Coffee or Tea? Both, in the Garden Please

I love coffee! Let’s just get that out of the way – I love that morning hit and pick me up…and to make things even better my lovely partner bought me an espresso machine for Christmas! Yay! Now I can make an amazing latte, for breakfast! No better way to start the morning. IMG_8899.JPGBUT, the environmentalist in me cringes a bit every time I make one. I think of all of those little capsules, not being recycled and ending up straight into the landfills. Not good at all for anyone. But I have figured a few things out, and make my morning habit a little less harmful. First of all, the machine I have is a Nespresso. Amazing coffee and company for a number of reasons. By 2020, Nespresso will sustainably source 100% of its permanent Grand Cru range (the range I use), so you know your coffee is coming from a healthy and well looked after source and work force. It’s important to know that it is sustainably managed right from the beginning. Secondly, Nespresso also recycles their capsules, making them into new capsules again, thereby reducing the impact of continually producing aluminum. You just simply have to drop them off at the closest center. In other words, the company is making steps forward to make a difference for the environment.

However, talking about the company is not the reason for my post. Shocking I know. Rather I want to share how amazing coffee grounds and tea leaves are for your garden and how you can start making small changes at home to help out with your garden. Composting with coffee and tea is a great way to make use of something that would otherwise fill up landfills. Coffee and tea add nitrogen to your compost pile. There are a number of ways you can use it, one by adding to your pile, or it can be added directly to soil as fertilizer for your plants. Coffee grounds add organic material to your soil, which improves drainage, water retention and aeration in the soil, just add it in around your plants.  I like to add it to the compost pile as I find it helps to break down the other organic materials and the worms love it! Moist tea leaves added to the compost bin increase the speed with which your pile decomposes as well. Most tea bags are compostable, but 20-30% may be made of polyproplene, which will not decompose. These will feel slippery to the touch and have a heated sealed edge. Still fine to use in the compost bin, just know that you will be pulling out tea bags later on.

So what does this have to do with the espresso capsules. Well it’s actually quite easy to get the grounds out of the capsules and make use of them in your own garden. I maybe spend 10 minutes a week on this and provide my garden and compost heap with the extra boost it needs. Simply cut the top open in a cross with a knife and scrape out the grounds into a bowl or your bin. And then of course store your emptied capsules until you are able to drop them off at a recycling center which accepts them. Easy peesy and you’ll probably feel pretty good about lessening your ecological footprint as well. And obviously espresso capsules are not the only coffee people drink – so any grounds are great to be used in the garden or compost bin. Your plants will love it!

Coffee grounds can also be used for:

  • Mulch for plants
  • Keep slugs and snails away
  • Some say it is a cat repellent (I use lemon balm herb for this planted among the vegetables)
  • Worm food for vermicomposting

Just remember that if we all do these little things, it will make a huge difference in the end. So enjoy your morning coffee or tea without the guilt, and keep your garden ticking away happily.

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A little kitchen DIY

So to be honest…I HATE my kitchen. I know hate is a strong word, but I have never liked it since we bought the house, but there is not much we can do about it short of spending thousands of dollars to renovate, and considering we would like to re-build one day, it just does not make sense. So until we win the lottery I am stuck with my very small gully kitchen. I mean it does the job, it’s just small, narrow and is difficult with more than one person in it. But enough about me venting about my kitchen…here’s what I did to give it a bit more character and make me like it a little bit more.

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Before we shifted in

The kitchen is grey – everything is grey, cupboards and shelves…it was just very blah.  So I decided to paint out three of our cupboards using chalkboard paint. This stuff is awesome. Turn any surface into a chalkboard, not only very cool, but practical in a kitchen for recipes, lists, inspiration, reminders…it goes on and on. And I know the kids will love it one day.

