Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Shopping at The Scullery

I have been without a food processor for over a year, and finally went shopping. I have had so many food processors over the years that haven't worked well, and which have died before what I consider their time. So this time I spent up large and bought a bright red masterpiece - I hope!
 The previous evening I had collected some compost potatoes (you know, the accidental spuds that grow out of the side of the compost heap long before the planted ones are ready) and, with a sudden glimpse of reality, realised that my old plastic Tupperware colander was way past its use by date: cracked, scratched and stained. So while I was in The Scullery buying my Magimix, imagine my delight on finding this enamelled colander, just like my mother had a million years ago.

Getting Growing

On 24 October  I went on an Organic Farms NZ field trip to Earthtalk at Awhitu which is owned by Tanya Cumberland and Charmaine Pountney. When they first moved there they had Kay Baxter of Koanga do a permaculture design and, with a few modifications, they have followed it, resulting in a delightful property. They were great hosts, and I loved how they gave credit to all the people who have helped with the work over the years. Some places I visit or read about leave me feeling totally inadequate as it appears that just two people do amazing work while both still working away from home for at least 40 hours a week! Tanya and Charmaine talked gratefully of their helpers, professional and voluntary.
an old mangle used to squeeze out the juice
They offered us, among other things, a delicious drink of sugar cane juice and kaffir lime - and I came home with a piece of rooted cane to try and grow - here's hoping. But even if it grows, I fear the possums will get it. Note to self: need to buy more traps, and a gun.
sugar cane growing near the middle of the picture
It was most inspiring and so since my last report on the garden we have done a lot of work. Mac and Steven, with a little 'help' from me, made me two compost bins out of recycled pallets from the rubbish heap around the back of Bunnings. On Monday we got three more so will be able to finish my three bin arrangement.

Mac has hoed and mowed, and I have weeded and scythed, and now the place is looking a lot tidier.
 last of the broad beans
We have planted potatoes,
 tomatoes, courgettes,
tarragon, coriander and marigolds.
I've sowed corn, carrots, peas and beetroot.  They've gone in a bit later than they should have according to usual planting, but with all the wind, rain and cold I think it was a good thing we were disorganised! We have more seedlings which we will be planting out over the next few days.

We've had a few strawberries - and so have the birds, so yesterday I put the netting over them.
 The chestnut trees are looking gorgeous, and are starting to flower.
 The little olive trees we bought this winter were looking lost in the long grass, so out with the scythe, and now they are less likely to be tractor mowed.
 There are plums on the plum trees, nashi, apples, pears - let's hope they stay on the trees until they are ripe, and not blown off by more vicious winds. And I've planted passionfruit (again!)
 Feijoas too prefer to be kept grass free, so that area has also been scythed.
The ducks try had to keep the grass down in the orchard, but it was too much and on Sunday we attacked it: Mac on the ride-on we inherited from Greg, and me with the scythe.
It looks so much more like a picture postcard now. Being mowed hasn't stopped the harrier from stealing the duck eggs though.
It's all been pretty hard work, this reclamation from winter wildness.

Friday, November 2, 2012

October Reading


Making Journals By Hand by Jason Thompson
This book has some lovely ideas, with some unusual techniques, but left me feeling creatively inadequate - or inadequately creative. I'm okay at making nice books with blank pages, but not so good at filling them creatively. I think I need more practice at that before getting this book out of the library again - but I will get it again sometime when I feel a little more confident.

The Decorated Page by Gwen Diehn
Again, a book that makes me feel inadequate about my ability to fill in the pages of a journal. However this one seems to have a lot of suggestions and ideas to get me working. I think I'll be buying this one, written by the same woman whose Real Life Journals I reviewed and bought, last month. Filled with suggestions and ideas of interesting ways to treat pages, I think I will make a book that has lots of pockets, from Real Life Journals , and then make pages inspired by The Decorated Page and put them inside the pockets. Then I will feel more willing to 'have a go', knowing I can discard failures without spoiling the book.


As Far As I Know by  Roger McGough
Collected Poems by Roger McGough
I bought McGough's newest book and that launched me on an orgy of reading his poems. They are a bit like salted peanuts - once I start, I find it hard to stop. My all-time favourite is in Collected Poems and is Let Me Die a Youngman's Death - I have loved it for decades, and every time I re-read it, be it a week later or years, I still have that jolt of recognition, that YES! moment. In his new book, McGough, now the 73 he talks of in that poem, revisits the theme with Not for Me a Youngman's Death. Even though I too am older, this poem, good as it is, doesn't resonate with me the way the earlier one does. My favourite from the latest book is The Wallet but I can't find a link for that so you'll have to buy the book.

Other Non-fiction

Growing a Farmer by Kurt Timmermeister
Timmermeister lives on what we would call a lifestyle block on Vashon Island off the coast of Seattle. The book is the story of his learning to live in the country, and his various attempts to make money from it. Although it isn't an instructional book, it is detailed enough to give an accurate idea of how much work is involved - and detailed enough for me to need to skim the sections on how to slaughter and butcher the animals! I enjoyed reading about someone living a lifestyle similar to ours, but in such a different place. I would have preferred a little more personal detail to make it feel a little more 'real'. but it is well written, and, overall, interesting and enjoyable.

