Monday, June 30, 2008


This winter was my first attempt at growing kale. It has been a mostly successful experiment. Kale has enlivened many soups and casseroles in recent months.

I am going to change varieties though. This year I grew Kale Squire (above - both pics come from the Kings Seeds catalogue). This year the aphids took a distinct shine to my kale. They are grey aphids (as if aphids of any colour are welcome!) and they particularly like to hang out and cause destruction in the tightest curled parts of the leaf. Getting rid of them takes ages of rinsing in the kitchen sink and some is unusable. So I'm thinking that next Autumn I'll be planting Red Russian Kale (below) as it looks much easier to wash and I'm hoping it will be less attractive to aphids.

100 square metres

In the gardening section of the Christchurch Press on Saturday, Mary Lovell Smith mentioned it taking at least 100 square metres to provide vegetable for a family of four. She made no mention of where she got that figure from, but it did inspire me to get the measuring tape and the calculator out.

I measured all parts of the garden which get sufficient sun to grow food in all year round. I have been creating bits of garden against walls and fences for the last two years so I labelled each patch and then calculated how much garden we had growing food last summer and how much will be onstream this summer. Last year was 17 square metres after taking into account tomatoes in pots. This forthcoming summer looks like it will be just over 27 square metres. We do have room to enlarge our vegetable garden but slowly will be the most effective course of action I think. Putting another ten square metres of garden in each year is plenty enough work and quite doable. I've since stumbled across discussion on this topic online which I will go back to and read more closely. The ones which say at least a quarter acre (1000 sq metres) may well be right. But our entire section is only 809 sq metres and I'm not about to pull down the house and garage just so we can live in a tent and still need to buy some vegetables.

I also looked up one of my gardening books for instructions on growing asparagus. They say I'll need at least 25 plants for an average sized family. I expect we are quite averagely sized, but I don't think I'll be spending $50 this week buying asparagus crowns. I'm also supposed to plant them deep enough that there is 15-20cm of soil covering them. I've planted one so far, covered by only about 8cm of soil. It is probably not in the best place either. Up where I've started digging out the tobacco plants appears to be much better draining and perhaps I'll put the other two asparagus crowns up there, beside the one echinacea plant which survived last year. Poor potatoes, they often get squeezed out of my plans. There should be room for some still. Perhaps I could reorganise to one row of asparagus and echinacea (still have seeds for another go this spring) and peas and then a row of potatoes. The peas are annuals and nitrogen fixing and the asparagus is perennial for 20 years and the echinacea should be in the ground for about three years before being dug up for the medicinal properties of the roots.

Walked down to the beach this afternoon and found some logs brought down from the river/up from the sea by recent stormy weather. Brought two back for various garden projects.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

sunshine and seaweed

Today was Saturday, the sun shone and no one in our house was sick. Such a combination, we have not experienced for many many weeks and thus we abandoned the house jobs and went to the beach this afternoon. We collected three supermarket bags of seaweed and then went for a walk up a hill to look out over the township. Interesting how looking down on a town shows quite different shapes to walking through it.

First thing this morning we received two trailer loads of wood. Beech and Eucalyptus, cut up and semi dry. The teenage son of a work colleague had cut this wood up himself and was selling it to raise money. This wood is, hopefully, the beginning of our project to collect wood a year ahead of when we need to use it.

food mindfulness, mindboggledness

Thank you Joanna for alerting me to this discussion on food miles and locavore practices in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. As far as I can work out, raising my own chooks and eggs and growing my own vegetables and fruit is all good. Anything involving the rest of the world is more complicated.

Indeed it is more complicated. I think food is a class issue. Of course not everyone is interested in talking about class in these post-modern times, but I'm a leftie who won't give up. The benefits of my university education, the time I spent travelling, the interests I have in reading about food and politics - all these things have given me a fairly middle class view of food issues.

But we live in a predominantly working class town and I like being part of our small town community. I want to participate in the life of our town. Doing so shows me very clearly the role of food in community endeavours and I can promise you that we don't talk about food mindfulness (as they do in the second link in this post) on the sidelines at Rugby League.

This morning I took the children with me to support our local high school's Kapa Haka group, which is fundraising to go to Australia at the end of this year and participate in a big indigenous peoples' festival. I know some of the young people in the group and I'm proud to watch them shine. They started off with a garage sale and I am in horror of garage sales these days as we have too much stuff already. But they did have a sausage sizzle out the front and Fionn was delighted with his hunk of processed meat wrapped in soft white bread and drizzled with bright red sauce. I bet there is a lot to criticise about such a food choice. But it was a way of supporting the project without cluttering up our house any further.

The Kapa Haka group performed in fine style and I also loved watching the pleasure my own children experienced watching them.

