Sunday, August 25, 2013

Apple Bounty

Six months ago...

End of last summer,  a crate or two of apples picked from the old orchard.
Organic by default from years of neglect.

Wash them, chop them and juice them.

Sneak some sweet golden juice from the bucket.

Cover the bucket with a cloth and leave in the sink overnight so the natural yeasts can start fermenting. 

After a few days, strain the liquid into a clean bucket, add 2t brewing yeast and around half a kilo of sugar.

Top the bucket with a lid, place in a warm spot and release the air build up every few days.

Once fermentation has subsided (after a month or so) bottle the liquid, adding a little sugar to each bottle.

Leave the bottles in a cool place for as long as you can stand. 

The longer you leave it, the better it gets. Initial tastings may be a bit rough around the edges.

While you are waiting, sneak some into your cooking when the recipe calls for apple cider vinegar.


End of winter, a pleasing clear  fizzy apple cider, rather lip-numbingly strong, but flavourful.
In the UK they call it scrumpy.

Chilly Friday night: simmer two bottles of apple cider with 2 cloves, some broken cinnamon sticks, a pinch of fennel seeds, some slices of orange, 2 T sugar, some pomegranate seeds and a piece of vanilla pod. 

Strain the spices and served your mulled apple cider with a dash of grenadine and an orange slice in each glass. A delicious, warming fireside drink to accompany one of Decadent Dad's awesome meals.

Last year we dried apple rings. This year we also bottled and froze some apples. They made lovely apple and rhubarb crumbles. I think I may try apple cider vinegar next year.

This truly is an example of the abundance we live in, fruit free for the picking that will fall off the trees and rot unless we make the most of it. What's an Elastic Mom to do?


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Brilliant Barter: Swapping Skills

One sunny Saturday afternoon

a sweet friend came to stay for a day.

She shared her chef skills, 
teaching us along the way. 

We squelched the perfectly fresh, tiny young hens' eggs together with flour.
Under her expert tutelage we kneaded the dough, gently and softly, until it was smooth.

She showed us how to roll it and cut it.

Pepper tagliatelle.

We ate it with creamy leek, bacon and mushroom sauce. 
(Leeks and cream self raised, bacon and mushrooms specially bought for the occasion)


"Barter, what barter?" you may say. 
It was supposed to be a brilliant barter.

I attempted to teach her my cheese making skills.
The curd refused to set. 
I was chatting so much that I misread the thermometer.
So the intended semi firm cheese became an interesting chunky thyme cottage cheese.
I think I owe our chef friend another cheese making afternoon...
... a lovely excuse to have her back again. 

I have always wanted to make chunky cottage cheese. It tasted quite good. 
I wonder if I could replicate that flop.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Brilliant Barter: Lemons for my Larder

Trade: My cheeses for your gorgeously perfect lemons off your tree?

Sure! What a trade!

Win win all the way. We're both smiling.

We don't have a lemon tree. We use a LOT of lemons in tea, and all sorts of wonderful dishes and concoctions. The fragrance of a freshly picked lemon is dizzyingly wonderful. Earlier this month at the farmer's market, I spied this gorgeous tree, heavily laden with golden orbs. 

Oooh, I was envious.

A tiny spark of an idea flickered.

I tentatively asked.

She smiled, delighted.

I am thrilled. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

When the Freezer Melts

Oh dear! Someone (not saying who) switched off my outside freezers last week.


Thankfully I have been using as much frozen produce as I can recently.
Thankfully I discovered it while the contents were defrosting and still icy cold.
Thankfully there was no meat out there.
Thankfully it was a Friday night when I discovered it, so I had the weekend deal with it.

Plan of action: Rescue and salvage as much as possible.

USE IT as fast as I can- DON'T LOSE IT emotionally, try not to cry.


2 enormous bags of frozen peaches - destined for smoothies - gone soggy and brown
- toss in the compost.

2 tiny, 2+ years old bags of okra fibre - destined for paper making
 - toss in the compost.

3 large bags of gel sachets - destined for cooling cheeses
- set aside to refreeze later

15+ litres of cow colostrum - destined for rescuing orphaned calves
- feed to happy dogs and chickens over the next few days.

2 kg sliced rhubarb
- bake 60 rhubarb, apple and ginger muffins.

8+ kg sweetcorn kernels
- make a large bowl of delicious sweetcorn relish, use said relish in most meals for the following week

- make 5 litres of corn chowder, freeze this for another day.

- bake 36 cornbread muffins for the farmers market, keep them for the family. They are tasty, but dense.

2 kg diced celery
- make scrumptious chicken dish with cheesy celery and tarragon sauce, serve with corn relish.
It tastes much, much better than it looks.

