The Orchard Goes In, Mini Greenhouses Go Up…and Spelt and Dark Choc Chip Cookies (recipe included)

I’m sitting in our study, chocolate chip cookies hot out of the oven cooling on the kitchen bench, and wondering where to start updating you on what’s been happening around the farm.  Finally things have got back up and running after a chaotic last few months. 🙂

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Cherry and Midnight waiting for molasses.  Liquid Amber trees holding autumn colour through our warm winter.

 

The Orchard Begins

After months of on-and-off again research and planning, the first few trees for our official orchard have gone in.  I know “research” sounds a bit heavy for a few fruit trees, but given our climate and my desire to grow things that really shouldn’t work here, I did need to do my homework.  Living in our subtropical-verging-on-warm-temperate climate, many of the trees have to be selected carefully to make sure they’ll set a crop given the limited number of chilling hours we experience (i.e. it’s not much fun having an apple tree that doesn’t bear fruit).

 

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Late afternoon.  The orchard in the process of going in.  Trees are spaced approximately 4 metres apart in rows 6 metres apart.  We’ve selected dwarf varieties wherever possible to cram more varieties in a smaller space.  In this photo we’ve started mulching around each tree with hay.  Tree guards to go around each tree to protect from grazing wallabies, possums and other wildlife.

 

 

Here’s my take on some background info about chilling hours (feel free to skip and continue reading below if this is old news for you)  I’m no expert, but I’ll give it a shot to explain what I’ve learnt…Basically each type of a particular fruit tree has its own requirement regarding number of hours under 7 degrees Celsius they need to accumulate before they’ll flower and fruit.  So, for example, a Sunshine Blue Blueberry only requires 150 hours under seven degrees to fruit, but another type of blueberry, BlueCrop Blueberry, needs over 700 hours!  It pays to do your research.  For some strange reason the number of degrees below seven doesn’t make any difference to the total hours accumulated, but a patch of unseasonably hot weather can undo the chilling hours and cause a tree to fail to set fruit that year.  (*this isn’t the only way of measuring chilling hours but it’s the one I find easiest to understand)

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Midnight the cow checking out the newly planted bed of ‘Blueberry Burst’ blueberries.  (We had to put the blueberries in their own bed as they need more acidic soil than the other fruit trees).

Since moving to this area I’ve noticed plenty of citrus trees growing in backyards and some bananas and mangoes, but not a lot of other fruit trees.  I know there are commercial avocado and blueberry farms so obviously they grow here too, but apart from the very occasional peach tree, I really haven’t seen any stone fruit growing…which makes me nervous.

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Blueberry plants are the sweetest 🙂  Look at those tiny white bell-shaped flowers?  You could grow them for ornamental value alone.

 

Why the angst over planting stone fruit?  Well, growing up in an extremely hot tropical town, I’ve always desperately wanted to be somewhere cold enough to grow peaches and plums.  I’d never even seen a stone fruit tree until I was thirty.  For me, those kinds of fruit trees I only ever read about in story books.  You know how some people think of tropical fruit as wonderfully exotic?  That’s how I feel about home-grown plums, peaches, nectarines and apples.  I spent my childhood standing on rotten mangoes that had fallen from trees in the playground, so mangoes don’t exactly hold a lot of mystique for me.  Peaches, on the other hand…well that’s a different story 🙂

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Kwai Mai Pink Lychee we planted previously with new growth (pink leaves)

 

Theoretically, with our climate accumulating a maximum of 350 chilling hours (info courtesy of a lovely local fruit grower I met at the markets), if I’m careful with what fruit tree varieties I select, we *should* be able to grow just about every fruit you can think of with the exception cherries, gooseberries, blackberries, red currants and black currants.  However, with our area’s high humidity and incredibly high rainfall (so high it is measured in metres!) we may have more challenges ahead with the threat of fungal disease wiping out our crops and/or trees.

I really should just accept that this is dairy country, and what we’re good at growing is grass, not fruit.  But…well, I want to at least try growing our own fruit.

Here’s the list of what we’ve planted:

  • Peach – Aztec Gold
  • Dwarf Mulberry – Black
  • Dwarf Apple – Dorsett Golden
  • Dwarf Lemon – Eureka
  • Nectarine – White Satin
  • Peach – Tropic Snow
  • Plum – Gulf Ruby
  • Plum – Gulf Gold
  • Apple – Coastal Cropper
  • Apricot – Glengarry
  • Peach – Tropic Beauty
  • Blueberry – Blueberry Burst
  • Lychee – Kwai May Pink
  • *still planning on planting Dwarf Apples: Tropical Anna and Tropic Sweet*

And the list of what we planted previously that didn’t make it:

  • Black Sapote (aka Chocolate Pudding Fruit) – eaten by Wallabies
  • Passionfruit – Panama Gold – eaten by Wallabies
  • Blueberry – Sunshine Blue – died of fungal disease

Mini Greenhouses Go Up

One of the reasons this post is late is that we’ve had a lot of visitors to the farm lately.  In the last few months we’ve racked up twenty seven visitors (all family and friends).  Some visiting more than once 🙂  So it’s been busy!

