One of Peter’s main passions is restoring old vehicles to their former glory. When Russell Glendinning found that two of his old railway jiggers had gone to rack and ruin he brought them to Garston, hoping that Peter would work some magic.
And Peter did. Now, Garston is lucky to have them on display as part of our railway heritage precinct on the Garston Green.
Noel, on the other hand, has dedicated much of his time to collecting and preserving documents from the past. He’s got files, folders and books galore of fascinating documents and photographs showing farming and community life as it used to be.
Now, Noel is collaborating with his granddaughter to bring us a new Facebook page. Amanda has been posting photos and articles from Noel’s vast collection and reminding us of a bygone era. If you’ve lived in Northern Southland, you might well recognise places, events and faces. You might even spot yourself at these special events.
Want to add more vegetables into your diet? Me too! A chowder is a thick soup, usually containing seafood or corn. This particular sweetcorn chowder makes a very tasty, winter-warming dish.
In his book, The 4 Pillar Plan, Dr. Rangan Chatterjee talks about aiming to eat a rainbow of vegetables every day. It’s a fun challenge to help you focus on eating a range of vegetables. Without it, I’m inclined to stick to the same old few.
This sweetcorn chowder has plenty of white, red, yellow and green veggies. So, if you eat it for lunch today, you’ll already be halfway through your rainbow.
1 medium-sized red kumara
2 tbsp butter
1 can Watties creamed corn
1 tbsp rice flour
3 cups Campbells Vegetable Stock
Wash the kumara and grate it with the skin on.
Finely slice the leek.
Melt the butter in a large microwave bowl. Add the leek and kumara and microwave on high, covered, for 8 minutes.
Mix the rice flour into the cooked vegetables.
Add the canned corn and vegetable stock.
Microwave again for 10 minutes.
Add salt, chopped parsley and a little cheese to suit your taste.
When you sang Auld Lang Syne in 2019 could you even have guessed what 2020 had in store?
While New Zealand locked down and hospitals geared up, the food industry went into essential service mode.
Supermarkets did a fantastic job of keeping us fed at the service end. Meanwhile, at the production end, no-one told the plants and animals about Covid 19. They just carried on growing and ripening as usual.
On our farm alone, we harvested four crops between March and May.
So, here’s the tale of our lockdown harvest.
The Grain Harvest
We own an ageing Massey Ferguson harvester. It’s given sterling service over the past 20 years, gathering grain on our farm and two others as well. Consequently, the grain harvest was in full swing when Jacinda announced that NZ would be locking down.
Rumours flew that we’d have to sit in our houses and let things rot. That was nonsense, of course. Farmers could carry on so long as we observed all the rules and made everyone safe.
It was a strange, old time. Gone were my hours in the kitchen, whipping up lunches and snacks galore. Now, everyone brought their own food and ate it separately. The truck and tractor drivers stayed in their cabs and occasionally waved as each passed by.
It was a lonely old time for our combine driver, too.
Usually, he has plenty of visitors at harvest time. Grandchildren, nieces and nephews, past and present farmers and the occasional townie all love to man the spare seat in the cab. And Pat enjoys a bit of company cos it’s tedious travelling around and around paddocks of yellow grain.
There were no visitors in 2020. This season, poor Pat was on his own.
Harvesting The Hops
While grain poured into the silos, the hops were going gangbusters.
Instead, our farm’s two little family bubbles were on their own with rows and rows of hops to pick in a race against time.
Last year, we cut all the bines at the same time and carted them to a central location. Music was blaring, and the tables were surrounded by people plucking thousands of hops.
In the 2020 lockdown, we cut the bines down six at a time. Each afternoon, Terry and I piled two or three onto the back of the Polaris and trundled them up to our house, leaving James and his family to deal with the rest.
It took me about five minutes to decide that standing on a cold, concrete carport for hours by myself was not going to work. So, we lined the lounge carpet with tarps and brought the hop vines inside.
Afternoon and night, I cut the vines into manageable chunks and piled them on the living room floor. Thank goodness for hot drinks and Sky TV!
Despite the tarpaulins, hop leaves went everywhere. So did spiders, large and small. Eeek!
I vacuumed FREQUENTLY, but tiny creepy-crawlies still crawled out of the sofa and bit me on the arm.
The hop harvest seemed to go on for days, but suddenly, the flowers were too far gone. It hurt to admit defeat and leave some hops on the bines.
The Saffron Ripens
Hard on the heels of the hops, the saffron’s delicate purple flowers began to poke their heads above the earth.
Still in our separate bubbles — Terry and I at one end of the paddock and James’ family at the other — we began the saffron harvest.
With thousands of two-year-old bulbs in the ground, there was no way we could do this one on our own. But, equally, lockdown rules made it hard for Kiwi Saffron owners Jo and Steve Daley to travel or to bring in their usual WWoofers to help.
