Sunday, December 8, 2013

Not My Job

 The Elves and the Shoemaker have really got me puzzled. Not the least of it has been that with everybody home I could do with a team of elves to come in at night and do a bit of a spruce up, finish off the washing, clean the kitchen really thoroughly and do the bathroom before they troop out, weary but exhilerated by their good deeds, in the early hours of the morning. They have yet to appear.

So I'm flinging out the chores in all directions only to find out that some things are 'not my job' or there is some unwritten rule that if I have done one thing then it is a mysterious other's turn.
Fortunately we have a building project on the go sufficient to keep all hands busy and make the most of our  real, live, on-hand labour force; the best kind. 

The 'Big Dig' began on Monday with all hands cheerfully harnessed to the pick, shovel, or wheelbarrow.  I have enough concrete debris to build all the little walls I want and to crazy pave the top path and fill it in with concrete crumbs. These steps were under the ramp.
The top soil is going to need a place where it can be piled up,  while I work at assimilating it. Some of the clay has a home 10 minutes away on the back of a trailer, some may have to be rehoused on the section.

I had a pile of plastic milk bottles full  of water around my courgettes to add a bit of warmth. I think it helped in an ugly way.
 Well I am having a bit of a war on plastic in the garden at the minute,  plastic pots seem to multiply, and I'm constantly retrieving little pieces of plastic, lots of sellotape from all the cardboard boxes that get thrown on the compost heap, shreds of blue stuff off disintegrating tarpaulins...
So  I will see how the little concrete wall goes to warm the courgette's  toes...

Picked some of the gooseberries and realised just how shallow their roots are. I know, a small concrete buffer to hold in the soil and mulch, tra la la.  Incidentally I picked 5 lbs off the first bush and 8 lb 7oz off the second. At 2lbs to a crumble or a shortcake, and with 3 large bushes and 2 small ones, I calculate 1 hot gooseberry pudding a month for the year. Maths questions  were never this interesting.
Top and tailed 'em and bundled them into the freezer.

Oh here we are, below, an aerial view. Milk bottles waiting to be marched off to the wheelie bin, concrete galore up the fence line.
The boys are digging out the bank below which has been promised enough retaining to not need a permit, some foundations,  then the  container which is patiently waiting to be delivered and turned into a workshop for B. He is going to clad it with wood and put in windows and doors.
The adventure has begun.
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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Hedge Funds

When we bought the house 20 years ago there was no division between our neighbours' backyard and our own, save the obvious changeover where the lawn became field.
He is a bowler and maintains a smooth, if mossy green at all times.
It was very convenient for the kids to play together, and they had a trampoline at that time which was another reason to hop over and hop next door.
Now and again when I forgot to give them breakfast, the boys would begin to eat the crusts that they threw out on the lawn for the birds...oops.

When it got particularly long,  he would come over and mow our grass too on that shared slope and this has engendered a lot of neighbourly goodwill.
However, the wind sweeps across there and in the interests of shelter for both, and privacy at last, for them, we planted a hedge this Sunday.
Now is always a good time to bank a bit of goodwill into our neighbourly account. 
Top Photo: The back of the tunnel house. The borage flowers were the icing on the cake for my entry in the 'Salad Bowl for One' competition at Garden Club this week.
I would have a photo right here of the card and prize I won for Judges Choice if I had thought of it sooner. That's right, Judges  Choice, the best prize of all. But getting back to the hedge...

Here's Bill liftting a double strip of turf. We borrowed another neighbour's spade so we could both dig. I just happen to be taking the photo. I also took the opportunity to lark off and cut the overgrown top hedge back a bit to let in more light for the new hedge.

Here they are laid out. They were each awarded a shovel of compost, just enough to make them welcome, not enough for prolific growth. Some good things can take a very long time.With  20cm of hedge to show after 20 years we are hardly going to rush things now.

We flipped the turf and butted it in snugly. The plan is to mulch them with grass clippings now to suppress the grass beneath. Hopefully that's all that is required for a year or two.

Now inside the glasshouse, looking a bit topsy turvey. The observant eye will note lettuce amongst the red orach explosion, potato in bucket for the vege club 'Potato in Bucket' Competition (grow potato, grow) and lone tomato, Kakanui 2000. In the foreground are my little Capri and a few Blackjack cherry tomato seedlings. Plus emergent pumpkin seedlings  galore from the buried bokashi.

