Posted in From the Kitchen, Gardening

Gadzukes!! How to deal with a bumper crop of zucchini.

I say Zucchini, you may well call it a courgette. But by whatever name you call this most versatile of vegetables, this well beloved staple of almost every garden, it is easy to grow, quick to produce and very prolific. Perhaps a little too prolific as in the blink of an eye our gardens and kitchens can be overrun with zucchini.

If you’ve already gifted your family, friends and neighbours with your garden’s excess and are still in danger of being buried under a mountain of squash, I’ve rounded up a selection of recipes – from tried and true zucchini bread to sure to please savory dishes.

Don’t forget to freeze extra for winter when the squash patch is a dim and distant memory and you’d give anything for a carrier bag full of unloved, under appreciated zucchinis so you could whip up a batch of muffins or a big pan of soup.

Mom's Zucchini Bread

 

Mom’s Zucchini Bread –  This traditional zucchini bread is super simple to make, no fancy ingredients required, but make no mistake it is a sure fire winner.                                                                 Get the recipe for Mom’s Zucchini Bread here.

 

Citrusy Zucchini Muffins – of course you can bake any traditional zucchini bread as muffins, and I often do, but this recipe is a little different. Much lighter in taste, and without the usual spices, they are indeed a refreshing change. The recipe calls for cranberries and if you decide to include them I would suggest you use dried ones          Get the recipe for Citrusy Zucchini Muffins here.

 

Cheesy Zucchini Rice is a lovely dish for lunch and very quick to put together if you have left over rice in the fridge. Get the recipe for Cheesy Zucchini Rice here.

 

 

 

Zucchini Hummus – yes, you read that right, and not a chick pea in sight! Granted the colour can take you by surprise – a vibrant green instead of the creamy beige we are used to when we think of hummus – but the taste is out of this world.                                            Get the recipe for Zucchini hummus here.

 

Zucchini Tater Tots - a healthy, homemade side dish that's a kid-friendly recipe with some extra veggies! Gluten free. | cupcakesandkalechips.com

 

Zucchini Tater Tots are little bites of deliciousness to dip into your favourite sauce. They’re also very nice served alongside eggs or as a substitute for hash browns on your breakfast plate.                                                                  Get the recipe for Zucchini Tater Tots here.

Zucchini Crisp – Dressed up with the spices we usually associate with apple desserts, zucchini can shine on the dessert menu too.                                         Get the recipe for Zucchini Crisp here.

 

 

Zucchini Brownie Recipe

 

(Zucchini) Chocolate Chip Brownies – There is only one word to describe these brownies and that is Decadent. Yes, with a capital ‘D’. You will want to keep some frozen zucchini on hand so you cab make these brownies during the winter months.   Get the recipe for Zucchini Chocolate Chip Brownies here.

 

 

How do you cope with the invasion of the Zukes? Please share your best recipes with us x

Natural Control of Fleas, Ticks and Flies.

I know I’m not the only one that hates the thought of using commercial pest repellents  in the house and garden but we need something in our arsenal if we are to win the war on ticks and fleas.  Right now the little devils are on the war path so here’s a few ideas on how we can repel ticks and fleas naturally.

Essential Oils

essential oils for fleas and ticks
essential oils for fleas and ticks

Essential oils are not only an effective weapon but by and large it is the ones that smell delicious that also pack a punch in the war against ticks and fleas. However, and it is a big however, essentials oils and cats are not always happy combination. Humans have a much higher tolerance for phenol in essential oils and so while we often use them daily, if you have felines living with you please, please be aware of which oils pose a risk to them.

So, before we go any further here is a run down of the oils that are known to be safe for cats.

Cedarwood
Cedarwood essential oil is often made without phenol and therefore would be one essential oil that is safe for cats—but before you buy a bottle just check the label for contents to be sure.

Lemongrass
Lemongrass is a safe essential oil to use around cats at a low concentration but it shouldn’t be ingested or applied directly to their skin. It would be useful to spray their bedding or cat trees etc.

Rosemary
To use rosemary as flea repellent,  rather than using the oil per se, boil a small saucepan of water with a sprig of rosemary.  Let it steep for a while then strain. Dilute the rosemary tea with equal parts water and rub through your cat’s fur. If your cat will allow you bath them without drawing blood you could add the tea to a tub of warm water and sponge through the coat (Good Luck with that idea!)

