Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A good day for gardening

It has just occurred to me that this blog is a little like my life at the moment: trying to fit too many things onto one page.
It's a very typical squeeze in the gardening calendar, especially where you have a short growing season. In fact, I go down to the garden and feel very much like a primary school teacher with a large class of small children, who all want attention at once. The trick is knowing which voice to attend to first.

The tomatoes are very interesting at the moment and I've come to the conclusion that the biggest factor in yield is genetics. Next year I'll put most of my money on ... moneymaker which has reliably set good clusters of tomatoes and has had less deviants. Which brings me to Beefsteak which has thrown up all sorts of variants all of which produce less fruit.
1. Sometimes the flowering spur is not obviously attatched to a growing tip. The stalk splits in two, thus (below left) and then you have two tips. Productivity drops right away. The answer is to choose one leader and pinch the other one out.
2. No growth tip. The plant grinds to a halt and only sets one spur of fruit. (I forgot to put in the picture for this and haven't mastered the art of adding it in.) Answer is to replace the plant with the spare ones you are nursing along in pots, hopefully. Be ruthless. It won't come to anything.
3. Great looking flowers, (Photo on the right) the plant is covered with them but there's something wrong. I'll have to do a side-by-side analysis but they look wrong and haven't set any fruit over the whole plant.

This is Not Companion Planting

What I learnt last year, with pumpkins and corn, is that companion planting doesn't mean putting two things in the place of one. Each needs room to grow. Well I planted that corn that's cramming out the beans, the Chieftain hybrid, and intended to pot it up until there was space to plant it. Corn resents being moved and is a difficult seed to germinate unless you are in the know. This time I clearly got it right, planted the seed into watered ground, covered it with a sack and left it until it germinated. Out of two packets (Kings Seeds) I have transplanted 150 seedlings today and still another 50 at least to go. Every seed in the pack must have sprouted.
This works well for large seeds which can otherwise rot.
Oh that's what I was saying, I missed the moment to pot it up and decided to leave it until it could go straight into the ground.

Here's another corn/bean suffocating friendship combo; the mistakes here are barely enough space for the corn and then the beans went in too late and were rapidly outgrown by the corn so haven't got the light or nutrient they need. I'll move them even at this late stage when I can make space somewhere.

Here's the seedlings in my flash new trays. Some of these will go out into the shade house for a week or so to harden off. The other thing I could do is plant them straight into the garden and cover them with a cloche (an empty plastic bottle with the bottom cut off) for a few days for extra protection. The birds enjoy them as a snack and they don't want to be drying out. Probably their biggest threat at the moment is that I'm going on holiday and like all mothers, nobody loves them like I do.

The perfect photo in the gardening magazine, or on a packet of seed, is at the end of a very long chain which is not always completed. It also doesn't matter. When I planted the broad beans in April into very poor soil there were a number of things I was considering: they became a useful windbreak, the beans fix nitrogen and the soil in point was no longer lying bare over winter. Growing them prepares the way to grow something else better there next. Well besides all that we have eaten quite a few along the way and then eventually I did get around to picking them, co-incidentally just when there were plenty of spare hands around to help pod them.
By this stage they were fairly large and less than ideal eating but I rewarded their tenacity, lavishing them with a bit of extra attention. All the larger ones I have skinned, it's not hard, and this way I know that in the middle of winter they will be an appealing find in the freezer. Yes, nobody loves them like I do. It's also one of the things that is so rewarding about gardening. The satisfaction of paying attention to details that make the difference.

Three quarters of the potatoes were gone by Christmas Eve. A queue of black plastic bags by the door as the men filled the orders and away they went. Bye bye.
Well yesterday was scorching hot, too hot to garden so I took the kids down to the river for a swim and then watered the garden in the evening. And then today the cold weather, wind and bits of rain came through which made it a perfect day to be in the glasshouse planting corn. The weather is always good for gardening.
Now the notice board has fallen off the toilet wall and I have no poety forum until it's fixed. So I will put one more thing on the already crowded page. A poem by Andrew Johnston from his book How to Talk which I picked up at the Naseby book sale for $1.25 yesterday.
For the record, the ladies went to the book sale and then had a coffee at the Black Forest Cafe.
The Poetry Inspector

has been sent by the tradition
to check our
nails. His are impeccable

as his crisp tones, which come to a
somewhere over the horizon. This

is called verse
says the verse detective

filing his ironies.
He says
we're menaced by

and smiles;

he can tell us if our
poems have class,
whether our nails fail or pass.

