Archive for December, 2006

Grape Leaves

Monday, December 11th, 2006

I am trying to prune the grapes so that they don’t take over the vegetable beds. This is a bigger job than it ought to be, because we missed our chance to prune them in the winter. We are certainly learning from our mistake, and plan to be better organised next winter! The grapes are now a beautiful, rampant, tangled mess, and I am struggling to sort through it all in order to prune. According to our neighbour, who has a great many grape vines of the same variety as ours, doing plenty of fix-up pruning now will give us the best chance of having a decent crop despite our negligence over the winter.

More grape leaves, please

Since I am pruning the grapes, it’s a good opportunity to make pickled grape leaves. Here is the recipe I used to make an inauthentic version of “Podonnip Chorim,” or Grape Leaf Kimchi:

Grape Leaf Kimchi
36 tender young grape leaves, stalks on, washed thoroughly
1 tablespoon sea salt

4 tablespoons whey*

2 cloves garlic, minced or finely chopped

1/4 teaspoon chile flakes

2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated or very finely chopped

Mix whey, salt, and 2 cups of water. Soak the grape leaves in this mixture for about an hour, weighting them down so that the liquid covers them completely.

Roll up 12 of the leaves, all together, and stuff them into a wide mouthed 1 quart (1 litre) preserving jar. Sprinkle with some of the ginger, garlic and chile. Roll up 12 more leaves into another roll. Stuff this roll in the preserving jar on top of the first one. Sprinkle with seasonings. Do the same with the final 12 grape leaves.

Now pour the whey/water/salt mixture into the jar on top of the leaves, so that they are completely covered. Add a little water if necessary. Make sure you leave an inch of space at the top of the jar, as the contents may expand.

Cover the jar tightly and leave at room temperature for 3 days. If necessary, put a weight on top of the leaves to keep them immersed in the liquid. After 3 days, move the jar to the fridge of cold room for storage.

*To make whey, put some plain live yoghurt in a cloth and leave it to drain over a large bowl. The liquid that drains out of the yoghurt is the whey you need for this recipe.

In Korea, they don’t use whey to innoculate their kimchi. Also, I think that they add rice porridge and fish sauce to some kinds of kimchi, but I’m not certain about that! I intend to do some research on this matter, and will be sure to write about it if I end up making fish sauce and rice porridge and adding them to future batches of kimchi. (I think Kevin has some serious concerns about sharing the house with any kind of fermented fish project, so I will have to tread carefully in this matter!)

As well as making one batch of spicy grape leaf pickle, I’ve made a second plainer batch — omitting all the seasonings except for the salt and whey. These can be used for making dolmades.


One way to serve the Korean-style pickled grape leaves is with sticky rice, whole lettuce leaves, chile sauce, toasted sesame seeds, and pieces of cooked marinated beef (marinate in honey, garlic, soy sauce, and a little fresh citrus juice). Diners can use the lettuce and/or grape leaves to make little parcels of the other items. Yum!

We humans are not the only Farmlet creatures who enjoy eating grape leaves. The goats love them, too. I tethered them in the yard while I was pruning, so that they could munch to their hearts’ content on discarded grape leaves.

Garden Plans

Friday, December 8th, 2006

A few days ago we finished putting down weed mat around the vegetable beds on the eastern side of the house. The beds are not all completely planted yet, but we are getting there! Considering that when we got here that area was heavy clay soil covered in rampant kikuyu grass, we are feeling pleased with the progress we have made. Now that spring is well underway, the vegetable plants are growing into a mass of green, and the peas, tomatoes, beans, linseed, squashes and strawberries are flowering and starting to set fruit. We are certainly enjoying a much better view from our kitchen window than we did during winter, when the whole area was covered in black polythene!

Our garden unfurls in the light of Spring

Becky moves a squash vine out of the walkway

Painted lady runner bean flowers

Dalmatian pea

The next area of garden to be developed is to the north of the house. We do not anticipate finishing work on that area this year. We have made some vegetable beds there already, but will need to spend some time extending and improving them next spring. Our plans for that area of the yard include more olive trees along the fence line, and various kinds of berries and small fruit on the slope between the vegetable gardens and the house. We’ll see whether we end up sticking to these plans or not. There are some big chunks of sandstone lurking beneath the lawn in that part of the yard that might cause us to modify our plans considerably.

Goat Training

Monday, December 4th, 2006

I have never trained an animal before, and neither has Kevin. As we begin to train our Daphne and Lulu, I get the feeling that we might have even more to learn from this experience than than they do.

We are amazed at how intelligent and sociable the goats are. We were lucky to get two little goats who had already been handled a lot by humans. They really seem to love human company, and are surprisingly ready to respond to different calls and commands. They had never been on a leash before they came here, but after only a couple of days, they now come running to have their leashes put on.

Daphne and Lulu on a stroll

After we had finished moving the cows the other day, I decided to take Daphne and Lulu for a walk. We went up the hill to check on Kevin and the cows. Cows and goats seemed rather curious about each other, but apparently the cows looked a bit big and scary to the little goats! We will not be grazing the cows in the goat paddock until the goats are older, and we’ll first be making sure that cows and goats have plenty of chances to become accustomed to each other under our supervision. This was the first close encounter.

Introducing the goats to the cows

We are also teaching the goats to tether. We think that prolonged, unsupervised tethering can be cruel and even dangerous to goats, so we don’t plan to tether them for a long time, and certainly not overnight. Our plan is to tether them in a spot near where we are working, so that we can keep half an eye on them. The goats seem to enjoy a change of scenery, and we appreciate their weed-eating services. At five weeks old, they are both already eating grass, leaves, and small branches like little champions. They are also great company and very entertaining. So far, we have tethered them in the house paddock for a while each afternoon. We have only had to untangle them a few times!

News from the Cow Paddock

Monday, December 4th, 2006

This morning, Ronnie came to move The Ambler on to his next assignment. Esmerelda looked rather upset to see him go, but Rosie and Coco seemed as if they couldn’t care less. We hope that the Ambler has left lovely little Angus-cross calves in the bellies of our three cows. To judge from the behaviour in the paddock, our cows seem to be in calf. We have seen no indication of any of them being in season for ages. (Even inexperienced cowherds like ourselves can often tell if an animal is in season, since they start mounting each other and acting all silly. If a bull is in the paddock, then his interest in the cow makes it even easier to see what is going on.) Two of the Ambler’s offspring have been born recently on Ronnie’s farm, and she is delighted with them. They were small calves, and easy for the cows to deliver. She says the calves look strong, healthy, and sleek, and have their father’s easy-going disposition. We are very hopeful that we will be able to say the same about the calves that are born on the Farmlet in July of next year.

Spring grass, pregnant cows

Cow gestation is supposed to be 282 days. (Thanks to Auntie Linda for that information.) If Esmerelda got in calf when we think she did, then her calf should be born on the 3rd of July, 2007. We expect Rosie and Coco’s calves to be born not too long after Ezzie’s. We are hardly experts at making such predictions, so it will be interesting to see how far off the mark we are!

In the afternoon, it was time for us to move our cows into a new paddock with lots of fresh green grass. They know the routine for shifting paddocks by now, and watched us avidly as we set up the electric tape. We think they look very happy in their new paddock.