Sunday, September 25, 2011

Almond and lemon cheese cake

Sometimes tidying up the fridge brings friendly surprises. Today I found some ricotta cheese in my fridge. It had already passed its use by date and nobody in this house was keen on cannelloni for dinner tonight, so making a cheese cake became the task at hand.

How to bake an almond and lemon cheese cake:

  • 500g ricotta
  • 250 g castor sugar
  • 4 eggs
Cream until very smooth, about 5 minutes with a mixer or a food processer, then add
  • 200g butter - salted (melted in microwave)
  • 3 lemons - rind and juice
Mix thoroughly for another minute or so, and then transfer the mixture into a bigger bowl before you add and fold under carefully:
  • 400g self raising flour - put through sift first
  • 110g almond meal (one small paket)
The lot goes into a spring form lined with baking paper.
Bake for about 45min at 160degrees celsius.

The cake turned out to be a beautiful big and tasty cake. We ate it after a short cooling down period with some vanilla ice cream. Here is the proof:

Spring is here

The rainfall for this September is already above the long-term average, with more rain predicted for later tonight and the coming week. We had 42mm in the last seven days!

The garden is looking fresh and green. Over the weekend I planted two artichokes and about 10 lettuce plants that I received from my friend Gay.

I set the artichokes between left over capsicum plants from last year which looked like they were sprouting and showed some new leaves. I am not sure whether artichokes and capsicums are companion plants. A bit of research found that artichokes grow well with sunflower and tarragon. The plants don't dislike each other so all should be right, although it might be a bit late in the year for artichokes in our climate anyway , but  that can't be changed now.

The lettuces were put into one of the two new garden beds that so far had only been filled with jarrah saw dust and woodchips. Lifting the soil I found that the winter rains had helpted turn this into some decent looking earth already. However, below each plant I ensured there was plenty of compost to give them a good start. The predicted rain will hopefulla assist as well, as the first sunny day already already give them a bit of a hard time. But it should be right.

Compost is ready for more planting after the new moon this Tuesday. I emptied one of the three bins and put the compost into an unusued small rubbish bin that I found behind the house, no longer being the right size for the council service. It comes with a lid and has wheels as well, so just the right thing to keep the compost until it's needed and to easily wheel it to the garden bed for the new plants.

I want to return the borrowed green tumbler and cleaned and scrubbed it to regain the state it was in when I got it three years ago. I consider myself as very lucky to have friends that let me borrow their compost tumbler. Lots of spring flowers are out and make a much better sight than the newly planted artichokes and the new lettuces!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Winter rain and new seeds

Winter has come back and dumped a lot of rain down on Perth. It is very windy and quite cold around 15 degrees celsius only. Both watertanks have filled up and the earth is moist and in good shape. The lettuces thrive and the tomatoes needed to be tied better onto their stakes to withstand the wild weather. It's real winter in Perth, but it compares well to similar days in April in Europe.

But as is has not been raining all the time, I could pick a sunny time during the afternoon to seed some zucchinis, cucumber, capsicums, eggplants, basil and a few sunflowers to attracts birds and insects.

I used three plastic seeding trays, filled them with compost and inserted one or two seeds into each segment. The idea is to see how the plants go and eventually cut the weaker one to have just one plant out, survive and start off strong strong. I seeded four to eight seeds in one or two rows, with the intention to repeat this process in about two weeks time after the next new moon.

Last year I marked each row off with the initials of the seeds but to no avail, as I did not give them the intention the seeds deserve. This year I left it, feeling comfortable that I remember what I seeded when the seedlings grow.

Both rainwater tanks have filled again after I started watering last week during temperatures around 23-24degrees. The rainfall record this year is looking better than last year although we have so far not reached average rainfall in any of the 2011 months:

201130.2 0.4 0 19.4 85 171.4 161 115.2 65.2       647.8

More details available here:

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Propagating bougainvilleas

Several times before I tried to have bougainvillea cut-offs grow roots simply by putting them into water. Only once it appeared to work but in the end nothing came out of it. This time I should be more clever.

The cuttings are from plants in my front garden on the side of the driveway that were growing in the wrong direction and intruding too far into the space reserved for the car, making it difficult to get in and out of the car without scratches from the thorns of the plants. I cut them off generously, knowing that at the start of spring they were about to rebound in no time.

I reduced the cuttings to about 15-20cm, making them small enough to fit into the pots prepared with good compost. I removed most of the leaves and selected branches that were already showing some growth to the side. I usually discarded the very tips and rather selected semi-hardwood instead of softwood.

Two different varieties of seedlings were available and I spread them across six pots. Straight before planting I dipped them into roots hormone gel, just because I had some. A friend said honey would work just the same. The wikipedia site on cuttings mentions it.

I was happy with the outcome of the work and watered in well the new plants. Again I embarked on this adventure without research on the internet, but today found a good article about propagating bougainvilleas again from Gardening Australia on the ABC website.

Cuttings is a new way of propagating plants for me. I enjoy the learning and believe that I picked a good day for this activity in the moon calendar, just a day before the full moon!

I decided to post the progress of the propagated plants into the same blogpost, easier to keep track:

18 September - leaves are wilting

Transplanting Fruit Trees

We used the winter period this year to transplant three fruit trees: one orange and two plum trees. All trees are mature fruit trees that have not been pruned for a while, about 10 years old, but that's hard to say. All have nearly the same height, around 3 m plus.

This was the first time that we have attempted to transplant trees. Julian doug them out carefully, pruned the roots and wrapped them with black plastic for the transport. The ute came again in handy and the first tree was tied to the car with the branches facing into the wind. Luckily there was not a big distance to travel.

The branches were held together with some plastic mesh as well. We had to dig out a peppermint tree to make room for the orange tree, the first one to be transplanted. 

We prepared the soil well at this end, lots of compost, worm tea and some bentonite to assist with the retention of water in summer. It was surprising how light the tree actually was with only little soil left on the roots. We easily carried it to the hole we prepared earlier and doug a bit wider and deeper than actually needed. This orange tree had quite a shallow root system.

We positioned the tree in the hole and turned it to match the space best. The leading root should position into the wind we were told. Fortunately the tree's new location is quite protected behind the garage door in a sunny corner or the garden.

We had to adjust the height of the roots to ensure that the trunk ended up again level with the soil. We left a bit of a ditch, to make watering in summer easier; and after a good soaking for a few days we topped the area under the tree with mulch, leaving enough space around the trunk to prevent rott.

The tree still had a lot of leaves and some oranges too. They were quite small, visible sign of underfeeding and poor care in the past. Still the tree showed plenty of buds and they now, six weeks after the actual planting they have not dropped off yet, so there is hope for some flowers in the coming season.

We are happy to have saved a tree and promise to look after it. I deplore the lack of research prior to the planting of our first tree, but when the tree found its final spot in the ground, all felt right and all is good as is. A good article about transplanting trees into the urban orchard in Perth and presented by Josh Byrne for ABC is available here.

I have been watering the tree in the past weeks without rain and am pleased that our water tanks are both full and 6,000l of water available for the coming hot season.