Autumn Harvests

I seem to have gone right through summer with only one or two posts, I apologise for my absence at the busiest time of the year for a garden blog – it’s just been crazy busy here. Most of my computer time is taken up with the Freeconomy Facebook page these days and I feel it’s important to keep up with that.

While the bottom vege garden is being put to sleep for winter the fruit trees and bushes have been giving us a huge amount of fruit – we have peaches, figs and all sorts of berries coming in bucket loads. I am freezing most of this, have made jams but no bottling of fruit this year – though I have made a batch of peach wine (I will post the recipe for this when I find out if it’s ok)

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This is what my benches look like every couple of days!

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We have harvested around 4 kgs of honey from the hives but have left heaps there for the bees for winter. I found an easy way to extract, covering an oven tray with aluminium mesh, cutting all the honey and comb out of the screen and placing on the mesh, put in the oven on around 50 deg C (barely warm) and the honey melts into the pan leaving the wax behind.

The herb garden is nearly empty and much of it sitting dried in boxes or hanging on two old clothes airers – what the lady of the houses uses when hubby is too busy to make a rack for her!

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The green hedges around the front have all grown up now creating the privacy we wanted.

DSC02214What else we have been doing: Roger is enjoying being back building and is doing an adult apprenticeship (did I mention that?) so he has been studying. He has also had some great scores from stuff that has been headed for dumps – a huge amount of school library shelving came home and has been shared out amongst his mates. He has lined his basement workshop with it and it’s now very orderly and tidy! He also got a great pile of insulation that was going to be thrown out and he has put it both underfloor and topped up the attic with it. He has been working on the water feature and finally got it standing, it was too heavy to lift on his own.

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With leftover concrete he made this on an old beehive tray I scavenged two years ago. In January we went to a family reunion at the site of the old homestead his mother was raised in and he took an old piece of barbed wire and a piece of chimney rock, they are in the middle here.

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Our truck has broken down so I am sort of stranded at home during the weeks, unable to work because I can’t get there. I can’t get to the markets either though my sister kindly offered to sell stuff for me at her market up North. Also all my products are now in our community office which sells local crafts. I have been doing the garden, preserving all the food (we have two large full freezers for winter) making sauces, chutneys and jams. Making a heap of soaps etc and trying to declutter by giving stuff to Freeconomy. All my soaps and creams are generally left downstairs which is a pain so I converted a little desk with it’s drawers and cupboards to a little store of things closer to hand. ???????????????????????????????

We are still intending on having a shop here so are moving in that direction…when all the food stops coming in and only the front garden producing again it gives more time for other things.

So, that’s what we are up to, I haven’t disappeared…still around 🙂 I hope those of you going in to Spring are enjoying the warmer weather and those of you heading towards winter have your firewood at the ready!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to you all, I hope this year you & yours stay healthy and happy, and your dreams come true….whatever they may be.

This is how I am feeling this New Year. I never make New Year resolutions, I have learned from experience that I am doomed to never keeping them 🙂 But I have spent alot of time thinking over this first few days of the year. I have started the year so weary!!! Our plans last year went all skew-iffy and all we have done the last four months or so is work because of company/organisational needs. Roger took a job of 3 days a week and has worked 5 since he started, because they “are behind”. I agreed early last year to go back to my former place of work as a reliever for occasional shifts only to keep my hand in there, I enjoy it and missed it. Over the year there have been a few issues (as there is in any place) and my hours crept up, for too many months we have been so short staffed that I have been working far too many hours for me – up to 65 hours a fortnight and 3 nights a week “on-call” if there are any problems. I work in a mental health respite place and have been there 7 years, I do love it. But I also want my life back, the one where I work in the garden, make soap and other things, I don’t want to be so tired on my days off I feel like a zombie. I have Fibromyalgia, I feel like crap most days but try and keep active because I need to. I don’t want to live with resentment at being ill all the time, resentment because too many other things steal my time, resentment because my needs are not being met. Basically, trying to fit “The Simple Life” into a hectic lifestyle doesn’t work 🙂 I want to sleep if I need to, sulk on the bad days… sleep under the stars because I just feel like it, pick wildflowers and herbs, create, dabble, experiment, experience and do things, whatever things I feel I need to do at that time! After telling my sister a couple of months ago I am doing fine pushing through feeling like shit, I now want to just surrender to the fact I feel like that, for the first time ever! So, with the New Year I am taking two weeks off work to decide whether I want to even go back because right now I am over it, I am exhausted, in pain and feeling very hard done by because my soap-making has turned to zilch along with time in the kitchen and garden doing what is important to us – what I enjoy doing has been absent and that’s not ok.

