Friday, October 31, 2008
I did take a giant leap forward a few weeks ago and change the setting on my own blog so I get an email whenever anyone leaves a comment. This includes if I leave a comment myself which I suppose is useful if I lose my mind and start blogging and replying to myself in a hallucinatory and fleeting fashion. It has meant that if anyone comments on a post older than a couple of days, I will pick it up. So far this means I know that a lovely person from China read a post from last year, last week and kindly left the details of her own English language school for me to check out. Good luck to her. I am way too arrogant about my own grasp of the English language to seek tuition from the other side of the world from someone who presumably speaks it less often than me.
A long time ago someone told me how to work technorati and I have that favourited and periodically I look at it and it tells me if anyone has linked to my site. It does odd things though and doesn't record everything and then other times tells me someone linked to me just 17 hours ago when in fact that was five and half months ago. I guess it fits with the semi-randomness of my blog world, but rather ineptly as it is supposed to be a tool for unrandomising my experiences. I think.
There is a lot of evidence of chaos in my life, chiefly in the mess in parts of the house (usually the whole house but given the recent visit of my parents, there are still spots of pleasing serenity) and there are bits of flotsam and jetsam around the section as well. The state of the car is akin to a midden - we are not a roadshow to be admired.
But for all that I would actually argue (to myself I know, the beauty of blogs is that you can click out and not have to listen to me be tiresome face to face in your own lounge) that I do operate with lots of order. I work part time in a job which involves lots of juggling of paperwork, teaching and managing of diverse personalities. I enjoy it and while the chaos factor does enter some days, I do feel that I have a reasonable amount of order there. The order involved in getting my children to the right place with the right equipment so I can go to said job is considerable. Well it feels so at 8.26 every morning. even on the non-work days. I've gotten myself involved in various local projects and though I wouldn't claim consistent order over the lot, things do happen. Knitting group has fallen off my radar because I'm so often in bed asleep before it even starts but I'm keeping up on writing group and making progress with the local school garden project. I've yet to make it to a meeting of the working class history museum project but there is hope yet.
I forget about Fionn's homework more times than I remember (whose homework is it anyway?) but we do good things together and I don't feel altogether out of touch with what the children need and where they are at. We looked around toyworld, the health shop and the photo shop this afternoon after school as we waited for a print of our chooks for Fionn to take to show and tell tomorrow (Chelsea Flower Show ain't got nothing on show and tell for social calendar HIGHLIGHT - how lucky is it that it even happens every single Friday? I've read the thoughtful and learned and impassioned arguments in favour of full time home education but really - no show and tell?) Then we ate cake in a coffee bar (if you saw it you would know why I chose that term) and discussed the possible origins of a piece of jelly like substance which I identified as glace cherry but Fionn saw no link to any grown food.
So sometimes I don't read much in the way of blogs at all and other times (tonight being an example), I muck around reading favourites and finding new ones for ages. But if I had it on a 'feed' (that is the correct technical term?) then reading blogs would become a job. Which would mean that I would put it off. Instead, reading blogs is a random joy. I refuse to read manuals of how to raise children by a clock because I don't buy that I need a stranger to tell me when my children are/should be hungry when all I have to do is look at and listen to them. I certainly refuse to sign up to the Flylady and thus sort out my house so it would look properly conventional. I looked at her website once and it said that to feel good I should start by shining my sink before I went to bed every night. Who needs drugs when you can start behaving like that for free? I refuse to sow seeds or plant seedlings in rows (apart from a once-more tragic experiment with carrots. I fear I am destined to have to buy carrots for yet another season).
I am still not reading enough. I found my book yesterday. It is in a moderately sensible place (under the telephone book in the special nook for a telephone book built with the house back in 1948) but then I fell asleep with the children and then when I woke up hours later I went blogging and blog reading instead. So despite pulling out of a forum on which I was previously active and vowing only to go online once I'd read for half an hour every day, that idea has fallen the way of regular exercise. Maybe I should not allow myself to blog until I have read the rest of Kate Adie's excellent book on foundlings?
Maybe I should go to bed...
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Yesterday I popped down to the garden centre to buy some spinach seedlings for Dad. Somehow I ended up buying a marjoram plant (my second lot of marjoram seed has failed to prosper and I can't wait forever to make marjoram toppings for our pizzas) and six cavolo nero plants. I love this name for what is also known as 'palm tree cabbage' and as 'lacinato kale'. My seeds still haven't arrived from Koanga so these fairly well established seedlings are very welcome. It's great to see our local garden centre branching out in the range of seedlings it offers.
Of course I only wondered afterwards where exactly I would put the cavolo nero. The idea was to put winter greens where the chook house currently is in Febuary. But I do need to home some more greens well before then. I guess the edges of the potatoes where I planned to put herbs and beans may also have to fit in some brassicas after all.
I bought the latest Organics NZ magazine this afternoon. I read the article on herbs for hormonal health with some interest. It is written by Sandra Clair who is the owner of the highly regarded herbal tea and creams business Artemis. She mentions in the Organics NZ article that calendula is a very good balancing herb for women. Which could mean almost anything and why I wonder about making this myself when I have yet to use any of our calendula for making eczema cream in the last two years I don't know. But indeed I do wonder. So I bought one of her teas at the health food shop today and maybe one day I'll get to experiment with my own concoctions.
