Category: August


Seeds, Weeds & Cuttings

Well, we are making some progress on our ‘to do’ list. We’ve got garlic & onions planted & they are all growing fast. We’ve weeded some more patches of garden & mulched them with our autumn leaf mixture. Geoff has moved the mobile compost heap to a new position, so we can fill it up with all the weeds. This week we pruned the orchard, dealing quite hard to the apples & pears, which had become very tangled. The Almond tree is in full bloom & looks stunning, & the plums are not far behind. In the gardens the Magnolia stellata is also lovely, the Dragon’s Gold is still flowering, it must be 2 months now!

We just managed to squeeze in some seed sowing before the full moon, a mix of ancient packets we found in the back of the cupboard & things like Phacelia, sunflowers & Cornflowers. We’re holding off for a couple of weeks before sowing tomato & pepper seeds etc, our moon calender says the best time is between the 9th & 19th of Sept. We’ve picked up a trailer of re-cycled potting mix, so hope to get into our potted plants & re-pot, & tidy them, ready to put a selection on Trade Me in a month or so.

We bought two lots of seed potatoes, Agria & Rua, both main crops, these are sitting in trays to sprout, while the weather warms up a bit more, we’ve also got some Old Blue, Kowiniwini & Moi Moi kept from last year’s crop. (Chitting Potatoes is covered in the blog, also seed sowing, you can find by using the search function.)

Full Moon Seed Sowing

Now is also a great time to take basal cuttings of plants, these are small pieces broken from the base of a plant, with stem & a bit of stalk from under the soil. Any plants that go dormant over Winter, & are just starting to come away, are perfect to try. I’ve taken pieces of French Tarragon, Lemon Balm, Bergamot, Good King Henry, Motherwort & Greek Oregano. These are popped into trays & punnets of sandy mix, & kept in a semi-shaded spot, where we can keep them moist.

We were thinking of filling in our concrete pond, because it is in the shade a lot of the time, now that the trees have grown up around it, but today we saw two frogs sitting in the sun on the bricks, a skinny male & a huge plump female, so I think we’ll leave it be, in the hopes of getting some more frogs around, or at least make sure we have some water there in a barrel or put plastic into half the pond.

Update: The frogs motivated us, ( by watching us forlornly!)  to get the pond cleaned out of dead leaves, repot the plants Didgit (puppy) had dragged out into very heavy clay pots, & dig up a large, dark flax that was taking over the world!  We took away heaps of weeds & prunings, & now we have a cool piece of garden with some treasures planted in it, & hopefully an appealing place for our froggy friends to procreate.

Couldn’t leave out an updated pic of Didgit, now 8 months old, & starting to look less like a wolf & more like a Beardie.

Didgit 8 months Pregnant Frog

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Mud & More Mud

Lake at POukawa

It’s still raining & we are over it! I’ve been having sleepless nights, as I listen to the rain persisting down & fret about the lambs. I should know better, in the morning as I peer blearily out, I see the gang of lambs, somewhat muddy, but obviously fine, as they do that magic thing where they spring, all four legs at once, straight up in the air, like mini ejector seats. Even in the depressing greyness & mud we laugh at their antics. Why do they love even the smallest mound of dirt, leaping up & down like mad things, & just what do they find to gnaw on the gate post?  More curiously, how do these bright, lively creatures turn into sheep?

Speckle's Lambs Speckles being nosey

Geoff & I have both been struck down by the bug that is doing the rounds. It could be flu, both worse than a cold, more debilitating & not so awful in the sneezing, fluid department. Gross anyway, although in a way the weather has been on our side, making the choice to camp in the living room, by the fire, an easy one. If it was fine we’d be tempted to drag ourselves out into the garden.

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As well as plenty of rest, herb teas, hot soups etc, we were advised to take Blis Throat Guard tablets, & I think they have helped to keep the cough at bay, for me anyway. Geoff didn’t like the taste so wasn’t so diligent at taking them, & his cough is worse than mine. I’m inclined to asthma, & will do anything to keep my lungs happy.

Along with the ‘flu’ & grey & mud, we had some sad news about our lovely dog, Rifkin. She has a lump on her throat, which is a Lymphoma, cancer.  Luckily she is happy & lively at the moment, still keen to play soccer or chase soft toys, but prognosis is not good. We are going to try homeopathics, & lots of love, cross our fingers, pray.

It’s a special time for being with her, she is such a neat dog, with a big smile & a way of getting  so dirty & strewn with debris, you wouldn’t believe it. This of course gets dragged into the house, where we grumble as we sweep it up. No more, I shall be grateful for the dog hair on the carpet, & the twigs & dead leaves. All kind thoughts, most gratefully received. XX

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Buds & Blossoms

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The garden is starting to power away, buds are swelling, & the early Spring flowers are in full flush. In the orchard, the Almonds are the first to flower, followed by the plums & Peaches. I’m hoping that our Walnut will be later flowering this year, maybe the heavy frosts we’ve had will put it off?

In the vege garden we are eating leeks, florence fennel, beetroot & carrots, mesclun & silverbeet. The brassicas which got eaten by rabbits & replaced are starting to come away, & the garlic we put in a few weeks ago has all sprouted.  We’ve picked the first few chicons, & they’ve been  surprisingly easy to grow, esp. using the old bee boxes. As soon as we noticed the soil being disturbed we covered the tops, to keep the sprouts blanched. We didn’t dig the roots up in the Autumn as the books suggest, but left them where they were, the roots looked huge. Chicons are a real treat, being expensive to buy, they are mild tasting & crunchy.

We’ve bought some punnets of onion seedlings & have planted about half so far.  The artichokes & rhubarb we dug up & transplanted is all looking good, so are the strawbs we’ve moved.  We still have spuds, pumpkins & garlic in our store, plus tomatoes & summer fruits in the freezer, along with sausages & some lamb portions.

