This Spring…we are scaling back the garden

I love Spring! It’s well and truly here and some of the days have been beautiful.

Roger and I have made a decision that we are going to scale back the garden this Summer and try and grow more year round. I spent much of last Summer and Autumn in the kitchen and fitting in gardening when I could but honestly….I would rather do other things than spend my time in the kitchen and at the end of Autumn I was really weary and grumpy. We grow enough food to feed half the neighbourhood, which is nice but it’s hard work for these fifty-somethings! I don’t want to do so much preserving this summer.

Roger is putting up the other glasshouse soon and we will use both through the late autumn and winter. The garden will remain the same size but we won’t be racing to succession plant this year. Every summer and autumn we grow up to three harvests from the same space, it makes for alot of work and long growing seasons.

He has planted the potatoes, beetroot, carrots, onions, broccolli, cabbage and lettuce. The beans will go in soon. In the glasshouse I have planted seeds for tomatoes, peppers, zucchini and we have a few spinach and lettuce in there and a chilli plant from last summer that is still producing.

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We have been picking chillies throughout winter.

The Strawberries are just being split up and planted everywhere, like the cattle feeder we salvaged πŸ™‚

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I am still working quite alot and this looks set to be the way till at least Christmas at this stage.

I have still been making soap, thinking soap πŸ™‚ Last weekend I went and scrounged Camelia petals and have dried some and the rest is infusing in oil.IMG_3933

I have been looking at different ways of just using natural ingredients for both colour and benefits. On the windowsill is Lemon Balm, Rosemary, Geranium Leaf, Camelia and Calendula petals.IMG_3953

Two batches I have made this week are Chamomile and Calendula. And note…Wendy is practising her photography for if and when she starts selling it πŸ™‚

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Soap making seems to me to be the ideal hobby for gardeners to use some of their herbs and flowers in other ways but food….and maybe, just maybe, a small cottage industry can be created! For all the years I took to eventually try soap making I now think I was mad for being so fearful of it….it’s simple. Just like driving, I didn’t learn how to drive until I met Roger at 9 years ago at 46.

We still have heaps of preserves left to last out till summer, still have heaps of frozen berries and fruit. Last summer I dried some cranberries and used the last of them today (along with some walnuts we still have heaps of)

Cranberry and Walnut Muesli

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Tonight I am going to make dog biscuits using this recipe that Syd likes so much but I will be using pumpkin instead of carrots.

Roger is looking for another job at present and has an interview next week for a building job….he goes between building and farming. This means though if he gets it we will have to give up Syd, he’s a farm dog who belongs to the owner. Gosh we will miss him terribly 😦 We will be left with Mittens, who just loves this huge old bowl I pulled out of the spare room.IMG_3928

Anyway, that’s all my news. I hope Spring is being lovely for you all in NZ and Oz! I have seen photos of gentle snow falling in America, ugh!

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59 thoughts on “This Spring…we are scaling back the garden

  1. I agree with Eric, never too late and your soap is beautiful! And the face cream I just love to pieces! I hope you are remembering how you made it? The photos are so sweet – I’m so sure you will have a lovely shop up and running in no time πŸ™‚

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  2. Mittens in that bowl is priceless, Wendy! It never ceases to amaze me the places in which cats choose to sleep. And, noooooo! You can’t give up Syd! (Sorry if I just made it harder!) He is gorgeous – ooohhh! how sad. We will all miss him. But on a brighter note, your soap looks amazing – you certainly keep busy with lots of different things. Good on you both for changing things up a bit with your garden. For the first time in a long time, I rested my veggie patches (and myself!) over Winter this year. I, too, was exhausted come Autumn and I just couldn’t face it. (That has never happened before and scared me a little because I love gardening and especially producing food for us to eat!) You have inspired me to scale things back a little this Summer so I don’t run out of steam for the next growing season. Happy soap making! xoxoxox

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    • Yes, it is priceless lol. He wouldn’t sleep in the fluffy box I made but spends hours in that bowl! Roger and I were just talking tonight and if/when he does leave he will see if we can keep Syd. We adore him and he would be stuck in a kennel most of the time on the farm. He loves us and would fret terribly.