Anyway, after all that whining 🙂 I have to share this. This morning I received Happy Mail all the one from Canada and the funny, very talented, very delightful Kelly at Boomdeeadda. After commenting on her paper Halloween House a couple of months ago it arrived in a very cute package on my footpath. IMG_4330

Not only a most gorgeous haunted house but the cutest little poetry book I have ever seen, a postcard complete with flag, a Canadian gardening magazine and a bar of chocolate from a company in the Canadian Rockies. What utter JOY to unwrap 🙂 🙂 Look at this treasure!

IMG_4331The house and book are all made from scrapbooking paper, they are just the cutest things. And Mittens got the wrapping because he loved it so much.

Thanks so much Boomdee, truly, it made my week!! I am just amazed to see how intricate it all is and how much time it must of taken…and your very obvious patience!

Our Freecomonomy Community at Christmas

I hope you all had a great Christmas 🙂

Ours was different this year, suddenly hectic and not at all what we planned but was great.

Some of you know I started a Freecomony page on Facebook for our town earlier this year after reading a book I very much enjoyed by Mark Boyle, The Moneyless Man (here’s a post I wrote about it then). While I don’t aspire to living a moneyless life as he did I liked alot of what he had to say, in particular how the Freeconomy Community he started in his city was so successful. I like the pay-it-forward system of receiving what you need and providing what others need if you can at a later date, I like his anti-consumerism message of waste and poverty and his environmental ideals. Anyway I started this page which plodded along for months with nearly 130 people sharing, giving, receiving…but not in any big way, just quietly and slowly but I enjoyed watching people using it.

I had told a work colleague about it and she had said she would bring stuff in to me rather than take it to op shops. The last few months she had been trying to sell her house and had cleared stuff out for a garage sale, when it sold suddenly on the proviso they move out in two weeks she didn’t have time for the garage sale and asked me if I wanted the stuff for my page. Yep, I did. When I went to look at it there was 2 car loads and Roger’s truck full and I almost actually told her to ring an op shop to come and pick it up as we were so busy working and I was trying to get to the Christmas markets with my soaps. But, there were all these toys, beautiful ones….a pretty pink bike, 3 scooters, roller blades, PS 2 games, musical instruments, heaps of other toys, kids clothing and books and household stuff. It was 2 weeks before Christmas and we knew some people would not be able to afford toys so we took everything. Our lounge and dining room were full. I didn’t put them on the page but asked those who truly were struggling this year to message me with their kids sexes and ages. There were heaps who said there kids were not getting presents this year. I did our things but so did many of the other woman and it took off, 140 new people joined the page…those needing and those giving. My daughter in law came on board to help and my son, at 9 pm on Christmas Eve after putting out a plea for a donation of a PS 2 consul to go with all these games and a singstar, was given one by a lovely family who also gave a large box of wrapped presents for the family of 6 kids it was going to who had no pressies.  In the midst of this one young Mum, one of the first to reply to me privately had a fire in her kitchen that next night and spent three days in a caravan park with her 3 kids before being rehomed…we and others helped her with things. I saw so much generosity it truly made my heart sing and I had the best Christmas I have had in ages!! I have often said I never really enjoyed Christmas in the past but this year was truly special. It was great 🙂 🙂 The garden did not get done, my soaps never made it to the markets, our house was turned upside down, I had to fit everything around working but it was such a humbling and rewarding experience I have plans to do better for next year!

In contrast our Christmas Day was relaxed, very casual and we slept alot of it 🙂 The kids came for lunch or dinner but these were easy meals and we slept all afternoon. It is so hot here most Christmas Days that traditional lunches went out years ago and cold meats and salads are about as fancy as we get here. We got lots of chockies and wine and ate too much. One of my boys who is always told not to spend much (but never listens) bought us a swing seat that folds down to a double hammock….that is going to be a most well used piece of outdoor furniture!

Roger spent the 3 weeks prior to Christmas working at the local school helping to strip out and earthquake proof some of the rooms (the builders he works for were doing it). In the pile of stuff being thrown out was this large cubby hole unit, it was  painted with bright red, very ugly chipped and battered enamel paint. This was my present from him, lugged home, stripped down, sanded back and polished, I absolutely love it.

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We will be spending this week catching up, yet again, on the garden! Have a happy New Year all xx

Soooo busy, a short post….

