Growth. Abundance. The full flush of the season. I stand in awe of the bounty in the garden. Purple-podded peas, fat in their shells. Sweet green peas, sugar snaps, broad beans, artichokes (well, a couple). Sure, the asparagus has been let go to fronds and the tomatoes are a mere fantasy on the vine at this stage, but everywhere else there’s stuff growing to maturity. Plants adore daylight as well as warmth, and while we don’t get super hot or even very warm springs, the garden looks amazing.
We’ve been gobbling the first of the raspberries. Rammed between the fence and the apple trees, there’s a jungle of the things, where once there were a mere 10 canes. Luckily, they’re just as hard for the birds to find as us. The netted garden sure helps. Strawberries, too, are sweet on the ground. My first six gooseberries were, well, not sweet and they’re not supposed to be, but brilliant to add another crop to the list.
Our hay paddock is long and heading up nicely. We’ll use it for pig bedding and emergency feed, but, hopefully, we can keep enough grass over winter to keep the cattle ticking along. The blueberries are coming along well. The apples have all borne fruit, which is fattening on the tree, the quince is hit hard with rust, but seems to be battling along. The rhubarb has been amazing, and we’ve even started on the purple sprouted broccoli – a month or two before we thought it’d crop.
We’ve been blessed this year. Four healthy calves. A few chicks, though not enough to make roast chicken a feature on the dinner table. Three lambs, plenty of piglets, the best carrots, amazing parsnips, fragrant coriander, our first ever nicola potatoes.
It’s a race to get things in the ground in Tassie. Growing your own potatoes for Christmas is one of the challenges in our part of the world. The trick is to plant them early, so you can bandicoot the edges for Christmas spuds (poke around looking for some of the potatoes at the edges). But don’t plant them so early that they get stung by the last of the frost. You can harvest your spuds after the flowers die down, but ours are still in full bloom. Luckily, we nailed it this year and those we’ve bandicooted from the first sown crop are lusciously buttery in texture and sweet on the tongue. We just have to leave enough for the 25th.
It’s been a great week for homemade food. Ross knocked up an incredible pastrami. My trout smoking has improved out of sight. Nick’s clotted cream is a luscious advance on my recipe from a few years back. In fact, the best thing I’ve eaten this year is that very cream, with beaten scones and homemade red jam from Michelle Crawford. Or maybe it was just the mood, the company, the location. Though I think it was probably a combination of all of the above. Beaten scones, for the uninitiated, are made flaky by the addition of buttery layers between beaten dough. An American innovation, which they call beaten biscuits.
Our Christmas is promising to be a big affair on Bruny, with mates and strangers alike. The long table is usually weighed down with good tucker: a result born partly out of generosity, partly out of friendly competition between cooks, and partly out of seasonal necessity. When your garden is full, when the roadside stalls are groaning with berries, and when it’s crayfish season in these cold clean waters, it can feel like Christmas every meal.