Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Choko Cricket

It's been too long, many nights have passed where all we've wanted to do is sit with a glass of red, play some cool tunes and write about the latest goings on in our funky frontyard, but alas we have have been faced with an obstacle...a very gorgoeus, totally cute and delightfully distracting obstacle, our latest little baby.  Our fourth fabulous little addition to the family and the newest farmer on the block, L, was born mid June. She is a delight, sleeping, eating and growing wonderfully. It is hard to believe that 3 months have passed already, yet with the gentle wafts of jasmine and wisteria that have been floating in the back door, the buds bursting on our citrus trees, the poppies popping up all over the yard and the kids jumping away on the trampoline later each afternoon, Spring has well and truly sprung.

We are now back in action, ready to fill you all in on the garden and our goings on and excited about the coming spring.

All choko-ed up

Last summer we decided to plant a choko vine. It engulfed the entire side fence and produced an insane amount of choko's throughout Autumn, which would have been great if choko's didn't taste like they were accidentally classified as a food.Is there a truly good use for choko's, we wondered? After some Internet research, I realised the rest of the world was just as desperate for a decent choko recipe's as we were... and they are hard to find.

We tried Choko chips after a tip off from a sympathetic neighbour, who did his darnedest to make them sound delicious. He and I both knew it was a big green choko-y lie, I could tell by the way that  he preferred to stare at the sun than into my desperate eyes, as he parted with the recipe, throwing in the occasional "MMMM... delicious"! I turned to fetch some choko's to repay him for his kindness, but in a murmur and a flash, he was gone. We made the choko chips all the same. The children ate the herb infused batter and left the choko.

choko chips, mmm....delicious. batter in flour, milk & eggs then bread crumbs and herbs

We tried blackberry and choko pie with some friends. Everyone agreed it tasted lovely, on account of how the choko tasted just like blackberries,  but their furrowed brows of deceit gave away their over enthusiastic praise. Unfortunately, this may be as good as choko gets: they make a great ghost ingredient for under filled pies. They are the "rent a crowd" ingredient, when you run out of apples for a danish, grab some chokos instead.

blackberry (and choko) pie

Several chokos still remain in our worm farm after what feels like years, and even the worms seem reluctant to eat them. In our despair, a basket of chokos sat in our kitchen for months, growing tentacles that started to climb the walls...

I realised one afternoon, while teaching my son a few batting techniques in the backyard that there was only one truly Australian solution for this unwanted Aussie icon. Choko Cricket anyone? Choko's make a great substitute for balls in backyard cricket! Lots of fun...Just make sure your neighbours are not home if you hit a six.

Autumn Planting

Our first wave of brave garlic bulbs have dug in and already springing to action in our offensive on imported garlic. In an attempt to overthrow the tyrannic reign of poor quality garlic flooding our stores, we are trying to grow enough garlic to see us through the following year, and we urge our fellow gardeners to enlist!

planting garlic bulbs in April

Garlic is easy to grow, and is best planted in Autumn. Its as simple as planting garlic bulbs bought from the shop, pointy end up, just below the surface of the soil. they will sprout within the week. prepare the soil with some compost or manure and water regularly. Harvest when the shoots start to brown and lay off watering a few weeks before harvesting to prevent fungal diseases.

We have also planted our largest crop of broad beans to date, including some heirloom crimson red flowering varieties. Between now and next spring they will improve the soil, and provide a nitrogen rich mulch after we harvest them. Harvesting our broad beans has become something of a family tradition in our house, and we enjoy adding them to our meals, but this year we have other plans for our harvest.

broad bean harvest (November)
Having 4 children, Jo and I often find ourselves pondering what to do with our spare time, and so we thought we might try drying the beans and grind them into flour, to make our very own home grown bread...just to pass the time.

earlier this Autumn
Broad beans have been used to make flour for many years, and often mixed with chick peas to make a gluten free flour. if the harvest goes well and our beans don't get eaten by mice, we will let you know how our broad bean bread comes along.

Hard Eggs to Crack!

You may remember from a previous post that we were having some trouble with our hens eating their own eggs. We even tried planting an egg filled with wasabi to try and curb their terrible habit. We no longer have a problem with egg eating, (but no thanks to the wasabi) and didn't have to give any of the girls the chop.

After 2 very wet summers here in the mountains, the snail population in our garden has reached its summit! It is not unusual to see snails sun baking on leaves in the morning sunlight, playing a round of Croquet, or throwing obnoxious parties on the south side of bricks. But their slimy reign is swiftly coming to an end.

Chook egg shells are made of calcium carbonate, as are snail shells, making them an excellent solution to our chookens calcium deficiencies! This morning alone, we collected over a hundred snails within a few square metres, popped them in an old milk container and blanched them with some boiling water, to put them to a swift end, as well as to kill any nasty worms or diseases they might be harbouring.

The chooks love them, and ever since we have been feeding them snails, the ladies egg shells have become super strong, and egg eating has become but a distant memory.

Next post, Joe breeds maggots (we'll explain), the chickens get a home reno and our local food and veg swap, the Crop & Swap, kicks off for season 2!