Monday, 15 August 2016

Taking Stock

It is a cold misty morning and I am surveying my garden with despair, so much work to do and it is so sodden!  Time to rap my knuckles!  These are the days when you take stock.  I thought about what I wrote in my last post about planning.  I must not be such a hard taskmaster.

I realised that I could, if I wanted to, survive off my plot now.  I did a quick accounting of what I have growing – silverbeet (Swiss chard), swede, carrots, celeriac, celery, kale, yams, leeks, red cabbage, some manky Brussels Sprouts and some tough as boots turnips.  Also some broccoli and spring cabbage lurking about in the flowerbed by the house!  This is not counting the beans (green and broad), sweetcorn and broccoli in the freezer the pumpkins in the wash house and a multitude of bottled fruit and jams and pickles.  I realize that my problem is that I am focusing on all the weedy bare patches and that I didn't grow enough potatoes, onions and that my succession sowing was a bit hit and miss. For example, it is an ideal time to be harvesting cauliflowers, but I didn't put any in.  So, time to stop being negative and concentrate on the positive.  Also, I am so blessed to be living in an area where we can have a winter garden.

Here the snow stays on the ranges and we only get snow about once every 20 years.  This view is about 500 metres from my home.

The mist seems to be dispersing so I am going to venture out there to sow my broad beans! No peas this year, when I went to the garden centre to buy seeds, I was told that the Wairarapa can’t grow peas till 2018!  Apparently, our area has pea weevil and as there are commercial growers in our area, they are banned even for home gardeners.  The broad beans are seeds I saved from last year and I think I will sow them in punnets as even the ground that is under plastic tunnels is so wet, I am sure they would rot.  I have a plastic greenhouse that should suit them, but I think I am going to move it to a more sheltered spot as last week’s winds tried to make a kite out of it!  I had to tie it to the fence!

Later, Beans in.  .Now some soup – my take on a Pumpkin Soup.   Like all Kiwis I love Pumpkin Soup - it is almost a national dish.  But I said I was going to ring the changes.  So, I am adding Bacon, Potato and some spices, and a sprinkling of Swiss cheese.

 Spicy Pumpkin Soup

800 gm small pumpkin, squash or butternut approx peeled
200 gm potato peeled
1 onion sliced
half leek sliced
2 rashers of smoky middle bacon cut into pieces
clove garlic crushed
vegetable stock cube crumbled, or your favourite stock
half teaspoon cumin and 2 teaspoons coriander both ground.
Salt and pepper to taste
chilly flakes or grated cheese for garnish

Fry onion and leek in tablespoon of oil, add garlic, then add spices and fry for a minute or so.  Add diced bacon.
Chop pumpkin and potato into small chunks add to pan, stir and then add stock cube and cover with water.
Cook at a slow simmer for twenty minutes; do not overcook as you want the pieces of pumpkin to stay whole.  That’s it.  You can add cream, or a sprinkling of chilly flakes or some grated cheese. Serve with chunky home made bread.

Tip: When cutting up the pumpkin cut into wedges and microwave for a couple of minutes, it will be easier to peel.

This weekend a friend visited and presented me with a huge bag of walnuts, my favourite nut, so I have been cracking them open and putting in storage jars. I will leave half of them in their shells as they stay fresher that way.  I love them, one of my favourite recipes is in an Apple and Walnut cake, maybe next time I will share the recipe.

That is it for today, so till next time have a great week and thanks for visiting.

Sunday, 7 August 2016


I have been thinking a lot about this blog, I have neglected it shamefully, it is a good time to make changes as I am a new stage in my life, I retired officially  at the beginning of the year, but have been foundering a bit lately, its seems I am busier than when I was working!  I realise that many friends and family thinking I was retired that I could be at their beck and call.  It has made me realise that I want and need a quiet life, not to be running hither and thither! So, I am starting to learn how to say no.  I want to have time to savour my garden, produce good food, and have time to reflect on and enjoy the simple things of life.  By doing this I hope I will be able to give my friends and family quality time.  So I have given my blog a face lift and made a commitment to myself to slow down.

