I can’t imagine not growing my own potatoes. There’s always a space somewhere in my garden. As usual, I spread newspaper on a patch of ground and then layered rotted hay. I layed each sprouted seed on a wilted comfrey leaf and covered them with a deep layer of hay. As the shoots grew, I piled more hay around the growing plants. Fertiliser was cow manure collected with the rotted hay from the paddocks.
We enjoy the varieties and flavours. The different textures lend themselves to different ways of cooking. As I mentioned in a previous post, we simply steam Urenika (Maori blue potato) as we do with the early variety ‘Swift’. I add sprigs of mint (and of course there has to be a knob of butter and black pepper over the cooked potatoes).
I tried growing three varieties new to me this season.
‘Heather’ is described as a main crop with a purple skin, smooth skin and white flesh, great taste and good cooking qualities.
‘Moonlight’ is described as new in 2000, white skin and flesh, high yielding, excellent boiling quality. Excellent drought and wind tolerance.
‘Red Rascal’ is described as improved Desiree with a deep crimson skin and white flesh. Excellent baking and roasting.
Today I harvested the crop. All I had to do was pull the hay away – no digging and the potatoes are clean. I left them to dry in the polyhouse before sorting according to size and variety. I keep some aside for the next season’s seed crop. I was pleased to note no blight or disease and minimal physical damage that seems to have been caused by slugs.
I store potatoes in shallow polystyrene boxes (used by growers to transport grapes to supermarkets and then discarded) and keep them in a cool and dark place.
Tagged Food Growing, Gardening, Heirloom Seeds, Horticulture, Lifestyle Block, Mulch, Organic vegetable growing, Permaculture, Potatoes, Sustainable Living, Vegetables
The floodwaters have receded and the sun shone yesterday. It’s Saturday and it’s clean-up time. Our concerns are minor compared to the major damage and disruption faced by people who live in districts up to one hour’s driving time north of us.
Weather experts said the severe weather that wreaked serious widespread havoc in the north was once in a 150 year event. For our district, it was described as a once in a 125 year weather event. The long range forecast is that we can expect more of the same at some point in the future given the changes to the global climate patterns.
The garden is now well and truly watered. The temperatures are still quite warm so the plants are happy – as were the pukeko. About 230 mm rain fell at our place in the last 24 hours. Easterly winds caused some tree damage. The animals were moved to higher ground. Himself said that as he took down the electric fencing from the stream boundary the water was rising rapidly from behind. Local roads were cut off – I wondered if I’d make it home tonight because of the extent of the flooding. We escaped very lightly in comparison to elsewhere in the region which had heavier falls of up to 400 mm causing serious washouts and slips on roads.
There’s quite a bit of debris to clear away later when things dry out.
I’m attempting to reforest a swampy area fed by underground seepage from a spring . A hardpan layer lies beneath a layer of clay loam. Digging the planting holes has had it’s difficulties – rock hard in the drier months and very boggy at other times. A pick-axe was useful at times. While I planted exotic trees because of their affinity with growing in wet situations, I also planted native trees such as Cabbage Trees and Tree Ferns. I also planted two small Kahikatea seedlings – these are slow growing and are planted for posterity. We happen to have many Totara trees. Some are about 20-30 metres and still growing at about 80 to 100 years old. Tree have an important significance in stories Maori people tell of Tane, the god of the forest.
Thinking about trees and people in this way, reminds me of two quotes I read in the United Nations Environment Programme: Billion Trees Campaign :
“The great French Marshall Lyautey once asked his gardener to plant a tree. The gardener objected that the tree was slow growing and would not reach maturity for 100 years. The Marshall replied, ‘In that case, there is no time to lose; plant it this afternoon!’” John F. Kennedy
“Trees are poems that Earth writes upon the sky. We fell them down and turn them into paper, that we may record our emptiness.” Kahlil Gibran
This purpose of this post is really to experiment with using Rockyou slideshow to show captioned pictures of some trees I planted in this swampy area behind my garden.
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Life’s been busy since he came to live here last year. The garden’s full of discoveries – hedgehogs, water, animals and all sorts of things to pick and eat.
Driveway puddles are a natural hazard when you’re short-stuff.
Neighbour’s pigs love my rejected cooked dinners. I take the pig bucket with my food scraps every day.
Grandad just wouldn’t cope without my help. The electric fence is scary though.
Cooking makes a boy hungry. I let Nana help me make banana cake and date scones.
There’s gardening to do and peas to pick. Daddy really needs my help with his new raised garden.
Sweetcorn is the new peas (Nana’s note: what he doesn’t know is that more peas are busy sprouting in secret places he doesn’t know about yet).
I’ve moved on from strawberry tasting. The grapevine is a good place to hang out this month. I’ll get Nana to pick bunches of pink, white and black grapes for my friends at my party.
My friends at Playcentre are coming to my birthday party.
Trees are still very much on my mind. At a recent family gathering, the importance of the function of trees in creating carbon sinks was a topic of conversation. My brother referred to something he’d read to the effect, ‘plant 101 trees for every one felled’. So it was with some interest tonight that I read Willem Van Cotthem’s Desertification post, and I quote:
“The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has launched a major worldwide tree planting campaign. Under the Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign, people, communities, business and industry, civil society organizations and governments are encouraged to enter tree planting pledges online with the objective of planting at least one billion trees worldwide during 2007.”
Great idea! I won’t be able to plant ’101 trees’ though. I still want to plant some trees as a living connection – but I’ll broaden the ecological context. This autumn I’ll plant groupings of native trees and other plants for their flowers, berries and nectar that are valuable sources of food for the native birds such as tui and keruru (wood pigeon) especially in the winter and spring, and let’s not forget the bees. The shades of green, the shapes and different heights should not only create a restful visual effect, but also an ecologically beneficial habitat.
