Thursday, 27 September 2012

Rapid Road to Recovery

This picture of our peach blossoms makes me feel great, just the mere sight of it! On top of the world!   I have been bogged down by crazy, hectic activity these last two weeks.  So much to do, so little time..........  The reason:  End of term. So many strings to tie up and projects to complete.  And in the home, crazy, frenzied Spring activities in the garden, building projects on our front doorstep with hundreds of little considerations and decisions to be made.  Add to this all, the delightful culmination of a term's hard work ending in a tropical holiday getaway!  So suddenly our holiday crept up on us (we had booked and planned it a year in advance)............... quick as a flash, I sent out a barrage of invitations to Helpxchange visitors............... to have all 6 respond in the positive. I had suspected it would be a lot harder to find housesitters at short notice.   Eeek!  So graciously, I accepted the first positive responder and declined the others.  Fast forward to this point in time and we have a house full of guests - our lovely French housesitters, our returned Argentinian ex-helpxchange from 3 years back, and Mike's very old (in relationship years, not age) friend from Melbourne!  Add to this a builder outside the front of our house making much hammering, grinding, nail-shooting noise and playing his own blend of 60's radio station ........ and one can see why a picture of Spring blossoms is calming and healing.  

I also managed to pick up a violent cold/flu bug from the kindergarten.  As I was potting up some seeds on Friday afternoon, I started to cough rather ferociously and wondered if I had ingested some potting mix ...............oooops, is this how Leggionaire's Disease begins?  It continued well into the night.  On Saturday morning, I woke up feeling rather weak and unwell but thought I would fight the good fight and stay on my feet.  After half an hour, I had to admit defeat and weakly climb upstairs and huddle in bed with a hot water bottle.  All the classic symptoms of flu; cold; shivering, achey body, cough, head fit to burst................  Oh, no!  There goes our tropical vacation!!

My learning so far in life, is that if you fast at the first sign of illness, the body is able to utilise the energy required to digest food, into healing the body.  So that's what I did.  For nearly 36 hours I did not eat but drank water and sage tea.  Fast forward to Sunday afternoon and I was able to move around and feel like I was on the road to recovery.  Wow!  It's amazing what your body is capable of if you give it the right conditions or ingredients.  No drugs.  Nothing but rest, fasting and patience.   I am almost certain that we get sick, simply so we can rejoice in the feeling of wellness again.  Health is a commodity we take for granted when we have it!

The new insulated floor is laid.

Behind the white is a gaping hole where the new full-length window will be inserted.
Travelling in Style:  The previous weekend I happened to go to the Bowling Club Car Boot Sale and picked up this grand little cat-box for $3.  It has a wicker lid to close for transporting the cat, and a little velvet cushion inside.  On opening it, Shanti immediately hopped in, smelt around it for a few minutes and then lay down and stayed there all night.  It is testimony to her love of small confined places.  Last night I walked out of our bedroom to find 2 very bright  eyes staring at me from my shelves with linen in wicker baskets!  Little beastie leaves her fur on all my newly laundered bed sheets!  She will not be coming on holiday with us, but she has 2 lovely French keepers to take care of her.  And if we ever need to go somewhere with her, she now can travel in style!

Oh, to travel in comfort.......
I often say that nothing really surprises me in life.  I had worried that I would be sick on holiday but my body has fast-forwarded it's healing at a break-neck pace and I can only but marvel at what it is capable of!  I can't help but being most pleasantly surprised!!  And the other advantage of my 36hr fast???  I think I might just look a whole lot better in my itsy bitsy teeny weeny bikini next week, with a new-look, flat tummy!!  Hope it lasts!   Beach weather; bring it on.......................!

Monday, 10 September 2012

Goddess of Wind

Even Josephine, our "scarecrow" is wind-blown and weary!
The Spring equinox always bring a mixed bag of weather conditions.  The wind is blowing a hurricane outdoors and we watch with resignation as the blossoms are ripped off the plum and nectarine trees before even having the chance to be pollinated!  Oya, the Brazilian Goddess of Wind is indeed a fierce warrior!  Her destructive nature is thought to make way for new growth and development.  Mmnnn.  Thus I expect a bumper crop of fruit and veg this growing season!

