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.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

flowers for love, flowers for the planet...

Today was wonderful. Party, coffee with a friend, beach trip, visitors. The party host had made gluten free food for my boy which was an unexpected extra effort and a very special gesture. The world IS generously peppered with wonderful warm hearted people. And if it seems they are only hanging out in my small town, then I truly hope some move next door to you all sometime soon.

So we admired my tulips this afternoon. I have them in a lovely profusion of colours and petal shapes which wasn't what the packet promised but is gorgeous.

Then tonight I was wandering the web and chanced upon Snapdragon's blog of flower love, growing and selling. She does eco-flowers for wedddings and I noticed one comment about the benefits of couples who trust her to find the right arrangements and flowers on the day out of what is growing best rather than the pressure of having to grow certain plants for perfection on that particular day.

I remember seeing the film Maria: Full of Grace a few years ago and between the grim lives I picked up on there and the chemical nasties and air travel involved in the relatively cheap bunches of flowers on offer at Tescos (UK), I decided that bought cut flowers was yet another ethicall dodgy item which I needed to avoid buying.

I don't know anything about the production line of cut flowers in New Zealand but I'm pretty confident that a large amount of diesel, if not airline fuel as well, will have been involved in getting cut flowers to our local (and lovely) florist shop here in small town.

So what is my point (you might well ask that of my every blog entry)? My point is that I'm moving more and more to thinking that I don't want a garden only of edibles; I want flowers to cut and share the love with as well. Come live in my small town next summer and I'll welcome you with home grown flowers.

So far I have calendula and marigold seed (and some flowering plants of calendula - for beneficial insects and companion planting and possibly to make eczema cream with), nasturtiums growing wild, and a range of spring bulbs which I've mentioned before. There are some roses and freesias out the front from the previous owners. Some of my herbs will grow beautiful flowers, like the echinacea which is currently 4mm high in the propogator but will one day be a metre high, apparently.

I've had the Kings Seeds Catalogue out on this subject. A viola called 'Heartsease Miss Helen Mount' (right) is on the list on the lovely name alone. And below is a picture from the catalogue of a 'hardy easily grown perrenial' called Thistle Blue Glove which sounds just right for my leave it to do its own beautiful thing front garden.

I keep finding more and more. Of course there are also sunflowers waiting to obliterate, sorry decorate our lawn. Only three of the miniature ones from last year's seed packet germinated. Due in no small part to getting no special shelter to germinate at all when the weather was still very nippy. Next month I'll be planting the Skyscraper sunflower seeds. After they've colonised the back fence area, the neighbours will have no idea whether I'm hanging out the washing in my jammies any more.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The sun shone the whole day long

Filming of the reenactment of Noah and the Flood seems to have ceased here in Small Town, just as I was on the verge of looking at the real estate and job ads for Anywhere Else.

So I dug in two full buckets of Bokashi (it had rained so much and for so long that my back up nappy bucket and three icecream containers are also full of food scraps waiting to be Bokashi'd) and now have all of my largest new garden plot dug over. In a fortnight I can til it a bit more and by Labour weekend it should all be ready to be filled with seedlings. If filmingof Noah: The Sequel resumes too soon, then it will be Liquorland for me.

Fionn and I filled some tyres with potting mix from two big tubs of cabbage trees which died (sad for Favourite Handyman I know, but I did never want them in the first place) which were absolutely teeming with worms. Then we planted my borlotti bean seedlings. Five. After one hour, we had an 80% survival rate. We don't know which blackbird stole the seedling, but we are blaming the species generally.

All but one of my tomato seedlings are now in individual pots on the north facing windowsills. I'll have 14 plants if they all last to fruiting.

The wind and rain have wrecked my crocuses and partly spoilt some tulips. I'm going to have to rethink where the bulbs go next year. I've also discovered that the funny weed things by the roses out the front are some kind of freesias or similar spring bulb and very pretty they look too. I need to find what kind they are and plant more. I'm starting to get what this whole "massed plantings" thing is in flower growing speak. Not six togetherish, but 30 clustered very close.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007


Eating fish is bad-for-the-environment. Surely you all know that already. The oceans are running out of fish.

Eating lemon and pepper flavoured tuna in a tiny can is bad in more ways than I have fingers to tell. Or close to that many.

I love those little cans of tuna. A lot. Equal to how much I love Hellmanns mayo, which is probably also bad because it tastes so good that it must be bad.

So my latest attempt to deal with this badness of mine (I should mention here that a background in Roman Catholicism is a very excellent preparation for adult environmental guilt) is that I am focusing on eating five + fruit and veg a day which should leave me less room to eat the fish. I should already be eating 5+ but my recent audit suggested otherwise. Like an athlete in training, I'm going to keep moving the goalposts, until I am eating 9+ servings of fruit and veg a day. Surely that will knock the canned fish eating on the head.