Then it was time to go to League, where today was something called fun day where all the teams get mixed up and play wearing different shirts and I nearly fell over with admiration for the adults who organised this rather complex process. At the end, everyone in Fionn's team was given a lollipop and later received a spot prize of a new mouth guard and a boots bag festooned with logos including the golden arches. Generous sponsorship by Solid Energy, which has several coal mines in our region, was acknowledged on the cones marking out the junior-sized playing fields. Pies, chips and hot dogs were for sale on the sidelines. I expect these are also fundraisers for the host club.

We paid $20 for the season for our son to play Rugby League and every single week I am bowled over by the generosity of the coaches, the sponsors and the managers. I have no wish to suggest that food, a commodity which has always oiled the cogs of community, must meet my personal standards.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Mary Washington

That's the name of the asparagus crowns I bought today. I've never grown asparagus before and now seems a perfectly reasonable time to start. The plot I had planned to put them in is not dug over and ready, so I'm going to slot them in amongst the veges in my January raised bed. I bought three for the moment, at $2 each. I haven't really got a clue how many I want but some has to be a massive improvement on none.

One day, when it stops raining (i.e. at least next month), I shall plant out the asparagus crowns and also get going creating the plot which was for asparagus but now is for cucurbits of some kind. I've been eyeing up costata romanesco zucchinis, the rampicante ones and I plan to fit some pumpkins in as well.

I meant to protect the tamarillo from wind and frost but haven't. It's still going out there, but leaning steeply sideways.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

locavore schmokavore

The mad man from Hoki has been advertising this week that he will have his cart (home grown veges plus free range eggs) in our town today and tomorrow afternoon. So I don't bother putting a delivery order in with the excellent people who drive produce over from the markets in Chrirstchurch. I plan to buy spuds and pumpkin from the local cart and if I can get fish again, then together with my own greend veg, a locavore meal is possible.

But the mad man doesn't bother turning up.

So tonight we have bought fish and chips for dinner and I'm still considering throwing budget smudgets out the window and using more fossil fuel to go buy some wine.

We've had rain, hail, thunder and lightning here in small wet town over the last 24 hours. Apparently we're in for rain for two weeks solid. And it is dark a lot. My Danish friend Nina has organised a group of families to go burn a witch on the beach this Saturday - to do with the shortest day, or being only a week after the shortest day. I guess that will be after the high school kapa haka fundraiser and the rugby league 'fun day'. So much for hibernation.

No I haven't done anything in the garden lately. I did get some books out of the library - some on herbs which I've had out before and another by a young man from the UK who spent two years in Tuvalu as a VSO local lawyer. And a book on New Zealand artists and their favourite foods. I wish Barbara Kingsolver would write another book soon though. Her prose is beautiful.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Gala Day

Our local primary school has one major fundraiser each year - The Gala. It involves enormous amounts of work and the result is far more than just funds for new equipment for the school. The result is community. Tonight I rang someone called Margaret, a saint wearing ordinary women's clothing, who is coordinating this year's gala. I offered to make a pork dish for the lunch and bring it down in my crock pot. Margaret accepted with enthusiasm. Other people will be making nachos, chicken or beef dishes also in crock pots and white bait sandwiches. That's just the lunch part. The baking room (yes room, not just table) will be full of home made sweet concoctions and will sell out within twenty minutes. I never buy from the baking room as I haven't the stamina for the crowds, but I'm in the (female) minority.

Lots of other activities take place, many for fund raising and quite a few performances from the school students. I come close to crying watching these and that's in years before I had my own child performing. This year we are paid up schoolie parents and The Gala is such a big deal that the South Island grandparents are driving over for the day.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Slowing down

I'm sticking to my hibernation. I'm only leaving the house to go to work or purchase essential provisions. I'm not going to:
coffee group
book group
active birth group
or sewing class

Not this week anyway.

One consequence of our slowed down day is that I did a little weeding before the rain moved up a gear. I don't seem to have planted cornsalad at all. What I planted looks incredibly similar to docks. I compared them leaf for leaf. Not the cleverest thing I've done all year. I dug the 'cornsalad' seedlings out and the roots also look remarkably like dock roots.

Garlic and shallot leaves are showing through in several places now. I have some leeks which could be eaten, though I'm holding out for a bit more fattening first.

I ate the last of the basil on the windowsill - put it in the hummous. Repotted the coriander seedlings. I won't get the same strength of flavour that I would in proper hot summer weather, but some basil and coriander is better than none.

Reading through an old gardening magazine, I noticed a comment on freesias suiting Auckland as they didn't mind being damp a lot and didn't need frosts. My freesia leaves look great and I'm leaving them in the ground for the next few years. Perhaps they'll prove the best spring bulbs here in wetville.

Animal vegetable miracle

I've now finished Barbara Kingsolver's book on eating local for a year. I loved it. Completely adored her beautiful writing. I think I'm getting pretty familiar, theoretically at least, with the principles and benefits of locavore living and yet Kingsolver's prose drew me in. It's not being virtuous to read her; it's a pleasure.

