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 🙂

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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 🙂 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 🙂

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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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Winter arrives….

We have had some beautiful days but also some cold ones and the nights are leaving hard frosts on the ground. Roger has been bringing home more pea-straw for the garden. We are very fortunate to get that free from the farm he works at – we get the older stuff from the previous year. I hate to think how many large bales have gone on our garden over the years but the results have been great. When we first dug up our lawn it was just dry, stony old river bed.

We got two great buys last week, the best would be a load of paint. Roger got this on an auction for $7…I guess many others wouldn’t bother because there was clearly alot of old stuff that would need to be taken to a chemical dump (lead based or useless). But he could see there was also new. Given we need more paint for other jobs around the house and outside he took a gamble.Image

We ended up with over 40 litres of good paint, around 10 litres of white enamel, 8 litres of brown decking and fencing paint we needed (I just bought a 2 litre pot just to cover the porch and it cost over $40) Other neutral paints and varnishes which will be handy and around 3 litres of clear varnish for my next attempts at decoupage. We were rapt. But we got more! Roger only had a $10 note and told the guy to keep the change, but the guy rushed off and got these for him. 2 bottles of wine and 4 jars of Pickled Red Onions. His family own a 6 family member production plant and these were from there. We felt like we had been paid to take this paint away!Image

One wine bottle is discreetly parked behind the other here because we opened it straight away 🙂 🙂

And I bought this lovely rug for $15

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 We got our first taste of our homegrown honey and it is utterly gorgeous. The bees need the honey that’s there for over wintering but we sneaked a tiny bit.

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We were just discussing last week how we could harvest it ourselves when I came across this post from lizard100 on the home made equipment they created for the job…we will be trying this.

The bees and butterflies are enjoying our Buddleia tree outside our lounge window. This needs a severe pruning this year after it’s flowered.

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You would think with all the preserving I do I could manage Quince Paste but this apparently is not so. Last year I had it cooking for forever only to burn it. This time I made crockpot paste but it didn’t set firm and had to be potted into jars for use as a spreadble paste. While divine it’s not quite what it should be.

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 Remember this? I showed it when I bought it for $5, I wanted to repaint it.

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I have been working on it the last two weeks and was having trouble finding knobs. One very kind soul, another blogger who lives on the other side of the world! offered to send me some.

Lois from Simply Free, thank you xx

I will show it when finished.

Oh! One finicky cat!

A couple of days ago Roger came home with some stuff in a banana box. Mittens has been sleeping in this for two days and last night I decided I would buy him a wee house to sleep in.IMG_3698

This morning I decided though he seemed happy with a box, maybe I wouldn’t rush out and buy something. I did however have a sturdier box he could have and enlisted Roger’s help in cutting out a doorway.

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Did Mittens like it? Yes!! He climbed in straight away and fell asleep.

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So, Wendy….home alone and feeling a bit bored decided to make his little man cave a little more comfy and pretty because he liked it so much. I remembered a large piece of fabric I had, it’s white and fluffy and I thought this would be perfect! Did he like it? Yes, he loved it so we were all GO!IMG_3713

Pillow in the bottom and all the inside all lined with fluff. Then, his Mum decides to go the whole hog and make it …well not so much a man cave, but a boudoir maybe.IMG_3715

 Did Mittens like it?

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NOPE. He found the scraps I made it from to lie on and will not go near his new house.IMG_3718

Doesn’t appreciate homemade? Has more style sense than his mother? Maybe just a back-to-basics kinda guy?

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 🙂

Nothing from the Kitchen today :)

Because Wendy decided to go on strike….no more preserving till the feijoas and figs come in. I figure I have a two to three week window to relax a bit in 🙂 Actually the drop in temperature was making my body ache like crazy so I have been nurturing myself rather than pushing myself through it. It’s worked and I am feeling alot better.

