Today, my map is back!!!! How did this happen? Resilience is one of my personal traits - ’I can do it!’ is my mantra (well, that’s what I’m telling you). In a New Year post, I recounted Mike Sneddon’s blog – 7 Tips to Building Your Blog’s Readership http://www.worldwidefreelance.com/writing.htm At the time, his words made sense, so I idly thought it a simple matter to add a Platial map to highlight my New Zealand references. Progress was slow and painful as I didn’t have a clue how to go about things. What did I learn? Not sure. Six months later in June, and I’ve never worked out why or what I did, but my flash new Platial NZ map widget had disappeared from my blog. I lamented the joys of learning how to manage a blog.
Today, I went back to Platial and did some searching homework. Well, long story short, I’m setting up a new blog. I need to include a map. In 2009, Himself and I will leave NZ to work and to travel (more about that at a later time). My Garden blog will go on the back-burner for a couple of years though I probably won’t be able to resist dropping in from time to time - likely from a ‘homesickness’ for my plants and trees - and the pukeko, the cat, the animal life. Anyway, that’s in the tomorrow and tomorrow’s time.
However, first things first, my newly re-discovered world of mapping in blogland is grabbing my attention.
Happy New Year folks. Himself and I shut the gate and left the garden (and the cat and cattle) in the capable care of our friend Trish. So many things would happen in our absence. I knew the possums would ravage the ripening peaches, that the climber beans would grow like triffids, that the courgettes would mature into marrows. We left rapidly growing grass that would be knee-high when returned and need mowing. C’est la vie! I’d just have to get over it.
We drove south to the Waikato to join Mum and my family who live near Matamata (Peter Jackson constructed the Hobbiton movie set on a local farm when he produced Lord of the Rings). Tourists still visit the site. We had a big gathering on my younger brother’s farm (where I grew up) on Christmas Day. Lots of talk and laughs. Different people gathered 02 January to celebrate my other brother’s significant birthday at his newly built home. It was nice for Mum to have her four ‘baby-boomer’ children in one place for a change. For each occasion, both sisters-in-law excelled themselves. Baked hot ham, new potatoes (my steamed heritage potatoes went down well and were subject of interest and conversation), salads, new beans, fresh strawberries, traditional Christmas pudding and custard, pavlova and trifle. The weather was so warm, we sat outside in the shade – cold drinks in hand. In this rural community, the talk inevitably turns to dairy farming.
Wearing off the Christmas excess is easier in the saying and harder in the doing. Himself and I did some day trips and walked at local tourist spots. If you ever come to New Zealand, Rotorua is a neat place to visit. We used to spend a lot of time there as kids and then later for weekend escapes. When we lived in the Waikato, himself and I used to do quite a bit a trout fishing in this region. Always we soaked in the mineral pools. The sulphur smells from the boiling mud pools and springs is always there. Below are a few photos snapped during our latest getaway.
This historic building is a museum.
Lakeside walkway – stay on the path. Great views across the lake of course, boiling sulphur springs and muddy pools. The foliage is Manuka or Tea-tree as it’s sometimes called.
My favourite place. The spa baths both public and private – different temperatures and minerals. We booked a private lakeside rocky pool (see last three photos) and soaked up the minerals and the view across Rotorua lake and watched the adult birds feed their chicks. It’s a noisy colony. A cold shower, drink lots of water and back in. Bliss. Who wants to garden?
Something really nice when we returned home hot and tired after six hours driving. Someone had mowed all our lawns! I just love my neighbour. What a nice thing to do. It more than made up for the loss of the peaches to the possums.
Hi! My special season’s greetings to you and the people who are special to you and best wishes to you all for a happy and peaceful New Year.
I’m celebrating that the Pohutukawa trees I planted earlier this year are in bloom in time for Christmas. The drifts of white in the collage are the carrot weed flowers (wild carrot) which proliferate in the paddocks at this time of the year. The cattle love the flower heads and the pukeko gouge and gorge on the roots.
The grandkids and their school-mates sang a neat New Zealand Christmas carol at their end-of-year playcentre and school prize-giving ceremonies - A Pukeko in a Ponga Tree http://folksong.org.nz/nzchristmas/pukeko.html which is sung to the tune of The Twelve Days of Christmas. Enjoy our Kiwi down-under spirit.
Tagged Christmas, Conservation, Family, Gaia's Garden, Gardening, Gardens, Horticulture, Lifestyle, Lifestyle Block, Natural Gardening, New Zealand, Rural Environment, Trees
We hosted a very special garden luncheon party today. Pea-picker-’tato inpsector two-and-a-half-year old’s sibling turned one in style with the help of their five cousins and some little friends from Play Centre.
A boy can get a bit wobbly on his legs and needs his granddad’s support at moments like this. Daddy kept saying, “blow”. Thank goodness big brother and my cousin knew what to do and showed me how to blow the candle out. I’ll know what to do next time.