      This aging biz is no good! Year by year it just gets that little bit harder to do the same things – that’s the reality. I was exhausted too and I can’t do that again to the same extent.

      Thanks πŸ™‚ xx

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  3. Your soap looks beautiful. The calendula really got my attention; all warm and full of goodness. The garden and the gardeners need to be fallow or less active sometimes. There is a right time for everything. I was 44 or 45 when I learned to drive. I am happy to meet another late starter. That was the right time for me. I would have been a terrible driver at 16 or 20 or …. However I am not going to make soap. πŸ˜€ I will leave that to you.

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      • Oh, I know 😦 It’s just a national disgrace it still is so bad, I really do feel for the people of Christchurch. As if the quakes weren’t bad enough!! We watch Campbell Live every night and see the stress people are still under, I just find it deplorable. Were you badly affected?

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      • The physical damage to our house was limited but most of that has been repaired. We have one outstanding insurance claim for the garden paths, fences etc. Mentally the damage is greater. My daughter, whose mental health was fragile pre-earthquake, was completely undone by the earthquakes, and left to live in the far north of Australia. She is too afraid to come home, so in a sense our family has been shattered.

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      • Oh, I am really, really sorry to hear that 😦 I can relate, we are in Seddon and I was home alone through most of ours including the biggest one that smashed everything, I was absolutely terrified and it took months to come right. Even now I jump if I think it’s an earthquake, before they never worried me. I hope she feels safe where she is but am sad for you, that’s tough. Our mental health team spent alot of time down there, I know it’s been terrible for so many, the rebuild of Christchurch will take a long, long time in more ways than one 😦

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      • I bet you were terrified. And you had every right to be. My daughter feels safer except she worries all the time that we are not safe. But, every place has its dangers, and we can’t run from everything.

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      • No, we can’t run from everything. Life is full of uncertainties and we live on a planet that can be wild and ferocious at times – we have little control in that area, just have to cope with with whatever the best way we can. I felt silly for the fear and anxiety I felt until I realised a good proportion of the men in the valley were feeling the same…it IS scary.

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      • It was probably the only time I have felt absolute fear. I wish I could have been as calm as John Muir during the Owens Valley earthquake of 1872 “At half-past two o’clock of a moonlit morning in March, I was awakened by a tremendous earthquake, and though I had never before enjoyed a storm of this sort, the strange thrilling motion could not be mistaken, and I ran out of my cabin, both glad and frightened, shouting, “A noble earthquake! A noble earthquake!” feeling sure I was going to learn something.” Isn’t that brilliant?

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      • Yes, I will also try to be amazed and thrilled. Reading some accounts of early 20th Century quakes in PapersPast, it’s astonishing how calm people seem to have been. Perhaps people then were closer to nature and were not so traumatized by what it could do. And they were not concerned about losing power, radio, fridge stocks, cell phones etc…;)

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      • I think people were alot hardier back then and resilient. We are not so used to the truly difficult times nowadays. And I agree there, the loss of all those things we generally take for granted can be stressful.

        Hopefully there are no such experiences in the future neither of us has to try and be amazed and thrilled about πŸ™‚

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  4. Lovely spring story…whilst I indeed welcome the slowly approaching fall weather;0) Hmm what a dilemma to give up Syd but Mittens is picture perfect in the bowl!! And it is wonderful to read to learning new skills goes on forever throughout your whole life!! Johanna

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    • πŸ™‚ This is the first winter I have ever enjoyed and I think it was because nothing was expected of me, we got to take things easy and that was nice!! We got to other things that interest us – we need to do that year round.
      I never had much of a chance to pursue interests when I was younger, I worked and raised a large family, I am loving the chance to now DO things I enjoy and learning new stuff πŸ™‚ Hopefully that will keep my tragically forgetful brain from getting worse lol!

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  5. Cats are funny hey. I nearly died laughing the day I saw my cat asleep on top of the fire. And yes, it was warm! It must have been after lunch as I’d let the fire die out after the morning chill was eased and he found a warm place out of range of the kdis on which to sleep. Clever kitty!
    Nice work on the soap too. I love that calendula one. πŸ™‚
    I bow to the wisdom of your gardening too.

