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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Of Cardiac and Chicken Events

Twenty months have slipped by since I penned my last post. I had good intentions to write weekly. Life got in the way. Himself had a cardiac event that triggered a string of interventions. Life takes on a new perspective. It is a great blessing to have a good neighbour. Neighbour’s very old farm dog tried to get into the ambulance with Himself after he collapsed in the paddock. A few wise woofs to the ambo crew from an old dog who’d seen it all before when Neighbour suffered a similar situation a year previously.

In our absent-mindedness, Neighbour grazed his animals in our paddocks. Green dollars exchange is to be commended. He repaired flood-damaged fences and applied worm fertiliser to the pastures. And so the rural routines carried on at our place. And nature ignored the human situation. Tress grew. Rain fell. Garden weeds thrived. The moon waxed and waned. The sun rose and shone. Himself and I have been lucky. We did as prescribed for post-cardiac surgery. I say ‘we’  – it’s a team effort.  Life continues. We’re getting back into our routines and are about to tackle some big jobs. I’ll write about these over time.

Meanwhile, chickens. It’s Ag Day at the end of this month at our grandson’s school. Chickens rule the roost . Master 7 year-old chose the day-old chicken raising project. Brown Shavers. So cute. Because the nights are a bit cool yet and they are only three weeks old, they’re still overnighting in a cage inside our house. Last two or three days have been warm so the chicks have enjoyed time outside in the coop. It is well netted to the cat’s chagrin. The adult hens and rooster are most curious. Chickens without a mother hen.

5 Outdoors 1st run in chicken cage 5 Warm back inside box

Gardening and nature is therapy and gives strength. To my special delight, bees are working the borage and other spring blossoms in my garden.

Bees love borage


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My Garden ~ putting my places on the map

Today, my map is back!!!! How did this happen? Resilience is one of my personal traits – ‘I can do it!’ is my mantra (well, that’s what I’m telling you).   In a New Year post, I recounted Mike Sneddon’s blog – 7 Tips to Building Your Blog’s Readership http://www.worldwidefreelance.com/writing.htm  At the time, his words made sense, so I idly thought it a simple matter to add a Platial map to highlight my New Zealand references. Progress was slow and painful as I didn’t have a clue how to go about things.  What did I learn? Not sure. Six months later in June, and I’ve never worked out why or what I did, but my flash new Platial NZ map widget had disappeared from my blog. I lamented the joys of learning how to manage a  blog. 

Today, I went back to Platial and did some searching homework. Well, long story short, I’m setting up a new blog. I need to include a map. In 2009, Himself and I will leave NZ to work and to travel (more about that at a later time). My Garden blog will go on the back-burner for a couple of years though I probably won’t be able to resist dropping in from time to time – likely from a ‘homesickness’ for my plants and trees – and the pukeko, the cat, the animal life. Anyway, that’s in the tomorrow and tomorrow’s time.

However, first things first, my newly re-discovered world of mapping in blogland is grabbing my attention.   


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My Garden ~ away from it for a bit

Happy New Year folks. Himself and I shut the gate and left the garden (and the cat and cattle) in the capable care of our friend Trish. So many things would happen in our absence. I knew the possums would ravage the ripening peaches, that the climber beans would grow like triffids, that the courgettes would mature into marrows. We left rapidly growing grass that would be knee-high when returned and need mowing. C’est la vie! I’d just have to get over it.   

We drove south to the Waikato to join Mum and my family who live near Matamata (Peter Jackson constructed the Hobbiton movie set on a local farm when he produced Lord of the Rings). Tourists still visit the site.  We had a big gathering on my younger brother’s farm (where I grew up) on Christmas Day. Lots of talk and laughs. Different people gathered 02 January to celebrate my other brother’s significant birthday at his newly built home. It was nice for Mum to have her four ‘baby-boomer’ children in one place for a change. For each occasion, both sisters-in-law excelled themselves. Baked hot ham, new potatoes (my steamed heritage potatoes went down well and were subject of interest and conversation), salads, new beans, fresh strawberries, traditional Christmas pudding and custard, pavlova and trifle. The weather was so warm, we sat outside in the shade – cold drinks in hand. In this rural community, the talk inevitably turns to dairy farming.

