Suffering Succotash

Hi All,

First up I need to explain that title…Last night I decided to make something “interesting” when contemplating what to prepare for a side vegetable. I eat a whole lot of vegetables because I am a vegetarian but Steve tends to stick with potatoes, carrots and peas. We were given an enormous quantity of green beans and zucchini by our most kind neighbour Glad’s daughter Wendy and even though I offloaded 2 enormous bags of them on the girls in town we still had 2 huge bags left to work our way through ourselves. Steve has never been a bean fan (“they squeak when I eat them!”…) so I had to find a way to incorporate them into our diet without me having to make green beans my chief food for the next few weeks and getting Steve to share the load. I remembered a red capsicum in the vegetable crisper that needed to be used and we had a tray of corn cobs that were getting to the stage where they had to be used immediately and I suddenly remembered succotash…it usually contains white beans, corn and capsicum but I decided to bastardise it (why ever not? :o) and make my own version. I will give you the recipe because it was delicious and Steve ate it all and despite his initial misgivings about it, he didn’t have to suffer succotash at all :o)

Suffering succotash Steve style…

4 small corn on the cob (fresh) or equivalent frozen (but fresh is best) removed from the cob

1 small red capsicum finely diced

1 medium onion finely diced

2 cloves of minced garlic (I used half a head because we are garlic fiends…)

as many green beans (fresh in our case cut into small pieces) as you think you can get your husband to eat

Freshly ground black pepper and sea salt

Lightly steam the bean pieces and corn kernels till the beans don’t “squeak” any more (if you like them squeaky you can steam them less :o). While you are de-squeaking your beans, put as much butter as you will allow yourself (NO MARGARINE! If you need to, you can sub olive oil but butter is best in this dish) into the bottom of a saucepan and heat it. Add the onion and capsicum and lightly sweat in the butter until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a minute. Add the pre-steamed (non squeaky) beans and corn kernels and mix through the onions and capsicum. Grind in as much pepper and add as much sea salt as you like to taste and serve up with just about anything as it is delicious :o)

It is hard not to get discouraged when faced with a garden that you have previously loved and tended with care that has fallen on difficult times. My daughters are not gardeners. You can’t force a love of plants onto someone and neither would I ever want to. Being passionate about plants is something that you need to discover yourself as it loses something in the translation through someone else. You need to get your hands dirty, take cuttings, grow seeds and tend them carefully through those first precious months until they can be potted on and are able to be planted out and grown on in their own right. Gardening is all about cycles and when you garden you learn so very much more about our own human condition than is possible in any other way. Growing our own food, tending gardens, watching the ebb and flow of the seasons and the way that new life comes after a period of down time. All incredibly important life lessons and when you garden, they are lessons that repeat themselves over and over again, instilling themselves deep into the primal part of your brain. We gardeners learn even when we don’t want to. I am a most stubborn of creatures. If someone tries to make me do something I will strive to do exactly the opposite so how could I expect any less from my daughters? We are currently working together to make the garden at the house in town a very low maintenance space. We need something hardy, shrubby, low growing, self-perpetuating, low water using and non-invasive. When we planted out this garden we had no idea about horticulture and planted several invasive vines because they had nice smelling flowers. We planted jasmine and honeysuckle vines along with a Muscat grape vine. All 3 of these vines have combined into one massive tangle of foliage that is threatening to take down a dividing fence if we don’t deal with it soon. The tangle of foliage is also harbouring a large population of leaf hoppers and an equally large population of European wasps. Underneath the tangle of vines is an enormous quantity of various kinds of mint rising up to meet the tangle of vines from the base. I mentioned the josterberry invasion in a previous post and these nefarious berries are hideous to say the least. They will be removed and dumped. I wouldn’t want anyone to have to suffer the disgusting taste of these berries. Not only did they manage to totally avoid the flavour of their parent plant integration of gooseberry and blueberry, but they seem to have melded together to form a new and totally disgusting flavour “meat berry”. Please consider yourselves warned about the ubiquitous “Josterberry”. Don’t let ANYONE fool you that they are worth planting let alone eating. Even the neighbourhood birds won’t touch them and they will eat cotoneaster berries so that is telling you something!

