Sunday, February 26, 2012

Rainy Relish

Before I begin, might I be permitted firstly a little whinge, then a bit of a rant. 

I believe I might be getting my second cold of the school year. I had one in the first week of school, which sucked the life out of me. Now, with the impending doom of week 5 hovering over me, I feel the first evil stirrings of a cold. You all must know that hideous, dreaded moment, when you suddenly realise all hope is lost. That scratchy throat is not the result of too much talking, or a late night. It is a bastard cold. To add insult to injury, I've got tooth trouble. My dentist will not be thrilled to see me with a snotty nose, so I'll now have to wait with a grumbling side of mouth (cavity location a complete mystery), until the cold dies it's last horrid, germy breath. 

We get a copy of the Sunday Star Times delivered each Sunday. Fortunately we never pay a cent because we have a lovely neighbour who slaves in the bowels of the Press building, running the machines that put the annoying inserts in the papers. I must admit, I do have more than a passing interest in fashion.  Well, I'm never exactly "in fashion" but am rather fascinated by the ridiculousness of it all. As usual, I cast my eye over the reader's fashion related question. Some poor soul was distressed by the thought that   3/4 pants might make her "legs look short." For goodness sake. People are now worried about how short their legs are!!!!!! What has this world come to. Our dear wee 7 year old friend is being teased (bullied) at school because he has a slightly unusually shaped head, and will be undergoing surgery to pin back his ears before long. I am so appalled that people are no longer able to go about their business without considering how far off the socially determined ideal they are, and what they should do about their perceived deformities. I, myself, am highly critical of my appearance and spent a small fortune getting my teeth straightened not too long ago. Why? Because I wanted to have teeth that looked more "normal" rather than sticking out. The orthodontist actually wanted me to have major jaw surgery as well, to sort out my little chin. Did you realise that "weak chins" are perceived incredibly negatively in the media, indicating some kind of pathetic weakness of character? Well I'm sorry, but short of spending tens of thousands of dollars to fix my chin, and therefore my character, I'm staying just how I am. And I don't think anyone who knows me would think I'm weak and pathetic. This is a call for everyone to celebrate their differences, and try very hard to avoid being sucked in by society's pressure to judge by appearances. Rant over.

As promised, I got stuck in and made some tomato relish today. Yesterday I salted the tomatoes and onions, and this was the result.
This is what it looked like before adding the spices, flour, sugar and the liquid from the vege salting process.
Halfway through cooking it looked like this.
 I am banned from pickling inside. It smells. So I use the barbecue. Not exactly convenient when it started to rain. I dragged the outdoor table with umbrella over to shelter my pot. Johnny helpfully told me to watch out for spider falling out when I opened the umbrella. I'm very glad to say none did. 
The brew is cooked. It is a bit runny, but I thought it would set a bit. Apparently not. 
My first ever relish. At the grand old age of 40 I carefully poured my first tomato relish into my sterilised jars. Housewives of the past would turn in their graves at my virginal relish making status at my advanced age. I am very pleased indeed. From the little bit I tasted, it seems a good brew, with a lovely fresh tomatoey taste. 
What will I be making next? Hurry up Oxheart toms. I want to make you into sauce. Or maybe green tomato chutney. 
Look, man in the vege patch. He is working on revamping the older part of the vege patch to fit around the greenhouse. He loves a project!
 The cherry tomatoes are fruiting vigorously in the greenhouse. We call these cherry bombs because they are wee explosions of flavour. I love gobbling them up straight off the vine.
Mr Jasper had a quiet day. He has taken over my 'cello bag. The base of it makes the perfect cat nest. He hasn't been near the lovely patchwork bed I made for him in ages. Sigh. 
Plaited garlic. I think it is quite funny how some of my garlic bulbs are just one single big, round clove. Strange. 
 Johnny made a pie tonight. It is a bacon, mushroom and egg pie, with onion jam and a bit of cheese. Yum. Lovely with a salad from the garden. Including cherry bombs.
If I am sick this week I AM going to take a day off to sleep. No point in getting run down this early in the year. 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Chief and the tomatoes

Greetings to all. Sorry it has been a while, but I have been flat out with school and other stuff, and haven't found much inspiration for blogging. The school year is racing along, with the usual challenges and fun. I was very tired getting back into it again, but am getting into my stride now.

