Wednesday, 20 November 2013

It's the glory!

The local agricultural show is a time of great excitement at Marmalade Cottage.

This is the third year the practical reinventor has entered some produce

The jam and marmalade prizes remain elusive, but the garlic came second as did the pineapple relish.

But that was nothing - nothing - compared with the home grown and pickled beetroot.

Not only a first prize, but an OTT rosette for the President's Choice!

And a total of $6 prize money.

Monday, 18 November 2013

In which the reinventors decide to make wine

It was a spur-of-the-moment thing.  We found the strawberries going cheap and decided we'd made more jam than we know what to do with.

So, off to the local shop-with-everything.  And came back $80 poorer but with gadgetry!

Pretty much any fruit can form the basis of wine - the naturally occurring sugars will ferment all by themselves under the right circumstances, producing alcohol.

First mash your fruit. Then add water and the right kind of yeast.

And a Campden tablet and some stuff to encourage the yeast and rather a lot of sugar.

Stir it daily for a week. Then strain it into your demijohn.

This will be a particularly messy task and will take ages.  But, you know, wine!

Once it's in the demijohn, you need a special bung with just the right sized hole to take your air lock.  Don't even contemplate skimping on these.  As the wine does it thing, it burps and hiccups gas, and since you need to exclude as much air as possible, which means filling the demijohn to the top.

If you don't allow the gas to escape in a controlled manner, it will take matters into its own hands.

Now it's sitting in a cool, dark cupboard, and in a couple of months, we'll bottle it, optimistic that we'll end up with something dry, pink and bubbly.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Salad season

We harvested the first beans of the season today.  They'll be dinner tonight with our pickled beetroot.  Food metres: about 20.

In a couple of weeks, there'll be more beans from these seedlings.

Before the weather gets too hot, we'll be planting little patches of beans at fortnightly intervals.  So far we have three of 10 plants each.  Shortly they'll need a thick layer of mulch to cope with the Perth summer.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Red-stained fingers

We had our first beetroot harvest last weekend - nearly three kilograms, far too much to eat fresh, so pickles!

First you boil them and then slip the skins off.  Slice or chop (we did some of each).

Then you need your preserving agent, with which you combine your flavourings.  Vinegar does the hard work preserving the beetroot, and we've added fennel, bay, cinnamon and some dried lemon peel.  Smells lovely.

And here you have the finished product!  In a week they'll be ready to eat.  Just in time for the beans. Beans, beetroot and fetta makes a gorgeous salad. 

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Goings and comings

Joan, one of our rescued battery hens, died the other week.

She wasn't looking well on Saturday afternoon, and by Sunday morning she'd fallen off the perch.

We buried her under the mulberry tree.  The stresses of their early lives often mean battery hens die younger.  In the 18 months she'd been a member of the Marmalade Cottage CWA, she learnt how to roost at night, how to scratch for worms and slaters, the joys of dust-bathing and how much she loves fresh greens.

When she arrived, her beak and wings had been clipped and she had lots of feathers missing.  Straight away she took to life in the CWA hall, challenging for the ambitious role of deputy boss chook and feathering up beautifully.

We miss her, she had spark.

Shirley has also left, but for happier reasons.  She's gone to a young family who needed a chook who understood how to be a proper chook to teach some rescue battery hens the ropes.

Meet Beatrice.  Her former owners are moving house and their new place is not chook-friendly.

Things are a bit tense in the CWA hall as the girls work out the new pecking order.  Beatrice - having a reputation for escaping - is under house arrest until things are a bit more settled.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Maybe this year

While asparagus are pretty tough and don't require much special care, it is a few years between planting and eating.

This is the third year the asparagus have grown at Marmalade Cottage.

When you plant crowns, you need to leave them alone for at least two years for the plant to sufficiently establish before you can cut the spears and have it survive.  For seeds and seedlings, it takes a good five years.

We might be lucky this year.

Behind the asparagus is a silvanberry.  It's bred for Perth conditions, but struggled last year.  We're quite pleased to see it's survived.  Perhaps there will be berries this year too.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Keeping the bees happy

This plant has been a mixed success.

It's red mizuna, an Asian stir-fry green.  It's rather too peppery for the reinventors' liking, but the bees think it's wonderful, and it's helpful in deterring nematodes.

It's also taller than the practical reinventor and looks quite impressive.  Last year's single plant produced hundreds of seeds, these are self-sown. 

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Citrus in bloom

This is the tangelo, both fruiting and flowering.

