Sunday, December 30, 2007

planning and replenishing

All garden stuff now, you understand...

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.

celebration days

The longest day was wonderful. After our day up the river we went to the beach in the evening and watched the setting sun. I lifted the first garlic which is not a bad size. Clearly needs to stay in the ground for another four weeks or so I think. The first potatoes were beautiful. We've been enjoying them most days ever since.

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

the eve of the longest day

An ungainly phrase, that title. True for New Zealand though. Tomorrow we are driving inladn for 45 minutes to a wonderful reserve/swimming hole/picnic spot to share the afternoon and evening with three other families. We are all looking forward to it. And these gems from my garden will form the most prized ingredients for our contribution to the meal:
three kinds of lettuce
Argentata Beet
Chioggia Beetroot
One yellow cherry tomato
Agria potatoes

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

Two more sleeps

until the longest day. I look at our garlic every day and remind myself it is not long to wait.

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

Summer solstice

Only four more sleeps until the longest day. Plans so far include digging up the first garlic bulb and eating it, digging and eating our first potatoes of the season and watching the sun go down on our local beach.

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

wonderful soil association books resource

Here. Today's fantastic discovery. Off to check my email and download Lady Eve Balfour's The Living Soil. The site links to a library in Tasmania, Australia where under Australian copyright law, books which are out of print (even if still under copyright) may be reproduced in full. Which means I think that the out of print organic gardening classics can become available to any of us on our computers (no money, no paper - how good is that on the footprint metre?). You don't have to join to get access, but ten Euros gives you lifetime membership, which I've done. Enjoy.

Learning roundup

I just found this very interesting blog from Waiheke Island. The articles from Yesterday's Future were interesting and it's great to find a new (to me) blog which is New Zealand based. I'd still like to make more connections to others growing on the wet West Coast of the South Island.

I finished reading Wild Green Yonder by Philippa Jamieson last night.

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


I've read some wonderful things in blogs recently. I've admired the Christmas spirit so many of you are enjoying. Admired from a distance because my own feelings about this upcoming festival are ambivalent to find the shortest explanation. Not ambivalent-not-thinking-about-it. Ambivalent-completely-disillusioned-coming-round-to-finding-a-path-through-it-very-slowly.

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.

Who am I?

This plant is from my beneficial insect blend packet. Does anyone know what it is called please?

the far side

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.

potatoes, garlic, tomatoes

Potatoes in our raised bed, garlic and tomatoes around two walls of our home. I've deliberately left big spaces between each tomato plant to try and reduce the fungal disease risk by allowing plenty of air around each plant. I've carefully checked each plant every two days for laterals and removed them but I still keep finding ones I've missed. I've interplanted with celery, basil, lettuce, marigolds and unknown 'beneficial insect' plants.

More garden pics

The photo with the blue pot and the seedling punnets in it is about a fortnight old and the one where you can see the driftwood on the left was taken last week. I'm still weeding this area - it was lawn (weedy lawn) until a few months ago. The barest patch is where I broadcast carrot and onion seed. Not successful. The blackbirds got in under the wire netting I had put on top (should have held it down with rocks) but the biggest problem, nearly all weeded out in these photos, is the recurrent weeds, especially grass. I can see now that doing a false seed bed (weeding and area and digging to a fine tilth and then leaving for the first flush of weeds to germinate and only sowing seeds after that round has also been killed) would have helped. I'm also thinking that raising seedlings separately and then planting them out in new garden is probably the best plan. I'll try carrots in established garden next year.
The driftwood in the left of the lefthand picture has a hole in it with a small rosemary plant in it. Hoepfully that gives it the amount of drainage it is supposed to need. Though I've got another one doing fine at the back door near the kitchen and it gets pretty wet there.
The garden lacks the lush, no room for weeds look and action I really want but I guess it is still only early Summer. The survivors so far in this patch are purple sprouting brocolli, dwarf sunflowers, lettuces, beetroot, orach or mountain/tree spinach, celery, argentata beet, a very small number of carrots, leeks and red onions and some alyssum.

zucchini disease

See the white spots on the leaves? Something has been eating the zucchinis themselves as well. Any ideas on the causes very gratefully received.

Roses number 2

Today is photo day. Yahooooo.

