Rain, rain and more rain

The past 4 days it has just rained. After months of none at all we have quickly become a quagmire in the garden, it’s been cold and miserable.

Garden:

Roger made a feed tray for the chooks from an old paddling pool frame (from his “collection of useful junk”) The fence is really high and a bit awkward for me to undo so I generally tip food over it, ok when it’s dry but not when muddy.Image

Before any bale of peastraw gets to the garden the chooks get to enjoy it for a while, pecking insects out and whatever out.

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Roger has been repotting boysenberry plants that have rooted. Shoots self root and can be cut from the parent plantImage

He took this photo to show me his wonderful compost under his 2 yr old branches left in a pile down the back of the garden.

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This is a carrot he left to go to seed. He hasn’t done this before but instead of collecting them he prepared some earth then shook the large seedheads everywhere. He is hoping they grow this way….?Image

Kitchen:

Shameful bragging – look at the size of our figs this year!! This is a decent sized avocado next to this one.Image

I have been drying any excess as they come in, there is not enough yet to bottle. Figs really only last a day or two before they spoil, we had our first meal of buckwheat pancakes, bacon and honey grilled figs and it was good!!!!Image

Drying herbs at the same timeImage

Making more chutney and a large jar of onions.Image

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I keep a pail of wild bird seed on the porch and mix it with fat left in the roasting tin for the birds, the chooks also love it. This mix costs $7 for a large bag at the supermarket but a local seed and grain place sells it for only $3.30.  Apparently irresistible to a certain cat.Image

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Home:

A month or so ago I wrote a post about thoughts of leaving here. We have each decided we want to stay put 🙂 We’re too old to start over and we are rooted here when it comes down to it 🙂 We have thoughts of how we can earn some income from here but won’t mention those just now, a “one-day plan”. Next weekend, Easter, we are going to repaint the lounge after leaving it undercoated for rather a long time.

This bird’s nest is too tiny to catch a decent photo but we were amused to find it when Roger cut down the trees at the back. In the earthquakes last year our hot water cyclinder burst. We replaced it and Roger pulled the old one to bits to get a most lovely copper inner out. It was insulated with old wool that he put in a sack, this nest was made with some of it 🙂

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This has been sitting on our front porch for ages, my son was going to throw it out. I grabbed it but never did like the black of it and one piece of cane was missing from the front. Image

I got bored the other day and decided to repaint this. Roger plucked a piece of cane from the back of a cane bookcase to fill the gap. I am not doing a great job but it will be better I hope than before…maybe? maybe not 🙂

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Anyway, I think that’s all this week from Quarteracre. Keep warm those in the Southern Hemisphere and enjoy your Spring those in the Northern 🙂

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Growing our own food – frugal food, self reliance and the learning of new/old skills.

Things are so tough for many out there right now and it heartens me to see so many young ones returning to the habits of older generations, growing some of their own food. This may end up a long post for regular readers who have heard it all before but this is for those who are thinking maybe they would like to try for a garden, or grow on what they are already doing.

When we moved here there was just lawn and we shopped like everyone else. This was 3 months after we moved in, a wee vegetable garden had been put in (bottom corner) Excuse the dead branches by the house, this was Roger thinning out a dead vine!

IMG_0033 Our garden has grown over the years but it was only last summer we decided to really go for it and see how far we could go with “eating from our section”. This has been a journey of learning self reliance….one thing leads to another and formally frugal habits have been replaced by simple living, making our own cleaning mixtures, less chemical exposure, an appreciation for nature and our environment, searching for more free foods, the trading and sharing of our excesses and helping others.last summer

So, here where we are now (actually taken last summer).

We are fortunate that Roger works on a farm and can get meat – for those of you who can’t work in farming though it’s all relative, he earns a low wage, the meat is counted in with it. I don’t eat alot of meat and basically no-one needs to eat alot of it. Much of our diet can be grown at home with eggs, vegetable, fruits and berries….nuts if you are lucky enough to have a large section. Our diet comes from a garden that’s probably 1/8 acre. This is why we do it, this was my shopping last week for two people.

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I already had 2 bottles of milk in the fridge bought the week before on special. The avocados were cheap so I got 10. The spices and seals were for preserving. The wee tins of fish are for me. We can’t grow bananas. Roger prefers this brand of softened butter opposed to the butter/olive oil blend I make sometimes. Dates, raisins and raw peanuts are healthy additions to our diet. Basics like sugar, flour, vinegar etc are bought in bulk. The bread is Rogers favourite. Few of these things are necessities, but desires. I also had cheese already, and a little coffee I bought up on special. Just about everything I buy is bought in bigger quantities when on special eg the avocados here. I also don’t show the pet food here.