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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Only the best will do

One of Gore's many charms is the spring show, I mean that in a collective way, I didn't go to 'the show' or anything.  There's all the public beds and the amazing central gardens but the domestic gardens are outstanding.
Not necessarily  in imagination or design (without excluding that possibility), but the volume and colour, bulbs, blossom, WoW.  September is the time to go to Gore and do a drive round; even the cemetery puts on a show so you can't say they're not catering for every body. He heh.
But to the plant in hand, French Tarragon, that's French for anyone who didn't hear me and you know who you are. It's not as hardy as the Russian or nearly as common. The craft shop had a little plant tray outside the main door, main street, Gore. Gosh that place reminds me of Groundhog Day. It's this seemingly insignificant town that is full of treasures like a great fish and chip shop, and a vibrant community no doubt, maybe even animals that hibernate over the winter.
I came away with the best souvenir from that little stall,  some interesting plants out of somebody's interesting garden.
These photos now are a bit old news. I collected all my out of date lettuce seed into one big mesclun mix and planted out a cold frame with it. Only 2 of the seed types seem to be viable at this stage. Good to have a clean out of old seed.
And this one, starting off the tomatoes for another year. This year, a few blackjack and about 10 Capri and that will fill up the space. Lots of little plants to give away. Just remind me.
I went up to feed the chickens early one morning and here they were stretching their legs, despite their new capacious extended run up the back. Thank goodness they haven't reached the silverbeet I thought... but there aren't many in the house who would be thinking that.  
And finally I found this photo on the camera. Seeing as it's school holidays I will include the recipe.
Perhaps someone in the house can make it.
Incidentally don't use Pams cocoa  for this. But standard Cadbury will do.
Cuts into 32 big triangles. That is 16 squares cut in half. 
Caramel square.
  • 200g butter
  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 1 1/2 C flour
  • 1/2 C self raising flour
  • 1/4 C cocoa
Step 1
Cream the butter and sugar and stir in sifted dry ingredients.
Press evenly into a largish tin. Bigger than a 20 x 30 cm sponge roll tin.  
I put a peice of gladwrap on top and flatten it with my hands.
Bake at 175 degrees celcius for about 15 minutes.
Step 2
  • 1 T butter,
  • 2 T golden syrup
  • 1 Can condensed milk.
 Melt the butter and syrup together then stir in the condensed milk.
 Pour this evenly over the par-cooked base.
Step 3
  • 80g butter
  • 1/2 C brown sugar
  • 1C flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 T cocoa
Cream the butter and sugar.
Stir in the sifted dry ingredients.
crumble over the caramel layer.
Bake a further 20 minutes until the caramel is brown around the edges of  the tray.
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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Tidying up

It has often occurred to me that gardening is alot like housekeeping with dirt. You organise,  tidy up,  put away, it's a constant cycle of restoring things back to plan, so why is one so very  far more interesting than the other?
And of course for some people housework really is interesting, apparently.  
And who would have thought that such alien life forms would produce asparagus but here they are, a year old and straight out of the bag. I spent the afternoon preparing a bed for them but it became apparent the bed is going to need weeks to settle so I have started them off in the tunnel house. 
I have been looking at them carefully in the packet and one or two limbs have dropped off; best tuck them in for rehydration before dessication is complete.
Yes the seaweed gathering has been going apace, and other resource collecting as opportunity affords. The base garden is clay of sufficient purity to throw on a wheel and throw a pot so no point double-digging here. I loosened the clay with the fork tines and added layers to the existing scrape of top soil thus:
  • rough compost
  • sieved sand from the old sandpit (sieved out wire worm, grass grub and couch)
  • aged stable manure
  • bokashi

Mix it altogether and leave to stand probably six weeks anyway. A little bit like making home brew but hopefully more successful. Strange that a garden should be so short of dirt but that's what I could have done with more of. 

Dug a little field drain from the retaining wall, at a point where a daisy was growing. In this garden that is a surefire indicator of bog (along with buttercup) and sure enough  a little river began to flow. Was able to fill it with all the stones  that turn up as I work, some come attached to seaweed, some come in with manure, and others are bits of concrete and things that are here already.
A garden, like many other things, becomes increasingly meaningful when you know the provenance of all its parts.

