Sunday, April 6, 2014

Slow Living in March

March...month of brilliant blue-sky days, and crystal-ice nights, roads lined with delicate cosmos, beech trees turning golden, round bales freshly cut in the fields, sunflowers drooping heavy as they wait for their heads to be chopped off, rows of maize standing to attention, rose-hips fat and red.... Join me, along with Slow Living Essentials as I reflect on the month that was. 

Autumn, harvest time, is the season of year when the fresh produce just keeps on coming. We gather in an abundance of bounty from the land and our meals are richly full of God's goodness and blessing. with few exceptions our food is as local as this farm. 
For health and strength and daily food we praise your name oh Lord. 

As we gather in the harvest, we preserve and prepare for the winter ahead as fast as we can, no slow living in this department, just bubble, bubble, toil and oh so much blessing. We are full to bursting with laden shelves and no more room in fridges and freezers. Herbs dry in the sunny kitchen window before being stored in glass jars. We gather in large bunches of mint, sage, thyme and oregano before the frost steals them away. Potatoes and gem squash are dug and picked and stored in the dark. Rusks are baked in huge batches, as are trays of nutty granola. Ice-creams are  made to order: fresh peach, pear caramel, vanilla pod and toasted coconut. We make cheeses and cured meat, most for sale and some for storage. The fruit trees are laden with fruit, ripe for the picking and falling and lost unless we use them.
Here's some more of what we prepared in March to keep us going for the year:
bunches of rhubarb stewed and frozen
peach and raspberry jam 3 1/2 jars
peach chutney 5 1/2 bottles
pears bottled
peaches, apples and pears cut in chunks and frozen
a crate of apples dried
Green beans frozen in innumerable quantities
 2 jars dilly bean pickle
6 jars curried beans
marinated green peppers
spiced brandy and apple chutney 6 jars
pear and green pepper chutney 6 1/2 jars
apple lavender jelly 4 jars
apple sage jelly 5 jars
apple thyme jelly 6 1/2 jars
apple rosemary jelly 5 jars
apple rose geranium jelly 9 jars
apple cinnamon sauce 13 tubs
apple mint sauce 10 bottles

My Elastic Mom nature balks at waste and so I use parts of plants that traditionally go uneaten. Brussel sprout and broccoli leaves are great chopped into soups. Beetroot leaves are used like swiss chard. Baby carrots, leaves and all are pretty in a stir-fry. I also cook the whole of a leek, not just the white bits. Sometimes I use the green bits and the white bits separately depending on the recipe. Young pumpkin leaves are one of the most delicious vegetables if cooked the right way. 

We have grown veggies in our tunnel for three summers now. The first summer our cabbages were magnificent.... unknown to me our gardener was spraying them with poison until I found out. The second summer our cabbages were moth eaten and riddled with aphids... disappointed, we ate them anyway, just washing them really really well. This time I have found a green solution that is working for us so far.... just cover the brassicas with fine netting to keep the moths away. 

As the summer crops come to their end, they make way for our winter crops. I was given a heap of cabbage seedlings. Hopefully they weren't planted too late in the season. We have also sowed leeks, onions, kohlrabi, turnips and more. I follow a very carefully planned crop rotation in our tunnel. Autumn brassicas follow legumes. They enjoy the remnants of lime that was dug in last winter for the spring legumes. 

That darn sock (see my Slow Living in Feb post) is proving to be a lot more difficult to knit than I thought it would. The pattern was ambiguous, but I think I have it figured out. I am persevering one stitch at a time. I have turned the corner, literally, around the heel and on my way to the toe. 

Decadent Dad is on a steep learning curve in all meaty things smoked and cured. The inhabitants of our little town have caught a whiff of the smoky wind of his charcuterie and he can barely keep up with the demand. The three main resources that he is using in this exciting new adventure are the books, Salt Sugar Smoke by Diana Henry, Preserved by Nick Sandler and Johnny Acton and the dvd, Pig in a Day by Hugh-Fearnley Whittingstall. So far he has made sweet cured bacon, smoked bacon, smoked and unsmoked pancetta, paprika and chilli pancetta, 2 types of chorizo sausage (a paprika and fennel spiced salami-type sausage), and coppa, 

 I have joined our local garden club. Being isolated on the farm, it is great for me to be join with some of the the ladies in our community for a monthly meeting. In March we walked through the veld examining veld flowers and grasses. Surprisingly, a lot of the so-called weeds are useful medicinal herbs or food plants. 

