Sunday, December 30, 2007
My gardening thoughts have turned to preparing for Winter, which is when the benefits of having our own produce will really kick in - dark green leafy veg to eat very fresh while the supermarkets are hocking a very limited range of produce for a substantial amount of money. Kale, arugula, winter lettuce, leeks, beetroot and various other possibilities are on my list. I'm wondering about Florence Fennel but might be too late to plant it. Too late for celeriac also, but I'll do that next Spring. The raised bed of potatoes has yielded beautiful soil, just exactly like the books said it would. Found a flatworm (i.e. a nematode I think) in there - anyone know what bad things these actually do?
So the winter brassicas will go in the raised bed, following the potatoes according to some optimal plan I read in Spring and remembered. I'm still considering what else will go where in relation to my other garden beds. Patrick has definitely convinced me to take care not to replant garlic in the same bed year on year, but I haven't encountered any suggestions for the best crop(s) to go in after garlic. Hoping Patrick is reading and has some ideas tbh.
I've also been upping my focus on soil enrichment/replenishing. I haven't put as much effort into this as I think I ought to, based on my reading of Linda Woodrow's Permaculture Home Garden book. I really ought to be using my Bokashi liquid more effectively for a start. But I have remembered about the bin full of horse manure tea at the far side of the garage and started to use that in the watering can again. Menstrual blood is a good resource (I never ever said this blog would be for those of a delicate disposition) which until now had been going on the garlic. It is now going on the tomatoes. I do need to go seaweed gathering but as we've been social butterflying around of late to the point of fed upness, I'm focusing for the meantime on activities which are entirely and utterly home based. My other soil enrichment experiment has been to remove the large leaves of the docks in my invasive patch (garden is a little too grand a term for it atm) and place them as mulch around the garlic. Docks have long taproots which bring up good things from deep in the soil and so putting the leaves around the garlic and letting the rain and sun do it's stuff should gift some of those minerals to my family's tummies eventually.
We scuppered our camping plans for Christmas on the 24th when it was pouring with rain and worse was forecast. Instead, we bought a (pine) Christmas tree, some lights, made truffles and got Christmassy. Fionn and I went to Mass on Christmas Eve and loved watching the nativity the children put on.
Also this week our Fionn turned five. We had a fabulous and very special day, again up at our current favourite river. Next celebration project is his kiddy birthday party, to be held mid January when fewer friends are away on holiday. Pirate day, if we don't change our mind.
Friday, December 21, 2007
three kinds of lettuce
One yellow cherry tomato
And maybe even some nasturtium. It is growing wild in my rampant garden patch down by the neighbour's shed. Tastier than the Wandering Jew and Convulvulus it shares the patch with.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
I think we have Phacelia flowering. Very pretty. I'm after some borage next year cos it is even prettier and still attracts the goodies.
First yellow tomato today. Giving it another day to fully ripen. Zucchinis with no blossom end rot evident coming on now. Perhaps the longest day feast will include tomatoes and zucchinis from our garden as well?
I planted dwarf sunflowers at the back of the garden. Sometimes I do stupid things.
Too tired to write properly about Bokashi and about Grass Roots magazine. Putting it here though to remind me that I want to, soon.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
As for Christmas, where to start and where to stop? I spent some time talking about my conflicting feelings and frustrations around Christmas last night with my second cousin Jill, a woman very committed to God (i.e. her Christian God). That helped. I'm on a journey to make some sense out of Christmas, to listen and hear a positive message. That might not be a God-led journey but I realised the other night that also it might be. I'm certainly planning that it won't be a journey which contributes to the exploitation of Chinese workers in plastic tat production factories.
I applaud what Oxfam, Tear Fund and World Vision have done in creating gifts which provide chickens, goats, toilets etc (and I did notice Bibles on at least one catalogue). I notice nothing from these mainstream charities aiming to improve the lives of exploited workers in China (to give an example, it certainly isn't the only country hosting horrendous workplace practices). Oooooh no, that would be too political. If anyone knows of a campaign for workers rights in China, then I'd be very pleased to know.
Bought comfrey and a tiny bay tree today.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
I enjoyed it, more than I had expected to. Philippa leaves her settled life in Dunedin for nearly three years and goes volunteering on (mostly) organic farms which are part of the Willing Workers on Organic Farms scheme. New Zealand being a small town where everybody knows someone you know, I loved seeing some familiar names and it also gave me some more names to look for when I'm trying to source New Zealand grown organic produce. For example, I've met the owner of Treedimensions once before when he did a market stall in our small town and acquaintances have also recommended his fruit. I've sent him an email now to go on the list for his fruit boxes from late January.
All that organic food reading got me thinking about bread and gluten and family health again. Several bloggers I like to read have made wonderful looking and sounding bread in recent months: Bean Sprout, Sharon and Rachael especially. Our son Fionn has been on a gluten free diet for the last 19 months, on the recommendation of an allergy specialist and it has helped his eczema. He is also egg free because that seems to help a lot as well. Meals are easy but I am so over cooking gluten free baking and I'm also keen to do some bread making but not necessarily two different kinds of bread at a time. So I am building up to having a go at sourdough and also at low gluten breads like spelt and seeing if he can cope with that okay.
