Category: November

Under Control…for now!

I think it’s safe to say that we have our herb & vege garden pretty much under control! Well that’s a loose term but it does imply that perhaps there are more plants that we want in the garden & fewer of those we’d rather not have. Note I am not calling them weeds, as we have carefully left Plantains & Chickweeds growing, among other things. Geoff has planted all the tomatoes we want for the Summer.

Spring Tomatoes weedmat planting

We have a nasty patch of Couch Grass, which we are dealing to by covering with sheets of weed mat, left over from our nursery days. We plant pumpkins etc in the holes that exist in the mat, but otherwise just anchor it in place. It seems that if we are not winning the war against Couch we are at least holding our own. We have the optimistic plan that if we spent half an hour in the gardens each day, we could maintain this sense of being on top of things I planted out amix of beetroot seedlings & mulched around them with wet newspaper & compost. They are shooting away, so I think my lack of success last year was simply that they weren’t nurtured enough. Our garden compost is not the weed-free  type that comes from a good, hot heap, it’s the slow, cool type which provides us with a wide range of ‘weeds’, but also some interesting seedlings like sunflowers, mysterious curcubits of unknown heritage lots of Coriander & Calendula, & tomatoes.

Elderflowers in Olive Oil Elderflower Champagne

Our Elder tree by the compost heap, is a mass of flowers & we are picking them to add to jars of olive oil, to make Champagne & to dry for infusions & tinctures as needed. They smell so delicious, & the sweetness wafts through the garden. We’re trying out a spray, made by boiling up the Elder leaves, it’s used to control aphids, black spot etc. Will report back later on progress.

Elder Leaf Spray Elder Flowers

Geoff is cleaning out our old para pool today, & has caught & moved a frog from it. This frog has been steadfastly serenading us for the last week, especially at night. It’s been re-housed in the concrete pond. I think we shall miss it’s rasping call in the middle of the night. The plump female frog we spotted a few weeks ago has disappeared, so we are going to resort to buying some tadpoles to increase their numbers. I’m not sure what happens to them, I know they are sensitive to sprays, but we don’t use inorganic sprays here, perhaps last Summer’s drought finished them off?

Mum's Garden Foxgloves & Geranium pratense

The roses have been a riot of colour & in Mum’s garden they are looking extra large & abundant..we must see about building that high fence around her place! The Wisteria has finished & now Daylilies, Delphiniums, Foxgloves & other cottage flowers are flowering. We have some large bronze flaxes which are flowering for the first time, the spikes must be 3 metres tall, & stand up above the deck. we are hoping to have a bird’s eye view of any Tuis or Bellbirds that come in to feed. I’m putting in a pic of the flower buds of a red Cabbage Tree, which look amazing, like lizard tails.

 Cabbage Tree Flower Buds Herb Garden Calendula Flowers

Flower Border Flax Flower Stalks

Exchange Students & Busy Days:

We had a lovely day on monday, running workshops for 23 exchange students from a local high school.

They have asked for copies of recipes used, these are in the “recipe” section of the blog, under Herbal Balm & Lemon & Calendula Petal Muffins. The soap recipe is in the Hair Care section. Happy brewing!

The Hastings Community Arts Centre Xmas Fair has started, this is always a great event, & a good way for us to get through the christmas spending without total panic.

Although this year I was a week out with my plans & we had to label & pack in extra quick time.  We also had a stall at the Rudolph Steiner, Taikura school in Hastings, yesterday, which was lovely. It had a really good atmosphere, & plenty of things for the kids to do. I went on a Fire Engine ride with my 2year old grandson & we were both pretty taken with the big truck. We met lots of people we hadn’t seen for ages, & even found time to sell a few  things. The fairs & markets are good fun, but a lot of work. esp. the unpacking after it’s all over.