Talking of lambs, just when we thought we’d only get 2 this year, 3 have arrived in the last 24 hours. Old Blackie, who usually lambs in private was having a hard time yesterday, being very restless & wandering round with a small foot protruding . I’d hoped to get some photos for the blog of her lambing, but we ended up helping her out. She had a huge lamb, in breech position, & I think she was very relieved to have some help. As soon as the lamb was born, she set to to clean it up, & was not at all disconcerted to have us there, we were very impressed with her maternal dedication. This morning one of the other ewes had produced twins, so now we have 5 lambs. I don’t think there’ll be any Suffolk lambs unless they’re very late ones, we’ll have to wait & see.

We’ve got a few trays of cuttings on the go, this is the best time of year to propagate plants like French Tarragon & Bergamots, using the sturdy young shoots, with a bit of root growth attached. Also a few of the seeds I sowed in the Autumn are starting to come up, including some apple seedlings of the old cooker that grows on the other side of the creek. I think it may be a Bramley, have taken cuttings too so I can see what works the best. have also sown some large golden plum seeds, which I see are just starting to germinate, I love the waythe tree seedlings are so sturdy, I’ve included a phot of a type of Horse Chestnut, which has smooth leaves. Geoff picked up a couple of seeds in the Autumn.

Spring Is In The Air

We’ve had a run of warm days, & the mud has disappeared. Spring is already showing it’s shy beginnings, the Wintersweet is  covered with flowers, & the Primroses & Violets are  prolific too.Last night we had some amazing skies, just had to add a few photos.

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We’ve had a busy few days  reorganising the herb & vege garden. Geoff has dug up all the Globe artichokes,  split them up,  & replanted them along the fence line, where they can grow to profusion & not take over half the gardens. We also dug up the Rhubarb from the same patch & planted them in a bed of their own, where the sheep can’t reach them. We’ve planted out a load of garlic & elephant garlic, also a second batch of brassica,( the rabbits & sheep decimated the first lot.)

The sheep also ate the tops off the Chicory, which motivated us a) to fix the fences & b) to cut the chicory plants right back & try to grow some chicons. We have some old bee boxes that are past it for bees, but still useful, so we put these over the plants. We put 4 plants to a box, & covered them with compost. I think it takes several weeks for the new sprouts to grow, so we’ll be keeping an eye on them.

We signed up for the free Business Mentor scheme, & had 2 helpful sessions with Ron, who informed us that we spend too much on accountants, & should grasp the nettle & do a lot more of it ourselves, groan! but we’re going to do our best to decipher the complicated labyrinths of our accounts. Ron affirmed that we are going in the right direction, but just need more sales. We don’t want to expand in a huge way, about 25% would be awesome. The thing is, now we’ve reared our family & have Grandchildren etc etc, we don’t want to be too tied to routines, we’re much more in favour of the much mentioned but elusive work:life balance. Well for us at least we are fortunate to love our work, work from home, & work together, we also manage to grow most of our own food, & get to work outside when it’s sunny & inside when it’s cold, pretty good really!

One way to do this is to find some outlets in the South Island for our Ointments. So if you live on the Mainland, & know a cool shop or cafe that might sell our stuff we’d love to hear from you. Or even if you are on the North Island we’d welcome contacts. The other way you can help is by asking for our products by name in your local Health shop, all help gratefully recived!! We’re selling some stuff on Trade Me & that’s exciting, as we’re getting to meet lots of new people, well in the ether anyway.

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The Orchard

Well August has just about been & gone. What started out as feeling like we were on top of things has bitten us on the bum! We’ve both had the flu, first time in years & we’re not impressed. Even with the help of herbs & homoepathics we are still feeling below par. So now the gardens are getting away on us, weeds are proliferating & the Spring growth is wrestling its way through the tangles. Ah well, the forecast is fine so we might manage to creep out & weed a bit.

Below: Plum blossom, Almond blossom, Chooks, Primroses

On the positive side, the orchard is merrily doing it’s thing, the grass is growing, & the chooks have started laying again. Now we have fenced most of the place we can graze with our sheep, & it gives us a much needed feeling of being in control … a little!

Floods & Family

So much of being a gardener is about the weather. I just realised how often I comment on what the weather has been doing, it’s not just a social nicety, for us it shapes our days, & has impact on our crops, & in the end the food we have to eat.

We were up in Hamilton for most of the recent bad weather. Messages from home told of much flooding, although luckily little damage. Our first job when we came home was to inspect the creek & see what had been happening. It was obvious that a huge amount of water had been through. The creek on our property is in a deep gully about 7m, with sheer sides for the most part. It’s been scoured out, dead trees have disappeared, huge amounts of stones & limestone have been deposited at the bottom, where it flattens out .

The boundary fence is non-existent, a rolled up mess of logs & debris, the biggest hassle is the glass, broken bottles & shards everywhere. This is all very familiar, whenever the creek floods all sorts of stuff arrive on our place. Of course sometimes our stuff migrates too. A couple of years ago we couldn’t find our BBQ table, eventually it was spotted 20 metres into the neighbours & half way up a willow tree.

One of the intriguing things about all this water movement is the way stuff is carried & deposited, it can be very specific, a small plant will create an area of bottles behind it, or stones all the same size. A log catches on the bridge & completely changes the flow making a beach where once there was a big pool.

I must mention that the reason we were up in Hamilton was to meet our newest Grandson, Kaiya. Of course he is perfect! We also had a great time with Tahlia, who is nearly 2, being constantly delighted by her new language skills, & spontaneous humour. Being Grandparents feels very special.