Friday, August 29, 2008

Father's Day

I just entered the NZ Gardener get growing e-newsletter competition to win a Fiskars flash weeder for my Dad for Father's Day. Which I'm quite pleased about because I've planned to enter at least 38 competitions to do with gardening in the last six months and this is the first one I have actually entered. I've composed quite a few competition entries in my head but the judges cannot read my mind unless I put my mind onto an email and send it.

I wrote about how my Dad encouraged me to garden and helped me set up my own garden when I was only seven and I wrote about how we talk about organic methods (he is a synthetic fertiliser man) and it turns out these are methods my grandfather used. Like chook run rotation across garden beds and using beans to fix nitrogen.

Thanks for smudging some green across my thumb from an early age Dad. Thank you also to my maternal grandmother, who is still alive, who also taught me about gardening. I used to gather flowers from the garden with her to go in vases inside and sometimes I went to garden club with her. I have a memory of going up the creek on a far from the house part of their farm with her and an aunty and gathering ferns for the garden. She put in a waterfall and rock garden which I walked past each afternoon to go help round up the cows for milking.

I also remember going to that same creek with my brother and Grandad and catching eels. Hoping to take my own children up there to play next school holidays.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


Yesterday I bought a new knife. It is made in China by Kuhn Rikon who originally hail from Switzerland. It is very sharp and makes preparing vegetables faster. I bought the pale green version. I like it.
I still love my chooks.
That's all I have to say tonight.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

sugar and stealing

Today I wrote about the sugar on the floor.

After school Fionn and I went out stealing. Grass. It must be Spring. The council mowed the large verge at the end of our street and we took big and little wheelbarrows and the rake down there and filled them. When we got back home we added it to the beautiful wormy home made compost which we had strewn over the punga raised bed. Should enrich the soil for the garlic and yams and the climbing rose.

I still love the chooks.

I made carrot and ginger and kumara soup for dinner. I used beef stock from the freezer for the liquid, bacon pieces and borlotti beans for the protein and I added a few handfuls of dried seaweed - wakame I think it's called. It was good. I should use it more often.

Introducing chooks one, two and three

of Poultry Palace, smalltown.
They eat slugs.
I love my chooks.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

chook love

I love the chooks. They are nameless but loved. We let them out into the run this afternoon (I was too impatient to wait two days) and they clearly enjoyed that and we all stood mesmerized by chooks pecking grass and straw...

I've convinced Favourite Handyman on my scheme to create a large garden bed by the poultry palace building site by having the chooks there for a few months and then finishing off any digging they haven't done myself. I'll put potatoes there in late October and create a herb border all the way round it. The garden bed will be 5 x 2 metres which is the sort of gutsy sized garden bed I want/need rather than just itsy bits around the edges of the section. We're talking about modifications to the poultry palace now that it is up and running. Not that it means much here without any photos. Couldn't find my wallet this evening either. Obviously cleaning the kitchen today wasn't sufficient effort to organise my chaotic physical surrounds.

I've made no progress on the yeast-free eating front. Today I even started making bread again. I tried a new recipe - sweet rye bread. I didn't have aniseed which I gather is the key taste in the recipe but it was still good. Nice with hummus. It is supposed to be great with strong cheese but we've run out of that until Wednesday. It uses treacle which must be good. I need to start my use up the cupboard project again. Stuff just creeps in there and sits unused if I'm not very vigilant.

Happy fortieth birthday to my friend and childminder Robyn, whose party I've just come home from. Robyn's friends and family have already raised $2500 tonight towards the next Watoto project. She makes a huge positive difference to many lives, including mine, here in our small town as well as on the other side of the world.

Friday, August 22, 2008


I am now a woman with chooks.

Three point of lay Brown Shavers are now settling in to their home in our backyard. The poultry palace isn't quite finished but I used a bit of masking tape in lieu of nails on the last details and Favourite Handyman can make changes later next week when they are in the run fossicking.

They've got water, grit, pellets, wheat, a tray of sand as some kind of dust bath and lots of straw in the coop. I'm keeping them locked into the coop for the first two days to get them used to this being their home.