We should render our
to the things that are England's

encapsulates the tenor of
his findings;
he sometimes spares a word of praise

for good
it should be said

the poetry inspector
sometimes hits the
nail on the head
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Sunday, December 20, 2009

optimum versus possible

This is the time of year when the distance between what needs to be done and what gets done stretches out like a very long peice of elastic. Not that it's anything new: case in point globe artichokes. I planted the seed in autumn and it overwintered in the glasshouse. They are not particularly frost tolerant which may end up being a problem here where we have up to -12 frosts. I'm going to cover them with hay in the winter, and see if it blows away, or not. Anyway, the plant on the right and its fortunate companions was planted in timely fashion into reasonable conditions. A winter mulch of newspaper, leaves and peastraw over couch grass (lawn) amongst the fruit trees. Add shelter from the wind, and water as regularly as anything else, voila.
Several months later, surviving in pots, sibling plants went into drier ground and leaf mulch which remains dry unless it has a cover of something. It didn't. The difference in colour is just the light yesterday evening. Happily the first artichoke is ready to pick now. For anybody who's worried about how far it will go amongst 6, not far at all but there are others coming on.

Now to tidy up remaining loose ends before next year: Chris Tea here's a particularly attractive salt pig belonging to my neighbour Sarah. I always thought the 'pig' must be a scottish thing for bag/jar/crock, like they have a 'poke' of chips (which is a parcel of them) but lo, a search through the online dictionary, and the culinary dictionary yeilded zilch. Well a salt pig is a container for holding your salt, normally right beside the stove. The idea behind this design on the left is that somehow this shape keeps your salt dry, from the days when salt was seen to be anhydrous and went clumpy as it absorbed moisture from the air. They must put something in it now to keep it freeflowing. The salt pig on the right might perhaps be your default option or batch/crib variety. This one sitting comfortably beneath Maisie in Marg's kitchen and looking perfectly at home. Thanks ladies.

Moving into the big time Bill has made me a small fleet of seedling boxes, most of which have already been pressed into service. They are 3 inches deep to provide plenty of root space, not too big because they get quite heavy; can you see all the drainage holes in the bottom? And hold about 50 plants this time round. Will see how prudent that was in time. May be too crowded. Thanks Bill.
It's a very good thing to have a gardening ally for all sorts of jobs and construction and moral support. We stopped at Flag Swamp School on our way home from Dunedin last week because the horse poo stand had been replenished. At 20c a bag it is the best buy of the year and although the car was full, all 6 of us, plus the Christmas shopping, groceries 'the big shop', library books and so on there was a little foot space here and there and most laps were clear and I only had a $2 coin. In they went, stowed 10 glorious bags and away we went but as the car took off, little black fleas emerged and clustered all over us and the windows. Murmurs of discontent and dissatisfaction from the back.
'Boys' said Bill, 'what you have to understand is that this is who your Mother is.'
So bolstered by such a show of understanding and acceptance I put in a request to have the plastic laundry basket mended instead of throwing it out to the dump and already Bill has drilled holes and laced it up like a bodice. Beautiful. Who could ask for anything more? Thanks for your support with all my crazy schemes.

As soon as I saw Chris Tea's 'pink farm' I realised why I had trouble hanging these 2 little Ivan Hill paintings. Small paintings go well as a collection and in a house without a lot of hanging space left, there is always a place for them. This tiny farm is perfect and we live on a tiny farm. Thanks, I love it.
Posted by PicasaNearly final thanks, the Area School graciously paid for Giles to go on his jazz trip to Wellington.
Big Noise in the
Joshua blew upon his horn
and Jericho's great walls
were gorn.
So, if you play guitar,
then dump it.
Make an impact:
buy a trumpet.
-Stuart Porteous
thanks God, for such an amazing reason to celebrate Christmas.