 - make the worlds worst celery soup, feed it to your poor family, leftovers to the not so happy dogs.

Scrub out both freezers. Switch them on.
The following day, gratefully accept gift of mutton - a whole sheep. Freeze the meat in the now empty freezer.
Thank you Lord for your continual abundant blessing.

Thursday, August 8, 2013


This is the most exciting sight in months. 

It started on Wednesday evening.

We have waited ever so long.

Welcome rain.

( photos by my talented daughter )

Counting Chickens From Eggs

With our unseasonal snow last year, fierce frosts, chomping cows, horses hooves, lambs let loose, dancing dogs, pecking poultry and devasating droughts, I have learned ONE LESSON:

.... forget  counting chickens... 

...don't count your brinjals before they're picked...the frost got them
...or your strawberry popcorn before it's popped... the cow got them
... or your raspberries before they're covered ... the birds got them
... or your seedlings before they've flowered ... the hens got them
... or your peas before they've sprouted ... the mouse got them
... or your butter lettuce before it's salad ... the lambs got them
... or your tomatoes before they've ripened ... the drought got them
... or your parsley before it's garnishing ... the horses got it
... or your pumpkins before they've fattened... the horses, guilty again...

...lettuces ... slugs.. roses ... horses ... runner beans .... cow ... strawberry beds ... chickens ... 

You may wonder at all this.... BUT one of our cows, one of our horses and all the people, especially the man person here, can open gates.

As I said, forget counting chickens, the lesson is: 


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Growing Greens - Rearing to Go

The recent warmer weather has been drawing me out into the garden. I am longing to plant up the tunnel, however we are heading towards another cold snap this weekend. I'll try to exercise restraint in spite of the sap rising in my veins.

The ex tomato / new root section of the tunnel has almost been cleared of the last stragglers. Some dug-in river sand will hopefully please the carrots-to-be. I have left in one celery plant, the last few swiss chards and one clump of mizuna (Japanese Greens) busy going to seed. We are eating the gorgeous Spring Onions faster than they can mature, but not fast enough for the parsnip seeds waiting to be sown.
I will also be sowing salsify, beets, carrots, and later, some red onions into these beds. Last summer the salsify didn't germinate. It's said to taste like oyster. It sounds fascinating enough to try again this time.

The ex root / new potato beds have been well mucked with manure and compost and are waiting for the chitting potatoes which are just beginning to sprout.. I just have to remove the last of the rocket giants from one of the beds once they have gone to seed. I am hoping to sell packets of rocket at the farmer's market on Saturday.

The brassica's haven't performed very well over winter, unlike the commercial, fertilizer-loaded brassicas on the farm. They germinated beautifully and then have been stunted ever since. I think my homemade aphid spray was too strong for them. Organic gardening can be very humbling for a novice gardener like me. If they don't hurry up, they will soon have to make way for the miscellaneous veggies - tomatoes, peppers, brinjal and co., some of which have already started germinating in their indoor pots.

The leeks are slowly giving way to legumes, as we are picking them bed by bed through the winter. Nothing is more comforting in winter than cheesy leek pie, or leek and potato soup.The broad beans are looking promising, as are the mangetouts. There is no sign of the fancy foreign peas that looked so exciting in their packet.

The asparagus is still fast asleep, the rhubarb that we transplanted in Autumn is peeking out of bed,

the strawberries are biding their time,

while the giant garlic plants successfully fought their way through the cold winter. Only half the garlic plants germinated, so we will have hopelessly too few bulbs for the kitchen in the coming year.

I can't help fussing over my indoor seed pots ... spraying them, counting germinated plants, sowing far more than I planned to, planning the planting in detail on paper and online and generally hyper focusing in anticipation of a bumper summer.

The tantalising and promising seed names dance around in my head: Parisian Pickling cucumber, Little Gem lettuce, Purple Dragon carrots, Detroit Darling beetroot ...Cherokee Chocolate, Blondkopfchen, Brandywine and Estler's Mortgage Lifter tomatoes, to name a few. Ironically, it's the Moneymaker tomato seeds that haven't germinated at all.

Each seed type is carefully labeled so that I can identify their fruit later in the year. I have discovered that wooden sucker sticks work well for this task. The label follows the plants from seed to garden and back to seeds that I collect at the end of the season. I found coloured sucker sticks in town, so now the plant groups are colour coded too. Red for curcurbits, yellow for tomatoes and peppers, orange for roots, green for legumes etc.