Our dogs can benefit from a slightly more comprehensive range of essential oils, but always in dilutions and moderation.

Lemongrass is a powerful insecticidal oil and is well suited as a flea deterrent.

Cedarwood is especially effective when blended with citronella or lemongrass.

Citronella is a highly effective essential oil that sends fleas and ticks packing!

Lavender is a wonderful insect repellent. While we find its clean fresh scent soothing bugs of all kinds can’t stand it.

Dr. Bens Paws and Claws Flea and Tick Spray is an excellent, tried and trusted product if you are looking for a safe, effective and natural treatment that you can use on both your dogs and cats.

Happily many fragrances that smell wonderful to us are highly repellent to ticks. Lavender, peppermint, citronella, lemongrass, cedar, rose geranium and citrus essential oils have all been shown to be a powerful tick repellents.  Buy or make your own soaps and shampoos that are naturally enhanced with these plant oils.

To make your own bug repellent start with a carrier oil such as sweet almond oil or olive oil. To each 30ml of carrier oil add 12 drops of essential oil to create a natural repellent that you can spray, or smooth, onto your skin.

Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous Earth a grey-white powdery substance made from the fossilized remains of  tiny aquatic organisms called diatoms. It’s perfectly safe for humans and animals to ingest but to our pesky foes it’s deadly.  As DE isn’t a poison (it wreaks havoc on their exoskeleton causing them to die of dehydration) ticks and fleas can’t become immune to it so it remains an effective weapon year after year.

Do keep in mind though that you must still act with some caution as DE is deadly to all insects – the good and the troublesome – so limit its use to the areas you know to be a problems.

You may have to buy diatomaceous earth (DE) on-line but it is a fabulous product to have to hand.  Sprinkle it around in the areas where you are likely to find ticks and fleas, both inside and outside the house.

Chickens, Duck and Guinea Fowl

hens for flea and tick control
hens for flea and tick control

Free-ranging fowl are a great addition to any pest management system. Let them loose in your garden and they’ll get to work immediately eating grubs, grasshoppers, flies and ticks.

Tame The Jungle

Tall grass, moisture and shade are the prefered environment for ticks, so keep your grass cut short, bushes trimmed and leaves etc raked up.

DIY Fly Trap

And what about the plain old, super annoying house fly? Well, a simple to build DIY fly trap can be found here. It certainly isn’t pretty, and the more it molders the better. Just put it in an out of the way place and let it do its thing.

Lastly, what about those unknown munchers that are using your garden as an all you can eat buffet?  Here is a garlic and mint spray that will convince them to move on to your neighbour’s garden when they are in the mood for a snack…

Posted in around the homestead

The Chicken Tractor

I haven’t had any chickens since I moved to Mogilino five years ago.  At first it was because all my barns and outbuilding were filled to the brim with ‘stuff’. A lot of good ‘stuff’ I might add and as it looked like it may well be useful in the future I was loath to just throw it all out. Good thinking as it turned out as much has been recycled in many and various ways.

However, just as we were beginning to see the light – and the floors – new four legged friends started to arrive in the village looking for a place to stay. Sound familiar?? Well, the upshot of it is, instead of chickens my outbuilding are now filled with dogs. Not that I’m at all unhappy with this as I love the little (and not so little) critters, but with the price of eggs on the rise, and as pretty much all of our baked goods are made from scratch we go through a fair few eggs in a week, I’m thinking once again about adding chickens to the homestead.

So, chicken housing has been on my mind. Housing and ways to coral them. I would love them to have total run of the place but the afore-mentioned four-legged family members would, in all likely-hood, reduce their numbers in short order.

Some years ago I looked into the possibility of chicken tractors (an unappealing name if ever I heard one) and I like the idea of being able to move the chickens around to fresh ground daily thus reducing bugs, keeping greenery down and fertilizing the ground all in one fell swoop. I’m sure its not quite as easy as that but the project sounds worth while and I think it will be one we tackle soon.

The design below is probably the simplest I’ve seen. It is quick to make and easy to store when not in use. I think it would be perfect to have to hand for a broody hen, a rampant rooster that is awaiting a new home perhaps or a chicken that is off colour and needs some alone time away from the rest of the flock.

The addition of a tarp or similar would be essential here in Bulgaria. Less for rain but very necessary to keep the birds shaded.

