Archive for the 'gardening' Category

It’s always so sad to say goodbye

Even though hardly anyone reads this, I do feel like I should say goodbye on this blog, on the off chance someone finds it.

This is only a young blog, but I started it to record my gardening progress.  However, I feel that now I would like people to use it, to download freebies, to be inspired about gardening.  So I have moved it hook, line and sinker to  a new place called Out from under my hat.  This will mean that it is under the umbrella of my other blog and therefore will probably get more readers.  Which will make it feel less self-indulgent and more useful.

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Garden work … or is it?

Click on the image to enlarge.

To me working in the garden is not a chore.  Sometimes I look out my bedroom window into the walled garden on the land owned by the body corporate (the group of owners of our townhouses, of which I am one of six) and wish I could get out there for more than a harvesting stroll, a watering stroll or an admiring stroll, but paying work or whatever other busyness keeps me from it.

But this last weekend, curiosity got the better of me.  Such deep and meaningful questions arose, like, whatever happened to those carrots and onions I planted several weeks ago?  Are they under all those weeds?  And, how can I help the tomatoes along in this cooler than the coolest of summers the whole of New Zealand is having right now?  The answer came to me, in a flash.  I’ll get out and do some good, old-fashioned weeding.

This was rewarding in many ways.  For example, weeding usually turns up a number of what I call “free gifts”.  I found self-seeded silverbeet, spinach and lettuce, which I was able to rescue and put elsewhere, in the area reserved for silverbeet, spinach and lettuce.  I was also able to harvest a lot of silverbeet, spinach and parsley, with which I concocted several new recipes (post coming soon) including a delicious silverbeet and potato soup (like leek and potato, only different).  I made a huge pot of that, which is now in single servings in the freezer.  I also had a lot to offer to the neighbours, in the spirit of sharing, which always feels good.

I also gave my compost a good turn over, in my hunt for some ready compost, that luscious soil from the bottom of the compost pile, which I lovingly put around my just-weeded and growing plants to encourage them on, and thank them from the bottom of my heap (sic).

To help the tomatoes, I removed the lower leaves so that more sun gets to them, and staked them to the archway and a peice of string I have tied between the archway and a post I put in to tie string to.

I have heard that gardening is good for the soul, because it inspires hope.  I just love my garden and thank God for it every moment I think of it.

BTW, if you are interested in the image I made above, it uses the Classroom colour scheme, which I made at colourlovers.com.  At some stage I will make the layout available from my artmama blog as a freebie, so please look out for it.  The same image but with a different background was used for my post with My Miracle Cream moisturiser recipe.  The handwriting font I used is JULES P.C. WIMMIN which I sell in my shop.  That particular font only uses capital letters and has dingbats in place of lowercase letters.

The charms of silverbeet

I love silverbeet, or is it swiss chard?  Here in New Zealand we call it silverbeet.

I have so much of it in my garden and it just keeps popping up.  Instead of weeding it, I transplant it – I consider them free plants.  I do the same when I notice lettuce plants or other plants popping up.

The problem with silverbeet is that most people don’t know what to do with it, and they may have memories of having it plain and boiled as children.  Understandable then that they don’t find the thought of it appetising.

Besides making a cheese and silverbeet sauce to have with pasta, another thing I often do is grate it in the food processor, mix it with eggs, grated potatoes, some wholegrain oats, salt and pepper and a bit of flour to bind it together and frying them as patties or fritters (the difference is the amount of flour added).  Absolutely delicious.  In fact my daughter made these today for lunch.  She commented that it was so lucky that we have some silverbeet that has grown in the gap between the paving and the wall, because it is so convenient for harvesting.

A winter overing

A winter not in the gardenIt has been a sad time over winter.  I wasn’t sure if I would get to garden in the bigger spot next to my townhouse again.  Some new owners bought a place in our body corporate (the body corporate is the group of the six of us owners who own a townhouse each) and the new owners were keen to assert their part in the ownership over the bit of land next to my house.  There was talk that the garden my daughter and I had lovingly worked in and shared produce with the other owners from in the last nine years should be converted to lawn, so that everyone could use it. 

