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.

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.

Milking Katie

Katie is the name of a lovely Saanen milking goat that we had the pleasure of milking for an entire week at Atamai a few weeks back.

This was a really lovely way to start our summer mornings. We would get up at 7am, pack Will and ourselves into the car and pop over to Te Mara to milk Katie (and also feed the turkeys and chickens and collect the eggs). Each day I did a little better, getting a little more milk and in less time. Katie was a complete darling of a goat who was very patient with me and just so adorable. I only waisted one days milking when it fell out of the car all over the ground – and don’t you dare make the joke >( I was a very unhappy camper that morning (it didn’t help that my hot chocolate that I’d purchased on the way turned out to be a mocha! Really not what you want when your all worked up for the chocolate delight).

And these lovely lasses are yearlings and will be joining the milking seen in a little while, the decision is being made as to whether we get a milking machine or milk all 4 with people power.

We haven’t really had much of a garden at our current place, but we have had quite a lot of success with our tomatoes. We’ve had enough tomatoes for the past few weeks to have them fresh or oven roasted, in pastas and even enough to take as part of a pot-luck lunch with still loads leftover. Not really enough for bottling though.

I almost forgot to mention, Fiona and I turned the milk from Katie into fetta, some in oil and some in brine, sooo good! Last time I made fetta I wasn’t able to eat it (unpasturized and I was pregnant) but this time I fully enjoyed the experience.

Muscles & clam pasta feast

Wow, from nothing much happening we’ve suddenly been going hammer and tongs in homesteading type activities. In a delightful twist to our Sunday afternoon scheduling, we ended up at the beach down the road with friends harvesting muscles, clams and even a few pippis. Hugh (of River Cottage fame) would have been proud. We managed to get a substantial enough hoard of sea goodies to make an amazing pasta dinner.

There really is nothing finer then eating a feast of food harvested and cooked by your own hands. The only way to have improved this dish would have been to make the pasta ourselves (we ran short of time, but next time for sure).

First I washed the shell fish in the laundry sink, getting rid of excess sand. Then I steamed them open in batches (discarding any that didn’t open). I then scooped out the insides and pulled the beards off the muscles. A dash of riesling to complete the reduction, pasta into a pot of boiling water and voila! A meal to drool over.

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 at leisure so our next batch of seedlings should be much happier.

We planted some more silverbeet (Heritage 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 winter brassicas 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 🙂

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).  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.

 Buffie’s rather the creative sort. 

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, unfortunately 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:


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


Nikau pattern

Nikau pattern

So far I’ve knitted most of the back 🙂

Back to life on the homestead

Firstly I’d like to share what Craig and I had for breakfast this morning:

 Everything is from our property. Lemon Grass tea, balckberries, peaches and plums. Yum, yum, yum!

We dug out our first small potato bed and collected 10kg of potatoes.

On top of that (no photo sorry) we also gathered recently 300g of cherry tomatoes and 1.5kg of mixed money marker & heritage  tomatoes.

I made my first attempt at making cheese. Goat milk feta. The milk comes from our newest contacts who live up the road a ways and own the sweetest Saanen goats.

Craig has decided that all young ducklings are to be called “Beaker”. I would like to report that mum and her (10) ducklings are doing well out in the wilds once more and the Beakers are growing nice and big.

Fruit is really starting to come in now, a few more weeks and we should have a wonderful overabundance of blackberries, plums and kiwi fruit.

Further garden bed preparation is cruising along with two crops of seed potatoes now in, along with more tomatoes (roma/egg) and pink hopi corn.

Since this photo was taken the keep-out-chickens fence is also up and managing to keep the chickens out but not the cats.

The amaranth seems to be thriving well and we should soon have some glorious sunflowers opening their giant yellow flowers.

The joys of homesteading

I don’t know if we have simply been inspired by the TV show River Cottage, or because it’s Christmas and Craig has some time away from his desk, the beautiful summer weather or all of the above, but we are really enjoying ourselves the last few days and been really really busy.

Christmas day started with us cooking breakfast for 55 people! All in the common house of Earthsong. It was wonderful and a great way to stop from feeling homesick. There were croissants with filings including homemade preserves, ham, cheese, tomato, avocado, pineapple, strawberries and cream and waffles. Orange juice, bubbly, tea or coffee to wash it all down with and wonderful company. It was an absolute delight, everyone seemed well feed and happy and the compliments and words of thanks were greatly received. We then followed it up with a very small pot-luck lunch, very laid back and quiet.

At the end of the day I was left with the remainders of a half-leg of ham, 10 “chips” of strawberries and a big bowl of sliced tomatoes. Craig and I did our best with the ham yesterday and this morning, and then this afternoon I turned the remainder into a big pot of yummy pea & ham soup served with a zucchini bread (or cake, it was pretty sweet, next time I serve it as bread I’ll put a lot less sugar in it, but with all that sugar it would be a delicious dessert with yogurt).

