Gardening 101. Do not, do not turn your back on the summer garden plot. Himself and I took a five-day break and the veggies threw a party.
Cos lettuces bolted to seed. Cucumber had a marrow growing competition with the zucchini. Pineapple sage bush transformed into a monster. Runner beans did a vertical sprint. Vine ripened tomatoes got saucy. Yellow quinces just wanted to carpet the grass. And the chooks fell in love with the red juicy tomatoes and grubbing among the green herbs.
Vine ripened tomatoes
Chickens have taken to eating tomatoes
Cos lettuce go to seed
Lebanese cucumber oversized
This cook has the last say. Olive oil, oregano, black pepper and roast slowly in the oven for about one hour. Slip the skins off when cooled. Use as required. I freeze the pulp in meal lots to use with pasta dishes at a later time.
About 6.00 a.m., a line of mist hovered along the paddock highlighted by rays of early daylight as the sun appeared over the hills. The awakening moment fogged over as the heavier morning mist rolled in low along the valley, dressing the trees in ghostly cloaks. But, the sun, relentless, rises even more, the fog dissipates and the chooks and cats let us know it is beyond their breakfast time and that we would be reported if food was not forthcoming.
Kitchen food scrap bucket and grains in hand, I walked across the wet grass dotted with small blankets of spider webbing before heading down some steps past the cabbage tree (Ti Kouka) covered with sparkling silky spider webs. My, how the spiders have been busy weaving the night away while we slept. They are hungry and set their gossamer traps to snare the insects that frequent the tree.
The circular webs are delicate and lacy in a way that seems not to be of this world. Dew drops glisten like fine diamonds on the filigree threads clasped to the small branches. I pause and ponder intent on capturing the moments of the morning.
Finally, I remember my task was to feed the chooks two hours ago. The sun has risen well above the trees and it promises to deliver another hot windless day. To a squawk the chooks have voted me the worst hen mother ever! Some busy pecking of the organic wheat and scraps ensues and it is not long before they scamper to scratch for bugs under the trees. As I return to the house, I notice the spider webs like the fog, have gone.
Poof! A fleeting moment is now a memory.
Hi! My special season’s greetings to you and the people who are special to you and best wishes to you all for a happy and peaceful New Year.
I’m celebrating that the Pohutukawa trees I planted earlier this year are in bloom in time for Christmas. The drifts of white in the collage are the carrot weed flowers (wild carrot) which proliferate in the paddocks at this time of the year. The cattle love the flower heads and the pukeko gouge and gorge on the roots.
The grandkids and their school-mates sang a neat New Zealand Christmas carol at their end-of-year playcentre and school prize-giving ceremonies – A Pukeko in a Ponga Tree http://folksong.org.nz/nzchristmas/pukeko.html which is sung to the tune of The Twelve Days of Christmas. Enjoy our Kiwi down-under spirit.
We hosted a very special garden luncheon party today. Pea-picker-‘tato inpsector two-and-a-half-year old’s sibling turned one in style with the help of their five cousins and some little friends from Play Centre.
A boy can get a bit wobbly on his legs and needs his granddad’s support at moments like this. Daddy kept saying, “blow”. Thank goodness big brother and my cousin knew what to do and showed me how to blow the candle out. I’ll know what to do next time.
So what did we do for this kid’s party? Keep it simple. It’s early summer here, so we have outdoor activities to wear off the kids’ high energy on the grassy area under the tree and lawn round the house. Water play is so cool. While the under-threes splashed in the inflatable pool, the bigger kids dived and dolphined in the deeper pool. The slippery slide wetted with a sprinkler attached to the garden hose was great fun as was the mini trampoline and balloons. Chairs beyond the splash range were for the adults. Finger foods were served in a small courtyard.
Some years ago, I planted these native plants to act as a windbreak to protect our fruit trees from the prevailing westerlies. The big bonus is that our New Zealand native birds love the food source. The native flax and cabbage trees nectars particularly excite the tuis and waxeyes (some people call these birds Silvereye) at this time of the year. The birds were coy about posing for the camera – so another time. Mind you, there was a deterrent. Mayhem – the Ginger cat, so wanted to be in the photo. He just doesn’t understand that the birds don’t want to be his friends. I love watching the tiny waxeyes – they look so cute after they’ve dipped their heads into the flax flowers and emerge covered with orange pollen.
My potato plants have made rapid progress and I’m still applying mulch rather than earthing up. The spring temperatures are warming up considerable and the other vegies are growing well.
My back tells me I’ve shovelled too much compost.
For the last three days, I’ve laboured, clearing garden beds and getting plants into the soil as well as preparing for later sowings of other vegies . I’m encouraged by the sight of all those wriggly worms, large and small, burrowing and digging for all their worth. I’ve delegated them the task of doing the serious work.
The old strawberry bed has had an overdue tidy-up and the runners now have nice sunny raised beds to grow in. Visions of lots of juicy red strawberries in time for Xmas, and jam-making ….. Still on my To Do List is a make-over of my Italian herbs in the pots.
I’ve mentioned in previous posts I can’t imagine not growing potatoes. I planted Swift as the Xmas new potato. This season, I’m trying Kowiniwini and Maori potatoes as additions to my small collection of heritage seeds. According to the information I got from the nursery about Kowiniwini is that it’s a good all rounder and keeper, crops well, is purple with white eyes. The Maori is round and large, with no inset eyes,has white flesh and a purple skin. I’ve been trying to get hold of King Edward seed potatoes. My Dad grew these when I was a kid. I’ll also plant Red Rascal later on.
I love to traipse around garden centres to see what’s new, read the labels and so on. Yesterday, I happened on a delightful floribunda rose Betty Boop. It struck a chord because of my mother’s given name and because I recalled her telling us once about similar sounding childhood nickname she was called by her brothers. I searched the history of this rose and found Betty Boop to have been a delightful Paramount pictures cartoon character in the 1930s – the time of Mum’s girlhood in England. I’ll buy this rose for Mum – she needs cheer in her life because of her declining health, and she does love her roses.
Hibernation is over – I can’t ignore the buzzing in my garden anymore. The plum trees are smothered with blossom and bees each determined to get its quota of pollen. It’s a wonderful sight and this spring I’m looking with fresh eyes. Recently I was able to locate The Keeper of the Bees by Gene Stratton-Porter for my mother whose health is declining. It is a book she’d read long ago in her youth and one she wanted to read again. A soldier wounded during WWI looks outwards as he finds inner strength and peacefulness after he undertakes to care for the Bee Master’s bees. As the garden is fruitful because of the bees so life becomes meaningful. I shouldn’t be surprised that spring is well and truly arrived here. The harbinger daffodils have finished, but the calendula, broad beans, borage and lavender also planted as companion plants under my fruit trees are showing off their colours and too are exciting the bees. The buds on the apple, quince and peach trees are bursting – quite the visual feast. Which reminds me – I must get busy with camera.
“Planting an orchard is potentially one of the best investments you could ever make. It’s an investment in your health (keeping in mind that our current western shop diets contain only 3 of the 8 polysaccharides essential for a strong immune system and that they’re actually only present in tree ripened fruit!) and the health of your family, … it’s an investment in your mental, emotional and spiritual health, it’s an investment in the health and future of the planet.” Kay Baxter, 2002