So easy to use and for less than $30NZD I gave my kitchen the face lift it needed, for now. Be sure when you are using chalkboard paint to follow all instructions and paint in a well-ventilated area. I chose to be outside due to the gorgeous weather and had no problems with smell or fumes. Make sure the surface you are painting is clean and free from dirt – it is best to use a primer, especially if the material is a porous type. As the cupboard doors were already painted I did not need to prime and just ensured they were clean from kitchen grease and grime. FullSizeRender-5FullSizeRender-4

 

 

 
I grabbed a small roller and tray and covered the surface evenly with the paint. It will need two coats, but allow at least 2 hours of drying time in between. IMG_8876This makes sure you have a nice clean surface in the end. The actual painting took me no time at all, 15 minutes maybe. Super easy. It’s the drying time that takes forever, or so it seems. The paint goes on really smoothly and did not leave sticky air bubbles as some other paint sometimes does. Be sure to use a roller though so you do not get brush marks on your finished product. Once the doors were painted with two coats, I left them over night to cure and be completely dry before putting them back up. The final step is prepping them as chalkboards. You need to wait 48 hours for this step to ensure the paint is completely cured. When ready to use take a piece of chalk and completely cover the boards with it – just use the flat side and shade it on. Then take a damp cloth and wipe to remove. This will help to ensure that your first chalk writings do not stay permanently on the paint – a very important step! Now you are good to go and make use of your amazing creation.

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A much needed make over gives the whole kitchen a lift with chalkboard paint.

This paint is water based and safe for kids to use as well, so get your crafty thinking caps on and think of some amazing DIY projects you can do with the kids at home. Have fun!

 

Licking the Spoon…

One of the best things about baking all day in the kitchen is getting to lick the spoon! Or at least I think so. Unfortunately that has been put on hold for the last nine months, due to the use of raw egg in baking – a big bad no no for little bubs. But believe you me once I do my first round of baking after bubs is born I will be indulging in the necessary act of licking the spoon.

But for the real reason of this post – more baking and another great recipe. At the moment I am loving the combination of pumpkin and chocolate! Divine! Honestly I know some of my friends will cringe at the thought of pumpkin (especially since I cannot get enough of the ‘fake’ pumpkin spice latte -although not available in NZ). But honestly from biscuits to muffins, nothing beats a combination like pumpkin, chocolate and spices, and the beautiful aroma it creates in your house when baking. Mmmmm. So good.

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So out of my beloved and trusted recipe book came this beauty of a recipe for Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Muffins.

Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Muffins

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp pumpkin spice
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips
  • 50g melted butter
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (do the real stuff don’t cheap out and use the can – not as good)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup of golden syrup
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • Pumpkin seeds for topping

Method

Preheat oven to 200 C. Grease muffin tins.
Mix flour with baking powder and pumpkin spice. Add brown sugar and chocolate chips.
Beat together butter, pumpkin, egg and golden syrup. Mix baking soda with milk and add to wet ingredients. Fold the wet mix into the dry mix and spoon into muffin tins. Sprinkle pumpkin seeds on the top.
Bake for about 15min

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*If making your own pumpkin puree the easiest way I find is as follows. Halve your pumpkin and take out the seeds and ‘guts’ (add that to your compost heap). Wrap the pumpkin in tin foil and put on a try and bake in the oven at 165C for about an hour or until soft and your can easily put a fork through. Scrape away the flesh of the pumpkin from the shell and puree in food processor. Easy as. And way healthier without all the added preservatives.  Half a pumpkin makes about 2cups of pumpkin puree depending on the size

Enjoy!

Curried Kumara Soup

It was a relatively chilly day here in Central Otago, especially for it being the middle of summer. And nothing warms the soul better on a chilly and cloudy day then a nice warm bowl of soup. And for me this particular recipe is a bit of comfort food and having had an emotional day yesterday I was in need of a pick me up. It also helped that I needed to use up some cream in the fridge before it expired, so Curried Kumara Soup it was! (For those of you who do not know what a kumara is, it is a form of sweet potato)

This is thick, rich creamy and delicious soup that everyone will love, and you can adjust the ‘heat’ according to your liking. If you like it spicier, add more curry, if you prefer it on the mild side add less. You choose. It’s your taste buds after all. This is also probably one of the easiest soups you will ever make and it does not take hours of simmering and festering away. You can brew it up and serve easily for tea (takes about 1 hour).

