Thursday, December 8, 2011

Tomatoes in flower and corgettes making babies

The rain has encouraged our tomatoes to go crazy, they are not particularly tall, but they are flowering already.  I have been around them and plucked off the side shoots, so that I just get one tall stem, as more fruit is likely to set and get to ripening that way.

Also the corgettes are madly flowering and the plants are sprinkled with mini corgettes forming.  It is so exciting....

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The hot and the wet

Two days ago it was 26C! then that night it rained, the temperature dropped and yesterday we had a cool,but fine day.

My garden loves this kind of weather, lots of warm growing time, and lots of drinking.  I swear the tomatoes have doubled in height, and are now producing flowers.  Most are of an ordinary variety (I forget exactly what) and there is one of a grafted variety.  Funny, I always thought grafting was for permanent things like trees.  A tomato is a one year thing, so why graft onto a different rootstock?  I just thought I would try it out and see if it was any better, it was certainly an expensive way of getting tomatoes.  I am ashamed to say I did not grow the others from seed, but at least they were $3.95 for a pottle of 6, where as I paid double that for one grafted tomato plant - it had better be worth it.

My corgettes are producing little green fingers, and the pumpkins are looking at their first flowers too, it's all very exciting.  Added excitement yesterday when I walked out to see a CHICKEN in my garden! again!!  Drastic chicken netting measures have been called for and young son is spending the day doing strategic fencing.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Strimmer Method

Sounds like some kind of  self help for stammering, right?  actually, it's how to tackle an enormous overgrown garden.

Today I line-trimmered for 4 hours.. and I have made inroads.  I shaped garden beds, I strimmed the worst of the weeds, I tackled the bidibids, and I got sunburnt.

The trimmer gives definition to my flower beds, now, they have a close strimmed the edges down, as if they have been sprayed.  You should have seen some of the work that got done.  Actually, I will post some pix soon, as it looks dramatically different.  Not sure if you need to have seen it before to appreciate the work that went in, but that's your call.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Mother Nature is taking over

You can hardly get around the garden today, it is  so overgrown!  Roses are in full bloom everywhere, and seem to have totally overgrown the deck.  There are some lovely old roses, and not so many modern ones.  I promise to take a photo of the more interesting ones, especially the purple one around our driveway which is thornless, and smells heavenly.

These two are in jars inside (Hamish did ask why I don't have any vases!), and they both have their charms.  The paler pink one is just the shade of sweet peas, and the darker purple one has lovely frilled insides!

My mother inlaw has lent me a weedeater and after Matt has been round the lawns tomorrow, I will give it a good weedchomp and see if I can tame some of the mess.

The grape above Matt's room also looks amazing, I sure hope it is prolific with fruit when the time comes.
The grape vine

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Elderflower Champagne is brewing

Today the children and I screeched to a halt along the Sefton Road, and excitedly picked a whole box of elderflower heads.  It's probably best not to get them from, the road, but they are the only ones I have access to.  You need to pick them in full bloom when the whole head of flowers are white.  Discard any that have unopened flowers on.

To identify Elderflowers see this link

I have just put the first batch of champagne on to brew, and am about to make some cordial.  Both these recipes are tried and true, I have made them for several years now after being inspired by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingsall (or as the Brits say "Who Fearlessly-Eatsitall" :P

Elderflower Cordial

Bring 1.5l of water to the boil and dissolve in 1.5kg sugar.  Add about 30 heads of elderflower in full bloom, 3 lemons, first the rind which you have grated off, and then slice the lemons and chuck them in, and 75g Citric Acid.

Let cool and steep for 24 hrs before straining and bottling.  Will keep for months.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sunhats, all ready for summer

Last weekend the weather was so summery, and I gardened in my singlet, catching a bit of sun as I went.  I planted corn, a chilli, an auborgine, and some beans.  Albie also helped me to clear a bit more of the overgrown part, we are almost there!

It got me thinking I should be prepared for summer, and I determined to make a wide brimmed sunhat.

