Category: July

Working around the frosts

Frosted lawn Sheep moving nextdoor

How is it that I can write inspired posts for the blog in the middle of the night, & then draw a complete blank in the morning? I’m sure there was something great I wanted to share, I’ll just carry on & hope it pops into my brain.

Life here at Millstream is pretty cruisy at the moment, we are having cold, clear, frosty nights & then hot, sunny days, it’s perfect. We plan our days around the weather, so we go to the workroom until morning teatime & then if we can, we get into the gardens for a few hours. Last year we hardly did any weeding & the gardens were in chaos all Summer, so it’s looking promising for this Spring.

  • The soft fruit house is weeded & mulched, with new Raspberry canes & new Strawberries planted, very exciting.
  • The Asparagus bed is already sprouting, so we’ve put some frost cloth over it, so we can eat those shoots, instead of them being frozen.
  • We’ve dug over the Arnica beds & replanted, they seem to need re-working every couple of years.
  • We’ve even got the greenhouse tidied & have planted lettuce in there, where they are thriving & keeping us in salad greens.
  • Now we’re attacking some of the less daunting flower beds, we’ve decided to ignore the Couch Grass & just plant vigorous bushy stuff that can hold it’s own.
  • Now it’s time to get some Onion plants into the ground & plant our Garlic too.

We have some new lambs, but they are at the neighbours at the moment so we haven’t seen them yet.The Dragon’s Gold Kowhai is bursting with flowers & buds & we are getting regular visits from a couple of Bellbirds, which is magic.

On our ‘to do’ list for the next couple of weeks, more weeding,  a small yard so we can pen our sheep to drench or dock, a new water line to Mum’s & the workroom.

Also we have started work on a Millstream book, with help from Giles. Some of it comes from this blog, some from classes we’ve taught, some recipes & various other bits & pieces we’ve gathered together, & lots of photos. We welcome any & all suggestions & feedback, also would love to hear from anyone who has self published.

False Impressions & Floods

Last weekend we managed to get some time in the garden, we have finished planting out the Garlic, & we put in some plants of Thornless Blackberry along one of the fences. We’re gradually creating an area of perennial plants, Raspberries, Rhubarb, Gooseberries, Globe Artichokes & Asparagus. The Asparagus seeds that I sowed 18 months ago are now vigorous plants, & some are already putting up Spring shoots, we’ve weeded around them, mulched the edges of the bed with cardboard & then put compost over the whole lot, I’m very proud of them.

Early garlic Italian Broccoli Leek crop

I was thinking how misleading photos can be, I took pics of the Leeks & Garlic, & the beautiful Italian Broccoli & you might think that we have an immaculate garden!!! Guess what? it’s mostly a shambles, I felt I should fess up so you don’t feel inadequate!

Our creek in floodspot the picnic table

Since our lovely day in the garden it has rained pretty much non-stop, a few leaks have appeared indoors, the water flows through the place, heading downhill to the creek, & the creek turns into a roiling, deep monster, quite unfamiliar, & exciting… so long as it doesn’t get too high. Large logs wash down & heaps of smaller debris which catches on the boundary fence like a beaver dam, eventually the fence collapses, & we prop it up with bits of wood  & baling twine. The good news is that our new paths have passed the test & we can get to our garage & workroom without sloshing through ankle deep mud, & the lawn looks green instead of mud, yay!

brick & concrete path

Winter Outings, Mud & Goldenseal

It’s grey & wet, & very, very muddy. Our plans to put in better paths before the wet have been thwarted, it’s actually safer to walk in the gardens than on the paths, even the dog goes cross country.

our-driveway-ford frosted-taro mixed-herb-ley

Last weekend we had our first big frost, so there’s plenty of tidying up to be done. The sheep got into the vege garden & ate most of our greens & the tops of the fennel, & pulled out beetroot plants, bugger! Luckily they missed the broccoli plants, & most of the garden is dormant or under a mixed herb ley (cunning way of saying buried under weeds). We’ll get into it when the mud firms up a bit. Meantime next job is to prune the orchard & tidy up any other rampant growth.

Geoff & I went on an expedition into remotest Hawkes Bay to pick up Lavender Oil from Stoneycreek & Olive Oil from Matapiro, we spent a couple of hours driving through windy, hilly roads, (not great fun for me, as I get carsick, but I had my trusty wrist bands & they help a lot). It was a bit of a bleak day, but we took some photos just to give you an idea of where we went.

ngaruroro-river-1 grape-vines on-way-to-matapiro matapiro-olives-1

We have had minimal success getting into the gardens, just as the mud firms up, it rains again. We did have a couple of hours re-making the strawberry patch & planting it with fresh runners. We’ve also cleared & manured a permanant bed for the Asparagus seedlings. The corner of the garden where we are putting them, is turning into a perennial patch, with Rhubarb, Gooseberries, Raspberries, Jerusalem Artichokes & Asparagus.