Today was a very happy day indeed. It was two weeks without horse cuddles, and I was overjoyed to have a date with the gorgeous Chief White Cloud at Scarlett Oak. He has only been a riding school horse for a wee while, and I am one of the select few who get to ride him. Chief was quite strong and restless the first time I groomed and rode him. He has been in a paddock waiting for a rider since coming off the race track. Celine has leased him. Today he was so mellow and relaxed. I felt fantastic riding him. He is positively enormous at about 17 hands high, and just getting up there is a challenge. He didn't seem to mind my scramble to board, and didn't put a hoof wrong the whole lesson. There wasn't even a twitch of a shy or spook at any point. Instead of feeling all nervy about things like birds appearing out of nowhere, and the children moving around, he seemed to be very interested and happy. We worked on my position and his flexibility, doing transitions up and down, spiraling in and out and leg yields. I loved every minute of it.

After riding, Johnny and I took a trip out to Viv's place. Unfortunately she was out, but I had some fun horse hugs and scratches with Lewis, Ben and Lucy. Plus Oscar gave me a good sniff and looked pleased to see me. Then I met a delightful new pony who is there to be broken in. She was wearing a cover, so I didn't get to see her colouring, which is apparently very unusual indeed. Grey with skewbald patches and a white face and beautiful blue eyes. She was a friendly sweetie with me. I rang Viv tonight and had a big chat. She had a nasty fall off Ben last weekend (he bucked her off at an event because he wasn't at all happy). She has damaged her sciatic nerve and has some very impressive bruising. She was full of interesting news. I was full of sympathy for the fall injuries.

I harvested some cherry tomatoes and froze them today. I find them very useful to throw into soup etc. I also blanched and skinned 1.5kg of big fat ones to make into relish tomorrow. I am using the Alison Holst recipe which requires skinned and chopped tomatoes and onions to be salted and left overnight before spicing and boiling up with vinegar etc. I'll be banished to the barbecue, so I'm hoping for fine weather! My greenhouse has made tomato growing a real pleasure. I've still got the oxheart outdoor ones to ripen. They look like they will be good sauce toms. I've harvested my brown onions and am drying them, plus I spent some time plaiting the garlic. Tomorrow I'll have to take a wee bike ride down to check the apples on a local side-of-the-road tree. Oh, I've got a new bike too! She is called Aggie (because she is a mountain bike with Aggressor written on her crisp white frame). Johnny thinks I've taken the sting out of her tail calling her Aggie. I'm thinking he won't be amused if I get her a basket for foraging trips. I know you can get modern wicker ones from the bike shop. They are gorgeous, and I want one!

I've got some things to show you, so I'll take some photos tomorrow. I think I'll head for bed. I'm reading Te Radar's excellent account of his time living off the land "Off the Radar."

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Waitangi Weekend

Greetings to all. Sorry for the delay in posting but I've had a very busy week. Unfortunately I seem to have picked up a bug in my first week back at school, and feel grotty today. Luckily yesterday I was in good form because we had the Scarlett Oak Equestrian Show and Dressage Day. It was a great success. I discovered that Bay Sam can look very good indeed, and we won the best turnout class. Look Grey Sam featured too. I do like fussing over a horse getting him/her ready for action. The limited time nearly gave me a nervous breakdown. 
 Sam wasn't quite so beautiful in the paced and mannered classes. In fact he got stressed and silly. I had to strap on my safety vest to ride him safely, which was a bit unfortunate because I had my fancy riding gear. We did a very creditable effort in the dressage test. John thought I was talking to myself but I was constantly chatting to him to keep his attention on me. He seemed to find the activity overstimulating. You can see how high he is carrying his head in this photo. I did get it down some of the time, but I was pleased to do an accurate test, and we did get an 8 out of 10 for our final trot to halt transition, which was a fabulous result. We got 6th in the intermediate class behind 5 very experienced riders. Pretty good!
 I'm going to prize this ribbon because I really earned it (unlike the ones Emily and Viv give me because they have no interest in their winnings).
 Johnny had a very happy time this afternoon making Haloumi with his new cheese making kit (thanks Meg, Ryan and Henry). It is utterly delicious, and as good as any bought stuff. The yield was very good too. Haloumi is made to be grilled or fried, and it forms a lovely golden crust and can go melty in the middle if you cook it long enough, but has the most amazing squeak on your teeth as you chew it.
During the week we did the McLean's Island bike track, which is 15km of mountain bike track. My old bike isn't really ideal for such things, but I gave it my best. Riding horses has given me so much more confidence in my balance. Today I got a new mountain bike so that we can work on our fitness together lots. It is called an Aggressor (which I thought I could shorten to Aggie, which Johnny didn't think had the same tone to it). We went for a spin around the neighbourhood and had a great time. I even practised going up and down on the grassy hillocks in the domain.

Hopefully tomorrow I'll feel a bit more lively as we want to go for a bike ride, and I need to do lots of school work. I really hope this won't be one of my "catch every bug" years.