Saturday, February 7, 2015

Netting the grapes Feb 2015

Sizing up the job
 Waitangi Day Weekend and its time to net the grapes. 
Over many days during summer we have tucked and plucked the vines, taking off the leaves to expose the grapes to the sun, so they ripen. We have plucked the laterals off, and tucked the vines under the wires. Aussie colleagues Annie and Peggy were staying in January and became expert at this work within minutes. With their help we completed a couple of rows within an hour.
Annie points out the finer points

Admiring our work
Annie and Peggy happy in their work!
Working together doing something completely different was fun.

Now of course our work is to keep the birds from eating the grapes.

This year, David bought new nets. They are wider than previous years and hopefully this means we don't have to bend down to tie the nets - back breaking work. The Wairarapa birds are tricky in that they fly at the nets, bite a few grapes and fly off. We have learned we not to have the nets close to the grapes.

Richard places the nets over the vines
Richard came over to help. We have a little bit of experience with netting now, after 8 years. I'm drive the farm bike going super slowly, and David and Richard place the nets over the grapes.

David has made a belay contraption which delivers the nets, and Richard and David work out how tight/loose to have them. Off we set. its hot, around 28 degrees, the work is slow.
Richard and David sizing up the job

Belaying the nets and stretching them over the vines

There's a lot of reaching up with this job

the precision driver

Rich stretching the nets as we go
The nets are on!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

We are selling our beautiful farm

Working most weekends for the past nine years, and we are ready to sell the farm. We have become avid gardeners, wine growers, and olive oil produces. We have made jams and jellies, salted olives. 
Our vege garden is abundant with red and yellow tomatoes, raspberries and strawberries, lettuces, beans and carrots galore, potatoes and fabulous sage, tarragon, rosemary, thyme, oregano parsley and chives. While I love all of this, I am ready to let go and refocus, and write the book I've wanted to write since I was about 30. 

I want to empty my being of all the complexities of being an olive and grape grower, home stay manager and farm minder to do this. Its time to think and write and not have a continual pull to be onto the 'next things'. David feels the pull too, more that the machinery is big and lots of the work tough and demanding, and time to put his feet up, paint, read, and focus on his business. 

Our summer here has been the best. Eating our lovely fresh produce, swimming in the river each day, sitting out under the trees and reading. our holiday activities have included tucking and plucking the grapes reading the for the nexus (this weekend), pruning the olive trees, mowing everywhere, trimming hedges and dead heading roses. a funny kind of holiday but one we like very much. 

I'm sad to leave the farm. I am delighted that where ever we look are gorgeous vignettes reflecting our hard work. When we came the farm had been abandoned and we have been good caretakers returning it to productivity, growth and abundance. 

Our gorgeous little cottage

the drive to the yellow cottage, olives on the left, grapes on the right

Our back yard

So many fabulous lunches and dinners at this table, surrounded by lavender and roses

the back courtyard

Paris….. David and my favorite breakfast spot


looking along the side of the cottage

the colors of the late afternoon sun from the courtyard

view from the Shearers Cottage lounge, patio and olive grove

I love the blue irises around the shearers cottage and in the tank garden

the Shearers cottage bedroom opening into the ensuite

Breakfast at the cottage

The 1932 Shearers Cottage we renovated to be a luxury weekend stay for guests

My dream bathroom in the Shearers Cottage
Lavendar and red roses surrounding the Shearers Cottage

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Blackrock Rd Salted Olives

Jeanette picking for salted olives
 Two delights from our olive grove are producing our own oil, and our salted olives. This year we picked for oil on 17 - 18th May. We let the olives ripen for two more weeks so they were dark red and juicy then David, Jeantte and I, helped by cottage guests Libby and Mark, picked over Queens Birthday weekend for our salted olives.
 Olive oil corner in the kitchen

We picked 50kg on one day, then Jeanette, David and I sorted them. We chose the largest plumpest olives. This meant close to 25 percent of what we had picked were discarded. These olives were either flawed or had bruised. With the remainder we layered olives and salt and then left them to drain, turning the buckets every few days.

