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Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

‘It’s all trial and error’

In Gardening, Non-Fiction on October 21, 2015 at 11:42 am

It’s all trial and error with gardening. I’ve grown things that have been prolific in my garden at one time and then flopped the next time. All depends on seasons, which are not necessarily consistent.

I’ve begun slowly and tried not to be too keen; allowing the weather to warm up rather than rushing with eagerness because it’s 20151021_140438 now spring! I kicked started with some pak choi, coriander, lettuce and potatoes as well as potting some already established annual and perennial flowers in tubs. I’ve also got some flower seedlings on the go: calendula (from the daisy family), viscaria mixed (cottage garden plant) and sunflowers.

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I was late planting garlic this year as I wasn’t at home when I needed to get them in the ground and although it’s not too late, it’s not ideal so I’ve only planted half the amount this year. The cloves will be third generation seed deriving from the original elephant garlic I purchased from a farm in the North Island so I’m not sure how they will turn out. Hopefully well!

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Now the weather is settling and the frosts have passed I’ve begun potting tomato and pepper plants. I picked up some beautiful 20151021_140129gerberas (my favourite) for a very low price the other day and potted them too. One year I tried to keep things in my greenhouse but the mice kept getting in and helping themselves and unless what I’m growing thrives in a very warm environment like tomatoes and peppers then my greenhouse becomes overwhelming for seedlings. My seedlings do best in my mini-greenhouse that now has a great new cover on it thanks to my mum who made one out of mesh when she visited last year. It stands in a spot that gets sun for half of the day and that seems to suit—as I said ‘trial and error’ because what works one season doesn’t always work the next! And I’m no “Monty Don” so I just give it go. Nonetheless I do try to be frugal as possible with compost, seedling mix and seeds as you do have to buy them, unless you’re an exceptional gardener and have your own compost pile—mine however is very small and it does take years to break down (and mine did) but I am not that good at remembering to add to it, however, with poultry and a guinea pig that enjoys fruit and veggie scraps there’s not much that goes to waste in my kitchen. Even though I miss the mark when it comes to composting I do use my chicken’s manure as a fertiliser!

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So spring is off to a productive start with seeds germinating successfully and chicks and ducklings due to hatch this week and next. I love this time of year.

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Spring 2014

In Gardening, Non-Fiction, Poultry on September 11, 2014 at 2:09 pm

20140907_141918It doesn’t seem that long ago since I wrote on my blog page about last spring and here we are again, but thank goodness for that (I say this every time this particular season arrives). It will not be too much longer before we can put winter behinds us, stop thinking about wood for the log burner, firelighters, kindling, cleaning the fireplace; then we can simply be at a comfortable temperature no matter where we are in the house. No more heaters in the bedrooms and reminiscing about gas central heating in England. You’d think after several years I would be used to this, but I’m one of ‘those’ people—them who really feel the cold. During the warm summer months I have been found wrapped up in a blanket on the couch in the evenings whilst Mr C protests about the heat!

(photo above: calendula)

IMG-20140827-WA0001Spring brings new life around our place and that’s something I always look forward to. The first new life to arrive is a sweet fluffy duckling—the only one to hatch out of the two eggs I allowed my gorgeous white Muscovy duck ‘Daphne’ to sit on. Why only two eggs? Because I have two more ducks that are now brooding; they can lay up to 18 eggs or sometimes more in one latch, and if they are all fertile and successfully hatch that’s a lot of ducklings running around the place and a vast amount to feed. Therefore, Daphne had two but only one hatched. Muscovy duck number two named ‘Twilight’ has now disappeared; she’s built her nest so far inside conifer trees that I can’t reach her to take any away, so there is going to be many eggs incubating underneath her. It was quite sad the other day when I found one of her eggs, broken and discarded on the lawn. It must have been taken by a predator in the night. The duckling was of course dead yet fully formed. It’s sad, but it’s nature.