I also have a Bill Mollison ('father' of the permaculture movement) book out of the library at the moment and he has an interesting section on turning annuals into perennials. Mostly by having good ground mulch around annuals and letting a portion of them run to seed and then self-seed in the garden. He also wrote that if you leave garlic in the ground for two years, then you will get a continuous supply, but I can't fathom that as yet.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
One thing I am clear about. Where I live, it is SUMMER. In our final year in the UK, we started to really 'get' English Christmas. The Christmas Day we spent with close friends and their extended family just before we left London was very special and many of the traditions finally made sense at a deep level.
This migrating to the other side of the world with pagan/Christian traditions of symbols of hope and new light and Jesus and the rebirth of the Sungod all intact but stuck now to the wrong side of the calendar which so many Pakeha-to-be did 150 or so years ago is just, well, understandable but at a deep level, to me, odd and wrong.
Something I've been thinking about amongst this is how long we've actually had a tradition of summer holidays. For 'working' people, I suspect only since the industrial revolution. Since we've been away from the land and oblivious to the fact that summer is the big busy time if you are living off the land.
My symbol of the season so far is this:
Summer solstice and garlic harvesting soon. Perhaps my nuclear tribe and I can do something meaningful and non-commercial around that. Like harvest the garlic and have special food. It's really a bit early in the season for homegrown drink (cider couldn't be made until later, ditto for wine and beer - maybe lemonade though) but I'm keen on any suggestions for a special meal with seasonal ingredients. Cooked on the barbecue I think.
of the lawn. Not of anything more exciting.
The plants surrounded by pea straw are tobacco. To the foreground of the trampoline is pumpkin and blackcurrant. The pumpkin is one of two from my Dad. The hulless ones I've got to grow seed on are finally germinating on the kitchen windowsill. Third time lucky. I found a book which advised me that, being hull-less, the Austrian Seed pumpkins need careful help to germinate. Not like your standard hardy pumpkins which spring out of the compost patch whether you invited them or not then. Brighid's punga forest. Then a bean plant, plonked into the lawn. I'll weed and plant around it eventually.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
This may seem maudlin to some but it's the kind of linkage I adore.
I've been reading Gardening with Old Roses from the library and in the section on companion planting (for visual harmony rather than the permaculture interpretation of companion planting) I was interested to read that herbs are often very good partners for old fashioned roses. Many of the herbs Rosmemary Thodey writes about are familiar names to me from the packet of my beneficial insect blend and elsewhere in the herb section of the Kings Seeds catalogue: Daucus Carota, Amni Visnaga, Hyssop, Rue, Feverfew, Viola Miss Helen Mount.
I have some roses out the front of the house - the only part of the section to have any garden flowers in it when we bought the house. These roses have, I suspect, survived years of neglect and I won't be messing with moving them. I have learnt from my recent reading that two of the three are ramblers - they send out shoots all over the place from the base. They are in a very narrow piece of garden which can't be widened - well not unless we relocate the garage. I was thinking that we need trellis for them as I can't attach them to the brick walls. Instead, I've set myself the challenge of finding something to train them over to give some shape to the sprawl (and prevent the sprawl from being squashed by the car tyres) without buying anything new.
It's true - this blog is in desperate need of photos to give some context to the text. I really need to remedy the knowledge gap and learn to download photos myself. Soon, I hope.
This one on common New Zealand weeds has lots of photos to help with identification. I liked the section on the history of weeds in New Zealand in this site.
Didn't notice oxalis (the kind with bulbs) on either site, though I didn't trawl with the finest of combs. I've found some oxalis here in my garden and, mindful of the advice of my father and other gardening relatives, I got a plastic bag and lifted the soil around each oxalis plant very carefully to find every bulb and bag it for the dump (tip/refuse station). If I was being more mindful of not sending anything to the dump, then I would burn it. I wouldn't trust an oxalis bulb anywhere near compost ever. It is a weed that even the pesticide fans find they have to resort to hand weeding to combat it.
I have been following Nikki's blog on her weed project with interest - she talks about putting certain weeds in a black bag to heat up and destroy seeds before they go on the compost heap.
Sunday, December 9, 2007
They look to have a reasonable amount of meat on them and it will be a good test as to whether raising bantams is worthwhile meat-wise. I'd previously assumed not.
Saturday, December 8, 2007
Friday, December 7, 2007
I would like to get some photos up here soon and am making it my blogging goal for next week. The tomatoes, potatoes and garlic are my handsomest plants at the moment with lettuces and zucchinis coming up behind. I got impatient with my marigolds (prone to dying on me) yesterday and bought some plants from the nursery for some instant colour. Did the same with alyssum.
Have I written about false seed beds? I really should have done one with the carrot and onion patch.
I also really should have some magic children sleeping pills so I can concentrate on gardening and garden blogging properly. Favourite Handyman is out being social and owes me proper gardening time tomorrow in bucketloads. If he isn't home soon, then the rate will go up to cleaning the house and cooking dinner as well. Actually that is the first idea to prompt me to think he will stay alive if he gets home later than in the next three seconds.
Thursday, December 6, 2007
You might already understand this from a hypothetical point of view. I write from the rich and fragrant view of lived experience. Don't join me.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
So next year I am thinking I'll buy some single variety seeds of different beneficial insect attracting properties and plant them in clumps where I know what to expect. As for actually attracting lacewings, I haven't seen any so far.
Monday, November 26, 2007
I'd been following the news of Fonterra, New Zealand's largest cooperative (made up of most of NZ's dairy farmers) before we left home. The writing is on the wall for the voice of the small farmer. I'd be cautious about getting into discussions with current farmers without thinking extremely carefully as obviously they have to feed their families somehow. But:
1. Dairy farming is increasing massively in size in NZ, in response to high prices for milk/butter fat on the world markets.