Now they are ready. I rinse the salt off the olives and leave them to dry. After 48 hours,  I sort them again. I sort the large from the small - about 10% are small. The olives have dried massively in the salt. The others are plump and wrinkled. Any that have been bruised in the processes are discarded too.
Olives ready to go into the jars

I smother these in our fresh olive oil then store them in jars. Each jar has 200gms of olives and includes more or less 100 olives!

These olives are whole food/vegan of course. The whole process is kept below 60 degrees, and only NZ sea salt, our organic olive oil, and our organic olives! How good is that. Theses taste fabulous. Neighbour Mena calls them Moroccan sucking stones...pop them in your mouth, eat the olive, then suck on the stone. Comforting and delicious. Variations include adding preserved lemon or orange rind, warming the olives for 15  seconds in the microwave, and adding fresh chopped thyme, or your favourite fresh herbs.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Whole food juices for breakfast and lunch

In 1972 I had a month in Indonesia and then Singapore. Amidst all the chillies and spices, I loved the fresh juices, especially freshly made watermelon juice. I bought a trusty juicer (right) for around $40, duty free, and it is still going strong.

I notice with whole foods, I am eating more carbohydrates with cereals, corn breads and buckwheat blinis. Every now and again I just feel like nutritious juices, and yes I have read reboot with Joe and his inspirational story.

Now I know my way around Commonsense Organics which stocks seasonal products, so my winter juices are fantastic. Usually a base of kale which comes out bright dark green, looks amazing and tastes earthy. I add cucumbers from time to time.  Then I make a mix of carrots, root ginger, apples, persimmons, oranges. sometimes I add a lemon, or kiwifruit. I usually put 20% vegetable juice in with the mixed fruit juice. The final colour is nothing to write home about - khaki - but looking down on the juice you can see the oranges, yellows and greens of the different ingredients. And it tastes divine and feels decidedly nutritious.

More recently I came across organic powdered kale, and if I haven't had a chance to buy fresh kale, in goes a teaspoon or two of this. Not quite the same as fresh, but good enough for now and then. I sprinkle a teaspoon of this onto a small amount of juice and let it sit, then stir it in, then add the rest of the juice.

Yes it does seem odd having a powdered organic version of a delicious fresh vegetable, but, there you go.

Also just read in Organics NZ (birthday present from neighbour Jane) that Remuera New World directly contracts 30 -35 organic growers for direct supply. Best news is they commit to selling the produce at the same price as non-organic. And, they have noticed sales of organic produce has gone up from $1000 a week three years ago for organic produces to $35,000 currently. How good is that? New World Remuera also stock over 250 Ceres (organic) products. We are lucky to have Commonsense Organics in Wellington with their amazing range of fresh products sourced from all over NZ and other organic products sourced from all over the world. I love doing my weekly shop there.

In praise of Ottolenghi - three great winter dishes

Cauliflower bake
 Winter meals are always a treat. Nothing like a warm, soft, nutritious dishes for cold winter nights. And so much better if they are easy to make. Having discovered Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi's recipes, there is no looking back. I have bought two of their books, Plenty and and The Cookbook. And I have bought both the Kindle versions for when we are over at the farm, and the hard copies for when I am in town!

Their dishes are simple, made with in-season fresh vegetables, and dashes of magic. Here are three I have made recently. These first two dishes are definitely not vegan, just vegetarian as cheese, cream and/or eggs feature. Delicious treats.

Ottolenghi is wonderfully generous and you can find some of their recipes here:

Ottolenghi's name for the cauliflower bake is Smoky Frittata. How can anyone resists that. Just gorgeous on its own, or with green vegetables.

Ottolenghi's Herbed Mushroom Polenta

the ultimate winter couscous
 The herbed mushroom and potenta dish is one of those which quickly became a favourite.I use my winter thyme and rosemary straight from the garden together with Parkvale tiny bronw mushrooms. Such a fantastic Friday evening dish, relaxing by the fire after the weeks work. This takes about 25 minutes to prepare. You can find the recipe here:

 Couscous dishes have been favourite of mine for a while. this one is vegan and Ottolenghi's version is distinctive with the vegetables gently roasted with cinammon sticks, star anise, bay leaves, and ginger, tumeric, paprika and chilli flakes together with the magic of saffron threads and fresh corriander sprinkled on at the last minute.You can find this recipe here:

Thursday, April 24, 2014

DIY Muesli from the Melbourne Age

Who would have thought! In my so far relentless e-search for delicious breakfasts, without white or refined sugar, I came across this great recipe in the e-version of the Melbourne Age. I read the Age most days, or have a glance and then settle into the moderate difficulty e-sudoku.
500 g rolled oats toasted
100g slivered almonds
half cup of organic saltanas or currents
half cup shredded coconut
half cup of sunflower seeds
half cup of gogji berries
half cup ofpuffed quinoa
Half cup of flax seeds or sesame seeds
and half cup of anything else delicious you want to put into this
Serve with almond milk or coconut milk, a dollop of coconut yoghurt and fresh fruit. Simply delicious, and extremely healthy.  