Friday, December 11, 2009

turning up the heat

Without stepping in to the river of climate change debate, I'll just stand on the bank and observe that it doesn't mean the sizzling hot summer of your dreams. Although this has apparently been one of the hottest years on record, what we've actually had was a kind of lacklustre winter, cold and unpredictable; not as cold as usual, but neither were the days clear and sunny which we can get with really cold nights and mornings. To cut to the chase, the upshot is that it may not be a good year for corn and pumpkins. Ah the thud as we fall from lofty political and ecological heights to the solid ground of base level gardening, which is what are we going to eat?

To introduce the corn trio, on the left: Chieftain F1, yes it's a hybrid from Kings seeds. I panicked because it was getting so late in the season and this one promises to mature in 79 days from seedling emergence. I planted it 1st December and it was up by the 5th and today is the 11th so it's not wasting any time. Expect to eat this corn at the end of February no matter what because it will follow the potatoes in the glasshouse and lead a sheltered life.
Middle photo is Rainbow Inca, a Koanga seed and NZ heirloom. It has large cobs so will probably need at least 90 days. Planted 29 October. Oh, you can't see it, looks like peas. The theory is the corn will take up nitrogen from the peas as the two grow together. Well corn needs heat, and peas like cold and it has been cold; a pea take-over... It may be ready mid February but it may not come to anything. This lot is outside and I am thinking about covering it with frost cloth and see if we can get some growth.
Third picture corn arrived as tiny seedlings from Hamish, the budding 6yr old gardener down the road. I've had it in the glasshouse since about mid October. The tillers, which are the shoots on the sides, aren't coming to much which is probably just the cold. Ideally you would get 3 or 4 strong tillers, which means 3 or 4 extra cobs.

After a lot of trial and error I have discovered I get the best results by planting seeds straight in the ground. These were all planted 1st December. It pays to know what varieties are slow to germinate, like parsely and celery so you remember to keep watering their spot long after the other seedlings have left town. I keep the ground consistently damp except for corn which is tricky. The voice of experience here will save you grief. Corn seed rots: you wet the ground, plant the corn, cover it with newspaper or something to keep the moisture in and then leave it until it germinates. I found this out the hard way, sorry Bart. That's why there's no photo of Otepoti Honey Pearl. That's why I panicked and bought a hybrid replacement.
From here I will prick these seedlings out into pots next week. They like company and do best together. Big seeds will go into individual pots, (corn, zuchinni) and keep the pots huddled together. How do I know when it's time to put them into the garden? I'm glad you asked.

This is one of the Otepoti yellow tomatoes. I only wish Cucumber green shorts was doing so well. In my experience the plants you buy come in very small containers that just don't have enough nutrient. They get rootbound very quickly. In a larger pot your plant is a good size by the time it's ready to plant out. By now I've used up most of the room in the glasshouse so I'll go through and pull out any plants that aren't performing and replace them. Sometimes you'll get plants without a growing tip that just turn into a stump, or that are male, no flowers, or that aren't true to type (the glasshouse is not the place to celebrate difference; it's all about performance).

A final sad shot of Otepoti pumpkin Galeux d'Eysine. French heirloom. Needs 100 days. Seed planted end of October. Moved from the glasshouse to the garden end of November and then we had a frost on the 4th. The tyres absorb heat and provide a little shelter which helped, they also help conserve moisture and later on, they tell you where to water when the ground becomes a sea of pumpkin leaves. Here's hoping.

I nearly forgot, the yellow zuchinni have climbed on board the vegetable wagon. The first gorgeous photo has got lost somewhere inbetween the computer meltdown and reinstalling the photo programmes. To conclude the gardening saga, to quote from Mama's last letter 'love and best wishes to everyone and cries of encouragement as we dash up the slope to CHRISTMAS'.
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Monday, November 30, 2009

Big Day Out

The Strong Mothers
by Rachel Bush

Where are the mothers who held power and children,
preserved peaches in season, understood about greens and two classes of protein
who drove cars or did not have a licence
who laughed, raged and were there?