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    • Cats are certainly different aren’t they lol?! One of Mitten’s favourite places is on the stereo when it’s going, and if it’s going loud then all the better πŸ™‚ I wonder how your cat knew it would be warm but not too hot to climb on.
      I am loving the soap Jess, I feel like an alchemist at work πŸ™‚

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      • It’s funny how the warnings about lye scare the pants off us (and they should most definitely be firm warnings) but I wonder if it’s modern society and how it sometimes seems to be afraid of living that puts the fear into us about lye. Caution? Yes, but fear isn’t necessary. As we both now know. πŸ™‚

        Yeah, I wondered the same about Mr Maxxie. He ws quite comfy toasting his furry butt on a stove that was the PERFECT (or should that be purrfect? πŸ˜‰ ) temperature stove. Any hotter would have hurt his little paws. I’ve never seen or heard any evidence of trial and error either and he’s a pretty vocal cat.

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      • Yes Jess, I would agree with you there. When you think what our pioneers went through we are definately more neurotic and anxious about things nowadays….keeping up with the pace of life and a rather more complex life maybe.

        Cats seem to have a great antenna system going on for what’s good in their environment and what’s not! Dogs just do whatever, bit like teenage boys πŸ™‚

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  6. I was going fine till I saw that you are going to have to give up Syd! Oh NO! 😦 I can see why you would scale back the mammoth efforts that you guys go to in your summer harvest and spread that love around. More natural and less crazy methinks. I guess we just have to remember how our fridgeless ancestors did it. They just dried things out and did a bit of preserving and remembered how to stick things in dirt for them to keep etc. Can’t wait to see how your gardening flows from the main garden through to the glasshouses…most interesting and that soap is gorgeous Wendy, especially the calendula and the soaking petals etc. make me remember my gran who was always fermenting or bubbling something weird looking away in her kitchen πŸ™‚

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    • Far less crazy πŸ™‚ We actually grew quite a bit through this winter and didn’t rely so heavily on preserved so will use that and build on the year round thing. Mind you it’s been a particularly mild winter but with two glasshouses we will be right….there IS only two of us πŸ™‚

      Your Gran must be where you kept that “fermenting and bubbling” from πŸ™‚ Years ago I had alot of interest in using flowers for different things and am remembering that now….I really enjoy it. After removing all flowers in favour of food (and because I was quite sick at the time and couldn’t keep those gardens up) I am now regretting that so will sneak some back in πŸ™‚
      We decided we will ask to keep Syd. He is a working dog and absolutely loves that and would miss it, but he is also a cuddly, adoring, couch sleeping dog (not that the boss knows this, he was sent with a kennel!) and he is too lovely to be left in a kennel in a paddock most days with only occasional yard work. Roger takes him out with him every day but that would end…they are fond buddies πŸ™‚

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      • πŸ™‚ I think you need Syd…if you want a reference from over the pond sing out, I will fax one post haste :). I am with you on the produce being best spread over the year. I read about people spending days and weeks over a hot stove preserving all kinds of things that I wouldn’t even eat…I would just dry as much as I could (much smaller jars and if you built enough solar dryers you could do it all outside with no noise, no hassle, no worries!) and everything else would be turned into ferments or chutneys and sauces as I can’t be doing with preserved fruit. Eat it fresh or not at all is my moniker (aside from dried from whence it is no longer fruit but natures sweets πŸ˜‰ ). I think we need to get a group together to come with you cap in hand to the boss to get Syd…call up Ms Pauline. I know that she is probably miles away but she is all out of “Partay” by now and ready for a good cause. I would be with you in an instant but the ditch is a bit big and I can’t bloody well swim :(. With you in spirit (I am an old union bird of old πŸ˜‰ ) and will be keeping everything that will still cross crossed for Syd becoming your loll around mutt πŸ™‚

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      • Yes, I prefer fresh over preserved any day but when it comes down to money it makes sense to preserve, freeze and dry BUT I know our diet is alot healthier over summer and we need to grow much more winter stuff. Our garden freezes over but two glasshouses will do it for us.
        Pauline’s been out partying for her birthday for a week? πŸ™‚ She will be exhausted lol
        Roger’s boss knows they are a team and how well Syd is looked after, he always comments on it. He might just get bolshy and insist on his ownership of him and at the end of the day he would be right but he didn’t have to pay for him (he was given away) and he gave him straight to Roger as his working dog….dunno how it will go.

