After 87 days from idea to realisation, we are now all moved and settled in to our new place. Well not quite settled in. We are living in a caravan with all our worldly possessions scattered about the place waiting to be rearranged in a orderly fashion. We may be there for a short while, the house arrives, all going well in early March or hopefully even sooner.
Our new place is 10 acres on the rugged west coast over looking the Tasman Sea. The sand is black, the beach is empty for miles and the waves are often wild. It is a mesmerising sight to sit and stare at. We’re not on the beach front itself, but we have beach access and I can see the waves break from where the garden will be. The view is spectacular. This alone is worth the move.
The land, while gorgeous, doesn’t currently have a house. This is not a big problem for us as we like to embrace difficult situations. It builds character. Although I’m not sure our character requires strengthening in the area of building, so yeah nah, we’re not building a house. We did look into that, and not only is it extremely expensive, but there are so many logistical hoops to jump through and takes a very long time, we decided we’re not up for that kind of a challenge.
So we are relocating a house. That way, we get to look for our perfect house to go with our perfect section. As there is a lot of development going on in the country where old houses on large sections are making way for numerous townhouses, it didn’t take long to find the perfect one for our place. All we have to do now is wait for it to arrive, so I’ll share more about that later. It is the ultimate form of recycling!
In the meantime we are going to live in a caravan that the lovely previous owners have left for us use for the few short months it will take for the house to come. It is summer and most people about the place are staying in caravans by choice right now as they go off on their summer holiday, it can’t be that much different from that! We have created several locations beside the caravan – tents and a large gazebo, so we don’t all kill each other in the confined space of the caravan. It’ll be fine and won’t be for long.
The place I want to put the garden will be perfect for it – it gets all day sun and is mostly sheltered from the worst of the winds this coastal property will throw at it. I will need raised beds as the soil is mostly sand. I will miss the wonderful rich soil we had at the last place, but I won’t miss the mud. Although come next summer I may be bemoaning the fact there is too much drainage! I have great plans for the garden and you can check it our here in my wee video tour of the new place:
It is an ambitious plan which is exciting and scary all at the same time. There is a lot to learn as things are very different, but a gardener is always learning and I am looking forward to the journey. There will be ups and downs. Mistakes will be made, but at the end of the day I can sit and let the troubles of the day wash away as the sun sinks into the ocean. It would have taken a pretty special place to take me away from my old garden and this, I believe, it that place.
Come again soon – it is the first day of an very interesting journey.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
It is fair to say the process of selling a house isn’t a simple process. Pop a holiday season in the middle of it all and it can really be challenging.
The first step of getting the house ready for sale doesn’t just include the standard decluttering and making a home a house of show room standard, devoid of all but a few personal items to make it seems homely for someone else. This process while initially challenging if you haven’t had a major declutter in a decade, once it is done it is done, aside from frequently reminding the kids we are to remain in a state to eternal cleanliness until further notice. It makes you wonder if you actually need all of the stuff you have hidden away. (Until you start to go through it deciding if it will be allowed to enter the new place. You need to be ruthless and restrain all sentiment.)
But the garden is a whole other thing. It is alive and has its own set of intentions and not as easy to bend to the process of looking like a show home for an unspecified period of time, as the house is. In the veggie patch, plants come and go and the window of opportunity for that image of perfection is fleeting. A lush and verdant row of onion may look perfect on day one, but in a few short weeks have flopped over and look all bedraggled. A sign they are ready for harvest and need to come out – leaving them there would just be a waste. But then there is a blank spot that will only get filled with weeds if left, so it needs to be replanted with anything that will provide the same healthy verdant growth that was once there.
The butternut squash doesn’t understand they are to remain orderly and spill over the edge of the bed, making it impossible to maintain the grass around them. They are only forgiven because of the bountiful harvest beneath the leaves that will give the new people plenty of comfort food over the winter months.
