Another Country Diary gumboots
Another Country Diary

Links to images and other pages are in blue. After about a week of diary entries, they go to an archive.
23 November -1 December.
Rain. Not a lot, but after a thrashing of hail there were a few falls and some on the following day. We walked out into it from the office and everyone smiled and said what a great noise it was on the roof. 

Coming home with the smell of that warm wet earth and grass, I wound the windows down, turned off the air conditioner and the radio, and sucked it in.

The garden seemed intact and everything had a wet lush look. It didn't do much to the rapidly evaporating pond, but we didn't have to water for two nights. 

That helped because we're now on water restrictions, and can only use all those nifty fixed irrigation, sprays and drippers that I've laid out in the vegetables between 6.30 and 8pm. 
We're cautiously watering some of the trees as they look wilted, soaking around their drip lines once a week. Most of the big ones are going to have to fend for themselves, they're sucking from the pond anyway I figure. With the heat and dryer spring he sweet cherry has ripened weeks earlier but only the lower branches had reasonable size cherries, the others at the top were in big bunches but with tiny fruit. The bottom ones are for me, the ones at the top for the birds. 
I know you're waiting breathless for the latest walnut pictures, so here they are. About an inch, 25cm long and growing.
It's Christmas party time but I hope they're not all as tiring as this one. Jan and I drove up to Sydney for the 3rdMill party held at at Ano Roma restaurant in the Rocks. Divico said he'd book the hotel and although I argued, he did and it was just a few doors down and very comfortable. It made getting up at 5.30 am to drive back to Canberra for a 9.30 meeting a little easier. No smarter, just easier.
Kevan the senior developer who works at 3rdMill, and his wife, had twin daughters six months ago. They were a real handful at first and I really was concerned for them. They now seem to have the girls synchronised with feeding and sleeping times and are looking a lot less frazzled. 
From the restaurant window we looked down onto George Street behind the MCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) building. Jan and I went for a walk after the party ended and I played voyeur with the slow camera exposures.
The set of windows on the back of the MCA showed a flight of stairs through either dusty or frosted windows. This looked like a cinema projection to me, a minimal installation piece called 'Stair'. Stare?
Cardoons. Related to the thistle as is the artichoke, but smaller and much more spiky. The Italians blanch the stems by wrapping the leaves around them and tying. I'll try the same because the stalks are edible, unlike those of the artichoke, and there are recipes for them I'd like to try.
The cardoon is a declared weed introduced into Australia and now growing wild. The plant is taller and more decorative than the artichoke so we have them growing in a few places in the flower  garden. The heads and stems are collected in Spain and Italy to make vegetable rennet for cheese making.
Jan asked me if I'd heard from Milton and Zana, two neighbours who moved to Queanbeyan a few years back. I said no but I'll probably get a call any day now. That's because I helped Milton set up his Christmas card database a few years ago to print his mailing labels. Despite long instruction, I've shown him each year since how to do it. I got the call again. He's 75, a keen woodworker and gave us a nicely turned bowl for helping him. Merry Christmas Milton (and Zana), see you next year.
Sunday lunch, pick and boil up some artichokes and make a vinaigrette. Jackie was home and at 21 we had to show her how to eat an artichoke petal. She got the idea but said it was a lot of work. Usually it's just an excuse to dip into melted butter, but this time Jan's vinaigrette with chopped chives from the garden and the local virgin olive oil won out.
There were enough cherries protected by the nets, all ripe at once (or near ripe) to be a storage problem. This dry year they are not as full and juicy as past seasons and the few I've had in a bowl on the table for the past week were only tasted not gobbled. I decided to test out a couple of preserving methods, drying and crystallising (glacÚ). I'd seen photos of dried cherries but never tasted one, and I fancied that with some home made glace cherries in a panforte, it would make a nice Christmas gift or two.
Well the drying worked fine, ten hours overnight was about two hours too much as they were a little dry, but still chewy inside. The mild flavour was intensified by drying, and there were sugar crystals on them. A dryer tray full of pipped cherries were reduced to a cupful of dried fruit. You'll get some idea of the fresh to dry reduction from the photograph. The glace fruits process however is still going, I'll save that for next week.
Fred Harden  
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