We are in the thick of winter, and it is so easy to sit back and enjoy the warmth of indoors!  Not so, for a gardener who wants to be able to live of her small urban plot. 

My winter garden
 Spring is around the corner and it is time to think about and order seeds. Every year, I have made a promise to myself that I was going to try and be self-sufficient in Vegetables and Fruit.  Every year I failed.  Why?  I could blame the weather for a bad harvest!  I am sorry to say, however that is not the real reason – I am not a very organised gardener, I am haphazard and easily seduced by exotics!  I cannot go past something that is different and strange! I plant them in ground that should really be put aside for the basics.  For instance I need to grow more potatoes especially at the price they are now in the shops $3 a kilo, I ask you! You use to be able to buy 10 kilo bags, but as they are so dear now they probably know people won’t or can’t to afford to buy, even at a special price.

So, taking in account my weaknesses, I have decided to make my vegetable garden bigger, I can use my front garden, which I have tended to ignore, for a wonderful display of flowers.  Knowing me, a vegetable or two might pop in, well there is a grape vine already!  As to the problem of my bad organisation skills I am going to solve by posting more on this blog. I am hoping it will keep me focused. I have made a commitment to sustain myself with my garden. 

To whet my appetite - I am going to include recipes for my produce.  I love to cook, but sometimes get a bit lazy and just do the same recipes over and over, get bored and then end up throwing the surplus in the compost bin, which is not very thrifty.  So I am going to try to include recipes that are new to me or variations of the usual. 

Tomato Muffins and a Salad
To help me I have my three cats who supervise my activities very carefully and will provide necessary humour. . As any gardener will tell you have to have a sense of humour when gardening or you may well run inside screaming when your carefully tended crop has been pecked to pieces by the local birds, snails and slugs feast on your newly planted lettuces, cats scratch up your seed bed. Ambrose and Zana boss me about, and Lucy supervises from the window, making sure a spot for her toilette is provided!  They provide companionship and are so funny with their antics
Zana (in the chair) and Ambrose enjoying the shade in my quiet spot last summer

It is time to plant peas and broad beans, and if the weather forecast is correct for tomorrow it will just right for a yummy big pot of soup, I wonder.......

Monday, 25 July 2016

Time for Roses and a Cuppa

Time to prune the Roses. As usual I left it right to the last minute!  Every year I do that, Despite that I still get a magnificent display.

So, I setting off out into the garden to do my overdue pruning before the predicted storm arrives, I do need to get the pruning done as the buds are starting to burst forth.

I have made a fig and fruit loaf to have with my tea, as I will need something to look forward to as the afternoon is cold and windy.

I love Roses, always have, although I am not so keen on their thorns!  But that is like life isn't it.  Beauty often has a downside.  But then, that is not true all the time, God's Word has a beauty that is pure all the way through. I suppose he gave Roses thorns to remind us to have a care about accepting beauty at face value.

One of the things I like to do with Roses is to make Pot Pourri with the petals.  Nowadays I have to put the mixture into covered containers or into a sachet.  My big boy Ambrose (Cat) is addicted to pot pourri.  I use 
to wonder why every mourning the mixture was spread over the table.  I discovered the reason one day when I came into the lounge and he was sitting on the table beside the bowl looking dazed with rose petals scattered all around him. Then he put his head into the bowl and sneezed and more was scattered over the table.  He’s a pot pourri junkie! 
There is a recipe for my favourite mix below.  There is a upside to Ambrose's addiction I now make pretty sachets to put my mix in!

Well I have pruned the Roses out the back, time for a cuppa well actually a mug as I have built a great thirst.  The mug is my favourite as my

sister gave it to me when she moved to Perth in Western Australia.  I miss her so much, that whenever I drink from it I think that she is here with me having a heart talk.  Not forgetting a slice of loaf. Yum!  I love figs, my Grandmother at Xmas always had dried figs and walnuts as part of her Xmas table, and now whenever I eat dried figs I think of the lovely Xmases we had together.  Think I will have another slice, do you want some?  The recipe is below, do try, it it is really delicious and different.  The tea is Gunpowder tea, a mix that is similar to Irish Breakfast.  You need a strong cuppa when working in the garden on a cold winter's day!