Has it changed my own view on eating local? Not at all, but local eating on the South Island's West Coast is a fairly high level challenge. We ate fish last week, caught and sold by a local family we know through Fionn's school. The fish was divine. Not sure how long we'll have it though. The same week the local paper ran a front page article on the problems facing local fisherpeople. Fuel costs have risen 240% for them in the last year and some boats have stopped going out as they can't afford the overheads.

The only way I can get locally grown vegetables outside of my own garden (where I have greens but no starches) is to buy them from the fellow just outside of Hokitika. But there is no way I'm driving down to make a purchase from him given that it now costs me about $13 in petrol for a trip to Hoki. I used to make this trip for fun about once a month. No longer.

Next month is rooster killing month which will push up our local protein eating significantly.

What I could do is give up bananas.

Next Summer will be the summer of pumpkins I hope. In the dark of next winter, with some good fortune on top of the hard work, we may be eating our own pumpkins each week.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Misleading Traditions

I wrote a little about Sally Fallon's book Nourishing Traditions a fortnight ago or so. Although it has taken me a while to return to this topic and my disappointment in the book, in the meantime Rose has written a good review. I agree with Rose's criticisms of the book.

Now I'm reading Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, the difference in quality of the two foodie booksreally stands out. The appeal of Nourishing Traditions is that it is quite possible to my mind that she is right about the benefits of soaking grains. But her evidence is not, I suspect, "the latest independent and accurate scientific research" as the back cover claims. When so many of her claims are incorrect, I'm left wondering about the advisability of cooking her recipes when they appear to differ in technique from what I've already learnt elsewhere.

Weston Price may have made some very interesting discoveries. He overstepped his confidence thereafter and made some very romantic assumptions about cultures which he visited.

Buying a book is a big treat these days and I'd thought that Nourishing Traditions would be worth it. I should have left it for the library to get and bought Kingsolver's book instead. Beautiful prose, no neurotic conspiracy theories. Not surprising from the author of The Poisonwood Bible, a novel I adored.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

a bit more hibernating,

and a bit less going out and getting exhausted is what is needed at my home. Most particularly by me. After a week spent mostly in bed or in front of the fire, I am cancelling everything which is not paid work for the next month and I'm staying home and a) resting and b) turning our home into a lovely clean and tidy place to be. Tidy may be pushing it given our personalities but clean isn't, and it's worth trying.

I'm also stopping any more garden patch expansion and concentrating on existing areas. I've already made quite a bit of new space for this coming growing season. Depending on the chook project timing, this could mean we don't have potatoes this year, but there will be lots of other vegetables and fruit instead.

I'm making good progress (I think) on my knitted cardigan and in four weeks' time, I hope to be wearing it.

I've never banned myself from outings for so long before. But fatigue is most unbecoming.

Visits to the library are still allowed - cornerstone of civilisation, books. So shortly I'll be going in to our local library and collecting their newly arrived copy of Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. That should help me rest very nicely.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

To him we cannot say tomorrow. His name is today.

I've copied it below.

Tapu Misa: Kids are not gambling chips
You can't easily tell the poor kids from the well-off ones at my children's high school except on mufti days, when the school allows students to wear their own clothes instead of the school uniform. On those days, the poorest kids tend to stay home.

Uniforms are a great equaliser if you can afford them. I put off buying the school's regulation winter jackets this year until it got too cold to avoid it, but I often see kids on the coldest, wettest days trudging to school without a jacket and sometimes even without the jersey ($100-plus). I often wonder how much those kids learn on those days.

Being poor isn't just stressful and humiliating at times; it's bad for you.

That's one thing at least that the Child Poverty Action Group and the Government can agree on: poverty can damage children, often irreparably. "A child raised in poverty is a child deprived of its fair chances in life," Michael Cullen told the Labour Party conference last year. Poverty leads to poor child health, says the Ministry of Social Development, "which is linked to poor adult health and also to broader poor outcomes including unemployment and crime".

There is no disputing which group of poor children is the most vulnerable. Jobless families are the most disadvantaged, says the OECD, and numerous official reports here leave no doubt that children in beneficiary families suffer lower living standards and are at greater risk of "negative outcomes" - higher mortality rates, lower cognitive development and poorer future employment - than the children of working parents.

Where the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) and the Government disagree is how best to help those children.

CPAG thinks the greater vulnerability and demonstrably greater need of beneficiary children is an argument for more state help. The Government believes it's an argument for making life on the benefit as unattractive as possible, so that beneficiary parents may be "incentivised" to enter the paid workforce.

Which assumes, of course, that everyone on a benefit (including those on the sickness and invalid benefits) could get off their butts and get a job if they really wanted to.
That's the basis for the in-work tax credit that the child poverty group is challenging before the Human Rights Review Tribunal. It pays $60 a week to families with up to three children, and $15 a child for every child after that, but only if they're not reliant on a benefit.