We had the garden looking lovely before the troll decided to invade our personal space and make our lives difficult. We had many problems regarding the troll and his need to be constantly in control of his environment and anyone in close proximity. We ended up erecting a large 3 metre high bamboo fence to give us a degree of privacy and when Steve removed it late last year it was akin to knocking down the Berlin wall except the troll had bolted by that stage. We had a lovely vegetable garden out the back of the house. We shared the vegetables with the troll right up to the point where he started taking advantage of us and giving our produce away to his friends without our permission. The true state of living with the troll fell on my father’s deaf ears. He didn’t want to hear a single negative thing about the troll and so this uncomfortable triangle of relationships was forced into existence. I stopped going out of my back door because as soon as I stepped outside, the troll would bang on his window demanding my time and attention. At first I felt sorry for this poor old man holed up in his little unit with no-one to care about him but after a while a different picture began to emerge. A picture of a manipulating nasty old bitter man who would do anything to keep himself at the top of the food chain. It was a very difficult situation to live with and after my father died and the troll realised that his chief ally was gone and that now I was his new landlord and he simply couldn’t live with that situation (no control) he left and suddenly it was as if a massive great weight was lifted off our shoulders. We had to sterilise his unit and for 3 weeks spent every waking hour painting it and trying to rid it of the stench of years of indoor chain smoking. The tar coated everything and the entire unit had an orange hue. I hadn’t set foot outside the back door in plain sight for a year and when I was able to wander freely around the back of the unit the compost bins that we had built were overgrown and neglected. The veggie gardens were overgrown and denuded and it left me with a pervading sense of sadness at the waste of time and energy that we had put into this part of the garden to see it fall into decline. That is how I feel about the garden in town. I loved this garden and put so very much of myself into creating a lush green space to buffer us against the outside world. As the first non-rental garden that Steve and I were able to make our own we took great pride and pleasure in planting, tending and caring for this garden. When Steve built the deck out the back it was a really lovely place to sit on a hot day and have a glass of wine. We loved that garden and now it is neglected and overrun with weeds, grass and slowly dying plants. We need to salvage what we can and replant it out here and install easy care plants in a caretaker garden to keep both us and the girls happy. Perhaps more of the dreaded phormiums? If I sink that low I won’t be admitting to having anything to do with the garden in town ever again!

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This slideshow shows you what we created for next to nothing and a whole lot of work. We used reclaimed coregated iron to make the garden beds (cut to size with an angle grinder), we cut teatree poles when we were caretaking dads house and cut them to size and made various gates, fences etc. out of them with some salvaged steel mesh. We used our imaginations to work out how to get what we wanted and needed and we researched to find out how to do things. We ended up with a lovely little space that cost us a fraction of what it should have thanks to thinking laterally, using what we had available to us (for free) and using every bit of information that we could find. We were so very proud of our efforts. At every stage of the development of the garden as well as the house renovation (it had previously been a rental and looked like one…) we made this little house and its surrounding gardens our own. We harvested vegetables, fruit, herbs and flowers. Despite our lack of horticultural elan, we set about making this garden our own little oasis of green calm and it is amazing what 2 rank amateurs can accomplish with a bit of spit and elbow grease. The troll ruined everything. We couldn’t go out the back door and so the entire rear area of the house fell into neglect and disrepair. We had to remove all sorts of fences and erect all sorts of fortresses around the area and it was more like a war zone than a happy home. When we moved to Serendipity Farm, we knew that this little garden would start to suffer but now it is up to us to change this sad little neglected space into somewhere that “works” for the girls and for the garden itself. The garden has only survived because it was heavily mulched with oak leaf mould (discovered at the bottom of Serendipity Farm after years of oak leaves falling) and was planted out with somewhat hardy perennials. I am an eternal optimist. Ask my kids…(they are all pesimists! :o) and as such, keep watching this space…its going to change for the better and in the near future…again we will have to use our brains rather than our bank balance and as such we will be using plants that we have already and we will be replacing many plants in town that are not going to survive a long period of dry weather. I see it as a challenge to create a waterwise garden with hardy low maintenance plants. I will share what we do with you all and you can tell us what you think :o)