The ubiquitous Flat White Pumpkin is called Boerpampoen (farmer's pumpkin) in Afrikaans. I confusedly labeled mine "Wit Boer Pumpkins". I am sure they would not sell well with that name in the now liberated South Africa. Sadly last year we lost our whole crop of weird and wonderful heirloom pumpkins when the horses stomped all over them. Each plant carries many more years of potential plants within it's seeds, so this was a big loss. The Atlantic Giant pumpkin seedlings, saved from the year before last,  are leading the way in the germination race. At least they can give us a whole lot of pumpkin for our effort.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Slow Living in July

July has been cruel to this dry and thirsty land, not a drop of rain fell on the parched fields. Mind you, the temperatures were milder than usual, and the clear days were balmy, just right for our winter holidays. 
Join me as I meander back, remembering some highlights of living slow along with other like minded bloggers at Slow Living Essentials

My brother-in-law kindly sent us a venison roast. In true Elastic Mom style, I managed to stretch the one cut of meat into 36 generous meal portions, entertaining visitors along the way. Meat bulked out with vegetables, grains and pulses always goes a long way. 
Here’s how I did it:
Meal 1: Roast venison served with gravy, mashed potato, butternut and steamed summer peas with peach and pecan crumble for dessert (served 6)
Meal 2: Individual venison pies, slow cooked venison meat with cherry liqueur, onions, mushrooms and prunes wrapped in puff pastry, served with salad and my mum’s awesome apricot cake and whipped cream for dessert (served 8)
Meal 3: Mountain-top picnic of leftover venison pies, carrot sticks, avocado slices, fruit, leftover cheese and crackers, and a friend’s marmite scone bake (served 9)
Meal 4: Venison, vegetable and barley soup that used up the leftover gravy and a heap of veggies from the freezer as well as the last of the meat (served 6)
Meal 5: The rest of the venison, vegetable and barley soup with the last few pies 
(served 4)
Meal 6: Venison stock made from the bones and used in another soup with sweetcorn and leeks (served 4)

My sweet cow Rosie finally calved, four months after the vet’s predicted due date. When the cows milk comes in, it’s more than the calf needs, so I froze a whole lot of her colostrum as a milk bank for sick or orphaned calves and lambs in the future.
Isn’t he a cutie. His mom is Rose and his Dad is Bramble so we named him Thorn. 

Besides that, there’s not much happening in the way of preparing, rather I am enjoying using up the wonderful stores of frozen veggies and preserves from summer. Winter time is a wonderful time for planning and resting from the hard work during harvest time. 

My cleverly creative hubby turned ill fitting denim jeans into shorts and worn out jeans into a handbag for our daughter. 

We also made newspaper seed pots in preparation for spring.

My husband told me off yet again for using commercial antiperspirants, you know, the unhealthy blocked glands, the aluminium thing etc, So I decided to explore my options and my bathroom cupboard. I found a foot deodorizing powder from Sh’zen  with all natural ingredients that I have started using as an underarm deodorant. It has a lovely fragrance and works well in winter, but I am not sure if it will be effective in summer. 

I am so excited. I found a whole lot of berry plants in our meagre local nursery. I bought the lot. So now we have blackberries, youngberries, red and black currants planted along the fence. 
Our tunnel is still ticking over with the winter salad greens and plenty of leeks.  We are also digging in the green manure and lots of compost in preparation for the spring seedlings that are just starting to germinate indoors.
Oh, and my chicory experiment from last month's Slow Living post didn't work. The leaves grew out paler, but not white and crisp as I had hoped. 

My daughter and I sewed this sweet denim skirt.

I also sewed another two shwe-shwe cushions for the guest cottage.

My designer husband is always creating something beautiful. Here are a few more of his beauties.

Lion Brand Yarns has heaps of free online knitting and crochet patterns. This is not a new discovery for me, however some of their patterns (read potential projects) have caught my eye recently.

We are part of a small farm church community that meets on Sunday mornings. We hosted the get togethers for a few weeks in a row this month. I so treasure the fellowship of like-minded people, it was special having them in our home for a change.

We had a short but lovely holiday on our cousins’ game farm in the Karoo earlier in the month. 

The icy weather didn’t keep us from enjoying reconnecting with precious people, game drives, riverside picnics, bracing starlit outdoor showers, excellent fireside meals, motorbike rides, and our son even bravely swam across the freezing winter river in response to a challenge. 

We also hosted more visitors to the farm - 
Grant’s cousin and his wife who have become dear friends over the past year.

 and Nana, Grant's mum,  and her Australian friend. 

I love the change in routine that visitors bring to our lives - walks, horse rides, hearty meals, scrabble games and time together. Special family times were had all round. Seeing my son riding off onto the distance with his Nana was the cherry on the top for me.