 Wearing off the Christmas excess is easier in the saying and harder in the doing. Himself and I did some day trips and walked at local tourist spots. If you ever come to New Zealand, Rotorua is a neat place to visit. We used to spend a lot of time there as kids and then later for weekend escapes. When we lived in the Waikato, himself and I used to do quite a bit a trout fishing in this region. Always we soaked in the mineral pools.  The sulphur smells from the boiling mud pools and springs is always there. Below are a few photos snapped during our latest getaway.

historic-government-house.jpg This historic building is a museum.

lakeside-walkway.jpg Lakeside walkway – stay on the path. Great views across the lake of course, boiling sulphur springs and muddy pools. The foliage is Manuka or Tea-tree as it’s sometimes called.

mineral-pools.jpg My favourite place. The spa baths both public and private – different temperatures and minerals. We booked a private lakeside rocky pool (see last three photos) and soaked up the minerals and the view across Rotorua lake and watched the adult birds feed their chicks. It’s a noisy colony. A cold shower, drink lots of water and back in. Bliss. Who wants to garden?

Something really nice when we returned home hot and tired after six hours driving. Someone had mowed all our lawns! I just love my neighbour. What a nice thing to do. It more than made up for the loss of the peaches to the possums.


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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 ~ The grandkids party in the garden

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. 

1st-birthday-party-in-the-garden.jpg 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.     

          


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My Garden ~ too busy in the vegetable patch to write about much else

It felt hotter outside than the official 20C today. The ground is dry and surface cracks indicate the need for rain. Never-the-less, early summer is here and this gardening month is busy with successive sowings, cultivation and harvesting.    

I checked the growth of my potatoes planted 30 September.  The Kowiniwini, Urenika and Maori  heritage potatoes are about to burst into flower. I was somewhat surprised to find the Swift (early variety for Xmas ) potatoes are almost ready to be harvested. Two-year-old Grandson who became an expert ‘tato inspector last year, inducted baby brother in the art of choosing the biggest and the best ‘tato for dinner tonight. He also picked the very first tiny courgette of the season (as you do) when you’re a connoisseur of baby vegetables. The early potato crop probably thrived because of the thick applications of mulch. The soil around the plants was friable, warm and moist despite no watering and drying conditions. We are careful how we use water because our domestic water supply is from rainwater collection. We pump water from the stream to the troughs for the animals. So gardening for me must be about conserving moisture and mulching. Our predominantly clay soil becomes rock hard in the summer – digging is a no go – hence I follow a permacultural approach to diversity and building up soil to encourage worms and beneficial insects.   

The Calendula are making a great show among the potatoes. With that in mind today, I filled gaps among the other vegetables with more heat-loving flowers as companion  plants Rudbeckia, Zinnia and French Marigolds. That should make the friendly insects giddy with delight (or confused should the pests have pesky intentions).  November here is a great month for flowers – I use different edible flowers in salads and drinks.  

I under-planted the sweet corn with a long green cucumber – my Dad used to do this as a living mulch so I though I’d give it a try this year as well as letting pumpkins sprawl under the corn plants.  I could have used beans – but I have these growing elsewhere. My last tasks today were to plant Sweet Peppers and to stake Beefsteak tomatoes – under-planted with Sweet Basil of course as I have visions of home-made pesto in mind.


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My Garden ~ it’s spring

I flew back after four days in Wellington having enjoyed picture postcard spring weather, immaculate botannical gardens, a fashion festival of wearable arts and the NZ symphony orchestra. I came to earth with thud – the climatic difference while I was away.  Himself at home endured heavy weather, flooding – the stormy works and sodden ground in Northland. Today, I ventured into the garden and got busy with the camera to show we might be a bit battered but the garden manages a smile and bursts with promise. The bees were a bit shy but a few hung around for the photo opportunity.

 Stormy spring weather that I missed while away.

 Luisa Plum blossom

 1st of the Captain Kidd Apple blossom

 1st of the Feijoa blossom

 Lavender underplanted near the fruit trees as a companion plant

  Calendula as a companion plant

 Radish going to seed

 Borage, Comfrey and Curry plants interplanted anong the fruit trees

 Broadbeans

 My first white carrot

 Arctotis

 Freesia smell heavenly

 Day lily

 Miniature cyclamen among the weeds

 Clivia

 Neighbour’s lambs remind us to put a spring in our steps

 Finally – a patch of blue sky glimpsed through the flowering peach blossom.