I've started another bread experiment (yesterday) after reading up a link on on of Joanna's recent posts. I hope this no knead bread lark is forgiving as I forgot to go home and make it this afternoon and it is now going to wait until tomorrow before I do the final steps. I'm interested in the recommendation to use standard (weak gluten) flour rather than bread grade. From one angle, standard grade bread is cheaper than bread grade. From another, I could use this recipe for making bread from low gluten flours like the ones I've found from a grower called Terrace Farm.
I should go and be a parent now.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
So it was with some loathing today that I noticed that in our local supermarket we currently have a double layered advertising caboodle in the bulk foods section. Alison Holst, who has guided thousands of New Zealanders through their early and later days in the kitchen, currently has her name to most of the bulk foods section in 'New World'. No doubt she gets paid handsomely for having her motherly face plastered over the top of containers of scroggin and pine nuts up and down New Zealand. Today it was all through the lens of pink. All the labelling and display posters had been changed to pink and even the bulk foods bags are currently pink. I bought pink Tim Tams earlier this month and thus gave the breast cancer charity ten cents to their worthy cause. Some might suggest that Tim Tams are the kind of processed food that people anxious to reduce their cancer vulnerability would do well to avoid.
So I do hope that all this fundraising and awareness raising saves some lives. But I'm also with Madeline Bunting - the packaging is rather suspect.
I wonder what the point of my carefully made meal plan and prudent food shopping this morning was. Given that I worked late and ended up buying fish and chips for tonight's dinner. $54 at the supermarket for food which should last us until next Tuesday/Wednesday, apart from another milk trip. $19 at the chippie for food which filled us without laudable nutrition for one meal only. Tomorrow is black pudding, baked beans, veges, rice. I'm thinking I should cook it in the morning. If we have another late arrival home, we can eat the pre-made dinner cold.
The chooks are trying to roost in their new day home. They do look funny falling off the pungas. Favourite Handyman is going to adapt a saw horse for their portable roost. The odd chook is still odd. Today's egg was shell-less and barely recognisable as an egg. FH suggested killing her now as the books and our learned chook-owning friends suggest she is egg-bound and will most likely die anyway. I guess that is forward planning. Of a kind. She seems quite happy, just underperforming egg-wise.
Some of the remaining leeks are going to seed. Leek seed heads are so very beautiful - I'm definitely letting at least one grow to it's full glory. My parents arrived here this evening and I proudly showed them round our section. They are quite bemused by our training of wild blackberry. I have quite a few germinated sunflowers now. And two beans. Progress on transplanting kale and lettuces yesterday has been undermined by Brighid who thinks seedling pots are to be emptied, filled and moved around with like sandpit toys. We're not getting on well in gardening terms at the moment, my daughter and I.
Monday, October 27, 2008
I've also permanantly lifted the roofing iron from the compost experiment out the front. I'd layered horse poo and pea straw and fabric scraps and shredded paper and then put roofing iron over it all and weighted it down with bricks. There are worms in there so some activity but actually it was too dry in there and so not huge break down. I watered the newly exposed pile with seaweed brew this morning and no doubt it will rain several times this week. The zucchini seedling I have earmarked for this spot is not big enough to transplant yet but most likely will be in a week's time.
I've used last year's strawberry protection frame (made of wire mesh) to go over the top of my rocket seedlings and the big pot which houses my calla lilly. Brighid caused merry havoc with these pots earlier and was furious when I put them out of her grasp.
Favourite Handyman made a splendid contraption for the chooks today. A large (perhaps two metres in diameter) circle of wire mesh with two bamboo poles crossed and attached over the top to lift it by. Then we pegged shade cloth over the top. We moved it (and very light it is too) to Brighid's Forest (small patch of pungas and a cabbage tree) and then put the chooks in there to feast on the long grass and weeds surrounding the trees. Great scheme though I'm about to discover how to get them out soon... I put some water in a bucket inside the circle for them and in summer could easily make a laying box to pop in there and then they could live there for a few weeks. But at the moment the idea is that they live there in the daytime only. I do appreciate not having foxes in New Zealand - it does make housing chooks much easier.
Of course the term "Labour weekend" is a stupid fallacy. It is supposedly a celebration of good working conditions in New Zealand or something like that. But it was deliberately divorced timewise from the traditional May Day labour movement celebrations which are found all over the world. Robbing it of it's political and historical context. The West Coast is the birth place of the union movement and we have celebrations relating to this at Blackball on or around 1 May.
On the subject of politics, I heard Kim Hill running the election debate last night. You'll be able to find it if you look on the National Radio menu. I am a huge and longstanding Kim Hill fan. It's a great incentive to cook on a Sunday night if I get to hear Kim Hill handle our politicians with skill and verve like last night. My favourite line was after Jim Anderton spoke and went something very similar to: "That's the great thing about having Jim Anderton on this debate. It's like going on an archaeological dig."