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  7. Wendy, your decision makes so much sense. I’ve always been impressed by how much work you do to put up all your food. This will free up a lot of time for you to pursue hobbies or just get some rest. You have me thinking now whether I should keep a section of my property for a greenhouse and keep a balance between what needs put up and what can be picked and eaten year round.

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    • Hi Lois πŸ™‚ I just don’t have the energy levels I used to have and yeah, last season I didn’t get enough time for rest and some me time. This winter I have had lots of time for crafts and learning soap making…I don’t want to go back to just too busy and tired over summer. Roger didn’t get time to build a second glasshouse but will need to now over summer….we would rather eat more fresh.

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      • I can’t wait to hear how it goes. I’ll just follow your lead and learn from you. I had been thinking from the start of eventually turning the larger deck into an enclosed greenhouse because in the winter it would be hard to get out to one in the yard and this would be accessible. Not something I can do for a couple of years though.

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  8. RT says:

    Great pictures, Wendy! I’m glad you have the option to spread out your growing season with your glass houses. Besides the benefit of fresh food through winter, you can stretch out your preserving efforts, too, if you choose. Sounds like there are lots of changes for you and Roger happening. Hope you are successful at keeping Syd. Happy Spring!

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    • Oh, you really should give it a go!! I wanted to for years and didn’t, but honestly it is easy. I used this recipe as one of my first and it is really economical http://www.greeningofgavin.com/2010/10/our-soap-recipe.html. He also has a video on making soap. Just start with basic stuff first and it doesn’t take long to learn. I don’t have thermometers and just blend them when a little warmer than blood temperature, I use an old cake mixer and lots of things can be used for molds. It’s a lovely way to use plants from the garden but petals discolour with the lye unfortunately, calendula are the only ones that don’t – you can infuse them though in the oils you are going to use.

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  9. I too love beautiful smelling and looking soap. I would put it in the cupboard with my sheets. It makes the cupboard smell divine and the sheets smell nice on the bed. You are so clever making all that soap! I love the cat in the bowl, they are just so full of themselves aren’t they. Mine is the boss in the house, but as soon as she goes outside, the dogs become the boss lol. Really hoping you get to keep Syd the dog x

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    • Thank you … my whole house smells lovely πŸ™‚

      The cat is the boss in this house, inside and out. Poor Syd might be big but he’s such a sook and the cat has it all over him lol. I hope we get to keep him too, thanks for that πŸ™‚

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  10. how did I miss this post????? I almost wanted to do a post like this becasue I have been frustrated with my attitude about putting food up. I put some up ,but can’t do the volumns, I see others do. I don’t have my kids here( living-we are empty nesters) as much, so I grow enough for several families. I need to scale back,too.
    . You make me feel so much better, I was feeling like I was being lazy. I don’t even do half of what you do at havest time,but I do eat fresh as I can out in the garden. I have spring veggies, summer veggies and fall/winter veggies and have been growing more microgreens in between. I just can’t be in the kitchen that much…I am just not a kitchen junkie-lol. I go in there and love to cook fresh food, but I want to get out as soon to do other things….So how are you scaling back-not in garden size, but what you put up?
    Your soap is beautiful, I would love to purchase some if you do go on etsy. It is soap art-if there is something like that-love the way you explore with your soap….Love the colors you are discovering!.I really admire your “gift” for making beautiful soap. That picture is mighty nice for Etsy….won’t be too long before the shop opens…do you have a name?

    Oh well, off to pick another batch of raspberries to freeze. Love them,but getting tired of eating them everyday-shame on me for complaining-lol..will put them way for winter eating!;-)
    p.s. check this forum out about insurance for soap making–there are several out there. I had some handmade products I wanted to sell on etsy, not now but maybe down the year, so I found you need insurance for certain products made from your yard etc..or soap..
    http://www.soapmakingforum.com/showthread.php?t=31969

    There are several, but I can’t remember the main one, but here is a forum to ask questions….You, Go Wendy! It looks like you are doing a great job. Us 50somethings have some skip in our step still! I am still working on m goals, but not there yet…good to see you are moving along:-)

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    • Hi Robbie. I am happy in the kitchen but certainly no “junkie” πŸ™‚ I love it now the kids are all gone and I don’t have to bake all the time and we just eat whatever’s going, no fuss. Last year was no problem but this year I did more but also went back to casual work and Roger had several projects he helped friends with….I truly was exhausted, I found it hard to blog without sounding like “Now I have another bloody crop of …. to do!!!” I don’t want it to be such a priority this summer while still doing the very seasonal things we enjoy.

