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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Jemima duck waddled into my garden

Jemima seemed most fitting to name our latest feathered friend. She waddled into our lives one morning about three weeks ago. Shy, yet trusting and friendly like Beatrix Potter’s Jemima Puddle Duck, she has let us hand feed her and even give her a cuddle, and she stops, holds her head in a way looking at us that suggests she is listening to us chat to her.

We think she is an escapee, that being from our neighbour’s duck pond across our stream where hundreds of ducks of different breeds live. Bruce happens to like ducks and geese. What child has not loved listening to Beatrix Potter’s stories about garden and farmyard animals being read to them? When they were little, I used to take my grandsons to scatter grain at feeding time. It is fun to stand in the middle of the noisy rush of quacking and honking birds, like a big city rush  hour which I no longer  miss..

In the  relaxed way things happen here, one day, we will wander over to Bruce and ask if he is missing a duck. His answer will be laconic and he will not know or even worry that Jemima has herself a new home. Bruce took on six ducks recently because their owner could no longer care for her pets. Jemima is probably from that small flock. She is earning her keep and is doing a great job scooping up the bugs and slugs in my garden. For now, Jemima can sleepover at our place and be one of the poultry girls.


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Strawberry the chicken ~ wins an Ag Day ribbon

3 Choosing new chicks5 Outdoors 1st run in chicken cage

27th September, six fluffy, yellow day-old Brown Shaver chicks came to live at our place. The chick rearing school project proved a source of endless fascination.

Strawberry wins Ag Day ribbonDaniel in chook cage Nov 2015

In October, grandson, 7-year old Daniel was still mothering his chicken children. Strawberry did Daniel proud to win a ribbon at his school’s Agricultural Day.

By November, I was thinking thyme for chicken casserole. Strawberries and ThymeMy dire warning about heads on the nearby chopping block was ignored. They cheeped away and continued to forage among the strawberries and herbs.

However, the chicks were terrified of the two adult hens who command the henhouse. Gertrude and Speckles only had so much tolerance for child-minding. They took to their nesting boxes.Gertrude & Speckles I guess it’s natural a pecking order be established.

Come December, the chickens are quite the cheeky teenagers and speak in chook not cheeps. One managed a defiant peck of my blueberries as they were shooed out of the garden. At night now, they roost in the hen-house with the older hens. Fewer feathers are flying.

Is it too much to expect some egg-laying in January?

Meanwhile, Frog froghas taken residence in the flax bush I’d left soaking in a bucket until I get round to replanting it.

Animals 1 – garden 0.


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Our rainwater storage tank needed cleaning

Many rural properties have a concrete tank for rainwater supply storage. Our tank has been cleaned once in the ten years we’ve been here. Over time salts leached from the tank walls and cracks have appeared in the walls. This year, Himself and I decided our tank should be cleaned and resealed by a professional contractor. We thought our backup fibrolite tank should have enough rainwater to see us through.  Simple matter. All good.

Learning curve. The best laid plans of mice and men go awry. That one task and cost leads to another. Remove some Alders screening and overhanging the tank to reducClearing ALders by the tankse leaf litter and the potential for invasion by tree roots. Clear felled trees.

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Firewood

Firewood

Use the wait-time for the sealer to dry and do water pump and other maintenance tasks.  Buy replacement inlet taps and pump filter and install a float and floating arm. Seal the hole around the tank inlet pipe. Replace roof guttering and downpipe filter. Inspect backup tank and discover a near-invisible slow leak. Plan to demolish and replace this tank.

So we had less stored rainwater than we thought. We siphoned water from the second tank. For a week now, we’ve been into water conservation big time, safe water use and water recycling strategies. As we face the prospect of an El Nino climate situation this summer, it’s a timely reminder for us adults about respecting the preciousness of a clean supply of rainwater. Great first-hand life lessons for the kids in the household.

Their greatest source of fascination was when the contractor flushed out the carcass of a dead possum from among the black sediment from the bottom of the tank. Their words to the effect, Yuk! We’ve been drinking that water! They took some convincing that as they’d never been sick they were okay. Guess it was a case of what they didn’t know didn’t harm them. Still, this week we’ve been drinking boiled or bottled water.

Now it’s a case of hurry up and wait for rainfall to refill our cleaned concrete water tank.


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My Garden ~ something special for Christmas dinner

We’re getting ready to drive south to join my family who live in a dairy farming community near Matamata in the Waikato. This will be the first Xmas we’ll have spent together in my old home since we moved to Northland some years ago. My brother will celebrate a significant birthday in the New Year and I suspect an Uncle may surprise us and fly out from England for the occasion. I want to take something special for Christmas dinner that my family would not normally eat. So right on cue, my heritage potatoes were ready for harvesting this afternoon.  They’ll go nicely with roasted spring lamb. I’ll steam these potatoes with mint leaves and arrange a colourful platter display of the five potato varieties. I like to cook the blue potatoes separately because the colour  ‘runs’ and tends to stain. 

heritage-potatoes.jpg The soil is warm and friable and the potato growth has been prolific. This is the first time I’ve grown these two potato varieties. Top row: Kowiniwini (some refer to this as ‘zebra’).  Bottom row: Maori.

potatoes-for-christmas.jpg I’ve written about Swift (an early variety) and Red Rascal in a previous post. Similarly, I’ve described Urenika (a blue tuber-like potato). I prefer to harvest these at an early stage when they are fairly small before they get too large because I find they tend to be floury when cooked.


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My Garden ~ Crimson Christmas Cheer

pohutukawa-collage.jpg 

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. 

 pohutukawa-in-flower.jpg

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.


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My Garden ~ planting and preparing garden beds

My back tells me I’ve shovelled too much compost.  

mesculun-2.JPG chives-and-lettuce.JPG 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.  

italian-herbs.JPG strawberry-3.JPG 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.

kowinin-kowiniwini-potato-plot.JPG 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.  


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My Garden ~ Plum Blossom and Bees

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