Well...what a palaver!  I googled everywhere, and some had what were obviously very good instructions, but with mathmatics way beyond my ability...take the radius of this, and divide by the square of the circumference of your head, kind of stuff... Eventually I found a Martha Stewart hat which looked good, and proceeded to print of the indecipherable instructions, stick them all together, cut out my hat pieces and got sewing.  BUT! the brim would not fit, I jigged it about and eventually made a complete hash of it and had to put it in the bin.  Here is the link

A phone call to my sister, Karen, helped.  She told me to cut down the brim which I did.  I trimmed 1/4" off the inner edge  before assembling hat number 2.  Success!  yay, finally a new, reversable hat.  Green and pink, light on one side and darker on the other.  Very smart, don't you think?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Grandmother's Rose Garden Tea Cosy

To brighten any table, will fit a 6-8cup teapot.  Complete with base frill!  Simply Gorgeous :-) $38.00 including postage anywhere in NZ.

Updated: now sold!

A Sunny A&P Show day

Today is the day of Amberley's A&P Show.  I have never entered anything into a show, but I could have put the leeks in for judging if I had thought hard enough about it.  They are ginormous great leeks.

The sun is shining, its about 20C and the whole world feels summery.

All the roses are  starting to think about blossoming, the flag irises are budding, the wildflowers are blooming and my vege garden is growing.

Tomatoes, yes!
Corgettes, yes!
Peas, yes!
Carrots sprouting up from seed, yes!

All over my kitchen window sill (much to the dislike of my sister) I have little pottles of sprouting seeds.  Finally the basil looks like it will survive and actually thrive, the beans that Montana-Rose shelled for me have put up enormous muscly looking tall shoots, and capsicums are coming up too.

It's spring in abundance ;-)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Sunflower Tea Cosy

Here is my latest fad!  tea cosies galore...this one I am so proud of, a wonderful sunflower to beautify any table!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Latest Batch of Soap

Here is my latest batch, which I have tried to dye purple, to varied effect, as the photo shows.

125g Caustic Soda , dissolved in 335ml water
270g Coconut Oil
70g Olive Oil
570g Lard, saved from our cooking
25ml fragrance (in this case, Lavender)

I processed it last night and cut it today, and although it looks pretty now, I know that by the time it has "cured" (in about 6 weeks) it will have faded off considerably.  Goodness knows what it will look like once it is ready.  Already the fragrance is fading..ggrr

Monday, October 17, 2011

Proud Mummy Moment

Montana-Rose achieves a Silver Medal with the British Ballet Organisation for her dance yesterday.  Her best results 8/10 for spatial awareness, and 8/10 for entertainment value.  Miss Gooch, Director of BBO NZ, said "Danced with complete freedom.  Good timing and attention to the story. Well done"  awwww...

Aaarggh, a Ben 10 tattoo discovered on her arm moments before going on!  hairspray and a lot of scrubbing later.....

Figs! Inside V Outside

The little fig in a bucket,  given to me for my birthday by my sister, has 4 figs growing on it.  Despite having a few limbs accidentally lopped off during our house move, it has flourished on a window sill

Our previous home, blessed with the ugliest of conservatories you ever saw, sheltered the wee fig tree from the  elements, providing it with an early spring and summer.

What a contrast with the ginormous fig tree which fills a corner of the house garden here at our new home.  It is only just coming out of bud, with doublets of leaves and small marble sized figs forming on the ends of its bare branches.

I have been assured that the figs on the outside tree will not come to fruition.  Apparently it doesn't get hot enough  for long enough to ripen any fruit without putting plastic bags over all the fruit to hasten the process.  We shall see, I am pretty hopeful, why else would previous owners grow it if it didn't produce fruit?

I love figs...try cutting a cross in the top, pulling them open into a star shape, brush with a honey, grill till browned and softened, serve with vanilla icecream and warmed honey with a bit of vanilla in it- devine!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The "after" picture

Here is the photo (at last) of what I achieved on Sunday.  You can see the two rows where potatoes have gone in.  