CPAG says this discriminates against the children of beneficiaries, on the basis of their parents' source of income. The Government has said beneficiary families already receive more state help than working families, and even if "differential treatment" did give rise to disadvantage, "differential treatment in the provision of social assistance for children by reference to the circumstances of their family members is plainly justified". Which I think means "tough" in everyday language.

There's nothing wrong with helping people into the workforce. We don't need to labour the benefits of working for a living, which brings self-respect as well as the ability to pay the bills.
But the in-work tax credit is a blunt instrument. It was the child tax credit in its earliest incarnation, and when National introduced it in 1996, Labour was opposed.

Annette King said it isolated "beneficiaries from other families, treats them like lepers and worst of all it treats their children differently. What is different about a beneficiary child? Does that child look different when she or he goes to school? Yes, that child probably does look different because of the circumstances of the family."

And Michael Cullen said that drawing "distinctions between what the state says should go to low-income families on the basis of the source of that income rather than on the level of that income is obscene. Why use children as a work incentive?" he asked.

Should vulnerable children be used as a leverage to get parents into work? What happens when people can't work because of serious illness? Must that family's already considerable troubles be compounded because of a belief that thousands of able-bodied New Zealanders are shirking work?

There's little evidence that such incentives work. It's true the number of people on the unemployed benefit or DPB has fallen since 2000, thanks largely to a strong economy, but the proportion of children in severe and significant hardship increased 36 per cent between 2000 and 2004. As the OECD has noted, employment isn't the full solution.

Child psychologists and neuroscientists say we have a short time to make a difference in children's lives. As Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral wrote: "Many things we need can wait. The child cannot. Now is the time his bones are being formed; his blood is being made; his mind is being developed. To him we cannot say tomorrow. His name is today."

Can we afford to gamble with our most vulnerable children?

Monday, June 16, 2008

"Good" magazine

I saw this new magazine on the stands last week and I've just read that Sad Little Garden has been eyeing it up also.

I'm usually quite a sucker for magazines. Not the glossy svelte ladies' magazines, but various gardening, food, current affairs magazines do make their way into my shopping trolley o. n occasion.

So why didn't I purchase Good? It is after all about the eco friendly types of things I like to think I espouse.

Weeeell. Not really. It might be carbon neutral (except if that is buying carbon credits, then I think that scheme is about as ethical as when in the middle ages people bought indulgences from the Pope). It is also apparently printed on recycled paper. Heavy weight stuff, probably supposed to denote quality. But inside, there is lots of white space, big type and more commercial stuff, like photo shoots on home furnishings made of bamboo. So, buy more stuff aye? Cash in on the current zeitgeist for things eco?

A few months ago, a person wrote a letter to the editor of NZ Organics magazine, saying they had a good message, but they needed to get sexy. I love that NZ Organics depicts earthy people at work in their work clothes, that in this magazine people over 25 actually exist etc. I don't want NZ Organics to go "sexy". But if sexy, lite-eco is what you are after, then Good is now available at a New Zealand supermarket or newsagent near you.

I don't mean to be nasty as in wanting someone else's baby to fail. But I don't suggest you buy Good. I suggest that if you like magazines as I do, then you buy the ones you really love, share them with your friends, and put your 'eco' efforts into not buying things. Or buying magazines which really teach you how to put some changes in place, whether growing garlic or diy home insulation.

extra-curricular overload

No doubt you all know children who have so many violin lessons/ballet/soccer/drama/swimming and more activities in a week and you wonder when they ever get to just breathe.

Maybe that will be me. At 36.

On Saturday we went to the opening of a new display at our local historical theme park. I took my elderly cousin and we had a great time, viewing the sawmilling exhibit and linking it to the stories of Mary's paternal family who milled on the coast for many decades. Then we watched the wood chopping and sawing competitions. I loved how it was a celebration of working class [men's] skills. Mary and I need to go back and I also want to borrow equipment and record Mary talking about her family for the local museum and for her children and grandchildren.

Then at night I was off to our meetup for World Wide Knit in Public Day. An enjoyable evening. My friend Emily is keen to set up a knitting group from it. I also got inspired about settting up a craft day, showcasing all the craft groups in our town, though that one will have to fall off the list.

Sunday was a creative writing workshop with Kate De Goldi. It was the first time I've written creatively since 2001. I enjoyed that. My friend Paul is keen to set up a local writers' group from it.

But the thing is, I've been thinking about setting up a food gardeners' group in our small town. That is the one I want to do the most but the others I could attend without being the organiser. There is also the small issue that I feel quite busy enough now.

I know there is peak oil and starving children in Somalia and my house is a tip and these are frivolous concerns. Just felt like letting them out of my frivolous body before I go back to bed for the day, full of cold. I did nothing in the garden all weekend.

Friday, June 13, 2008

onion weed

Today as I was weeding out the front, pulling out big bunches of onion weed as per local protocol. I've been warned that it is a terrible pest and we have big patches although to be honest it has never been a pest in the way that docks have.