Friday, October 24, 2008
Today is the anniversary of the death of my cousin Lou. Lou's wife Mary is my Dad's cousin and they are a treasured part of our West Coast life. Lou was 88 when he died last year, a prisoner of war in World War Two and a very special man. Today Brighid and I will take lunch round to Mary's and share with her and then we will visit Lou's grave, taking flowers from our garden and also flowers from Mary's garden. I wasn't successful with the plantings of Flanders poppies which I tried to grow in honour of Lou last year. I do remember his advice about planting tomatoes - some of the last advice he gave me - as I potter round the garden in Spring.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
I planted out the last of my outdoor seedling pots this morning. Calendula in amongst the garlic and yams. The foliage contrast on the yams and garlic is already lovely and I thought some orange flowers in amongst them could only be wonderful. The last silverbeet seedling in the spot where the slugs vanquished a lettuce.
Egg and bacon pie for tea tonight. Our own eggs, silverbeet, thyme and parsley. Locally cured bacon. Peas and onions from New Zealand. Pastry bought ready made and ready rolled. Tuesday is a working mother afternoon.
Monday, October 20, 2008
Today I could wait no longer. We virtually live in Noah's Ark here in Spring. I cannot imagine quite when the soil will be dry enough for digging or planting. The prospective potato bed will just have to be a little compacted. I weeded the spreading buttercup and the docks which had pushed through the mulch and then planted 14 potatoes, each with a piece of comfrey leaf underneath them. I've left a gap at the back for beans and a gap at one end for herbs which I fancy and which otherwise will have no home. I had six potatoes left after this and have planted them down the bottom of the garden. It is quite wet and not at all raised there but apparently potatoes grow in most places and do good things for the soil, so an experiment worth doing.
I also cast aside concerns about compacting soil to plant the feijoa I bought earlier this month. I learnt not long ago that feijoas are very hungry so I made up a mix of sheep manure, blood and bone, potting mix and compost and dropped all that in a hole twice the size of the plant. Pea straw on top and hopefully now the other feijoa tree has a friend, they will both go forth and prosper. The top layer of weed/grass lawn which I dug out, I threw to the chooks so they can eat the greenery and feast on any worms and insects. Then they can scratch it all up and spread it round the chook run.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Today I planted all of the fuchsias. They have ended up along the front of the house. I think they'll look great as they get bigger. I'll fill up the shady fence line out the back some other time. I used my own homegrown compost and felt very special.
When I went to plant out the first fuchsia, I remembered that I did have a go at using local materials as mulch instead of peastraw back in July. I weeded a strip in front of the lounge window, layered horse poo on top and then covered that with dead punga leaves, which look like bracken by this stage. Today I lifted the leaves and discovered that the horse poo had decomposed down very nicely underneath it's eiderdown. I'll be doing more of that. We have plenty of punga leaves laying around the section for free.
I sowed sunflower seeds. The variety is called Moonwalker. I transplanted one tomato plant into the garden because it was getting too tall and unwiedly for the kitchen windowsill. It hasn't been hardened off at all but it wasn't going to fare any better if it fell into the sudsy sink. I prepared a rectangular planter for sowing leek seeds and then found that they mysteriously disappeared off the face of the potting shed earth. Seeds are one thing I have very well organised I think, but ultimately nothing is immune from the Sandra chaos factor. So now there are beans slenderette in the pot instead.
I tried on my latest almost a wenching dress find. I fancy one of those deep red velvet dresses which lace up the front and have a full skirt. It would go great with my gummies. Maybe even better with work boots. I'm taken with the work boots idea after reading Chrissy's blog. I want some overalls as well but I outgrew the last pair I owned. So periodically I find something velvety and hippish in an op shop and usually it doesn't fit and sometimes it is awful. But yesterday I spied another approximation (the lace up front is always fake in my experience so far - I'll probably have to start sewing again to make the real thing) at the Camerons Community Market in amidst the fuchsias and home made raspberry jam. It fits not too badly and I'll definitely wear it. But they've tiedyed it - black over pink. Tie dying should be outlawed. It is yucky and the colour smudges and patterns make me shudder. But still, it was a long velvety dress and it did fit. So I need to order some dye to reduce the ridiculous pale pink/leaky mascara black contrast. Deep green or blood red? Maid Marian or the bloody trollope? I did look at some green clothes in a new clothes shop the other day and step backwards at some of the green shades, so battlefield red it may be.
I am solo parenting again while Favourite Handyman talks at a politics event. He is one of seven 'ordinary people' who've been asked to talk about the key issues they perceive for the upcoming national election before the candidates then speak. I could pretend that I'm home being a good mother but I'm a hopeless liar. They're grizzling and shouting and wailing from behind the toddler gate while I type. That's what happens when I think tvs are bad but forget to wash the angel wings which would enable me to serenely play trains read books change nappies feed endlessly wash clothes wash dishes make more food. The angel wings fell apart. I lost them because the house was so messy. Now I can't get any more and my children will grow up messed up and neglected. Maybe they will have some compassion. I once read the book by Vita Savkville West's son about his parents' lives and marriage. She spent a lot of time gardening and the son still wrote a whole book partly in her honour. Of course it was also about their weirdness. No such thing as a free lunch...
Saturday, October 18, 2008
This morning I went out to Camerons Community Market. I spent $24.50. For that I got:
1 beautiful clematis, a white flowered one which is already half a metre tall
1 small rose which will have lemon flowers
4 medium sized fuchsia plants
1 small fuchsia plant
2 other plants whose names I have forgotten but which are suitable for damp shady spots where vegetables do not grow
2 jars of home made jam
1 lolly cake
I was pleased. The yellow rose is going out the front in my yellow garden project. I want it clambering over the falling down fence which borders our driveway and up the large old tree.