Seeds and buckwheat are bought from the bulk store and I will go every week or two and stock up on stuff like this…coconut, brown rice, dried beans, baking soda etc.

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This is basically our shopping for the week…things like toilet paper and soap are purchased in bulk when cheap. We spend on average around $40 – $60 per week on our food and some weeks all we buy is milk. A few years ago our Health Dept put our a brochure for shopping on a low income and it was estimated $70 per person is the least a person could live on foodwise in NZ and this would be for a very basic diet, nowhere near as healthy as we eat.

Garden produce is either frozen, pickled, bottled or made into sauces, jams, chutneys…or boozy drinks! An old disused laundry has been crudely converted into a store room, a would be larder…(note the earthquake proof shelving as last year alot of bottles and jars just slid off shelves)

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I still have a couple of months preserving to go then the majority of our food is stored for the remainder of the year. In fact, we could survive from our food stores and garden etc until next summer (9 months) if need be…and still be healthy.

I sometimes also make white bread for Roger and freeze some, three loaves can be made for $1.80.Image

Every few weeks I am tempted to buy something like this – a deli pack the supermarket sells cheap. This all cost $7.95 and their are foods we don’t get…salami, ham, quiches so I don’t have to cook tea a couple of nights. All of this can be frozen. Served with salad they all make a good meal for those nights Wendy doesn’t  be bothered  cooking / making her own quiche or Roger would just like toasted sandwiches for a change.

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 Again these are just desires.

Truly we could survive from our garden if need be. We preserve summer fruits and vegetables to eat through winter. We preserve nice things to eat because we can, because they add variety, nutrition, a taste of summer through the cold months. If we wanted we could just freeze everything but we make our preserves because we appreciate the flavours on what could otherwise be quite a limited winter diet.

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 Sharing food with others means they share in return. These pears and oranges came from friend, lemons we pick from an unowned tree down the street. These apples came from a wild tree by the farm.Image

At present I am doing a juice, salad and soup detox so am living on vegetables from the garden, along with dried beans/legumes and feeling good for it on the third week. I am not starving to death and am surviving well 🙂

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Eggs supply alot of nutrition and with eggs and vegetables you always have a meal.

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We also just got bees to get our own honey….this lasts forever, is a healthier alternative to sugar and the bees will help pollinate the fruit etc.

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To put food, our shopping habits and what we really need to survive into perspective, I like this. The healthiest and happiest looking people I think are those from Mali who have (by comparison to western diets) a very basic diet sitting in front of them.

What people eat in different countries around the world

We grow herbs in the garden too, these can be used fresh, dried, used for skincare or remedies. I am still learning about the use of herbs and do not get enough time to really get into it but herbalism really interests me, I have a whole lot of learning to do in this area!

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Rose and Calendula Hand Cream

Rose and Calendula Hand Cream

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I recently bought a book on foraging in NZ and what wild weeds, herbs, fruits etc can be used and the making of medicines etc. This I found at a secondhand book store for $2.50, a quick flick through tells me I will be reading this avidly over autumn and winter to learn from. Besides personal interest in this sort of thing I have to say this – I am not convinced the economy will pick up any time soon, things could get alot harsher for everyone, us included. We believe it is our responsibility to be able to fend for ourselves if need be. Basic necessities in life are food, warmth and shelter…you have to add water. Many are living now on social security and benefits because of the high unemployment rates and existing poverty by the new working poor, so many in fact it is not sustainable.

Another depression or war would force so many to find food where they can. W want to learn how to survive if the need be. Sounds terribly pessimistic but I’d rather be knowledgeable than naive or ignorant if the “shit should ever hit the fan”.

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This month I have been doing an e-course I won through another blogger, Lois, at Living Simply Free . The course has been really interesting and was offered through Handcrafted Travellers. This young couple are very inspiring and have a great ethos, that of living off the land. I am ashamed to say I have not finished the reading but have it all stored to do so, I have just simply been too busy but I feast off their site!

In this course we have learned about embracing simplicity, experiencing quality v quantity, resistance and learning to say “No”, chemical free cleaning, getting rid of plastics, herbal beauty, handcrafted and natural clothing, learning new skills, earthing, the importance of Vit D, limiting technology for your health and wellbeing…in general self reliance and living in harmony with nature. They have a beautiful site and have much of interest to say, they also run many courses.

