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semi-retiring, work life balance, lifestyle block living

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New Life – Growing pains

 

It is Easter weekend and we are almost a month into the Southern Hemisphere’s autumn.

The summer crops in the vegetable garden are almost at an end. A week or two ago, I pulled the tomatoes and courgette plants out. I left the cucumber, chillis and capsicum in as they are still producing, but the end is in sight for them too. Not so with the spinach and rhubarb which are continuing to thrive.

All these crops were a success. The garlic and the corn too. The failures were the lettuce which I never have any luck with, and the beetroot which produced wizened up things the size of a fingernail.

And the chillis. Yes, they were prolific but they were also far too hot for our palates.  I ended up giving most of them to my daughter in law who is a hot chilli fan, and making the rest into sweet chilli sauce, hoping that the other ingredients would ameliorate the fiery experience!

Regardless, most of our meals now have our produce in it. The other major thing that has happened is that we have changed from meat and three veg to at least half our evening meals being meatless. This was not a conscious choice, it just happened and we are both enjoying it.* Go figure?

Quite a lot of the produce we grew I ended up preserving. With the cucumber I made a couple of jars of bread and butter pickles and the next couple, I will use in a mustard pickle recipe I make. Both these pickles go well with cheese, of which I am a great fan.

I also made some tomato sauce. For one lot, I used the recipe of my grandmother’s which incorporated apples and onions. The other recipe I used was essentially an unadulterated tomato sauce recipe I found in a booklet put out by the NZ Gardener magazine.

So what changes have I in mind for next summer? Firstly,  I need to increase the size of my garden, realistically I  probably will  triple  its dimensions (presently 5 metres x 3.5 metres). I see this as being three beds, but maybe it will be four (gardening is addictive).  I want one bed to be for potatoes, another for onions and garlic. I will plant more tomato plants  than I did this year – this year I had 8 heirloom varieties.  I intend to use most of the crop next year for tomato sauces and pasta sauces. I also have promised myself I will be way more on to it dealing with the laterals. My plants weren’t pretty!

Next year the variety of chilli I plant will be less potent. My peppers will be the sweeter red variety, as opposed to this year’s green variety. My two courgette plants worked out well, as did the perpetual spinach and rhubarb so I will stick with these. I will plant more corn. I will persevere with beetroot and lettuce and I will win (maybe). I will also plant pumpkin and rock melon. Maybe the garden needs to be five times its present size?

Meanwhile I am planting my winter crops. I have planted broccoli, cauliflower, and more spinach plants. I am also trying leek and carrots sown into the garden straight from seed.  Hopefully, this won’t end badly. Fingers crossed!

The self-sufficiency goal continues with the introduction of a worm farm and compost system. It took a while for me to sort out how to approach this, but a conversation with my friendly garden guru at Mitre 10 put me on the right track.  Two weeks ago, I purchased all the components for a worm farm and a plastic compost bin too. Most of my vegetable scraps, egg shells and even the inner of toilet rolls go into the worm farm. It is amazing what it takes and if I am in doubt, I resort to Mr Google.

The compost bin which has chicken wire underneath to stop rodents taking up residence is where the garden waste such as tree clippings goes. Rubbish going into the council bag is now significantly reduced (maybe two bread bags full a week?)

I know I haven’t discussed our fruit trees .. .next time! Ooh, and I have discovered we have an avocado tree, a  large, slightly butchered avocado tree, but there is hope apparently, although I may have to buy it a mate!

The fun continues.

*We do buy vegetables in, of course.

** Alexa Johnson’s ‘Ladies a plate: Jams and preserves’  The sweet chilli sauce, Mrs Paykel’s mustard pickle and the Bread and Butter Pickle recipes came from this book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Life – Harvest time

vege garden

Today it is exactly a calendar year since we moved into our new-to- us home in Pataua South, Whangarei.

This means we have experienced four seasons. As a general comment, we think Whangarei is a good 2 degrees hotter than Auckland.  We are also now very attuned to rainfall, or lack of it, as we rely on tank water (again). Strangely, living out on the Heads  seems to mean  the Rain Gods often give us a miss. It will be bucketing down at work, but often when I get home I will find that not one drop has fallen out here.

