My Garden ~ a Kiwi's take on life

"I wandered lonely as a cloud That floats on high o'er vales and hills," William Wordsworth


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My Garden ~ seeds of spring sowings

Eldest son and I phone-tagged tonight as we pored through an online seed catalogue. We decided to order online. This season, we’re sharing packets of seeds and adopting a more economical approach to growing more of our food. He has five kids and had just returned from the supermarket. The price of fresh produce there has really spurred him to get a vegie garden going – now! Yesterday! He’s got fruit trees planted on his new place. He and his wife had a salad picking garden at their previous home. Now, the inflation of their growing family’s appetites is matching economic inflation.

We settled for a seasonal selection for early spring plantings September-October. Our climate is warm enough – but then I said that once before about early potatoes and then there was a light frost.  We’ll use the polyhouse to get seedlings started and potted up later on before transplanting later into our gardens. No 2 son will get involved later on but at present, he’s absorbed with the prospect of becoming a Daddy for the third time.

So what did we order? Eldest son chose Watermelon Moon and Stars and Sweet Corn Honey and Pearl for his kids. I like his thinking about scatter sowing field poppies and a beneficial insect seed blend  in his new orchard. I’d have the lot but reason has to prevail. Such wonderful stories about heritage seeds. I’m inspired by names given to some of the seeds we ordered, like:  Baxters Early Bush Cherry Tomato; Pea Wando Select; Zucchini Costasta Romanesco; Bean Borlotto Fire Tongue;  Beetroot Crosbys Egyptian Flat; Black Cherry Tomato; Squash Orange Dawn. I’m intrigued by Chilli Pasilla Bajio as described in the catalogue, quote:

In Spanish, Pasilla means “little raisin”, an allusion to the deep brown dried pods and raisin like aroma of this flavourful Chilli. The long thin walled glossy dark green fruit at the immature stage ripen to dark chocolate brown with high yields and uniform high quality. When used fresh Pasilla are called chilaca and add a rich flavour to enchilada and chilli sauces.

I’m already thinking what recipes I might use to enjoy the ‘raisin like aroma”. And I was delighted to get hold of heirloom pumpkin seeds. My father used to grow Triamble pumpkin and it’s a good keeper and has a great taste. I can see him now using a small axe to chop through the hard skin.

We’ve battened down for the second major wintery storm of the week and I’ve been curled up in front of the wood-fire reading the jobs to do in August in my latest gardening magazine. I’ve learned that wood ash is beneficial for rhubarb in that it acts somewhat like lime. May be this is why winter happens – so we must wait, rest, reflect on our gardening adventures, and dare to dream how the next growing season might be.


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My Garden ~ the ‘no ordinary storm’ has moved on and the power’s back on

The ‘no ordinary storm’ has wreaked its havoc across our part of the country. After a whole day without power we were switched back on about three hours ago. Things haven’t been too bad here. We’re somewhat sheltered by hills from the full brunt of the easterlies that are continuing to sweep down the east coast of the country. We kept the fire going and like others, heeded the advice to stay indoors and sat it out. I did venture out with the camera at the height of the deluge and got soaked for my effort.

Things seemed to quieten in our neighbourhood about mid-afternoon so Himself chose to inspect the fencelines rather than play Scrabble! Just because he doesn’t like playing against someone who uses more than  four letters to make words! So I got the camera out again. This time, it was our fences that took a real battering.  


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My Garden ~ no ordinary stormy weekend so we’re battening down the hatches

A severe storm warning is in place for Northland tonight and tomorrow. The magnitude of this storm is described as most unusual. The deepening low forecasted to head our way from tropical Queensland area

 

… is no ordinary storm.” MetService spokesman Brian Kreft said.

 

The pressure is expected to drop to 970 hPa. It’s interesting to feel the calm before the storm. Actually, it was quite a nice morning. Himself commented how the hazy cloud cover has been gradually filling in this afternoon.  The media weather pundits have issued the expected weather warnings place and have noted the  destructive potential of the winds. We’ve battened down what we can and put away objects that might take flight. We sold our cattle last week so there’s no worries if it floods. This is not the only stormy event gripping New Zealanders’ attention this weekend.

 

There’s another no ordinary trans-Tasman storm brewing. The clash between the All Blacks and the Wallabies this weekend. The perfect storm. Sporting rivalry will be thrashed out in Sydney. It’s being billed as the show-down between two rugby coaches. Graham Henry is the national coach of the All Blacks. Robbie Deans – was a popular Kiwi regional rugby coach. The Aussies have made him their own and christened him ‘Dingo’ Deans. He now coaches the Aussie rugby team, the Wallabies. National opinion is heated and fills the air-waves. Rugby fans here continue to be divided about Henry’s reappointment as coach to the All Blacks after the debacle at the World Cup in France when the All Blacks were unexpectedly trounced in the quarter-finals. Fans wanted heads to roll. Many wanted Deans to be our national coach in the lead up to the next Rugby World Cup in NZ in 2011. As things go, Deans flew across the Tasman and is now adulated by the Aussies. The deepening pressure before this rugby game is as intense as the tropical ‘no ordinary storm’. Heaven help us if the ‘no ordinary storm’ takes out the national grid and disrupts the televised broadcast!

 

And we have a seven year old grandson’s birthday party to attend on Saturday – at a time predicted to be the height of the weather bomb! It’ll be interesting driving there. The back country road where our son lives with his family is prone to slips and floods. We may not get there. Have I mentioned my poor neglected vegetable garden? At least the drainage is still happening. At least plants are growing because the temperatures are relatively benign. Our weekend is shaping up to be quite eventful. 


