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”.

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What’s growing

Here’s another photo heavy post, (oh who am I kidding my posts are always photo heavy lol), of everything that is currently growing, flowering and budding in our world of food.

First up we have some zucchinis.

Here’s another photo heavy post, (oh who am I kidding my posts are always photo heavy lol), of everything that is currently growing, flowering and budding in our world of food. First up we have some zucchinis.

“A banana” (must be said aloud as per Fozzie Bear)

 

(we have one bunch of banana’s in a dark cupboard slowing maturing)

In the green house (I think I previously mentioned how we had recovered the large green house)

The first tomato 

Corn

The peas, corn and zucchini’s are in a “three sisters guild” arrangement which I’ve mentioned before when we were at Earthsong. It’s so far the only “guild” planting we’ve done and it works well I think.

Back out in the orchards we have:

Peaches

LOTS of grapes (lets hope they are a yummy variety)

Now one of these is kiwi fruit flowers and one is another fruit which I can’t remember the name of right now (banana passion-fruit maybe).

The other one

We also have fejoa flowers and itty bitty olives, not sure if the figs have started to produce yet though.

We have a huge variety of beans including dwarf beans, borlotti, cannelloni, and slenderett.

We are self sufficient currently in all our leafy greens which has been very exciting, and the roast vegetables with dinner the other night included our own beetroot. The potato crop is going exceptionally well so we are looking forward to a good harvest there.

Craig and Buffie also harvested some of broad beans from our patches at Earthsong and we have 2 sandwich bags of beans in the freezer along with some baby leeks and a variety of herbs.

Rotational Garden Beds

It’s been a while, I know, I plead illness for my part at not updating here in a while. However, while I’ve been under the weather Craig and Buffie have (as usual) been racing along. This is bound to be a photo heavy post as we’ve lots to show off. In fact I think I’ll have to divide things into a few posts.

 I’ll start with the main vegetable production plot. We designed a garden plot that was made up of 4 plots with 8 beds. This is to be a 4 plot rotation garden where one plot lays empty each year while the others produce on rotation (potatoes in plat A this year, then into plot B next year, plot C gets to rest this year and plot D will rest next cycle and so on). The first stage of this process was of course to get the ground ready. It took a long long time for our clay soil to dry out after our extra wet winter so nothing could be done during the first few months of spring.

The first step was to improve the soil, as per recommendations by Kay Baxter we had some pumice sand and compost delivered. The guys at the landscape supplies mixed the materials together prior to delivery for us at no extra charge.

Craig then proceeded to use his manly (cough, splutter) skills to wheelbarrow down load after load, after load of the mix to the garden area.

 

(those little brown dots individual loads of dirt)

Our original plan was to buy pigs and have them turn over the ground for us, this proved beyond our abilities to organise this year and so instead shared the hire of a rotary hoe with our friends Rochana and Morgan. 

This is the best photo of the entire area I could take.

 

 It took Craig and Buffie an entire day to turn over all the ground.

 

The next move is to either double dig the beds to remove any further weeds or to sheet mulch, I believe this discussion is still ongoing, personally I’d like to see a bit of both just to compare the end results.

The chickens have thought the digging to be a fine plan and have left eating our cabbages to be social and help deweed and debug the turned over soil.

Thats all chickens except our broody black hen who has been sitting on about 10 eggs for several weeks now. We are pretty certain they aren’t going to hatch but she (along with one of the white ducks and her clutch) are happy to sit on them anyways.

Post #3 – Gardening

My final post for today, I promise. 

We are starting to have some gorgeous weather again, yesterday was warm and sunny all day.Perfect for gardening.

Buffie and I got stuck into the only usable garden bed, dividing it up into plots, creating paths and planting all the little seedlings I’d either grown or we had purchased. There are beans, chinese cabbage, angelica, feverfew, beetroot, onions, spring onions, melissa (lemon balm), lettuces (several kinds including cos and rocket), sorrel, three types of thyme (lemon, pizza and chicken!), pyrethrum, parsel, artichokes and a few others I can’t think of right now. There is also a tamerillo (sp?) and a fig tree in this bed.

 

Creating the paths was a great way to help raise up the beds on either side of it.

It’s not nearly enough, but it’s a great start and a few of these items are actually perennials and will remain in the bed permanently.

What’s happening on the farm

I finally got some better photos of our lovely animals.

And yesterday Buffie discovered where the geese are laying their eggs and we took about 8 eggs from one of the two nests. It made a lovely japanese style omelette to go with our dinner last night. The eggs are HUGE by the way, about the size of 3 or 4 large chicken eggs at least. They don’t seem to have the greasy feel of duck eggs which I’m very glad about. We still aren’t sure exactly what breed of geese they are so if anyone has some idea please let me know.

We are now thinking of getting in a drake and a gander so that we can start breeding up the birds for dinner.

We are also still working on what breed of chickens, roosters and ducks we have. We think the ducks might be pekin ducks. What ever they are I think they are lovely. I’m pretty certain that at least 3 of our chickens are brown shavers. I want to get some dog houses for the ducks and geese to lay their eggs in so that it’s easier for us to find them and hopefully when we get in the boys it will be nice and cozy for the babies we hope to get.