  After leaving the ham & split peas to soak for 4 hours I turned the bowl of sliced tomatoes into soup, I added vegetable stock, 2 baked potatoes, thyme and bay leaves, cooked it all up and then put it through the blender. It tastes amazing and I’m so looking forward to having it tomorrow with some more of the zucchini bread for lunch.

While I was busy in the kitchen, Craig was out side trying out our new auger (you stick one end in the ground and then turn the big handle to dig holes for posts). He managed to dig enough holes and embed posts into them ready to make our new garden fencing (to keep the poultry out).

I forgot to mention that prior to this activity we started our morning off by making breakfast, feeding the animals and watering the glass house, followed by a plum picking expedition. We have a wonderful mound of plums.

Tomorrow morning I have another busy cooking day scheduled with a long list of things to preserves and piles of yummy fresh food from the garden.

I’ll be turning the left over strawberries into more strawberry jam, the plums into jam, sauce and some sort of chutney, then there is the bean chutney and the zucchini pickles, not to mention the guests we have coming for dinner, the probable beheading of a chicken for the pot, oh and I would also like to do some sort of lactic fermentation of at least 1 cabbage. I think I’ll let Craig see to the feeding and watering of animals and plants tomorrow.

Now if that wasn’t enough activity for you, we also squeezed in a visit to a very cool kitchen shop called Milly’s Kitchen and spent a bucket load of money on new preserving jars (we already ran out of supplies with the last lot of preserving we did). This shop is full of wonderful kitchen goodies and I was in total heaven! I so need to find away to justify the sexy-as $300 copper jam pot… So shop visit, home, cooking, more holes & posts, dinner, a few minutes of archery practice (it’s been over a year since I’ve picked up my bow, and man do I suck, lol). Wondering around the gardens investigating the plants (yes the zucchini plants definitely have “rust” and some of the greenhouse tomatoes have blight), lots more plant maintenance was listed, noted and dealings with to come *sigh*. Now Craig is off in his workshed working on his workbench (I think?).

Sprocket has also been very active today too, it’s so bizarre to feel these little movements and huge reminder that I’m not alone in this body any more- how freaky does that sound!

In other news, in an attempt to protect our surprise second clutch of ducklings from the hungry Harrier Hawks, I built a dome for them.

 The dome consists of  12 meters of flexible pipe, 4 T connectors and some bird netting. Inside we’ve placed a shell pond for them to paddle away in with a little bridge to get in and out of the water. Mum and ducklings have been living in the dome for about a week now and seem pretty happy. The other poultry come and visit them throughout the day so we may actually get a good clutch surviving this time round.

It’s so nice to see so much happening around the home lately. Their are 2 types of onions hanging (brown and red), plus three bunches of bananas,  I’ve been feeling so great about cooking up a storm in the kitchen, to the point that I made a zucchini soufflé for the first time ever after just watching an episode of River Cottage a few days ago. It felt so decedent to sit down to a souffle for breakfast, made from the fruits of our own garden. I’m so hanging out for next weeks mail, I have starter cheese making kit arriving with all the necessary bits and pieces to make fetta and/or cottage cheese. 

I hope that the joys of our harvest continue to inspire and excite us in the future and never become hum-drum or “work”.

Busy, busy

Things have been plodding along nicely around the homestead. We’ve had a few ups and downs of late, the downs being that we are down to 1 duckling out of 11! Damn hawk! No chicks (not sure if I mentioned that they vanished after about day 3) and number 1 rooster killed number 2 rooster (number 1 rooster is now counting the days…). The ducks found that they really really like bean leaves so they have happily stripped all our bean plants of their leaves and flowers, at least they left us the beans *sigh* All those adorable little kiwi fruits I photographed a little while back have all vanished, most likely dropped off due to a sudden heat wave or something so we only have what is now starting to form on the slower second climber. I noticed some of the wild blackberries in surrounding areas have started to flower so I must remember to check our wild bushes around the property, I’d love to get a good blackberry stash this season, yum!

We have been enjoying our glut of beans and are now into zucchinis! They will join all the other bits of preserving we’ve been doing and become all sort of yummy delectable for future eating when there are no more in the garden. We’ve made some wonderful mixed berry jams (purchased ingredients I’m afraid), Lemon and Orange cordial (sooo yummy), amazing strawberry sauces (on purpose ones and the accidental jam not setting so now we have sauce), orange marmalade, beatroot chutney and in vinegar (ala slices for your burgers) and lastly some Scottish shortbread. 

Loads of new seeds and thus seedlings have been making the circuit through the green house to the garden beds, the main beds are SLOWLY but surely coming along and we’ve almost kept ahead of the planting. I’m very excited, B and I grew pink Hopi corn (great for grinding I’m told) last year and I just planted a massive quantity of the seed about 3 days ago and they are already starting to sprout, we thought that they might not do anything. So it will be great to have our normal sweet corn picked by the time the pink Hopi starting to mature (no cross contaminating of the DNA so we can save seed). If all goes well in the garden we should have a nice little supply of corn, amaranth and quinoa, all yummy grains that B can eat. It will be interesting to see how much we grow, and thus how much flour we can grind from them.