Then it occurred to me that the bulb I was lifting was very similar to a spring onion and as it smelled strongly of onions, perhaps it is an onion.

and therefore edible.

So tonight I did a little googling and indeed we can eat them and tomorrow I am going to start doing exactly that. Whether it is too delicate for the slow cooker or not I don't know, but it is going in there with the bacon bone, the chickpea cooking water as stock and every vegetable I notice in the fridge and the root vegetables storage cupboard in the morning. Tonight was a bought fish and chips night and tomorrow is looking excessively full of antics involving trying to be a good mother, so the slow cooker can be part of the endeavour.

My googling brought up this lovely site. Welcome to New Zealand Brigitte!

My garden today


The punga raised bed. The unknown brassica blew over in the big winds last week. The blank areas all have garlic underneath. The kitchen path garden. This was all stones when we arrived. Since then we've eaten broccoli, swiss chard and garlic from it. Currently it has lettuces, pansies, feverfew, chives, parsley and freesias. A bit scrappy looking at the moment, but it is winter and hopefully by next year I'll have more perennial herbs in here.
Work still to be done. This is another view of what will be my yellow garden. That is the garage in the background. There was all trees and no sunlight here last winter. The fence needs to come down, the green foliage at the front is of a rampant tree and it needs to be kept in check. Just behind the fence I have planted spring bulbs and you can just make out the pea straw over horse manure which I layed down a couple of months ago. Pumpkins there this summer I hope. The stack of wood against the garage will all go on building projects round the garden in time. There is still a lot to do here and I've no intention of spending big bucks getting a quick fix. I don't plan on any lawn outside the garage in time, so building good paths for access to the garden as I create it is important.

Gardening in the rain

Undeterred by rain, this morning I gathered up a barrowload of debris leftover from the last firewood delivery and spread it over my latest garden patch, the one which I covered in horse manure earlier this week. That should provide a good dose of carbon to counter the nitrogen-rich horse manure. It will also be quite slow to decompose in part as there are some wee sticks of wood amongst the finer shavings. I recall reading in a NZ Organics magazine article that this is good for the structure of the soil. I guess it mimics natural forest conditions somewhat.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

sewing night

Cut out the pieces to make pyjama bottoms. Yakked.

Pattern borrowed from my Mum. Soft flanelette from the Sallies. I have old soft long sleeved t-shirts for bed but not soft bottoms so only planning on making the trousers.

Next week is sewing up time.

Do you see the price of petrol now? ? ? ?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

out damned clutter, damned lurgies

There is a baby extravaganza here in smalltown this Saturday. I don't do stalls at such things as nearly everything my children wear has been given to us and I don't sell gifts.

But our Active Birth group which I am involved with is having a stall and we can gift things to them which will be sold and raise money for our group. The money will be used to buy more resources to share with members. Our mission is to give women the information and tools they need to birth without fear and without medical interventions. It's a very open group and very welcoming of women who have had all sorts of birth experiences and would like to spend time with us.

So three bags of clothes and a funny shaped pillow are in the car ready to drop off tomorrow. If I can find the time, I bet I could fill three more bags. Imagine a house without clutter (insert swoon and also pigs flying emoticons here). At least this is a step in the right direction.

Garden achievements today: I noticed where the pile of bark is. One achievement more than no gardening; no less precious for it's tinyness. So that bark will go on top of the horse poo sometime this week.

I've also been organising for a wonderful woman from Cronadun, a very tiny place nearly 90km from me, to come up for the day this Friday and do some reflexology treatments. I'm a big fan of reflexology as practised by Donna and have been getting her to treat the rest of my family in an attempt to boost immune systems. In order to make it worth her driving up, I need to find other people also wanting treatment and that wasn't hard to do. She has an excellent reputation.

I heard some science person belittling reflexology on the radio a while ago. Science is a wonderful tool and I would never claim that reflexology can be tested scientifically. But neither can the effects of a friend dropping round when you are low to chat and share cake, or someone giving a massage or remembering a birthday. Reflexology helped enormously when I was pregnant and afterwards and it has also done great things for my son. Not great things as in life saving. Great things as in boosted strength and evened out his mood swings, lowering the number of negative strops. I have learnt a lot about my body as I observe the different feelings as Donna works on my feet and I am forever quizzing her on which part of the body a certain spot she has just touched links to. Self-awareness is rarely bad in my view. Reflexology has been a real gift for me.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

preparing for herbs

Today I dug some more Bokashi in. I have no photographs so unlikely to be of interest as anything more than my gardening notes for next year.

When we moved in there were huge ugly overgrown bushes which had probably been planted 30 years before and never well managed. They blocked out lots of light along the side garden near the kitchen. We cut the down and put the punga raised bed on top of the site. Since then the tropicanna lilies which looked all but dead along the fence line have started to bloom. I buried bokashi on one side of them last year which must also have helped.