I’ve finished clearing out another of the overgrown raised beds and planted it with potatoes, Craig has made a start on another one and Buffie has been collecting load after load of horse poo and piling it nicely around the fruit trees as well as clearing back kaikua that has started to straggle a lot of the trees.

The greenhouse is certainly working out wonderfully (and was the only warm and dry place out in the gardens for most of the day yesterday). I’ve gotten in a few bags of compost, garden mix and sand to mix up my own seed raising mix. I’ve followed Kay Baxter’s advice and I’ve combined equal parts of dirt, compost and sand (one day I dream of the dirt and compost coming from our own gardens, but right now we have mud and a stunning looking compost pile that is at least 6 months away from cooked). This combo is in one container and into another I’ve started to sieve the mix. It’s a long process, especially because the bags of soil and compost were a little damp, but the end result is a lovely fine mix that I’m really happy with. So far I have the following seeds/seedlings growing:

  • Cannelloni beans (now seedlings just about ready to plant)
  • Borlotti beans (just sewn)
  • Slenderette beans (just sewn)
  • Chinese cabbage (seedlings that I’ve now thinned out into containers for friends, they are all ready to be planted now I think)
  • Rocket (yummy and ready to be planted out into the garden, I’ve also thinned them for friends)
  • Another lettuce (Silvia or Silvide?)
  • Mixed Basil (thai, cinnamon, lemon and purple)
  • Broccoli (just sewn)
I’m thinking I’ll sew the carrot seeds into the bed Craig is preparing and see how they go. We’ve decided to plant out a lot of these things into the “perennials” bed this season, the land is just so wet and the rain isn’t looking like easing any time soon so we just can’t do anything towards the main plots for at least a few more months. It is nice to see a little progress happening, even if it is slowly.

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 🙂
I think that should just about update everything now.

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

Seedling Update

The peas are coming along splendidly and supper fast.

Te Anau & Southland Snow PeasTe Anau (top) & Southland Snow Peas (bottom)

Some of the Beesteak (pictured) & money maker tomatoes are starting to come up.

Tomatoe seedlings

There are actually two cucumbers coming up in this photo, one in the bottom left corner and one at the top right edge.

Cucumber seedlings

Almost half a dozen of the Kentuky Beans are sprouting. I believe these are the type of beans I grew up on so I’ll be very excited if they do come up and even more so if I can save some of the seeds.

Beans

No basil or cabsicum yet though. I also harvested my first few broad bean pods yesterday (not from the balcony garden), I’m thinking tonights dinner will be meat and three veg featuring the broad beans 🙂

Observation of seeds planted on 1st March

Pea, Lettuce, Broccoli and Beetroot are already sprouting their first leaves. I can see that some of the corn are also germinating. The lettuce seeds that I harvested on Friday are also coming up already in their dozens. I was told I would have to wait for about a week before anything happened but it looks like my seeds are all early risers.

Seedlings seem to be all perky in the planter box. From what I can see of the garden I planted at Joel and Judy’s, they seem to be perky. I need to inspect the carrots and see if they are coming up at all yet, apparently they like poor soil so I’m hoping they will do well.

Planted 2 large “seed” potatoes into the old compost bin with Buffie’s 3 or 4 that already have long stalks. We need to add more dirt but we might wait until the two new ones poke up some stems. Also planted a sweet potato (Kumara) about fist deep into the common garden beside her house.

Made another batch of the roasted cherry tomatoes, the ones in the bottom tray got too hot and burnt so I ended up with only half the batch and then I forgot to add the garlic chives!

While I wait

While I wait for the days to pass before I can leave for Earthsong, I have decided that I really need to get focused on gardening again. When I sorted through my book collections the other day I piled up all my books on Permaculture & Organic Gardening, so it was to this pile I turned.

I pulled out all the books I had by Jackie French, devoured them in 2 days and then set to work deciding what I could do on an upstairs balcony with full sun all day (practically). Eventually (as it was pretty much my only choice really) I decided to build 2 “box gardens” and to replant my other pots. I grabed the car keys, wandered down to the green grocer and begged sweetly for 2 stirofoam boxes and a cardboard box of cabbage leaves, which he was more then happy to supply. I then drove over to CERES to get my potting mix, seawead fertiliser and of course – the plants.

After wandering around the nursery for about half an hour, I finally decided that I wanted seedlings rather then seeds. Why? because I’m hopefully not going to be here for long enough to nurture seeds into full grown, harvestable plants. So the decision was:

  • Cos Lettuce
  • Baby Spinach
  • Flat-leaf Parsley
  • Chilli plants (compleate with 1 chilli each 🙂
  • Snow Peas (which I am growing around a wire desk organiser that I don’t use)
  • Basil
  • Strawberries
  • Rosemary
  • Chives
  • Coriander
  • and Silverbeat (I think that’s what it is, I can’t recal now, oops)

Then came the task of actually creating the garden. Jackie recomends filling the boxes half full with something like lawn clippings or cabbage leaves (green folage type stuff) and then fill the rest with potting mix, plant densly, water everyday and fertalise with something like a liquid seaweed fertiliser.

The end result was thus:

Lets just hope they yield me a bumper crop (or better yet, we leave before they mature and I have to give them away, lol)