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Curried Kumara Soup

Curried Kumara Soup

  • 75g buter
  • 2 garlic cloves (crushed)
  • 1 tsp curry powder (I like to use more to give it a good kick)
  • 500 g Kumara – peeled and cut into thick slices
  • 1 1/2 cup chicken stock (can use vegetable stock if you want to make it completely vegetarian -both work equally well)
  • About 3 cups of milk
  • 1/4 cup of cream

Method

  • Melt butter in a large saucepan, add crushed garlic and curry powder
  • Add Kumara (peeled and sliced) and cook in butter for 1-2min
  • Add stock, cover and cook for 10-15 minutes
  • Puree in sauce pan, thinning with milk. Add the cream and reheat without boiling. Try to remove all the lumps.
  • Serve with bread (naan is good if you want to stick with Indian theme, I made foccacia today – but any bread is good – so choose your favourite and go with it)

*I tripled the recipe today so I could put some in the freezer for later when bubs arrives.

Enjoy!

Red Red Raspberries

Who doesn’t love raspberries? Such a delicious and refreshing treat in the summertime and I cannot get enough of fresh berries – I miss them so much in the winter.

Raspberries are not only delicious, but amazingly healthy for you as well. They are high in fiber, and contain Vitamin A, folate, antioxidants and numerous minerals. The juice contains Vitamin C and the little seeds contain Vitamin E. No guilt eating these at all.

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Raspberries are like a weed! They multiply quickly and readily, so be sure you are happy with where you have decided to plant your bush. Raspberries need rich, deep soil that drains well year round. They are not happy with soggy feet. If planting a new bush, early spring time is best. I however am not following this rule as m lovely neighbour just dropped off some raspberry cane trimmings and they need to get into the ground. These trimmings were from her well established stock and they should take well as it is similar soil and area that they are being replanted too. Do expect some detail and wilting until the roots are once again established.

It is imperative not to let your raspberries dry out in the summer. Although they don’t like wet feet, they are not necessarily drought resistant. And with our hot and dry summers in Central Otago a watering of all of my plants every other day is imperative.

So at the moment it is a wait and see game for me, and hope that the canes take off nicely and we are going to have a beautiful bounty of sweet red delicious raspberries next year.

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Fresh From the Garden

There is nothing better than walking out to the garden and picking up everything you need for tea that night. A beautiful cauliflower, some potatoes, lettuce, peas, carrots and the list goes on and on. Most backyard gardeners probably do not use pesticides or herbicides, but if you do you for sure need to be washing your fruit prior to eating. If not I would still suggest rinsing and ensuring you are free and clear of all bugs. Nothing worse than diving into dinner and having a bite of cauliflower with a side of earwig…yummy! (Earwigs have got to be the most disgusting insects…I’m sorry I just can’t handle them and they thrive in floral vegetables as there are so many nooks and crannies they can hide in).

So the ‘lovely’ earwig is actually what inspired my post. I pulled a IMG_8699stunning cauliflower from the garden today to roast up for dinner tonight and once I got cutting it up out come the ear wigs – not heaps just a few but enough to make me cringe. So how do you ensure you are free of the little pests before cooking? Not all vegetables follow the same cleaning process…so I thought I would share some of my tricks and hacks for this.

Cleaning your garden vegetables naturally

Before cleaning your vegetables, make sure your hands are clean -using soap and water and washing for about 20 seconds. Also make sure your work space that you will be using is cleaning to avoid cross-contamination with meat and other fruit/vegetables for example, leafy greens, berries and root vegetables should not be prepared together. Clean cutting boards and knives are best to use. Really the point of washing is to make sure all visible dirt is removed and any pesky insects have disappeared.

Floral Vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, artichoke) – soak in a clean bowl with cool water and lemon juice for 2 minutes. Rinse after soaking with cool water.

Root Vegetables (potatoes, carrots, parsnips, beetroot etc) -you can use a scrub brush or just your hands cleaning off all visible dirt from the vegetable.