The clematis is going along the back fence. I think I'll plant it behind Brighid's Forest. The fuchsias are also for damp shady spots. I was going to put them all along the back fence but now I'm also thinking of putting them against the fence in the courtyard area the side of the house. Well it is going to look more like a courtyard over time.
I also collected two bales of peastraw and paid $10.50 per bale. 'Tis like gold, pea scraps. I had vowed I would find alternatives in order to be less dependent on a product which has to be trucked over from Canterbury, but I haven't yet weaned myself off in the slightest.
Friday, October 17, 2008
Collected lovely aged compost from the oldest heap and heaped it up around my rhubarb.
Although Spring is slow here on the coast and I should wait 2-3 more weeks, impatience got the upper hand this afternoon. I planted out a zucchini and two pumpkins.
Threw some more barley straw into the chook run. It was sending up new green shoots from the bale - would have been hopeless straight on the garden. But the chooks do a fine job of eating the green shoots and turning it into garden or compost ready material. I tried to buy some peastraw which is best gardenwise this morning but ended up on the waitlist for the next truck delivery. Again. That stuff is like gold here. Instead I grabbed some whole maize because I thought the chooks would like it. They weren't greatly keen. Maybe too big.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Favourite Handyman is back.
I still have carrot seedlings.
I have germinated kale and calendula and lettuce seedlings from the latest sowing.
The chooks are laying an egg each every day.
The tomatoes and pumpkins and zucchini are getting larger and stronger inside. Just a fortnight or so more before I can plant them out.
I have gorgeous yellow striped with red tulips in the garden.
I have irises in the garden - the yellow ones are fading and the purple ones are unfolding.
I have self seeded pansies growing out of a crack in the concrete. Beautiful yellow splotches beside the dock leaves.
The freesias and calendulas and the rest of the pansies are blooming on.
I can identify the red stemmed garlic from Northland now - I think it is called Takahue.
Although all the large leaves on the lemon tree have turned bronze and fallen off, there are new, tiny leaves appearing.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
This is progress.
I also have radish seedlings but they are easy peasy. Carrots are both yummy and difficult to grow. Fingers crossed.
I transplanted chamomile seedlings this morning.
The chook run has indeed dried out and lost its boggy aspect. Big rain predicted for tonight but hopefully the cover will suffice to keep the run mostly dry.
I think I should read The Grapes of Wrath. Still have my head in a spin over the bailouts.
My socialist mate tonight reckons that the current events are healthy and that renationalisation of banks is a good outcome. I'm adding his thoughts to my pondering bowl.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
This is rather practical and I need to make these decisions without spending half a lifetime reading academic papers.
I have, like many far more erudite people before me, noticed that there is a strong tendency in human nature to perceive apocalypses or apocalyptic events as a part of our stories. I first encountered it as a seventeen year old doing my final high school year of history when we studied Reformation England and I learnt about millenial cults and also about predestination. My teacher, a man I recall with considerable respect for his wry observations, explained the idea of predestination to us. After telling us that the idea of predestination was that everyone is born either detined for heaven or hell, he observed that he'd never met a predestination follower who didn't believe they were going to heaven.
Well actually I first encountered apocalypse theory a few years earlier when a 13 year old boy told me the world was going to end in the year 2000. He was really frightened, and still a shade too young to suggest that while time was running out he really should get on and shag every young woman in town like that fellow Andrew Marvell.
Religious people have apocalypse stories aplenty. The Second Coming never ever ever centres on the possibility that Jesus already came back down again to be a cleaner in South America and ended up running a needle exchange programme in Bolivia and forgot to save the rest of the world.
But religious people do not have the last word on apocalypse stories and beliefs. If you are not religious but a bit of apocalypse is what you fancy, then I highly recommend getting involved in environmental agitation. You don't need to agitate to anyone else particularly; read enough on global warming and depleted food stocks and genetically modified seed and you'll be quite agitated without even leaving your seat at the world wide web.
The nuclear bunkers were a form of apocalypse fear. I think there was more going on in the seventies than that but I was too caught up learning how to use the toilet instead of nappies around that time. I remember macrame and the Pope being assasinated but that's of limited usefulness to this topic.
Anyway, the reason I have to think about how far down the greenie apocalypse path I am, is that I have to decide whether I think the world is going to fall into an abyss literally without oil to line the cogs of post-industrial society, or whether we are going to keep on cycling on economically. Undulating hills of economic growth and retraction. Or a tsunami.
My brother in law who visited in the weekend denies being a National Party supporter. Indignantly he tells me that he voted for Lange's fourth labour party. hmpffffffffff. He spent much time telling me that indeed he and some nutter who sent me an email about kiwisaver are correct that now is exactly the time to be understanding the wisdom of investing in high risk kiwi saver portfolios. He wasn't being ironic.
So am I going to put faith in the peak oil literature and go off grid, put my money under the mattress and find a grain which will grow here in smallwettown? Or put my faith in large financial institutions and invest in a high risk kiwi saver portfolio? I've got chooks, leeks silverbeet and if you ever wanted confirmation that I was overly influenced by watching The Good Life, I'm even growing chamomile in order to make my own herbal tea this summer. I think the soundest decision I can make is to grow my own hops so we can get drunk independently of big business.
Andrew Marvell with his fancy To His Coy Mistress poem, was definitely looking for a root, in the parlance of university life outside of the lecture theatre. Here in these could be maybe apocalyptic days, sex is still a wonderful thing, but a piece of hop plant root to prepare for home brewing days would be the icing on the cake.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
I collected some seaweed and began a seaweed brew. I'll use it for my seedling pots, especially the tomatoes.
This week is looking a little scary. Plunket collecting, extra hours at my paid work job, getting the potato project kicked off at Fionn's school, writing group which I appear to be organising and for which I have not written anything all month, book group for which I've lost the book. blah blah blah. The most challenging bit is I'm doing it all solo as Favourite Handyman is away until Thursday night.
I've still got the chooks and my garden and I know that even twenty minutes spent collecting slugs for the chooks and transaplanting chamomile (next transplanting project) will lift my spirits and zen quota.
Friday, October 10, 2008
So you can now see some of the couch and has the world changed? No. Not a bit. But anyway, maybe the visitors will want to sit on the couch and maybe they will be able to. We are having our third lot of visitors in a month tomorrow. The first visitors lucked out a bit - we had three hours warning of when they were coming and Favourite Handyman was working long hours at the time. The second visitor arrived at the same time as we returned from our short holiday in Marlborough. Given that Favourite Handyman was home and it was school holidays, she lucked in very slightly and didn't have to make her own bed up. But tomorrow's visitors, well they will have the opportunity to walk from the bathroom to the study without completing an obstacle course. They will be able to eat in the dining room without any detritus on the table or even any boxes around the edges of the room spilling over and out at unpredictable moments. They will even have a new continental blanket on their bed. Does five star entertainment get better than this? Well obviously it does, but no flash hotel also provides access to the beloved niece and nephew like our place does. I've mentioned the possible couch sitting opportunities several times already...
I had to buy wine this evening to keep myself going.
The school spud project is coming together nicely. We'll be dishing them out this coming Wednesday morning. At the weigh in competition at the end of term, children will be able to take their potatoes home to eat with their families or to donate them through the school to the Christmas charity food bank. I'm delighted. So far anyway. I've also managed to procure a Bokashi bucket for the school.
Being Friday, it was poultry palace day. I tipped half a wheelbarrow's worth of river sand into one end of the chook run so they could all enjoy a decent dust bath. I changed water (which I do most days) and I changed the straw down the pooey end of the night coop. I notice that the chooks left the chickpeas out of the last lot of leftovers I fed them. Probably too big to get in their mouths. They've had hummous leftovers before and eaten that.
I am loving all the comments lately. Now I need to get my head back in nappy country and teach the world to contain poo and wee on a tiny budget. Without going down the let it all out wherever whenever route. I do have boundaries you know.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
I went to see the Newcastle Peoples Choir sing this evening. They are a union choir from Newcastle, NSW, Australia and they were fantastic. I loved their singing, the words of their songs and I especially loved how at interval they all came out and chatted with the audience. With everyone in the audience. I took my cousin Mary with me and they brought her a cup of tea before I had even worked out where the tea trolley was.
I also got to introduce Mary to another local friend whose uncle taught Mary (now 82) when she was at primary school. My friend has a late model video camera and is keen to talk to Mary more. So that should help me get going on recording Mary's wonderful stories.
We did more cleaning today. I was grumpy again. Tonight's concert lifted my spirits enormously though.
I have a lot of questions about the current global finance thing. If the governments are bailing out these huge and hugely troubled financial institutions, then where are the governments getting that money from? I'm thinking there must be more borrowing going on at some point, this time by the governments? what about when government coffers run dry? The governments bailout thing seems to be being held up as the panacea. I can't see how it is that simple.
I did manage a little gardening. The best thing about hanging washing out is I leave the house via the back door to hang out washing and that all looks virtuous and necessary and sometimes nobody bothers to come out with me. Once I'm out, I get the washing on the line double quick and then skive off gardening as long as I can get away with. Sometimes this is minutes, occasionally it is hours. Today I planted two new strawberry plants in the new garden patch with the silver beet and borage. I kept reading how strawberries love borage so thought I'd better give them a chance to be companions. This bed is now quite closely planted and I'm finally starting to get that gorgeous sea of foliage look that permaculture books often have on their front covers and which until now I've not even come close to achieving in my own garden.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Fionn's room and the end of the hallway are clean. Don't go imagining that just involved picking up a couple of books and dusting off the surfaces. We are properly messy people here.
Do I have a feeling of zen, of shiny spic and span pleasedness?
No I do not. Grumpy as. Had to go to the pub. That was the good bit.
In between, I did some more organising for the growing spuds in buckets competition which I am organising for every child in Fionn's school. The idea is that this will kick off the beginning of our school garden. We are going to use swift potatoes as they will grow fast enough for the weigh in mid December. Not buckets after today's research though. PB28s. Which are black plastic planting bags. Much cheaper. They also don't require me and some other mugs which i hadn't yet found to drill holes in 185 plastic buckets either.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
I'm going to add many more nitrogen rich things to the strip across the back of the back garden. That was just falling away into weeds last year and we started to build it up by laying newspaper down and then wood chip on top. I added grass clippings and then planted 30 broad beans in little pockets of potting mix along the fence. The broad bean yield hasn't been amazing so far but the main result is I get to dig the broad bean plants back in for a nitrogen boost. I need to edge this piece with logs so that the grass doesn't recolonise this garden plot. I think some of my Lions fertiliser fundraiser sheep manure would be well used along here. I'll plant some more legumes - peas and astragalus milk vetch through summer and hopefully the nitrogen levels will be sufficient by autumn to plant winter silverbeet along this shady strip.
I sowed many seeds this morning. Borage, basil, coriander, lettuce, kale, astragalus milk vetch, marjoram, garlic chives, sorrel, anise hyssop, chervil and calendula. This afternoon I planted a pot of beneficial insect blend seeds, two more zucchini and a bean. I gave away four tomato plants and four pots of basil this afternoon but I still need to give away some more tomatoes before I have room to plant more than one bean.
This morning I had a quick squizz on the beach and found some seaweed. I've draped it around my broccoli plants, tucked under the mulch. Fingers crossed. Linda Woodrow says it is easy to grow broccoli, but that has not been my experience so far.
One chook looked off peak yesterday and I found the remains of a shell-less egg this afternoon. Off to research what being 'egg bound' means. My aunt mentioned it last week but I was too busy thinking I knew it all about the same chook's last illness to listen properly. I had some things to learn when I was eight, and I still have them to learn now. Listen Sandra!!
I did notice that the Marist rugby field has been mown recently. I must take the car down and collect the grass clippings.
Then, via the playground we got to the other stream, the one near the rugby league field. Aha. this one has something which is either watercress or similar and there is lots of it. On the way back home I grabbed two plants and tried them out on the chooks. They love it. Woodrow says it is good to pull it out of streams because the plants ultimately rop the stream of oxygen if left to grow too much. Perfect synergy. It is raining this morning but that won't stop me putting on my gumboots after breakfast and collecting lots of grass by the rugby union field and watercress by the rugby league field.
Leanne, Woodrow talks at length about the benefits of seaweed. It has lots of minerals in it and is fantastic for your garden. You can make seaweed brew with it (put in a bucket with water and a lid and leave there for 2+ weeks. Drain off and dilute and water on to plants. Refill and repeat. Once you've done this 2-3 times, throw the original seaweed on your compost heap. Given our high rainfall here, I only do the seaweed brew method in summer. The rest of the time, the last thing my plants need is more water. So I throw some directly on the compost. I chop some and spread it on my garden. When I planted my first raspberry earlier this year, I lay a wreath of seaweed around it. The high rainfall washes it in pretty easily.
Woodrow notes that seaweed is a good source of boron and is great for broccoli. She also says that broccoli is easy to grow. Easy? Not quite my experience. So I'm planning on a seaweed gathering trip this week and will be putting some of it round my broccoli.
Last time I read Woodrow, we didn't have chooks. Then while we were planning our poultry palace, someone else is smallwettown was very attached to the library copy of Woodrow. So now we are looking again at her chook ideas and designs. The idea of circles is very appealing. I also want garden curves softening the perimeter of the section. But given the high rainfall, raising every bed at least a little bit is necessary and to do that for free or very cheaply, we need to use found logs (seriously, every storm brings up more logs on our local beach). Those logs are straight rather than circular. The nikau ones are the most beautiful. Perfectly straight, with etchings which must have been the original inspiration for carved Maori totem poles. If anyone can tell me the Maori word for totem poles, I would love to learn it.
Even without the large mandala idea, Woodrow's knowledge is infinitely applicable. She is in favour of 12 chooks in an eleven metre square patch, moved on every two weeks. You need this concentration to get the optimal poo volume apparently. We have three chooks in a ten metre square run, not moved on at all yet. They do get to free range outside a few days per week.
We have many ideas about different homes and setups for our chooks. We come up with a new one each week. The thing is that much time is needed and that is not available. That old chestnut about needing to earn a living. The latest one which is in favour is to move the current poultry palace to the west side of the house. Most of our garden is to the north, with some to the east and the front of the hous facing south. The eastern part of the section is largely unused as it is open to the traffic and thuis unsafe for Brighid. It has a small compost heap in it, the house lot of windows which await turning into a glasshouse and the remainder of the enormous pile of sand we bought for the sandpit last Christmas. Yesterday we were talking about fencing this area off and having the Poultry Palace in the middle. During the day they could be let out to fossick in the enlarged area. As it has no tender vegetable plants in it, they would pose no garden danger.
And the genie landed on us. Our neighbours and friends often think of us when they are about to throw old chicken wire out and Barry and Brenda had been doing a big clear-up on their place. Would we like some more chicken wire? Would we ever?!!!!!! They passed over two big posts and 5+ metres of really strong, high grade chicken wire. How perfect would that be for making the fence between the front of the house and the eastern boundary fence? Very perfect. Not sure when it will happen, but it is looking like a very good plan. We sent some eggs over. Later that day they asked if we would like some shade cloth which they no longer wanted. Yes please. It is the perfect size for making a sail cloth above the sandpit. In winter it is great to have full sun on the sandpit. Fionn and Brighid play in it a lot. But in summer some shade on it would be better.
Last thing yesterday I decided the blueberries needed more nutrition. I added some compost to the blueberry patch when I set it up but there is not much evidence of it now. The blackbirds have been having a field day in the blueberry patch and that is before there is any fruit. So I opened the kinpack soil conditioner which I bought from the local Lions club fertiliser fundraiser drive. This is made from sheep dags. I need to get friendly with a local sheep owner so that I can collect this kind of thing for free. I spread a layer around the blueberries but didn't bother to water. I thought rain was coming and I was right. I probably won't need to hoe it on afterwards either. The rain will damp it down a lot and the blackbirds will turn it over for me.
my very own copy of Linda Woodrow's The Permaculture Home Garden!!!!!!
I can only guess the identity of the person or group of people. I'm thinking she/they might mostly knit. Thank you very very much. I will treasure it and use it almost daily. I really will treasure it forever. Thank you.
Sunday, October 5, 2008
I have read this book from cover to cover at least four times. Sadly it and I have been parted for ages as other library readers got revenge on me by keeping it out way too long just as I did. Until late last week that is when I found it on the shelf, just like the wee bear in the children's story The Bravest of Bears.
Now I am reading it again in wonder. I have so much to reflect on now that we are two years down the tracks of our gardening adventures. I'm planning a trip to the beach for more seaweed and logs this week. I haven't been seaweed hunting for a very long time. I understand more clearly the particular benefits which animal manure offers compost heaps. I am reminded yet again to use sawdust and bark with great care. I am very pleased to note that of her list of herbs which have very useful nutrients for the compost heap, I am now growing comfrey, chamomile and borage.
After I inspected my peastraw and horse poo iron covered compost heap this afternoon, I realised what I wanted to do with the strip which runs along the back wall of the house. I created this garden using bokashi compost when we first moved in. In the summer of 2007-8, we grew tomatoes, basil and marigolds along this wall. In the following autumn I planted leeks and celery and silverbeet and raspberries there. Spring bulbs have also been sprinkled along this strip. I've added home made compost, a bit of blood and bone and plenty of pea straw mulch. This summer there will be more summer crops dotted along this strip but I have no plans for growing vegetables here in winter. Instead, I think I will do as I did out the front last winter. I will lay pea straw down thickly, then pile horse poo (or sheep, depends what I have for free) on top and then finish off with another thick layer of pea straw. This will break down over winter but the surface should still be higher than before the mulch was laid. Then I will plant into the mulch in spring. The following summer I may put tomatoes there again. The brick wall and the all day sun are ideal for the tomatoes. I gather they shouldn't go in the same place two years running, but haven't read anything suggesting that a two year rotation is unwise. Whereas I understand that potatoes should be on a four year rotation and the same for brassicas.
My tomatoes will mostly be in large outdoor pots this summer. I have only a couple of spots for tomatoes in the garden beds. I notice no asparagus has shown itself so far. Maybe it has rotted in the wet. Also my garlic and shallots are turning brown at the ends which seems unusual for this time of year. I suspect that the rain has something to do with it but am not sure.
I had a splurge at the Garden Centre today. I came home with a new feijoa called "Kaiteri", two pots of comfrey, a bag of potting mix, a bag of tomato growing mix, rocket seeds and a Calla Lily bulb known more formally as Zantedeschia Majestic Red. I've planted the calla lily in a pot beside the punga raised bed. It is shaping up that the courtyard (not remotely as grand as it sounds, but it is where we have lunch and barbecues in summer) will be the red garden space, as I have my Dublin Rose at the other end of the punga raised bed. The packet actually showed a much deeper red than the internet picture I've copied above.
I took a root bound and beginning to be unhappy rosemary out of the big pot to make room for the calla lily. I have tried plonking one fresh growth new piece in the garden with a bare piece of stalk in the ground to see if I can propogate it by the layering method. I've replanted the rest of the rosemary in the herb strip by the kitchen. I use it often and don't want it anywhere where I have to cross grass to get to it at cooking time.
I've transplanted 11 tomato plants and numerous basil plants. I don't have room for anything else on the sunny windowsills in the study, the kitchen, the back porch or the tool shed. Starting tomorrow I'll be giving some away to friends as I need the space to grow some more zucchinis, pumpkins, beans and corn. Even as I write that list I know there is more!!
Favourite Handyman stacked the last of the wood pile which had been waiting patiently for a very long time. He raked up two barrowloads of bark and sawdust afterwards and threw it all into Poultry Palace. This has reduced the wetness in parts for the time being. I think the mix will be good for the soil as it has some slow decomposers in it which should help the soil structure.
The last of the celery has bolted. I've pulled it out and thrown it to the chooks but now it occurs to me that if I'd let it actually run to seed, the chooks may have enjoyed that more.
I pulled the roofing iron away from my horse poo and pea straw experiment. A few months ago I put cardboard down on an area (about 1 x 1.5m) near my pumpkin plot and then layered horse poo and pea straw and a few other bits of compost material on top and topped it all with roofing iron. The idea was the heat would speed the decomposition up. The lack of sun has not deterred all activity and I see worms in there. I put the iron back on. I think I'll plant straight into the mound in about a month's time - either a pumpkin or a zucchini.
I've planted the comfrey near the invasive garden. I'd love it to grow rampantly. Two plants wasn't enough for my compost ambitions. Even four might not be enough.
I also planted some more rocket this afternoon. But my chief gardening assistant reinterpreted it as sandpit fun.
Our entire back lawn and garden is a bog. The rain has been relentless and will last for a while yet. It could even be mostly wet all the way until January. So even though we've got a covered chook run, the saturation of the soil is such that rain seems to be seeping downhill and there are puddles even under cover. euggh.
We will move the chook run to a higher spot on the section at some point but even that will only help a bit compared to the enormous rainfall. At least the coop part is raised off the ground and has a wooden floor.
Hard to tell whether the eggshells are helping with the slugs. The blackbirds keep fossicking in the soil and making a huge mess as they go. So they've made craters beside the lettuces and moved the eggshells aside in the process. One lettuce has been partially eaten but at least not razed to the ground. So now I've tried another idea I read of recently and put orange peel around the lettuces. Apparently slugs don't like orange peel. We'll see.
Saturday, October 4, 2008
True to my project to read a lot more, I spent part of this afternoon reading about an American woman's journey to discover the significance and meaning of dyed or naturally grey hair for herself and what it meant for women and men more generally. I'm growing the dye out of my own hair for several reasons. 1. Sheer laziness about either dyeing it myself or (extravagant horrors) getting organised to get it done at a salon. 2. Issues relating to carcinogens in hair dye products. 3. A sense that I want to let the grey come in naturally. And the brown for that matter. It has been a loooong time since I've been naturally blonde, and I want to accept the natural colour. I also appear to be growing it long. Refer mostly to reason (1) above by way of explanation.
I've been learning a lot about myself recently, having to face my own naivety and recognise the need for some changes in how I live my life. I'll still be blogging, but I'm now reducing my online time even more. When I stopped any access during the day, I got so much more done and was finding it a good choice. I still wasn't doing more housework, although I was doing more cooking and I was enjoying and being available for my children more. I've realised that what is missing in my life is not a cleaner and tidier house. What is missing is reading books. Not just gardening, but fiction and other extended texts. I need brain food and soul food and I've made the mistake for some time now of thinking the internet is providing enough. But surfing the net for the latest bug I found in the garden or half remembered idea is not soul and brain food. From now, I plan to stop day use and to only go online each evening to check emails and write my blog/read blogs once I've done some proper book reading.
It is raining again. again again again again again again again again again again
You couldn't hear me scream about the rain because of the sound of the rain. Relentless. There are pools of water everywhere. The ground is just saturated.
Friday, October 3, 2008
Thursday, October 2, 2008
Also today: the final third of the plastic and shadecloth covering on the chook run is now up. I transplanted some more tomatoes. I had a cleaning binge which prompted me to make every visitor to the house today go down to the wash house and inspect my newly shiny tub. The bath is a whole new colour, all thanks to baking soda. I found all sorts of things in the wash house and am moving towards some serious decluttering there. Of course the rest of the house is life as usual. I can't be doing the whole house in one day.
I'm hoping to see the movie on Alun Bollinger tomorrow. Not because I'm familiar with his work as I don't know that I am. But he is a localish fellow and looks to have an interesting story. Either way, we are out to the film festival again on Saturday night to see The Hollow Men.
Next stop: find the latest book group book and read it. I've not been reading nearly as much as is good for me this year.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
I transplanted three lettuces (more eggshell) and eight borage plants. I sowed sorrel and beetroot direct.
We tried out shelling the chestnuts today. Turns out they are all mouldy. So they're on the compost heap now and I'll endeavour to get some from my rellies next Autumn.
My sister is staying with us. She tells a great story. She tells a great children's story as well and is being exploited shamelessly to babysit while I be a screen zombie right now. She is also vegan and so tonight I pulled out the curry ingredient jars and the coconut cream and made pumpkin curry. Worked well and I'm planning on more vege curries in the near future.
The local film festival starts tomorrow. I need to chase up our babysitter so we can catch ourselves some big screen kulcha.
Had a great time with my grandparents. Brought some lemons home from their trees. Visited my aunt and uncle and finally, after 2.5 years of looking, stumbled accidentally on a source of chestnuts. They have six mature trees, planted by early European settlers on their land. So I have a box of chestnuts to learn how to shell (I bought cans in the UK) and then I can make Nigella's chestnut and lentil soup once more. Brought home pumpkins and a leek as well and some more ideas in my head from my aunt about good food for the chooks. I am keen to learn more about how to provide food for the chooks without using the commercial layer pellets. I do wonder about the proportion of soya beans in the pellets and whether they are genetically modified. We are eating those pellets in a processed form when we eat their delicious eggs.
We drove through Nelson on the way home and stopped in Wakefield at Faulkner's Park to eat pizza and play on the coolest flying fox in our world. Brighid (20 months) got her first go. Marvellous.
Things which we left at home: homeopathic teething powder. the camera. muslins. We missed the teething powder badly on both nights. We did notice the absence of the muslins when Brighid threw up bright green sick again and again and again on the way north. The bright green bottle of souped up raro masquerading as a fruit drink which the children drank at the lunch place won't be repurchased. The camera - well we'll just have to visit again soon and do it all again.