We didn't have any time in reasonable weather to shift the poultry palace from it's building site to our preferred first spot. So as the forecast this weekend is for rain, more rain, heavy rain and thunder, I expect they will live on the building site for a while after all. I assume they will peck up all of the lawn the run is sitting on and am now thinking it will become another garden spot. It will be fairly exposed to the wind and perhaps I should plant some kind of lowish windbreak after the chooks move on. I don't want anything high as then sun would be lost. Might be useful for low growers like beetroot, lettuce, radishes and some herbs. Straight after chooks would be too rich for carrots I gather - makes them fork. But some more garden would certainly allow me to plant more of the herb seeds that I own but don't yet have enough places for. Perhaps it is what I need to get me breaking up the garden away from just patches around the periphery of the lawn. It would be very fantastic to eventually have lots of curves and a somewhat magical effect of walking round the corners and finding surprising things in the new garden vista. We don't have to have one big rectangle of lawn edged with plants always.

I seem to have misplaced the camera which is even worse negligence on my part than usual. Perhaps there is someone else to blame but I'm not confident on that one.

Monday, August 18, 2008


Yesterday: sowed tomato seeds (sungold F1 and sub-arctic plenty) and basil, parsley and lettuce (webbs wonderful) seeds. Also planted my Dublin Bay rose. Noticed I need to add more soil/compost/mulch to the punga raised bed. The torrential rains have pushed the level down a lot.

Today: frosty morning and sunny all day. Felt wonderful. Transplanted white welsh bunching onions from the propagator tray to a long planter box and tucked it under the long cloche outside. Noticed the strawberries looking sad in beside the garlic but it is all far too wet to replant them atm.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Dublin Bay

Above is a photo of the rose 'Dublin Bay'. It's not my one. My one is a bare rooted stick which was marked down to $4 at The Warehouse yesterday. So the main point is that I now do indeed have a Dublin Bay rose. I'll be putting it amongst the garlic in the punga raised bed and it will climb up the living punga tree which grows beside the bed. I did have ideas of a pale pink old fashioned rose here, but they did not have them for $4 yesterday.
I've got a climbing rose, climbing rose, climbing rose.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


If I was reincarnated as a frog, then I would enjoy days and days and more days and then further days beyond that of rain. Well I imagine I would.

If I was a frog, then I wouldn't feel conflicted between the needs of my (again) sick tadpoles and the needs of the people in my paid job. Cos frogs don't get paid. I presume.

If I was a frog, then wet weather and sick tadpoles would not keep me inside.

If I was a frog, then I would not need to collect money from the cash machine to pay for coal and lug bags of rubbish from two weeks because last week's illness meant held over unput-out rubbish... all before 7am.

If I was frog, then my baby would not be calling for me now.

... okay so I'm not going to be a frog, ever. I'll sign out and get over myself now then.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008





So there are some powerful people who think: Culture can burn, we want oil. Guaranteed oil.


That's how it feels to me.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The yeast free journey

About six weeks ago I received some advice regarding my son's eczema and the distinct possibility (well the doctor was more sure than that but I am over 'certainties' on the eczema front) that yeast was/is related to the problem. I know I benefit from eating all foods without yeast although my favourite foods (red wine with crusty white bread covered in blue cheese...) are a 'little' on the yeasty side.

Other stuff was in the way for ages and now we are working on a yeast free, or at least significantly lowered yeast foods (I hate the word diet and all it's connotations!). Today flagged up that thorough change is going to take a while. We replaced bread for lunch (with pasta leftovers) with cinnamon pinwheel scones. They were yummy but also full of refined white flour and loads of sugar. And we ended up topping the leftover pasta with pumpkin (tick) and feta cheese (no tick).

I am going to play round with unleavened breads (are they terrible on the Sally Fallon scale out of curiosity? Must find out. Probably. That woman is interesting and also seems just plain contrary at times) and we'll be opting for more sushi again. Better go order some organic avocadoes. mmmm they are the silver lining to every food project I embark upon.

yams, peas, onions, broccoli, calendula

This afternoon Fionn and I planted the yams. They all fitted in the punga raised bed with the garlic which has left me some room in the other garlic bed for more swiss chard and some lettuce in a few more weeks.