So today I buried bokashi on the other side of the lilies and was pleased to see good fat healthy worms already processing the soil. This spot will be for some of my herbs - as I want no less than 12 new ones next year, I'm always on the lookout for more easy gardening options to site them.

Monday, June 9, 2008


In the picture at the top of my blog, you can see a pile of logs beside the wheelbarrow. That pile has now been used all over the garden as borders for raised beds. Finished using all but the tiny scrappy logs today. Then I dumped eight bags of horse poo on top of my front of the garage garden which I started a few months ago. So now it is layers of newspaper, river sand, chicken and straw mixture, grass clippings and horse poo. It needs some more carbon, which will arrive in the form of peastraw on Wednesday and perhaps some bark if I can find some round the property (I am sure there is a box of it somewhere unless I've already used it up). But now it has the logs around it, it is looking much more proper garden plot-like. This is part of the area I've proposed as my yellow garden, because in summer, the sun casts it's late-in-the-day rays across this area and everything glows a little golden.

Actual vegetable plants won't go in this garden patch until October or November. I had been thinking zucchinis for this spot, but they seem to cope with less rich soil than this will be, so I've also thought of trying the classic corn-squash-beans combination which I've read of in several books and articles. This spot may be a bit windy for corn unless I set up some shelter cloth. I probably should set up some shelter cloth no matter what goes there.

Flax is impossible to cut with loppers. What do I need to use? What did Maori use pre-European tools? Or perhaps they just pulled it from the base. Didn't try that.

I did plant the shallots as per yesterday's goals. But no progress on the indoor herbs and veg.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

To do tomorrow

I need to hold myself accountable. These things I really want to get done tomorrow:

Repot the coriander seedlings. Sow some mesclun and perhaps some more basil for the kitchen window.

Plant the shallots in the end part of the January 08 raised bed where the St Brigid's anemones appear not to have germinated.

I could easily add more to the list, but the completion of the above would be worthwhile enough.

Local food

I've just been reading about Joanna's latest local food meal. It does make me think hard about how I could or should define local food for my family. Eating food only grown in the South Island of New Zealand is not difficult. A wide range of vegetables and fruits are grown in the South Island, fishing is common, wine and beer are made as are the grapes and hops grown, sheep, chickens, pigs, dairy and cattle are raised, grains are grown and the only thing I'm not sure about is whether we grow pulses on a commercial scale. I think there are some around Ashburton. Salt is harvested in Marlborough and olives are now as well, although for the premium end of the market rather than the large bottles I use nearly every day. Herbs grow plentifully.

Except, the West Coast of the South Island is quite isolated from everywhere else and snow still stops transport getting through several times every winter. If fuel prices and availability go the way some are predicting, I don't think the South Island will necessarily be local enough. So I've chosen the West Coast only as a possible local challenge. Not impossible but lots harder. I'm assembling an inventory of possibilities now.

As you can see in the map below, the West Coast is a very long and skinny part of New Zealand linked for the most part by only one road. From one end to the other would take 6-7 hours to drive.

Fruit: blueberries are produced commercially. Nothing else, or nothing within coo-ee of our home. I think there are some organic crops near Karamea, maybe feijoas. But it's possible to grow a number of trees for fruit at home, which we are doing.

Vegetables: again, very little grown commercially. There is a commercial tomato producer not far from us and I support them for my sauce making adventures. There is a place near Hokitika which grows mostly things we have at home but also has asparagus which I don't even have in my garden yet. The Hokitika grower is odd and unpredictable and his wife tells me he tells lies, but no one said this locavore thing was going to be sunshine all the way.

Grains: potatoes for carbohydrates. Too wet for grains here really.

Legumes: I'm experimenting and so have others, but no great success yet. No place for locavore vegans I'm afraid.

Meat: I support two excellent local butchers. I understand however that they get their raw unprocessed meat from Canterbury, so local business but not locally grown. There is a place in Karamea which I have spoken to which sometimes has organic lamb, but mostly I need to get in the know with farmers and the home kill butcher if I want local meat. I have a contact south of Ross who sells me organic beef which she has reared herself.

Poultry & eggs: I have the great benefit of being friends with the wonderful Raeleen who passes her unwanted roosters on to us to eat. We occasionally buy eggs from Raeleen and by spring we should have our own chooks.

Fish: Locally caught fish isn't hard to buy here. Our strongest preference is to buy direct from a fishing family who we know from kindy and now school.

Dairy: The coast is teeming with cows, but it isn't possible to buy local milk and cream and cheese. Westland Milk Company specialises in powdered products which go out of the coast on the train. I suspect the market is largely international.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

fat and thin arguments: Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon

In a book so interesting, the things which don't convince me do seem so particularly unconvincing that it does detract from the very fascinating parts which could well convince me.

