Gardening

spring has sprung

Ah spring………….the weather may be crazy all over the place but spring you are definitely here.

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The grass is racing away, the days are noticeably longer and daylight saving starts this coming weekend.

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It is such a hopeful time of the year, as I walk under pink and white branches laden with blossom in the orchard.

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I am dreaming of the fruit I will pick. This is before the reality of summer droughts,  Nor’West winds  and pecking birds, but for now everything seems possible.

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You can palpably feel the energy outside. The first of the season asparagus are recklessly poking their heads up, and the shaggy heads of the Van Sion narcissus are blooming their hearts out in the orchard.

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Every time I go and pick some Rosemary it is a buzz with bees covering the blue flowers.

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The mint looks like a mini forest of fresh green stalks.

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So for today it’s all about the wonders of spring down here at Dry Paddocks I hope elsewhere  in the southern hemisphere you are enjoying spring too.

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spring colour

While the spring bulbs are dazzling us  and the  blossom is ethereal and elegant against the sky, this is a plain jane  time of the year for the vegetable garden. It is pretty bare and well a bit boring……well mine is.  The winter veg have mostly finished and its too early for new spring seedlings.
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I think that is why I swoop so enthusiastically into the rhubarb patch gathering up large armfuls because the red stems are just so colourful  and tender at this time of year. It is my favourite breakfast fruit dish in spring.
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I know a lot of people don’t like using rhubarb because they think you need large quantities of sugar to sweeten it, and as we all know we should be limiting our sugar intake. But, shock horror,  I don’t use sugar with rhubarb, I cook it just with fresh squeezed orange juice.
I fill a baking dish with rhubarb cut into about 6cm lengths bake it in the oven with the zested rind and juice from 2 oranges,  until it is just soft but not falling apart. I often add frozen raspberries after it comes out of the oven, from our summer harvest which adds more intense rich ruby colour to the dish.
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Guaranteed to make you smile while you  are eating your favourite cereal in the morning. I make this a lot for guests at this time of year
and it has converted many a non rhubarb eater. Try it love to hear what you think.

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My other colourful stalwart at the moment is purple sprouting broccoli. A little lemon zest, some garlic and olive oil,  a quick sauté in a pan and it’s ready. The colour is wonderful and the little florets are just as pretty as flowers in the kitchen.
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What is in your vegetable gardens that is giving pleasure at the moment? Do tell I need some inspiration.

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the beauty of almonds

 

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 When the Almonds flower you know spring is just around the corner, ok, maybe a couple of blocks away still.

The blossom lifts your spirits even when it is still cold and wintery. Today I spied the first blossom all on it’s lonesome
shining white like the first  night time star, but the rest of the buds are fat and ready to burst.

CY 750 flowers first, always in July,  431 flowers later in August/September, timing its flowering after CY 750 has finished.
Prosaic names that belie their exquisite flowers.

I had always accepted that some years I would not get any nuts, but that was fine by me,  the years I did, would be a bonus
and the beauty of the flowers would make up for any lack of a harvest.  But I have been surprised at how well they have cropped. Almonds are in flower here, when there is a strong likeliehood of frosts, and almond flowers are frost tender.  In fact one year, CY750 flowered with  snow on the ground followed by several days of severe frosts , I was resigned to it being a no harvest year.   Surprisingly, we had a bumper crop. I am not sure how or why that happened.

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Almonds are native of north Africa and fruit most successfully where the climate is Mediterranean. If you can grow nectarines
or peaches, you can grow almonds. Almond varieties are categorised according to the strength of their shell, and how easy it
is to get the kernel out. Paper and soft shelled varieties are preferred in home gardens, although hard shelled varieties provide
greater protection from summer rain damage. For us in the valley summer rain is a bonus, the challenge for us, is providing
enough  moisture for the nuts to form.

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Shelling last seasons almonds by the fire is a good winter activity, as I sweep up the huge pile of shells and look at the
small mound of almonds I often wonder if it is worth it. However, the taste of fresh creamy almonds is very different from
store bought.

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Our almonds go into our Beekeepers muesli and Ricciarelli biscuits that guests love so much, and at Christmas panforte.

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from the garden………………….. # 1

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 I love that quote by Audrey Hepburn……………………. I think of it every time I plant something new.

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As a breed gardeners are, and have to be, optimists, there is always another growing season, one when
you won’t be in drought, won’t have birds digging up seedlings or eating anything and everything that is
edible. It will be calm, the fruit will cling to the branch and I will have fruit to harvest.
Get the picture?

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This time of year, is a busy time for gardeners, the autumn clean up plus, all the other tasks that accumulate.
I have been planting my garlic and I just know it will be the biggest and juiciest crop I will ever have grown,
note to self………..  remember to feed and water at the correct time. I have had a talkative companion darting
around my head, a fantail (NZ native bird) it came so close and was not at all afraid of me.

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The crab apple arch is looking fantastic,and this year is a bumper crop with  lots more fruit than last year, the low afternoon
sun was striking them at just the right angle to make them glow scarlet. I am a little short of flowers at present, so have put
them on the mantelpiece and in urns as flower substitutes.

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The gourds always give me pleasure, they last for months and I pile them up outside and inside.

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Although the sun is shining now, we have had our first frost which is unusually late, but it does signal the end of
tomatoes and courgettes which have loved this endless  warm autumn.  Time to pull them out.

But, as one crop finishes, there is another seasonal marker, the olives are changing colour and look just like black
pearls on the trees. The local olive press will be gearing up soon. The birds are pecking at the olives as well, it is
still so dry here they are hunting out anything for moisture, and who can blame them?

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