Apple season

Apple cheeks, apple weeks, the race against the birds…

The inherited tree which has the codlin moth – I know it’s time to strip the tree when the birds begin to peck at the apple tops – this means they are sweet and ready. Cutting around the moth tunnels, making apple sauce which turn into breakfast or crumbles or just eaten with a teaspoon standing at the fridge when I realise I’m starving but have to do the school run in two minutes. (I continue to ‘battle’ against the codlin moth. They are determined creatures.) The commitment of using seasonal abundance. It’s a gift, sure, but it’s work. Sometimes hours and hour of work. Sitting at the table, making the meditation ‘can I take all the peel off in one go?’ Buckets and buckets of practice later tell me that I can’t, but it’s fun trying.

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The Ballerina apple tree which was a wedding present 20 years ago, and moved with us from flat to flat in a big pot, finally planted into the ground here and produces the most beautiful green and red apples, like the ones from Snow White…

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This tree on an abandoned section – the way fruit trees give and give, regardless of how they are tended or neglected. Walking onto ‘private property’ to pick the apples. Respecting the tree’s gift more than the human’s claim. Not wanting the generosity of the tree to go unnoticed, unappreciated. Leaving plenty for the birds.

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At my permaculture course, Duncan brings two beautiful baskets of apples from his small farm. Four heritage varieties – enough for everyone to take a few home to taste. On the permaculture course, people are passionate about plants, about fruit trees, about the earth. People have strong opinions – in discussion time the debates are weighty, rich, sometimes a little heated…but at lunch time, we sit around munching Duncan’s apples. That they are fine, crisp, tasty apples, we all agree on.

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The beauty of the simple backyard apple, wet from being rinsed in cold water, fresh-picked off the tree.

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How I do juicing…

(Before I get into this post where I write about my thoughts on juicing, I want to say that I’ve come to believe diet and health are completely individual and idiosyncratic and that while advice from the internet is great, the best thing we can all do for our health is get better at tuning in to our personal experiences and our bodies and acting accordingly. One person’s raw-vegan-diet will be another person’s path to anemia and stomach upsets….one person’s high-fat/paleo diet will be another person’s path to lethargy and gallstones…every body is unique and only experiential/intuitive awareness will lead us to optimal health. Tune in, self-educate, and do what makes you feel well.)

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So….I’ve had a juicer for a couple of years now, but I’ve only been drinking juice every day for about the last six months…I’ve tried lots of different vegetable and fruit combinations, and experimented with how best to consume the juice and here’s what I’ve ended up with…

(In November, I did a seven day liquid fast of juices and protein drinks (I used NUZEST which is vegan and gluten-free as I can’t drink cold dairy products, like milk (or even soy, which isn’t dairy but has the same effect) because they upset my stomach. I did it with a friend, and we did it to a) lighten up our diets leading into summer b) for fun – yes, this is the kind of thing I do for fun, baha! c) to see if we could! Because we were consuming protein drinks, neither of us got hungry but I did get bored (oh, yay, a drink for dinner, etc), realised how much I love TEXTURE in food (crunch, especially) and I haven’t been able to face a protein drink since…)

Each morning, I make about 600 mls of mainly vegetable juice (my favourite combination below) – which I then have a third of before breakfast. I put the rest in a covered vessel in the fridge, and use it to sip from throughout the day, in those times between meals when I feel a slight energy lag and feel like I need a snack or a drink. My body seems to respond well to having it like this, in a few bursts through the day…

When I started juicing, because most advice about juicing says you should drink it as soon as possible after it’s juiced to avoid oxidization, I would drink it straight after making it…but that just didn’t feel good in my stomach. I have a slow metabolism and the juice would feel like it was sitting uncomfortably, and sloshing, in my gut. The way I consume it now seems to make my body much happier. (But again, you might find this is not the case for you!)

Juicing creates a lot of waste, but I’m OK with it because I either compost or feed to my chickens the pulp from the juicing process. I’ve had friends say they feel it’s a waste of produce, that they’d rather just eat it and get the fibre, etc. I appreciate this point of view, but as I’m having this juice ON TOP OF my large servings of vegetables and salads, I do think it is worth it for me, for the extra nutrients, and I believe the alkaline properties of the juice is good for my gut health.