I was just having a little chat to Steve between him popping in from logging wood (lumberjack Steve) to heading in to watch the Saturday “Come Dine with Me” (one of his favourite shows) marathon. We were talking about gardens and how bloody hard it is to get one happening here. I have NO idea how the elderly couple (the Clayton’s) were able to find a few small gaps between the predominate rocks that litter the surface and sub-surface of this entire property to plant anything, but plant they did and they were the pioneers of this tortuous terrain so if they could do it…so can we! I have pictures that I found of this property back in 1993 just a few years after my dad and his partner bought and moved in to what was then “Highfield Gardens” (what a toss of a name eh?) and it was delightful. Apparently my dad and his partner had some ideas about what they wanted the garden to look like and set about installing metal arches all over the place. Prior to this the garden meandered through a series of well-kept pathways and little entry ways through various (equally well-kept) hedges. Immaculate verdant green lawns knitted the property together and all shrubs were well pruned and kept at a manageable level. I had been wondering how one elderly lady could deal with an acre of landscaped garden but it was so well organised it was an easy care garden. The Clayton’s obviously knew what they were doing. They chose hardy shrubs for the arid areas of the garden and for the areas under the trees they chose exotics like rhododendrons. I have seen a picture of a beautiful red rhododendron down in the tangled mass of blackberries and banana passionfruit that we haven’t yet been able to work down to next to what is in 1993 a rather small palm tree but that now reaches up to the sky. I suddenly realised why I love writing for this blog so much. It is, in its own way, my own little “garden”. I can detail and document and prune my words to make a well presented garden. I can allow little areas to grow wild and other areas to produce for me. I have total control (unless a smart hacker decides to invade and then I will have no control whatsoever!) over the content and presentation of the blog and it’s always nice to have one little tidy area of your life where you can have a degree of control. This blog is now my little mental garden. It’s where I can share my love of plants, trees, horticulture in general and my passion about life and standing up for the underdog. I can share things with you all and whether you care about what I am sharing or not, it’s “out there”. I can document things that I don’t want to forget. I can allow my mind to wander around so that it wraps up ideas, concepts and entire theories in a nice neat little parcel for me to shelve and come back to at a later date when my brain is ready to ponder and I have enough time to give them the attention that they deserve. We have just bought “that” library book that Earl ate online from a great online store for half the price that we were quoted by the library (and less than half what we were quoted from a local book store). We didn’t have to pay postage on it either and it was from a bookstore in the U.K. It’s on its way over here now and I just have to hand it over to the librarian to get my copy (what is left of it) and everything is square…however…until I deliver that book into the hallowed inner sanctum of the library I am not allowed to take out any more books! I have several amazing books heading my way as I type this and to have to go back to the back of the queue (most probably after Florida :o) one of my dear constant readers) would make me spit chips so I had a chat to the lady in the library in town and explained that it wasn’t wanton vandalism or mindless destruction (although whenever Earl goes into an eating frenzy he is away with the pixies…) that caused the damage to the book, only the curious fangs of an overenthusiastic teenaged dog. She told me that I could ask to have the “hold” period extended on my requested books, so sorry Florida…you are going to have to wait for those 2 books :o)

Here is a link to the online book store that we bought the book from. Excellent prices, great selection of books and amazingly NO POSTAGE COSTS…I couldn’t be stingy with this link as EVERYONE needs to read books :o)

http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/

Talking about Florida, I would like to take this opportunity to thank her most profusely for wanting to re-house some of our wandering flock of chickens. We have so many “interesting” hens now that we need to rehouse some before breeding season starts again or we will quite possibly become overrun by hens! Big Yin might have been sampled by Earl but all it appears to have done is intensify his desire to reproduce exponentially…He can be seen “procreating” at all hours all over Serendipity Farm and when he isn’t procreating, he is hunting for inaccessible nesting spots for his precious hens and when Yin makes a nest, it is MOST inaccessible! Usually Yin’s nests involve blackberries, dense undergrowth and far flung outcrops well away from the house. He has discovered that we like eggs. He was most indignant (and still is) when he first saw us taking eggs from a nest and the very next day, that nest is usually abandoned and you can hear him making his “move on in girls, this one is a doozie” soft clucks so as not to alert us to his newfound, newly made nest. He is relentless in his pursuit of the ultimate nest and I am quite sure that we have missed quite a few of his nests and that there are eggs in various stages of decomposition all over Serendipity Farm. By my calculations, we should be starting to hear them pop soon and get the odd whiff of foetid rotten eggs and my hope (how vindictive am I?) is that Yin is trying to entice some of his hapless girls over to these nests when they blow! We are having problems trying to work out what to do with the 4 kittens, Felix and Jacko. We haven’t seen Pink in ages so we are hoping that our problem is now 6 cats, rather than 7. The 4 kittens are 2nd generation kittens and when Felix brought her first 2 kittens here (Jacko and Pink) they were quite timid. Jacko was less timid than Pink, but he is still skittish around us and won’t come too close. The 4 kittens that Felix brought back just before Christmas are much tamer. 3 of them will actually come up to Steve when he is putting the food in the bowls and 1 of them (a little black and white male) allowed Steve to pat it yesterday and smooched up to his hand. How can we trap and get rid of them now? We are trying to find a way to catch them and sterilise them. I know it would cost us a fortune but we could stop the feral problem at least from our side in one fell swoop. Someone out there has an unsterilized black and white male cat that is populating the entire neighbourhood with ferals. They are everywhere! It is hardly fair that we have to deal with someone else’s feline neglect but it is simply a fact of life now and we want to do the right thing. If we can catch the cats and get them all sterilised, we can have them live here on Serendipity Farm as farm cats. They are already catching all of the rats and mice that we used to have problems with. We haven’t seen a live rat (apart from one on deaths door at the back door from some poison that Steve put down in his shed) all year since the cats moved in. As with everything, there are good and bad points to having cats, but if we can sterilise them it gives us more time to work out what to do whilst eliminating the problem of more litters. Felix is the big problem at the moment. She is an amazing survivalist. Good for her…bad for us. She is an amazing huntress and so if we could get her (apart from being amazingly lucky as she is the most suspicious of them all!) and sterilise her and release her back here we would be halfway there.