So starting with Roses. Rosemary Thodey, who I referred to yesterday, had some interesting things to say about the history of roses. Something which struck me particularly was her comment that the first catalogue of roses, produced by a fellow called Gerard in 1596 of 16 roses growing in his Holborn, London garden, show that they had moved by then from the vegetable patch into the flower garden. I'm aiming to have mine mixed up with the veges, especially with garlic.
In the first photo you can see the whole overgrown in a too narrow space thing going on. It isn't a spot which gets a lot of sun though, yet 3-4 (hard to tell in the mass even when I pruned in winter) roses are surviving and blooming in it. Given the narrowness of the site, I probably would be best using shop bought trellis to give shape to it all and allow us to see all the flowers, but I'm not giving up on a home-made solution just yet. The gravel the plants are spilling onto is the driveway.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


I think I've caught the rose bug. I've become fascinated with the way they can carry so much history, last so long. One example which influenced me: Last week my cousin Mary (81) and I took some flowers to her husband's grave. First she took me round her garden and talked to me about the history of each rose. I don't know the name of one particularly lovely pink rose but I remember the story. That rose grew from a cutting made in 1948 when they moved to that house as newly marrieds. The cutting came from her husband's parents' garden. She has the studio photo taken of her husband and his brother just before they went away to serve in World War Two. Lou and his brother are wearing buds of this rose in their lapels in the photo. A rose from that plant went to the graveside last week.

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.


I've been mucking around looking at weed sites of late and thought I'd share.

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

Last chance saloon

for the purple sprouting broccolli. I did have 6-7 plants but alas the caterpillars and the white butterflies have no manners. So I've culled back to two plants, opening up some light for nearby leeks and onions, and squashed a pile of caterpillars. I'm prepared to put in some squashing work over the coming weeks (and months realistically), but I expect to see results in return.


I've got (or had) an aphid infestation of the basil plants on my kitchen windowsill. This afternoon I decided a cull was the way to go and pruned one plant, left the latest seedlings and harvested the entirety of the other pots. I've got some Sweet Genovese and that is very easy to harvest as the leaves are large. Sweet Genovese being the most commonly sold Basil:

I also purchased a gourmet Basil blend mix of different Basils from Kings Seeds this year. Interesting results and a cheap way of being a little adventurous. But this one below is frankly a pain for making pesto (or anything else really):

It is called Basil Fino Verde and while it is pungent and lovely in that sense, it is so fine and thus takes ages to even roughly separate the leaves from the stems. I won't be reordering it. As I continue sowing batches of the gourmet Basil blend this year, I think I'll cull basil Fino Verde once I recognise it.

So you need to get rid of a rooster...

or two? We had a surprise and welcome call today from our chicken-keeping friend. She'd had a call from an acquaintance who needed to get rid of two roosters because of neighbourly complaints about crowing and didn't have time to slaughter them himself. She knew just who to call and soon afterwards, Brighid and I were pulling into the driveway of a very lovely couple who it turns out have a long interest in organics. So we connected a little more within our small town community and then Favourite Handyman killed and plucked and I gutted and in our fridge we now have two bantam roosters to be slow cooked tomorrow. Whereas last time (in Winter) we hung the roosters overnight, it just seemed too hot to do that safely today - we brought them into the fridge after two hours of hanging. I came up with an easy cover to keep the flies off the hanging roosters - tied pillowcases around them.

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.


Very exciting arrival today. Favourite Handyman worked very hard all day transporting large amounts of wood. Friends are leaving smalltown for Christchurch and have given us heaps of wood - wood for gates, for burning and for making raised bed borders. The most fabulous wooden item is a large wooden box, raised off the ground. I think it could form the basis of a bantam house. I hear that you can have 2-3 bantams without needing to comply with the full weight of council bylaw regulations on keeping chooks. Still thinking about this.

It's the second time this year that friends or neighbours have given us valuable building materials which were otherwise destined for the tip. We appreciate it hugely and it enables us to create and complete projects around the garden which are kinder on both our pockets and the environment.

Saturday, December 8, 2007


I found one in my garden yesterday. Actually Fionn found it floating in a bucket of water and when I worked out what it was, I rescued it onto dry land pronto. So it's back out in the garden preying on aphids I hope.
I am starting to get some blue flowers in bloom from my beneficial insect blend seeds which is good for something which I now forget. They attract bees but I think there is some other good thing about blue flowers. Apart from their beauty of course.
I'm not keeping on top of the caterpillar problem currently plaguing my purple sprouting broccolli plants. Their leaves are looking rather too akin to the wings of the lacewing at the moment. I'm tempted to pull them out and start again.I've got plenty of time to grow some more before Autumn. Next time I will make sure I plant them only on the outside edge of the garden so it is very easy to kneel and check every part of every leaf for caterpillars and eggs.