As I planted, I removed any weeds. Including the germinated pea shoots from two weeks ago. But perhaps my foolishness was a little fortuitous as I then consulted my companion planting guide and found that peas do not like growing near garlic, onions or shallots. Oops. Scarce is the garden bed at my house without one of these alliums at the moment. So I've planted peas amongst the freesias and pansies and hope to fit the crop in before it is time to fill it with perennial herbs.

I transplanted some calendulas.

I transplanted my red brunswick onion seedlings from their tiny propagator trays to a larger planter box. Then I placed our long cloche from last year over the top and put them in a sheltered spot outside. I won't plant them into the garden for another month, perhaps longer. Last year I sowed these seeds direct into the garden and the blackbirds, who are very hungry and always fossicking in my garden at this time of year, ate all bar one seed.

I transplanted four broccoli seedlings. I have another two to plant out once we've harvested some leeks and thus made room. Leek and spud soup dinner likelihood this week is very high.

I fancy planting more seeds - I have no shortage of packets of seed - but there is the vexed question of where to plant them out. I have spaces put aside for zucchini, pumpkins and tomatoes, for the onions and with them will go carrots (fingers crossed) and beetroot. Lettuces and herbs will squash in somewhere I'm sure (hope). There won't be more room for more than that until summer when higher and longer sun will make some currently shady spots viable.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Got my blog back

and very relieved I am about it too.

Where on earth to start?

Beans. I got a big order of beans and pulses from Piko Organics this week. Half of which is stored beautifully in glass preserving jars and the other half is still in the cardboard box. I did use some to make Black Bean soup today though. Black Bean soup (the recipe is here somewhere if you check out the recipe label on this blog) is one of my favourite things because it tastes a bit sophisticated (lime and coriander on top and sherry in it - may sound very ordinary to you but it aint sausages) and it is good because no methane emitting animal meat. Though we do spoon sour cream on top. Once I've got over the cost of red peppers in soup making season and got two meals out of the recipe, then it gets quite good budget points.

Today Favourite Handyman worked on the poultry palace. Delivery to smalltown is less than 13 days away now.

The sun shone today and yesterday. This is a first for a long time and a seriously utterly wonderful thing.

I've been re-reading Companion Planting in New Zealand by Brenda Little. I really need to buy my own copy because in the interim since I last had it out of the library, I've put brassicas, garlic and strawberries together. Turns out brassicas and strawberries really hate garlic and suffer in performance in it's presence. When the soil dries out a bit, I'll be transplanting the strawberries into a new bed and complementing it with borage. When I've grown the borage. I've got just two tiny kale plants left there which can go but I narrowly missed planting four broccoli plants with the garlic. The book didn't comment on yams. I'm going to put yams in with both my garlic beds. Only time will tell.

My potatoes are sprouting nicely. Just homeless until I find a pile of cheap buckets. Their original spot has been re-assigned to onions and carrots and chamomile.

I have lots of spring bulb foliage up but no flowers yet. Though the flower stems are up on the freesias and starting to come up on something else unidentified but possibly a crocus (or a bluebell).

Flowers are out on some onion weed. Onion weed is up in chunks of the lawn around the compost and our biggest tree. I used my dried onion weed in the stuffed pumpkin meal I made last weekend. I think drying it first might be the way to go as it yields little flavour for it's size when thrown in raw.

Favourite Handyman made me an excellent cloche today. It is an old vegetable box (strong transparent plastic) for a fridge which came with some toys for the children. They never put toys in their boxes anyway so it's mine thank you. FH drilled holes in the base (which is now the roof of the cloche) for ventilation and now it is protecting one of my spinach seedlings with the idea that it will be warmer and grow faster.

Tomorrow I might sow seeds. Better go and find out if that is lunarly suitable. Which will most likely determine whether I am lunar follower or not. But less likely to stop me sowing seeds if it is Sunday and the sun is shining and no one has an earache or broken bone.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The meat raffle

I won it. That brings my raffle winnings to two over the past 2.5 years we've lived in smallwettown. The previous win was of a year's membership to the local toy library. Our town is big on raffles. I began by never buying any. But the more I get involved in life here, mostly just by living here longer, the more I find I have a personal connection to the organisation selling, or the actual person behind the raffle desk. Lately I've bought a lot of raffles because I've got strong emotional links to a few groups who've been fundraising very intensely.

