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 ūüôā

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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).

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 the¬†engineer¬†(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).

Backyard1

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 the¬†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 just¬†occurred¬† 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 ūüėČ 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.

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!

Harvesting:
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.

New life in full colour (pic heavy)

Ok so here is the post where I overload you with photos of our new place.

¬†So this is the back of the house. The land goes on further behind me and off the right of the image (which you’ll see soon), to the left are trees, mainly pine, some tea-tree and tree ferns. The roof you can see sticking out on the left is the wood chopping area (I have some more plans for this space I think <insert evil laugh>). There are loads of small & medium sized raised beds, mostly surrounding fruit trees or along the deck space. We are going to replant these with our kitchen essentials. Those items that you want to grab to make a meal even when it’s raining outside (like this morning).

 

You can just see the glass house in the right hand side of the image, Fern (the lamb I was looking after) and I cleaned it out the other day. The floor was a carpet of weeds and peppermint (the smell got really heady after a while of me walking on and crushing the leaves). But it’s now all cobweb and weed free and ready for some serious planting to begin. I’m going to start the spring seedlings off soon so that we are ready to go with some early spring vegetables when spring finally arrives.

Looking back behind me (away from the house):

We are thinking it would be a good area to tether a pair of goats to, and there are some lovely secret spots to climb into under the trees up the back.

¬†The land goes down the slope to the driveway (off to the left) and the main fenced paddock, sheds and chicken house are up to the top right where you can see the red. I believe that is one of the olive trees, and a copse of bananas just behind the white electric fence tape. There are quite a lot of fruit trees, all in great need of love, including apples, olives, bananas, plums and figs (there may also be peaches and a few others but I’m not sure) oh and grapes as well.¬†In the bottom left you can see what will be the perennials bed (here is one a bit closer in):

The bed is edged in rocks, has a good rich top layer about 6″ deep but the usual NZ clay¬†soil¬†under that. This bed will hopefully include:

 

  • Globe Artichokes
  • Asparagus
  • Chicory
  • Dandelions
  • Ginger
  • Kumeras
  • Rhubarb
  • Rocket
  • Sorrel
  • Yams
  • Parsley
  • 5 or 7 year beans (penny beans)
  • Chives
  • Fennel
  • Garlic (to harvest the tops only, not the bulbs)
  • Lovage
  • Lemon Balm (and maybe lime balm if we can find some)
We could probably like quite happily of this bed if need arose, but we wont have too because beyond that will be the 4 rotating beds. There needs to be a little bit of terracing done to them and a lot of digging.
And this would be the main fenced pasture land, it’s horrible pasture and not fit for horses, sheep or cows just yet. We are planning on putting some pigs through to turn it over, followed by the chickens then we will sow it with good livestock food like rye-grass and put in some herbal banks. It will take about 6 months for it to become usable pasture (I’m told). The pigs and chickens will be giving the same treatment to the rotating beds space before the hit the freezer.
Now for those who have been wondering, this is Fern (with Sparky):
(she’s actually all black but I put on a little felted cover to keep her a little warmer). She’s gone back home now but she really did give us a great peak into the reality of owning animals and what you have to do to keep orphans or abandoned babes alive (and we got her at 10 days old). She had to be bottle fed, 4 times a day at 5 hour intervals (we actually got it mixed and had been feeding her 5 times a day, oops).
Ines brought Luka over to see her right at feeding time:
It was rather cute ūüôā
I think that should just about update everything now.

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.

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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).

Preserves

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.

And we’re back!

I have so much today now that we are home and rested a hardly have the time to stop and write this post.

I’ve just ran around to the house of a lovely lady from Auckland Freecycle who has given me several bags of Romany fleece (white and black). My Ashford Book of Spinning tells me that Romney is a great fleece for beginners to spin, which would be me. If you don’t know about the Freecycle network you should seriously research it for your area. It’s a great resource for those 3 R’s.

Ashford Spinning WheelAmong our clothing and christmas gifts I also managed to bring back my spinning wheel and spent a lovely time (except for the bit when I was swearing at the stupid screw thinging that wouldn’t go back into the hole it had come out of and had to grumble until Craig came and fixed it for me – love husbands *grin*). Anyway, I mostly happily put my spinning wheel back together, which gave me a much better understanding of how it all works, oiled up all the oiling up parts and now have a lot of reading and practice to do.

My new drum carder should arrive on Monday (yay), so I need to make sure that I wash at least some of the fleece I now have (I think I now have about 8 big bags). Researching my drum carder and my spinning wheel as made me realise there are still few things I need to add to my arsenal of wool craft tools. The most important ones right now being that it seems I have only 1 bobbin for my spinning wheel – which will become a problem very very quickly and I don’t have a Lazy Kate (but I may be able to make one or improvise) *sigh*

Aside form the crafty things today, I’ve also been in kitchen whipping up a batch of Kombucha Tea (or Manchurian Tea, whichever you prefer). This tea is apparently renowned for all sorts of health wonders, it’s a fermented iced tea, basically, and I tried some and liked it so am now the proud owner of my own “Kombucha mushroom” (which is the started, somewhat like you would do for yogurt or sourdough). Once I finish writting this I will FINALLY get around to having a go at making my sourdough starter.

