Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The law of increase

I remind myself from time to time that the most useful photos for me on any blog are the 'before' and 'after' or at least consecutive images of progress/growth. They give me so much visual information on what was done to get to the 'now'.
I don't normally think to take a photo of something I consider to be a mess; it's only when you have done something and think how good it looks that you remember the camera. Fortunately I have an example here of mess and redress. 

The tunnel house has this concrete path down one side that doesn't need to get wet unless I am careless with the sprinkler. In the past  I have used the space to grow extra things in pots but for the minute it is my potting area and tool shed.

In the blue butt to the right is liquid seaweed; through virtue of being topped up a lot already it is now the requisite weak tea brew and I can ladle it straight onto my plants with an old saucepan.
It is host to a cluster of hover-fly larvae, sausage shape with a thin tail swimming vigorously in a huddle. They are beneficial insects so I ignore them instead of being grossed out.

Tomatoes have strong growth, not sure how productive they will be, but if I knew that they wouldn't be the great experiment that they are. 

The bucket of comfrey drench I just leave outside the door to supplement the watering can now and again. I toss in the tomato laterals and outer leaves as I go; apparently tomatoes like their own and it is good for them. Another great experiment and a convenient way to deal with the debris immediately. I am a good housekeeper in my garden. 

The birds are desperately hungry with all the dry conditions and finding ways to access any available food source. 
This is a stack of netting scaffold, 'whipped up' by B. Nothing is ever quite whipped up. First the appropriate extra long pallet had to be garnered, once spotted; at top speed as it happened, because there was a fuel leak nearby and the fire service were closing down the road as we sped in, picked it up, and took off back home. I was the noble assistant for this project supplying enthusiasm and gratitude, if not skills. 

In place, needs a little refinement with hooking the netting on but works a treat and looks good too. 

I hate to admit how rough this compost is. However, it totally doesn't matter. I sort it through, pulling out the rubbish, bucket 1, putting aside the weeds and couch roots etc to drown, bucket 2, and then mixing through some aged sheep manure out of the plastic sack there. The manure is because it is destined for some lacklustre brassicas that are looking a bit yellow and are beginning to form heads; doubly desperate for growth.  

Oh here's the photo of the strawberries that goes with that patch. 

The little asparagus ferns are a sorry reality to my imaginings. I'm going to move the bed because the drainage isn't adequate (among other things) and in fact the little markers have become, in some part, little headstones marking where an asparagus once lived and died. 
That's a job for next spring anyway but in the meantime I have already given them a little compost and a little breathing space with some pertinent weed 
There's an unusual verse in Mark 4 to the gist of 'To the one who has, will be given more. To the one who  doesn't have, even that will be taken away'. 
With plants you can only give according to what they have and a big plant can take a lot more than a little one. 
Anyway, I'm reluctant to say what else they will get until I have done it. I've read too many recipe comments that say "I'm going to make this tonight" which seems such a crazy thing to say, compared to say the information you would get from, "I have made this and..."

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Taking my time

Today I decided I wasn't going to be hurried. I don't like the feeling of always rushing. Today I didn't  interrupt my own work most of the time, and I let things wait for me.  I felt my job slip back into manageable boundaries which bodes well for the busiest months of the year ahead.

I guess I really have learnt something because when the kids were small I didn't have time for pots at the door, not to plant or maintain; Now, I know they're a priority because they deliver so much for so little and you see them all the time.
This pot-full was just one little packet of freesia bulbs. 
The fragrance is another bonus. 

The brocolli above and same plants below, now a little older, are Koanga nutribud. This soil hosts clubroot and I buried a rhubarb leaf below each seedling as I planted them out. It actually seems to work. They're coming away well so my next job is to tickle out the weeds and sprinkle a little blood and bone bonus around each plant.  

This strawberry produces a wealth of little fruits with so much flavour  that I can't bear to grow those big ones anymore. It's more work picking and hulling them. Worth the time for me. 
Besides, they are sited beside the clothes-line and a fair bit of the picking and eating goes on while hanging out the washing. 

Here's one of my little brown shavers standing in the evening sun. They are 3 of a number, in their second year and laying fabulously. Following Koanga advice, I give them (for 5 birds) about 10g, slightly less than a tablespoon of poultry minerals a day in with their budget mash from Pac n Save. They also get 3mls every second day of stock primer in their water. It's easier that measuring out 1.5 mls a day (0.03 mls per bird).
I got them from Environmental Fertilisers  here They sell to farms but there is a price list for the home buyer. Buying the two together reduces the postage. I calculated they will last me over 9 months. 