I forgot to tell you that Steve made me a little wooden heart while I was away at the girls. We don’t do “flowers”; “chocolates” or much of anything really. I am one of those women who if you buy me flowers I am instantly suspicious of why! Best not to do anything along those lines, and chocolate is not a good idea either as that is Steve’s favourite, not mine but we found some offcuts from some enormous poplar trees that had been felled and despite the wood being somewhat fractured from being left out in the weather, little bits of it are usable. The rest can be burned, but the little bits yield a lovely light coloured wood and Steve decided to make me a tiny little wooden heart out of some of it. Here it is…

 

Isn’t it pretty? We have ideas of making all sorts of interesting crafty wooden things to sell at the Deviot Basket Markets. They actually have a special Market in a months’ time called the “Mad Hatters Market” so if any of you constant readers are bored, in Tasmania, and have transport you could head out to beautiful Deviot and have a bit of a goosy gander at what is on offer. We will be there and after contacting a Dr Liz about receiving the Deviot newsletter regularly via email she asked us if we would like to have a stall at the market. I really and truly love the Deviot community. We are actually considering having a stall at the markets. We have lots and LOTS of plants that are excess to our needs. We could sell them cheaply to someone who would actually be able to plant them out. We would also be able to amass some bug houses; wooden hearts and little wooden decorations etc. in that time and might even be able to sell some small loaves of rustic bread. I might even make some funky cup-cakes. It would most definitely be an interesting exercise. I have many recipes for gluten free, vegan cup-cakes that taste delicious. I could also make some other interesting baked goods that people out there might be interested in…as you can see my mind is starting to wander now so I suppose I should head off and do a bit of research about markets and what sells at markets. I have an ancient woman’s weekly pull out all about making things for markets and what sells. I might have to hunt through a few boxes to find it, but find it I shall! I will leave you all here now. We all know that you should be doing something just like I should. We just shared a lovely little intimate moment together. Call it the mental equivalent of a good cup of tea and some nice shortbread (or a nice bit of cake or sausage roll if you don’t like biscuits). Now our moment is over and we have to get back to the real world. See you tomorrow when we can have our little escape from reality again and you can read about everything that happens on Serendipity Farm which should make you all incredibly happy that you don’t have to go through a half of what we have to! :o)

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Roz Takes
    Feb 05, 2012 @ 13:27:52

    Hi Fran,wonderful job with the girl’s garden. It is so difficult to find plants that look nice but need little looking after. I usually settle for the new Geraniums (sorry Pelagoniums) but I am lazy.
    Congratulations to Steve on getting the Scholarship! Well deserved after much hard work and study.
    I have one tiny peeve and expect to be flamed from all sides, but in this year of your living honestly and it is rubbing off, is being able to go to Uni a good reason to become an Australian Citizen? Maybe because you love the Country or wish to vote and have a say in how the country is run. Still well done to Steve and keep up the study.

