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(Photos above: top to bottom-Mince Pies, fresh Lavender, Dried Lavender, Lavender flowers in Oil, Verbascum olympicum flowers, Opium Poppy Pods, Bergamot- Monarda didyma, St John’s Wort flowers, Geoff picking St John’s Wort, Meadowsweet Flowers-Filipendula ulmaria )

It’s been a good Christmas, lots of family & friends, easy & delicious food, followed by some restful down-time. The only job we have to do, is harvesting flowers for our oils, which is a lovely job & hopefully will set us up for the rest of the year. Our most important crop is St. John’s Wort. which we use in a number of ointments & rubs, it’s slow to pick as only a few flowers open on each head, each day. We are trying to get as many open flowers as possible so we don’t pick flowering tops, which strips all the buds off as well. If we’re lucky & diligent we hope to make 10 bottles, which is about 40 litres of oil.

The Elder & Arnica are pretty much finished, & I’ve just cut off most of the Lavender flowers, some I have made into a fresh oil, using a double boiler. (I think the recipe is in the Eczema section) the rest of the flowers I’ve spread out to dry. We’ll use these later to make vinegar hair rinse & shampoo bars.

The vege garden has been a bit slow this year, spuds are growing well, but most other things are a bit behind. I think the cold nights we’ve been getting upsets them. Usually the weather settles in January, & as long as we have enough water, everything will shoot away. The herbs are growing happily meantime & the herb garden is full & lush, so much so that the paths are disappearing into the foliage.

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Pre- Christmas we drove up to Matakana, north of Auckland, we kicked ourselves because we didn’t take any plant identification books with us, & we did spot a number of plants we didn’t know. We also saw some familiar but surprising ones. The Taupo Road was a mass of Foxgloves in parts, they looked glorious, our photos don’t really do them justice. We also saw a long row of Golden Elders in flower just north of Matamata, & further north still masses of wild (& noxious) Honeysuckles in full flower in the hedgerows, along with small pink roses.

Out towards Buckletons Beach we found huge drifts of Earthnut, Bunium bulbocastanum. These filled some paddocks with their white, umbel flowers, so not the right time to harvest the tubers. Apparently the Pukekos love them in the spring & dig up the nuts. How they got there is a mystery, perhaps when we had our plant nursery, many years ago, someone bought a plant from us, although the plants we have don’t spread very far. According to Wikipedia the seeds are called Black Cumin & used as a spice, didn’t know that before. On our way back home we stopped at Wright’s water Gardens in Putamahoe, near Pukekohe, sadly we didn’t have time to walk around but did buy a couple of Papyrus plants & had a good look in their nursery, which has many waterlilies & Lotus plants. We’ll definitely plan time for the visit next time we head north.