Here's the two loveable rogues, the Bardrocks, in their third year and laying  modestly and sufficiently for their keep. I also give the chooks 1 C of sprouted wheat a day following Koanga instructions. The wheat is supposed to have 6x more protein when it is sprouted. Means I have 4 jars of wheat in various stages along the bench at all times. May manage it a little differently in time. 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Grand Designs New Zealand

 New extension on  chickie house was possibly the only Grand Design that has ever come in under budget and without a time blow-out. So there will be no need for awkward squirming and prevarication when Chris asks the dreaded question, "How much did it cost?"  

Wood, sliding door, corrugated iron, all recycled, tick; old paint mixed together and used up, tick;  splashed out on new screws and wire netting to keep the project quality right up there. Yip, top specifications all round.  I need the height to be able to get in and out easily to add weeds, and ultimately, remove deep litter. 

Sorry about the fading light. We were assembling the pre-fabricated pieces one evening after work. This is the gap for the sliding door, (above) and the nesting box shot, below. 

The nesting box, without its little curtain for privacy in this photo, is mid-left. I can open it from the back to collect the eggs. 

Here's an idea of how it meshes with the old one. Photos of completed house on next post. Need I say to anyone I didn't build it but I did give B some 'help' which was mostly moral support and ongoing, respectful, appreciation. 


Let me mention the recycled sink amongst the new coop's accoutrements. That was $5 at the dump-shop with the whole bench-top to boot. Managed to angle fit it into the little car tippy-touching windscreen to back window. B has trimmed it and given it a solid base. It's a bath for the diatamaceous earth/sand 
mix that the girls enjoy swishing around in.
Life is good. 

I've forgotten what variety of new potato I ended up with this year. They promised to be ready in 90 days and the name reflected that, possibly 'Swift' 
from the looks of them.

Here's a little before and after. Before, I had already cleared the beds of parsnip, carrots and cabbage. Clearly my crop rotation has not been a precision manouvre, rather a higgledy-piggledy re-direction of the troops. I have intentions to one day draw up a battle plan and marshall everything into its correct place; one day.

And after, well i like to plant the potatoes amongst a little bed of pine-needles and to pile up my rows to cover the potato. The pine-needles have helped deter wire-worm to a degree, they are a good soil conditioner, and they give me nice clean skin potatoes. In fact the shoots are already up (photo taken after planting about a week ago). 

Monday, September 18, 2017


I'm feeling a little bit like the white rabbit, "I'm late, I'm late for a very important date" except that I'm not late, not yet. It's just that I meant to post these photos before I went on holiday and now there are more banking up to report on; Spring does take off. 

So I got in early and ordered my seeds, planted them at the end of August, that warm patch before the weather nose-dived and September heralded spring. 
The heritage seeds are counted out in miniscule number, 25 seeds from 5 varieties for my tomatoes. 
This becomes a problem when only about 18 of them sprout. Six are spindly and two haven't the strength to burst those first two leaves and pop off the seed case. In my experience, if they can't do that, helping often doesn't help. 


Will I get 5 varieties of tomato? Probably not. I may buy another packet because I want to save my own seed for next year and I'd love to make a salad with five different types of tomato.

Sometimes a chicken likes to make its own private nest to lay in. 
B spotted a pile of eggs in a far, damp, corner of the old run. (There is a new Shangri-la under construction.) They look dreadful but they passed the float test with flying colours and you will be pleased to know, we have used them with impunity. 

Thirty one in total. Thanks chook. 

And thanks for the beautiful lemons Mum. A big batch of marmalade and enough left to make lemoncello. 

These mini spring crocus (crocii?) have been wonderful. 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Spring garlic

Last years garlic crop hanging in the laundry. Could be just enough to take us through to January which would be a first.  We usually run out. 

I was disappointed in the size of the bulbs  but size isn't an issue if you also have quantity. I have learnt to cure them under  the verandah before snipping off the stems and storing the garlic in a mesh bag. I have lost the odd clove to rot, barely any, and all bulbs storing well; this is my most successful method of storing them . 