The pulp is of course, still absolutely edible – here is a great post about ways to use the juicer pulp.

You really need to tune into your tummy to get the right juice combination for you. If you drink juice and your gut aches, churns or feels heavy…or if your mouth feels weird – there is something in the juice your body doesn’t like. Lots of people use cucumbers in juicing because they are mild in flavour and contain lots of water so are ideal. Unfortunately, they make my stomach ache, so I don’t use them.  Similarly, I can’t have very much citrus juice in one hit. And people rave about kale in their juices, but kale juice makes my mouth go all numb and weird.

Here is a really great informative post about juicing basics, which also addresses the common concern that fresh juice is just a big fructose dump on the system and can lead to type 2 diabetes…

Here is my usual juice combination, occasionally I might change it up a bit depending on what fruit is in the fruit bowl, but this is pretty much what I have every day and what makes my stomach happy…

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HELEN’S HAPPY STOMACH JUICE

One large beetroot / one large (4-5 cm) piece of peeled ginger / one or two large lemons / one small apple / one small carrot / one very large bunch of greens – spinach, parsley, silverbeet, NZ spinach, lettuce, chickweed, dandelion leaf…whatever I can find in the garden, basically…

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I’ve learned from juicing to:

-when I’ve finished juicing everything, I take the pulp out of the catcher and put it through the juicer again. It garners another 50-100 mls of juice, so I think it’s worth the effort.

-aim for mostly vegetable juice, with minimal fruit juice added to make it taste better. Carrots pretty much count as fruits in terms of how sweet they are. Over time your palate will require less sweetness.

-I always clean and rinse the juicer straight away, it’s easiest to clean it then…leave it until later and all the detritus dries out and becomes a pain to clean…re-assemble your juicer right away…keep your juicing systems well-organised and you are more likely to keep at it.

-if I’m feeling unwell or my digestion is sluggish, I might replace dinner with a juice, which I sip at over a couple of hours.

NEVER EVER EVER EVER juice radishes. They smell and taste like demon-bowels. GAG! (I did it once. Never again!)

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Be warned, if you consume a lot of beetroot, it may make your bodily wastes take on an alarming hue, as hilariously illustrated in this Portlandia clip ‘911 Beets Emergency’, ha ha!

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So, there is my experience with daily juicing – I’d love to hear your experiences or if you have any other tips…JUICE ON, sisters!

 

 

 

 

the drought breaks and with it my rage and I farewell the tomatoes

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It’s been raining a good few days now – after nine weeks without rain, this wet stuff falling from the sky seems a miracle. How quickly the garden wakes up, too. From desperate and dusty, to enlivened, greening…drinking it all in…

Just as well, because I was getting major ‘drought-rage’. What’s drought-rage?

Drought-rage is walking past a house where someone is using multiple sprinklers to water their….lawn.

Their f**king lawn! …….when there are water-restrictions in place! It made me want to run in, turn off their sprinkler and throw it through their front window. Selfish sh*ts.

Drought-rage is seeing a man using precious water to clean his…..driveway. Yes, the concrete which his car drives up. Because it’s so important that HE have a clean driveway, right? I mean, droughts get dusty, after all. Surely anyone who cleans their driveway must be sociopathic?

Drought-rage is hearing the DJ on student radio saying she ‘really hopes it doesn’t rain because (she) has to walk home’. Yes, because the weather is all about you, honey. Never mind if there are no vegetables to eat this winter because the market gardeners couldn’t irrigate their crops.

You get the idea.

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Oh boy, the profound disconnect of people….with the weather, the local eco-systems, food sources, this earth which is our home. It pains me. It hits me in the heart.

On the recent writing retreat, my friend Helen said ‘there is a lot of rage in your writing at the moment…a bit of a rage-theme’ which made me laugh. Yep, I get ‘the rage’ about injustice and human stupidity often and intensely, but that is because I also get ‘the joy’. Two ends of the same spectrum. I love this world and this life so much that rage flares when I see people asleep to the riches around them and what their part is in the stewardship of what we all share…but joy rushes up just as quickly. I prefer my rage/joy existence to a sleepy/numbed/re-or-de-pressed one.