2. That price increase is, as far as I can understand, due to rising demand for milk products in previously non-milk drinking parts of the world.
3. A big player consumer-wise in this new market is China.
4. A rapidly developing player supply-wise is China which in a fairly short space of time has run up beside New Zealand.
5. So when Asia gets more self-sufficient in meeting it's domestic demand for dairy, what happens to the price of NZ milk and butterfat?
6. And when there is no longer a good price to be gained for dairying, what happens to the large, technology intensive farms which rely on irrigation from afar?
7. And when the big capital boys pull out of Fonterra because the good times have rolled over leaving a nasty hangover, what happens to the small farmers who once owned Fonterra (and the small local companies amalgated into Fonterra only a few years ago - remember Koromiko and Waitohi cheese for example) and who no longer have a significant voice or indeed the right to a slice of any profits which relates to production, real graft, and not to shareholding?
8. What happens to our environment now and in the future?
I still have a lot of questions and thinking to do around dairying, a way of life which is both special to me and increasingly problematic. I learnt to milk cows with my grandad from about eight years old. Later I milked the cows with my uncle on school holiday visits while my grandad was away at monthly cheese board meetings. I still love to visit the farms of my two dairying uncles and to discuss the politics of dairying with my grandad.
More recently, only a few months after giving birth to my daughter, I was driving off the farm of local friends during calving season when I saw a cow bellowing for her calf which had been taken from her. She still had the afterbirth hanging out of her vagina (I presume that is the correct technical term) - such was the recentness of the birth and the quickness of the separation. A turning point for me in how I see the ethics of dairy farming.
So, rice milk. It's quite pleasant I think.
To celebrate our return home, my son started vomiting last night. At least we're not up at the local hospital with a dangerously dehydrated child, as I hear several local children are with this extra strength lurgy.
I like blogging. Just not managing to get to it so much at the moment.
Do I want a medal for this mothering lark. Er YES! I don't need a medal for being the best, as I'm not into faking. Do I want a medal for getting through this week (and a good part of last week for that matter)? Absolutely. You know, the kind for the triers at school racces day who came last every time but never gave up? Well if anyone is out there and finds I have managed to blog again by the end of this week (after tonight as I might blabber some more if nobody closely related to me moves their bowel or stomach in the next half hour), can you please send me a medal via this blog?
Ta. Soaking in melodrama. Better than literally soaking in vomit, I promise.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
I haven't organised a wedding present yet but I have organised my gardening buddy here to water the garden for us while we are away if the weather deems it necessary. Priorities... I've transplanted all my tomatoes into the garden or large pots.
I'm about to go to bed and finish reading an article about the super bad effects of dairy farming on the environment. Too much poo. Literally from what I've read so far. Bit like babies then. Have a lovely week.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
My favourite handyman planted some tobacco today. I think the baccy will be the most interesting experiment of this season. He also was very nice to me when I was so grumpy and fed up of mothering and houseworking and not seeing him earlier today. Everyone needs a handyman like my Favourite Handyman. He invited friends around later on and cooked a barbecue as well.
The invite included our discerning seven year old friend Tom. Which meant I had to clean the toilet specially. Tom didn't complain this time which I took to mean that either he never went to the toilet or that I'd done well this time. Maybe his parents prepped him on not commenting prior to the visit. Reminds me of when, nearly 30 years ago, we went to visit my uncle and aunt (brother and sister) who were each living in non-marital relationships at the time. Outside in the car my siblings and I were advised that another person called X would be there and Mum and Dad were not sure why and NOT to ask questions. Yeeeeeees that would be a sheltered upbringing. Absolutely.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Still, all good knowledge to help make good seed buying decisions. I've been having a closer look at New Zealand seed selling companies and thought I'd comment on what I think I've learnt or observed here. Yates and Mcgregors are big into hybrids and big into big business. I wouldn't bother trying to save their seed. I rarely bother buying their seeds anyway. Their products seem to be aimed at producing supermarket-glossy fruit which values looks over flavour. Or that's what I suspect - I haven't bothered to test this theory myself when there are other options for growing to pursue instead.
Kings Seeds. This is my favourite seed catalogue company and I expect I'll be buying from them in future years also. Most of their seed is imported. Although it is likely that some of their seed (especially the heirloom varieties I'm thinking) is open pollinated, I think they are buying seed through the big guys and are bound contractually not to indicate which seeds are open pollinated and which are not. So not the best choice for seed saving either.
I think Koanga seeds are a good bet for open pollination. Ecoseeds look like they fit the bill also.
Ginny's Herbs is a business I've recently discovered and may order from for an upcoming wedding gift. Looks like you could take seed from their plants also.
I weeded, lifted tulips, planted a zucchini, watered various pots and did some seed sowing. Fionn helped with the seed sowing and as I had no idea where to start looking for a marker pen or other sensible method of labelling the seed trays, none of them are labelled. We'll just see what we recognise. We sowed multiple seeds in each of the 72 plugs so should be fun guessing later. Although the weather is warming up, I still have the lids mostly down on the propogators and have them under the desk and behind a glass windscreen in a bid to protect them from the rude and apparently ravenous blackbirds who fearlessly swoop and steal all over my garden.
Friday, November 9, 2007
I'm going up to the local dump sometime this month to have a chat to the people up there about what they do with car windscreens. In the latest Organic NZ magazine, there is a photo of a man in Otago who uses car windscreens propped against notched sticks to make a cloche effect.