But the hardest thing to remain on top of is the lawn. Grass doesn’t care what your plans are, and it just grows. However, when you are selling a house, it needs to be perfect all of the time and the boom and bust of the weekly mow just doesn’t cut it. You can’t just have it looking good on Sunday after the Saturday mow and have it all dishevelled by Friday. The far reaches of the property that very rarely see the spinning blades of the push mower gets a close shave every other day. It is hard work and requires frequent nagging and starts to become costly as our teenage boy puts his hand out for financial reward for his efforts. But it has to be done.
The most critical area that needs to stay nice is the back yard and it is a pleasure to say this was in good hands and no nagging was needed. Neville the Gardena Robotic Lawnmower had this job in hand and was constantly bobbing about keeping the yard cut crisp and fresh. But not only did he do a superb job of keeping the grass looking magnificent, he also provided a place of peace and tranquillity amongst the chaos. Just knowing this area was being taken care of was one less thing to worry about. But also, as he randomly worked his way across the lawn, back and forth, this way and that, he provided a mesmerising moment of calm. While sitting on the back step with a cup of tea, just watching the lawn silently being cut, you could feel the stress of it all just melt away.
Once the house sold, there is an expectation that it will be handed on to the new people in the condition it was when they agreed to buy it. The house bit is easy enough, you just have to remove all of your possessions and present them with an empty place for them to fill with their own things and make it their home. But once again that independent living thing that is a garden isn’t about to comply. So as things have needed to come out of the garden, I’ve replaced them with new things that are perfect for now, that I’ll never see come to fruition, but that doesn’t matter to me. I want to leave a lovely garden behind and I get to enjoy this garden up to the very last moment.
The problem is there was a holiday in there as well and we headed out of town for Christmas. This is an invitation for unchecked growth across the whole garden. In that short space of time, unwatched things grow out of control and in an unruly fashion. Within days of our departure, anyone popping by on the off chance we’d still be there would be able to tell we were away by the state of the garden. The plants might as well have had a sign “No one is at home!” The place would have looked abandoned if it wasn’t for Neville. He didn’t even take the statutory breaks and continued through the baking sun and stormy weather to ensure the backyard looked perfect. The lawn looked loved, and we love Neville for loving it for us.
So, as we do the final bits of packing and moving out we know as we hand over the keys, there is one less thing we need to worry about. And before we drive off to the new place, we will scoop up our wonderful Neville and take him with us, where he will have a well-earned break while we decide exactly where the new back lawn will be. I am looking forward to seeing him bob about there, making the new place feel homely and a source of calm in the new chaos we are about to embark upon.
Come again soon – the grass is greener on the other side… well maybe not as green but it is still good!
Sarah the Gardener : o)
This is the absolute best kind of weeding there is. After a period of sustained torrential rain the soil becomes so moist deep down that even the nastiest weed like dock weed slips right out of the ground with the entire tap root attached. This is my bright side to a few days of horrible stormy weather.
It was probably the worst storm we have had in ages. I was going to say all year, but the year isn’t even a week old yet and it is the only storm we have had… thankfully. Although I’m not in a hurry to have another one. It should have been expected, summer holidays are normally ruined by bad weather, although it was late – it normally comes between Christmas and New Year when the maximum number of people are sleeping in tents.
I thought it was going to be one of those storms in a teacup that the boffins get wrong and then the media pick up on it in a slow news week. Everyone gets all excited and secures all their stuff so it won’t blow away and then it fizzles out somewhere over the Pacific Ocean and we get a few spits and spots and a gentle huff and our trust in the boffins is eroded. These storms normally have a name and memes appear everywhere – especially when it comes to nothing. So when the mounting panic was being conveyed on the public, they didn’t even give this storm a name. Judging by the damage it did to most of the country… it should have had a name. It was just referred to as a Severe Storm. This didn’t do it justice.