I do reserve the right to have Hellmanns' mayo with my veg sandwiches though. On the hedonistic scale, it is surely less evil than having gin for breakfast.

I write this not because it is interesting but to bear witness that this is my goal, this was my goal, and to hopefully make myself stick to it.

If I fall off the canned fish wagon, then no one will have to know, but as my Mum taught me, God will. He might not comment on my blog, but maybe my inability to lie will keep the canned demon out of my tummy.

spong mincers

I have one of them. I used it to make Shepherd's Pie for dinner. I googled to find you a picture of mine (which I got from a charity shop in Ilford when we lived in London) and came up with this cool blog featuring a spong advert here, where we learn that our husbands will be moved to ardour by our Spong-made meals. Would it be bad blog manners if I had copied his photo of the ad and put it here? Please can someone tell me?

Sunday, September 2, 2007


I'm doing food thinking at the moment because the previous status of my home (sick children, bad weather) has remained constant. Meaning I cannot garden and have not been able to for so long now that it hurts to contemplate the topic.

So back to food. Yesterday I was playing around linking from blog to blog being overwhelmed by how much is out there and how gorgeous the photography is on so many of them. I had some serious thoughts about food and some less serious ones. I'll do non-serious now.

This blog is a great idea, encouraging children to eat an adventurous range of vegetables, but be warned: it sings! While I was off making toast, something started singing and it wasn't The Adventures of Massey Ferguson. I had juggled so much to sit down in quiet this morning (including putting Massey Ferguson on the other computer via earphones for the nearly no longer sick child) that I could not actually stand to read the blog because it made a noise.

This one was pretty sophisticated, which is a nice form of escapism here in vomitland.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Omnivore's Dilemma

Here is a book I'm coveting and below is the beautiful cover. I'm putting it on a list for library interloaning (small town = small library) together with The Long Emergency and Barbara Kingsolver's latest book.

The website link has a pdf of the intro and first chapter which I read in the Guardian Weekly earlier this year. Other ethical foodie writers who I respect a lot are Joanna Blythman and Felicity Lawrence.

So how is my own omnivore's dilemma playing out? Patchily, I'll fess from the start. When life sucks, I sometimes head to KFC which is evil on every front according to my usual criteria. Globalised, poor wages, hormone/bad diet/bad treatment - fed chicken, unnecessary packaging, fatty etc.

But actually life doesn't suck for me every day and I do think carefully about what gets purchased and eaten in our house. Which starts with not getting everything from the supermarket. I'm still working on getting some more wild meat into our diet. Hunting is a popular sport in our small town and as far as I can work out, reducing the population of wild deer and wild pigs in our forests is good for the native flora and fauna. Neither Favourite Handyman nor myself are keen on getting out there gunning but we know it is a matter of time before we meet keen hunters who can't be bothered eating their catch. One of my savvy aunties also gave me a good tip: to go along to pig hunting competitions (the final prizegiving bit) with some cash in my pocket.

Favourite Handyman has killed a chook though. Here is the story as it happened just before I started blogging.

The rooster arrived in a cat cage on our doorstep (how low carbon footprint is that - Raeleen dropped him off on her way to the kids' hockey game!) at 10am and by midday he was dead, plucked, gutted and hanging in the shed until this morning, when I stuffed him with thyme, rosemary, garlic and lemon and put him in the slow cooker for the day. Dinner tonight tasted
superb. Really really good.

Favourite Handyman used a machete. He found it difficult to bring the knife down and I thought he would never do it again. Then we hung him from the tree to bleed for 30 minutes and then plucked him together. I got the gutting job which I didn't enjoy. I think there is a knack which will make it much easier when/if I acquire it. Kent is up for doing it again and I think next year's outdoor project will be a henhouse to raise birds for eating. I like the idea that when we are about to go on holiday, we can kill and eat the birds and then not get any again for a while. I've been getting into permaculture gardening ideas in a big way which is an incentive to get chooks.

We've had vegetarian phases here and this process of killing and eating an animal ourselves has been an interesting one. It makes me face what I am eating in a way that buying a plastic wrapped piece of meat at the supermarket does not. There is a fishing family at Fionn's kindy and I've started buying fish from them and now with this chicken idea together with the two sources I have for organic beef and lamb in our region, it looks like we can confine our meat eating to local produce.

Our biggest move away from supermarket dependency has been growing our own veg, but I'm not talking about that much atm as it hasn't stopped raining in more days than I can recall and so I can't garden.