    Reply

    • narf77
      Feb 05, 2012 @ 13:45:08

      Hi Roz, Steve takes no offense at your peeve. Renouncing your country of birth is a big ask especially when you come from a commonwealth country. Steve has been contemplating becoming an Aussie citizen for a while now but that stupid citizenship test has held him back. Now, it isn’t really an option any more. He is an Australian permenant resident but to get H.E.C.S. he needs to be an Australian citizen (so that is why he is going to have to take that STUPID test that should be abolished). He is going to opt for duel citizenship. I don’t think that you should have to renounce your country of birth simply because you choose to live somewhere else. Embracing your new country is the prime objective. Its a bit like forcing people to get married because its “the done thing” rather than realising that everyone has their own feelings on the matter. I figure it is up to Steve to choose what he wants to do. I learned long ago that it is most important to allow people to make their own decisions. That way they can’t blame you down the track for something that they chose to do of their own free will. Life is all about compromises and sometimes you have to compromise your heritage to get what you want in life. Steve shouldn’t have to give up his English heritage but it is a fact that he has to do so to get a H.E.C.S. debt. Steve most probably won’t sign up to vote. To be honest, I dont blame him. Madeline doesn’t vote either…she was smart enough to not sign up in the first place. I like to have my say but would rather vote in the raving loony party than any of the choices that we have in front of us in Tasmania today. I wish everyone that votes would but a great big fat “X” on their ballot papers to send a massive message to our so called politicians that are owned and paid for by the forestry and by anyone with a few bucks in their pocket. Sorry about the political rant there but sometimes you just have to let off steam :o). I am right there with you on being an Aussie by the way Roz. Its the best country in the world! :o)

      Reply

  2. Kym
    Feb 05, 2012 @ 21:02:18

    Hi Fran and Steve 🙂 I have spent the day hacking a bloody great palm with huge spines on it. I have many puncture wounds and feel like those cartoon characters who have blood pouring out of them lol. Bruce and his brothers demolished a couple of over grown pines that were planted too near to the fence and stopped anything from growing. Daniel, and his cousin Zac, helped a lot too. Then my two sister in laws and I proceeded to scrub the inside of the duplex as Brian has a whole different attitude to cleanliness than we do!!! So much grime had built up over every surface. We hope he gets himself into gear and keeps it cleaner. I’m with Steve as far as beans go. The thought of putting green beans into my mouth has me gagging! I was forced to eat them as a young child, until I chucked them up one day, and then I didn’t have too anymore, oh bliss. I think gardening is a wonderful sort of meditation. While I garden it is a bubble of bliss, my mind can wonder where ever it wants too without too much effort. I don’t know where my gardening gene came from as both my parents idea of a garden was an expanse of cement with a potted pine here and there. My dad’s family were from farming stock so maybe a stray gene got through, along with the my wide hips and fat bum lol. Sad about your town house, but as you say, you can’t make people into gardeners without choice. Maybe someone in town loves to garden but doesn’t have room to and would love to use your space? They could plant out veges etc and use them for themselves??? Anyway just a thought. Well I am having a wine, yes Steve I think we would get on just fine, and going to have some chilli con carne that my wonderful hubby made. Enjoy your evening and catch you tomorrow x

    Reply

    • narf77
      Feb 06, 2012 @ 17:37:32

      Sounds like you had a heck of a day! Tell Brian that if he doesn’t keep it clean this time, you are going to use a Karcher on his house next time and spray everything out into the gutter! I don’t know why older men seem to think that “someone else” is going to do their housework. It must stem from being part of a generation where the women did everything (now we do everything AND work…sigh…haven’t we come a long way?) If you come from hardy farming stock accounting for your wide hips and fat bum what on earth do I come from! Elephant tamers?! lol anyway, we people with larger appendages can survive for longer if hard times come. Thats my excuse and I am sticking to it. All of you anorexic bints out there will be pushing up the daisies long before Kymmy and I are even feeling hungry. I hope my girls don’t see that bit about letting someone else garden in our garden…I have a terrifying vision of Bethany with a whip making some poor Vietnamese family farm their land for them and paying them sixpence for the privilage…Bruce is a love. Give him a hug from me and tell him thankyou for being such a wonderful husband. Steve is out cooking spring rolls on the bbq (we bake them rather than fry them as if I eat too much fried food I will go from Elephant tamers daughter straight to whale rangler in one fell swoop…sigh…). We are both lucky to have found wonderful men who love us for what we are and stick around despite being ordered around left, right and centre (I think we found a pair of masochists…). See you tomorrow and have a good week at work :o)

      Reply

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