With more sunshine comes new routine with the poultry, feeding times change and with ducklings and chicks imminent there will be new feathered friends to raise and some male ones to pass on to someone else, which is the part that I don’t like (but I have to be practical and sensible), they will become meat. It’s predestined because roosters aren’t wanted as pets and neither are drakes, unless desired for breeding (if purebred), which the drakes will be. I kept one rooster last year and that’s worked out fine having two in total, but anymore and there will be more arguments over the hens. Not a good idea to have another drake bothering the ducks, they’re keen on him at this time of year when they’re broody, but the rest of the time they’d rather he left them alone! I’m sure it doesn’t affect his self-esteem!

Of course the new arrival of a duckling has presented me with a photo subject. The amount of snaps I’ve taken in the two weeks since its arrival is close to ridiculous. I’ve always been ‘clicker’ happy when it comes to taking photos and when the world went digital that just made me worse as I no longer have to send photo films away to be developed. The problem is just like chicks, ducklings are fast moving and it’s hard to get a good shot.

 

In the garden:

I planted my own garlic seed on the shortest day of the year: 21st of June and they’ve sprouted up lovely. I have been using the garlic in my cooking that I froze from last year’s harvest and there’s not much left, but I’m proud to know that I haven’t had to buy any garlic from the supermarket this year so far. I have some slow-growing bok choy on the go, an abundance of parsley, some leeks still to pull and I know I really need to make time to plan and orders seeds. More compost is a must too. I do have my own compost in process but I think it’s going to be another year before it will be ready to use.

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Leeks and garlic sprouting (right)

Wherever you are in the world embrace the season and what it brings; if you’re feeling the cold of winter arriving you have my sympathy unless you have gas central heating! 🙂

 

 

 

My recent find:

      Organic Fig Leaf TeaimagesCAASJ0K6

 I’m not ‘big’ on herbal teas, it’s only ever really been Jasmine that I like. Whilst ordering lovely soaps from Naturalus I came across fig leaf tea—it has health benefits for the body such as inflammatory conditions, which is ideal for me.

Read more at: http://www.naturalus.co.nz/Products/Tea/Tea.html#132

June to August – The Chill of Winter

In Gardening, Poultry on July 16, 2014 at 10:18 am

WINTER IS UPON US here in New Zealand and reports say it’s been mild and it was the mildest June on record since 1909. It’s the time of year where frosts are imminent and the cold snap freezes the chicken’s and duck’s drinking water on a morning. Wood is being stacked at the front door and kindling chopped by Mr C for the wood burner. I can collect logs if required, but my chopping skills are pathetic to say the least. By the end of winter I am usual fed up with cleaning the constant mess on the fireplace. I am already looking forward to spring when the plants start to thrive and flowers appear once again. I miss seeing flowers in the winter and therefore I decided to sow calendula seeds in one of the raised beds. They are now vibrant, pretty and have a wonderful yellow sunshine colour. They are also a flower that can be infused in oil to make a good salve or used just as oil that’s very beneficial to people with skin problems. I already buy a natural goat soap containing calendula, yet I can’t bring myself to make the oil and sacrifice these lovely flowers, so perhaps I will grow more next time.

20140621_143903-1-1  Calendula just flowered

IN THE GARDEN

There’s not much going on in the garden at this time of year… well at least not in mine; still enough leeks to get through and the last of the celery has been pulled, but it’s really been in the ground too long, therefore what I don’t use the guinea pigs will eat. I have an abundance of parsley—which also, and surprisingly— the guinea pigs also like. I’m not a lover of eating celery; I tend to use it more as a cooking ingredient in my soups, stews and pasta dishes. I remember when I was a child how my granddad loved it with lashings of salt at tea time. Tea in my Grandparents’ house was more like a spread of ‘teatime’ foods such as: apple pie, cornbeef and potato pie, sandwiches—whatever was in the pantry. They ate their hot dinner at lunch time. I loved teatime with Nan and Granddad, eating a mixture of sweet and savoury delights, but the not the celery sticks!  IMG-20140601-WA0002

I’m currently growing the Chinese vegetable bok choy. We eat quite a lot of this, so I might as well grow it and what’s great is that you can grow it all year round. Also, it’s the time of year for planting garlic. My garlic seed is now in a well prepared bed and I hope to see some shoots in a few weeks’ time. This year’s seed is my own garlic from last year.