It smells divine.  Utterly intoxicating.

As does the lemon.  And the bees agree

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Gratuitous chook shot

And hasn't the passionfruit vine grown?!  It now all but covers the chooks' outside area, and it's been there only about 18 months.

In Perth, it's been quite wet the last few months for the changeover between winter and spring.  This was a rare sunny day, and the chooks couldn't wait to get out for their free-range.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

So, so fresh

Tonight's dinner included this:

 Some lovely, young garlic, which went wonderfully with this:

our self-sown silverbeet.   It was less than 15 minutes from picking them, by torchlight, to eating them.

Nothing compares.

Saturday, 17 August 2013


This needs no explanation.

Thanks Ali for the limes and Fi for the grapefruit.  Along with a similar pot of lemonade fruit, there are an extra 20 jars of marmalade on the shelves in the mud room of Marmalade Cottage.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

A little tart

Marmalade Cottage doesn't have its own cumquat tree, but lots of friends do. 

The reinventors' favourite way with cumquats is simmered in a sugar syrup until soft, then bottled with a generous slosh of booze.  In this case marsala.  They'll be superb in a couple of months.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013


The reinventors haven't bought a loaf of bread for a few years now.  We've been experimented with a fairly standard dough recipe.  The latest success is expresso choc chip raisin bread.
Messy but delicious!

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Sap rising

Spring at Marmalade Cottage is rather gorgeous, if you can look past the lush growth of weeds.

Waaaaay back at the beginning, the Creative Reinventor told the Practical one he loved the fragrance of jonquils.  So, in the 10 gardens they've had together, she's planted him a jonquil patch.  This is one of the few to be appreciated for a second year.

The white Californian Poppies have seeded for their third season.

The roses are in no doubt it's spring.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Paws for thought

Sometimes there's a tennis ball that needs chasing, and you just have to run through the freshly cut grass.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Defeating the chooks

Even though the chooks won't eat garlic, they have absolutely no respect for the reinventors' efforts at growing food and will scratch it out of the ground.

Laying fine chicken wire across the ground before the plants erupt from the soil is one way to protect them.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Finally, it's winter

Winter in Perth is a bit of a joke - usually it's sunny and 22 degrees during the day, and we almost never get a frost.
With climate creep, the roses refuse to stop blooming and the hydrangeas refuse to lose their leaves even when the new ones are budding up the stems.
So the practical reinventor took matters into her own hands.
A severe prune for the hydrangeas and the roses.

With these saved to adorn a mantlepiece.

Soon there will be the creative reinventor's favourite jonquils along with a variety of ranunculus, anenome and daffodungles.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Baking delights!

Sourdough bread is one of those holy grails of self-sufficiency - grow your own yeast, rather than having to buy it.  It's notoriously difficult to get a good one.  But!  If you happen to have a friend who has a good one (in this case, passed on from someone met on holiday) who's willing to share, it's a sure thing.

So, here is Marmalade Cottage's first ever sourdough loaf on its first prove.

Second prove.

And baked.

And the proof will be in tomorrow's breakfast...

Friday, 7 June 2013

All is calm

With Bernard's, erm, demise, the hens are getting back into a rhythm.

The reinventors, and although they've been too polite to say, we suspect the neighbours too, are quite pleased not to be rudely awakened before dawn.

Alice's feathers have grown back nicely, and Enid is much less skittish.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Great survivor

It was touch and go for all of summer, but the little lemon tree has survived, and with judicial application of the creative reinventor's wee, is now thriving.

We're working our way through the lemons - the skin is too thin for preserving in salt, but they're very juicy.

Monday, 3 June 2013


The practical reinventor is a bit jealous of all her sewing friends who have sewing blogs, but given the irregularity of posts here, isn't going to start one. So here's a random sewing post.
This is a Lekala pattern, so while it's been drafted according to the practical reinventor's dimensions, its instructions are all but unintelligible.  Fortunately, it's not too complicated a design and most of the pattern markings are clear enough.  The green is broadcloth, bought for $6 a metre and the birdies are what's left of a dress that never stood a chance.

Usually the practical reinventor just wings her buttonholes with the zigzag foot, but this time, she busted out the proper foot.  And, yes, reluctantly, it does a better job.

It was the perfect project for these metal flower buttons.

And it will go nicely with the sensible tweed Miss Marple skirt she made last week.

The vine that gave its all

The pumpkin vine that grew out of chook shed muckings out has finally died.  But not before it gave us 16 fruit.

