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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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!

Home, lavender products and the absolute best of market finds!

After 2 weeks of cold and rain we have a most beautiful autumn day here so I popped out and took some photos of the “hood” 🙂

This photo shows our wee valley, we are in the first row of houses opposite the vineyard and amongst trees.

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New Zealand, home to 4 million people and over 30 million sheep 🙂

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Winter is creeping up.

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We managed to finish our lounge but haven’t finished putting everything back or all the pictures back up. This is it though, it’s actually a pale coffee colour which isn’t showing very well. We are really happy with it. It ended up costing around $290 to de-stipple the ceilings, replaster and finish/paint, put in downlights and paint the walls, windows etc. A big job for Roger but I did help with the painting and the shifting of way too much “stuff”

Before:

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After:

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Last weekend we had to go to Nelson for Roger to attend an apt and got there early to have a look around the markets. It was only 30 minutes before they were due to pack up and I asked one woman how much she was asking for some cake tins and a retro dinner set  – just being nosy really as I thought they would be too expensive. “Fill a bag for $1, I don’t want to take this stuff home” she said handing me a pile of supermarket bags. After a brief discussion with me clarifying she actually DID want people to take this stuff for so little…she then put the cake tins inside each other so we could fit more in a bag, we ended up with all this for $4.

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 And some shameless advertising for my sister 🙂 Jan owns a lavender farm in Carterton and have offered to put an ad here for her for any Kiwis interested in purchasing lavender oils or products from her directly. She sells oils. soaps, hand creams and lavender pillows and can be found at lavenderabbey. Look at her gorgeous dog Rene!

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There is very little going on in the garden right now, but Feijoas and Figs still coming thick and fast. Job today!

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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.

Quarter Acres 1 year blog Anniversary – Growing your own groceries

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We are 1 year old this week 🙂 This reminded me of my first ever blog. I had no idea whatsoever of what I was doing and was actually just trying to start a journal for us of our efforts over a year….I thought I could just put it out “there” at a later date if I chose to !!!! Yes, I know, naive into the ways of technology and social media! I got 3 followers that day and wondered why and how that happened. Then I ‘got it’ and was panic stricken. That’s wasn’t what I had expected or was prepared for. I am (was) a rather private person and this was rather scary. But…what I had hoped for was that we learned something that others could benefit from  one day, hopefully – younger families would be inspired to grow some of their own food to help through hard times. After a year long journey of doing it ourselves and blogging, this is still my hope. These are hard times, insecure times for so many – this is one thing we can do to save a whopping amount of money. We eat far better now than we ever did buying food from a supermarket and we eat better than anyone we know. Good food, grown ourselves cheaply, much of it stored for winter and autumn, cooked well…it doesn’t get any more satisfying.

Over the course of the year I had met some awesome, awesome people who I am happy to call friends. I look forward to our conversations and reading of your lives and your thoughts….you special ladies know who you are and I truly appreciate your presence in my life xxx For all of you thanks for supporting and commenting, for reading my ramblings and for teaching me also, I learn alot from the blogs of others.

And because my intention always for this blog is to inspire struggling families I will add these links for some of my older posts for any newbies out there who are thinking of growing a little, or alot, for themselves.This food in the photo was grown here or is as cheap as food gets! And thank you Backyard Farmer for the starter, the bread is delicious 🙂 (and for an inspiring blog of your own!)

My  list of ‘best for value’ homegrown vegetables and fruit for kitchen and pantry

Growing your own food

Beginners Guide to Frugal Gardening

Beginners Guide to Frugal Gardening (2)


Thank you everyone for reading my ramblings 🙂

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My Visit to an Art Studio/Gallery – an inspiring artist

This has absolutely nothing to do with gardening and food but my love of art. I love to draw and paint however lack of confidence gets in my way, like many people I guess. There are those of us who have always yearned to be artists in some way, a lifelong desire that gets edited out for different reasons – we doubt our ability, too many demands etc.

Last weekend I was invited to go along with a friend to visit a Marlborough artist, Pete Rickerby. Pete has kindly let me do a post about him, I found him very inspiring- but I get the impression he would be the last person to think that about himself! Pete’s a man who appears rather shy but he has a wicked sense of humour. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing his art, his beautiful garden, being shown around his home, meeting his lovely wife, the wine 🙂

Pete had not painted since high school, he had done alot of cartoons though, many published ones. When Pete was diagnosed at 54 with MS he had a hard time with it. He worked in a diving shop, rode motorbikes, lived a full life. When he became depressed he sought counselling. His counsellor asked him what was one thing he had always wanted to do, Pete knew it was to paint. So he started. 3 years later he has opened his studio and is starting to sell his art – this despite his poor hand/eye co-ordination and other issues related to his MS.

I asked him why he left it so long, if his desire to paint had always been there then why didn’t he and he replied “I never thought I could”. He just started and grew. Learning to paint has helped in some ways with his brain and thinking processes, building new neuronic pathways his specialist told him. I wanted to show his art here because it’s good 🙂 and because it shows if you feel you want to paint (write, whatever) then you should just do it because it’s within all along, it just needs us to develop it. I am also posting this because I had a conversation earlier in the week with another blogger who wishes to paint and I told her Pete’s story. She suggested I write a post (thanks Robbie 🙂 )

This is Pete and a little of his work, just click on any image to bring up gallery of larger ones.

Pete is a charming host and would welcome anyone to his studio. He can contacted at The Lunatic’s Retreat, 15 Churchill St, Blenheim, Phone 03 5777145, email p.rickerby@xnet.co.nz

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!