If you look closely here is this years garlic crop coming through after an excellent winter chill. (A self-sown broad bean to the left, they were the last crop.) It had been so wet I wondered whether the cloves had rotted as I planted them back in about May. 

Now this unpromising piece of garden still has buried treasure. Actually I have discovered this year that the garden doesn't care how it looks. It still produces for me.  Look in the bucket below. 

 I suppose the photo doesn't help,  but when they are scrubbed and trimmed 
here's the best vegetables you can get.  I'm so proud of you guys. You are awesome. 

Now this is what I have been aiming for below, volunteers, self-sown kale  growing up amongst the spring onions. I've been trying to let the things I want self-seed and if possible...reduce the weed seeds. 

Weeds have a very short seed cycle and vegetables have a long one, heres the 

Monday, August 7, 2017

Have we got any flowers?

 It may have made 17 degrees today but it has been more like 7 more oft than not; a very cold winter. However, the house now sports 2 functioning wood burners. Happily the  wood piles  both fall and rise again like the tide.

There was a vase of garden flowers at our favourite cafe in Port Chalmers last Friday. (The Ocean Cafe) "Have we got any flowers? said B. 
I was surprised. How could you not notice? 
The Kaka beak by the front door seems to flower 1/2 now and 1/2 later. I am so grateful for the colour in July and August. 

This is actually a beautiful orange, arctotis I think, or gazania. Flowers all year.

The carpet rose has a few blowsey blooms at the minute and buds coming on. It has delivered everything I hoped it would, lovely foliage, blooms, and always looks good. 

This is a St Stephens Island Kowhai. Home to a stripey caterpillar that strips the stalks bare of leaves every year. Somehow it has the strength to put out a few blooms. Keep going little shrub. You can overcome this. 

Calendula was here 23 years ago when we arrived. I have added in an orange one that also pops up unbidden and delightful. 

Lavender looks good. 

Here's the girls found a patch in the winter sun. They are underneath my lemon stick. One day it may become a lemon tree. 
One day it may set fruit.

I set the chooks into the tunnel house. More to give the hen-pecked shavers a break than to clear the ground. Its time to start planting again. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Meet the Glasshouse

We put the glasshouse in about September 2016. Lest that sound like a one-off event, it took about a month; fetching it from the original site was a job in itself. 

Mr B put a wood foundation down first to attach the aluminium structure to, and it gives it a little extra height as well. 

Available talent was seized for service holding up the skeletal roof spine. That look suits you boys. The look of industry.

We cleaned the glass panes. Fitting them was the hardest part because the structure had slightly skewed in transit, sigh, the perils of a second-hand glasshouse. 

It was about October before I got plants in, and my own plants went in even later so a late season. I grew small varieties of tomato to get them all ripened in time, and plenty of cucumbers. 
The best tomato was a little black heirloom from Kings Seeds, something like Blackjack. 

I mulched everything with pine needles and dug them in when I cleared the glasshouse out. The chickens have had a good scratch around since and now I have begun to bury the bokashi in there; looking good for this season. 
I think this year I will grow good old Money Maker, and Black Jack. The Lebanese cucumber is superb but the plants aren't as reliable as a telegraph in the glasshouse so will plant both again. 
How wonderful to be anticipating Spring in the middle of Winter. 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Old friend

I planted crocus and freesia bulbs in pots by the back door in Autumn. Nothing to see above ground but the promise below has given me a lot of enjoyment.  They look beautiful already. 

A winter photo below, today, and the sun has already gone by 3pm. My bulbs are up and see the little woodpile at the side. There is an inexorable progression of combustibles towards the woodburner at this time of year. 

Now I think  I've said before that I focused on growing vegetables this year and everything else was neglected. Come the end of summer and the path up to the chicken house was mud. We got a trailer load of free wood chips  courtesy of the council's cleaning up around Port Chalmers. Thanks guys.

Here's the path now, below, working really well. The bags are full of pine needles. The little wood pile is my old friend, the Angelina Burdett plum tree that was growing in the middle of the chicken run. Sadly it had 'bladder plum' disease and we reluctantly took it out. 

I think we have done it justice, nothing wasted. All the twigs will make good kindling in a few months.

Final photo, chicken in the tunnel house. We got given some year-old brown shavers that are squabbling with our own Bardrocks. The Bardrocks have been throwing their weight around. I'm boarding a few of the chooks in the tunnel house for the minute to give everyone a break. Clear the ground while you are there girls.