Friday, December 7, 2007

the garden or the blog...

Not much contest at the moment. Daylight saving time means I can weed, water and transplant until 9pm.

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

Something you should not do

Here is why you should not leave a bucket of seaweed brew, lid off, just any-old-where. Because a baby might crawl over and tip it over herself and sit in it with joy and enthusiasm. Seaweed brew is not a perfume and it is not for cuddling.

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

Beneficial Insect Blend

I've become quite fascinateed by this whole phenomenon of growing food for the good bugs so they hang around and eat the bad bugs this year. That is what led me to purchase some 'beneficial insect blend' from Kings Seeds: This blend contains Dill, Bishops Flower, Buckwheat, Parsnip, Ammi visnaga, Fennel, Daucus carota, Phacelia, Angelica, Bergamot and Alyssum. Which all sounded completely wonderful to me. Next year I'm going to change strategy though. I have found that as I'm not familiar with many of these plants, I can't tell if they are a weed or not when I encounter them from seed. The plantings I have done in the propgator or in a pot have worked best for knowing that they are supposed to be there. My other niggle has been that it appears that really there are only two kinds of seeds germinating. But as I looked closer today, it appears that as so many of them are from the umbelliforae (or similar spelling to that) family, then they start off with very very similar leaf shapes.

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

agricultural thoughts

Spent a lot of time driving across the Canterbury plains last week. A massive monument to monoculture. I tried to imagine what the landscape would look like if the area was broken up into small largely self-sustaining permaculture farmlets. Profoundly different, for sure.

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.

holiday roundup

Yesterday I returned from ten days away. Brilliant time. Very special wedding, great camping ground and playground, good time with the cousins, lots of visiting with friends and family. The baby started vomiting on Thursday (round two in a lovely wholefoods cafe - that owner had a heart of gold with us) so it was with great relief I pulled into Mum and Dad's place in Hanmer Springs several hours later. They were both so very wonderful helping me with the children that I even started to feel a little guilty for being so ungracious and at times rather unpleasant as a teenager.

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.

blogging ...

doesn't involve changing vile-smelling nappies or cleaning up vomit or washing every towel, sheet, duvet, piece of clothing in the house. Or drying aforementioned sick-soaked items.

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


Big events in our little lives. All four of us are going to Christchurch for a wedding this weekend and then the children and I are staying in Chch for the week while Favourite Handyman flies off to a conference. He offered that his work could hire a motorbike and he'd drive that instead of flying but to his disappointment they didn't take that seriously.

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

Planting day

Patience will never make me famous, get me to heaven nor did it help me with various other youthful pursuits. It isn't my greatest virtue in the garden either which is why I succumbed to the potted plants section at Mitre 10 this afternoon. As well as more bamboo stakes for the tomatoes, I also came home with six celery seedlings, lemon thyme, rosemary and sage. I managed to kill my first celery seedlings and only sowed batch number two yesterday. Hopefully it is goodbye to the days of paying heaps for a bunch of dubious quality celery only to use one stalk in a soup/stew/stock and leave the rest to moulder in the fridge for an unmentionable length of time. I've loved cooking with lemon thyme in the past but never found it in seed catalogues hence grabbing it in plant form today. Maybe it means it is some kind of terrible hybrid but I can live with that - some days I'm some kind of terrible hybrid also. Got a tiny seedling of rosemary and planted it in the hole in the driftwood which borders one of the vege gardens - should give us a free draining site in full sun which is about as close as we can get to recreating mediteranean conditions here in smalltown. The sage cos it seemed a good idea and I never bought a whole packet of sage seed as I couldn't imagine needing more than one plant. Although it is very scarcely known, sage is a powerful breastmilk supressant. Good to take if you want to dry up your milk supply; bad for many breastfeeding mothers. Just thought I'd put that out there. Stay clear of nasal decongestants also.

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

seed saving in New Zealand

Pat at the best named blog in my garden blog world - Bifurcated Carrots - has written a series of excellent posts on seed saving. While I'm not yet planning seed saving, it is in future plans and I've been reading with interest. Here he talks about open pollination and hybrid seeds and the politics of big seed selling. Being of a natural inclination to suspect conspiracy plots amongst big capitalists myself, I lapped it all up and expended a few calories (though not enough for my frumpbusting project) on fuming about Big Business and environmental doom.