Raw meat eating in our modern industrialised society seems risky in the extreme. Fallon does seem to argue that veges should be cooked more and so then to suggest we eat raw meat is rather counter intuitive to me.

She doesn't like pressure cookers because she thinks they cook food too fast. 'Thinks' being the operative word because she doesn't pull out any research to back that one up. I am in empathy with her on the anti-microwave front though.

She talks a lot about fat. Animal fat from traditionally pastured animals is top of her list, and olive oil is okay also. She is also an enthusiast for coconut oil, which I'll be prepared to consider. I do like coconut cream in a curry but coconut products seem to exacerbate Fionn's eczema. Hence why we don't use those "natural" washing powders, which always seem to use coconut products.

I am happy with using butter. It is an appropriate use of local food. We have lots of dairy farms near us. Shame we can't actually buy locally but have to pay for loads of fossil fuel as it is tanked around the country. I'm not obsessed with size, though many much more slender people than me find cause for concern. My weight is stable and doesn't stop me from doing anything (years ago I started gaining weight quite fast when I gave up biking and had access to a car and the rapid weight gain aspect was scary as I could see it could stop me from doing things). I think my family need feeding up when I look at them, not slimming down. She talks about eating fat and losing fat but I'm not much into that line of thinking. Whoever said "eat food. Mostly plants" is right on the money in my view. Obesity is a weird wealthy world problem and I can't get my head around how we spend so much money trying to lose weight while the rest of the world literally, through no fault of their own, starves.

The main problem with butter in my view is that it is rapidly becoming mega expensive. Whereas petrol is clearly going to rise and rise and rise, I'm less worried in the longer term about dairy products as I predict dairy prices will crash when Chinese dairy farms come on stream.

Olive oil I'm happy with also. Yummy stuff in the right place. 'Tis from a long way away though. Post peak oil life may not have so much olive oil in my family's diet, but I'm prepared to keep on using and enjoying it now. After I read Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, I swore off margarines and unnamed vegetable oils.

Sally Fallon also talks about grains and digestibility. I am going to have a go at sprouting grains and maybe at making kefir and her fancy titled yoghurt which I forget the name of right now. But I did note her claim that potatoes appear to be the most easily digested carbohydrate. Excellent as I can grow them easily right here in my own backyard.

It's all looking rather like we're back to meat, spuds and veg to me. Or stew, spuds and sauerkraut anyway.

Rooster killing has been delayed until next month. Seven roosters then! We best start eating the freezer, as we'll need the space. I bought a free range bird for the price of a good bottle of wine this week and the stock from it has hardly gelled. Won't be a problem in that respect with Rayleen's local, free range over paddocks roosters. They make truly fantastic stock. I'm thinking I might have a go at cutting the meat of the bones and making stock with raw bones this time. Heads, feet, the lot.

Bought some more shallots to plant this afternoon. I read recently that I should have planted them with their necks sticking out of the ground. I think I planted mine much deeper than that. Time will tell what survives and prospers.

Food diversity: bok choy tonight in with the other ingredients in the lentil shepherd's pie. I have got some in the garden but it isn't ready to eat yet. This bought stuff was huge compared with mine. I made the lentil shepherd's pie out of the leftovers from last night's puy lentil and bacon bone casserole. I am getting better at appropriate serving size. Finally.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Still warm enough for caterpillars

I've found them on my kale this week and on my tamarillo plant tonight. Winter can fool me sometimes. I've got aphids on the basil and coriander on my kitchen windowsill and another kind of aphid on my kale.

The recent NZ Gardener vege growing in the south column recommended I put a light dusting of wood ash on my broad beans, so I did that tonight as well. Some even have flowers on them. A bit early I thought but I don't know much about broad beans except they grow in winter.

Only about six minutes in the garden, but precious and worthwhile.

food diversity

I'm part way through reading Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions. (Tania, various things happened and I upped it on my priority list and ordered within New Zealand, out of our food budget.)

I'm very interested in much of what she has to say, though I'm not at all convinced on the raw offal meat organs front or on serving raw egg to babies.

I strongly suspect full on romanticisation on the part of Weston A Price himself in his visits to 'primitives' aroudn the world. I remember reading Edward Said's work on Orientalism when I was at university and his concepts come to mind when I read the many quotes from Price in Nourishing Traditions.

I am fascinated and quite open to being convinced on the sections about digestibility and how previous culinary traditions soaked grains and soured milk to increase digestibility.

She also talks about the benefits of eating many different vegetables and I'm beginning my latest foodie fad with my own vegetable and fruit challenge.

Today I ate persimmon for the first time and liked it.

In winter we eat broccoli-carrots-kumara-mushrooms-onion-garlic-swiss chard adn this winter also kale, all the time.

I ordered brussels sprouts this week in our vege box. Challenge is to eat and want them again.

I'll come back to the fats issue another time.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

One local season, One Fat Lady

I've been reading with interest about the Northern Hemisphere one local summer challenge on Joanna's blog.