We think that might be a record.  It is for us.

Even though the last few fruit are fairly small, they're ripe and sweet.

We've saved some seeds for next year.  Just in case the chook shed muckings out of spring don't contain any pumpkins.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

And now we can all get some sleep

Bernard is no more.

The reinventors have been working up to this for some time and now its done and we're feeling a bit out of sorts.

The agreement has always been that we will not keep roosters.  It isn't fair on the neighbours and it's unpleasant for the hens.  (Poor Alice has lost a significant amount of feathers thanks to Bernard's attentions.)

So when the chicken-who-started-life-as-Marjorie declared himself vigourously as male,  his fate was sealed.  It was just a matter of when.

We consulted every nonna we could find and debated the merits of axe versus a quick grab-and-jerk to break his neck versus fashioning a killing funnel.  In the end our bucket arrangement didn't work and we had to improvise.

It was mercifully quick, although the cliches about headless chooks are disturbingly accurate.  Then the messy bit began.

We put him in a pot of boiling water for a minute, hosed him off and proceeded to get him ready for the pot.  It's not nice - you rip all the feathers off, and there are a lot, not just big ones that are easy to grab, but lots of little downy ones that once you pull them out, stick to the skin.  Then there's the butchering bit - taking out the crop (we managed to rupture it, yuck), chopping off the feet, removing the innards. 

But there is a recognisable chook sitting in our fridge.  It's not as plump as what you find wrapped in plastic in the meat department, but I know exactly what it ate (grain, veg and snails, slugs and assorted bugs from the garden) and what chemicals it ingested (none).

Now we just have to decide how we're going to eat him.

Monday, 8 April 2013

No crapitalism here

The reinventors hate the modern push to buy, buy, buy: replacing perfectly serviceable stuff with newer stuff just because it's newer.

There's almost nothing new in Marmalade Cottage - even our animals are rescued!

Rarely do we have a problem with our thrifted, rescued and second-hand stuff.  Except last night.

The dishwasher, an elderly, but prestigious brand, has given us three and a half years faithful service, moving house with us twice.  But it died.

Straight to Gumtree, it was!  With a free one waiting on a verge, that, apparently worked.  Except it didn't


But there was, of course, another one, a suburb away.  And off we trotted.

This one is quite new, immaculately clean, efficient and very quiet.  It was $100.

Seriously - why would anyone buy new?

Sunday, 7 April 2013

It's all a bit confusing

This is Enid's first egg.  It fits into a teaspoon and is a little irregular in texture and colour, but it was neatly laid in the middle of the nesting box.

Enid has always been Enid, likewise Violet is still Violet.  But Gordon appears to be Geraldine and Marjorie is most definitely Bernard.

Shows what we know about chicken sexing!

Monday, 11 March 2013


This is a pot of garlic chives.  They a fabulous hit of intensity to a coleslaw and look much more understated in flower than they taste!

Saturday, 9 March 2013

The great survivors

These cavolo nero - black Tuscan cale - were sprouted at the reinventors' last rental property.  Then dug up and left in pots for several months.  They were the first vegies planted not long after we moved in.

They've now been through two summers and are heading for their third winter. 

The ravaged leaves at the back are the result of a bug and some attention from the chooks.  Each stalk is more than a metre tall, and look at the lush new foliage.  We can't bear to pull them out.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Not one of those, then.

Another vine from the chook pen muckings-out.  We thought it was a cucumber.

And neither of us particularly likes rockmelon.  Oh well.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013


This vine grew out of chook pen muckings-out.  We've had one enormous pumpkin already that, after we gave chunks of it to three  neighbours, fed us for four meals. 
This is the ripest of its next five fruit.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

And they're r-r-r-r-roasting!

A cheeky blend of columbian and guatamalan arabica beans, roasted on the creative reinventor's home-wrangled roaster, in our stable and sold only to the most discerning customers.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

The monster

The reinventors bought a range of seeds from the Diggers Club, including Boston Marrow pumpkins.  Which don't seem to be available any more.

The  plants, two of them, took to the spring garden with great gusto.  The muckings-out of the chook pen most probably helped.  The bees took to the flowers and we got our first pumpkin a couple of weeks ago.  It started off looking like this:

A mere two weeks later, it's considerably bigger than a basketball:

The reinventors are a little worried that, by the time this pumpkin is ripe, it will be so big as to be inedible.  Thanks again to the chook pen muckings-out, we have another pumpkin vine, probably a jap, that has fruit.  We shall not go without.