They have rested their bicycles inside their garages
let needles lie in the narrow chest between verandah boards.

They have tested the last jam on a saucer by a window
comforted the last crying child they will ever see,
and left. How we miss them and their great strength.
Wait for us, we say, wait for me.
And they will.

Speaking of mothers who raged, I had to go and snuggle the little boys who had had a sound telling off before bed. You can't sit down and write a wholesome blogpost when there is resentment in the air.
Well it was my birthday and Mama sent me a poem in a card. I love this poem. Thanks Mum. One of my presents was this Granny Smith apple tree (it's the stick on the left). Where to plant it? The frost flows down like water and pools at this fence, but in turn it shelters the tree from the wind. The shade from the house, the amount of sun, the heat from the bricks, the downward run of any moisture, so much to consider not to mention can the hose reach? That's one variable that can be easily fixed.
Smith is a traceable theme around here (it being my maiden name). Among other Smith things, a pastel by Bill, 'Family Reunion' . Yep, that's what those apples will look like.

The vege box lost a passenger this week. Asparagus is over for another year so that it can recuperate. Don't be under any illusion that the children eat plates of vegetables, but we had broad bean tops again this week and Louis said, 'This is nice silverbeet'. Still eating the smaller broad beans whole with butter, like asparagus and Jude said 'These are quite nice'. And one more vegetable triumph, they have discovered the fun of wrapping dinner up in lettuce leaves as they eat it. There's that many lettuce coming on I'm keen to plow through them. Day in and day out, apart from the potatoes, the most useful things at the moment, for the least effort are spring onions, parsely, mint, basil and lettuce. So on to the big day out, we took the little red car up to Oamaru and Riverstone Cafe for lunch. Here's Bill in the car park afterwards trying to work out which car is ours. They were both red. It quickly became apparent on the big road trip (about 300kms round trip) that the brakes had finally gone on the car so we travelled in an orderly manner with the occasional judicious use of the hand brake.

As we drove past Moeraki on the coast I thought how nice it would be to paddle in the water. Remembered the sacks in the boot of the car, 'just in case' and look, treasure. Seaweed. Doesn't it pay to be prepared? It's in a well covered drum of water now. Leave for a month and dilute 10:1. Celery and Asparagus particularly like it but I'm sure everything in the garden will be saying, 'choose me'.
I have toyed with idea of a bucket and shovel in the car 'just in case', and a pair of rubber gloves. If you can't guess what they are for let me tell you that roadkill is a marvellous addition to the compost heap...apparently. I'm not sure that I'm ready to go there yet but I won't discount the possibility: 'I get older, ever learning many things.'

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Christmas comes early

'The immediate is often the enemy of the ultimate.'
Indira Ghandi

That quote has nothing to do with new potatoes being early this year, which puts new potatoes as the surprise guest in this week's vege box. They are a month early but they don't know that and I don't care. Delicious.
Runner beans, it would seem, were aptly named and they have bolted away and are sending out tendrils looking for something to climb; however, they are in temporary digs and I can't have them strangling tomatoes. The timing is perfect to dig out new potatoes and
rehome them next door.

The other newcomer to the vegebox this week will only be making one appearance for quite some time. Silverbeet appeared amongst the asparagus and I pulled it out because it was already starting to go to seed. Mystery solved on both counts: can you see from the roots that it has grown from a slice of stem/root that was consigned to the compost bin, and then trucked over unharmed about 6 months later (remember the rule is leave compost for a year) and mulched around the asparagus. Come Spring, and water and away it grows, precariously, it hasn't enough root of its own. Makes a meal and none of the children are grateful.
Should I be surprised?

Good things come in threes and lettuce are on tap. These ones are coming up the rear as the first lot gets eaten. Add them to the box. It's looking up.

Nine years ago when Johnny was born I asked the midwife, Barbara, if she had any advice on parenting. She said she wished she had kept sight of the big picture more when she was dealing with things with her children, to keep them in perspective. She was talking about cherishing 'the ultimate' while coping with 'the immediate'.