Sigh! Time to get back to the pruning, the front this time about seven more Roses to do.  But then I have got the prize of planting a new Rose 'Peace', the Rose that lead me to become an avid Rose Grower.  When I living in England my garden there had a row of them and an elderly friend gave me a copy of “For the Love of Rose” by Antonia Ridge.  It tells the history of the creation of the Peace rose.  A beautiful story and treasured book.

Now Sharon stop using delaying tactics back to the Roses!

Recipe for Fig and Fruit Loaf
1 cup sultana or raisins or mixed,  ½  cup dried cranberries, ½ cup chopped dried figs, ½ chopped walnuts, ½ cup sugar, 1tablespoon golden syrup or light treacle, ¼ teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 cup boiling water, 2 cups of plain flour, 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder or use s/r flour.

Put fruit into bowl, with sugar, butter, syrup, and salt in bowl.  Sprinkle Baking soda over and add water.  When the butter has melted sift in flour and baking powder,  Mix quickly and pour into 22cm loaf tin (9inch).
Bake at 180 degrees C for 40 minutes or till loaf springs back when lightly touched.  Leave in tin for 10 minutes and turn out.  Actually tastes better the nest day when you can cut very thin slices and have it with butter.  But I am greedy and like it thick and fresh. Enjoy!

Recipe for English Rose Pot Pourri

4 cups dried rose petals, 2 cups dried lavender flowers, 1 cup dried rose geranium leaves (any scented geranium leaves is good) 1 cinnamon stick broken up, 1 tablespoon allspice berries coarsely crushed, 1 tablespoon cloves bruised, 25 gm (1oz) orris root powder, 3 drops of rose oil essence, 1 drop of rosemary oil, 1 drop of geranium oil, ½ cup tiny dried rosebuds (opt).

Put everything into large bowl except rosebuds and mix together.  Cover with cling film and leave in a warm place for 1 – 2 weeks stir every day.  Put into preferred containers and add rosebuds if using open container, as they are more for show.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Lavener, cats and muffins

Lavender is a fascinating plant, so many uses in the home and garden.  Recently I discovered a new use for the French Lavender above.  One of my cats,  Lucy (below) has allergies to various grasses.  Poor thing gets rashes and she gets very itchy and scratches herself till it bleeds.  For years I have been taking her to the vet for antihistamine injection etc.

 Last year in spring when I was pruning the  French lavender, she started to roll about on the lavender and sat on it all day.  At that time she was due to a visit to the vet for treatment, as her rash was bad.  Within a day the rash subsided and when it started up again I rubbed handfuls of lavender on the affected areas.   Since then she has not had a major occurrence, she still has the allergy but the lavender controls it.  Amazing!  So if your cat or dog has an allergy it is worthwhile trying, it will save you heaps of money spent on vet bills.

One thing I love about summer is the chance to make my favourite muffins – Lavender, Orange and Chocolate.  For these you must use the English lavender (lavandula augustfolia)  I have hidcote growing, it’s getting scrappy as they tend to so I have dug it up and have taken cuttings of some of the better shoots and hopefully they will take..

Lavender, Orange and Chocolate Muffins

1 ½ teaspoons dried or 2 teaspoons fresh lavender seed heads
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons honey
2 eggs
½ cup milk
½ cup orange juice
Grated rind of one orange
2 cups of plain flour
2 teaspoons of Baking Powder
3 tablespoons of chocolate chips

Melt butter and honey.  Beat eggs, milk, orange juice and the butter and honey in a bowl.  Stir in orange rind.  In a new bowl mix sifted flour and Baking Powder, lavender and chocolate chips.  Stir wet ingredients into dry (do not over mix).  Spoon into greased muffin tins (2/3rds fill) Bake at 200degrees Celsius for 15 to 20 minutes.
(Makes 12 muffins)  These keep well and are great hot or cold.