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Pumpkin and chilli soup on the stove before blending: can’t beat home made soup in winter! Ingredients: potato, swede, carrot, pumpkin, red chilli, salt and pepper, chicken or vegetable stock (meat stock: preferably not shop bought) and of course celery! Sadly I’m the only one in the house who likes pumpkin soup. My daughter likes other soups as long as they’re vegetarian! Therefore vegetable stock only!

THE POULTRY FLOCK
I lost a couple of old hens during autumn and sadly lost another wee chook who was only a year old to what appeared to be something neurological. Luckily I was able to save another hen who was suffering with bumblefoot—a condition caused by the pad on the foot being damaged and over time causes a bacterial infection and inflammation. Surprisingly my chook books were not much help with this, but Facebook pages, the Internet and my poultry friend were. With all that advice, I made a poultice for the hen’s foot and after bathing her foot to clean it and soften it I applied the poultice twice in a twenty-four hour period, wrapping up the foot with a bandage for the poultice to do its job of drawing the infection out.  Obviously she was separated from the rest of the flock and not limping around with a bandage on her foot! I managed to remove the scab that had healed over the wound and gentle squeezed out the infection. She spent a week on her own and I changed her dressing everyday keeping the wound clean as well as applying antiseptic cream. She’s much happier now!

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A Muscovy drake (named Blue) has joined the little duck family, so he’s been busy acquainting himself with the girls. I’m sure come spring and summer there will be ducklings in the flock! The Dorking chicks are now grown and laying. There were five girls that hatched, but sadly one was killed by a predator and another died a couple of months ago. The three left are thriving and laying love052ly little white eggs. Out of the four Dorking boys I kept one and he’s all grown up—crowing and trying to keep out of Ozzy’s way whom was the only rooster up until now. Ozzy gets first pick with the hens and the young roo is learning this. Ozzy is the boss of everyone… so he thinks! However, he’s not when it comes to the ducks and stays out of the drakes way.

I named the Dorking boy ‘Little Roo’ – so original and creative with names I am! It just seemed to fit! If you can catch him he doesn’t mind a cuddle. Ozzy’s offspring are also doing well and luckily were both girls!

Photo below: Little Roo (Dorking boy) in front, Ozzy in the background. Photo above: Blue the Muscovy drake.

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Photos above: Dorking boy (left), Dorking girls (middle), One of Ozzy’s offspring (right)

 

 

In The Gardening Mag!

In Gardening on July 14, 2014 at 12:29 pm

I was very pleased with my results last year when I grew garlic for the first time and published a post about it here: https://creative1975.wordpress.com/2014/05/15/home-grown-garlic-2/

I will normally buy a gardening magazine once every couple of months or so; I have quite a few stacked up in the study so I always refer back to them. However, whilst reading a national gardening magazine one morning that’s published locally I decided to submit a letter about my garlic. I was over the moon when I received an email telling me that it would be published!

It’s great when things like this happen, makes you feel good and I loved seeing my accomplishment in print!

 

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Home-grown Garlic

In Gardening on May 15, 2014 at 12:00 pm

Garlic (Allium sativum)

One of the crops I grew last year that I was most proud and pleased with was Allium sativum, better known as garlic. My inspiration to grow this healthy and versatile relative to the onion came from my gardening magazine, in addition to liking it of course. I thought it would be wonderful to grow organic garlic and have enough of it to last at least one year, so I set to work. I sourced heritage garlic seed locally from the Internet, and for very little financial outlay I was sent beaut heritage garlic bulbs.
I prepared the bed a couple of weeks before planting with sheep pellets, blood and bone and some good quality compost. Once the bed was settled I broke apart the bulbs and planted the best and biggest ones.