There is little going on in the garden either right now. The pumpkins are dying off but they will stay where they are till the first frosts, we have found this gives much richer colour and flavour. The figs are still a wee way off and the feijoas are just starting to drop with one or two a day. Carrots, silverbeet, beetroot, beans and broccoli, one of the zucchini plants are still going. Roger has just planted broad beans for winter, parsnip went in a few weeks ago. The raised garden in the front needs emptying and planting for winter greens. Everything is slowing.

The feijoa bushes are laden

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Capsicums are nearly finished and waiting on chillis which are trying to grow amongst a rampant tomato plant in the glasshouse.

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I am not quite sure how the black ones happenedImage

That time of the year!!

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We have had 3 lots of visitors this past few weeks We have had family here to stay and Anthony and his lovely family to visit. Anthony is a like-minded blogger from Melbourne. We really enjoyed their visit and a chance to chat with others doing similar to us and we managed to glean lots of info on bees from them….we hoped they didn’t notice we know virtually nothing about what we are doing with them. Anyway… lovely times 🙂

So, apart from cleaning my house so it is acceptable for visitors I have really been chilling a bit and thoroughly enjoying it. I have done lots of reading, listened to music, done a little sewing but haven’t finished my items yet.

When I listen to music Mittens will too, however he gets alot closer to the stereo than I get. One music loving feline!

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  A little drawing/painting for my granddaughter, the mermaid lover in the family and apparently these  “really do exist” because she has seen photos of real ones on the internet. Not even close to Pauline’s standard yet 🙂Image

One book I have been enjoying is James Wong’s Grow Your Own drugs, it’s wonderful and I intend to make a few of his recipes soon.

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And that’s all from me 🙂

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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Secondhand buys and my hideous pantry

No one could ever call me a minimal. I buy all sorts of things I like because they are cheap, I will say though I don’t do it often…just occasional trips nowadays when I am looking for something in particular. This time I was searching for more jars and also bottles suitable for fruit liqueurs. It always happens that I see other people’s pre-loved treasures and feel I would like to love them too – or I see other people’s junk and think I could use it somehow. (I will not show you a photo of our spare room full of stuff to go back to op-shops but instead we will gloss over the fact Wendy buys stuff for which she has no use for sometimes because it was very cheap!)

Anyway, these jars cost 50c – $1 each and is the only way I will ever buy jars. I have bought whole boxes full for $1 before but these were all needed for some reason. See that lovely big bottle, it’s an old whiskey one with a screw on lid – $1!!

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Wicker hamper $5

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Large flour bin was $10, this will last my lifetime.

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Roger’s buy, a pig cookie jar – $2

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2 wooden containers for $1, I have no idea where these will go/fit!

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And this for $5. Now…this will be a winter project (well, that’s the plan) I have a weird thing for boxes, wee drawers etc, have them all over everywhere. This took my fancy, it’s about knee high but pretty ugly as is. What potential lies here though!! Watch this space for a beautiful decoupaged piece – or, you could see it in a future post on purging my home and a rant about all the junk I have collected and the need for it to be gone!Image

 We have been here 7 years and have always despaired of the pantry. Much of it is hidden behind the wall, it’s never been finished (the house is 40 years old!) and is full of wasted space. Image

In fact it’s the ugliest pantry you will ever see 🙂 and there is little other storage in the kitchen. These brackets in front were very quickly put up after the first earthquake when everything felt out – they are not normal pantry fittings I know 🙂 They have not come down because we still get the occasional one 6 months later. You see my problem here though ay!? I would like something nice and something functional. Roger is going to be taking this front wall down and building all new shelving, which IS a bit concerning because I get to view his unfinished projects every time I go into the garden. He assures me though that he does realise the importance of a job done quickly, and done in it’s entirety, when in the kitchen.

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I cannot believe I have just shown the whole world my crappy pantry! The door normally stays firmly shut 🙂 🙂

But I will be so happy to see it gone and something workable in it’s place. That dishwasher does not go (top photo) and will be gotten rid of to use the space. Much as I would’ve liked another it’s not going to happen, they use too much power.