25 April 2013

April in Two Vineyards

I thought it would be interesting to post these photos of two Victorian vineyards, both taken earlier in April, to show the difference in climate, soil conditions and environment at exactly the same time of year.  Both vineyards are a similar size, and undertook vintage within a week of each other.  But it's a good example of why wine from different regions can be completely different in its characteristics.

Photo 1 is Dalwhinnie in the Pyrenees region, about 2.5 hours north-west of Melbourne.  The rainfall there is very low, and the soil conditions very dry.  There is not enough rainfall to allow for irrigation over summer, so the vines and viticulture techniques have had to adapt to the harsh conditions.  This has given the fruit unique characteristics that produces extraordinary quality and internationally regarded wine. 

Photo 2 is Shantell Vineyard, the home of the Country Garden, in the Yarra Valley about one hour east of Melbourne, also producing premium quality fruit and wine.  It was definitely a hot, dry summer, but there was enough water to allow for some irrigation, and the soil conditions are much richer than in the Pyrenees.  And with just a couple of downfalls in the last month, the vines were still vibrant and full of leaves, and the surrounding hills quickly gaining back their green glow.

19 April 2013

Friday Night Dinner

This is my favourite dinner to cook on autumn/ winter Friday evenings after a day in the Country Garden.  It's my take on a Silverbeet and Goats Cheese Pie made up with brightly coloured silverbeet (I love that you can see the red stalks when you cut it) and whatever else is available in the garden.  This one also has leek, celery, chives and parsley in it, all mixed up with Holy Goat Fromage Frais.  

I often make my own pastry, using the fabulously simple recipe in Sustainable Table, but otherwise use delicious Careme puff pastry from the Barossa Valley.  It's the only pastry I've found that is just made out of the same ingredients that I use to make pastry at home.  Have you ever looked at the ingredient list on a standard frozen pastry? It's frightening!!  Careme is quite expensive (OK, about twice the price of other stuff) but it's more than twice as good, and when most ingredients in the pie come from the garden, it's quite easy to justify.

A Green Day in the Country Garden

And then a splash of colour!

13 April 2013

What I (don't) know about chickens after a year

For the last couple of weeks I've been thinking that I really should do a post about everything I've learnt in the last year that we've had the chickens.  I was thinking about the things that aren't in the books that I read, or that you don't really expect.  And then suddenly one night this last week the saddest example of that happened and made me think that I actually know nothing about the subject at all.  

10 April 2013

This week in the Country Garden

The zucchini has all finished.  The squash was cut back last week to the last few bits still producing and has now had a new lease on life, it's taken off again with more squash coming through.
I planted a few sage cuttings through the beds last year when we had a rodent problem as it's supposed to discourage them.  We haven't had any rodents this year, and the sage plants are now huge and taking over the beds!
 Winter seeds are now planted: fennel, turnip, carrot, beetroot, purple sprouting broccoli, broad beans...
The banana capsicum is still producing large quantities of capsicum, which are slowly turning orange and red, and there are many flowers still developing on the plants.  I'm very happy with the decision to just plant this variety of capsicum this year.
There is masses of celery in various beds all doing really well.  It's even growing in a polystyrene box with hardly any soil and still thriving!
A mixture of seed and seedling brassicas have been planted, with some space for a few more in the coming week or two.  This year we are sticking with Purple Sprouting Broccoli for its longevity of season and delicious taste, and trying a few brussels sprouts in their own tub.  The brussels got overwhelmed by other vegetables last year and didn't get anywhere, so hopefully we can get a crop this year.  We decided that cabbages and cauliflowers take up too much space for too long, are a constant fight against bugs and then ultimately produce too little to bother with in the Country Garden.
This year's crop of basil is the most successful we've ever grown, and it's still doing really well.  I've been making heaps of pesto and yet can't keep up with it.  It was planted in the tomato beds with marigolds and parsley as companions.
This is our third crop of beans for the season.  Not sure if we will get much from them, but there are plenty of flowers, so hopefully if the suns shines for a bit longer there will be some more beans before the season ends.
This bed has had a constant crop of silverbeet and kale since last year.  There's also some celery at this end and the second crop of beans hidden behind the silverbeet.
We have been experimenting growing leeks in polystyrene boxes as they take up so much space in the main beds.  They don't grow to giants, but as long as they aren't too crowded they are actually doing quite well.
And the sunflowers have now finished so I harvested the flowers to dry off to give to the chickens in the City Garden, although they showed no interest at all when I gave them a few to try...

06 April 2013

Slow Living Journal - March 2013

It's time to join in with Christine at Slow Living Essentials to review the past month of slow living successes.  Pop over to Christine's blog to check out what everyone's been up to this month, and perhaps you might like to join in as well.