Well about this time of year, I just want to clear out the house of everything (everybody else's things) and prepare for the influx of stuff at Christmas. Suddenly I can't find anything, nothing is where it belongs, every surface is cluttered and the driveway is lined with wetsuits, socks galore, balls and boogie boards, miscellaneous clothing, as if they've fallen out of the car and stayed there (probably have). Except that this year it occurs to me that I've spent the years picking up and putting away after the boys (or not) because it's quicker and easier (!) and now I've come a cropper because there is this huge discrepancy between the image I have of them capably running a home (the ultimate) and what I've done in the immediate to teach them or direct them to it. Let's not start on role modelling.

I'll troll through flylady and look in the archives for tips. Beyond that, any suggestions?

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Sunday, November 15, 2009


'She feels they need a dessert. She feels they need it because somewhere, in the
inner recesses where mothers look from time to time to see how they are doing,
something tells her she has been negligent in some way. And dessert is an easy
way of making this up.'
-Norma Jean Harris (Sheila Ballantyne)

Rhubarb Caramel Crust Pie
4 C diced rhubarb,3/4 C flour, 1/2 C rolled oats, 100g butter, 1t baking powder, 3/4 C sugar
3/4 C brown sugar, 1T cornflour, 1/2 C boiling water
You cut the rhurbarb up and put it in the dish. put the dry ingredients into the food processor with the butter in cubes. Chop in the butter. Spread this over the rhubarb. Mix the brown sugar and cornflour together in the food processor and sprinkle this on as a third layer. Finally pur over the boiling water evenly and bake 1/2 hour at about 180.

Yep we've been having a lot of puddings lately, for no particular reason. Rhubarb has a season even though in more temperate climates it may seem to be there all year round. In the Spring when the first shoots come up through to about December is best, and it needs to be kept well watered. Otherwise it gets dry and woody. Like other garden perennials the new growth goes to the outside circle and the inner part becomes old and spent . Every few years it's best to dig out some edge peices to start off new plants. I've made two beds, one each year so that there is always one lot to pick. First year you let it build up strength and don't pick any. This one has thin stems and is reluctant to come out cleanly when you pull it which can cause problems of its own. It's very frost sensitive and disappears all winter; but it is nice and red and stays red when it's cooked so it'll do in the meantime. Rhubarb thrives on grass clipping mulches and anything else. Mostly lots of water.

If there was such a thing as a guest trophy it would have been given out again this week. Jonothon and Morven came to stay enroute back to the U.K so although they brought goodies to get rid of, a bike for Louis and kitchen toys for me of course, what really was the best thing, J noticed that Jude's bike had a puncture so he fixed it in the morning and tonged up the brakes and left it parked by the front door ready to go for when Jude got home from school.
To give the trophy out, if there was one, I would have had to retrieve it from Jen who doesn't know she would have had it. When she came to stay she finished off Giles' craft project from school that had become becalmed for a year and we are now enjoying the footstool. Thanks Jen.
Jonothon and Morven used to get an organic veggie box delivered each week and he asked me a great question that has sort of set me on a better gardening course.
'What are you eating from the garden at the moment?' I know how easy it is to have a garden full of things, but week by week not much alot of the time for tea.
The most difficult time is Spring. Now really. All the winter stuff is cleared for new things, or gone to seed. New season stuff is weeks away. I thought it would be a really useful exercise to catalogue each week what could go in my veggie box if I built it. Well, rhubarb, and asparagus, but that depends on the weather, when it's warm it romps away and when it's cold it grows slowly so enough for a stirfry or a quiche but don't bother making hollandaise this week. There would be a head of garlic, and spring onions and mint and parsely and broad bean tops which I'm pinching out and they need plenty of butter and salt, and potatoes. There's still peas and french beans in the freezer and parsnips, above, dug in early Spring when they begin to go hairy and blanched for the freezer. And at this time of year we chow through the last of the jars of tomato and jars of beetroot. I can see a new sub heading on my blog (with apologies to Marg): a veggie box a week
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Monday, November 9, 2009

Hurry hurry hurry

Phew, what a week. The garden has gone wild, and it's birthday month and then it's Christmas and then it's New Year...tommorrow I'm
going to stay home, slow down and do chores. I read this Spanish proverb last week:
'How beautiful it is to do nothing, and then rest afterward.'