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.

Pot luck

Out in the garden late this afternoon I finally started to chill out. Two small children birthday parties in one day had given me mummy-job overload.

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

scrap metal

Make friends with your local scrap metal merchant. Curved glass for a mini glasshouse, drums for liquid fertiliser, a huge metal wheel for making a beautiful circular herb garden. These are the things I found to covet when I dropped off our tin cans for recycling today.

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


Tonight I have laid beer traps for the slugs. Beer is rather precious in our home though and I'll be wanting to see a high return of dead slugs for each trap. Otherwise it's pellet time and I'll sit inside and drink the beer instead.
The picture on the side is (obviously) a bottle but actually I bought mine in a rigger. Easily reusable, cheaper and a reminder that here in small town we still do things the old way. I never saw a jug of beer or a rigger sales point the whole time I lived in Auckland. Serves me right for living in Ponsonby I guess. Ah the wealthy old days...
Some locals here still bring their glass flagons in to Liquorland for refilling.
I transplanted another tomato today and learnt that reusing large tins from the kitcehn for plants does not work if you want to then transplant again. Half the roots stayed in the tin. Good thing I was too slack to get round to transplanting all the tomatoes out of their tiny pots and into tins.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

charting progress

In August this plot looked like this and here it is below in October. Hoping it looks very luscious by December.


Twenty minutes ago I decided to review the progres of my frumpbusting programme. At 10 a.m. I am hanging nappies on the line, hungover (only two glasses of wine! Time I went back to university), wearing the same voluminous dress I've worn all week thus far. Today's special addition to its splendour is baby sick, so recent and sizeable that it is making my knee wet. The baby is crawling around the lawn in pjs, a snowsuit and barefeet.
Progress grade: D-

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Return to gardening broadcast

phew! We had two gorgeous gardening days this week just gone and every moment out there was fantastic. Spurred on by a gift of a small bag of mushroom compost and the fantastic achievements of our neighbours with the stuff, I drove out of town and bought some mushroom compost and something called 'zoomgro'. I'm going to see which I like best. My current gardening enthusiasm and the desire to grow compost hungry things like zucchinis and pumpkins have necessitated buying in some compost.

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.

Bearing witness

More death, this time horrendous.

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.

A Time for Loving

I've been out of blogosphere for the past fortnight or so and mostly out of the computer world generally.

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

So, what does democracy mean round here? Really?

Last week raids were made across New Zealand supposedly in the interests of protecting 'us' from terrorism, though the actual threat has not been clarified, or indeed specified in any way.

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

Things I learnt on Friday

On Friday I had the pleasure of lunch with my friend Marie who lives an hour south of us and is much more knowledgeable and experienced in the gardening ways of wetville than I. Kids played, did the meat coop, had yummy home made lunch.

Tangible treats:
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

fuel emissions

They wre talking about fuel emissions on the radio earlier this week. Apparently New Zealand is fairly unregulated when it comes to fuel emissions and cars compared to the rest of the OECD world. I know each individual car runs differently, depending on whether it has been regularly serviced etc., but still I'd like to see a comparison chart of cars and emissions. We have 1.6 litre 1991 station wagon. Basic model so no air conditioning. It runs beautifully and costs us very little beyond basic maintenance. We plan to run it until it dies. The longer we can do that, the better the chances that we can afford a significantly newer and more efficient replacement car.

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.

Meat coop outing

Tomorrow is our organic beef collection outing. I've been collecting orders and chilly bins from friends this week and we'll drive south for an hour and have lunch with an old school friend and admire her truly fabulous garden and pick up some more tips on growing in wetville and then collect 40kg of beef from her organic beef growing friend when she comes into the village to collect her children from school and then drop it off at each friend when we get back to smalltown.

Just felt like sharing my buying local and organic cooperatively project.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A green thing

In terms of treading lightly on this earth, a sewing machine is a very useful thing to have. It is most especially useful if you have a spot to leave it permanently set up. Mine went to live with friends while we were in the UK and has recently made its way back to our home via the local sewing machine service and repair person.

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?

Garden roundup

for the first time in a while.
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

Who else is collecting for Plunket then?

Not long ago Rachael was asking for ideas on what makes and creates community. I think about this question frequently but had insufficient operational brain cells at the time I read Rachael's blog post.

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

Suburban scream

Some time ago I worked out that in the absence of a tube station down the road to whisk me and the brood to the V & A, we would have to find some home based indoor pursuits to see us through the wet days. and wet weeks. and wet months.