So what did we do for this kid’s party? Keep it simple. It’s early summer here, so we have outdoor activities to wear off the kids’ high energy on the grassy area under the tree and lawn round the house. Water play is so cool. While the under-threes splashed in the inflatable pool, the bigger kids dived and dolphined in the deeper pool. The slippery slide wetted with a sprinkler attached to the garden hose was great fun as was the mini trampoline and balloons. Chairs beyond the splash range were for the adults. Finger foods were served in a small courtyard.
It felt hotter outside than the official 20C today. The ground is dry and surface cracks indicate the need for rain. Never-the-less, early summer is here and this gardening month is busy with successive sowings, cultivation and harvesting.
I checked the growth of my potatoes planted 30 September. The Kowiniwini, Urenika and Maori heritage potatoes are about to burst into flower. I was somewhat surprised to find the Swift (early variety for Xmas ) potatoes are almost ready to be harvested. Two-year-old Grandson who became an expert ‘tato inspector last year, inducted baby brother in the art of choosing the biggest and the best ‘tato for dinner tonight. He also picked the very first tiny courgette of the season (as you do) when you’re a connoisseur of baby vegetables. The early potato crop probably thrived because of the thick applications of mulch. The soil around the plants was friable, warm and moist despite no watering and drying conditions. We are careful how we use water because our domestic water supply is from rainwater collection. We pump water from the stream to the troughs for the animals. So gardening for me must be about conserving moisture and mulching. Our predominantly clay soil becomes rock hard in the summer – digging is a no go – hence I follow a permacultural approach to diversity and building up soil to encourage worms and beneficial insects.
The Calendula are making a great show among the potatoes. With that in mind today, I filled gaps among the other vegetables with more heat-loving flowers as companion plants - Rudbeckia, Zinnia and French Marigolds. That should make the friendly insects giddy with delight (or confused should the pests have pesky intentions). November here is a great month for flowers – I use different edible flowers in salads and drinks.
I under-planted the sweet corn with a long green cucumber – my Dad used to do this as a living mulch so I though I’d give it a try this year as well as letting pumpkins sprawl under the corn plants. I could have used beans – but I have these growing elsewhere. My last tasks today were to plant Sweet Peppers and to stake Beefsteak tomatoes – under-planted with Sweet Basil of course as I have visions of home-made pesto in mind.
Tagged Benefical Insects, Companion Planting, Conservation, Ecology, Food Growing, Gaia's Garden, Gardening, Heirloom Seeds, Lifestyle, Mulch, Natural Gardening, New Zealand, Organic vegetable growing, Permaculture, Potatoes, Sustainable Living, Vegetables, Weather
As the weather gets muggier and warmer, growth in the garden is rapid and a conflict of interest happens as work gets busier with end-of-year reviewing and forward planning and pre-Christmas socials. The heat is also on in the kitchen. Friend Trish brought some grapefruit picked from her tree for me to make marmalade – just as my thoughts were on making cauliflower pickle. And I keep hearing the retail message that it’s-55-shopping-days-to a jolly Christmas. So, Christmas baking has been added to my To Do list. This year I’m making it easy on myself and like my sister, am using a favourite boiled fruit cake recipe which only needs three eggs and is quick to make. Food prices here have increased of late – but it’s still cheaper to make my own cake.
I sometimes wonder why I say I use a recipe when I nearly always modify it in some way and the end-result is different every time. This time, I substituted organic muscovado sugar for its rich flavour and texture and added brandy. What my sister and I tend to do because we’ve usually cook for large numbers, is to double quantities in such a basic recipe. The texture is lighter and slightly more crumbly than the richer cakes I usually make. Later, I’ll cut the double-sized cake into smaller pieces and then wrap them to be given as gifts.
The marmalade set well, is sharp to taste as we like it and clear so the shredded rind shows.
The cauliflower has been cut into small florets, the onions are finely sliced and salt has been sprinkled over the vegetables to be left overnight. I have two recipes I’m using. One includes finely chopped fresh mint leaves, turmeric, cayenne pepper, allspice. The other includes crushed pineapple, dry mustard and curry powder. Both simmered in white vinegar and then thickened.
Well, it’s Saturday evening. People throughout the country will get together, may be enjoy a barbeque and set off some fireworks to ‘celebrate’ Guy Fawkes. Fire-fighters don’t ‘celebrate’ – there’s always the idiot factor at work somewhere, I guess. Local councils are doing their best to encourage families to enjoy organised public displays. Sales of fireworks were restricted to about four days and then it’s only over-18 year olds who can buy them. Not the same sense of freedom as when we were kids.
I flew back after four days in Wellington having enjoyed picture postcard spring weather, immaculate botannical gardens, a fashion festival of wearable arts and the NZ symphony orchestra. I came to earth with thud - the climatic difference while I was away. Himself at home endured heavy weather, flooding – the stormy works and sodden ground in Northland. Today, I ventured into the garden and got busy with the camera to show we might be a bit battered but the garden manages a smile and bursts with promise. The bees were a bit shy but a few hung around for the photo opportunity.
Stormy spring weather that I missed while away.