Leafy Vegetables (lettuce, spinach, kale etc) -remove the outside layer and rinse under cool water – again removing all visible dirt (no more than 2 minutes) -you will want to dry these before eating as well. I use the ‘tea towel whip’ method. Grab a clean tea towel – put lettuce on it for example – head outside and ‘whip it, whip it real good’, back and forth so majority of the water is removed from the leaves.

Tomatoes, cucumbers, peas and peppers just need a quick rinse under cool water.

IMG_8740If you are ever in doubt with your fruits or vegetables and are unsure or just want the extra clean – a little lemon juice and distilled vinegar with water is a great natural cleaner. (Although I would not suggest on using on berries)

Now back to my roasted cauliflower which is working away in the oven – yum, yum…a little bit of olive oil, Parmesan cheese and garlic scapes. Delicious!

 

 

Mmmmm Muffins

So probably one of my favourite things to bake is muffins. I have no idea why – I just love them and of course the variety. You could pretty much make anything you ever wanted. One of my old trusted and true recipes is Carrot Pineapple Muffins. So delicious and fresh and even better when my partner loves them too.

Carrot Pineapple Muffins

  • 1 cup white sugar (I use raw sugar)
  • 2/3 cup cooking oil
  • 2 eggs, beate
  • 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour (I use wholewheat)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking sodea
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (I like a bit more)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup carrot, finely grated
  • 1 cup, pineapple, drianed
  • Add chopped nuts if desired

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Preheat oven to 375F (180-190C)
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In beater bowl, combine sugar, oil and beaten eggs. Don’t forget to drain your pineapple at this stage so you can use it later on. In another bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt, and mix well.

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Add dry ingredients to the sugar and oil mixture and stir to moisten. Add grated carrots, pineapple and vanilla. Mix in – but be sure not to over mix.Fill greased muffin cups to the top and bake for 20 min (or until brown).

This makes more than a dozen muffins. I like to double the recipe and put in the freezer as they are great reheated and used for lunches or snacks.

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Happy Baking!

Becoming a Mum…

Being a mother is learning about strengths you didn’t know you had and dealing with fears you never knew existed
                                                                                                   -Linda Wooten

Starting the next chapter to a book that is never really finished, my life…motherhood.

Although my precious bubs is not due to arrive in this world until February, I already feel as though I am a mum. And I am sure that a lot of you felt the same with your first. The definition of a mother is a woman in relation to a child or children to whom she has given birth. But I think it starts before birth.

The moment I found out I was pregnant something in me instinctively changed. I started caring and worrying about this little life inside of me, who was not even the size of a blueberry yet. It seems hard to imagine. I became more cautious about things I was doing, eating and drinking. There was this instinct to protect. This feeling continued and still continues to grow throughout my last weeks of pregnancy. Now don’t get me wrong I did not curl up in a ball for nine months and stop doing everything. I worked up until before Christmas at my job and am still doing things around the farm to help out, which may involve the odd lifting, jumping fences and working with stock. But that first time I felt those little flutters of movement I knew it wasn’t just me anymore. It made it all the more real.

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A few weeks ago someone said to me that she found that there was nothing glamorous about being pregnant. I beg to differ.  I have never felt more beautiful and strong. Becoming a mum makes you realise you can do anything. There is an inexplicable love between a mother and child and it will only grow when bubs is in my arms. I have felt such raw and real emotion from total elation to immense fear and anxiety. Can I do this? Will I be a good mother? How will I know what to do? Be honest how many of you have felt this or asked yourself these same questions? It is a scary realisation sometimes – not knowing and trying to expect the unexpected. But every time I feel bubs kick the fear and anxiety is once again replaced by a love and excitement I cannot explain.

I am 36 weeks pregnant today and know that very shortly our lives will forever be changed. And I cannot wait to hold bubs in my arms. We do not know what we are having and I couldn’t be more excited to meet our precious little one. (I think it’s a girl, just because we cannot decide on a name -lol) We are as prepared as we can be for this next chapter and I am sure both my partner and I will have moments where we don’t think we can do this, but we can and we will. That is what family is about. Being strong and working together. We will get through and we will love with all of our hearts.