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

The stench

Fine wine aged well smells beauuutiful. Mature seaweed brew does not. I have poured it all over every one of my edible garden patches on purpose and on much of today's clothing not at all on purpose. Given the whole children juggle thing, I was still wearing those clothes when I returned the DVD to the shop today as I am on a fine reduction mission (the library, the video shop, the toy library). Oh the elegant impression I must create here in small town some days...

Monday, October 8, 2007

Interim broadcast

As the sun broke through the clouds late this afternoon and I am eternally optimistic that this bodes well for tomorrow and indeed for the rest of the week, regular gardening broadcasts may resume in the near future. Today's substitute programme details odd things I have been doing in lieu of gardening.

1. Not cleaning. Didn't think the weather could have that dramatic an effect did you?

2. Sewing. I made myself a skirt out of a curtain yesterday. It is very puffy and shortcut-sewn in every possible way (I threaded the waist elastic through the existing hem of the curtain for example) but it is mine and I made it and I shall begin by wearing it in the garden. Soon enough no doubt it will end up covering my thighs but revealing my calves at kindy one day as I never ever change for kindy pick up. I also made part of an old and very worn Thomas the tank Engine t shirt into a knee patch for Fionn's trousers. We're all very pleased with that project.

3. Sewing attempt no.2. Making bibs using parker nylon, bias binding and various bits of towelling and flannel found around the house. Something else is wrong with the tension. Not so bad that the sewing machine wouldn't work (I was very proud of fixing it to working status yesterday), but bad enough to make the underside very loose. I gave up and came on here to blog. Words are easier than sewing.

4. Baking. Note baking not merely cooking. I made gluten free, egg free corn bread. Very successful I thought. I used the book pictured for the recipe. I have only owned this recipe book since December 2003 and this is the first time I have actually used a recipe from it. I bought it from the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales while on holiday and have spent much time admiring the photos and recipes and until now no time cooking any of it.

5. Reading. "Behind the Scenes at the Museum" by Kate Atkinson. For book group. I like it. Last month at book group I was very budget conscious and didn't have a drink even thoug we meet at a pub. I think that was too extreme and in future shall make the children go without (something, anything) in order to fund my alcoholic desires.
6. Thinking about dead things. I asked at the library recently about how to go about requesting the buy a book I want (as if there is only one though hahaha). The nice lady, who is now nice to me after 20 months of my persistent niceness to her and payment of many library fines, explained what to do and also that sometimes they don't buy on certain topics or certain books, because hardly anyone reads on that topic and then the unread books are 'dead money'. I had a similar experience at the video shop also. How can a book really be 'dead money'? Unless of course it is a recipe book which never gets cooked from. So I have goal of cooking at least one thing from each of my recipe books before I die. It would be helpful if I didn't die soon in order to achieve this, and also if I never purchase or get given another recipe book again.
7. Childcare. Of course. They are still alive and I still love them. That will be more than enough on that topic.
8. And then today when the sun shone I took photos of the garden (not yet available due to my technical assistant being a union man and not working any more odd hours for me). I planted purple sprouting broccolli and Argentata Beet seedlings and observed that the older transplanted beetroots have died but the recent direct sowing has already begun to germinate. I harvested some Rainbow Chard for dinner which is also known as yellow stemmed silverbeet but Rainbow Chard sounds a million times better and separates the current vegetable from the 45 minutes boiled silverbeet of my childhood.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

photo - only one though

Just cos I finally can, the big photo holding computer having been occupied continually for about the last millenium until now.
This is my quite new slow compost area. On the other side of the fence (and more favourable sunwise) is my fast compost with chicken shed poo/bark mix, grass clippings and pea straw with some seaweed. This side is for the horse poo and has some grass clippings to help it along. The idea is that the extra time will deal to the weed seeds. We'll see. I'm very pleased with my re-use of the neighbour's old roofing iron fence. I plan to create another compost bay for leaf mulch in Autumn. More truthfully, I plan for Favourite Handyman to create it.

heirloom gardening

I've just found a fantastic blog with a great title: bifurcated carrots. I've only read two pages so far, but Pat and Steph are living in Holland and are seriously into growing heirloom fruit and vegetables. Especially worth a look for garlic growing enthusiasts. I liked his post on the community gardens (like UK allotments) in Holland.