Luisa Plum blossom
1st of the Captain Kidd Apple blossom
1st of the Feijoa blossom
Lavender underplanted near the fruit trees as a companion plant
Calendula as a companion plant
Radish going to seed
Borage, Comfrey and Curry plants interplanted anong the fruit trees
My first white carrot
Freesia smell heavenly
Miniature cyclamen among the weeds
Neighbour’s lambs remind us to put a spring in our steps
Finally - a patch of blue sky glimpsed through the flowering peach blossom.
Some stars to strive for and to cheer about as we contemplate our soggy land. Matariki marks the start of the Maori New Year. It is so named after the group of stars the seven sisters known as Pleiades. The re-appearance of Matariki in our southern skies is celebrated because it reminds us of beginnings, the promise of the new growing season. My magnolia (‘Star Wars’) is budding - albeit wind battered- but it’ll recover and be a show-off tree soon as the days lengthen.
Tagged Food Growing, Gardening, Horticulture, Lifestyle, Lifestyle Block, Natural Gardening, New Zealand, Permaculture, Trees, Vegetables, Weather
Friend Trish and I finally got to the local garden centre’s sale yesterday. Most of the fruit trees had been well picked over but there were other bargains still to be had. I had my wish list drawn from the Northland Regional Council publication Trees for the Land: Growing Trees in Northland for Protection, Production and Pleasure (pp. 30-31) A guide to planting native trees. My best buys included four Kahikatea Dacrycarpus Darydioides trees at $5 each were normally priced at $29.95. Perfect for the swampy paddock I’m planting up. The garden centre owner said people weren’t interested in buying tall, slow growing, native forest trees. I won’t see these trees in their maturity at about fifty metres – I’m planting for posterity. Kahikatea may grow about six metres in ten years. Next best buy was two Pukatea Laurelia Novae – Zelandiae at $10 each (half price). Another slow growing tree that is best planted in a wet situation. Pukatea also grow about six metres in ten years.
In a previous post, I included a Rockyou slideshow showing trees planted in the swampy area. Today as we dug the planting holes, the clay was heavy and ’gluggy’ and water welled up as we hit an underground rivulet. The Pukatea should lap up their new watery location. Digging holes for the Kahikatea was another story. We dug through the swampy clay loam and then hit the hard-pan clay layer beneath. We used the pick-axe to break it up. Worth the effort as the Kahikatea will be happy in the moist soil.
Digging in the swamp was easy compared to the digging we’ll do tomorrow on an exposed sunny hillside which has poor soil, rock-hard clay. Why the effort? Pohutukawa Metrosideros Excelsa ‘Lighthouse‘. I bought this tree as a living gift to celebrate the birth of 4-month grandson (sibling to two-year old pea-picker). I’ll also plant Puriri Vitex lucens (bargain price $7.50) as a solitary specimen tree and because the flowers and fruits attract native birds - the wood pigeon (kereru) and tui. Lots of compost will be added to give these young trees good drainage and a good start before next summer.
The sale was a good start towards meeting my pledge to the UN Plant a Billion Trees Campaign. Trish bought lots of sale-priced trees and shrubs – she’s planting a sanctuary to complement the earthbrick home they’re building on their two-acre lifestyle block.
Tagged Conservation, Ecology, Gardening, Gardens, Lifestyle, Lifestyle Block, New Zealand, Permaculture, Rural Environment, Sustainable Living, Trees
It’s the long Easter weekend and we’re spending the time at home. The weather’s fine but the temperatures are cooler – especially at night and a light ground fog greets us early these mornings. There’s lots of catch-up work to do and preparations for growing crops in the cooler months.
The tree that fell across the stream – the last of the flood debris, has been cleared. Himself and our neighbour ‘played’ with the chainsaw and the tractor. Much to his chagrin, two year-old grandson wasn’t allowed to help and had to spectate from a distance. Adults get to have all the fun even to dressing up and wearing red ear muffs and leather gloves!
Gardening convert son’s efforts are paying dividends. His recently planted gardens are producing lots of fresh green vegies. He prepared a new bed yesterday and raised it with wheelbarrow loads of rotted wood chippings and compost. Same son sowed rows of broccoli and carrot seeds. He’s annoyed about the white butterfly / caterpillar damage to his cauliflower seedlings.
The local garden centre phoned to let me know that three of the pohutukawa trees I’d ordered have arrived. It’s quite good timing as the ground is moist enough to dig planting holes. In a previous blog, I wrote about planning to plant trees as living connections as special living gifts that celebrate life events. Older son phoned last night to tell me there’s a 50% sale on fruit trees and that he’d managed to buy several fruit trees including an Egremont Russet apple, Omega plum, Snow White nectarine and two heritage fruit trees – a Clergeau pear and an apricot. I’ll get my friend to come along and bring their ute – sounds like there might be some bargains to be had.
Tagged Food Growing, Fruit Trees, Gardening, Gardens, Lifestyle, Lifestyle Block, Organic vegetable growing, Permaculture, Polyhouse, Sustainable Living, Trees, Vegetables