Thursday, March 24, 2011

Damsons and Feijoas

Some of my favourite harvests recently have been fruit. This is quietly exciting for me as it feels like the next step up from providing our own vegetables.

Damson plums, which look so yummy but are in fact very tart. They are obligingly all ready to pick at once which is good for jam making. Although I have to confess that I have so many plums in the freezer that I thought these would be better served by donating them to the preserve making ladies who are busy making items for our upcoming kindy harvest fair. If I do see a jar of damson jam, I might just have to buy one though.

And feijoas. Those fruit that kiwi's are so fond of and no one else has ever heard of. I planted five trees as a windbreak for my food forest area a couple of years ago. I took the flowers off the first year, and this year I didn't think they were going to produce anything due to a viscous bronze beetle attack on the flowers, so I was surprised to find they have quite a decent crop on them. They ripen over time, falling to the ground when they are ripe, and the pukeko haven't bothered with them so that makes life easier for me. In a couple of years I might be leaving bags of them on unsuspecting people's doorsteps, but for now we are enjoying them very much.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Are they ready yet?

Note: I wrote most of this blog post early last week, and then it sat there, unpublished, till now. In the meantime we harvested our flora last Friday, and now have fingers crossed for not too much rain for the syrah.

I have a new toy to play with this grape harvest season. A refractometer is a nifty piece of equipment that measures the sugar content of liquids, in this case the grape juice. Depending on your grape variety, you usually have a % sugar  (also known as 'Brix' if you want to sound technical) that you are aiming for at harvest, so it dictates when you pick them. Sugar content is particularly relevant for grapes because in the fermentation process it converts to alcohol.

I do berry sampling. This involves trying to pick random berries from throughout the vineyard, trying not to favour a particular part of the bunch (i.e. top vs bottom).

Then you squish the juice out - this is low tech way. In a proper winery they do have a more sophisticated way of doing this. 
Syrah juice ready to test.

2-3 drops go on the little screen, then you look in the eyepiece and read off the number (can't take a photo sorry). 

And since there is always loads of juice left, my favourite part is drinking it afterwards. The Flora and Pinot Gris is at 23% at the moment, so we are wanting to pick it asap, hopefully this Thursday or Friday. The Syrah is a 20%, it is always later, and we want to pick it at a higher sugar content anyway, so maybe a couple of weeks off yet.

I'll take my camera down to the vineyard soon - it is looking so gorgeous with all those lovely luscious bunches of grapes hanging there. 

Saturday, March 5, 2011


My  blogging inclinations have been stifled in  the aftermath of the quake. I cannot imagine what it must have been like, and then living with the devastation and the aftershocks. Our little island has been trying to do it's bit and has been fundraising in all sorts of ways.One of the coffee shops has been donating $3 from every coffee sold, the gym and rugby club are doing a sponsored run amounting to the distance to Christchurch (1600km), the yoga teacher is doing a class where all participants money is donated, the zumba teachers are holding a findraising party, one of the schools has had a mufti day, the other a coin trail, even the bank manager was frying sausages outside the bank yesterday for donations to the Red Cross. The ferry company donated one days revenue from the cafe - although I'd like to see them donate revenue from ticket sales, which would be rather more significant. I'm helping a friend make up some boxes for 500 friends which seems quite well organised. 

I thought Lynda Hallinan's suggestion of planting bulbs as a gardeners remembrance was a thoughtful idea. We've bought some hyacinth bulbs for indoors, some anemone for planting in pots outside, and some triteleia (also known as spring stars) for outside.

The people who have managed to find humour in the situation have my admiration, like the story in the paper of the guy fishing in the flooded streets, and the boulder for sale on trade me that will 'improve indoor/outdoor flow'. Here's something from the garden that I spied out the window a couple of days ago that made me smile.

Alex in a wine barrel doing his bit to decorate the garden . He's colouring in the edges with chalk.