After drought like conditions for weeks and weeks, it started to rain gently and gardeners everywhere rejoiced. I thought ‘this is nice.’ But it didn’t stop, it got heavier and heavier like some kind of malfunctioning gadget. It rained for days. I wouldn’t have minded it so much if that was all the storm had to offer. But it brought along some wind. The kind of wind that leaves you wide eyed at 3:00 in the morning hoping and praying the roof stays on, the greenhouse stays up and no harm comes to the garden. By 4:30 you are convinced there is nothing left of the garden and anxiously wait for the light of day so you can survey the damage. The wind always sounds worst in the dark. But I don’t think winds in excess of 85km per hour ever sound pleasant. We even had the power out for several hours, reminding us how dependent we are on it for everything – even flushing the loo because the water pump wasn’t working.
Just to add insult to injury there was a ‘Wolf Moon’. I don’t even know what a Wolf Moon is, but it is apparently one of those once in a lifetime super moons that we’ve been getting a lot of lately. It only comes around once in a blue moon… But it wreaked havoc with the beaches and on top of the storms there were king tides that penetrated in land further than any high tide before, egged on by the nameless storm.
Day broke and the reports began coming in over the internet of the damage done to other places, corn flattened, tomatoes broken, trees felled, roads washed away, homes flooded. From the minor damage to the major damage, this storm wasn’t mucking around. Maybe it was upset because it didn’t have a name.
I didn’t even want to look at the garden. I couldn’t face it. However I needn’t have worried. It was barely touched. Well it did have a few minor dings. A small lemon branch broke, a lily plant lost its container – I have no idea where it went, but the plant is still there. The corn looked like it had been blown in one direction and then re-righted when the wind changed direction. The popcorn didn’t fair so well – it was mostly horizontal. The timing couldn’t have been worse – the tassels were out dropping pollen on the silks. I’m not expecting them to be fully pollinated this year. But all in all everything else was fine. Phew.
The garden still needed a bit of attention though. Over the holiday period and with all the packing we’ve been doing, some weeds crept into my recently pristine garden. I was dreading taking care of them as the soil had sun baked to concrete-esk style and removing even the smallest weed would have been difficult. However, thanks to the storm with no name, the soil was soft, crumbly and wonderful and weeding was actually a pleasure. Even the most stubborn dock slipped out with its tap root fully intact. It was like the storm scared it stupid and it just surrendered. I was able to whip around the weediest beds in super-fast speed and the garden once again looks great. There is still a little bit to do to restore complete control, but I’m hoping to get onto this before the sun bakes the soil once again and the weeds become stuck fast.
Come again soon – the moving day is approaching fast.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
NB: In spite of all the rain, we are still not out of the woods yet with the water saving, so as soon as things calm down and the sun comes out again – check with your council to see where you are at with the watering restrictions.
Normally at this time of year we look back over the previous twelve months and wax lyrical about the mundane goings in the garden, reminisce over the ordinary and set goals along the lines of ‘must keep on top of the weeds this year.’ Life in a garden has seasons and once you get the hang of things it can become a bit of a routine. It is still exciting to see the first seedling emerge in spring and the first blush of red in the tomato patch, but at the end of the day, the pea season comes, and the pea season goes, the onions get pulled out and the space they occupied is quickly filled with something else, and strawberries don’t last forever.
Don’t get me wrong, the garden is always a place of great excitement – the anticipation finding out what that new variety actually tastes like after months of waiting, greeting an old favourite like a long-lost friend and cracking into a large juicy watermelon can only be done with a huge grin on your face! The things I control in the garden bring me great joy. Just being in the garden gives a sense of peace, contentment and accomplishment.
However, it is the things you can’t control that can give the greatest frustration. Namely the weather. We certainly had our fair share of rain this year. Oh, my goodness. It taught me how to have patience as I waited between downpours for the soil to dry out. But there is always a silver lining and although on the surface the ground now looks parched, dry and cracked, deep down there is a good solid moist soil and the plants seem to have sent their roots down into it and despite the baking heat, they are thriving. Nothing in nature is wasted and even a wet winter can become a blessing.