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


It's two weeks until Labour Weekend, which is traditionally the time in New Zealand to plant out tomatoes and all other plants which are frost tender. We've just had a week of bad weather, including a storm which brought down another part of our ageing fence. So I've mostly walked around in tiny gaps in the rain looking at what is and isn't growing. I've harvested some more broad beans which was an acceptable excuse to eat garlic fried in butter under the guise of eating some greens. Fionn and I killed TWO HUNDRED slugs who were sullying our sandpit before the rain set in. We had a variety of killing methods in simultaneous operation in order to keep up with the high volume of slimey bodies. Several potato plants have sprouted - others seem to have either rotted in the ground or given themselves up to hungry ravenous greedy and unwelcome in my garden blackbirds.

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.

Not Buying It

I've just finished "Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping" by Judith Levine. Most appropriately, I got it out of the local library.

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

It's NOT a dinner party

We're having people around for tea this week. Actually there is a level of social intercourse booked for this week which is making me slightly dizzy. I suppose you've got to find something to do when it is raining so long and so hard as to render gardening impossible.

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

grown up paid work

I'm going to do some grown up paid work next year. The kind where you need qualifications and have to dress up. My idea of dressing up, in case you were wondering where the hell in small town New Zealand ball dresses or business suits were required, is when I have to forfeit gumboots, jeans and/or fleece jerseys.

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

Summer 2007-08

We had our first barbecue of the season tonight. As well as the barbecue, my Favourite Handyman also lit the brazier which was useful as it was dark by the time dinner was ready. All tasted delicious and an excellent reminder that tomato sauce can count as a vegetable.

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

Just another list

of gardening things I have achieved today. So I can re-read it a lot and be excessively pleased with myself.

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

what is that bug?

I found this excellent NZ based resource to help me identify my garden bugs. Hope it helps someone else also. It even tells you which ones are the goodies and which are the baddies.

Harvest time!

Finally and with great excitement I am proud to announce that we are now eating from our summer 2007-08 garden.

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

Gardening by the moon

I'm not sure if I want to get into lunar gardening or not. I had a fabulous day making a horse poo compost heap with recycled roofing iron from the neighbours, burying bokashi, sowing more 'beneficial insect blend' and transplanting tobacco and zucchini. Then I took my NZ Organics magazine with me to the chippie (fell off the budget wagon today and those greasies tasted GREAT!) and found out that today at 1pm is a 'node' and I should have been resting from the garden.

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

Looking for a good home

I exercised a little restraint in late winter over the Kings Seeds Catalogue. I decided not to order courgette/zucchini seeds cos we didn't have room to plant them.

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


I stumbled across Weedbusters on the web earlier tonight while looking up flag irises. The latest NZGardener had suggested flag irises as part of a sustainability article. Well oopsy doopsy, I think there might be a retraction in the next issue. Turns out flag irises are on the noxious weeds list and all land owners are required to control it.

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

seaweed fertiliser

err yes this is be another compost post. Here are some things I learnt this morning about making and using seaweed fertiliser.
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.

a new letterbox

The current one is fairly useless and despite our close scrutiny and imaginative thinking, beyond repair. My parents have volunteered to buy us a nice new one for Christmas which is a very nice idea. Nice new things aren't as appealing to us as cleverly cheap recycled things though and Favourite Handyman tells me that he has access to the tools required to convert a gas cylinder into a letterbox. There are heaps and heaps of gas cylinders at the local dump.

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

blackcurrants, compost

Did I ever mention that our kindy has an organic garden? Probably not as I'm usually trying to pretend I don't have children by this blogging time of night.

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

questioning compost

Questioning the value of compost that is. I believe good science is about challenging everything and all that. But questioning the value of compost???

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 could be gone a while...

The plunket nurse is coming this afternoon.

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.


I took the children on a holiday to see their grandparents last week. As you do when on holiday with children, we went to an animal park. Llamas, alpacas, bison, emus. Fionn isn't a rare breed enthusiast so much - we spent a great deal of time with the rabbits. I squashed the question in my head about what they do with their animal poo.

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

Guerilla Gardening

What a fantastic idea this is. They had something about it in a recent NZ Gardener magazine (I think, presumably it was there and not on the kindy notices) and then I found this site tonight. I found the link through Beansprout's blog which I found through Nikki's blog. Nikki's blog was a key inspiration for me to start blogging and she rocks.

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

swap ya

Did some swapping today. Swapped my rubbish for someone else's. Actually I put some other people's rubbish into the in side of the bargain as well.

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.