The weeds are like a mat, you almost "roll" them up!
(Evening in the Garden of Eden - Amberley)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

October and it must be planting time

Mother Nature has not forgotten to let us know that she has not quite finished with colder weather yet.  Just to prove it, yesterday HAIL and today a frost.  Still, I braved the morning cold, and set out mit gumboots to conquer the garden.

Here is a shot of what it looked like before I started today.  The cleared off bit is what Albie and I did a week ago, which took us a whole morning.

I managed to clear two large rows and plant 26 seed potatoes (Jersey Benne).  We also unearthed some more spring onions, and leeks which the previous people had planted.  It's starting to look like it should do, a proper Mr McGregor's garden.

A row of carrots went in, and Hamish very kindly put plastic  around the rest of the fencing,( and tidied up the fences I had already done, apparently they didn't meet his strict quality control).  Our chooks, not content with the 12 acres to roam, got into the garden through the fence the other day and ate 6 small cauliflower seedings, hence the drastic plastic measure.

Montana-Rose helped me to plant some lettuces also, and had fun hunting for more beans.  There  are a whole heap of dried beans on dead vines against the fence, and she has been podding them for me.  I have no idea what variety they are, but am placing my bets on scarlet runner beans.  Time will tell, as I plant to pot some up and see what comes up.

In the afternoon I finished sewing M-Rose's latest dress..

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Clearing the new garden

We are moving house...*sigh*, but the good news is that the very historical home we are moving into had wonderful previous gardeners.  Their vege patch must have been a glory.  It is now overgrown with chickweed and mallow.

But today Albie and I spent the afternoon making a start on it.  We have slashed and dug and raked and hoed, and now there are some free beds where we have transplanted some of our seedlings from our current house.  In went garlic, in went cauliflower, in went rhubarb, in went snow peas and in went a raspberry cane.

Now we are exhausted.  Photos to come soon, I promise

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A third snow

Can you  believe it? we had a third snow morning.  Just a dusting of icing sugar for the grass, and a good frozen one on our cars.  It is virtually unheard of to have more than 1 snow a year, we have been so privileged.

The garden didn't seem to mind.  Once the snow melted it left puddles everywhere and the garden had needed a nice drink.  Even a week later we still have some big puddles.  And with warm weather, well everything is growing.  I found a tiny rhododendron bush in the undergrowth, and the jasmine has started to flower.  Such a beautiful fragrance in late afternoon when I walk past.

My basil hasn't come up.  Whether the seed just wasn't viable in the first place, or whether I have done something wrong trying to germinate them, I'm not sure.

This week we ate leeks and carrots and sprouting broccoli which had overwintered in the abandoned garden of what is destined to become our new home!  the leeks were enormous! and delicious.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Daffodils are out

The first daffodils have come out into flower.  I picked them and brought them inside, hopeful that spring must soon be on the way.

My motherinlaw had given me a bag of daffy bulbs earlier in the year, and seeing some in flower reminded me all about them.  Up until now I had only given them limited thought, but all of a sudden the rush was on to get them into the ground.  Some were already sprouting..eeek.

I also planted my first seeds.  Some basil.  I have been saving those plastic containers that lots of food items seem to come in, in the supermarket.  Plastic, with a lid, they look like mini cool frames.  So I have experimentally put basil seeds into one and if that is successful I will do all my seeds that way this year.

Yay for spring!

Snow, snow and spring

Well, for the 2nd time this winter, we have had snow and LOTS of it.  It's pretty much unheard of for Christchurch to have so much snow.  For 3 days the snowstorm raged in wages of cold and hail and then snow again.  Several dumpings over the days ended with about 18cm of snow.