Woodworking wise, Craig and I purchased a bed on TradeMe.co.nz, only to get it how and find it was WAY too short so we drove al the way back to the North Shore (North East of us) to give it back (long story) and thus we have decided to make our own bed again, so this Saturday is early morning farmers market shopping followed by bed making in the workshed, should be fun.

Gardening – my three sisters are doing wonderfully and people have been telling me how many courgettes they’ve been taking, the corn is coming along wonderfully and the climbing beans look so cool¬† winding their way up the corn stems. I also purchased a bunch of new seedlings for the balcony planter box (spinach, basil and chives) as well as an aubergine (egg plant) to go in a garden somewhere. I need to clean out the last of the “potato box” broadbeans and tulip bulbs and I’m going to fill it with some lettuces. I left paper bags over a few things – spinach and celery) to collect their seeds but it didn’t really work – partly because it seems that a few bugs really like to nibble at the paper resulting in big holes *pout* so my seed saving in that regards has failed. It also seems that all my broad bean plants have been harvested and sacrificed to the new clothes line/pagola and nobody has mentioned saving much of the seeds (which was the point of that planting) – so my seed saving efforts for this past season have gone a miss, ahh well, it’s the journey and the learning right ūüôā

The last thing I wanted to share today was the recipe for tonights dinner, I really enjoyed it and before I forget what I did I need to get it down:

Chili Bean & Pork Mince

  • Heat pan and oil
  • Add garlic, chilli and onion – fry till fragrant
  • Add 1/2 kilo of pork mince – brown
  • Add a dash of saki, tamari and sesame oil
  • Salt & Pepper to taste (frehly ground of course)
  • Add a handful of flat beans¬† cut into 2cm lengths and cook¬† to taste (we like our beans to still have some crunch).

Serve on a bed of lettuce (next time we would add some light items like cucumber to the lettuce and perhaps also serve with some asparagus).  Delicious!

…how does your garden grow

I just got an email with pictures from Zooey who is in charge of watering my 3 sisters (the corn, zucchini and beans) I planted before leaving New Zealand, and am very happy to see loads of growth.

3 sisters 1

3 sisters 2

Seedlings & yellow bean leaves

Seedlings are still popping up, the tomatoes and capsicum’s I re-potted the other day are growing nice and strong.

Tomatoes

Capsicum

In the new batch of seedlings I have quinoa, amaranth, hulless oats, mint and basil which after the last few days of rain are starting to peak their little heads up. The Pink Hopi corn (which we are attempting to grow for it’s flour) haven’t as yet began to sprout.

Quinoa

Hulless Oats

My climbing beans leaves started to wrinkle up recently and I noticed lots of little bugs, I wasn’t sure it they were too dry or if they had been infected so I decided to spray them with Garlic and Pyrethrum (an organic pesticide). I think they were perhaps a little water stressed, but I’m not sure if it was because they didn’t have enough water or if they had too much… Anyway, now that it’s rained the leaves are turning yellow, the veins are very dark so I’m not sure again why, could it be a reaction to the pesticide + water or are they coincidentally low on nitrogen? Beans usually draw up nitrogen from the soil and in pots they probably don’t get access to quite enough, I think I need to find some worm tea for them soon.

Beans

The other geeky gardening thing I’m excited about at the moment is my hulless pumpkin seeds. I just discovered 5 plants have started to pop up, considering we didn’t know if any of them would work due to the accidental early picking this is great. I planted more then three times that many seeds and a few more might also poke up their little heads but I’ll be happy if we can get these five to grow successfully.

Hulless pumpkin

Raised Bed 1

We have created the first of the raised garden beds I would like to have around the rotunda garden. These are very basic beds, not built to last as yet but more to give people an idea of what they would be and give us something to play with now.

Raised Bed

Two wheelbarrow loads of dirt plus two bags of compost filled this bed (probably could have done with half a wheelbarrow more dirt).

I have planted it with a variation of “The Three Sisters” companion planting. Corn (early gem), climbing beans (Kentucky climbing) and Squash (or rather courgettes). The principle behind this is that the corn gives shelter and protection to the young beans and squash and stalks for the beans to grow up, the beans draw up nitrogen for the others and the squish provides ground cover, stopping weeds from growing. There may also be other benefits that I’m not currently aware of. I love these “guild” type plantings and would love to find more of them.

Three Sisters

Pea Arch

Pea Arch I decided these Te Anau pea seedlings needed to get into the ground today and I needed something for them to grow on. A quick trip over the the bamboo and I clipped of a few of the newer growth shoots – still nice and flexible and created this little arch by simply pushing several inches of the saplings into the ground. If I feel it’s not holding up I might pop out and tie the center area together but I think it will be fine. The idea is that the peas will grow up and over the arch making a serviceable and attractive trellis for them.