Building activities have been underway last week and one forgets how much mess it brings!  Mike and I spent our weekend tidying up (our builder is neat, but the process creates so much fall-out!).  I had to find places to put all the plants I pulled up for the building process, and Mike moved the mound of grass and soil created with digging out of the foundations.  On the plus side, the extra soil created a lovely impromptu bed to plant my seed potatoes in, with two heaps on the side for mounding up. As this area was covered in weeds and we were feeling a tad tired from the extra work, we thought we would try to experiment: Mike laid down cardboard (reducing need to weed), onto which we made two rows of soil mounds for my potatoes to sleep in (using the soil from the building project).  Two birds, one stone.  (Seems a strange idiom for a vegetarian???  Maybe I should start a new saying - one pull, two carrots?)

Given that the wind lent a hand to plucking citrus off the trees and throwing them to the ground, I worked with the windfall, rather than curse the hand that helped............ made lemonade and limonade!
Did you know that lemons are the signature food for breasts?  Yep, if you look at a half lemon, it resembles the mammary glands!  If drunk during menstrual cycle, it reduces breast pain often associated with it.

Dissolve one cup of sugar in one cup of hot water (can boil it on stove till dissolved), then add 1 1/2 cups lemon juice (or lime juice).  Voila!  Bottle and keep in fridge, to dilute roughly 1-6 parts water for a refreshing drink on a hot day!  
I have poured mine into plastic containers which can be frozen till needed on elusive hot days.

Making Lemonade

Lemonade on the left, Limonade on the right.
After initially misunderstanding the seedtrays were not the latest in inside kitty litter, Miss Shanti, the cat, now eyes them curiously.  At first she would try to step onto the soil-filled trays but got a few smacks on her bottom.  Now she knows that it is a no-go zone!  They are doing well, albeit a little leggy from being indoors.  The thrill of new growth never ceases to amaze me.  I keep on looking, tracking their growth, several times a day.

Shanti guards the seedlings

Violet Sicilian Cauli - so beautiful, it seems a shame to eat! It is an authentic Italian purple cauliflower.  Great flavour.
Garden harvests include citrus, cauliflower, radishes, artichokes (last of), chicory, salad ingredients and parsley.  The leguminous cover crop in bed one was beginning to show gorgeous purple pea flowers, so it was time to cut it up this weekend and put the chook tractor onto it, to clean up and dig it into the soil as a great soil conditioner and nitrogen fix for my summer crop of tomatoes.  Crop rotation is essential to good crops and healthy soil. 

Cover crop of blue peas, hairy vetch and oats.

Plum blossoms in the calm before the stormy winds of Oya arrived.....

Lemons to last through most of Spring and Summer....

Chook tractor over the cover crop, with rain jacket to protect entrance to sleeping mezzanine.
On Friday, Mike arranged for a stump grinder to come and grind out our old oak tree stump, so that we can plant a Luisa Plum tree nearby.  With space being at a premium in our small edible landscape, we have to undergo drastic measures, like stump grinding to make space for new!  The resultant sawdust/soil mix was put to good use, in the chook bed, the compost bin, the pathway in the hothouse, and extra for layering between kitchen scraps in the compost bin.  It's great when there is a no-waste feel-good factor involved in demolition!
Where once was a stump.............
And all around the garden are signs of Spring!  I planted some tulip bulbs mid winter and this is the result.................

One white frilly tulip

A cerise-pink tulip, with more buds opening to reveal their colours..


Purple bonnet-like flowers that seem to spring up (no idea what they are)

Tubular miniature agapanthus


The hothouse has 3 new little additions - tomato plants, a month earlier than outdoor plantings.  Not home-grown seedlings but ones we bought from the local market.  22 October is the "traditional" tomato planting window (Labour Weekend) in New Zealand.  The following weekend, we will begin to work on preparation for our tree planting community project.  I saw an online video clip about a small town called Todmorden and their response to economic downturn.  Brilliant!  Inspiring!  If you have 14 mins to spare, watch the clip!  

The salad ingredients that have seen us through the winter.  
The changing face of our porch.  New insulated
 foundations for solarium.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Joie de vivre

"I love Spring anywhere, but if I could choose I would always greet it in the garden." - Ruth Stout.

Joie de vivre.  The joy of living!  1 September.  The idea of Spring.  Even if it only really comes on 23 September!  It's the notion of it that makes your toes tingle and your fingers twitch!  After a long, cold, bleary winter, the thought of Spring makes you literally want to dance - to leap or spring into the air!!  Oh, I do declare, it is my most favourite season of all!  
And my Organic Horticulture Level 3 certificate arrived in the mail on Friday - another cause for celebration!