Easy To Make and Move Chicken Tractor
Collapsible Chicken Tractor

 

This is a much sturdier option and provides more shelter and shade. However, I think it would still be easy enough to move around the plot single handedly and doesn’t require a master carpenter to build it

Movable Chicken House and Run
Chicken Tractor

 

This design sits somewhere between the two. It appears to be lightweight and fairly simple to construct but with a bit more body to it. The addition of tarps to provide shelter from inclement weather and shade from the sun would be essential.

Chiccken Tractor made from PVC pipe
Hooped Chicken Tractor

Something of merit in all these designs, I think, and all would be easy to customise to one’s individual requirements. Check out your barns, there’s probably the makings of a one-of-a-kind chicken tractor lurking out there somewhere!

 

Posted in around the homestead, Gardening

A Beautiful, Mess(y) Garden

A Bulgarian Garden
In the Garden

Is your veg plot well under way? It never ceases to amaze me how quickly the garden goes from dirt to rampant growth. Although there is huge satisfaction to be had from growing a fair portion of our food,there comes a time when we need a beautiful space to relax in.

Hunkering down by the wood stove during the winter months is, without a doubt, the best way to relax when winter winds are nipping at fingers and toes, but now the coin has flipped who doesn’t want to be outside enjoying the beautiful Bulgarian weather?

So, how about some projects that beautify your outside living areas and at the same time make use of all those sticks and stones and pruning bits and bobs that may have accumulated when you were spring cleaning the garden?

Sounds like a multi win situation to me!

Tanya at Lovely Greens has come up with a real winner – using raspberry canes to  create a wattle weave edging for your flower or herb beds.

wattleweaveTake a look at her video tutorial Wattle Weave Edging

 

 

 

gardenmarkers

 

 

If you’re looking for a quick and easy project to get you started, how about these charming twig plant markers, courtesy of the original domestic goddess, Martha Stewart.

I just hope your potato peeler has more oomph than mine…

Here is a tutorial for the plant markers

Perhaps your garden could use more of a statement piece (or if you have a lot of sticks and twigs you need to dispose of).

A Twig Arbor
A Twig Arbor

If so you should  head over to Better Homes and Gardens and check out how to construct this fabulous arbor with designer Bim Willow.

I hope this has inspired you to create some rustic beauties for your garden – and if it all goes to pot, stash the evidence in the barn and when the days turn chilly use it to fire up the petchka!


	
Posted in around the homestead, Gardening

Armchair gardening

winter-33917_1280Today, the garden is under cover and, just as a sprinkling of Christmas decorations can hide the scars of on going renovations in the house, this festive mantle lifts the garden out of the doldrums.

2014 was not a good year for gardening in Bulgaria. Not that I have so much cause to complain, in fact I was extremely lucky and was spared the devastation suffered by others in certain parts of the country.

Certainly, there was an abundance of rain and a few savage storms descended on our village, doing a fair bit of damage to the plants etc., but in the scheme of things I count myself as being very lucky. Not to mention it made me appreciate my modest successes of the previous summer even more!

The seemingly never-ending rain and abundance of weeds that followed was wearing, to say the least, and after clearing the veg patch and replanting a couple of times I pretty much gave it up as a bad job. As a result the harvest was very small. The early peas and beans gave a good showing and a small patch of beetroot battled the weeds bravely. The garlic came on well, producing enough to see me through winter and the onions, although small, have been tasty and many were the perfect size for pickling. Just when I thought that was all I would harvest a forgotten row of carrots pushed on through as did the patch of leeks…all was not lost!

The fruit was another story. Neither the apples and plums nor the quinces put on any show – well, there were a very few plums. However, the raspberries, although not abundant, certainly made up for in taste what was lacking in quantity. The strawberry plants that were planted in spring simply disappeared.

The area immediately to the rear of my house gets the sun for most of the day, becoming almost unbearably hot in the height of summer. However, years ago previous owners had many grape vines and even now a few descendants are valiantly hanging on, trying to regrow, so it seemed sensible to have a pergola built to support them and (hopefully) make for myself a pleasant, shady spot to work (or pretend to work) outside. This summer the vines grew away beautifully and although the early promise of a few grapes was dashed by a particularly fierce hail storm, the vines themselves hung on tenaciously and prospered. With a bit of luck this summer I will have my outdoor office with perhaps the added bonus of some fruit as well.

Although my 2014 garden was a far cry from the bountiful and beautiful fruit, flower and veg filled secret gardens nestled on the other side of my neighbour’s walls there is always hope that I will catch up to them this summer.