Speaking of OrganicNZ magazine, apparently when it first started it was called the 'Compost Club Magazine'. I like that. Reminds me of the secret clubs my girlfriend Marija and I used to invent when we were about seven. But with garden stuff added in.
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
Progress grade: D-
Sunday, November 4, 2007
I'm transplanting my tomatoes outside slowly. The idea being a particularly rough night won't strike when every single one is new to the ground soil. I've been finding loads of huge healthy worms in the areas which I dug bokashi into and then covered with pea straw in winter. After the grave warnings about blight I've read combined with our humid climate, I'm taking care to plant my tomatoes with extra large gaps between them - easily a metre apart. In between I'll companion plant (need to get that book out of the library again) - basil, carrots, something else.
The potatoes are looking fantastic. The ones in the raised bed are doing much better than the ones in the tyres. I've been mounding them with peastraw and have high hopes for a good crop. My second planting of peas has been more successful. I'm pretty sure the blackbirds (fearless blighters) ate the first seeds and so this time I protected them with fizzy bottles until they had germinated and got a little established. They are planted in between rows of potatoes and now I've got a teepee of bamboo stakes set up for them to climb.
I have found the 'beneficial insect blend' doesn't work for me when planted direct into the ground as I don't know what is weed and what is beneficial. So I've reverted to raising the seed in small tubs which I can either transplant or move around the garden to where it seems most needed.
The slug population has been rising during the wet and I'm thinking of resorting to pellets in non-food growing areas. If anyone knows of biodiversity problems using slug pellets could cause, please feel welcome to put your case in the comments section of this post.
Some strawberries survived total neglect in a pot outside all winter and now have fruit on, so I've treated them to a new home in zoomgro compost in a tyre. With chickenwire on top to foil the cheeky blackbirds. I'm finding the tyres good for squashing lawn/weed growth underneath and making it easier for me to create more garden. In a ramshackle way, I'm creating more and more garden along one fence and I've got designs on the adjacent fence also.
Out the front I've started to dismantle an old fence which is serving neither practical nor aesthetic function and I'll use the boards for raising the current garden beds for next year.
In our small town last week, a teenage girl hung herself. We heard the news privately as it hasn't made the papers. Rejected by an abusive family, she died alone and we think she was cremated without a funeral service.
I never met this young woman, though I know the teacher who worked hard to give her chances and wept when she heard the news.
I want to bear witness here that her life was worth something and that she deserved the dignity of a sendoff by people she loved and who loved her.
On October 24th, my beloved cousin Lou passed away. He was 89 and in poor health and something I have learned in recent days is that when I love someone, I am never ready to let them go. It has been an intense family time and the shared experiences have taught me much.
Lou was a returned soldier and a prisoner of war (WW2). I consider myself a pacifist (slugs and snails excepted) but I have found much to learn from the experiences of those who have involved themselves in armed combat.
Last Wednesday I bought a packet of Flanders Poppies and Fionn and I will plant them in Autumn. We have a lemon tree and a punga grove to remember the birth of my daughter earlier this year and the poppies will mark the memory of a very special man. Later this month we are going to the wedding of a great friend and I'll plant something to remember that also. My friend is also getting the gardening bug (I have aided and abetted it also) and has been growing Irises for her wedding flowers. That way she will always have the bulbs to remember the day by. So I'll probably plant some of the same Irises in Autumn.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
We had lunch with politically active friends in the weekend who raised the issue with us. I had that 'mother at home out of the loop feeling' and didn't say a lot, assuming I was feeling uninformed because I hadn't been paying attention. Not so, it seems. I received a forwarded email from my sister this morning which showed that the media is being tightly manipulated and they in turn are manipulating what information we have access to. Finding out that 17 people are in prison (i.e. arrested and awaiting trial and not granted bail) galvanised me into more active pursual of information. Favourite Handyman found the wiki link I've pasted above.
We're still on the lookout for more information. After fairly idle comments about the responsibilities democracy bestows on us all earlier in the month when the local body elections were held, we are thinking that this is when democracy can be handed over or fought for. I'm getting prepared to fight for it.
Wherever you live, talk about this. Spread the thinking, no matter what you ultimately decide to think.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
1. a bulb of florence fennel to eat. There was some in the leek and potato soup we had for lunch and that inspired me to try it. I've never eaten it before.
2. Spinach tree seedlings to plant in my garden. Marie reckons they are the best spinach she's ever grown. I've never heard of them before, but after looking at her garden, if she advised me to turn cartwheels each day in front of the tomatoes to help them grow, then I'd probably try that also.
3. A comfrey plant. I'll plant it in my special invasive plants garden. I loppered some horrible ugly and invasive trees down earlier this year and pulled out some unnammed weeds. Planted mints to compete with the nasturtium and convulvulus and wild lillies and onion weeds. So the comfrey can hang out there as well for the meantime.
I took down some homemade humous (shades of Nigella again do you notice????) and some borlotti bean, epilobium willowherb, elecampane and echinacea seeds for Marie.
Valuable information treats:
1. A few days ago I threw the towel in on the pumpkin project. But Marie's friend has grown them in a nearby valley which is much colder than where Marie or I live successfully. Marie has advised me that here in wetville the season is much later and not to worry about only planting things now. We get a long Autumn. Ha! Now I see she is so right and we won't be paying any attention to those East Coast garden books ever again.
