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!

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 🙂

Times are a’changing at Quarteracre!

All the best laid plans! We had a 3 year plan for what we wanted to do here but they have just become 3 month plans as Roger quit his job today, he finishes at the end of next week. No, he didn’t get the job he went for but he sorely needed to because he has had well and truly enough of his present one. I could go into the ins-and-outs but no need or desire to.

So our three year plan was 1) Wendy wants to make her soaps and stuff and sell them – she is on plan for this. 2) Within 3 – 6 months have the property set up for private precious pup boarding – we can have 3 at a time but only want two. 3) We ideally would like to earn an income from funked up junk but never get time to actually settle to this – the plan was for Roger to go down to part-time work in a year or so to help achieve this and hopefully open a cottage shop in 3 years at our home. Well…….!

Roger will be unemployed next week and I will continue to work part time, he will advertise to get contact work locally, just part-time AND h-o-p-e-f-u-l-l-y between us we can earn enough to pay the bills 🙂 We have food and are pretty skilled at living on little! Roger is well known in the area for his ability to kill gorse which I hate because it’s spraying chemical all day but it’s needed here, it’s the right season and we are hoping he can get enough odd farm work to get us through. He could go out and look for full time work but we have decided maybe we should just back ourselves and have confidence our plans will work for us. I shall keep you posted! lol I know it seems crazy in today’s climate but at the end of the day we want to make our place work for us and be our own bosses…that’s what we want.

A website will be set up for us and off we go, into the wide open… and unknown!

This is what I have been doing recently and what our home is starting to look like 🙂

Dandelions, kowhai flowers picked for infusing and forget-me-nots for pressing for packaging

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There are always petals drying in the front window and jars of somethings sitting in the sunlight

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Pansies and forget- me- nots being pressed into a jeweelery making book but how pretty the picture turned out!

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A corner of the hall I just spied

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Trialing Lotion Bars made with beeswax and the Camelia petal infused oil

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Lemon and Poppy Seed Soap, Rose-hip soap and Rosemary, Lavender and Sweet Orange Shampoo Bars

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Mark 11 trial of Rose and Frankincense Moisturiser which is gorgeous 🙂 (Excuse photo quality)IMG_3983

So, within a month or so I hope to be up and running. I have so many ideas I am nearly popping with brilliance lol. But for a girl who actually just likes making these things quietly enjoying her own company and hates being “out there” this is a brave move, one which involves much courage and confidence and feels rather scary, So WISH ME LUCK PLEASE!!!! lol

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!

Soap, soap and other stuff!

As I mentioned in my last post I am enjoying soap-making….rather too much. I have made alot using different recipes. It is now becoming too much to make in the kitchen so my craft room has been taken over. I would like to think I can do well enough to sell some at the markets but we will see – it was clear I would need better equipment so I finally caved in and bought a few molds and have been trying to source the cheapest places for ingredients but the extra work I have been doing recently has meant I can have spare money to buy yummy oils etc.

My painting/craft table at present

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The pink slab in front is a Rose Clay Facial Soap which I have high hopes for in the battle against  wrinkles and aging skin 🙂 It has olive, coconut, apricot, jojoba and castor oils in – I added frankinsense and rose essences. The purpley / blue soap in the molds is lavender, a problem with keeping everything natural is learning about and sourcing the right colourings – this was hoped to be more purple.

I have alot to learn!! When I made my first batch of lavender soap I naively thought you could just chuck all sorts of pretty florally things in soap, you can’t! I put lavender on top and it went grey, the lye affects flora in soaps, apparently grinding dry lavender buds first works better. I wanted petals, some people have them on soaps and they guard the secret of “HOW….?” very closely but I did read you could do so with rebatching – grating a cured soap, melting it down and pouring it in molds. I added too much water so it’s taking forever to dry and this is very rustic in appearance but for my own use it will be fine. This is an area I would like to learn more about because it’s just too pretty not to. To me this is what lady soap should be like!

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An old shelf has come in handy for curing and storing, these all have to sit for at least a month.

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There are the calendula and lavender ones I showed early on, the musk and apricot which looks like Russian Fudge, Gardenia, Patchouli and a lovely blend of oils, A Cedarwood and Juniper Berry for men which smells gorgeous (coloured with spirlulina which disappointedly changed to a very muted green, and a mountain of Coffee Hand Scrub which I made double the amount for Roger and it turned out to be an awful lot lol

I also made the most divine night cream full of luscious oils….olive, sweet almond, jojoba, apricot and cocoa butter. I created it myself and it’s beautiful but I didn’t write down the amounts I used which was dumb! This is better than anything else I have ever made or bought, my very own fountain of youth in a jar!!!  I now just have to remember how I made it.

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Soap wrapped in lace and ribbon and a jar of my special cream is a nice pressy for my best friend for her birthday I thought!