Some years I have kept a diary – I recall when I was about 10 or so I had a Mary Poppins diary (I think) and I kept that regularly for quite a while. Every year I buy the Garden Diary published by the NZ Gardener magazine and I always start filling it in. But things get busy and my entries fall to a couple here and there and then somehow it’s next year already. This year will be better 🙂 – yeah right! But there’s always so many things to do that my days aren’t long enough. Each day starts with a grand dream of all the things I want to achieve in the next 24 hours, but like my diarying skills I never quite get there.
One of my dreams though, is to be able to teach people that everybody can have a garden of some sort. Unless one lives in an apartment most Kiwis have a small patch of land that can be used for growing something. Even in an apartment you will almost certainly have a windowsill or a balcony. As the world’s population increases, with the ever increasing demand for shrinking resources, it makes sense to take back some control of one’s own food production. Anyone can make a start, yes even you! Whether you live in a flat or as we do, on a farm or as most of New Zealand’s population does in a house with a section, you can make a change in your way of life to include some time to think about food and living, in the same sentence. Many of the reasons for thinking about taking the first steps towards a goal of self-sufficiency are linked with food, particularly with the idea of food security. The Civil Defence Authority has already intimated that we need to be prepared to look after ourselves in the event of an emergency, and that they no longer have the resources to cope as they did in the Old Days when we were told to head off to the nearest CD centre usually a school nearby.
The photo above is all about lots of things. I weeded a raised bed, moved a rabbit hutch and threw the weeds in for one set of rabbits. We have 13 raised beds, each 2.5m by 1m (excessive for most people) but by planting in a raised bed, the weeding doesn’t get overwhelming. This morning I went out and decided I’d pull a few weeds – and finished one bed. I had a sense of something actually finished, and rather than seeing what I still had to do I could see what I had done. We raise hens in our food forest (about the size of half an acre) so all of our beds have to be covered, unless I really want a bed weeded by the crew. We also raise them in our 1 acre orchard but that’s another story. The hens are there to catch bugs, fertilise if I choose them to do so, lay eggs and generally act cute. Most cities and towns with allow you to have a few hens within a set of rules. The photo also shows the synergies that can develop, even in a small space. Before I threw the weeds in for the rabbits, I moved the hutch (we do so twice daily but we’ve run out of grass in this crazy drought summer). The clean up crew arrived almost instantly to scratch out left over rabbit food and no doubt to spread rabbit manure around. Rabbit manure is THE best manure for your garden and we’re happy to spread it on all of our beds. You don’t need to have ten rabbits like we do but a neutered pair will give your gardens a boost and eat all your weed scraps. If you want to grow your own meat in an urban setting then you will (obviously) need an un-neutered pair.
In the weeded bed from this morning I harvested our onion crop. It’s not the best cropping things I grow but still, it was satisfying to finally be able to pull a few.
I was reminded of a dish that I used to cook for the children when they were younger that they enjoyed (or at least I think they enjoyed it). I recall it was something like roll out a piece of short pastry, slice some onions, put the pastry in a flan dish, grate a little cheese, add this with the onions to the pastry casing and add any dregs of cream and bake. I can’t find that book this morning but this recipe is about the same, only posher. We’re really lucky to be able to enjoy fresh raw milk and cream at the moment but store bought cream will be fine.
Lyonnaise onion tart
1 sheet of short pastry (or more to fit your flan dish)
2 large onions, peeled and chopped
3 to 4 T of butter (we’re making our own at the moment – it’s still cheaper to buy cream on special at the supermarket and make butter than to buy butter)
1/4 pint of cream (about 150ml)
1/4 pint of milk
80 to 100g cheese grated
pinch of nutmeg
salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to about 190 degrees C
Press the pastry into a flan dish, prick the bottom with a fork and bake for maybe 10 minutes. Set aside to cool a little. Turn the oven down to about 170 degrees C.
Sauté the onions in the butter until they are soft and transparent. Cool them slightly.
Beat the eggs in a bowl, add the cream and the milk, cheese and seasonings. Mix well.
Spread the onions on the bottom of the flan dish, pour in the eggs and milk etc, sprinkle a little more nutmeg on top and bake for about 30 minutes until the filling is set.
Serve with a green salad. Dinner done!