Another blogger I follow and whose post I recommend here is Rohan from Whole Larder Love. Read here how he jackhammered through concrete slabs to start his garden and honestly, this guy has a lovely blog…he lives off the land, fishes, hunts, runs classes and sells his vegetables. Also very inspiring.

We also practice self reliance in other areas too, which will be the subject of another post to come, this is already too long!

And so, after 15 – 18 months, this is where we are at 🙂 I will stress here, we are not feeling we deprive ourselves of anything. If we want it we will buy it, we enjoy the food we eat, I cook really nice meals and we like the fact it costs us so  little.

The First Week of Autumn

I don’t know what happened to summer this year, it’s been cooler than usual, cloudier than usual and has gone in a blur . The firewood has started coming, the garden is dying off in a mess of wilting foliage. The only good thing about autumn is the fig, pumpkin and feijoa harvests, smiling sunflowers…then it’s just one big clean up and the wintering down off most of it. 

The garden:

Roger is grinning from ear to ear today….we finally got his bees. We have been waiting for a year or so for a hive to come up cheaply and it did. They aren’t cheap, but this was 1/2 the price we usually see them for. The man he bought them from this morning assured us there would be 30 kg of honey from this box, additionally there would be beeswax and the pollination of vegetable plants and fruit trees. We then had to buy a book on keeping bees which was not cheap either…..I think the first new book I have bought in decades.

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Mittens early morning routine of watching the chooks being fed. It’s a good thing they are behind a huge fence I think.Image

The leeks are growing well, the zucchini are dying off and behind them a mass of pumpkins and ripening wine grapes.

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A pumpkin invasion.Image

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The tomatoes are nearing the end. With such a cool summer we didn’t get nearly as many as I had hoped for despite planting extra plants. We got heaps but not enough for the year, I will be buying some!

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Silverbeet (Chard) self seeds everywhere. We have masses of it, we eat alot of it and the chooks love it.

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Beans and beetroot still growing but not much longer for the beans.Image

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The herbs are nearing the end for many, the big herb garden has been covered with peastraw to build up the soil and keep weeds down over winter. The oregano flowering.Image

In the glasshouse we have peppers and chillis just fruiting/ripening and one enormous tomato plant that doesn’t have alot of fuit, is keeping sun off the other plants but Roger is very proud of it:)

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In November we decided to journal all our harvesting to see how much we could grow. So far, in three months it is up to nearly 300 kg (2.2 lbs to kg I think?) of fruit, vegetables and berries. There is still alot to come. This from our garden which is probably 1/8 acre. 

The kitchen:

I have been making tomato sauces, both barbecue sauce and a ketchup. We love both of these recipes. I save my olive oil bottles for tomato sauce, I have done 4 litres, maybe another 4 will do.

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And started some Blackberry Liqueur.

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And it’s soup season, another thing to be thankful to autumn for 🙂 

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Home:

These are some of the guys from Vanuatu, they came last night for farewell drinks…all rather shy of the camera 🙂 These guys come over to work in the vineyards and we know them well now. This is the summer crew. We were talking last night about their lives…they either have family land or buy a small area for very little, build their houses from wood they chop down, live in small villages and their food is practically free. They grow their own vegetables, eat mostly seafood they catch and occasional chickens (usually for ceremonial meals) and their fruit and coconuts are picked freely from the thousands of trees that grow naturally. That’s their diet and for all our food groups and daily requirement lists….these guys are truly fit and healthy. They speak between 3 and 4 languages and are honest, hardworking, proud but humble people. Vanuatuans have twice been voted the world’s happiest in the world. I just thought I would add all this after the other day’s grumpy post about dissatisfaction 🙂 🙂

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Second month of summer and busy…busy!

I must apologise for my lack of posts 🙂 I got an email from dear Robbie asking if I was ok just as I came on to do one. We have had visitors for nearly a month, different ones coming and going and I have also been relieving at work so things have been a tad busy. There’s alot going on in the garden but I have done little preserving yet (though I have done beetroot) it’s early days and we are just enjoying all the fresh food. Tomatoes, cucumbers, capsicums, chillis etc still have a ways to go and won’t be ready for another month or two.

The garden.

Mr QAL has planted beans for Africa and we have picked 8 kg so far without even starting on the second lot of plants (or 3rd!!)They are beautiful ones we plant every year because they yield so much, are small in size to freeze whole and are sweet and tender. The breed is Cabot.