Here are a few pics from smallwettown last week:

Last week I lived in small-wet-nearly-blown-off-this-planet-town. The volunteer firefighters worked for 17 hours continuously and the next day busloads of people turned up in the worst hit areas to pitch in and help clean up. Friends without power prompted me to question whether I did want to store a year's worth of food in an electric freezer.

I found out today that only Solid Energy is ceasing residential coal sales after 2010. The other private coal mines will carry on supplying coal.

I was going to start a new dinner project/challenge tonight, based on finding my copy of the World Food Cafe recipe book and choosing a gorgeous South American bean dish to post about and then offer up the challenge that several of us try it out and report back.

But that kind of presumes I could find the book. And that I didn't come home at 5.30pm and tip cans of baked beans and corn in a pan and bread in the toaster and call that dinner. It was dinner. Most appropriately named. I even swirled balsamic vinegar on top of the beans. Bit posh aye? no? oh well. ...

So in the absence of
a) the aforementioned recipe book
b) the bill from the panelbeater so I even know if we should be eating this week
c) any opportunity for me to garden today

... then lets talk about another food option. Please post in the comments all your tricks with a can or two of baked beans. I have another flash option you know. Sometimes I add frozen peas as well as tinned or frozen corn to the beans in the pot/pan. Do tell me yours. I can never have too many baked bean tricks up my sleeve or down my gumboot.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Where to fit it all?

The vegetables that is.

My onion seedlings have germinated well and now I am left with the small issue of where to plant them (not yet but at some point in the medium term). In the shower yesterday I decided that they could go in the bed earmarked for the potatoes and the potatoes could go in buckets and perhaps in a few marginal spots around and about. I problem solve well in the shower in my opinion. Once upon a time I used to plan my work day in the shower. Now work doesn't get a look in beside the garden.

The new hot fashion item on the vegetable scene seems to be ullocas or earth gems. I have almost definitely spelt ullocas incorrectly but have no text in the house to check it against. They are like colourful potatoes and are from South America. I want to grow them of course but there really is no room. One day there will be but until then I can only create so much new garden each year.

I got out Companion Planting in New Zealand from the library for the fifth or so time today. Which is where I discovered that garlic and strawberries and brocolli all hate each other. No prizes for guessing what I've got hanging out together in one of my garden patches. Perhaps I should purchase the book for consistent reference.

Today I ordered three brown shaver point of lay hens for delivery to our small town on 22 August. 2008 that is. Words are inadequate for my pleasure at this. Now we have to finish the poultry palace before the 22nd, but that is quite do-able.

I've been pulling entire swiss chard plants out instead of harvesting leaf by leaf lately in a bid to free up room for the brocolli.

It's the dog eared end of winter and we're out of wood. Out of beech and oregon anyway. We still have some kiln dried pine offcuts from the mill but they burn too fast, certainly for overnight warmth. Great kindling though. So we're burning coal, like bad citizens and like many if not most people in our small town. It is a lot cheaper and it also has a deadline. After 2010, Solid Energy will not be supplying coal for residential use. Better we send it to China of course than retain the ability to keep New Zealanders warm. Apparently they are different kinds/grades of coal but I remain unconvinced. Then I think of the Green Party's opposition to coal mining and my issues with that in terms of local employment and then my head spins too too fast. It is true that low income households in our town, many of whom live in poorly insulated rental accomodation, would not be able to afford to buy wood for the whole winter. Oil prices are of course impacting on wood and coal prices.

I've been blogging for a year now. It was the school gala on Saturday and I remember that last year's gala was about third post. I've stuck at it for an entire year! Not completely surprising given my penchant for waffle - blogging is another outlet for my endless stream of babble.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Pumpkin Musquee de Provence

I've ordered seeds of this pumpkin and a google showed me this is what I could expect. Definitely something to look forward to.