I was reading some yoga philosophy recently and it was describing how our environment, where we dwell, is part of our extended body. It described our physical body as our local body and our environment as our non-local body. It made total sense to me. The air we breathe becomes part of our body. The food we eat becomes us. Therefore our bioregion IS our extended body. Therefore, we should not waste the precious resources (like water when there’s a drought on) of OUR OWN BODY. & If our extended body is in drought, we ought to be happy to have to walk through the rain…in fact, if we are connected and awake…

that rain will feel like a baptism and a gift.

The magic in your life depends upon the quality of your attention. 

Anyway, I didn’t mean to write a rave – I meant to write about how the wet weather got me out into the vegetable garden, which as I mentioned in an earlier post, I had somewhat neglected because of the drought.

I pulled a whole lot of crops, the rest of my squat little carrots, the last tomatoes, the last of the summer beans…(I’m going to make a big pot of ‘farewell tomatoes’ soup this afternoon)….I gave the chooks a good go at what was left and am now deep into planning the autmn/winter planting.

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I’m inspired to make it a good season, despite the stalled start.

Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain…

See you next summer, tomatoes. x x x

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reaping what you sow

Abundance of late:

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I do love my slightly-twee ‘picking’ basket, which I op-shopped last year.

So much goodness coming out of the garden right now…

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But on the downside – there’s been a bit of a sneaky drought on here, lately. I say ‘sneaky’ because it hasn’t made the news but it is definitely very dry lately. It hasn’t rained properly for weeks….so I’m behind in winter-planting because I want some rain to come before I entrust vulnerable seedlings and seeds to the ground. (I do water the vegetable garden, but it’s hard to keep it damp enough to support new life.)

So while it’s all full-baskets now, soon there is going to be slim pickings, while the baby leeks and spinach and silverbeet and fennel and parsley take root.

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Anyway – gather ye rosebuds, and all that…. or in my case, tomatoes.

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Rosy cheeks

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I got a horrible cold last weekend. One of those ones where your bones ache and your eyes run and you fill a bag with tissues in a few hours and you go hot then cold then hot then cold…for a couple of days I drank only miso soup and honey/lemon/ginger drinks, and felt pretty low…

I’m getting better  & there’s nothing like a bout of illness to make me GRATEFUL for my usual good health. My aim now is to boost my immunity and get strong for the long winter ahead.

I’ve been enjoying this new NZ-based healthy food blog, Wild&Good. To be honest so far I have just enjoyed the notion of the lovely recipes and pretty photographs and am yet to MAKE anything off the site….but this cold has motivated me to give my nutrition-intake a bit of an overhaul, and I’m sure this inspiring blog will help. Sometimes I get overwhelmed by being the food-provider for my family…and as I am the only vegetarian I think I let my own nutrition slip sometimes…putting the energy into whatever I cook for the family. It’s challenging to make things that children will eat AND things which are maximum nutrition AND which appeal to me, also.

Anyway, that’s a bit of a tangent….I meant to post about APPLES! We’ve been eating apples off the trees for a couple of weeks now, but suddenly they all just looked very ready and the blackbirds were starting to eat them, so I picked what I could from ground level, and then I sent Fraser up a ladder to get the higher ones.

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Then last night I ‘graded’ them into eaters and cookers. (Eaters = good-looking apples, cookers = ones with marks, bruises or blackbird pecks.)

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(In the basket you can see the two varieties we have, one is a Braeburn (I think!) – yellow & red stripy skin with sweet,  light, juicy flesh; the other variety, I’m not sure what it’s called but it has green and red skin with sour, very dense flesh.)

With the cookers I made a giant pot of cinnamon apples sauce. (Cooked the peeled, chopped apples with cinnamon, sugar and water until apples were soft, then blended it with a quick-stick). Apple sauce with very fresh apples is THE BEST. It goes very fluffy and velvety. I love having it warmed up for winter breakfasts, by itself or on porridge.