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There is such a special sweetness in being able to participate in creation.
                                                                                                    -Pamela S. Nadav

An Unexpected Frost

Remember that I live in New Zealand and that we are supposed to be in the heat of our summer – but the other morning we hit 0 degrees! What is happening? And yesterday we were back up at temperatures of 33 degrees. (Ahhh -not easy to cope, with a bun in the oven)

Back to our chilly morning though. Unfortunately we got hit with a light frost – which does not bod well for our vegetable garden. My partner put the sprinkler on it in the morning to hopefully save some of our crop and it was steaming because the water was warmer than the air. For the most part we are looking alright -except for our poor pumpkin plants. I planted a Hybrid Grey Crown Pumpkin (seeds for Yates). Pumpkins are long term crop and take approximately 4 to 6 months to fruit depending on the climate. Which causes a bit of a problem with the random frosts of Central Otago.

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So I have some damage on the leaves. Dead leaves mean no photosynthesis, which means no more growing. However there is still some hope. With a little pruning and being sure not to cut the main stock I have hopefully salvaged our pumpkin crop for the year. Getting rid of the dead leaves (as long as they are off-shoots from the main stock) should still provide a few pumpkins. I was lucky enough that they had not yet flowered so there was no damage to the potential fruit. Fingers crossed it works. Roasted pumpkin from the garden in the fall is delicious!

For more information on pumpkins check out Kiwi Gardener.

On the plus side – when I was working with the pumpkin I noticed we have our first cauliflower of the season. Yummy! IMG_8699Cannot wait to roast it up for tea one night. Yes I love all vegetables roasted – it’s really the only way. Brings out a whole new level of flavour. And if you really want to make it sinful try a burnt butter sauce with it – I would not suggest doing this every time though for obvious reasons. And curried cauliflower is also delicious and serves well with an Indian inspired night.

 

My wee helpers in the garden this morning. I plant lemon balm herbs sporadically to keep him from using the garden as a giant litter box. Works a treat! Happy Gardening!

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20 Things I did in 2015

  1. Got pregnant! With our first child
  2. Traveled to Canada for my little sister’s wedding
  3. Had our Engagement party (9months after getting engaged in Aussie) and combined it with our 30th birthdays!
  4. Turned 30! – on my sister’s wedding day
  5. Started a small photography business on the Side (JAM Photography). I mostly do family photos but have done a couple of weddings.
  6. Learned heaps about farm life and all that entails and know I will continue to learn more and more each year
  7. Repainted the Master Bedroom when shifted onto our lifestyle block
  8. Renovated the bathroom-love my freestanding bath!
  9. Had my last tattoo removal session for one on my ankle and am very happy it is gone 🙂 -still have two tattoos I love!
  10. Cut back on caffeine -but let’s be serious – that’s only because I’m pregnant. I love coffee!!!
  11. Stopped drinking – sort of – again I’m pregnant – cannot wait for a glass of wine!
  12. Have grown my most successful vegetable garden to date and it’s still going strong. Love picking fresh produce for tea.
  13. Created a gender neutral nursery for bubs. Can’t wait to meet you in February!
  14. Switched to using a lot more eco-friendly products (more to come on this)
  15. Did my first rouseying when shearing our new lambs in the last week of December.
  16. Created a feather mobile for bubs. Love it! Who knew I was so crafty!.
  17. Caught up with good friends and family back home in Canada who I have not seen in 2 years. Miss you all heaps! x
  18. Took a weekend getaway to Akaroa with my amazing partner, Tony. Kind of a babymoon.
  19. Shipped all of my possessions over to New Zealand from Canada – it’s official now – I’m staying.
  20. Got dirty, broke nails, fell in the mud, shifted water, learned to work with the dog, shifted sheep and became a reasonable ‘farmer’s wife’ who is keen to jump in and get the work done.

Thanks for the inspiration for this post Melissa from Best Nest. A great way to recap an exciting year. And very much looking forward to 2016 and all the amazing things it has in store for me and my beautiful growing family.