Fortunately, there were only a few hundred flowers at first — one or two buckets — each day. They were easy to pick but time-consuming for Lizette and the boys to process in their carefully-cleaned sleepout. It kept them busy each afternoon — an essential for lockdown — but they were more than relieved when Level 3 arrived, bringing with it a bubble of Wwoofers to take over the job.
They came just in time, for the flowers were multiplying and producing bucket loads every day. Thank goodness there were plenty of Wwoofers who stayed in New Zealand when the borders closed. The saffron harvest would have been ruined without them.
Trudging up and down the rows over clumps of uneven soil was hard on my knees, so I retreated when the Wwoofers arrived. But, Terry went out into the paddock every day to pluck “his” end of the saffron rows. What a trooper.
2020 was a bumper year for all the apples too.
The gorgeous apples by the woolshed — best described as “sort of like a Cox’s Orange” — ripened crisp and tart in mid-April. Often these apples are only on the high branches, but this year there were lots within reach. It was fun to pop down with a bucket for apples and sacks for dry pine cones which littered the ground. (Pine cones make the best kindling ever.)
This year I had the time to process and freeze many apples and to carefully wrap others individually in newspaper. I stored them in a crate, and so far, they’ve stayed perfect, so fingers crossed.
When the autumn winds came, as they always do, apples tumbled to the ground. Lizette and her boys rescued cratefuls of these windfalls and sent them up to Laura Douglas at Real Country to feed her pigs.
Like all tourism businesses, Real Country is devastated by the lockdown, so Laura did appreciate the piggy treats.
As for us, we’ve eaten so much apple crumble that we’re well over that particular dessert now. I really must add more apple recipes to my collection.
What’s Your Story?
So, that’s our lockdown story. But everyone had a different experience of lockdown, of course. What’s yours?
I’m hoping to put together a post-lockdown series of stories about how innovative Kiwi businesses are pivoting to survive and thrive.
Contact me now if you know someone who’d like to be featured or share this story to spread the word.
Macaroni cheese is a favourite in our family so I like to add extra goodness by including vegetables and eggs in my recipe. Be warned. Once you’ve tried this recipe you may never be satisfied with plain macaroni and cheese again.
1 cup uncooked macaroni
1 tbsp flour
1 cup milk
1 cup grated tasty cheese
½ cauliflower, cut into small florets
½ can creamed sweetcorn
½ cup frozen peas
2 – 3 hardboiled eggs
4 rashers bacon
½ – 1 cup grated cheese
2-3 slices bread or packet breadcrumbs
Cook the macaroni, cauliflower and bacon
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add 1 cup macaroni and stir to loosen all the pieces. Cook the macaroni at a rolling boil for 10-12 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
Add the cauliflower to the pot halfway through.
When cooked, drain the macaroni and cauliflower into a sieve and rinse with water to stop the macaroni sticking. Put aside until it’s needed.
While the pasta is cooking, fry the bacon in a separate pan.
Make the white sauce while the macaroni etc is cooking
Put 25g butter into a large, microwave-safe bowl. Microwave until melted.
Stir in 1 heaped tbsp flour using a whisk. Microwave for 20 seconds.
Stir the roux (butter & flour mixture) again with the whisk.
Slowly add 1 cup milk, stirring constantly with the whisk to mix it all evenly.
Microwave on high for 2 minutes then remove and stir to help it thicken. Cook for another minute and stir again.
Put it all together
Tip the macaroni/cauliflower back into its large pan.
Stir 1 cup grated cheese, frozen peas and ½ can creamed sweetcorn into the white sauce.
Cut the fried bacon into small pieces and add it to the macaroni.
Peel and chop the hardboiled eggs and add them as well.
Pour all the cheesy sauce into the pasta mixture and stir together till combined. Then tip the whole thing into a large baking dish.
Mince the bread into crumbs in a food processor or open a packet of crumbs.
Sprinkle the crumbs over the top of the macaroni cheese mixture in the baking tin, then sprinkle grated cheese on top.
Bake in the oven at 180°C for 15 minutes.
Alternatively, if you’ve been quick and the mixture is still hot, simply pop it under a grill until the cheese is melted and crusty on top. (Take care that it doesn’t burn.)
Tips and Tricks
A simple hand whisk is your best friend when it comes to making a white sauce (also called a roux). It works like magic to keep the sauce smooth.
You can make this gluten-free by using gluten-free pasta and flour.
I sometimes add chopped fresh tomatoes too. Yum!
I find it easier to make a white sauce in the microwave, but you can do it on a stovetop too. Here’s how:
Melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring, for a few seconds. Remove from the heat and gradually add the milk, stirring all the time.
Bring the milk to the boil, stirring it often while it thickens.
When it’s thick enough, remove from the heat and stir in cheese and corn.