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Hankering for thick dark bread, and there’s a baker in the house

Friday night and we head for the farm. Cher and John are staying at the apartment. We will have dinner together on Sunday evening. I am restless. My achy back isn’t improving, and I feel worse for wear. My Friday session with the physio reveals I may have a slipped disc and pinched nerve. A few weeks ago, I didn’t take him seriously when he said do these exercises 5 times a day. I do now. From yesterday, I have my phone timer set at two hourly intervals, and every two hours I am up and about I do 3 exercises 10 times each. 

 So with all this in mind, we head for Masterton. All I want to eat is thick dark bread. We stop off at Countdown and head for the organic section. Found. Pumpernickel. Friday dinner is pumpernickel smeared with avocado, and topped with fresh tomatoes. Dinner was deeply satisfying. Who would have thought? 

First thing this morning, David is up and make mixed grain bread! Kibbled rye, wholemeal flour and oat flakes. Pip and Pete gave the bread maker to David a few years ago, and recently some of his bread hasn't mixed well and has come out rather firm and definitely stodgy.
Top L: Rising, cut the cross on the loaf, the loaves have risen! DB testing (20 mins at 190C), the loaves!
 These mini loaves are great. Moist and delicious and fun to eat!
My work for the weekend is to make a dish for to go with the bread. I decide on green beans in tomatoes. My friend Maria from Tuscany taught me this dish a couple of years ago. Gently simmer one diced onion in olive oil. Remove. Add the whole green beans minus their tops and tails. 
Move them around gentle until they soften slightly. Add the simmered onions, two or three handfuls

of chopped tomatoes, fresh basil, pepper, a fresh red chilli (my addition), ground pepper and simmer together. When soft and lush, add 1 – 2 cups of vegetable stock. I’m using Rapunzel organic vegetable bullion from Commonsense Organics via Germany. This one is low salt. Put the lid on, and simmer for 20 minutes, take the lid off and simmer until the juices are thick. This final bit takes between 5 – 20 minutes, depending on your taste preferences. Cool and reheat when you are ready to serve. Goes well with crusty bread, and off course lamb!  (which I don’t eating any more). I’m appreciating a lot I like mucking around in the kitchen. And appreciating I have the time in the weekends to do this.

On Thursday night David and I went to The Grand Budapest Hotel, a Wes Anderson movie. A Christmas gift from Pirimia and Darrin were vouchers for the Roxy. It was a great fun movie. Exquisite visually and rather ‘dark’. We both really enjoyed it. I was lucky enough to have an almost vegan dinner, a bit of butter here and there, and I didn't mind a bit!

Arancini with mushroom and parsley, followed by pumpkin and sage ravioli with sage butter and pumpkin seeds. So it was only the butter, and sage butter is close to heaven especially with pumpkin ravioli! This is the second time I have had butter in 4 weeks. Not so bad.

Much to my surprise, being (almost) vegan is not so difficult. As with any food preferences, one of the secrets is to have a well stocked pantry and fresh staples in the fridge, and some prepared frozen meals.

There's been something I have been looking forward to trying.  Corn bread. So into the range of flour we now have. Vegan corn bread  Just like the recipe! You may notice there is a lot of baking and
carbohydrate eating in our house now. I am quite amazed in that over the past few years, we had both 'given up' bread, rice, pasta, and anything with white flour. I've taken baking on with a vengeance. The recipe was pretty firm, and the bread crumbly (no gluten), however just what I imagined. So into the freezer half of it goes.

Farm work this weekend - cutting the lavendar, planting broad beans, digging the red onions ready to dry, and David straighted the weeping birch. (Its an obsession of his)