That’s how it was when we bought our townhouse, it was lawn, which everyone could use.  No one came and sat in it, or helped maintain the hedge, or helped cut it down, or paid for the fence, or mowed the lawn.  It was all left to me.  It was too much hassle for anyone else to do anything, and they weren’t interested in sitting or standing or doing anything in it.  So my daughter and I painstakingly converted it to garden, a patch at a time.  A season at a time.  A mosaic paving stone at a time.  What fun. 

When talk of the garden being converted to lawn was first floated at the AGM, I was so shocked, hurt and outraged, when I got home that night I cried.  Various options were suggested.  I put forward the idea that we could all have a vege patch each, or have a garden committee of keen gardeners to work in it.  This was considered but then decided that it would take too much commitment and no one was really interested.  It took till winter of email discussions before the lawn idea went down the river too, because it would cost too much to do and too much to maintain.  My heart by then had gone out of the garden, I was okay with whatever everyone decided, lawn, carpark, whatever.  Although I was broken hearted.

So in the end, the cheapest option for the body corporate is for me to continue to care for it for free.  Although, the body corporate has now agreed to paint the wall and fence which is much needed.  So last weekend, I began again in ernest, patch by patch.  As I weed, I plant and the compost heap gets bigger.  Within a month, the whole lot should be weeded and planted.  The compost from last year is the most beautiful, wormy compost you could imagine.  Birds watch me, waiting for me to leave so they can be the earliest ones to get the worm, although I covered last year’s compost with old carpet to stop them.

By the way, if you like my picture above, you can get the template and put your own pictures and words in from my Art Mama blog here.  Great for recipe books, gardening records, brag book photos, visual journals etc etc.

For us, life is good.

Saving Seeds

Seed Saving - What's it good for?

Seed Saving - What's it good for?

One of the very cool things about gardening is that you get so much, if you are kind to the earth, and thoughtful of your plants, keeping them out of harm’s way, praying for perfect gardening weather and in a place where they are happy.  Then, when they have served you well by producing so much that you have to give a lot away, and toil in the kitchen preserving for the winter (I used to preserve in Agee jars, now I freeze), they turn into seeds.

Because I like to save seeds, I make sure that the plants I am getting the seeds from were grown from heirloom seeds themselves.  Hybrid seeds, which usually come from the big seed producers, have been altered for their own purposes, and do not reproduce accurately as the heirloom seeds, which haven’t been cross-bred or anything, do.

Before the seeds are in the right state for saving, there is some “unsightlyness” in the garden that must be overlooked.  For summer crops, this usually happens at the end of the season, after the lettuce, silverbeet etc has bolted, the beans have gone stringy and the sunflowers have turned their heads down and drooped.  At this stage, non-seed-savers normally go around their garden and pull stuff out for their composts or green waste collection bins.  But not me, I look on gratefully as my vegetables carry out their final act of generosity.

Obviously, I do not have enough land to grow all the new seeds that I save.  I have oodles of them.  In the photo of the marigold seeds above, there are enough to grow a whole field of marigolds, or at least ring a large garden with  marigolds.  And those are just some.  In my last post, I put the call out to anyone wanting some.  Because, really, the humble marigold is very, very valuable.

I also have some silverbeet seed to give away (both the red and green stalked variety), some runner bean seeds, some asparagus (a perenial) and a small amount of lettuce.  I also have some delicious rocket.  And not to forget the sunflower seeds, but I am planning to try eating those (I bake a lot of bread, and like to make my own muesli, and organic sunflower seeds are quite pricey and goodness knows how far they travel).

So, with all the talk of a global recession, isn’t it nice to have a store of something  which will only increase by 1000% or more in this day and age.  And isn’t it great to know that if things get really bad, at least you’ve got some heirloom seeds to use to grow food.  And isn’t it just beautiful to have something this beneficial to share.

Life is good.

Post Script: The fonts I have used are my own.  “Marigold” is written in my own handwriting font, julesgirltalk (free for personal use) and my very newest font, JulesScribble, is used to write SAVING SEED.  Any feedback is gratefully accepted.

Cooking homegrown kohlrabi at the bach

From garden to table

From garden to table

Remember that patch of Kohlrabi I planted and posted about here?  Well, just before we left for a week at Little Akaloa (we went there the day after school had finished for the year, and noone was there yet – it was like having our own private beach, but that is another story*) I checked the garden of course and saw that the kohlrabi were a bit crowded.  So I thinned them and we took them with us.