Wayne from garden club went up to Kakanui last week and brought back grafted tomatoes, in August!
I haven't even planted seeds yet (This year I am growing Capri). This is  Kakanui 2000. I am hoping for great things as I only bought the one. No pressure little plant, you're home now and we love you.
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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Winter is the perfect time to collect seaweed for the garden

Dunedin is always good for a trip to the beach, even if you have to wrap yourself in the picnic blanket to get warm. The goal is to get seaweed for the garden direct and the compost bins, if I get that much. Of course I don't headline so bluntly. 'Who wants to go to the beach and try out Johnny's new BBQ?'
Everybody it turns out. That affords me 6 sacks of seaweed. We can all carry back one bag each.

The BBQ was a metalwork project.  Local council by-laws outlawed open fires outside quite a few years ago and we moved to a gas BBQ but we have always missed the  incomparable excellence of a  sausage cooked over wood coals.   

Here's the BBQ as yet unused. One handle is some sort of animal head (sheep?).

There is a rule that wherever you stand you'll get smoked. If you move, the wind changes.

Fire is going well, now patience for the wood to burn down to hot coals.

quick, put on the rack and the snarlers, note the makeshift tongs, had to forget something...we'll find a way...

And the proof is in the eating.
Now I didn't get any photos but I dug the seaweed straight into the tunnel house and watered the whole thing. It doesn't smell at all.
I got 8 sacks of seaweed for work singlehandedly today and realised there are better ways to do things.. Got home and announced, 'We need a few trips to the beach these school holidays, take a BBQ and collect seaweed.'
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Saturday, June 8, 2013


I've forgotton the name of these little lantern fruits. That's it, Cape Gooseberries. Seems odd to have a harvest of them just as winter officially arrives. About this time of year I am very aware that we are on the south side of the hill and our sun window is about 10 until 2 as we get to the shortest day. Too windy, shady and damp here for these almost tropical fruits, weeds apparently.

Don't ponder the mystery, they were a gift from a friend on the other side of town. She lives on a north facing flat section, hedged in on four sides with macrocarpa and such to a good height;  effectively they have a walled-garden microclimate.

These cape gooseberries are a bit like an aromatic, almost spicy,  tiny tomato;they  grow well in poor soil which explains why they grow like weeds by her hedge. M clips them back with the hedge clippers after fruiting. That seems to be the only care.

I have put the plant into the tunnel house here to survive and will put it out in late spring. I made the fruits into the nicest chutney I have had for a long time. Possibly the best use for them of all.

Now I've been going to vege club, and I am ashamed to say I was a bit disparaging at first.  I completely underestimated the  hidden depths and qualities of these marvellous people.
When the president mentioned that they played vegetable bingo at the last mid-winter club dinner I realised it was time to participate more fully in what the club had to offer...

I bought a few celeriac plants at the club last year and they have quietly grown into this thing about the size of a turnip. The leaves got a bit tatty which suggested to me that they were now fully grown, and I hoicked this one out of the ground and rinsed off its roots for the photo shoot.

In the end I made a scalloped potatoes and celeriac with cream, garlic, and cheese and the dish was scraped clean. Really delicious. I expect these things will sit in the ground unattended,  as root vegetables do here, and then start to grow again in spring. I'll grow these again.


The carrots are my brag shot as there is no gardening at all going on at the minute. It's a great thing to have good soil for growing carrots and there it is, the soil has done it all. These followed peas  and the ground has had nothing from me in the way of additions since I began that piece of garden.Well done you lot.

The red brussel sprouts above, well those plants came from vege club too. The club has a sales table where members sell off surplus plants. Apparently these were grown from a Kings' seed variety and the red ones are sweeter than the green. They are a great alternative to a big cabbage which sits in the fridge getting progressively older and nastier to eat. I  pick these as I'm cooking tea and they remind me that fresh brassiccas are a completely different vegetable from stale ones.
I can see by successes  that I am working with what this climate and garden grows best (sometimes);  yams are in that group. It was mild enough this year  that the tops have only just frosted down into slime the way they do.
Now I planted some garlic elsewhere that hasn't come up and I suspect it may have rotted.  We'll have to eat the yams a bit faster to make room to plant more garlic.