Some people regard daffodils as the first sign of Spring - if I did that, Spring would arrive falsely in mid-winter in my garden!  I have one small little late-planted clump of daffies flowering now, but the rest have long-gone flowered!  My more reliable indicator is the Kowhai flowers that start to blossom at the back of the house.  And the sweet sound of excited tuis who come to suck their nectar.

Left over winter harvest ripening slowly in the shed.
I made a delicious banana bread with them last weekend.

Seed potatoes which have survived overwintering, set out in a tray to "green" up for planting out.

Last window for harvesting Jerusalem artichokes.....

I have been patiently waiting to cook this beauty - a real Cinderella pumpkin!

Beautiful orange flesh... great for pumpkin soup!
 It's been an interesting week, preparing for our building project to erect a solarium (passive heating) and solar panels.  Mike has been meeting or talking with builders, glaziers, draftsman, brick-layers etc.   Our house will never be the same again!   We also had our single-pane windows retrofitted with double glazing.  What a pleasure..... The windows in our rumpus room/laundry were the original garage windows.  The previous owner had run a concrete statue business in there, so the windows were pitted with bits of concrete sediment.  Now we have not only warm, but clear windows!!  Yeehah!  The future looks bright.......

 We also attended another meeting for our planned community orchard planting.  Things are moving along nicely, with local Council giving us the official go-ahead!
Last chance view of the house as she currently stands...

The pergola which will go, to build a roof to hold the solar panels.
Through the week, after work, Mike and I have been uploading the mulch by wheelbarrow, to lay in our middle bed.  It is good to use tree mulch after it has stood for at least 5 weeks, or it is too acidic.  Our pile has been sitting for about 7-8weeks.   I have planted 20 lavenders in the middle bed, so am expecting a military-manoevre of insectivorous movements over the summer.  I expect the place to be humming!!  Hang on, they are only 10cm high - maybe my expectations are a little grandiose at this stage!  Oh well, one can dream!  I have one late-planted bunch of daffodils flowering in my flower bed - it's great to see this seasonal arrival!

What a thrill to see the obvious signs of impending Spring - my little seed trays have emerging little green sprouty bits popping up!  Cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuces, eggplant, peppers, beetroot and silverbeet.  I have 2 large trays with emerging sunflowers and marigolds too.  Oh, the joy!   In the garden, my rhubarb has emerged, while a few cauliflowers have flowered just in time for a Father's Day treat.  Violet cauliflower with cheese sauce?
Well-timed Spring flowers

A transplanted rhubarb popping up for Spring!

Violet Sicilian Cauliflower
Along with mulching the central flower bed, I weeded and  mulched our elongated guava bed, inter-planted with chicory and salad plants - rocket and plantain.  My garden has a waste not, want not policy regarding use of available ground space.  It is wasteful to have large areas of unproductive ground.  I managed to lay mulch on the entrance-way to the hothouse, to avoid the nuisance of the constant weeding I had to do last summer!

Mulched guava bed

Mulched walkway to hothouse.

Plum tree in blossom

First tulip to emerge
 Next weekend, I will be chopping up the green manure crop in our first bed and putting the chooks on board to clean it up.  I have been giving the chooks plenty of opps to "wild-forage" in their little movable mesh cages this week.  I would love to let them free roam, but given that they are fliers (small and light-weight), our fence boundaries will offer little resistance to keep them in, and we have 4 out of 5 neighbours with dogs!  When I feel sorry for them for not being able to be total free-ranging, I remind myself that we saved them from the cooking pot!
Bed 1 with a Green Manure crop

Last remaining pumpkin reserves
This goliath truck arrived at our place at the end of the week, to offload our bricks for the solarium.  The delivery guy whistled a tune throughout his manoevres of the crane!  In his element!   Boys and their toys!

Flying brick circus

All the bricks needed to do the job!
So Monday sees the project go ahead............. Hmmmn!  The next step in our self-sufficiency journey.  We plan to generate at least half of our energy needs.  16 solar panels.  Perhaps we should really look at how we use the energy......  Mike's favourite saying:  "Be careful what you want..... 'coz you might just get it, and then you'll wonder if you really wanted it in the first place!!"