Needless to say, it is always when we need it the most too. Like in the height of summer when the vege garden could do with a good drenching. Or the time when the man inadvertently filled the troughs but forgot to turn the tap off. In the latter case, Murphy’s Law came into play and the ballcock failed us too.  Yes, it was good bye to more litres of precious water than we care to admit!

But let’s swing back to the state of the vege garden. I am pleased to report that it is doing well, or most things are. We did lose the last lot of lettuce I planted to the slugs. And it was touch and go with the corn and the tomatoes  when a ferocious wind came through about 10 or so days ago and flattened them. Luckily, the corn and tomatoes were able to be saved and are flourishing again!

The crops that are doing well beside the corn and the tomatoes are the garlic, the capsicums, courgettes, lettuce, rhubarb and chillis. These are all down one end of the

scare crow

garden.

The other end has the beetroot, beans, cucumber, and spinach.  These are growing, but unlike the other veges, are not thriving.  The soil here seems to not be as friable, so I figure I need do some research to correct this – maybe add some compost to it or other magic potions? Not sure, but I guess I’ll figure it out.

Which brings me to compost. At the moment I haven’t got a bin. I was slightly put off the idea of compost when a friend told me she had opened hers and found herself eyeball to eyeball with a humongous rat. The pits, right?

However, I have moved past my fear and decided I do want one. In fact, I need one to be Ms Efficient Gardener, so I am going to get one! Actually I am going to twist the man’s arm and get him to make me a wooden affair with three bins in it.  This is going to be one of his summer projects, as is starting on the hens’ accommodation and enclosure.

As for the orchard – well, I pruned in my haphazard learner’s way and started a spray programme a few months back. Yes, this woman had high hopes for bumper crops of plums, apples, nectarines, and peaches.

To date only the plums are ripe. And in spite of having two and a half trees (a past owner cut one tree down which I am now letting regenerate), we have had a miserly crop. I did have concerns that any possum within cooee would have taken up residence in the orchard and feasted on our produce, but there is absolutely no evidence that they are the culprit. No, the sad fact is that our trees have not yielded much at all. So little that I very much doubt that there will be any plum jam made this year.

The apples are another sad story. Last year, the trees were full of codling moth (note Dear Reader, I was going to put an expletive in front of the word ‘codling’ but refrained). This year I was determined to deal to the blighters. I purchased sticky things to pop in a state-of-the-art plastic green thing that a former owner had positioned in one of the apple trees. This sticky pad attracts and traps the male. Once the males start arriving, this then signals to me that I need to swing into action to dissuade the females  from moving into the apple crop. I also sprayed around the two apple trees with Neem oil as this apparently deals to the female before they start to wreck havoc with the fruit.

All well and good right? Well, yes and no. The plan failed miserably because the former owner had the green plastic thing hanging in the wrong tree. They had it on a plum tree, not an apple tree. I therefore had sprayed Neem oil around the base of the wrong tree. By the time I realised my error, the wretched female codling moth had started her quest to damage my fruit.

Of course, I have done some remedial work to try and save some of the produce, but realistically it is touch and go. Next year though, I will win the codling moth war.

I am now pinning all my hopes on the peach and nectarine trees delivering!

Meanwhile in the land of pretend farmers, we are getting ready to say sayonara to two of the lambs. Kayel turned up yesterday and said it was time.  Not so long ago, I struggled with this concept. Now? Well, not so much.

The man and I have grown here. Definitely.

 

 

 

New Life – creating opportunities

The man and I are still of the opinion that the move North is the best thing we have done.

Life up here has added a new dimension to our thinking. We are no longer in a hurry. We have slowed down and are far more patient.

Today we headed North to a small place called Oromahoe. This area lies just shy of the turn off to Paihia on State Highway 10.

We went to this small settlement to visit the Northland Kauri Timber Ltd. We weren’t however after kauri, rather we were after eucalyptus, and they had it.

The entrance to the sawmill is marked by a variety of signs at its gate: sawmill, cheese, kindergarten.  What these things had in common was yet to unfold.

We drove up the long driveway passed a field of sows and piglets, a paddock of horses, and a few houses to the sawmill.

The man parked and went into the office. It was smoko time and the workers were sitting around having a brew.  The man explained why he was there. Unfortunately, the workers couldn’t help him.

Why?

Let me explain.

This is the North and it is a Friday.  This means the owner had gone off hunting for the weekend.

Apparently, the owner’s partner would have been able to help, but as it so happened, she was off at a funeral. The workers suggested we come back later.

Now we are realists – this is a country community, chances were that the funeral’s after match function would be long.

We decided to go to Paihia for a cuppa and come back about 1-ish.

At the duly appointed time we returned.

The wake must have been a good affair because the owner’s wife was still absent.

The man and I decided that instead of getting wood, we would settle for cheese this trip!

We drove less than a 100 metres to a small, boutique cheese factory.  On this short journey we passed a honey place on our left. Our interest was  piqued: up this driveway was a kindy, a cheese factory, a sawmill operation, a working farm and now a honey place.

At Fieldays a couple of years ago, we saw a pretty fabulous portable sawmill in operation (the man and I have a weakness for portable sawmills)  and it was named Mahoe Sawmills (http://www.sawmills.co.nz).  You guessed it – the cheese company was called Mahoe Cheese… was there a connection?

So we asked the young man in the cheese shop. The answer was yes. It was his uncle’s business and  he pointed further down the drive.

He further explained that this 110 hectare property was his grandparents’ originally. Grandma and Granddad had approximately 7 children, give or take (the grandson was pretty vague on this). A lot of these children are now running their own businesses on the land.

The grandson is the third generation working there. How cool is that?

We bought our cheese and purchased some organic sausages. Yes, these too are a product of this land.

We left inspired.

We will return for the wood! And more cheese* which is delish, meat and honey.

ON our next visit, we might even venture further down the drive to the portable sawmill company. We have an obsession to feed, after all!

 

*The cheese is sold at the Whangarei Farmers’ market too.

 

New Life – Simply living.

 

I am writing this on a winter’s afternoon. The day is fine but slightly cold, so we have the fire burning slowly in the hearth. The man’s sterling efforts cutting and storing firewood over the summer months means we have no shortage of this resource.

This morning I made marmalade from the fruit grown on our property.  This is the first lot of 50 jars that I want to put down this season. The man is a marmalade fiend. I chucked some whiskey in this batch for good luck.

Yesterday I planted some rosemary. This is the beginning of our herb garden.

Earlier in the week I planted a couple of rows of garlic in the newly resurrected vegetable garden. I will plant another two rows in about a month. And other vegetables too.  Although only ones we like – no point growing produce we won’t eat. The rotary hoe we bought a couple of months back is finally earning its keep!

Last weekend our youngest son and his wife came visiting and he and I cooked a roast for dinner. The potatoes were found in an overgrown garden in the corner of the home paddock. He recognised them; I thought they were weeds!* The  lamb, too, came from our property and although it took me a few days to get my head around this fact, any reservations about the meat’s provenance evaporated at the first mouthful! It was delish.  And that rosemary I planted will be the making of future lamb dishes!

Last week I made guava jelly from the remnants of fruit on our trees. The trees were fruiting when I went away and I thought they would have been well and truly finished by the time I got back. They weren’t. There is definitely a longer growing season up here.

A couple of weeks before that I whipped up a batch of feijoa chutney. Again the fruit came from our land.

Meanwhile plans are afoot for the chickens. I have a bid in for a recycled roost on Trademe and have worked out where the hens will go. I am thinking 6 might be a good number – enough eggs for us and enough to gift to visiting family and friends.

Next week we have to think about pruning the fruit trees and working out what we want to do about spraying.  As we don’t know a lot about it, I will head into the garden centre and get some tips from our favourite shop assistant there (she knows EVERYTHING about plants). It is also the time to plant more fruit trees so we will be talking to her about this too.

In the next month or so, the macadamias should be ready to harvest. Not sure what I’ll do with these; but I’ll figure it out.

Country life. Perfect.

*This is now our official potato growing spot!

** I also have a bid in on a mincer which I think will be great for mincing fruit for marmalade etc.

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