 

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Photo above: The first shoots coming through
I sowed my seeds during the beginning of winter in June (NZ) on the shortest day of the year and then harvested my very pleasing crop a few days after Christmas. They were supposed to be harvested on the longest day—the 24th of December, but due to being struck down with an awful cold, they had to wait until a few days later.

 

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I was excited to pull these gems up out of the soil and finally see them after waiting six months. I was more than happy with the great results of big bulbs containing an abundance of cloves!  My mum was staying with us at the time from England and we hung them up on the washing line to dry in the sun and later moved them into the greenhouse where they stayed for about three weeks. I did bring a few inside to hang up in the kitchen so that I could admire my achievement. The first time we tried the garlic was with friends when we made pork dumplings. My lovely Japanese friend taught my mam and me to make these—naturally they were delicious—however the garlic was immense in smell and flavour, a true joy for the first time cooking with my home grown garlic.

Garlic has great health properties, but it does not agree with everybody’s digestive system, therefore an alternative is to  infuse it in oil and just use the oil. The shelf life of this alternative isn’t very long and I would recommend researching before making. I love it in all Asian cooking, as well as pasta dishes and love it simply roasted on its own or with other vegetables.

Now the time is nearly upon me again to grow some more and I will be using one of my own bulbs as my seed! I still have plenty to eat and I have also frozen some for when I run out!

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Sweet Succulent Corn!

In Gardening, Non-Fiction on May 13, 2014 at 12:03 pm

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I call it corn-on-the-cob where I come from and I love it steamed with a dollop of butter melting all over the hot kernels, who doesn’t? Although it’s not butter that I really use! I use a healthier alternative spread of course! Nevertheless, this sweet yellow cob of joy was a pleasure to grow and picking it straight from its stalk and eating it the same day was delicious. I now have some in the freezer so that we can enjoy it through the winter months.

As well as steaming the corn you can boil it and I like to roast it too. You can also cut the kernels off to use in a stir fry.

The only difficulty I had growing the corn was the strong Nor’wester winds we get here in New Zealand and not forgetting the southerlies too, basically very windy! There were a few times I thought I might lose the crop, but luckily all was good. Putting the weather aside it was pretty easy.

Corn or maize derived from the American continent and is now grown all over the world. The sweet version was developed hence the name sweetcorn and there are varieties that differ in sweetness. When you crop sweetcorn, the darker the tassel the riper the sweetcorn will be. It’s a good source of carbohydrates, protein, fibre and minerals such as potassium, selenium, iron and zinc in addition to vitamin A (beta-carotene) and B vitamins Niacin and B6. The main phytochemicals in corn are carotenoids named lutein and zeaxanthin associated with protecting eye health.

IMG_4578   My corn before harvest!

I will definitely grow this again when the season comes around. It makes a wonderful staple in your diet through the summer months as it’s so versatile and as I mentioned above it can be frozen too, either in cobs or just the kernels.

 

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IMG-20140130-WA0002       Bon Appetite!

It’s Spring Again (Thank goodness for that!)

In Gardening on September 9, 2013 at 8:05 pm

Thank heavens spring has arrived! I impatiently await the arrival of this season each year. I feel the excitement when the first bloom in the garden appears and I feel reassured that the dull, cold and wet winter will soon become a memory. I don’t really have any right to complain too much about the winter we’ve had this year as here in NZ it’s been a pretty mild one; the mildest in one hundred years it’s been reported. Nevertheless I am not a winter lover—who is?

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When I lived in England the winter months were longer and more punishing (from what I can remember), although we had a commodity known as ‘central heating’ that is not an option you can possess in NZ… if I dare be a little sarcastic? the necessity of  ‘Insulation’ or  ‘Batts’ (aka Pink Batts) as New Zealanders call it, appears to be quite a new concept. It was around 2001 when it became statutory to install double glazing and insulation in a new house. I presume before then it was optional and possibly the reason for that was expense as it’s presently expensive to buy, therefore I can’t imagine what the cost would have been thirty years ago. We have a heat pump in one part of the house that keeps it from freezing and a log burner in the main living area, and occasionally, the heat manages to travel to the hallway. Anyhow, that’s a whole different topic! Spring is here and that means the veggie growing begins; a great cost effective way of feeding the family, especially as the price of food in this country continues to rise. I recently watched a TV program about this and the cost of food in New Zealand has risen by a whopping thirty-three percent in the last seven years!

