Tag Archives: Helensville

Caterpillars, Leaves and Seeds

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Today started out clear, sunny and calm, but it clouded over as the day progressed.  It’s clearer now, but there is a storm traveling up from the South Island, and although it’s unlikely to travel this far north, we have been experiencing very strong South-Westerly winds, as can be seen by the cloud patterns to the west.

Our planned excursion to Helensville this morning was aborted half way there, as the road was closed due to a truck having rolled on one of the corners.  Rather than wait around for an hour or more for the tow truck to arrive and sort things out, we decided to head back home.

I spent some time this afternoon cutting back the ratty leaves on my tomatoes.  I spotted a couple of cabbage looper caterpillars, Trichoplusia ni, and picked them off.  I’ve posted images of these on the Nature Watch NZ site.  I love this site as it’s helped me to identify many of the unfamiliar bugs and plants I’ve come across since we’ve lived at South Head.

But I digress.  Last summer these caterpillars wrought havoc on my tomatoes – not only did they eat the leaves, which isn’t too much of a problem in itself, but they also like to tunnel into the actual tomatoes and many were spoiled.  From what I’ve read, I suspect that my tomato plants are becoming vulnerable due to there not having been any rainfall since Christmas.  It’s supposed to rain tomorrow, but if not, we’ll have to give our garden a decent watering.

Our hens like to eat the caterpillars, so it is with some satisfaction that I feed them any that I find.

Garlic

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The photo above shows how little garlic we have left!  But the garlic we harvested around this time in 2013 has lasted all year so we haven’t had to purchase any.

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Our garlic plants aren’t looking that amazing …  again, the soil has become very dry.  We did dig in a decent amount of compost during the year, but with our light soil, it just seems to become absorbed really quickly.  And of course, I’ve been lazy about weeding. The garlic bulbs will be ready to lift and dry when the foliage dries off and turns brown.

Leaf Mulch

The tawny leaves that can be seen lying on the the soil amongst the plants are from the huge Lilly Pilly trees that line our back fence.  There doesn’t seem to be one time of the year that they don’t shed their leaves.  At first this used to drive me mad, but I’m accustomed to them now.  Every so often I make the effort to sweep them all up and add them to our compost heap.

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We’d also started a bag of leaves for leaf mulch – but I must admit that although I started out really keen to keep the leaves separate, I lost interest within a few days of starting the bag.

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Lemon Grass

Another garden task we tackled today was the removal of an overgrown lemon grass plant.  I must admit that when we purchased it as a precious, tiny plant three years ago, I thought that a spot in the vegetable garden would be just fine, but it’s grown out of proportion to what I’d expected.  And I worry when it’s seeding (as it has been for the last several weeks).

I use lemon grass from time to time when marinating prawns or cooking up something Asian, but I don’t tend to use it often enough to allow it free reign in my garden.

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So, Ben had the task of digging up this unfortunate plant and we’ll buy a new one at some point and decide on a more appropriate place somewhere else on the property.

Seed-Sowing

Other than that, I’ve had a pretty lazy day.  Ben had pulled out a row of bolting celery a couple of days ago, so we’ve sowed the following seeds in the space freed up by its removal: –

Carrot ‘Touchon’ (Daucus carota var sativa) , Mesclun Lettuce Mix (Lactuca sativa), Radish ‘Easter Egg’ (Raphanus sativus), Pea ‘Easy Peasy’ (Pisum sativum) and Organic Rocket (Eruca sativa).

For those not familiar with botanical names, you’ll notice the use of the word ‘sativa’ or versions of this in the names of all the seeds.  Sativum, Sativus, and Sativa are Latin botanical adjectives meaning ‘cultivated’, applied to certain seed-grown domestic crops.

Horseradish and Cream

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My beautiful lily Oriental Lily Gluhwein is flowering is the moment.  I planted the bulb a couple of years ago, and this year the plant has produced two very full stalks of flowers, despite the paucity of rain recently.

This morning we went for an excursion to a farm near Helensville to purchase some fresh, full-cream milk.  For a small fee, we were able to join up with a cooperative which means that we will be able to obtain fresh, unpasteurised milk, almost straight from the cows.

I’ve made soft cheeses before, using milk purchased from the supermarket, but it’s not that easy to find full cream milk in this day and age of trim and ultra-trim milk.  And everything I’ve read about making cheese tells me that the best milk to use is that sourced directly from a farm.

We embarked on our 70 km round trip at around 8.00 am, allowing time for brunch at The Cafe in Helensville and for the purchase of a 4 litre stainless steel milk can from RD1.

The agreed rendezvous was a dairy shed at the end of a dusty, gravel road, and we arrived right on time at 10.00 am.  I’m not sure what I expected, but there were quite a few people there ahead of us, carrying receptacles of various sizes and chatting amongst themselves.

The fresh milk is stored in a huge gleaming stainless steel tank.  Once you have joined the cooperative, it works on an honesty-box system.  We are able to turn up on any day between 9.00 and 11.00 am to purchase milk and/or any of the small range of other dairy products available, e.g. yoghurt, heavy cream, light cream or cream cheese.

We purchased 4 litres of the fresh milk, plus a jar of the heavy cream (for our Christmas Pudding on Wednesday).  And I’m definitely keen to buy some of the yoghurt, as it has been made using Caspian Sea culture.  This is a serial culturer, which means I can use the yoghurt to start new batches over and over again, and it’s one of the few yoghurts that will culture at room temperature.

When we arrived home, I used 1.5 litres of the milk to make a simple curd cheese.  The result is a soft, white cheese which can be used for sweet or savoury dishes.  My 1.5 litres produced 352 grams of the cheese.  Once it has drained through muslin, the curd forms a soft creamy ball which can be crumbled, sliced or cut into cubes, depending on what you wish to use if for.  You can also blend it with a little sugar and vanilla or cinnamon for a dessert cheese.  I added salt to today’s batch as I wanted a savoury cheese.

Our afternoon tea comprised of some toasted, freshly-baked Italian bread, sliced gherkins (from last week’s batch) and some of this lovely fresh cheese.

ImageLater in the day, Ben dug up some horseradish roots (Armoracia rusticana) to prepare Horseradish Cream. The plant itself looks quite a bit like a dock plant, and the roots are very long and stretch deeply into the soil.

Freshly-dug horseradish root.
Freshly-dug horseradish root.

Fresh horseradish is grated finely and mixed with fresh cream, lemon juice or vinegar, a pinch of sugar, then seasoned with a little salt and pepper.

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Horseradish is a member of the brassicaceae family, which includes cabbages, wasabi, and mustard – it has a very strong (hot) flavour and Horseradish Cream is very popular in Finland, where it’s called Piparjuurikerma.  Horseradish is also a traditional accompaniment to Gefilte Fish.

Freshly-made Horseradish Cream
Freshly-made Horseradish Cream

Our horseradish has been in the same spot in the vegetable garden for about three years now, and is growing very densely.  The slightest piece of root will start a new plant, so you need to take care not to put trimmings in the compost heap!  At some stage we’ll need to move the plants out of the vegetable garden to a more suitable site.  One of the many gardening tasks for ‘later on’.

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Apparently hens like horseradish, too!  Lottie ate a good proportion of this pile while Ben was trying to photograph it.  Afterwards, she cleaned her beak, and seemed non-affected.  I’m not sure what her egg will taste like tomorrow, though, and it should get rid of any worms!

As well as being a vermifuge, horseradish is great for clearing the sinuses and also has anti-bacterial properties.  There is some interesting other information about horseradish on this page Lilith’s Apothecary.  I really value having horseradish in our garden.