Two of our wonderful visitors, having heard about the destruction of our seedlings, came bearing an incredibly thoughtful gift – two mini greenhouses to protect our seedlings from those mischievous guinea fowl!  We’ve yet to complete the final step and put on the shadecloth, but here they are, almost ready to go… Can’t wait to get sowing 🙂  We’ve been totally spoilt 🙂

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New greenhouses!  Guinea fowl, beware 🙂

 

Spelt and Dark Choc Chip Cookies

The cookies are just about cooled, which means I’m just about to go and grab one.  But before I do, the recipe as promised…They’re made with dark chocolate and spelt so they could almost be healthy, right 😉

Here’s how I make them:

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Spelt and Dark Choc Chip Cookies hanging out on the cooling rack in the kitchen

 

Spelt and Dark Choc Chip Cookies

Ingredients

150g unsalted butter

150g caster sugar

3 free-range eggs, lightly beaten with a fork (the fresher the eggs the better)

3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

225g white spelt flour (or 50% wholemeal spelt, 50% white spelt)

1 teaspoon baking powder

150g dark chocolate chips (70% cacao dark chocolate chips are really nice if you can find them)

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 180Celsius/360Farenheit (160C/320F fan-forced)

2. Line large baking sheet (or two) with non-stick baking paper

3. Put butter and sugar in bowl of electric mixer.  Beat on slow speed for one minute then beat on medium speed till butter and sugar form a pale cream.

4. Add lightly whisked eggs and vanilla extract to mixing bowl and mix on medium speed until eggs are well combined throughout mix.

4. Remove bowl from mixer.  Sift flour and baking powder over top of butter/sugar/egg mix.  (Ok, ok.  Really I just plonk it in without sifting it – I’m too lazy).  Fold in flour using a spatula until just combined but no lumps of flour remain.

5.  Add choc chips to bowl and carefully fold through mix, being careful not to stir too much (which can break up the choc chips or make the batter tough once baked)

6. Place teaspoonsful of mixture on tray, allowing space between each cookie to spread (they do spread a reasonable amount when baking)

7. Bake in the preheated moderate oven until a light golden brown (about 15 minutes)

8. Remove from oven.  Leave for a minute to firm up before carefully removing to cooling rack with spatula to cool completely

*There are a lot of eggs in this recipe.  I find the better the eggs, the better the cookie.

Have a great weekend!

Julie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9 thoughts on “The Orchard Goes In, Mini Greenhouses Go Up…and Spelt and Dark Choc Chip Cookies (recipe included)

  1. You have been a very busy little bee. The place is looking great and it’s exciting to see all your fruit trees and bushes going in. It’s a big task but hopefully the rewards will be great and tasty! It does always pay to do fruit tree research, especially when you have less trees to count on, even if it’s just for flavour. And harvest timing. And size. And… Yes. Grow well, little trees! 😀 I love the mini greenhouses too; what a great gift!
    -Twiglet

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Twiglet :). So good to finally have things on the move again and projects on the go. I know what you mean about the fruit tree research – so many factors to consider! Some of the best tasting varieties are out of our reach due to our lack of chilling hours, which is a bit of a shame (I’d love to grow a Moorpark Apricot – sigh) but hopefully being homegrown and tree ripened will bump up the flavour – fingers crossed :). I tried to stagger ripening times but again choice has been a bit limited with the chill factor. I’m guessing your climate is probably a bit more fruit-tree-friendly than ours 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No worries, Julie. I know how hard it is to juggle everything and make progress! 🙂 Yeah, homegrown fruit always tastes better. Provided you don’t have a crappy variety, like one of my tangelo trees, which I didn’t choose… And you know exactly what you’ve sprayed or not sprayed them with too. Good job staggering the ripening times. Progress with my Fruit Tree Plan, complete with spreadsheet, naturally, has stalled a little due to waiting for stumps to be removed and spending time on The Great Vege Garden Expansion.

        I think we’re pretty lucky here as we get a decent amount of chilling hours, I don’t know what the figure is but I should look it up, yet also getting warm summers, which are great for fruit ripening and general plant growing. I would say we can grow most types of fruit, except for the tropicals and subtropicals and tender thing like avocadoes, as we do get plenty of frosts. Usually. I do have to be more careful with the frosts after killing my little lime tree last winter. Oops! The frosts are a little more harsh in the country than in town.
        -Twiglet

        Like

      2. A spreadsheet for your orchard plan! 🙂 I like your style 🙂 Sorry about your lime tree. Lemon and lime seem to be a bit more temperamental than some of the other citrus. Yep, I think all the buildings and roads create more of a heat mass so frosts aren’t as much of an issue. Frosts seem to prefer the base of green rolling hills instead 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Your climate seems to create the exact opposite challenges to ours. I read about your challenges getting water to your animals in below freezing temperatures and it just seems a world away from what we experience here. It’s the middle of winter now and we’ve only lit the fire a few times for decoration more than anything :). Somebody forgot to tell the weather it’s meant to be winter – we hit 26degrees Celsius (78.8F) today! I’m guessing you’d never get anywhere near 26C during the middle of your snowy winters 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The warmest winter day I ever remember was in late January several years ago and I think we got to 62F. But that is very rare indeed! Most days from Jan through March are well below 35F. Some as low as -15F. With nights as low as -33F.

        Liked by 1 person

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