddess like by the second, and by the time I put the diced fruit into the simmering water I was cursing and sweating like Gordon Ramsey in an Aldi's shopping line with two kids. 

Once simmering, I composed myself, added the rind, and decided to taste test the fruit of my labour. It was disgusting...and tasted more like a new form of bio-fuel than a perky marmalade should. So over a period of 2 hours I added 2 kg of sugar. It tasted much better... well it tasted edible, and I was sick of making jam by this stage.

Meanwhile I sterilized 15 jars by boiling them in water, before removing them with tongs, and lining them up in anticipation of my almost deliciously semi-edible jam.  When the time had come to spoon in my marmalade delight, I couldnt believe that it only filled five jars... actually 4 and 3/4 jars... 3 and a half stupid hours later. one for joe, one for dad, one for Joe's sister and my neighbour (because I bragged to them about how I was soon to be a Jam queen), and the 3/4 full jar I am selling on ebay. 

Never ever, will I make jam again... and if joe cant make wine from the grapefruits, I will cut the tree down myself. 

would you like to see a photo?

The Garden
On a brighter front, things are improving in the garden. We have had a successful crop of sweet potato which taste delicious and we are now the proud owners of two planted apple trees. They are both dwarf varieties, an 'Abas' (which is a universal pollinator) and a 'Jonathon'. At the moment they are three feet tall and won't bare fruit for a few more years but we have dreamy notions of one day in the future and saying to the kids, 'run along dears to the pear and apple orchard and collect some fruit...mummy thinks she might do some preserving' (I'm also thinking about planting a martini tree).

Moon Planting
We have also been looking into moon planting. Moon planting is a method whereby certain varieties of fruit or vegetables are planted in unison with the cycle of the moon. Like any sensible person I too was suspicious as soon as I saw the word lunar. Initially I expected I would have to perform midnight rituals such as howling at my broadbeans or dancing around the greenhouse whilst Venus alligned with Uranus and the neighbours quickly pulled their blinds closed...jo was terrified of the possible repercussions of yet another of my new found interests.

Thankfully, there is a rationally scientific explanation for moon planting. Throughout the lunar cycle the moon varies in its gravitational pull towards the Earth which directly effects water (e.g. the tides). During a 'waxing moon' (new moon to full moon) the gravitaional pull increases, drawing water in the soil upward, this promotes upward growth in plants. As the moon wanes (full moon to new moon) the gravitional pull also wanes, drawing more water downward towards the roots, therefore promoting root growth.

In short there are four stages in the lunar cycle. From the New moon to when the moon is half full is known as the 'first quarter'. During the first quarter plant 'leaf' vegetables (such as lettuce, cabbage and pak choy). The second quarter (from the half moon to the full moon) is the time to plant anything that fruits above the ground (such as tomatoes, pumpkins, zucchini and strawberries). The third quarter (from the full moon to the half moon) is a time to plant 'root' vegetables (potatoes, parsnips, beetroot, garlic and carrots). The forth quarter from the half moon to the new moon is a resting period, avoid planting during this time, instead mulch, prune or transplant. 

We are by no means lunar gurus but are going to give moon planting a try and see if it makes a difference to the garden.

Here is a chart of this month's moon planting:

Many thanks to all those who took part in our recent poll as to whether or not Joe should prepare snails for eating. Whilst the votes were overwhelmingly in the positive, after the recent headline news of a man contracting a rare form of meningitis after eating a slug?! for a $10 bet I have made the executive decision that no snails will be harmed in the making of this blog (except for all the ones we stomp on).

Green grubs
Last of all to all those who want to know how to get rid of the green grubs that turn into white cabbage butterflies, we have a break through. Since our last blog Joe trialled spray-on vegetable oil, normally used for cooking. Simply spray it on to your affected plants and laugh despotically. The oil suffocates the grubs...hooooheeee ha ha ha haaaaa.

Next week we attempt to install revamp and install a second hand fire place combustion heater that we purchased on ebay, before we feeze to death.


  1. Absolutely entertaining, Jo! You had me laughing many a time in this post! Here are some more quick questions for you:

    The oil that you spray on the cabbages.... it doesn't ruin the cabbage at all? I know this is a stupid question, as you wouldn't be doing it if it did, I just find it hard to believe that you can spray a cabbage with oil and nothing happens!

    Also, I LOVE sweet potatoes... I've just planted my first potato in a sack (yes, only one so far, I'm starting slowly... need to pick up more soil!!)... that was one of your recommendations re how to grow potatoes, so I'm giving it a go... but I'd also love to know how to grow sweet potatoes... is it the same deal, just with a different potato?

    One last thing... I'm sure I've heard it mentioned that you are gestating more than just veggies at your end... I'm sure your blog readers would love to see the progress of your veggies and your 'bean'... I'm being purely selfless of course... not at all motivated by self interest here. :)

  2. Hi there Hayley,

    Hope you are well.Sorry for the delay, our computer blew up.

    Spraying vegetable oil is still very much in the experimental phase, but as far as I can make out so far, there are no side affects on the plants. that said, I spray them in the afternoon, when the heat of the sun has passed, so that they dont get burnt, and give them a water early then next morning.

    On the potato front, try desiree or pontiac for a satisfying yield. Sweet potatoes are very easy to grow, but unlike potato potatoes, they grow as a creeper over the ground and have quite nice looking heart shaped leaves (edible - unlike potato leaves). As a result, they are best grown directly into the ground instead of a sack. the tubers form below the ground and take about 6 or more months to mature. plant early spring.one thing to note, they do tend to sprawl, but you can easily prune them back and use the leaves in a salad. Great conversation piece. plant either by popping a sweet potato in the ground. soil should be rich. the only problem that may arise is sweet potato weavel. if you grow from a cutting of vine instead of a sweet potato, you will never have weavels, as they harbour inside the tubers. you can grow the vines by popping your sweet potato in a cup of water, and prop with tooth picks. it will grow roots and vines. the vines can then be cut and burried. this will take longer though.

    now... more importantly, the bub numero tres will be making a guest appearance in late July. we will be sure to include it in next entries pics...