I have to confess to being a bit of a creature of habit. I like things just so… well in the garden – elsewhere is a bit chaotic, but I’m working on that, or more accurately Hubby the Un-Gardener is helping me work on that as we sort through 10 years of stuff and try to eliminate anything with the designation “I might need that one day.” Having said that I bet I will need it one day…. But in the garden, once I find a system that works well for me, I tend to keep it that way. Over the last decade the garden has been refined and fine-tuned, and it is really only the vagaries of the season, the whims of the weather and the populations of pest and disease that spice things up in the garden. Pop ups on my calendar remind me when to do things, my crop rotation is pretty much set in stone and at the end of the season everything just moves a bed to the right. I have my favourite things I like to grow and have long since cast aside the weird and interesting as they were too weird and too interesting, and we never ate them and often didn’t actually like them.
Each season, each bed was starting to look like it did the previous year in the neighbouring bed. I used to be like that with the Christmas tree. The silvery tinsel always went on the bottom like a layer of snow, the robin ornament went near the top, so he could look out over the room, the tinkly noisy chime one could go near the bottom by the door, so the breeze could catch it and sound festive…. But then I noticed looking back over the photos was the only thing that had changed was the kids standing in front of it were slightly taller. Now I get the kids to do it and then I go in and move a few things to balance it out. The garden, while still extremely challenging and rewarding was starting to feel like the tree. Only I didn’t realise it.
In the time I have had to reflect on the garden over the last two months, I have come to realise I was in need of a new challenge. Something that would throw me in over my head and terrify and excite me at the same time. I love my creature comforts and would have been happy to potter about in the garden for the rest of my days, it is the difference between a Ferris wheel and a roller coaster at the fairground. Both are fun, just in different way.
As I started out on 2017 I would never have picked how it would ended and if you told me I’d be giving up my beloved garden I would call you a liar. But having come to terms with the reality of it all, I am ready to move on, leaving the garden in the care of others and excited for what this new year will bring. It is almost impossible to make New Years resolutions as it is impossible to know exactly how it will be. So, all I can really put on my goal list is ‘to bring it on’. 2018 I am ready for what ever challenge you throw at me.
Come again soon – the new garden in the new place is the perfect start to a new year!
Sarah the Gardener : o)
This is a strange time of year in many ways. Ordinarily we aren’t here at all, but off beside the sea somewhere soaking in the summer sun and doing some well deserved relaxing after a hard year of hard yakka. Sometimes we’re in a tent – although not often. I’ve long since decided sleeping on uneven ground under a thin piece of fabric that is freezing cold when you go to bed and boiling hot, yet a little damp when you wake up, having spent the night listening to a mozzie buzzing about your head hoping it doesn’t land and bite your face (the only part of you exposed due to the cold). Then having to crawl out of bed on your hands and knees to emerge from the tent is the final indignity. Nope, I think camping is best left to the younger people and I’ve been that young person for my fair share of years. Fun times, great memories.
Other times we would be more civilised in a cabin with essential facilities like electric, running water, proper beds and if we’re lucky Wi-Fi. But in recent years it has been out on the boat that spent several years languishing in my back yard while Hubby the Un-Gardener had it done up. It makes time spent out on the water in it so much more wonderful because we made it happen – from repairing the rotting sides and replacing almost everything, to choosing sea themed cushions and installing the USB connectors to keep phones charged to take great photos of summer fun.
But not this year. We took a few short days to spend Christmas with family in other parts of the country and then instead of heading off to the boat for sun, sea, swimming, fishing and fun, we came back home. It feels weird calling it home. It is still home, but not for much longer. Already there is the hint of an emotional disconnect. But then it is still very much the place we love. My heart often asks, “but why are you giving all of this wonderfulness up?” and I feel momentarily sad. But then we make a quick visit to the new place and the overwhelming delight that land offers remind me exactly why. It would have taken a pretty special place to make me give up my garden and the new place is incredibly special.