2. She has two glasshouses and one has no roof. It is still well ahead of the fully outside garden because the sides get pretty warm. Thinking about adapting that for here and finding more stakes at the beach to 'fence' one of the gardens with polytunnel plastic.
3. Blueberries. Hers are in the enclosed glasshouse. Yields of that variety are much better under glass she tells me. I asked about a commercial grower inland and north from me. Apparently he grows outside but a different variety (his are prolific and seriosuly yummy). So now I want to find out what variety my commercial grower is using.
4. She has also lost zucchini plants recently. She assures me I should not despair and should try again in a couple of weeks. Will do.
A special day indeed. It was even gorgeous weather.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
I'd like to see a chart where I could look at emissions levels for my size and age of car and compare it to those of other vehicles. So I could consider whether say buying a car five years less old than mine gives me significant emissions reduction or whether it needs to be only two years old (i.e. 2005 model) to get significant improvements.
If this exists, I'd love to know.
Just felt like sharing my buying local and organic cooperatively project.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
If you have sufficient eyesight and hand-foot-eye coordination to drive a car, then you will be able to use a sewing machine for basic repairs and making simple things. With practice, you and I will be able to do much more but I'm not at that stage at the moment.
Useful things I have done:
1. Turned a torn nightie into lots of wipes for Brighid's bottom.
2. Cut up a very worn out Thomas t-shirt into patches for mending Fionn's trousers.
3. Mended a pillow which had come apart at the seams and made it instantly reusable.
4. Mended a previously unwearable but much loved dress of my own.
I've got some other projects lined up but already it has helped me reuse items that would otherwise have to be replaced with new things.
Which in terms of dollars and carbons and chemicals is a good thing aye?
Today it stopped raining for about 3.5 hours. You get grateful for the small things eventually.
I need to update my growing list on the blog sidebar sometime soon. Cos' it's working out a little differently - I also want to redo my garden map just for Tania.
The broad beans grow well here. The only drawback is that I really don't like them that much. Will be doing kale instead for winter growing next year.
I pulled out some struggling garlic today to make more room for the rest to grow large and pungent. The ground is sodden. If things don't dry out soon then it will all rot in the ground.
Potatoes in the raised bed are doing very well. The ones in the tyres are not at all. Though the peastraw in the tyres is full of worms so at least I'm creating a good growing medium for a new crop of something else.
I recently found out that the Austrian Heirloom seed pumpkins (or whatever similar name they are properly called) are really an upper North Island variety. I haven't got any to germinate so I'm going to leave them for this year and plant zucchinis in their place. I've transplanted some zucchinis into pots and two into the ground. Despite the pots sitting right next to the relevant piece of zucchini garden, the ones in the pots are thriving and the ones in the garden are dead or dying. Current hypothesis is that the ground is too wet and the pots drain better.
I've started to harden the tomatoes off in preparation for planting out in the garden. Until now, they've been on window sills inside the house and adjacent shed.
Freesias didn't appear at all this year. I'm going to mass plant all my flower bulbs much more tightly next year.
Things are getting eaten. I need to get out at night with a torch and kill some slugs and snails.
Tobacco seedlings are doing well on the window sill. Not my job to prepare the large area for planting them outside though.
Blackcurrants have buds on them already - they were sticks on the kindy table last month.
Friday, October 12, 2007
Now I can tell you what I think makes community.
We move to a small town. I know no one and neither doe Fionn aged 3. J is heavily involved in the town toy library and is lovely to me. Fionn and I get in the local paper simply for turning up to do our helping at toy library shift on the day the local journalist visits. This year we have a new baby and J has now become the Plunket carseat hire person (as well as doing about 800 unpaid and very useful jobs in our small town) and she is superbly helpful and just lovely to boot.
So I waltz on by past the appeal for Plunket collectors on the supermarket noticeboard with just a twinge of guilt. But when J rings me personally I can't find one single reason whyI should not help such a great woman who is heart and soul behind an organisation which just wants little babies to stay alive and thrive.
So we (I'll be taking Brighid and Fionn for cuteness factor to get people donating generously) will be collecting for Plunket on our street and the neighbouring four small streets this week.
Good chance to see what other people are growing in this climate.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Today though, hit a new low. Net curtains. Did I really go to university, read all those books, flirt with all those blokes, stamp my feet loudly to the feminist drum in order to spend this afternoon sorting out net curtains?
Traditional Pagan and Christian Spring rituals have focused on lambs, new life etc. Well here in smallwettown I think we should all build rain shelters as our Spring ritual. And make beer and spirits for the long pour.
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
Monday, October 8, 2007
Sunday, October 7, 2007
On the subject of seed saving, an essential skill if we don't want the big seed companies (many of which are enthusiastic about GM seeds) to dictate what we can grow, it turns out there is a South Island seed savers network. I have the email address (they post) if anyone is interested. I'm quite keen to get into seed saving and swapping for next year. The people at Koanga gardens in Northland are doing great things but their growing conditions are so very different to here in smallwettown.
Saturday, October 6, 2007
The council has cut lots of very long grass at the end of our street. I have designs on moving the clippings up to our place to mulch the garlic.
I think it's a very good book. In addition to her basic premise of buying only essential items for one calendar year, she also researches the ideas around consumption and non-consumption exhaustively and had the effect on me of wanting to write down quotes frequently as I read.
So here are some of the aspects which I found thought-provoking...