...and then laughed maniacly. That's not something I have to aim for; I've noticed it arrives with old age; whenever that is. Here's a beautiful Romanesco Broccolli that I picked for tea tonight and made everybody eat because it's been such a long time growing. I planted them vaguely in Autumn in the glasshouse before I had learnt the value of the garden diary so let's just say it was about 6 months ago.

The snow is gone from the mountains so I've been putting in the garden: yams, carrots, parsnips, beetroot, globe artichokes, leeks and potting up all the tropicals: pumpkin, beans, cucumbers, corn and flowers, sunflowers, dill. I've got photos of it all but I haven't learnt how to put up more than four at a time so I've got plenty of material to go right through winter with. Here's the leeks down below. 180 went in and I probably threw out the smallest 25. This is way too early for leeks even here but I must have planted the seed way too soon (didn't have that trusty garden diary going) because suddenly they were ready and had to be planted. The board is a handy measure and something to stand on.
In the background you can just see some broad beans and a bit of straw mulch that hasn't blown away. Half the bed has short plants and half the bed has tall. I had formed an elaborate theory about wind and shade and soil condition and why they had had this effect before remembering that the first packet of seed were dwarf beans and the 2nd packet talls. There is often a simple explanation if you only knew it.

When you live amongst pine trees you discover that there is more than one sort. We have about 12 different types on the property and they all have different pine cones. This is how these ones begin. How amazing.

And seeing as how I couldn't fit photos for a blow by blow tutorial on planting beetroot here's the chives flowering instead. Don't be disappointed, I will master the technology. Now for any of my five readers who are still reading (four family and one friend - Chris Tea that's you) I got to thinking this week about where do blogs go when they die? There was one gardening blog I found where the last entry said something like 'sorry I haven't posted for awhile, I've been unwell'. And then it just ended and the date was months ago. A bit like boarding the Marie Celeste and finding no one there. Another gardening one had half a dozen cheerful posts before it came to an abrupt end and no comments. Ever. No family? No friend?

On a lighter note Giles found a poem scrawled inside his Latin Primer.
'Latin is a language
as old as old can be
first it killed the
and now it's killing me'

It's been a great week for laughs.
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Sunday, November 1, 2009

How The World Gets Bigger

Reading your post Marg, 'Things never as they seem' reminded me of this beautiful poem
by Alison Hallett
How The World Gets Bigger
This morning there's a note pinned to your door
explaining why you've had to rush out
and cancel our meeting. I turn back into
the rain, watch it falling on tarmac, rivering
in gutters, little bullets exploding. I unbutton
my jacket, lift my face up to the sky. This is better
than crying: nowhere to be and nothing to do.
I walk the christened pavement, cherry tree
humg like a chandelier, the corner on the end
of the road suddenly appealing, the way it
turns without revealing what lies beyond.
When I mentioned to Mama in a letter that Bill was gathering up his boats from boat sheds and garages and (alas) outside places she replied 'What on earth are you going to do with boats up there? (In the middle of nowhere hours from sailing water)' Here they are under the trees resting.
Well the pool is deep enough and when they're all mended we can go up the road and sail on the neighbours dam.

But I was telling Bill about the Brighton boats 'the corner on the end of the road suddenly appealing, the way it turns without revealing what lies beyond.' There was something about going to Brighton that was such an adventure. Running home from church to pack lunch, maybe tea also, and run back down the hill to catch the bus (will everybody make it?) And then the long bus trip out to Brighton Beach and somewhere in the course of the day we'd take a walk down to the boat house-just a few of us kids by ourselves. We had to negotiate with the grumpy old men for a boat and then head off up the river rowing, around the corner and away into the countryside and looking in to peoples backyards as we went. Once or twice we went up as far as we could go until the river ran out. I don't ever remember looking at a watch but we all seemed to make it back to the bus stop in time for the ride back and then a 40 min walk up the hill home. Rivers and boats still contain that adventure.

Took the kids down to the Taeiri River today. The snow on the hills is melting so the water level is running high. They assured me it was warm. From the perspective of a wetsuit it probably was.