The ground is so wet here that I'm reluctant to do anything: however garlic is important enough to get my gumboots out for. I'm thinking about making raised or sloped  beds on the flat parts to improve winter drainage.

Think away, it seems too wet to do anything for the next few months at least. Fortunately I have overgrown hedges of my own to tackle and they seem to be a big enough job for any spare gardening moments.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

In the Meantime

I had high hopes for a jumpstart on the planting this winter season, to set me up for spring, but have moderated my aspirations; medium hopes will do.

Here's the excellent reason for lack of prompt garden time-keeping: painting the house. The smaller the surface area the longer it seems to take to paint e.g. window frames, eaves, chimneys and the front door. Paint demands the warmest, nicest weather and has first call on the day for this year anyway. By the time we paint the house again, we will be pensioners.

I did tidy the shed and that was worth a photo. I've found I can fit alot more in now...

It looks like a plum tree to the left but it is only red orach, seeding. I figured if I let it seed freely, by the time I move the chook house back here there could be a carpet of orach to eat.
The lettuce have been under a plastic cloche through the late summer: a happy picture.

Club root: a very sad picture. The photo doesn't do justice to the distortion. It is an ugly sight. The brassiccas were failing to thrive and would wilt during the day even in the rain. I finally dug one up looking for grass grub, alas no.

Fortunately at that very moment Rose arrived with a bucket of lime and some pinecones. One of those items will help the ground considerably and the other will light the fire.
We had another perfectly timed visit when an electrician came to our house this week by mistake (looking for another house) and we were able to call him in to solve an electrical puzzle for us before letting him get away. How often does that happen?
I wonder how he wrote it up on his time sheet.

There is a beginning and an end to this photo which I see I've left out. The beautiful loam was a black sack of dock seed heads a year ago; it rotted into a crumbly, lovely mix  over 12 months, although mid-way, I do remember peering into the bag and seeing little seedlings, then tying the bag back up again.
The end photo, if you can imagine a green fuzz of zillions of little seedlings emerging here. It seems the motherload of seed was not nuetralised after all.
In a garden, there aren't many disasters, just plan B, plan C, plan D and ever new resources to redirect around the property. 

I had redirected clusters of onion weed to the compost bin. Midway through turning the pile I found them.  The photo doesn't do justice to the particular light-starved green as they regrew in the middle of the heap. Nae bother to flick the bulbs off into a bucket and compost the tops. You can't drown the bulbs, they grow, so I may splash out and pay to put these out in  a rubbish bag.

I do that now and again.
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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Reporting in on the tomato stakes

There are a few garden stars that laugh at the dry weather and perform magnificently yet again. This sedum, for example, which was originally from a cutting from K & M's first flat in Invercargill, the one where  funghi grew on the couch; lack of moisture was clearly never a problem in that location.
Behind it the Japanese Anemone, some call it a weed. It flowers over a long period of time and has lovely foliage; survives neglect. You'll do, and I paid money for this particular plant from a local gardener's stall.

Now the reason for this post was to show you the tomatoes Mum. I've mixed the names over until I've forgotton who is which, but Galina and Siberia above and below: or 'big red' and 'little yellow'. Big red wins on flavour and colour. Yellow is good in a salad mix, not so useful for pasta sauce.

The White Cherry below has the best flavour of all,  along with Black Jack which you will just have to imagine. It  fruits prolifically so it has been deemed the winner and I will plant it again next year.
Three cherry tomato plants to every Big Red was the wrong ratio. Well, everything has been a bit topsy turvy this year.

And everything else has been late. That's my maincrop beetroot and carrots  to the right of the flowering yams.
I plan to plant broad beans, peas, and garlic very soon and get the jump on next season for a change.
This will necessitate extending the garden a little...

B came in and saw the courgettes/marrows and said 'Please, please, don't cook them for tea.'
With only two fussy eaters left at home to feed the other two of us would be stuck eating these monsters all week. Like 'filboid studge'  they would reappear at every mealtime until they were eaten. Aaaagh.

The happy ending to this story was courgette loaf (a lot like carrot cake) with cream cheese icing. I love a happy ending. 

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