Now the freezer is full of apple sauce and we will chomp our way through the rest. I’m happy to have conquered the Codlin Moth which had afflicted the main apple tree, by planting peppermint geranium thickly around the base, a handy hint which a blog reader told me about.

Autumn is my favourite time of year.

 

 

 

good year, bad year

Good year – beets…

Bad year – carrots…

I love the way vegetable gardeners (and farmers, no doubt) talk in terms of ‘good year’/’bad year’ for produce.

It has not been the best summer ever in my vegetable garden, but like every year there have been highs and lows.

Bad year:

Corn – after several excellent corn years – this one was a wash-out. Instead of the usual few weeks of corn eating, we have had just a few days. I try to rotate big crops, but I think the corn did not like the spot I put it in this year. Also I grew painted mountain corn for fun. It might make great masa (if you grow craploads, …like a paddock’s worth) but it tastes like arse when it’s fresh – woody, bland, chewy. I won’t be growing it again in my small urban garden, but it was good to have tried it and it is very pretty.

Pumpkins – I usually grow a dozen or so. Today’s inventory – I can only see five. Not enough to get us through the winter.

Garlic – my garlic just did not swell this year. It’s still in the garden, stunted and shallot-sized. Pathetic.

I continue to not be able to grow a decent carrot. I keep resolving not to try any more because they are SO CHEAP…but then I do try again because I am stubborn…this time they are at least big enough to be worth picking and eating – even if they are stubby and mutant. Look at the verdant, beautiful green foliage! I was sure there would be some giant carrots underneath – but no, they are ‘all mouth and no trousers’ as a friend of mine says to describe people who promise much and deliver bugger-all.

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Good year:

Beetroot – big fat pink globes. Beetroot remains in my top ten of vegetables to grow for being easy, pretty and tasty.

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Basil! Glossy bunches of basil in salads, on pasta, mmmm….pesto. I love you, Basil!

Tomatoes! Is there anything more joyful than picking a bowl full of sun-warm tomatoes every day for dinner? So pretty, so delicious, so heart-warming.

Apples – both of my apple trees have an abundance of apples this year and they seem to be ready earlier.

When crops fail I try not to think of the money, labour, water, time, energy spent on them….& focus on the crops which are obliging me! I’m sure a cost/benefit analysis of my vegetable gardening would prove that buying vegetables works out, if not cheaper, then the same….but then what would I do for entertainment around these parts?

 

 

 

a conquest, a battle, a victory…

One way I can tell we had a mild winter, is that the nasturtiums I planted at the beginning of last summer didn’t die off. Nasturtiums are very frost tender and they usually die and wither over the winter when the frosts hit…but because the frosts didn’t kill them off, they have been partying hard-out in the garden.

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I enjoyed the nasturtium riots for a long time but finally had to pull some of them out as they were romping all over the place and taking up room I needed for spring planting. I don’t like pulling out healthy and decorative plants, but had to let my desire for tomatoes and corn overcome my silly sentimentality.

Here is just some of the nasturtium we pulled out, the air was dense in that unique wet, peppery smell that nasturtiums have – peeeyuuu!

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Garden wreckage becomes spontaneous landscape art…

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According to plant lore, nasturtium is the plant of heroes and represents ‘a conquest, a long battle and a victory’.

So who won, me or the nasturtiums? Ha ha…

There are still lots of nasturtiums blooming around the place, I only pulled out the ones in the vegetable beds.

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I love nasturtiums – if I were braver and more certain, I would get a nasturtium tattoo – I really love THIS ONE.  But then I also love THESE DANDELIONS…..and THESE VEGETABLES  and THIS BEETROOT and THESE WILDFLOWERS …and this constant indecision is how I am 41 and as yet tattoo-less…..

Anyway, after creating all that space in the garden for spring planting, I entered a raffle at the Manawatu Harvest Festival on Saturday AND I WON! Sweet fortune!

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Now these lovely plants are sitting in the driveway waiting to be planted – and as soon as the horrible spring wind stops blustering away, I will do just that.

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