She writes about the ideas around those perennial sort of friends of all of us: 'the Joneses'. She observes of herself: "I'm not keeping up with the Joneses who drive the big trucks, but the Joneses who grow organic carrots and drive beaters like ours."
Levine gets involved (for research purposes) in a movement called Voluntary Simplicity. She and her partner attend meetings where a leader guides a small group towards a life of frugal consumption, ecological awareness and personal growth. She notes that the movement has in fact got a lot of appeal to those who have no choice economically but to become more frugal - one third of her group is unemployed against their wishes by the second meeting.
Another quote which I recognised my own illusions in: "Research shows that just about everyone thinks she needs the things she buys and considers almost everything she buys a necessity."
I found much to ponder in her book. I particularly liked the way in which she unravelled the aims and delusions of the non-consumerites as well as pulling apart the way in which US society (and by extension UK and NZ society) defines itself through its consumption.
At a personal level, I feel like I've been considering issues around consumerism for a while but I have some more thinking to do. I could define myself by my consumption and/or what I do not consume, but how to escape these terms in defining my place in our society is a slithery question.
The value of things. Today I went shopping. $8.50 at the video rental shop for two children's DVDs and an overdue fine from the last time. Irritating lack of brain cell service to go with the experience. Spent far too bloody much at the supermarket as per usual. I do the ethical torture game, just because treating shopping as a simple experience is just too sensible. I allow myself about three very ethical shopping choices until I remember that I don't want the bank to repossess our house and pull my head in. Then at the Sallies I bought: two navy blue sensible skirts in very good condition for when I go back to work next year, one curtain in very appealing fabric which will become two skirts for me, a pillowcase in also very appealing retro print fabric (no we don't NEED another pillowcase), and a coffee table sized table cloth in very appealing Irish shamrock print. The salesperson made cheerful and interested conversation with my boy and asked if $5 for the lot sounded reasonable to me. I'm thinking about the value of these things and the monetary values assigned to them and I'm a long way from a lucid explanation.
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
So let's deal with tomorrow evening's people round for tea event. Green party members, which means ethical eating. Gone are the days when I served my hippy-ish friends fish for dinner. Fish eating is not the worst thing since Rwanda, but it is nevertheless risky since we'll probably witter about ethics half the night. The good news is they are also socialists, proper working class ones, which will make it all easier cos that gives you a bit more room for mucking in and enjoying yourself. I don't invite precious people round. I only invite people I adore.
I'm only inviting two people for tomorrow night. More is just asking for the d-p phrase and that makes me shake. Last school holidays we had two different lots of people staying with us and then invited another couple for dinner as well. I was doing just fine, cooking up a storm (I got brought up farm-style properly in this respect and can feed the five thousand when called for). Then my sister in law mentioned that she'd been on the telephone to her husband and told him we were having a dinner party. I choked, gulped and stopped stirring. I hadn't thought of it as a dinner party. Dinner parties are scary things involving etiquette and glamour. My chief skills in relation to etiquette and glamour are in spelling the two words. There is a steep drop in skill level after spelling. Just as well the meal was nearly cooked so we could go in and have a good time.
I think I have tomorrow night ready for sorting. That leaves tomorrow day, when I should be taking food for shared lunch to a friend on her farm. Where they eat lots of meat and use eggs for any vegetarian meals coughed up for visitors of that strange persuasion. I need to take something that all will eat that has no gluten and no eggs cos of my boy. Popcorn at this rate. Don't talk to me about baby food. The baby should go back in my tummy for the day for ease of food headspace.
And then. Then I will have to get up on Thursday morning and divide up and price avocadoes cos we have another coop due and do a coffee group playdate at the park (guess whose idea that non-house based one was?) Then make more blasted popcorn for a kiddie birthday party so my boy doesn't have to face the unvarnished truth of his randomly sometimes competent mother and to avert him telling the hostess that all the other mothers have made special gluten free food for him at parties. I'm coming home and going to bed at 2.38pm on Thursday.
The only thing I have dared think about Friday is wine. Cos Friday night we have been invited to friends and I think that one really is a d-p. Better wash all my purple clashing things in time I guess.
When will it stop raining so I can forget all this and garden?
Monday, October 1, 2007
So I had a meeting with the big boss with regard to all this (not the dressing up, the work) this morning at 9am, which given daylight savings only just came in, was really 8am and given the mother of small children thing, was really quite challenging. I left the house at 8.53am in the one outfit (outfit! combination of top, trousers and jacket) which fitted and didn't require ironing. Perhaps you can iron clothes between 8.53 and 8.54am in the morning but I cannot. The 'outfit' was two different shades of purple and also combined a fussy pattern with stripes. It was, nevertheless, not accompanied by gumboots and it didn't bulge.
The meeting went well and later I realised I had talked to another adult for 90 minutes without mentioning gardening once. Quite strange.
Friday, September 28, 2007
It was our daughter's first one that she could really take in, watching in her pushchair against the backdrop of punga trees her father planted the day she was born. This is our first September in our own owned home, a place we have loved and love more each week.
Tomorrow we are helping friends move into their first owned home. I'll have an extra 4 year old for the morning and Favourite Handyman will be helping our friends with lugging out and lugging in. If the Gods shine on my domestic randomness, we'll make loads of popcorn and maybe something more nutritious and in the afternoon we'll all be round in the new home, sharing food and drink while the kids go wild. It's exactly what we all did eleven months ago today when we moved into this home. Many of the same friends will be helping tomorrow as helped us. There was something very kiwi in the way we moved, something that reminded me of my childhood and gave me deep satisfaction that moving back to NZ was the right thing to do.
