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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Friday, October 9, 2009

Mandate to Blog

Pulled a book off the library shelf while in Dunedin this week: Meditations For Women Who Do Too Much by Anne Wilson Schaef. Turned to the day's date:


Why Women Who Do Too Much Should Neglect It For Their Writing

This quotation is a chapter heading in Brenda Ueland's book If You Want
to Write
. It sums up the issue of being obsessed with our work. yet she
goes on to devote an entire chapter to it.

Why is it that the first things we give up and neglect are ourselves
and the things that mean the most to us, like our creativity, our health, our
children and our loves? How sad it is that we often neglect our treasures for
activities of far less value.

Well thats what the insanity of addiction is about isn't it? We cast our
pearls into the pig pen and we scrub the colours off the kitchen tiles.

Lets get clear here about what needs to be neglected.

It has been noted before that I've never fallen into the housework trap. When the twins were really little I discovered that no matter how tired I was I always had energy to garden. So, there was no point trying to exhaustedly tidy the house and get nowhere when I could be outside enjoying myself. I suppose I've never looked back.

Picked offspring up from airport. Welcome home Louis. We are so proud of you (Spirit of New Zealand, sailing). The great thing about the 2hr drive back to our place is that I got to hear everything fresh and uninterrupted...and then came home to a beautiful surprise - SEEDS

Well I had emailed Bart (Acres) a while back. He runs Otepoti Urban Organics, a seed saving network. Some of the seeds are only released to experienced gardeners who promise to grow, save and return them. I glibly described myself as running a community garden suggesting a trustworthy and experienced profile.
'Great' says Bart. 'I can't wait to visit next time I'm coming through.' Oops. Went out and had a look at the garden through fresh eyes. Shrugged off that fraudster feeling, resolved to try and make it look like more was happening, and quick about it, and then went back to my usual method of doing what I like, when I like, for me.

Oh I forgot to rotate that photo up there and I've lost a few of my magnificent line up but perhaps you can just make out 'cucumber green shorts'. How could I not grow that? And there's one with a stern warning: 'very rare, please save or return'. Yes Sir.
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Monday, October 5, 2009

Farewell Winter, Welcome Spring

Cleaning out the last of the winter garden. The leeks were 'Winter Giant' kings seeds, planted about September 2008 in the glasshouse in a few pots, spent some weeks in the shade house in December and then were planted out a week or so before Christmas.

Started eating them about March; by then we'd had several frosts (first 2 frosts 15th and 16th February 2009) and have been enjoying them ever since. Turned out to be a huge leek that has hung in well, only barely going to seed now and even though it was an exceptionally dry winter (8ml of rain from May to end of September... but some of you knew that already) the leeks were and are still suprisingly tender. So, to get back to the leek, just one and look at it.

I tried a new quiche recipe based on one in the paper from Bevan and Monique Smith, Riverstone Kitchen just out of Oamaru. The Shortcrust pastry used 3oog flour, 150g butter, pinch salt, and water to mix and I used the recommended 26cm deep dish but had way too much pastry: a bonus pastry crust which I baked blind, froze and used later to make a lemon meringue pie (which is improved by an unsweetened pastry).

I used the sauteed leek, a can 415g of drained whole kernel sweetcorn, 400g of bacon cut small and sizzled, 1 T finely chopped fresh thyme, chopped parsely, salt and pepper and 4 eggs, 400ml of farm milk which is really creamy at the moment. On top of that I added a good sprinkle of grated cheese. Oops, nearly forgot. For this recipe you precook the base first at 200 C
and then pour in the filling and bake at 160 C till done maybe 40 mins. Voila.

This year I've planted 'Musselburgh' leeks, a Carnival seed because I was in the Warehouse when I remembered it. The new resolve is to use heirloom seed, something with pedigree and track record for NZ but obviously it's a progressive resolve. Planted them 10th September and they're well up.

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