We’ve learnt a lot over the last few months since moving here, we now know not to let the poultry raise their own young, that ducks can do just as much (or more) damage in the vegetable patch as chickens, we seriously need to plant more peas, it really is worthwhile planting things in the greenhouse prior to warmer weather outside, our glass house and green house are way too small for our needs, and much more that I’m probably not even aware of right now.

Life for the most part is plodding along very nicely I must say. B’s been doing some sewing, Craig has been banging away in the wood shop and I’ve finally gotten around to buying some fiber dyes. Summer is a lovely time for being busy, watching everything grow and still having hours in the day for a good balance of work and play.

Post #3 – Eggs

I mentioned that we discovered our goose and duck nests a little while ago and thought I should upload a few photos.

This little girl is very broody and hasn’t left the nest in a week. I feel so sorry for her that there will be no little babies but we do have plans of getting a gander as soon as we can find one.

Fortunately this stroppy little girl leaves her eggs and feeding time so we can take the new ones. But you should here the ruckus she makes when the theft is discovered. 

The ducks found a wonderful hiding place on the other side of the paddock to the geese.

We’ve found some great recipes for the eggs, our main concern is that we don’t know when most of them were laid, or how long they last so we are being very tentative about cracking them open into separate bowls and ensuring that they are cooked properly.

From left to right, little chicken egg (either from what I think is a bantam or from the young shaver (dotty the demented chicken, poor girl is a little deformed and we are not sure if it’s a birth defect or if the horse kicked/stepped on her as she does like to peck around under him while he’s eating), next we have a normal chicken egg, a duck egg and a goose egg.

Eggs have porous shells, so you can’t wash them or you just let the bacteria into the egg, the goose seem to build individual little nests around each individual egg, Buffie thinks it’s the sweetest thing and now that they are laying I think they have redeemed themselves in her eyes. For a while there she decided they were annoying, noisy, food gussling birds that sometimes ate some grass.

Beans Pod, Butter and Tomatoes

Well my gardening plans have been a little foiled of late, the new patch I was about to start working in has a family of paper wasps living in it. I hate to kill them just because I happen to want to use that spot (ok and going near them scares the dickens out of me) so I’ve decided to pass the spot over for a little while.

In the mean time, I’ve harvested some of my climbing bean seeds:


from about 5 or so beans I have about 25 seeds, this isn’t nearly enough for a full supply of beans but it’s a good start and I have a few more pods maturing up for seed collection.

I believe I mentioned my awesome Christmas present from Buffie, a set of butter paddles, well they are wonderful and I love them and they certainly make the process of getting the liquid out of the butter way way easier.

Tracey & Butter butter

I used 4 bottles of organic cream and made about 4 small tubs of butter (probably around 100-150 grams each, I forgot to weigh them). I didn’t add any water to this batch of butter but did and quite a bit of salt (to help preserve the butter). I placed 3 tubs in the freezer and have just been removing them as I need, we seem t be going through about 1 tub per week but I’m also not doing any baking which of course would gobble them up much faster.

I’ve purchased some freezer blocks to place in the bowl with the butter churn to keep it nice and cool and also to sit the finished butter on while I work each block. I was finding that each new block was a little softer and took a little longer to firm together and get out all the liquid otherwise.

My little hanging basket of cherry tomatoes are starting to produce more tomatoes now, I think I will have harvest about a punet’s worth by the time the finish. Not a great many but they have been lovely to just pluck off as they ripen and put straight into your mouth, fresh, warm and juicy.


Oh my! 2 weeks since my last post!

I’m horrified to see that I’ve let two weeks slip past without posting!

Well to make up for it, here is some pictures of the potatoes I just harvested this morning. I replaced them with a late season  crop of “Rainbow Beans”, sorry about they graininess of the photos but I had to use my old camera phone as I can’t find the digital camera. Also on my list today is to bag the heads of the onions to save their seed, transplant some marigolds and sort out and store the seed potatoes for August planting – but I think I’ll wait for this evening and a bit of cooler weather first.


potatoes 2

What else haven’t I shared with you? Ohh, I just got my invitation to Ravelry a web site for crafters, it’s a very cool site, I had to wait about a week for my invite and it was so worth it.

Ok so in the workshed we have been finishing off the router table (which means we can get on with building our bed)

Tracey at work

Craig playing with the router

The table is now fully complete, painted and everything.

On the cooking front I’ve made two batches of preserved plums, 1 batch of peaches, 1 batch of rhubarb and two batches of tomato pasta sauce. I have enough basil to make some pesto and cream to make more butter (I was given two butter paddles for xmas which I’m very keen to play with).


Peaches(soooo yummy)

And finally my two boys doing what they do best:

Craig & Bootlace (note the very cool Utilikilt Craig is wearing)

I’ve just finished spinning my second bobbin of fleece and as soon as I get my hands on a lazy kate (or make one) I’ll be able to spin it into my first 2ply. I’m so excited to see how it comes out, I know it’s far from perfect, over spun, inconstant  thicknes, slubs etc but I’m still excited.