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The second harvest of carrots is being pulled up tomorrow. These have grown beautifully this season.Image

The garlic harvest on Roger’s homemade drying rack.Image

The first lot of onions are ready to come out.Image

Pumpkins are doing there thing across the only piece of lawn left in the back yard. This was where I sunbathed but no more!

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The first decent bunches of grapes on our vines. These were planted two years ago and now growing all over the bottom pergolas.

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One of two rock gardens has been ripped out and replaced with more herbs and two passionfruit vines to grow against the house in the only spot we could grow them. It doesn’t look much at present but will fill out nicely. Roger informed me proudly after this, when the next one is done there will be nowhere you could step on our property that doesn’t have food growing within a metre 🙂 Image

The garden is flourishing with hot sunny days and many wet ones which we don’t normally get. We have one woeful crop this year, our potatoes haven’t done so well. The first were tiny but still edible, the second lot a little better and only the third crop were half-pie decent. We have no idea why this happened.Image

A gift 🙂

Roger’s sister has recently been to stay. She is a nun working in Salvadore, Brazil. I have enjoyed listening to her stories of her life there, she has a garden full of banana trees and wee monkeys. We see her only every few years and this was her first stay here. She was terribly excited to see her brother’s garden and skited much on our behalf to the other relations who dropped by. When she left she gifted us this, a worm farm 🙂 Yet to house worms but they live down the road so not long.Image

Our garden shed

When I was taking photos it occurred to me I have never shown you this, our garden shed. We bought this our first summer, the only shed here was an old container which became our chook house very quickly. We are fortunate to have an underhouse basement that is very large but a way from the garden. We searched an online auction site here and it took some time before this came up…it was a pigeon coup full of pigeons. We got it for $60 and Roger and a friend bought it home, barely fitting on the back of his ute. The pigeons were rehoused to a relation and we got a shed with lots of wee cubby holes very cheaply. Image

Chickens!!

Much as hubby loves his chickens I often wonder if they are worth the hassle!! Our chooks have been eating their eggs which is a really hard thing to break. Some suggest blowing eggs and putting mustard in, we will try this. Apparently in Brazil they burn their beaks with a lighter…we won’t be trying this! Roger came up with an idea though which we think has stopped them. When they escaped last time we found a eggs a few weeks later we hadn’t seen. Too old to eat they were put in a bowl and left in the garden. He put those back in the chook nesting areas and I imagine they got a very nasty surprise when they pecked those! We think this has stopped it but time will tell.

I hope other Kiwis and Australians are enjoying their gardens and all others are keeping warm, dry and well!

Other residents of the garden :)

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Hedgehogs used to be nocturnal creatures but we see them alot now during the day, it is though now there are few wild predators to stay away from that they are now adapting to daylight hours. This little man survived a terrible incident a few weeks back – hubby went down to the garden one morning and found him swimming in the bath of seaweed water we have there….he had climbed up onto the compost heap next to it (now removed!) and Roger found him worn out and very cold. He rinsed him off and bought him inside where he sat in front of a fan heater sneezing for a couple of hours 🙂 Once he had eaten and had recovered he was put down under the trees by the chook run.

Twice a day when we feed the chooks he comes out to eat with them. He lets Roger pick him up, doesn’t roll himself into a ball or show any fear, and appears to be very content living with the chooks…there are places he could get in and out but he stays.

We had relations from Australia staying last week who had two wee kids, one a four year old girl. They don’t get them there so she very much enjoyed seeing a different one sitting in the front garden one night eating his way through a large dog biscuit.

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We have a resident blackbird family. We think it is the same parents who every year nest in the macrocarpa hedge opposite our lounge windows. For four years we have been watching them go in and out of the hedge, we hear the male bird singing at the top of his voice for weeks when they are hatched and then watch as the babies eventually come down into the garden. They are now coming into the chook run when we feed the chickens as well, their parents get the food then feed it to the babies who are almost as big as them.IMG_3065

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I had a lovely experience last weekend when a homing pigeon came and sat in the garden with me for a couple of hours. It was a really hot day and he flew down beside me to drink from a puddle left by the hose.  I tried to tempt him to stay by feeding him chicken pellets and wild bird seed and he was content to follow me around the garden but Syd, our big black dog, frightened him away barking at him. I soooo wanted to be able to keep him – I dearly would like some doves but hubby does not, a stray homing pigeon would have done nicely!

Woohoo, we have berries again! Garden, kitchen and “stuff”.

Garden:

The garden is growing well and keeping us busy….well in fairness it’s keeping Roger more busy than I, summer and autumn are my times of busy….busy. Sorry this post seems rather long!