The last few weeks have been way too busy! I am a casual at work, with twelve on the staff we have been managing on 6 of us the past few weeks at a workplace that operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week there has just been way too much of it for this young lady 😦 But it’s nearly at an end I hope as I haven’t been able to get back to the markets with my soaps until today. Roger came with me, I think he got sick of my moaning about being too tired to do it 🙂 🙂 I spent 9 hours yesterday packaging for pressies – I finally gave in and bought a cheap printer to make my own papers bought as digital from Etsy (very cheap!)IMG_4249 I got Happy Mail 2 weeks ago and haven’t had time to share but here tis 🙂 A most beautiful Christmas Bunting from the lovely TeddyandTottie who ran a giveaway and then decided everyone should have one!

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And here on my wall where it is the only thing of Christmas I have managed to do so far… and it’s beautiful. Thank you T&T xxx

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Other than that we have been attempting to catch up on the garden, weeding and watering and picking a sack of Broad Beans for freezing. IMG_4239

Did anyone else’s mother used to cook these till they were hard, dark grey and utterly revolting? Does anyone else have memories of sitting at the table till they finished their dinner….of hours spent looking at hard grey lumps on their plate? Once traumatised by these things I now love them.

Other than that the onions are harvested, the raspberry glut has started with a vengeance and we borrowed a still today to make more vodka for berry liqueurs – considering how quickly I drank them last year I am going to need ALOT more this time around!

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I hope you are all enjoying the start of the festive season 🙂

Garden, Soaps and Councils!

Things have been a little bit hectic around here and I have been popping in to have very quick reads of other blogs but I fear I am not keeping up to date, either with reading or posting.

The garden:

Is running riot and doing very nicely with not alot of help. Everything is planted but weeds at present are getting a little out of hand. Generally I do the front and Roger does the big garden but he has been so busy he hasn’t had time so this weekend hopefully we can catch up. The weather has been warm but really gusty, this time of year in our area it blows for a couple of months. The herbs are growing quickly and today I brought out the dehydrator for the first time of the season to dry some to keep them contained. The raspberries are ripening and about to be covered to protect from the birds. Everything else has fruited and it’s interesting to see the difference having the bees has made, we have fruit on trees that haven’t fruited before!

Look at the size of these broccolli!

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This afternoon I am going to pick what looks to be hundreds of broad (fava) beans, pod and freeze them. Everything else is fruiting and flowering despite us 🙂

We took trays out of the beehive last week absolutely full of honey but have no idea how we are going to harvest the honey. Roger tried to make a homemade spinny thing but it didn’t work so we froze the trays after googling to see if we could. You can see it here going into the contraption, and spinning but it didn’t have enough speed.IMG_4221IMG_4222

I did do one slowly in the oven and got 500 g but some was wasted so I think we will hire an extractor from the local beekeepers club.

Soaps etc:

I did my first market two weeks ago and really enjoyed it. My friend came too and also my granddaughter came to help.

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That is me squinting into the sun while my sun took a photo, it’s awful 🙂 I have been busy making more to be ready before Christmas but they still have at least two weeks to cure. We were supposed to go again tomorrow but rain is forecast. A problem with being 28 km away from the market and reliant on Roger taking tables in for me in the truck means I can’t get there every week because he has other things going on. We had alot of fun but you need to get there at 6 am to get a space, it was a long morning by 12.30.

Councils!

I don’t think I have ever mentioned we have very poor drinking water here. We drink it from the tap during summer if no rain but in winter it is filthy, we need to go to the school and fill up bottles. It’s disgusting. The government have passed a law to say everywhere in NZ must have safe water systems in place by 2016 so our council are now required to do something about it. Roger was asked if he would go on the town representative committee to assist the council in coming up with a decent option for us, he said yes and has been run off his feet the last 2 months as they put together an application for a government subsidy to help “us” pay for it. It seems the council expect the town ratepayers to pay a large amount of the cost for whatever system we end up though they will loan the town the money at 7% interest over 20 years. So, if we get the subsidy we can expect to pay an extra $700 a year on top of the $800 it already costs us for our water rates, if we don’t it will cost everyone an extra $56 a week for drinkable water. We will be drinking the most expensive water in the country someone said.

There is no way the community will accept that happily (including us) so I really don’t know what will happen over the next year or so except it is taking up an awful lot of Roger’s time. I don’t know what happens in other small towns but I think it’s shocking. Our town rates 8.5 on a deprivation scale (out of 10) for the country, there is no money here. There’s alot of concern from everyone, alot of anger expressed at the last town meeting, it’s all quite yuk.

Other than that life is OK and plodding racing away 🙂

TumbleDowns is on-line!

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A couple of you have expressed interest in seeing this so here is the link http://www.tumbledowns.co.nz/  It is not quite finished as I still have items to list but it’s up and running 🙂

I am very fortunate to have a most lovely niece and her hubby who did this all for their most hopelessly computer illiterate Aunty who has had them redoing everything she has tried to do herself. Gem and Dave, if you are reading, huge hugs and thanks for your most generous giving of time and skills…and never-ending patience xx

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The Spring garden and Roger’s new job!