I spent most of my day yesterday sowing seeds and preparing for the most prolific growing seasons ahead. I did not manage to achieve everything as I still have rhubarb to plant and a nice blueberry plant. It’s not all been totally barren in the garden through the winter. I planted some lovely heritage garlic in one of the beds that is now looking pretty good and will be harvested in late December. The leeks are still growing! No surprise there. They’d grow better in the ground rather than in a raised bed, nevertheless they’re growing and will be edible no matter what the size! A large ground area for sowing, alternated between raised beds is on the agenda, but with house renovations also continuing, there’s only so many hours in a day!

The seeds sown for this month are:

Lettuce

Broccoli

Cabbage

Beetroot

Spinach

Sweet corn

Carrots

Peas

Herbs:

Thyme

Garlic Chives

Coriander

Parsley

Basil

Plants to be potted or put into the ground: Tomatoes and rhubarb

Already in the ground: potatoes, garlic and leeks

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Garlic sprouting up through the mulch

My Veggie Garden is Growing

In Gardening on February 10, 2013 at 7:14 pm

My vegetable journey has progressed with fantastic results of which I am very proud. I never knew how satisfying it could be to crop your first cauliflower; put home-grown lettuce in a sandwich and roast courgettes, all from a tiny little seed—nurtured to the dinner table.

I now know how excited my mam must’ve been years ago when she began her vegetable garden. She used to email photos (as she’s so far away) of everything she’d grown after she’d cropped them for the first time. Now it’s me whom is sending photos via email to her!

The first crop that I sowed was lettuce and a couple of brassicas. They’ve all been eaten now, but I’ve recently planted another few broccoli plants and we nearly always have lettuce available.

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I usually research what I want to grow first in my veggie book and on the Internet; the most important fact being: ‘it’s all about trial and error’ — tis true because I have already learned what things I would do differently and what things I should do differently.

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We are getting closer to the end of summer here in New Zealand and one thing that the strong sun can do is scorch, therefore I have a shade cover over veggies such as lettuce and spinach; they get the light and water, but they don’t get burned. I treat leafy vegetables with Derris Dust to keep off the white butterflies, or cover with netting for part of the day so the bees can still get to the flowers on the courgette plants. I also use netting, especially with young plants to keep off birds and let’s not forget the occasional chook escapee!

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I have four raised beds at the moment and another two to fill with soil. The active beds consist of: broccoli, lettuce, beetroot, leeks, potatoes, parsnips, swede, carrot, spinach, silverbeet (swiss chard) and courgettes.

The greenhouse – although – perhaps unconventional serves a great purpose and the most important fact is: It’s been built by my husband; with frugality and practicality in mind! With an extensive background in construction, including project management, he’s incredibly handy and resourceful. The area where it stands used to be where an outbuilding once stood before the Canterbury earthquakes. It was built of brick and many years ago it provided farmworkers with living quarters. After the rubble was cleared it left nothing but a horrid area where weeds thrived and it would fill up with rainwater. Not anymore. The area is very un-even; therefore my hubby elevated the greenhouse and built decking at the side entrance with steps. The decking area is also a nice place to occasionally sit. The structure is attached to a large barn providing the back wall for the greenhouse, which in turn saved on building materials for one wall! This is part of the ‘outside’ renovation to our property; contributing sustainability and because summer steers us outdoors the renovations inside are on hold.

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The raised beds where built using wood we already had lying around, so to speak, and four of them are corrugated iron. The ground has been covered with weed matting and stones. We no longer have a weed-filled useless piece of land outside the back door that has collected rain water for the past two years. And that’s not all! The area expands further where an old chook house once stood; building works have begun there too: a sleep-out for my daughter to hang out with her friends and a fenced area for our dog to spend time in when we’re out.

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