With the thaw came lots of puddles and slushiness.  The garden sloshed in mud for days and is only just drying out now, a week later.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Christchurch's coldest day in years

Apparently Monday was Christchurch's coldest daytime temperature since 1918...and my garden looks it.  Not a dusting of snow, not a small amount of snow, but large, fluffy over 1/2 a foot of snow.  It was gorgeous.  It stayed for the 3 days on the ground in the coldest parts of the garden.  You should have seen the poor chooks wading around braving snow up to their bellies.

The only thing growing was snowmen.  This was the last, and smallest of a series, some I made with Matt, and then Montana-Rose made about three.  Apparently this one is a Snowlady, cute eh!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Grapefruit tree

Let's hope the Grapefruit aren't frozen solid after this

A blanket of Snow

My garden is now under the softest, whitest blanket.  It's cold, been snowing all day, and a lovely snowy coverlet lies over everything.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Garlic, better late than never, I hope

I am not on the ball..I went to the garden centre to buy garlic for planting only to discover that they have run out. The kind lady told me I could try and grow the stuff from the vege man next door, but it may be sprayed with a growth inhibitor?  I bought three cloves to try, and have put them outside for the frost tonight.   I guess I could try sprouting some of my own bulbs, its just that they are not as fat an juicy as the ones in the shops and I don't know if I would get much of a yield off them.

Who knows, we will wait and see...

I planted in some cauliflower and protected them from the chooks with cut off milk and fizz bottles.  I had some lovely big broccoli plants but last time I let the chooks out they headed straight for them and ate all their fresh green leaves, dammit.

Everything else is pretty much dormant, tho we still have plenty of silverbeet, celery and potatoes.

Monday, July 4, 2011


I love potatoes.

I reckon the Irish were onto a good thing, basing their life around such a staple, sustaining food.

Here is my favourite Potato dish, its an easy potato gratin.  Not a can of anything in sight, not a Maggi Mix, just pure, good ingredients.


Peel and thinly slice about 10 potatoes.

In a big pot put a 300ml thing of cream.  Rinse the container out with milk and add that to the pot too.  Stir in 1 clove of garlic, crushed, and some salt and pepper.

Add the potatoes and cook about 10 mins till it all goes thick.  Pile into a  baking dish and bake on 160C for about an hour, till golden ontop and all the cream etc is gooey.

EAT :-)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Still some Harvesting

Harvested from our garden and taken in our camper to Lynne and Simons:

3kg or so of beautiful purple potatoes
Some big sticks of celery
Rainbow silverbeet
A lettuce

These are really the last of the edibles before the big cold comes!

Campervan fun

Another nasty weather weekend, drizzle, rain and cold.  After spending the day cleaning out our chooks and putting clean straw in their nests, and giving them dry clean sawdust etc, I packed the campervan.  Off to Ashburton in our 6 wheeled wonder.  After stopping for dinner, the kids were tired, so we put them in their sleeping bags at the back of the camper where we could keep an eye on them, and did the second leg with them fast asleep!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Ranunculus from my Mother

When I was a little girl I was given a small piece of garden, it was sunny, but against a hedge and overshadowed by boundary trees.  I only ever grew two things, voilets and ranunculus.   The voilets were given to me as a cutting, by someone, I think my Nana- but I am not sure.  They flowered and flourished and filled up the whole garden bed and I loved the smell of them.  I used to pick bunches and put them in a glass in my room.

The ranunculus are so blousey, and overthetop, and out there, and they came up and flowered with abandon once a year.

My Mother recently gave me some while we were in Cromwell and I planted them but nothing came up, whether the chooks scratched them up, or it was too cold, I don't know.

Well, she gave me another lot, and by golly, I have them coming up!  I counted 7.  But....shouldn't they come up in Spring not Winter?

I hope to have a lovely display of them in the spring and can't wait to see what colours I have got.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Time away from the Garden

The garden looks messy at this time of the year.  The tomatos are scraggy and need to come out (I have already picked off the green ones and put them on the windowsills), the potatoes are dying off, everything is muddy and it just is not pretty.

Instead, we left the garden and went away for the weekend, first to Motunau Beach and then to Ashley Forest.