When we first started vege gardening, we read the Complete Food Garden, by John Seymour. What I especially loved were the drawings for each season, with the perfectly organised garden, with tidy paths & compost heaps, & everything in it’s place. Very, very occasionally I catch a glimpse of that in our garden, as long as I focus on one small area!! JS did have an area for perennials in his garden too, so on the 50 year plan we’re on track.

john-seymour-book dscf0391 new-strawb-bed

We did repair our greenhouse last week, perhaps 6 weeks later than planned, so it’s now cosy & warm again & a good place to potter on chilly days. We dug up The Cardamom & Galangal from the garden, the Galangal especially looks very happy, & we’ve split it up into 6 plants, & put them in pots to over Winter in the warm. I investigated one of our Goldenseal plants, that’s been in a pot for 3 or 4 years, & it too is doing very well, I bravely split that, (it’s so precious I was scared to touch it) I even trimmed some end roots & started a tincture, our own Goldenseal tincture, how cool is that? Of course it will taste digusting, but will work wonders. Pics below: Goldensealcrown & roots, jar of Goldenseal Tincture, Florence Fennel Bulbs.


It was just such a misty moisty morning today, so I decided to get creative instead of moaning about the greyness. I took the photos below at about 8.30 just as the sun was starting to melt some of the mist away. I’m pleased with the results, they capture the mood,  dripping & monochrome, & a bit menacing.

An hour or so later the skies had cleared & optimism returned. I took some pics of the burgeoning buds on the Horse Chestnut & catkins on the Hazel bushes, which serve to remind me that Spring will be arriving again. To prove it, our first lamb was born yesterday, & luckily for it, we are expecting a few fine days ahead, Yay!!  About 3 weeks ago, we spent a few days helping some friends harvest their first crop of olives, in the sunshine even. It was a lovely job once our necks & shoulders had adjusted, perhaps made all the more pleasant because we knew we only had a few days work.

I’ve been experimenting with making Hawthorn berry tincture for palpitations, Geoff & I found a bush just laden with fruit, down a side road, & picked a bag full. I stripped them off the stalks & put them in a jar, filling it with Vodka. (Geoff was not impressed I’d found his private stash of  it) Left in a cool dark place for 2 weeks & shaken when I remembered. The resulting brew was very thick, so I added some water to wash all the goodies out of the fruit. I’m taking a teaspoonful 2-3 times a day, & I think it’s helping. Plus the breathing like blowing up a balloon exercises, (I blame menopause, seems to be a common effect, dammit.) The vege garden is going well despite the wet, the garlic is sprouting, & the onions are starting to grow.  I found a whole lot of Fennel seedlings coming up, so have planted some to replace the ones we’re eating. The Broadbeans are up, & we’ve just sown some early carrots, Manchester Table I think. We are choosing blunter types as they are easier to pull up, instead of snapping the tops off  &  then it’s a pain to have  to go in search of digging implements. It may be a bit early, we’ll see. The brassicas are looking good, but nothing big enough to be edible yet.  We’ve got some lettuces under frost cloth which are feeding us, along with Sorrel, Corn Salad & Silverbeet leaves. We’ve moved the Strawberry bed, & bought new plants for it this year, 2 varieties, the names of which we promptly forgot as soon as we got back in the car. We might dot the old plants around the place for the Grandchildren to find.

Getting Ready For The Spring

We’re having some great warm days at the moment, so have been managing to get a number of garden jobs done, that often get left until Sept, or forgotten altogether. Friends of ours let us excavate under their wool shed for sheep manure, which is a valuable resource for our gardens. We’ve also collected several fadge loads of deciduous leaves, for mulching. Some of the leaves have been gathered in the catcher when the lawns are cut, & this mix is especially good, heavier & denser.

We’ve spread manure, wood ash, & dolomite on the vege gardens & then mulched with leaves. These beds can sit now until we want to plant out tomatoes, peppers etc, in a few months time. We’ve spread manure over the spud beds, but not mulched, as they’ll be worked on as we plant.

We’ve also been re-organising our fences, some of which were in an embarrassing state. We blame the pigs! For some years we bred Kune Kunes, & they were Houdinis at escape. Every time they got out we’d put another warratah in! We’ve just about finished these, & the new system will mean that we can move our sheep from one area to the next, & rest each paddock to minimise worm problems.

The gardens are definitely thinking Spring is here, the Wintersweet has been amazing, scenting the whole garden. The first Magnolia stellata flowers are out, & the Hellebores & violets are abundant too.