Archive for April, 2007


Tuesday, April 10th, 2007

We have harvested our first pepinos. There were only two of them this year, but we hope to have a better harvest next season when the plant is more mature. I started our pepino plant from seed in the spring, and have been watching the fruit ripen with great anticipation.


We think the pepino fruit look a bit like pretty yellow and purple Easter eggs, so this is surely the right season to be eating them! They are a member of the solanaceae family (a relative of tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants), with delicious flesh that tastes like something between a cucumber and a sweet melon. This refreshing taste has earned them the name “cucumber melon” or “tree melon.”

Kevin and I never saw any pepinos when we were living in the US, although I’m sure they must be growing in some warmer parts of the country. This little harvest was Kevin’s first chance to taste one. It turns out that he enjoys them as much as I do, so we are planning to start more pepino seeds in the spring. Pepino plants are easy to start from seed, but are quite frost tender. I’ve planted ours in the shelter of the house, to give it the best possible chance of surviving the winter. Actually, we are working on transforming the sheltered bed next to the house into a space for frost-tender perennials: pepinos, a tamarillo, perennial chilis, and perhaps some other treats as well.

Farmlet Readers Contribute $100 and $10

Tuesday, April 10th, 2007

RC sent $100 and IL sent $10! Woh. Thanks guys!

Fancy New (Old) Butter Churn

Saturday, April 7th, 2007

For our first wedding anniversary, Kevin and I received a fabulous antique Blow butter churn from my sister and her boyfriend. (Thank you Heather and Simon!!) We couldn’t have dreamed of a more wonderful gift. My sister bought the butter churn in England, and carried it all the way to New Zealand in her suitcase. After all the drama of bringing it here from the other side of the world, we were desperate for the butter churn to run perfectly. We have have been saving up the cream and waiting eagerly to give it a test run.

Blow butter churn

Yesterday was the big day. After thoroughly washing and drying the churn, I poured in about 2 quarts of cream. Then Kevin and I took turns cranking the handle. It seemed to be working! It was working! We were able to make much more butter much faster and more easily than we could when we were shaking the cream in a quart jar. Once we are milking our own cows, we hope we will be able to make many more batches of butter in our wonderful butter churn.

Full throttle

Delicious, raw butter

For me, churning butter brings back memories of helping my grandparents, who had a similar butter churn to this one. For Kevin, it is a new and miraculous experience that has become part of his life since moving to New Zealand. This butter churn is a beautiful old piece of machinery. We have it set out on a shelf in the kitchen so that we can admire it as we enjoy the fresh home-made butter on our morning toast.

Sourdough Pet

Wednesday, April 4th, 2007

In late March last year, very soon after we were married and moved here to the Farmlet, I decided we should make a sourdough starter to mark the beginning of our new life here. I wanted to make a special “Farmlet Sourdough” with wild local yeasts rather than using commercial yeast to get it started. Though I’d heard some reports that trying to catch your own wild yeast could yield less-than-satisfactory results, I felt we had nothing to lose by giving it a go. Of course, there is a lot of advice about making a sourdough starter on the internet. I found this site especially helpful, as it has clear instructions on how to get the starter going. I’m not crazy about his bread recipe, though.

Sourdough crackers

Once our starter began to bubble, I tried to bake a loaf of bread with it. The bread came out with a promising sour smell and taste, but had the consistency of a brick. As a novice, I had obviously tried to use the starter too soon. We tasted (nibbled) the loaf, and Kevin made polite comments about the taste and flavour, while I lamented at having baked a horrible brick. Still, I didn’t give up, and kept hoping that the sourdough would mature enough to raise a loaf properly. Our patience was rewarded a couple of days later when the starter literally started bubbling out of the jar. I tried again to bake a loaf of bread. Success! The sourdough yeast colony was our first “livestock” on the Farmlet; our first “pet.”

In the course of the year, our grain mill arrived, and we were able to start feeding the sourdough with freshly ground wheat. With time, the starter has mellowed and matured, and I’ve continued to refine my sourdough baking techniques. Our starter seems to be reliable and robust, surviving occasional neglect and not getting contaminated by outside organisms. The bread we make is dense and sour, and leaves us feeling nourished in a way that store-bought and commercial-yeast bread never has.

Lately, as per one of our goals for the Year of the Pig, we have tried a number of new sourdough recipes — trying to expand our repertoire beyond the sourdough bread (and occasional sourdough pizza crust) that we enjoy so much. We have now sampled batches of sourdough herb-cheese scones, sourdough crackers, sourdough crumpets, and sourdough pancakes. All were delicious, and look set to become regular fare for us. Kevin says the crumpets are probably his favourite new sourdough treat. The crackers are my pick. I’d like to have some of those in the cupboard at all times. The success of these new recipes is really heartening, since last year I had a couple of less-than-stellar results from sourdough scone and pancake recipes.

Sourdough pizza

All of these new and successful sourdough recipes came from Jessica Prentice’s Full Moon Feast. I love this book! Prentice uses the seasonal rhythms of thirteen lunar cycles as a framework to deliver thirteen chapters of intelligent and thought-provoking insights into our cultural relationship with food. Starting in the dead of winter with the “Hunger Moon,” the book moves through the seasons — “Sap Moon,” “Egg Moon,” “Milk Moon,” “Moon of Making Fat,” — until it ends in winter again with the “Wolf Moon.” Each chapter includes a selection of delicious recipes. (At least, all the recipes we’ve tried so far have been delicious!) The author lives in Northern California, but I’m pleased to say that the recipes seem to contain relatively few ingredients that we couldn’t hope to find here in rural New Zealand. Often the recipes suggest adaptations and alternatives that take into account local variations in ingredients. I really appreciate that. When this book first arrived, I read it from cover to cover. Now we are enjoying it as a recipe book.

If anyone reading this post lives locally and would like some sourdough starter, we’d be more than happy to share it.

Farmlet Reader Contributes $20

Monday, April 2nd, 2007

Thanks for your continued support, AB!