Could I do it here in Winter? Not sure, but I'm thinking about it.

Perhaps us Southern Hemisphere gals could have a go at this in our Summer?

I've finished "Spilling the Beans" by Clarissa Dickson Wright of Two Fat Ladies fame. I thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend you order it from your library also. If you are only interested in living simply, then she won't be the read for you at the moment, though you'd be missing out. She has serious gumption and survival skills. I loved reading about her endeavours around good food in England and Scotland and now know she is partly responsible for the revival of Borough Market in London, a place I adored. Books for Cooks in Portobello has also benefited from her skills and I remember trekking over there to check that place out a couple of times also. Food heaven. If someone you love has problems with alcohol, then it is a powerful and relevant book also. Her narrative of the process of alcoholism and rehabilitation will stay with me a long time.

She is also an enthusiast of good food growing, as any food enthusiast must be. Her cardoon growing project has made me consider growing it. Kings Seeds have it in their catalogue.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Yellow cherry guava

I had been thinking we had no fruit trees. Primarily because we have no fruit.

But I did an inventory of everything in the garden yesterday and then sketched out my plans for this coming summer and we do indeed have a number of fruit trees/bushes/plants.

blackcurrants - tamarillo - feijoa - raspberries - lemon - strawberries

Next on my list are blueberries. What do you do to raise money for fruit trees? Dealing in illegal drugs seems an extreme measure, as does begging or stealing or defrauding or making counterfeit money. I have noted however, that the NZ Gardener magazine pays out a $50 garden centre voucher for every letter they publish. Which would pay for the two blueberry plants I have chosen at our local garden nursery and for most of a yellow cherry guava.

I've neither touched nor eaten a guava but I'm not letting that put me off. Inspired by the latest NZ Gardener magazine, I looked them up at Incredible Edibles and now I want one. They fruit in winter. After the guava, I will be coveting a plum. A Damson plum tree I think. Then we should be shaping up for year round fruit in the garden. Nah nah na nah nah peak oil.

The chook house building is progressing nicely.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Egg-less chocolate cake and black bean soup

Egg-less chocolate cake
The chocolate cake recipe is an adaptation from one in the New Zealand Food Allergy Cookbook. I added the jam and linseeds because I thought the jam would be yummy and the linseeds, of which we have many in the fridge being used too slowly, might fit in as well.

1 C sugar
250g melted butter
1-3 t of ground cloves/mixed spice/ground cinnamon
3 T cocoa powder
1 C warm water
1 t baking soda
2 C plain flour
1 dessertspoon of jam
1 dessertspoon of ground linseeds

Mix sugar, spices and cocoa. Dissolve baking soda in the water and add to the spice mixture. Sift the flour and add to the wet mixture. Mix the linseeds and jam together and then add to the cake mixture. Mix well and then tip into a greased round cake tin, about 20-22cm. Cook at 180 degrees celsius for about 45 minutes.

We had friends over for dinner last night and served the cake with yoghurt for pudding. I have no idea how long it keeps for as ours got eaten very quickly.

Black Bean Soup
This comes from Nigella Lawson's How to Eat. I love this book, both her writing and her lovely hedonistic joy in food. Serves eight, makes great leftovers.
450 g dried black turtle beans
2 bay leaves
200ml extra virgin olive oil
2 large red peppers, seeded and chopped
2 shallots, chopped
2 onions, chopped
8 cloves garlic, chopped
1 T ground cumin
2 T ground dried oregano
zest of 1 lime, plus more limes for serving
0.5 T sugar
1 T salt
2 T dry sherry
1 red onion, diced, to serve
coriander, chopped
250 ml sour cream to serve

No need to soak the beans, cover with 2 litres of water, add bay leaves and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 1.5-2 hours until soft but not squishy, adding more water if necessary to keep well covered. (Could do this bit in the pressure cooker - I did last time but forget for how long)

Heat olive oil in a large frying pan and saute the peppers, shallots and onions until the onions are translucent - about 15 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, oregano and lime zest and cook for a further 5 minutes. Put in a blender and puree until smooth.

When the beans are almost tender, add the pureed mixture, sugar, salt and sherry. Serve with bowls of sour cream,`limes, red onion and coriander so that people can add as they wish. Tabasco goes down well also.

Things I have found out: we love sour cream with this. We never seem to have coriander at the right time which is a shame as it is lovely. Good without though or with parsley instead. I always put lime zest in, but not always on the table due to cost. All onions is fine if you don't have shallots. I don't always bother with red onions on the table. Next time I'm going to try it without bothering to puree the red pepper mixture. Given that I don't seem to have a kitchen fairy, a meal which involves the pressure cooker, the frypan AND the food processor is a little overkill on the dirty dishes front. This is very filling. You could fit in dessert if it is a special meal, but not a main course as well. Definitely main course soup imo.