This morning Roger made a black mesh cage for the raspberries to keep to keep the birds off them. The three rows of berries are coming along nicely, so far we have had 1.25 kg off them. Not bad for the first week 🙂 Likewise the strawberries – a breakfast of strawberries, raspberries, banana and homemade yogurt is a good and welcome one!

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All the vegetables are growing nicely except the first patch of potatoes. We should be eating them by now and they are tiny, we have no idea why.This has had Roger researching and scratching his head. All the conditions have been good and there are no bugs on them. He read about thinning the top growth out to encourage bottom growth so if this hasn’t made an improvement  in two weeks these will have to come out to make way for something else. The frustrations of gardening sometimes!

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Tiny zucchini are appearing. We have 4 plants this year.

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Beetroot, carrots, onions, beans and garlic all looking good. We have multiple patches of these growing, in the front raised garden they are all more mature than this.

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This photo shows one of our few flower gardens we have left. It’s a rock garden following a path up the side of the house. This has beautiful stones walls like the one at the bottom however becomes overgrown by the many trailing plants in it. These are all going to be ripped out and the herb gardens will be transplanted and increased, plus strawberries will go in here. There are quite a few small ferns in here that will transplanted to the fern garden at the bottom and beside the steps on the other side of the house – this is my favourite spot to sit. It’s overgrown by trees and has the most beautiful energy to sit, calm or cool on a hot day so more ferns will be nice there.

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We decided this year to journal how much we are getting from the garden because we have no idea. It’s very easy to underestimate how much one is growing so it will be interesting to see exactly how many kgs of everything we have grown by end of autumn.

We have managed to collect 12 packets of seeds from a free giveaway with the bread we eat…$36 worth so far! Anything free is good, free seeds…. great. For NZ shoppers who like Ploughman’s Bread http://www.growyourownsandwich.co.nz/

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Kitchen:

In the kitchen I have been dealing with herbs; making mint sauce, lots of pesto, freezing and drying what seems to be an abundance before they seed and new growth begins. The freezers are getting cleaned up and we are trying to use up what is left ready for the new harvests. Bottling jars etc are all being tidied – oh my gosh, that was a mess. Shelves that were filled with food were all slowly replaced by empty jars chucked on them in a hurry. We have two jars of apples left and one jar of chutney so are waiting on the beetroot (beets) pickling onions etc to begin again, hopefully just a few more weeks.

I don’t post that many recipes for meals in my blog, the reason for this is they are reasonably basic – well heaps of variety but at the end of the day either meat (for hubby) and salads of whatever there is or meat and vegetables. No recipes used, good nutritious, tasty meals but no recipe needed. Healthy deserts or treats are where we get our “something different” from and I made these last week. I make them once every so often but never thought of putting them on here until I saw another blogger do so.

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Chocolate Fruit and Nuts:

220 g bar of chocolate, I use dark 70% cocoa

3 tablespoons coconut oil

fruit and nuts – dried apricots, strawberries, slivered almonds, peanuts, raisins etc

Melt the chocolate and coconut oil in a double boiler (I use 1 pot inside a larger pot of water). Cool a little to thicken then dip in whatever fruits you are using and lay on baking paper on dishes in the fridge. I use little dishes of nuts etc, pour chocolate over, mix and drop by tablespoons onto paper. Rum essence can be added to raisin ones, peppermint essence to plain chocolate. Simple but a relatively cheap treat I shall be making to add to Chrissy presents.

Chickens:

Production was falling off for eggs and they were getting smaller, we checked for mites and no sign of them but cleaned out their coup anyway and sprayed with a mixture of salt, vinegar and garlic. We wondered if they had parasites so gave them a mixture of 2 tablespoons cider vinegar and 3 cloves chopped garlic in their water bowls. Just over a week later we have much improved eggs, in fact they are really large! so the mix really works.

We lost one of our chooks a few weeks back. She was one that came in our first lot of ex poultry farm chooks and we had her 7 years which made her around 9. This was the first chicken Roger ever had to put down and he was most miserable having to do it.

Personal:

I have applied for a full time job at my work at which I still only do very irregular shifts. IF I get it it will be higher paid than what Roger is earning now and the plan is for Roger to take some time off from working, as I have done – to focus on the garden and where he would like to take it and to reassess what he would like to do work wise (or maybe study) Some time out. He’s an exceptionally hard working man and wearies himself so I think it would really be good for him. Finger’s crossed!!

And a month ago I mentioned a new boarder. She has gone. No, it didn’t work out!!