Our garden is growing well, we’ve been eating broccoli & broadbeans every night this week, & Zucchini are about to enter our menu. I went mad & planted about 8 plants, so will need to research many recipes for using them up (Geoff’s weak spot is Eggplants & we have at least 2 dozen of those.) Our onions have been struck with a black mildew, which is alarming & disappointing. We have made up a spray using everything we could think of, including Baking Soda, Chamomile, Horsetail, & Copper. I think they are looking a bit better. I’m wondering if it’s something the Broadbeans have introduced as they look a bit spotty, we’ll pull the beans up tomorrow just to be safe. We were planning to plants leeks in the gap, but we’re re-thinking that plan.We are slowly whittling away at the weedy patches, but there never seem to be enough hours in the day at this time of year. Tomorrow’s list of jobs has some of my favourites in it, picking Elderflowers to dry & for tincture, also Wood Betony, Calendula & Honeysuckle flowers. Start a batch of Hypercal Tincture too & make Shoap. Spray onions again & cut back some of the rampant herbs which are blocking the paths. We’ve had some new birds around the place, there’s a pheasant which calls from the trees across the creek, & we had a pair of Herons perching in the old Robinias.

At this time of year we hear but don’t see the Shining Cuckoos, & I’m torn with pleasure at having them around & sympathy for the poor little Grey Warblers whose nests get invaded.

Elderflower Cordial & Wool

I always seem to start this diary with a comment on the weather. Well I guess that makes sense, since so much of what we do here is dependent on whether it is raining or sunny. We are getting such a jumble of both that it’s hard to plan ahead very much. We may start the day in shorts & singlets & end up lighting the fire in the evening.


In the fine spells we’ve been weeding & planting the vege garden for the summer, have finally put in tomatoes, peppers, basils, eggplants, kumara etc. Have some spuds in & more to plant. Have pulled up the broadbeans & put all their stalks & leaves on the compost heap, I have a basket of pods to shell… soon.

The Elder tree is covered in blossom, we’ve picked flowers to fill jars of Olive Oil, some to dry for teas & cosmetics, made a tincture, & 2 batches of Elderflower cordial, we plan to make a whole lot more to give away as Christmas presents. I’ll put the recipe in the recipe section.

Today has been a sheep day, our flock of 20, is now 30 with this seasons lambs, which is too many for us to keep over the summer. Our neighbour, Kingi, came over & did the shearing for us, & we took advantage of having them in the yards to drench them too. Haven’t been able to find a worming drench recipe, so we made one  up, it smells good at least. We used organic cider vinegar & put in garlic cloves, Wormwood & Feverfew. We’ll try & dose them regularly throughout the summer.

We’ll take the good wool into town to sell, the dags & crutchings are destined for the compost heap, it all feels very efficient & on to it!!

The Sheep

Our friend & neighbour, Kingi came over & did the shearing on our small mob of sheep. We have 20 or so which we share with our close neighbours, moving them between the two properties, & sharing the responsibility for them. Kingi  has just recently been available for work on lifestyle blocks, & he’s a godsend, he has great knowledge of stock, & can sort us out when we get flummoxed, as we often do.

Having livestock feels like a much greater responsibility than trees & plants. If they get sick or die it’s very distressing. (Plants become firewood or compost.) Then there’s all the weird things that they can get, which sound like threats form the old Testament! Pulpy kidney, Sheep Measles, Facial Eczema, Scabby Mouth, Bloat, Staggers, Footrot,Tetanus, the list goes on & on.

The report is that our flock is in good nick, & four wethers have been marked for the freezer. Another local man does on farm killing, I think it costs $25 per sheep, & believe me it is money well spent. Firstly because the sheep are killed on site, there’s very little stress on the sheep, & secondly it is such a quick & efficient process, we are not traumatised either.

The carcasses are delivered to our local butcher, in Waipawa, & are cut up, turned into sausages or whatever. We usually send in some herbs to go into the sausage mix. This time it will be Marjoram & Walnut Pesto for one lot, & Coriander & Cumin for the other. We pick everything up a week or so later, the meat is already frozen & the sausages get seperated & frozen in flat packs, so we can get out however many we need.

Geoff & Jamie, (next door) killed & butchered our first sheep for the freezer, it took them several hot hours to do the deed, & they weren’t keen to repeat the experience. I used to know how to skin & gut a sheep, years ago, but it’s not high on my list of things to do, & I truly believe in working to your strengths.