The garden goes wild at this time of year and here's my special helper: it's a 'PLANET JNR', a seed sower for anybody who didn't instantly recognise it and it will be sowing 6 packets of carrot seed and 3 packets of parsnips-with a bit of assistance from me.

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Ever Increasing Circles

Time is a dressmaker specializing in alterations.
-Faith Baldwin

It has been one of those weeks where small pebbles falling seem to have made an inordinate splash. If things ever go in threes I've just broken the fourth item-not that I care-things get used, they have a life, they break but what I did care about was my little salt pig: up there on the right. And I accidentally dropped the lid, smashed to smithereens, while I was putting a loaf of bread on in the breadmaker. It had a little mystery, and a history stamped on the bottom 'BUCHAN' and 'Portobello Scotland' inside a little scotch thistle. Maybe it was part of a set, and how did it ever get to the little craft shop at Broad Bay Dunedin; where I retrieved it.

Anne Wilson Schaef to the rescue (Meditations For Women Who Do Too Much) because I keep my library books to the max and then renew them up to the hilt and sometimes return them late.

...Many of us have tried to treat our lives like our houses. We have believed
that we could get our houses fixed up just the way we wanted them and then they
would stay that way forever. We have felt personally attacked when slip covers
wear out, when a room needs to be repainted, or when an appliance breaks down.
We have set up our lives based upon a static notion of the universe...

I am a process. Life is a process. Alterations are part of
the process

So when, not much later in the week, David suggested we could move the vegetable garden down to the bottom of the property, I was prepared. I stood back objectively (in my mind), I silenced the objections: 'what about the asparagus, the rhubarb, the globe artichokes still waiting to be planted, the apple trees only recently gone in'. I considered what benefits it would offer, recognised that it was the best long term plan, and said 'yes'. He should have been bowled over in amazement. He hid it well.

The Tomato Incident
First the little seedlings sprouted in the warmth of home. Would family please note the iron in the background, far left. Occasionally it does get used and occasionally put away.

Next they are potted up and live in the blocks-the old hospital blocks have verandahs running their length with huge glass windows and
brick walls that retain the heat at night. (It was part of the Tuberculosis cure in the olden days for the patients to lie in the sun all day and breathe in the fresh air.) See them straining towards the light which does result in a bit of leggy growth.

As the weather gets warmer they are carted to the glasshouse for a further few weeks and then planted, thus. Except these below in all their gorgeous good health aren't my plants. Hamish (small child) down the road had been growing some in their spa room to sell at the Labour Weekend market. I chanced to see them one morning and came home complaining bitterly. They looked like they were about to jump out of their pots with zest. 'What's your problem? (Bill) Can't you take being beaten by a 6 year old?' No, it would seem not.

God help literature to the rescue. Out comes my Word for Today (Bob and Debby Gass)

Friday October 23rd: 'The surest way to get discouraged is to compare yourself
with others. The Bible says "...Don't compare yourself" (Galatians 6:4) because
some people will look like they're doing a better job and you'll get
disheartened, while others won't be as effective and you'll become proud.
"Concentarate on doing your best..." (2 Timothy 2:15). That way
"... You will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and ...won't need to
compare yourself..." All the apples on a tree don't ripen at the same time.

I had a sudden glimpse of what it must be like gardening in an allotment. You couldn't help but be noticing whos got what in and how it's doing. And wondering what they're using but don't want to ask. And although we are supposed to know better I can tell you that visitors to the garden always comment on size.
Now if I had mastered the art of putting more than four photos on a post I would have put in a 5th photo. David and Sarah and I planted half the glasshouse out in tomatoes yesterday. It's wonderful how help always comes even when you don't know you need it.
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Monday, October 19, 2009

The Happy Couple

Okay, to start with I had a comp0st heap, hidden behind the pine trees out the back door. I flung all the kitchen scraps there and covered it over with old sacks held down by bricks. Everynight Mrs Tiggywinkle would snuffle by with her hand woven wicker basket covered with a cheerful, freshly laundered and pressed gingham cloth and gather goodies for her supper.
Did I just say that? I'm sorry that was a gratuitous lie.
I think more likely that every night the rat pack were foraging and ran off balancing cold potatoes on their noses. Anyway, mice were sighted in the house. To jump forward, because I got my photos back to front, here is the Michelin man and I built him yesterday to deal with the last of the scrap buffet.