 Not much beats an afternoon ride through the farm lands, enjoying the magnificent landscape and glorious wild cosmos flowers. 


  1. Idyllic though I know it's hard work!

    1. It's such a pretty time of year here, best time for visitors....

  2. Lovely photos and a productive month. I know this may sound like a silly question, as silly as people asking me if there are kangaroos on the harbour bridge...but being on a farm in South Africa ...are there wild animals there on the farm? Hope I don't sound silly .

    1. Hi Kim, not a silly question, there are lots of smaller wild animals on the farm, not elephants, lions, giraffe, rhino and crocodiles, those have long since been eradicated by the farmers. We do have a few fallow deer, impala, springbuck and lots of smaller buck, also porcupines, anteaters, meercats, mongoose, wild cats, serval (as big as a leopard), springhares which look like a hare cross wallaby, jackal, polecats and the bird life is magnificent. We have eagles, plenty of owls and my favourite seasonal visitor, the secretary bird. Of course, many many more too.I have seen an aardwolf in the area, and warthogs. There are bush pigs too, but not on this farm, thankfully. Then we also have some poisonous snakes like rinkhals (a spitting cobra) and puff adders, and lots of smaller reptiles. There are quite a few game farms in the area which are stocked with some of the larger game, mostly for hunting purposes and of course we have plenty of game reserves across South Africa which are a wonderful treat to visit.

  3. I'm glad Kim asked that question because I wondered that too! Sorry Cath, because I know what it's like to be asked the same thing about snakes and kangaroos here in Australia!
    And I totally agree, Autumn time is harvest time with produce galore….so good!!! Beautiful pics and you've inspired me to dry some of our apples too!

    1. Thanks Evi, I was just over at your site looking at your bags of apples and enviable strawberries.

  4. Wow you've been busy!!! Amazing set of pictures. As Wendy said in her comment 'Idyllic' , can only imagine all the hard work.
    Those sausages looks delicious, we have a speciality here called 'diot' (the most delicious has cabbage added) which look very much like yours.
    The deer always get our cabbages.
    Have a wonderful april.

    1. We are on the lookout for recipes to try out, i'll google 'riot'. I am guessing it's a French name. I am looking forward to a little rest from the harvest once the frost comes.

  5. What is in the pink jars Cath? Busy busy busy productive month for you as always. Feel quite lazy when I read it!

    1. Oh, those are the different apple jellies - with their identifying herbs. Sweet and savoury. Lavender and Rose-geranium jelly for scones etc, and the rosemary, thyme, sage jellies with added vinegar for eating with meat or cheese. The recipes came from Salt Sugar Smoke. Yep it's plate spinning time here. We did well on the harvest, not so well in other areas. I'm looking forward to zoning out in winter.

    2. If you look closely you will see that the far left jar is cloudy. That's what happens if you get impatient and squeeze the muslin bag while the juice is dripping through. I thought I'd test to see if it really did make a difference. Well, it does.

  6. What a fun read - I grew up on a farm and the 'million dollar view' is what my dad said was the reward for the hard work because you weren't going to make any money! :) You definitely got the view!

    1. I can live anywhere as long as there is a view for my soul.

  7. Your farm is hive of productive activity. The photos of your part of the world are wonderful. I am not surprised your socks are slowly growing you must be so busy with other things!

    1. Thanks, it took a road trip in April to get the first sock finished.

  8. Oh, Cath, your first picture took my breath away! It is so wonderful to read your news and see your world through your pictures. The garden club sounds like fun - especially the focus on weeds as medicinal plants, plus the contact with other gardeners. You're right, if we were closer we would definitely be great friends in person!! xx