The black ewe in the photographs, imaginatively called ‘Blackie’ is 10 years old, she produces twins every year, & is in fine fettle. She’s also a cunning old bag who leads the others astray, jumps fences, & doesn’t miss a trick. Occasionally we get a black lamb from her, but sadly they are always boys.

The sheep have made managing the land, all 1.8 hectares! much easier, we don’t have to worry about long grass & fire risk, & generally they help us to keep on top of things, plus generously providing delicious meat as well.

Update early Dec. We’ve had the four sheep killed & processed, it cost us all up $320 for the whole thing, we have 2 sheeps worth of meat in our freezer, many kilos of sausages, a mutton ham, mince, boned roasts & cubed meat. Looking on the internet if we were to purchase the same from an organic supplier it would be worth over $500, our cost was $160 Very satisfying.

If you’re interested here are the sausage mixes we used:

Turkish Mix

True Greek Oregano, fresh leaves, Sumach, Black Pepper, Cumin, Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Paprika & Coriander-fresh leaves & dry seeds. Mostly made up of fresh leaves finely chopped, & spices added as we fancied. The whole lot made up 2 cups approx, this went into 130  sausages, next time we’ll maybe add half as much again.

Marjoram & Walnut:

Pulse blend a couple of handfulls of fresh nuts, add in several big handfulls of fresh Marjoram, stripped off the stalks. This is a lovely fragrant mix, again we got more sausages than we were expecting, so will make more next time. We had about 2 cups worth for 130 sausages.

We’re having amazing weather here,although a good dose of rain would be most welcome. The gardens are full of birds, Welcome Swallows have decided to build a nest in our back porch, & they are swooping about the garden. The Red Ladybirds have finally arrived in large numbers, & we are very pleased to see them. Rabbits have become rather too familiar a sight & Geoff has started to shoot them before they become a real nuisance. This is a sad decision, as it’s been lovely to watch a pair exploring the orchard in the early evenings, but we always said that as soon as we saw more than two, or they got into the gardens, we’d cull them. Sometimes our cat has brought home a dead baby rabbit, & they are very sweet, years of conditioning by Beatrix Potter.

The potatoes we put in, in early Oct are coming up sturdily, although we’ve had the odd late night foray, putting frost protection on them. Some of the special ones we were given aren’t up yet, they were very small, so we’re hoping they survive. One plant that doesn’t mind the frosts is the Globe Artichoke, we have more heads than we can keep up with. Geoff makes a great dish using them & potatoes, I’ll put in the recipe next time he makes it, although the photo won’t do it justice as it comes out a bit grey!

The Elder tree is flowering well, & we are picking the umbels to put in olive oil, these will stay out in the sun for several weeks, & then get strained & stored for use in the next year. The Elder oil goes into several of our ointments, it is a skin softener & conditioner.

More Weather!

Yesterday afternoon we had the most almighty thunderstorm. It seems years since we’ve had a good storm. The thunder & lightening rolled around the valley for 2 hours or so. It drove our dogs crazy. They ran around in the pouring rain, barking at the noise, & eventually wanted to be let in, dripping wet & panting.

We had 23ml, nearly an inch of rain, which is excellent as the gardens have been looking very dry, & not only that, but Geoff had left the tap running on our rainwater tank a few days ago, by mistake. Apparently the rain that falls during a thunderstorm is especially good for the garden, being ionised, but I shall have to do some research on this to confirm it.
This morning I planted some seeds into the warm, moist soil, & feel optimistic that they’ll all grow. Along with such mainstays as carrots & beetroot, I’ve put in some Nigella Eastern Spice, (from Kings Seeds) the seeds are spicy flavoured & used in Turkish cooking. I have a recipe ready & waiting!

Last weekend we planted all our Summer vege plants out, crossing our fingers that we won’t see any more frosts. Already the toms & peppers are looking bigger. The spuds will take a while to show, we’ve put in mostly Agria which are divine, & a variety of Maori potato called ‘Old Blue” which is purple with white eyes, & good flavour.