Microlaena stipoides seeding on peninsula propertyOn the peninsula, my partner, my dad and I have tried our first larger scale Microlaena stipoides (Weeping grass) seeding. I've been collecting seed from the indigenous variety that exists on the property. This year, with all the rain and mild weather, the existing Microlaena has really taken off and is now abundant in parts of the property. It's been seeding variably so I've been able to harvest regularly.
We chose a strip adjacent to the back of the dam and ripped planting lines in it at a shallow depth, using a (single-tine) ripper attached to the back of the trusty small tractor. We made two passes for each planting line to try to open the furrow up. Then my partner and I went over the 4 lines manually with picks to open it up more. Then we just dropped the seed in by hand, very thickly, and covered it with a very light layer of mulch (chip from local native trees). We sowed it thick because I want to try to avoid using herbicide, and because my existing seed-production patch, which has been successful, was sown thickly.
Microlaena stipoides seeds sown in a furrow, peninsula property
There are 3 varieties in the lines: the indigenous variety collected on the property; Griffin, harvested from a patch I established using seed purchased from Australian Native Seeds; and Ovens, purchased from Aust. Native Seeds this year.
Nibbling on kibble
Using my new National hand mill to produce wheat kibbleContinuing a tradition of giving me archaic presents that may or may not be useful, but are always beautiful, my partner bought me this hand-operated grinder. We tried it on some wheat and it produced beautiful cracked wheat on the first pass. Eventually after 3 passes, we got some coarse flour but that was a fairly slow and tedious process. Methinks the cracked wheat is the go - I incorporated it into a wholemeal sourdough and it adds some great texture.
Kibble is the name given to cracked grains, hence 'kibbled bread'. Burghul, for example, which is the main ingredient in tabbouleh, is cracked wheat. Typically, the kibble is soaked for a few hours before being incorporated into a recipe. You can kibble rye, spelt, buckwheat etc.
Kefir goodness continues
My love affair with Kefir continues. I'm now making kefir-style cottage cheese following the instructions on Dominic's Anfiteatro's site. Its very easy and delicious and has a very similar taste and texture to normal cottage cheese. I add little salt to it as the finishing touch.
Kefir-style cottage cheese draining in my sink
Recently I visited La Latteria, a new cheesery in inner-city Melbourne, and apart from walking away with homemade cheeses and whole (unhomogenised) locally (Craigeburn) produced milk, I chatted to the lady behind the counter, who helps to make the cheeses sold in the shop. I asked her about how she makes ricotta, and it turns out that the process is kind of the inverse of the kefir method. At La Latteria, they heat the whey and add milk until it curds begin to form. With kefir-style cottage cheese, you heat the milk and slowly add very ripe milk kefir until it curdles. Although a brief spot of internetting reveals that there are 101 ways to make ricotta.
She also explained to me why whole (unhomogenised) milk converts more efficiently to cottage cheese than homogenised milk, and produces a creamier cheese. I think I need to get myself this book on the microbiology of dairy - so many more questions would be answered! This accords with my experiences with kefir cottage cheese: if I use homogenised milk I end up with only a small amount of cottage cheese, and whole lot of milky whey and clear whey. When I use unhomogenised milk, I get a lot more cheese for the same amount of milk.
I love the whole ethos of La Latteria. I bought my whole milk in a large glass bottle, which is returnable and gives you a discount on your refill. Nice.
In preparation for the move to the peninusla, I've been slowly decomissioning the inner-city patches, which will become a low-maintenance native garden. We're going to keep one garden bed for perennial herbs. I've started the plantings for the native garden with some Myoporum parvifolium (creeping boobialla) from the fantabulous St Kilda Indigenous Nursery Cooperative which has just had a big sale.
Japanese eggplants from the inner-city patch
The beans turned on a big end-of-season harvest, as did the Japanese eggplants (Solanum melongena, var. Ichiban). Dad pickled some of these using a Claudia Roden recipe from her Book of Middle Eastern Food. It only took a week for them to mature, and they were so yummy. And I took my first step into pickling, doing a salt pickle of the lebanese cucumber harvest using this recipe from the website of the author of Wild Fermentation, a much referenced book on the topic. The only mildly difficult thing about the process was working out how to weigh the cucumbers down so that they were all fully submerged in the brine. The pickles were delish, especially eaten atop some Kefir labneh on sourdough.
Pickled cucumbers on kefir labneh, atop sourdoughIn the city, I've been propagating some plants from seed collected on the Peninsula property, to plant out on the back of the dam there. Success with Acacia vertcillata (Prickly Moses), but no luck with Dianella tasmanica or Indigofera australis, despite following the dormancy-breaking seed treatments recommended by Murray Ralph. After failing to raise the Dianella from seed, I tried just dividing some of the clumps growing near the creekline on the Peninsula and that seems to have worked.
Acacia verticillata seedlings, propagated from seed collected on the Peninsula property
And finally, because there aren't enough rapping scientists in the world, because I'm partial to a spot of David Williamson baiting, and because how can you resist the line "The greenhouse effect is just a theory, sucker. Yeah, so is gravity, float away, motherfucker", check this most wondrous clip out: