Remember Remember

Just sayin:

Ā (we even had fireworks)

This month we had 4 french canadians wwoofing with us, and it was pretty damn awesome actually. They were hard workers and close friends so the house and grounds were constantly full of laughter while the work got whipped through with so many hands.

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(Helene, Fanie, Alex & Camille)

It was also Craig’s birthday so we snuck off to Jester House together for lunch.

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More vegetable beds were constructed:

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And sooooo much lawn mowing and gorse removal!

Also the blooming of my sweet Williams by the front door:
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Speaking of sweet William:
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It’s certainly starting to warm up, not quite enough to get me out in the sprinkler but the kids certainly enjoyed their brief squeal session:
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Pretty pretty spring

Not a hugely productive few months around here as far as the garden goes. We had some hold ups with building the raised beds and a holiday to Australia and the village open day all took their toll.

We did, however, with the help of the gorgeous Nicole get one of the flower beds dug and planted out as well as a bunch of herbal tea plants planted in under the liquid amber.

This last weekend Craig has managed to get one of the new veg beds half full of dirt and compost. We still have a few more drainage holes to drill out (which only needs to be done for the first two beds and can be avoided for those not yet built with this new plan).

Pictures:

Flower bed placement:
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Dug and and filling back in:
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Plant shopping šŸ™‚
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Snug in their new bed of paper and mulch
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Final prettyness. The white stick near the end of the bed is a marker for a larger flowering shrub yet to be decided on.
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And the littlies get out and enjoy the sunshine too:
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I think this is the first time Pip has actually gotten out his cricket set since last Christmas.
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Photos from the Atamai Open Day can be found here:

Open DayĀ (Photographer: Hemon Dey)

A few highlights of just our family:

Me enjoying the start of the afternoon as folks began arriving

Craig showed off some of his woodworking skills before leading people on a tour of our house:

Tour group #1 (of 3)

I hardly saw Pip at all on the open day, he was way too busy being a free range kid.

Freerange kid

Nicole (our stella WWOOFer)

End of a productive month

This month has just been so busy and exciting. The vegetable beds are coming along nicely as are the new trees and their gardens. I’ve put in the first lot of seeds that will then be transplanted out around the tree circles. One is a strawberry and edible flower bed and the other is a “tea” herbs bed (chamomile, peppermint, bergamot and lemon balm).

Here’s Craig’s 3am inspiration:

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It’s wonderful making this into a reality.

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Most of the work is going into the building of the 8 raised vegetable beds.

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It’s also been a huge month for visitors, I do love the kind that like to roll up their sleeves and pitch in, it would have taken at least a week or two longer to get these footings done without the help of Simon and Mikey.

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What else has happened? Oh, we’ve been spoilt by Edouard, croissants and crepes, oh my!
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The boys all went off the snow with Carla & Lucas, while I stayed home and enjoyed the sunshine and kept toasty warm šŸ™‚

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I’ve learnt to prune fruit trees with the help of another villager, Sharon (learn being the operative word). Aren’t the almond flowers just lovely?

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We had to make some repairs on the new pump but that should now be a little more resilient. We accidentally left it on and it began pumping air instead of water, so it broke, all good, it’s all learning and now we shouldn’t be able to make the same mistake again.

The cows at TeMara farm have started to calve and the milking is also beginning to happen. We all went over on Monday afternoon to give Bob a hand to bring the girls down for their first turn on the milking machine.

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It was really nice to know I still have a handle on the basic ins-&-outs of milking a cow by hand and now I also know how to get them onto the milking machine.

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(and yes, I did cuddle them).

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Can’t wait to see the progress September will bring (even if I will be taking a two week break over the holidays to spend with family in Australia).

Not spring

The problem with August is that’s it’s not Spring, but it wants to be. It’s sunny most of the time and warm enough in the afternoon to sit outside and read a book, but you can still feel that nip in the air and by late afternoon you’re back inside, closing the house to the fresh air and getting the heat going again.

The problem with August feeling almost like spring, is that you want to start gardening. Now, there are a dozen things in the way of me actually doing any gardening right now even if it was full blown spring, but that aside, I want to garden. Why can’t I? Frost. Early morning frosts that lay sparkling white all over the ground. Now I’m told that frost is great for clay and clumpy soils as it helps to break it up, but it’s not so good for for seedlings or even trimming back my lavender bushes (frost can get inside the newly cut wood and split it – ouch!).

However, it is time to plant strawberries as the frost helps to harden them up (or so I’ve read).

So today, this week & the rest of August I plan:

  • Mulch circles around with new trees (with cardboard, compost, B&B and mulch/straw)
  • Begin digging the foundations for the vegetable beds (bricks due to arrive mid week)
  • Purchase strawberry plants
  • Plant strawberries around the new trees
  • Find and clean old seed raising trays and seedling boxes ready for planting
  • Figure out a house/seedling/furniture safe place to start growing seeds inside
  • Order bulk load of compost
  • Order seeds
  • Order bulk mulch & straw
  • Beginning edging the paths around the new trees with bricks
  • Learn to prune my fruit trees and know what and how to spray them with
  • Figure out how I’m going to pay for all of this…

August and the last of winter

This month, so far, has been my favorite I think (even though it’s less than a week in). It’s just been such a warm, sunny, productive, fun week.

Not only did we start planning out the design for the main part of the garden on the platform:
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BUT! We also purchased two wonderful trees that were delivered yesterday. We managed to get one of them planted today with the help of our new WWOOFer Edouard (who, by-the-way, made us croissants while we were out this morning).

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On the cuddly side of life, Bootlace is starting to show his age of late, he’s even more of a warm snuggly cat then before (if that’s possible)

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On the crafty side of life. I made Pip a Jack Frost costume (ala Rise of the Guardians):
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This was all in honour of his school friends “Frozen” themed birthday party (’cause what’s a party without getting Jack Frost and Elsa together, I mean, really).
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Even Craig got in on the action (thanks Sven)
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May Update

Pip turned 5 this month and has officially started school! He’s super excited about it, I can’t believe he’s already learning to read on his first day!

 Untitled The two of us decorated his cake together – as per the order 9 months or so ago, it was a star cake with dots on the points.

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UntitledHis other birthday requests were that people dressed as Super Heros and any gifts needed to be homemade – he ended up with some amazing things, like this rocket ship from Austen (seen riding in it with Emma).

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UntitledBeginning plans for the vegetable gardens.

On the other organised and productive side, we sorted out the little shed, installed some shelves and hanging spots for tools etc, much better space now.
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Plans, plans and more plans

Well it’s now the start of October and we are still waiting to get our house plans into council. We changed some aspects of the house design which delayed things but now we are waiting on theĀ engineerĀ (who had previously been the snappy one) and the grey water system design guy and THEN we can submit them. I was hoping to have them in by the end of next week at the latest and if they are not ready by the end of this week – heads will roll!

We’ve also been working on some plans for the gardens. Right now the focus is on the white picket fence that will be running around most the main platform, the path and the gardens beside the path and the terraces directing below this, all now being referred to as The Westbank. Some planning is also going into the area beside The Westbank, now know as the Gazabo Strip (because that’s where the gazebo will be going – ok that’s a bad pun). The strawberry patch and care of the existing fruit trees is also high on the list. I have yellow note cards with lists and everything!

Bellow or two sketches of the proposed picket fence/path garden area. The square in the top left corner is the planned fort/castle/cubby house and sandpit, the curve on the right indicates the terrace where my gazebo will be and near that is the strawberry patch (the big rectangle down the bottom left represents the house).

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This is a closer in view of the “Children’s Garden” area. Sandpit/Castle/Fort thing is the main feature here, with a trap down, ladder and slid plus arrow slits in the walls. The picket fence will run up to this area on two sides and the building itself will have walls to stop unwanted escapees. The planting on the terrace bellow is probably going to be trees and bushes, spaced apart so as to afford small army’s to creep up to the castle and some cover from arrow fire above. To feed theĀ besieged villagers and knights inside the castle I’m planning on edging the fence with loads of edible pick-and-eat fruits (like orange berries, blueberries, thornless-non-spreading blackberries and anything else I can find that doesn’t grow taller then the fence or have prickles and thorns). I’m also hoping to create a few small garden beds for kids to plant their own edible delights like carrots, lettuce, beans and peas.

I’d like to make the area feel enclosed, without blocking the view from the house exactly. I really want this to be a space kids can disappear to, get up to all sorts of mischief without feeling like they are being constantly watched, but I can also feel that they are safe. Another thought that justĀ occurredĀ  to me is putting up a really small shed for them to store their own gardening tools, bows and arrows, swords etc in. The walls on the south and west sides will probably be lattice and I’ll install hooks and shelves for storing of various sandpit tools and whatever else the kids choose.

As you can probably tell, I’m really excited about this space and it’s potential for fun and creative imaginative play.

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The strawberry patch will be tackled this week by Pip and myself (hopefully tomorrow if the weather stays fine). I’ve already netted the 3-4 meter area to help keep birds away from the strawberries that are currently growing. Tomorrow we need to really get into some weeding, checking the PH of the soil, fertalising and mulching the area as well as planting a bunch more strawberries. I’m hoping to plant a few different varieties with different growing times, spread out the growing season, yum šŸ˜‰ I believe the ones that are there are probably summer ready and they don’t seem to send out runners.

Lots to do, it’s great to see daylight savings here and the warm welcoming weather.

Cheese Grommit

Paneer curdsThere’s been so much going on here of late that I’ve had little time for updates and record keeping. Between the usual ups and downs of raising a child (teething, sleeping, eating and so forth) and the general round of seasonal illnesses, we have managed to still do a lot in the kitchen.

We’ve recenltyĀ  started to get a regular weekly delivery of raw milk (unpasturised, full cream, fresh from the cow). It’s gorgeous stuff and causes a great deal of excitment around these parts. We are now in full swing making yogurt (I had to buy a second yogurt thermus to keep up with demand), skimming the cream (there just isn’t anything as good as fresh cream with jam on scones – even scones that resemble rocks) and then there is the cheese. We’ve been making some very quick and easy cheeses. Labna a middle eastern yogurt cheese and the the easiest one I’ve come across, and Paneer, an indian cheese. Both cheeses are made with out cultures or rennet.

First thing I do when the milk arrives is to put on the kettle to boil, then I scoop about 2 tablespoons (tbs) of yogurt from the current tub in the fridge (the first batch of our homemade yogurt was produced from a starter from a delicious organic, tub set cream we purchased at the supermarket). I mix this starter with the milk, pop the lid on, file the thermus with boiling water and pop in the container, put on the lid and leave over night. The next day we have fresh yogurt for breakfast on soaked mueslie with preserved fruit or it get’s turned into labna.

To make the labna, you poor the yogurt into a bowl, grind in some salt (to taste and helps to preserve the cheese a little – like butter), stir together until well combined and smooth. Line a sieve with cheese cloth (or fine mesh fabric), place over an empty bowl, poor in yogurt slowly, place in the fridge and let it slowly drain overnight. In the morning you have a delicious “cream cheese” that tastes wonderful on fruit toast (I need to “refil” the same piece of toast for William about 4 times before he finally eats the bread and not just the cheese). They whey (liquid that’s left over in the bowl) is given to my friends chickens. The cheese itself just peels off the cloth. 1ltr of yogurt does about 300gms of cheese.

Easy cheese number 2, or paneer, is simply made by heating the milk to around 80 Ā°C. Remove from the heat and stire in 1 tbs for every ltr acid – lemon/lime juice or vinegar. Do this slowly, about 1 tsp at a time and stir the cheese. You will see it seperating as you go. Once you’ve put in all the acid leave the pot to cool down. While it cools line a sieve with cheese cloth and place it over a bowl. Once the liquid is cool, poor it into the cheese cloth. You will be left with only the curds (solids), gather up the sides of the cheese cloth and squeeze out more liquid. You can now either leave it to hang and drip, or place it in a mold (or if you don’t have anything, leave it in the cheese cloth tied up) and place a weight on top to force out the rest of the liquid. The more liquid you remove, the firmer the cheese. You can either have a sort of cream cheese or a firm cheese that can be used in place of meet or tofu in curries.

Out of the kitchen, we’ve managed to plant 100 tagasaste (Tree Lucern’s) on our block of land at Atamai.Ā  Trees

William even came along to help, mostly be behaving himself and having fun playing in his play-pen with the bamboo poles, tree guards and even on occassion his actual toys.

We also got a helping hand from Craig’s sister Fiona and her partner Nick who came to visit over Easter.

So things have been busy and fun

And summer turns to autumn

We’ve moved into our new, temporary, home across the road from our block of land at Atamai Eco-Village. The temperature in the mornings is turning chillier and chillier and evening meals are longer comfortable and refreshing out doors. Summer is fading fast, the trees are changing their colours and a new bread of cooking is taking place.

Last week we had tomatoes bubbling on the stove, roasting in the oven and cored and popped whole in the freezer. This week it will be peaches as bags arrive from my friends gardens. So far on the peach use wish list is peach pie filling (to freeze), peach cobbler (to eat warm with vanilla bean ice-cream) and preserved peaches in syrup (for breakfasts and quick desserts). Winter is starting to sound pretty tasty.

Gardening:
We need to start thinking about what to plant on our block while we await the rains. There will be trees, mostly Tree Lupins for now and also green manure crops, most likely in the form of broad beans and lupins. We aren’t sure if we will have the time to get an other vegetables planted, but we will see. Things that could still be planted include, lettuces and other leafy greens (spinach, silverbeat, chard, kale), broccoli, beetroot, cabbage, cauliflower, leeks, Pak Choi, Swedes, Turnips and Spring Onions. Hmmm, that list is making me realise even more how important that vegetable patch is at this time of year.

Steadily harvesting

We’ve been steadily harvesting food from the gardens, mostly tomatoes and zucchini’s but some greens as well, a few more potatoes, a few peas and beans. The first batch of corn has finished up and the second batch is starting to ripen as we speak. We had to buy-in more seedlings as our seed raising efforts came to naught really, we ended up with seedling trays of weeds for the most part. Part of the problem has been that our glass house has simply been too hot for the seeds to germinate, however, Craig’s parents were here last week (more on this later) and discovered that the glass house actually had roof vents. Ian has fixed them so that we can now open and close them atĀ leisureĀ so our next batch of seedlings should be much happier.

We planted some more silverbeet (HeritageĀ Rainbow & NZ favorite), perpetual spinach, sprouting broccoli, cabbage palm (which I’d picked up by mistake meaning to get cauliflower), rocket and leeks. So our winterĀ brassicasĀ are off to a good start, just so long as we can remember to consecutively sew more of them to cover our winter needs.

But now to the craft šŸ™‚

Buffie and I spent a lovely afternoon the other week dyeing some lemon yellow yarn I’d purchased lovely bright colours (pastel’s for Sprocket are a big no-no around these parts). Ā First we pre-soaked the yarn in cold water with a little soap so that it would absorb the dye more readily.

We used Ashford dyes made up to the instructions and painted them on to the yarn, making sure the dye went right through to the other side.

Ā Buffie’s rather the creative sort.Ā 

I quite liked the effect of the “bleed” areas and hopped that the yarn would stay with that faded area, it didn’t really work that way though.

In this one there is black and green next to each other,Ā unfortunatelyĀ the green is REALLY dark and just looks black.

After painting we wrapped the yarn in glad-wrap:

Then we left them out in the hot sun to bake for the rest of the day (this was a little trick I learnt from my friend Rochana, much nicer then all the other boiling and microwave methods I’ve heard of, especially when you can’t use the microwave for food anymore).

After baking I washed out the excess dye and hung the skeins out to dry. It was just amazing to see the yarns spread out and finished like this. Buffie’s spotted one just looked so cool.

Then the final step was to pop the skeins on the swift and wind them back into balls ready to knit. Buffie’s 2 balls (the one on the left was the spots):

And mine:

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The resulting dye colours were quite a bit darker then we had imagined and we certainly wouldn’t have called the colours “purple” or “turquoise”. We did discover that the “turquoise” and the “purple” when mixed (noted from bleed areas) make a lovely purple colour. I’m going to dye up another couple of balls with the remainder dye to match my first ball (the one on the right) and knit it into a lovely baby’s hoodie from a pattern called Nikau created by my friend Justin Turner (who makes lovely baby patterns) that you can purchase here at her website.

The Nikau

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Nikau pattern

Nikau pattern

So far I’ve knitted most of the back šŸ™‚