Psychology For A Better World by Nikki Harre
Harre "wrote this book for people (like me!) who believe it is worth trying to make a better world in which both our species and the ecological systems we are part of can flourish." Harre is an associate professor at the University of Auckland where she has taught social and community psychology for twelve years. The book is about how to work successfully with ecological groups such as the Point Chevalier Transition Town group of which she is a part, and also how to make a difference in the other groups we belong to, such as our workplaces and families. It's easy to read, and not at all preachy, but is based on her experience as a psychologist. Interesting insights on group behaviour and how to manage it. You can buy the book for $15, or download it free in PDF form, from her website. You can also buy it from Amazon in Kindle format for $US2.99, but I wouldn't bother as the free PDF is perfectly readable on my Kindle as long as I turn it to landscape position.

River Cottage Veg Every Day by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
I can't say I've read all of this, but I do look at it a couple of times a week. So far everything I have made from this book has been yummy. Many of the dishes shown on the tv programme, River Cottage Veg, are in the book too, with occasional variations. It is a very beautiful book, beautifully presented, and worth every penny. Cent. Euro. Whatever!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Spring On The Land

Spring as always, it seems, has been wet, but this year it has also been cold, and windy to the extreme.
I made us an asparagus bed over winter, and planted crowns a couple of months ago. The have grown, but I didn't get around to putting wind break around the bed (the two times I went to buy some they were out of stock) and so the poor plants have been lain to rest - I don't think they'll be standing up again after today's winds.
I sowed three rows of peas: one has started growing perfectly, the other two have not germinated as well, nor as quickly even though they are right next to each other.
I finally got the strawberry and herb beds weeded
I've pulled borage out of the strawberries; strawberries from the chives, lemon balm and thyme; thyme out of the pineapple sage, sage out of the Cape gooseberries - but I've pulled bloody sorrel out of everything! Some weeds are just plants in the wrong place but sorrel is a weed wherever I find it. And don't tell me to put it in my salads because IT'S A WEED THERE TOO!
The rhubarb is growing well in it's new bed - rhubarb and apple crumble for dessert tomorrow night.
The tree onions and garlic are doing well, and the leeks are finally starting to grow - they just stayed the same size for months.
But now it's time for the big challenge - these four gardens.
There's broad beans by the bucketful if you look carefully. Very yummy when they are young and fresh.
Not just weeds but also miner's lettuce which, amazingly, actually tastes very like lettuce, and is not at all bitter like most of the other alternative salad greens. As I weeded today, a lot the miner's lettuce came out too, so that was our salad green tonight.
The parsley is on the way out, but that okay - it's everywhere in both the garden and the long grass. I'll leave one or two plants in to go to seed to make sure.
The brassicas are done.
But I had to leave this plant in the ground for my bees which were all over the yellow flowers.
The spent plants didn't go to waste though: the chooks were very happy with the feed of brassica leaves, slugs, snails and puha, and we'll get to enjoy nice rich, orange-yolked eggs.

The clucky chook wasn't so happy when I removed her from the nesting box and put her in the cage to cool off.
Back inside, the seedlings are growing nicely in our cheap greenhouse from Bunnings. (The curtains are only pulled for the photo.)

A couple of courgettes seedlings on the kitchen windowsill.
And to finish - a cup of home-grown peppermint tea with a teaspoonful of home-grown honey.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Joys of Finger-painting

For the last couple of days I've been spending time playing with what we called finger paint when my kids were little. Now I'm a 'grown up' I've found a fancy name for it - paste paper - and an excuse to play with it. I use it in my book making.

 As well as the cornflour and water, I add glycerine, detergent and a little pva glue. And paint, of course.
This is just paint spread around, another sheet of paper placed on top, pressed down, then gently pulled apart.

First I did a rubbing of the gravel on our driveway, then spread paint over the paper and poked at it with a looped mop painting tool from Playways, in Hamilton East.

Another tool from Playways - a roller stamp with a house on it.

 The tool for this was a grouting tool from when we laid our floor tiles.
 I didn't have the red I wanted, but this is still quite yummy.
 Not a good photo - it's an orangey mix of leftover paint - the red and yellow mixed together scraped on black paper with the grouting tool, and is really lovely
 Pulled red paper. Gorgeous.
 This one was done on a textured brown paper and is nicer than it looks here - I just couldn't get it to photograph well.
But my favourites were with gold paint on black paper - and were just a way of using up the gold paint which I used with the red and yellow, but which isn't even visible there!
 Again, these were made with pre-school tools! small sponges attached to dowel handles, ranging in size from around a 10cent piece, to the top of a shot glass.

 (Sorry about the shadows.)

My favourite - and sadly I don't know how I got that veined effect so it's definitely a one off!
 Next week - having received my new book from the wonderful Book Depository, I'll start playing with new book forms and use some of these papers.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Collecting a Swarm of Bees

This afternoon I got a phone call about collecting a swarm of bees, and rang one of Mac's workmates as she was keen to get some bees. When I got there I discovered that we had to walk a short distance to get them.

  The bees were very conveniently sitting low down on a lime tree

 Aren't they just beautiful?

 But to get to the bees when you have come straight from your office job means you haven't really got the right footwear, so it's barefoot time.

 Ouch! cold water, sharp stones!
 The taker and the giver.
 Ready - then I had to put the camera down to help.
 Love the safety boots - this is seriously upmarket beekeeping gear!
In the box....

 ....and gone.