It’s been two weeks since Roger left his job. The day after he handed in his notice of two week I was rung by a friend to ask if Roger would be interested in doing a job for her in his spare time, putting in a new hot water cupboard and a concrete base for her wood stove to be shifted onto in her kitchen. Yes, she could wait two weeks, so that’s what Roger did the first week.

When we decided he should give up his job we felt ok about it, trusted that everything would be ok and he would find something sooner or later, ideally 3 days a week so he would have time here to do what is needed. We trusted but we did have periods of anxiety because that’s not really the practical thing to do nowadays, job security is important. Anyway – while he was doing this work for my friend he wasn’t entirely sure of something so rung an old building workmate for some advice. The guy was off work after an op so called around and while there mentioned Roger’s old boss is always asking him “what’s Roger doing now?” and saying he was a damn good worker. So Roger rung him, they had a discussion and it’s turns out they are building a concrete precast yard in our little town, to build a new winery. Roger spent several years building concrete wineries, this guy said they could really use him, Roger told him he only wanted to work 3 days a week at present, the guy said that is fine and his hourly wage will be 50% higher than it was on the farm! He starts Monday. WE ARE OK, we are better than ok! Serendipidity 🙂

I found this on the net and it seems appropriate and I shall try to remember it.

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He has had a great week getting projects done but I can’t (won’t) show photos right now as he has also created a huge amount of mess everywhere and I have my pride! He has been using some of the scavenged timber to fence off the vegetable garden from the dog. It looks great but the whole back yard is a building site truly representative of Roger’s tendency to create chaos.

He has also been working on the fountain he started around 9 months ago. Done in stone aggregate and hardwood corner trims, he has put two stone hearts in the front. Problem is now though it weighs over 200 kg and he can’t lift it into place on his own.IMG_4068

A few pictures of the front garden

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The vegetable garden is all planted we have (in different stages of growth) potatoes, tomatoes, beans, lettuce, silver beet, spinach, pumpkins, apple cucumbers, zucchini, peppers, chilli, brocolli, cabbage, carrots, leeks, garlic, onions, red onion, beetroot all in. Roger doesn’t bother growing peas anymore because they take up too much room and you don’t get enough food from them according to him and we don’t grow corn because we have it given to us by friends.

Fruit we have growing are strawberries, red and black currants, peaches, cranberries, figs, feijoas, blackberries, boysenberries, raspberries plums (we hope we’ll get some this year along with the apricots) lemon, two newly planted passionfruit, new blueberry and gooseberry plants

Herbs we have are parsley, rosemary, chives, calendula, lemon balm, soapwort, mint, chamomile, peppermint, thyme, comfrey, oregano and basil, sage, feverfew, nasturtium, plantain.  Last year we dug out one of two remaining rock gardens to put in a bigger herb garden and the other one is about to be dug out for more.

Flowers: I have been planting some flowers in gaps around that I want for soaps creams etc. A friend has given me violets and lily of the valley plants, I have been splitting up geranium, planting marigolds and more calendula and a whole lot of sunflowers are going to be planted…somewhere!? It’s California Poppy time and I have been down the riverbed and beaches picking it – did you know it’s very good in wound salves? I made some this afternoon and will share the recipe during the week, along with some information about the uses of California Poppy’s I have found….it’s a handy plant for the medicine cupboard.

This morning we were out and about and I took a wrong turn down a street and ended up outside a scrap metal place that has junk and rubbish everywhere. Sitting in a pile of rubbish was this crate, it had one end broken but the two sides has this stamped on them. I gather it’s a wine crate…anyway, we snatched it and made a quick getaway lol

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I think one side will go on the dining room wall and the other ? Neat though.

I mentioned a while ago I had started a Freeconomy group for our area on Facebook and there is nearly 100 members now. It had been slow for the last month or so but people have started sharing seeds and plants which is great and I spent a good portion of a day last week running around delivering strawberry plants and vegetable seeds. It was nice and it was good to meet so many young people just starting out growing for their families. One person asked for anything spare so she could grow food for her kids and others joined in, it was great to see such alot of sharing happening. I was proud to see my son give away a near new mountain bike he wasn’t using, he thought someone could give it to a kid for Christmas but it was taken very appreciatively by a guy who needed it to get to work. I remember we had a discussion here about the fact some people will take advantage of other’s generosity but it’s proving to be a really worthwhile thing.

Sorry if this has ended up too long!