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My Garden ~ downed tools and took a break

Yay! Himself and I drove to the Bay of Islands and took a nano-break in our Northern backyard so to speak and joined the few visitors brave enough to visit our country at this time of the year. Three nights and four days! We stayed in Paihia. No matter the wet and wintery weather, we played the tourist and imbibed our nation’s heritage and cuisine. Of course, we checked out the cafes. We drove to a local vineyard near Kerikeri. We discovered a wonderfully crisp dry Sauvignon Blanc 2006 and a fruity Pinot Noir Rose. That made the trip worthwhile.

In 1819 Samuel Marsden introduced winegrowing to New Zealand with the planting of over 100 different varieties of vine in Kerikeri, Northland.

“New Zealand promises to be very favourable to the vine as far as I can judge at present of the nature of the soil and climate”

he wrote. Nearly two hundred years later, the New Zealand wine industry is at an all time high, and is especially praised for it’s Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.\

It’s fascinating to read the historically familiar names on the tombstones of the earliest settlers in the cemetery behind St Paul’s Anglican Church in Paihia, the first church to be built in New Zealand, quote:

Less than a decade after the first Christian service was held on the Northern shore of the Bay of Islands on Christmas Day 1814, Reverend Henry Williams and Mrs Williams arrived on August 3rd, 1823 to establish the missionary settlement at Paihia.  On their arrival, Mrs Williams with her three children went to reside in Kerikeri while the Reverend Henry Williams at once set to work to erect temporary buildings at the new station. On September 15th, Mrs Williams came to join her husband and records in her journal state that, not only was there a storehouse and dwelling, but also a Church, built of raupo, which was opened for Divine Service on Sunday, September 21st, 1823.  This was the first Church ever built in New Zealand.The Reverend William Williams with his wife joined his brother Henry, arriving at Paihia on March 26th, 1826.  This gentleman was a classical scholar of Oxford University and also had a considerable medical knowledge which was of the greatest benefit to the Mission.In the year 1828, the raupo church was replaced with a lath and plaster structure, which served until 1856 when a wooden church was built.  This was used until 1874, when it was dismantled and another wooden church erected, incorporating much of the old timber.  In 1925 the 1874 church was dismantled in sections and transported to serve at Taumarere.  It was moved to make way for the stone Church of St Paul, the fifth to be erected on the site.  It was built as a lasting memorial to Henry and William Williams. 

We ferried across the bay to Russell for lunch in the Duke of Marlborough Hotel. We walked up Flagstaff Hill. We mooched around the Russell art galleries. Later, we walked along the waterfront from Paihia to Waitangi – the place where New Zealand’s founding document treaty was signed.

I actually forgot to take photos – I guess a case of being blase about familiar sights and taken-for-granted scenery. Anyway, we spent much of our time near the waterfront.


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My Garden ~ a garden cart

It’s always special to receive a gift. And no matter how many birthdays signpost life’s journey, the anticipation when unwrapping a gift never fails to excite. Himself lives by the mantra that good things come in small packages. And to be sure, he has lived up to the expectations of his mantra. This year, he’s excelled himself in the surprise stakes with his biggest, heaviest boxed gift ever. Tonight, I didn’t even come close to guessing what might be in this birthday wrapped package accompanied by an expressively worded card.

His gift: a steel, flat-deck, garden wagon with a pull handle, large pneumatic wheels for mobility and stability that has a maximum load capacity of 150kgs. Perfect. It’ll be great for so many garden jobs. Come to think about it, how did I manage all these years with a wheelbarrow?  


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My Garden ~ a frosty lesson in growing potatoes

In June, I boasted about the warmer than usual night-time temperatures. I was intent on getting as much planted and established as quickly as possible – including an early potato crop. Squelchy soils in the paddocks caused by stormy squalls later grabbed my attention. There was no need to cover plants with frost cloth.  The early potatoes were planted in a sunny sheltered situation. The raised bed, made of lots of compost and well rotted organic material,  drains well. Early this week, all of the early potato plants’ shoots had just emerged above their warm blanket of mulch.

On Tuesday this week, Himself and I had our attention diverted  with a stint of caring for grandkids overnight and all day Wednesday. Busy as, we missed the weather forecast and of course we never gave it a thought to put a frost-cover over the plants. The first frost (albeit  a light one) of winter happened on Tuesday night. It dissipated quite quickly next day before mid-morning. At first glance, the larger potato leaves are affected – but I looked more closely and noticed the very small leaves at mulch level seem to be OK. They may have been somewhat sheltered and the soil was not frozen. Tonight, there’s an extra layer – of straw – over the plants. So, I’m crossing my fingers and hoping the damage isn’t too bad.

Another thing I noticed was that a few heritage potatoes that had self-seeded in a weed-like manner seem to have resisted the frost.  I re-read my gardening books about recovering frost affected potatoes. Each mentions mulching and mounding. On reflection, I’m not sure what I learned or my options were. (1) Leave Himself in solo charge of the grandkids? (2) Turn TV on and watch the weather while we give the kids their bottles? Work in the garden later – by torchlight if necessary. (3) Every night, think, ‘frost’. (4) Let self-seeded potatoes have their way in the garden. (5) Gardening moral – an ounce of prevention is better than a cure.