Don’t they look funny, like little aliens?  And the salad spinner on the left has the leaves, which I did use in a salad, but also chopped up and made a pasta/cheese sauce dish.  Very nice.

By the way, the font in the image here is one I have just created, and will soon be released at my shop.  Also, the layout, minus the photos and text of course is available as a 300dpi 6×4 png with transparent bits for popping your own photos in hereFree.  It’s a wee brag book page.  I also used it with a photo of my daughter and her sports trophies, that is zipped up with it, as well as a discount coupon for my other fonts (just thought you may be interested).

Anyway, the recipe is a freestyle adaption of one I posted here.  You can do it with whatever you have.  Do let me know how you get on.

* Little Akaloa was where we were over Christmas.  No, this year I did not get to have a traditional Christmas day swim – Felicity did though, with Hambley the pug, but I was too busy gathering heart-shaped stones – so many at Little Ak – and an abundance of gorgeous, coloured, worn bits of glass.  See where Little Akaloa is here.

A morning stroll in the garden

How to grow goodness

How to grow goodness

Today of course is Saturday, and it was the day of the school fair, and of course, the netball game at 11.30.  I had a great sleep, it felt like I’d slept in, but then I looked at the clock and it was only 7am.  Good, I thought.  I want to do about an hour and a half of gardening and I’ll need to be finished by 10am to have a good clean up, as I planned to turn the compost heap, so I knew I would be filthy.  So I made my usual banana smoothie for breakfast, and had a stroll in the garden.  It is looking beautiful.  Three of the sunflowers I planted two weeks ago have germinated, and I still hold out hope for the others.  Also, two more cucumbers have germinated (they are in pots), and the three baby tomatoes have grown, as have the lettuce, corn and kohlrabi which I mentioned planting in the post where I gave away a 6″x4″ quick page for this blog.

Then went back to bed to think about what I wanted to do in the garden.  I snoozed for a while longer, then put on my old clothes, unlocked the shed and got out everything I would need: the empty rubbish bin for putting cardboard in for soaking in water, the hose turned on and running into the rubbish bin, the rake, the spade, the fork, and my good, thick workman’s gloves.  Serious indeed.

The plan was to turn the compost heap, and prepare the Compost and Divine Garden beds, presently with silverbeet, comfry and rocket past their “best by” dates.  So how to begin?  I raked the old silverbeet, comfry, and prettily flowering rocket.  Put that in one wheelbarrow.  Then I forked out all the most recent compost which hadn’t broken down yet, and put that in my other wheelbarrow.  I disassembled the compost heap (it is the kind that one builds up by interlocking the sides as it gets higher) and raked out all the decomposed compost (isn’t the juxtaposition of those two words great??) and put it on the garden beds (the Compost Garden and the Divine Garden).  What beautiful and sweet compost, and so many worms!!!  Lovely.

Then it was back to rebuilding the compost heap.  I put the garden waste I had just weeded from the C & D gardens (which I was preparing which presently had the rich compost I had raked sitting on it) from the first wheelbarrow into the bottom of the compost heap.  Then I put some pea straw which was dry and added lots of water.  Nice.  I ripped up some of the very wet cardboard (which was soaking in the empty rubbish bin, now filled with water) and added that, then put the next lot of compost, the half decomposed lot on top of that, added some more pea straw, and the rest of the water.  Then I put some of the ready-for-the-garden compost back on top, knowing the worms would make a bee-line for the bottom and get that other garden waste ready.

Then I planted three of the lupins in the Divine garden.  I have six more to plant out tomorrow, but needed to get inside and start getting ready so we wouldn’t be late for netball.

Then I went inside and looked out the window at my beautiful garden.  I noticed there was a happy sparrow admiring my work.  I love birds in the garden I thought to myself, there they are, singing away, how lovely.  But hang on a minute!!!!!!!!!!  That bird had a worm in its mouth!  From my beautiful garden!  I want the soil to have those worms though.  So I was out in a shot – and put the wire covers over my garden.

I noticed the worms weren’t there when I had a stroll after I came home from the school fair.  But I knew the birds couldn’t have got them.  Those lovely worms will be deep down in the soil now, well out of reach of the sparrows.

Ah, life is good.


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