      No, I won’t be selling on Ebay Robbie. I am just going to set up my own site. There are so many on Ebay and I want to keep it more local, as far as I know no-one in our area does this. But I am happy to send you some πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

      It’s early days yet but I spend ages looking at what others do and yes, it is an art form I think. I used to enjoy cake decorating (a lonnggg time ago) and I also used to love doing things with flowers and reading about herbs and perfumes etc. I guess it’s all those interests put together that has me enjoying it. I have never really had time for the ME things before so I have enjoyed winter, it’s given me chances to explore stuff. The 50’s are good years I now consider, I didn’t think so for one minute the day I turned 50 lol.

      You will much appreciate those raspberries come winter πŸ™‚

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      • awww…well, when you do sell it let me know..I will be the first to order some since I LOVE homemade soap.
        Your posts always were postive about your cooking:-) I had no idea you were exhausted. I was exhausted watching because I knew it was hard work…you made it look so effortless..which we know it is not:-)
        You are such an inspiration!
        I love stopping by every week to find out ” what is Wendy up to”….so much fun!
        Your soap is beautiful…
        I agree with you…this is such a fun time to rediscover “us” ….what we use to enjoy…I am just going into too many directions! lol…hyper me!

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      • Well I am pleased you find me an inspiration Robbie but I just get mine off the net too πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚
        I guess what I do share is my/our commitment to grow what we can ourselves and yes, preserve it. This hasn’t changed but my energy levels have and that’s just the reality. With all the best will in the world I can’t do what I did again so we just need to change the way we do things a bit. Roger has an abundance of energy compared to many men his age but he has so many things on the go (like you maybe πŸ™‚ ) that sometimes the garden takes too much time for him to grow so much through summer. BUT many things will remain the same – the fruit and berries are a good proportion and they ARE seasonal as are quite a few veg. We have found we can grow beetroot (beets) for instance all year around so I don’t need to bottle it in summer really. Large amounts of carrots don’t need freezing because we can grow them most seasons. The frozen beans haven’t appealed that much over winter so we have a mountain sitting uneaten.
        You are lucky you are “hyper”, gosh I wish I was lol.
        You don’t need to buy soap, I will send you some when I have some better stuff cured πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

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  11. Wendy I so so can relate to the ‘Feeling Grumpy’ bit in the kitchen.. ME too.. Oh as we reap the harvest its been great to have so much success with produce.. But if I am honest I have been very grumpy over the amount of Blackberries we have gathered.. LOL.. I have made 12 pots of Jam. and frozen LOADs more, Raspberries too have been very abundant… Every time Hubby comes back from the allotments he would come with another carrybag full.. Which meant I have to soak them and go through them.. Then lay them out and Freeze them separate so they don’t freeze in a lump.. .. I know I shouldn’t complain.. But when you are itching to paint.. and you spend half the day in the kitchen cleaning and preparing food to freeze or make into soups.. Tomato, Broccoli,and I had a go a beetroot soup too.. Not to mention blending beetroot into smoothies every morning.. We really should be jumping to the Moon in Good Health LOL.. But I can do Grumpy! Very well!!! hehe…
    Your Soap Looks Fabulous… And I can almost smell those infusions of fragrances.. Your photo’s look fabulous… Very professional.. πŸ™‚

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    • I do grumpy well too Sue lol, never mean to but honestly, much as I love the thought of doing it all the actual dong it all is a messy, time consuming practice that takes an awful lot of gritting your teeth and knuckling down – the season starts off well but finishes with a moody woman who just wanted to “lie on the grass in the sun and listen to the birds at least once over summer!”
      I have always been just a point and click photographer so have alot to learn πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

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