Here's the transition shot where I salvaged a black bin from a neighbour down the road and got the most of the pile into it. The beautiful fork is posing. I never have enough material up at the house to require a tool of that size but I used it to load the trailer with rose prunings recently. I've always needed two bins. One for filling up while the other is rotting down.
Now I've had a marvellous book out of the library this week. Compost, the natural way to make food for your garden by Ken Thompson. 'Who would believe a book about compost could be so interesting and have such beautiful photos (of compost bins and buckets of scraps)?' I've exclaimed several times. I look up from the book to five pairs of blank eyes. To say disinterested would imply a reaction. Clearly beyond belief.
So, to summarise, it doesn't really matter what sort of bin or pile you have as long as you leave it long enough: A year. Turning the pile only accelerates the process.
Conclusion: don't bother.
The problem with my big garden bins below is that they dry out at the edges and only the middle breaks down.
Answer: Line the bins with cardboard because the ventilation is not required. And keep a cover on top to stop the moisture evaporating and to stop weed seeds blowing in. Okay, I'll do all that.
Down to the big vegetable garden bins: Here's Anthony pouring on cow muck from cleaning out the dairy shed. The guys shovel it into a heap outside if they get a 'code brown' while milking. (It has been observed that certain cows seem to save it up especially, don't worry girls, no names) I don't normally have such an embarrassment of materials: the two trailers, one was wood chips and straw out of the chicken run and the other was leaves which go into their own bin, alone for two years to really break down.
Finish with a quote from Ken:

'Don't be misled into unrealistic expectations of your compost pile. The compost
shown tumbling invitingly out of the bins in gardening programs and magazines
has been carefully sifted to remove all the annoying, twiggy bits. Either that,
or it came out of a sack of commercially produced soil conditioner.'

Hear, hear.
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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

hidden treasure

If I had got around to posting a personal profile, I would have said this was going to be a gardening blog, and imagined it would have been full of serious gardening talk. Fortunately I haven't yet and the possibilities remain open for anything including gardening. I never thought I would have lovely photos although the whole garden looks lovely to me. But most people don't know my garden well enough to see that. There's always a lot going on if you know where to look which brings me to potatoes.

Good seed:Bad seed. Have another look. The row ahead has new seed potato. The rows to the left and right have old seed. Notice how the potato plants get smaller as the photo recedes. That's because the back of the glasshouse is colder because of all the glass that is missing to about the height of a sheep. At the right you can just see an old bed frame against the glass to keep the aforementioned sheep out. Well when the sheep are grazing in the paddock outside they spend a lot of time gazing in longingly. You may have thought they were satisfied with grass. Apparently not. I don't know if they cobble in the glass with their little hoofs or what but they break in and plunder. You might also think with all that broken glass they'd be schnitzel with a prank like that. Alas no. It's alot like one of those 60 second supermarket grabs; they run gobbling as they go.

If you look very closely you might see some stinging nettle. I've spent time weeding the glasshouse (after the photo) sorting the nettle into the bin for plant food later. The white plastic on the path is what we pull over the potatoes at night to protect from frosts. There's so much more to see when you know what you're looking at.
The other thing I would mention in that profile, when I do it, is that I live in a Christian Community that's a little farm with lots of houses and old hospital buildings. This week there's a crew in (MMM) putting a new kitchen in one of the houses, rewiring and insulating it too. We have turn about on morning and afternoon teas. Anzac biscuits tommorrow. We found the malt tin below in the roof of our old house. It must have come from the Wilson's Distillery at Willowbank down near the Dunedin Botanical Gardens. The previous owner was a keen home brewer. Now it's a biscuit tin. In a small house history has to earn its keep but tins get special dipensation. After all, they are always potentially useful even if not on active duty. Actually alot of things get special dispensation. It's like the garden. There's beauty if you know how to look.
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