May all the Gods bless your home and family, N, T, E and E.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Killed grass grubs. I did that yesterday too but then I didn't have a name for my victims.
Only killed one slug. Does this mean I am making progress reducing the population? It's a bit like Churchill's war though - a moment's inattention and plants will be lost.
Weeded endlessly. Lawn doesn't turn into a fine tilth of garden soil ready to plant in by magic.
Broadcast carrot and red onion seed. I don't do lines. I learnt to broadcast carrot seed in London from one of Monty's books (I had them all out of the library, more than once). Then in another book this year it seemed that you could mix up onions and carrots for a good pest deterrent combination. So we're trying it all this time.
Broadcast beetroot seed. Chioggia it is called and the beetroots are going to have stripey cylindrical rings (hmm that might not make sense). Monty didn't mention broadcasting beetroot in my recollections and after I'd done it I saw why. The seeds are much bigger than carrots or onion seeds and so need lots more covering. This is particularly important here as blackbirds are currently grabbing anything not very well covered (and some that is very well covered) in my garden. So I've covered all the new seed area with the chicken wire cage.
Planted two pumpkin seeds. No more cos it was getting too dark to see.
Didn't harvest the broad beans after all. I made dinner in the morning so that I didn't have to interrupt my afternoon gardening to cook. Who needs hot dinners in Spring?
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Today I made parsley pesto with parsley from the garden. Actually I've been using parsely from the garden all winter, giving it away, cutting it back and throwing on the compost, and still the two plants are huge. Today I used it in really substantial quantities so I figured it counted like a vegetable. I felt rather Nigella making my own pesto. I used sunflower seeds instead of pine nuts. As my sister commented once, 'pinenuts cost more than drugs'. I didn't ask what drugs specifically she was comparing pinenuts with cos she is my baby sister and sometimes it's just best I don't know everything.
Tomorrow will be the first vegetable debut of the season: broad beans. I plan to fry them with garlic. Not much tastes bad fried with garlic.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
I think I was feeding my children round then so maybe that's okay lunarly. Tomorrow is good for seed planting which will no doubt fuel more digging up of the lawn in a fortnight when I realise once again that I have more plants than garden.
Would a lunar gardening perspective be empowering or make my head spin unnaturally?
Monday, September 24, 2007
Only now my local gardening partner Gayleen has given me 12 zucchini seedlings which she doesn't have room for. And I can't see them go to waste can I? And we have been buying zucchini pickle of late which would surely be superior if home made.
Who needs lawn anyway...
Ages ago I got far too much horse poo and now I'm making a new slower compost pile for horse poo (cos apparently it needs more decomposing and hopefully enough heat to kill the weeds seeds within it than our grass clippings and chicken shed scrapings and seaweed heap) and leaves (which take years to much down according to the books). I started clearing the site today and found many many slugs. I'm disconcerted when they keep moving after I've cut them in half. What if I wasn't listening in fourth form biology (I wasn't) and it turns out that if you cut slugs in half, both halves turn into autonomous units and I've increased the slug population on my treasured section? So I tried chopping the bigger ones into three and four pieces and that slowed them down.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
But this weedbusters organisation seems to be all about getting rid of weeds which invade public spaces and threaten or overwhelm native plants. AND they have a group in my small town. AND they are even the people involved in a project just 250 metres from my house. I'm thinking of contacting them. But it might involve a committee and one of my greatest learning achivements this year, discovered the hard way, is that I loathe committees. Specifically, I loathe big fish in little pond small town committee disease.
Saturday, September 22, 2007
1. Seaweed swells up in water more than any other substance that I can think of atm. This causes problems when you filled the bucket with chopped seaweed, then added water to the brim and expected to decant plenty of soil-nourishing liquid a week or so later. Very quickly I had to put a brick on top of the lid to keep it on and even then one side curled up. Today I found a smallish amount of liquid but masses of huge fat pieces of cut up seaweed which immediately overflowed onto the grass.
2. Don't let even the tiniest piece of seaweed enter your watering can. If it does, in its swollen and slimey state, it will clog up the rose of the watering can and make spreading the fertiliser very difficult. I hope to be able to report on how to get the seaweed out of the watering can some time in the near future.
3. Slimey seaweed stinks. Surely I knew this before but the reminder this morning was powerful.
Currently he is at his friend's house mending the window which broke in the storm. And I'm about to make them a big tub of different coloured lettuce seedlings as a thank you gift.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Well they do, and I've even done some heavy weeding in it. Yesterday the kindy teacher had to trim back the blackcurrants and she put out lots of cuttings for families to take home. Not many got taken. I think the 4wd-ers have bark and shrubs types of excuses for gardens. Yes I am stereotyping the 4wd-ers.
I took four and all you have to do is poke them in the ground and they 'grow like topsy', I've been told. So I dug up bits of lawn and poked them in with the worms. And my boy demonstrated his excellent parental training by finding slugs without any prompting and experimenting with new ways of killing them.
I've read the compost article I mentioned earlier in the week. I'm a bit confused frankly. The anti-compost guy talked about hot air escaping from compost and advised we should put manure straight on the ground. Which is counter to everything I've been told before. Then the other guy who is pro-compost talked a lot about what it meant to be organic which started to sound a bit prissy. I think I'm going with the second guy though, who says compost plus herbal leys (I think that's like when you plant to mustard and lupins for digging into the soil) plus crop rotation is all together all good. Writer number one seemed to think compost was all about animal poo. Our porridge scraps and yucky bits from lunchboxes left in the car too long and potato peelings didn't seem to fit into his (anti) compost world.