Trees are very much on my mind at the moment. It will be soon time for planting. Last year when my three-month old grandson was born, Pohutukawa trees had started flowering as they do before Christmas. Later towards the end of autumn, we’ll plant a pohutukawa – our gift to celebrate this baby boy’s birth. The placenta will be put into the hole and planted with the tree. In this way his tie will be especially forged to the land. The tree variety chosen will suit our inland situation - and won’t grow as large as the coastal specimens. This tree won’t be planted in isolation – I plan to plant it as part of native grove that will include trees for his cousins and two-year brother. Trees evoke strong natural connections with our life experiences.
My sister planted a Rimu sapling when her son was born three decades ago. Decades ago, my Dad, who saw active service during WWII, planted Golden Totara, inspired by a memorial grove planted in remembrance of local men who did not return. I think it was his quiet way of remembering and trying to restore the land. My sister-in-law has this most wonderful cherry tree - my mother-in-law would have loved the fabulous blossoms and bird life. Each of us has this strong sense of connectedness with the land.
On another note, some tree felling will have to happen soon. A stand of Leyland Cypress were originally planted as a roadside boundary shelter belt about 25 to 30 years ago (well before our time here). As with the row of trees lining our drivewway that we had felled in the summer of 2005, these are on borrowed time and are showing signs of rot. Himself will be able to get his chainsaw out again. Lots of firewood to cut. I’m thinking nature abhors a vaccuum. What trees can I plant?
Posted in Family, Golden Totara tree, Grandchildren, Lifestyle, New Zealand interest, Pohutukawa Tree, Reflections, Trees
Tagged Conservation, Family, Gardening, Lifestyle Block, New Zealand interest, Permaculture, Rural Environment, Trees, UNEP PLant for the Planet: One Billion Trees
During my usual late afternoon walkabout I found a large flat field mushroom in the paddock - the intense aroma took me back to my childhood when we picked wild mushrooms that grew prolifically on the farm in our autumn months of March to April. Mum simply stewed the mushrooms with a knob of butter in the saucepan and used cornflour to lightly thicken the juices. Never knew whether to call it a soup or a stew – it sure tasted good. Sometimes the mushrooms were were sauteed and served with grilled bacon. I have the impression field mushrooms are not as prolific as they used to be. I have wondered if it’s because of the applications of artificial fertilisers and/or chemicals the soil has been subjected to – or could it be climate change? I’ve been reading about growing mushrooms in Patrick Whitefield’s How to Make a Forest Garden (2002). Guess where this thought is headed?
I snapped some photos to capture some colours of the early autumn harvest.
Top left to right: the weight of the Captain Kidd crop of apples is bending the branches. It’s sweet and juicy to eat raw and cooks exceptionally well to a smooth puree – we find there’s no need to add sugar. Buttercup pumpkins are a favourite with us. It has a dry, orange-coloured flesh and has a sweet flavour. I use it in different ways including roasted as wedges (rubbed with with olive oil, seasoned with sprigs of rosemary and black pepper), pureed for a fine soup, cubed into pasta dishes or salads. The cos lettuces give salad variety.
Middle left to right: work in progress on new growing beds being established in the paddock. I experimented by planting this Cherimoya in 2002. It is sited in a warm, sheltered spot. The fruit is is large, white, creamy, juicy and is eaten raw. We loved this fruit when we first tried it. I crossed my fingers and hoped that the occasional light frost would not upset the tree - so I’m delighted to see these young fruits have made it into our gardenworld. Another of my experiments has been to grow a Cranberry bush. About two weeks ago, I picked almost one kilo of fruit. I’ve dried some of the berries, juiced some and frozen the rest. I’m not quite sure how to use these to advantage - last season we enjoyed a roasted turkey stuffed and seasoned with my first crop of cranberries.
Bottom left to right: apple cucumber is a personal favourite. Love to combine this with feta cheese in a salad. The grape vine was already established when we came here and there are two other table varieties - pink and white grapes. The vines grow well here. More than a century ago in this region, wine grapes were planted by settlers to this country – by Dalmatians who migrated to New Zealand to dig for kauri gum and also by French Marist missionaries.
Finally, the strawberries have been exceptional this season and just keep fruiting. I haven’t done anything special - except to apply some animal manure. The site is well-sheltered from wind, gets full sun morning and late afternoon. My friend is hanging out for the Strawberry Jam – I add a good splash of cointreau instead of water to the saucepan in which 1.5kg fruit is simmered until soft. In accordance with the instructions, I add 70 grams commercial pectin-based jam setting mix before disssolving 2kg sugar and boiling for six minutes. I pour this jam into small jars. A fancy label and it’s a nice gift to give from my garden.
Number Two son’s plantings have flourished since he became a gardening convert late last year. His peas are almost finished and the sweetcorn is ripening. There are no hard or fast rules in his gardening style - flowers and edible plants mingle as they do in my garden. I’m amused to note he too has taken to going walkabout in the garden with mop-haired two-year old pea-picking son in tow.
Posted in Cooking, Family, Fresh Food, Gardening, Grandchildren, Home, Lifestyle, Missionary Settlers in New Zealand, Mushroom, New Zealand interest, Reflections, Strawberry Jam, Vegetables
Tagged Cooking, Family, Food Growing, Fruit Trees, Gardening, Lifestyle, Lifestyle Block, New Zealand interest, Organic vegetable growing, Permaculture, Rural Environment, Rural living, Sustainable Living, Vegetables