Summer thanks

Odgers and McClelland Exchange Stores shopfront.
Morning shadows on the shopfront.
Odgers and McClelland Exchange Stores kitchen window.
View from the shop kitchen.
Mexican orange blossom in Falcon enamel milk jug.
Mexican Orange Blossom in a Falcon enamel milk jug.
Hanging Rock Arc-en-ciel Trout, potato, egg and pickled kale (adapted from Matthew Evans' Summer at Fat Pig Farm).
Nundle trout with our chickens' eggs, and homegrown potatoes and pickled kale.
Harvesting backyard potatoes.
Don't buy potatoes. The spud crop is ready.
Mark Delahunt's oxblood tomatoes, Jenkins Street Antiques and Fine China, Nundle.
Our shop neighbour Mark Delahunt's oxblood tomatoes.
First backyard tomatoes.
The thrill of the first ripe tomatoes from the garden.
Harvesting summer backyard apples.
Picking apples to beat the cockatoos.
Duncan harvesting summer backyard apples with the apple picker.
Our Burgon and Ball apple picker makes it easier to reach.
Hugo and Elsa blog's Michelle Crawford's Apple Cider Cake (A Table in the Orchard).
Apple Cider Cake from Michelle Crawford's A Table in the Orchard.
Toni Swain at Nundle Rocks The Peel Inn during the 2016 Tamworth Country Music Festival.
Toni Swain performs for fringe festival Nundle Rocks at The Peel Inn during the Tamworth Country Music Festival in January.
Turning the calendar on the fridge from February to March gave me great satisfaction and relief. I'm not summer's biggest fan and I greet its approach with trepidation. The thought of sweltering, hot inland days, bushfire reports on the radio, and endless watering of vegetable gardens and trees fills me with dread. Then there are the nights, when children rise from their beds seeking wet cloths to place of their foreheads, drinks of water, and are exhausted in the morning from unsettled sleep. You guessed it, we don't have air conditioning.
While we have had our share of revolting 40 degrees Celcius days, we've also had a good number of milder, even cool days and some rain. For that I am feeling thankful and have put together photographs giving thanks to summer. In terms of mental cruelty, a summer reference borrowed from Australia cartoonist Michael Leunig, it wasn't too bad. Here's my list of summer thanks:
1. Garden days. When it is cool enough to work in the garden, clear away fallen branches and make a start on stacking winter firewood.
2. Flowers. From exuberant rainbow zinnias, and gentle fairy floss pink naked ladies, to sunshine yellow zucchini and Jerusalem artichoke flowers and subtle Mexican orange blossom, I love you all.
3. Lighter meals. With plenty of lettuce in the patch it's easy to put together a light lunch. Just add basil, coriander, salt, pepper, vinegar, olive oil, cucumber, tomato, feta, hummus, yoghurt and an egg. For something a little more special there's local Hanging Rock Arc-en-ciel Trout with potatoes, egg and pickled kale (adapted from Matthew Evans' Summer on Fat Pig Farm)
4. Tomatoes. I am so excited when I see the first blush of red of our crop of Roma tomatoes. Surely they are one of the best fruits you can ever grow. This year our shop neighbour Mark Delahunt had a wonderful crop of oxblood tomatoes. When the tide of ripening becomes overwhelming we make tomato passata. Then there's always gazpacho, bruschetta, and tomato and goat's curd tart. 
5. Apples. Good spring rain brought us an abundance of apples just metres from our kitchen. So it's always a challenge to try new apple recipes. Our pick this summer is Michelle Crawford's Apple and Cider Cake from her book, A Table in the Orchard.
6. Water. How glorious it is to have fresh water to swim in. Whether it is a hole in the Peel River, a plunge in Sheba Dams, jumping off our tinny into Chaffey Dam or laps at the Nundle Swimming Pool, water makes summer bearable.
7. Shade. We spend so much time in the shade of a dwarf acer near our kitchen. The canopy is so dense it casts a wonderful shade. Perfect for reading, eating, dozing, climbing, imagining.
8. Shadows. We planted Jerusalem artichokes on the northern and western side of out house for their shade, evaporative cooling and psychological relief of looking at foliage. The bonus is the beautiful shadows their leaves cast in our kitchen of a morning, back light by the northern sun.
9. Festival. In a small town of 300 people having a choice of more than 60 live music acts over 10 days is a gift. That's Nundle during the Tamworth Country Music Festival in January. Seeing three friends Toni Swain, Jeff Gibson and John Krsulja launch albums was an absolute privilege.
10. Family. How relaxing is it during the school holidays to let go of the school routine of lunches, uniforms, catching buses and going to after school activities. Every day stretches out before you with possibility for bike rides, pool or river swims, park play, fishing, boating, cooking, eating outside, and visiting family and friends.
Apple and Cider Cake
From A Table in the Orchard, Michelle Crawford
Ingredients: 150ml dry cider, 175g sultanas (I used currants), 3 large tart apples (peeled, cored and finely sliced), grated zest of 1 lemon, 200g raw castor sugar, 180g salted butter, softened, 2 eggs, 280g plain flour, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tbsp Demerara sugar.
Preheat oven to 170 degrees C and grease a round 20cm cake tin and line the base with baking paper. 
In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the cider a little then remove from heat. Add in the fruit and lemon zest, toss to coat in cider and let the mixture soak for 20 minutes.
Using a stand mixer, beat the sugar and butter until pale and fluffy. Then add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until combined.
Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon together. I used Michelle's method of using a whisk instead of sifting and it worked really well. No lumps.
Fold the dry ingredients into the butter and sugar mixture, then add the fruit and cider and gently fold it in until combined.
Spoon into the prepared tin, smooth the top and sprinkle with Demerara sugar. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool the cake in the tin, then on a wire rack until cool. Or serve warm with cream. (I enjoyed mine with Greek yoghurt, which pairs well with the lemon zest).
Our fan forced gas oven is hot, so I pre-heated the oven to 150 degrees C and cooked the cake for 30 minutes. 

Megan Trousdale
Megan Trousdale

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