We survived the Plunket visit. Actually it went swimmingly and I couldn't decide whether I was pleased that the Plunket nurse didn't go to the toilet or disappointed. She didn't get to see the boarded up window in the laundry from the storm which also looks like it could be from me getting drunk and smashing the window to make someone let me in without knowing it wasn't the door cos I was too drunk. Maybe it didn't look like that but when I see boarded up windows I think bad things of the inhabitants. I'm not a nice person like that.
But if she had gone to the toilet, then she would have smelt the toilet duck which is surely a sure sign that I had CLEANED the toilet. Which is a good achievement. I'm going to squirt some tomorrow, possibly I shall run and do an extra squirt just before my friend R (the one with the discerning 7 year old) looks like she might be about to get up and use our toilet.
In relation to tomorrow, I have done a lot of cleaning. It still looks neglected. I don't think I want to be in a coffee group anymore. A slobs-who-garden group seems entirely more suitable but nobody has invited me to one of them.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
I bought the latest OrganicNZ magazine this morning, because despite being on a strictly tight budget at the moment, I am prepared to make my family eat porridge for breakfast and lunch if it means I can still buy OrganicNZ. I flicked through and saw the challenging compost thing. And I saw there are four pages devoted to it and that's not including ads. I wasn't ready for the cornerpins of my daily existence to be sashayed around like a kite on acid just that early in the day.
So I've saved the article until now.
I may be ready to report back on this tomorrow. Or I may still be recovering. Just as well I didn't try and sweet talk the owners of the animal park into giving me their llama and alpaca and bison and less exotic animal poos last week. Like I said, the idea crossed my mind but I s-q-u-a-s-he-d it.
I'm hosting a coffee group with newly crawling babies and nice mummies on Friday.
I'm - deep breath - cleaning up the house for the occasions.
The mother whose 7 year old son complained about the unclean state of our toilet last month, arranged our last meeting for the beach playground. Very diplomatic. She's coming on Friday though.
I would reach for some gin just at the thought of cleaning instead of gardening when the sun is shining, but then there is the small matter of Plunket and the attachment I have formed for my daughter.
So I shall stay sober and clean for the whole day.
We were in Hanmer Springs, a gorgeous little alpine village in the South Island. Where a beloved person related to me but not related to my greenie passions, was watering the ornamental garden in September. September, in the southern hemisphere. I busied myself on various walks with newly bicycle riding and not sleeping children, with being disgusted with the carbon guzzling greediness of the new house builders of Hanmer Springs. Makes a change in topic from my disgusted musings of the teenage years. They offer me gin now...
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Anyway, guerilla gardening. The website I linked to first in this post is all about clandestine planting sprees to beautify public spaces in London. Very cool I thought and could I do it here? The seed has been planted in my head. The NZ gardener article was focused on guerilla planting of trees, preferably natives. But the London one was all about planting full stop. I have two local friends with native bush on their section who would be good for providing some seedlings. I quite fancy some stealth planting of wild flower seed blend on the roadside near us.
Monday, September 10, 2007
Started off at the beach, where I had two plastic bags - one for seaweed (for the garden) and the other to collect plastic. After a rather short walk along the beach I had filled both bags with plastic and other non-degradable rubbish plus I had armful of more plastic and then some seaweed hanging off one hand. Dropped that in the boot and then repeated the experience, only the second time I got a huge haul of seaweed (my biggest ever) as well. The amount of plastic in our oceans is revolting and I have to say that wandering the beach clearing it of litter is one of the loveliest enviro gesture experiences. I could happily do it every day and maybe I will.
Then we went to the dump and put the plastic where it should be (no plastic recycling facilities of any kind in our small town). And smashed beer bottles into the pit (you guessed it about the availability of glass recycling round here). My boy loves smashing glass at the dump. Not much in the way of middle class preschool pursuits round my house and garden.
Then we put five old tyres in the boot to take home and grow potatoes, beans and possibly strawberries in. Maybe I'll put flowers in them as well. We had a look around the for sale shed at the dump and noted a few things which could be useful for future garden projects.
I took many photos today, but my technical assistant appears to be on leave.
My other achievement has been to create a kind of cloche/mini tunnel house out of mostly found goods. Last year Favourite Handyman made a large chicken wire cover for the strawberry pots. Yesterday I had the idea of taping heavy duty plastic to it and hothousing the plants underneath. This is where it gets useful that I can't bring myself to throw away large pieces of strong plastic (like the wrapping when you buy a bed or dishwasher) as it meant I had just the plastic for the job. So that's on and looking good (photos not for ages on current signs). I thought about putting the part of the cylinder wrap which wouldn't fit in the cylinder cupboard underneath to warm things even further. But the fibreglass is exposed aqnd could blow round so I've left that in the shed. I reckon something large and silver-coloured would be good underneath though. Or even black to retain the heat.
I had so much seaweed that I've cut most of it up and filled two 20 litre lidded buckets and still had a huge piece left over which has been rinsed of sand/salt and is lying across the compost. The two buckets have been filled with water and are weighed down with a brick (otherwise the seaweed all floats on top and thus overflows). Tomorrow I'll drain the salty water off and refill them and start making seaweed brew, which Linda Woodrow the permaculture guru says is the best thing ever for your garden.