My feelings towards the garden are strange. In the beginning of the process, I was adamant I didn’t want to give it up and wasn’t sure what I would do. But in the short days since the sale. It has only been two weeks; the garden has changed. It is really strange. I no longer think of it as mine. I am a custodian for the new people and I want to make it nice for them.
So, during this time when we are normally on holiday, we are here doing the arduous task of packing up ten years of clutter and accumulation in preparation for the move that is also measured in weeks, but only just as there aren’t that many of them. And I am keeping the garden in order. Normally at this time the garden grows unchecked and unruly without a caring hand to guide and direct its tendrils, remove its weeds and harvest its bounty.
It is lovely to be here at this time and be among this verdant growth. But as I tie in the tomatoes, I’m left wondering what the new fruits among the plants named from A to Z will taste like. But I remind myself there is always next year – I still have the seeds. As I move onto the next bed and train the out of control cucumbers from going everywhere, except where they should, my mind moves on to other things… new things and thoughts of the possibilities of the new garden fill my head and I can’t help but feel excited. The new tastes of the tomatoes will be worth the wait.
Come again soon – the new year will bring an incredible new start.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
Things are extremely busy around here. Not only is there festive celebrations in the middle of my growing season, but we have a lot of packing to do as well. We certainly don’t do things by half in our wee world.
So I am going to take the opportunity now to say a big:
And also say have a safe and happy New Year. It has been an interesting year full of ups and downs and a surprise ending I wouldn’t have even begun to imagine when the clock struck midnight last New Years Eve. Exciting times are ahead and I am looking forward to bringing you all with me as we head off on this next exciting adventure. Thank you all for gardening alongside me this year.
Please enjoy this very short video explaining to our You Tube friends the news of the sale of the house, some lovely shots of the garden and a cuddle with Fennel the Cat.
Come again soon – the new year will bring a new change.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
I woke in the middle of the night to the sound of rain bouncing off the roof. Its deep rhythmic nature sent me peacefully back to sleep knowing I wouldn’t need to worry about the garden for a couple of days.
But as the daylight emerged, so did a hearty wind that lasted all day and did a great job of driving off the heat of the last few days, but it also did a fine job of drying out the top layer of moisture that was generously laid about the place last night. Deep down in the soil it will be ok, but on the surface, there is no sign of any rain at this end of the day.
The rain will have brought a temporary relief from the relentless task of keeping the garden hydrated in increasingly difficult times. It will take more than a good shower in the night to restore water levels across this parched land. And it really doesn’t make any sense. My last descent burst of thirst quenching deep rain was just under two months ago. I remember it well because it was my birthday and it was the magical last frost date and I wanted to plant the garden out. It was cold, miserable and just another inundation from above that I was doing my best not to complain about.
And yet – here we are on the edge of a drought – no one has declared one yet, but we are close. The good folk at Watercare have asked me to remind everyone to go easy on the water. I don’t think there is a single place left in the country that isn’t affected now. With some areas on the verge of running out and others only just asking people to curb their hose use.
This is particularly important as you go about into rural communities to go camping and holidaying this summer as the amount of water in these areas is often collected drop by drop from above and is precious. It is easy to take for granted the water running out of the tap when it flows so freely. But is soon adds up. Earlier this month Auckland used 500 million litres of water in a single day! And in Wellington: if every household turned on a garden hose for 1 hour a day, 70 million extra litres of water would be used – almost double Wellington’s daily winter use.
It is important to check with your council and find out what the restrictions in your area are, you wouldn’t want find yourself in hot water for not following the rules.
It makes it even harder when we are growing food to feed our families and save a little in the back pocket as well. But there are things to be done.
The traditional summer holidays are almost upon us and from what I can remember from almost every camping trip in recent memory, it has rained. It is pretty much a given. There has been one tropical storm or another and there was an article in the paper today about not expecting these glorious blue sky days for Christmas. So while it will put a dampener on the festivities, is will be welcome in the garden – not so much above the tent though.
This is the first summer in a while that we have all really had to worry about our water, but it is what it is and we have to work together to make it last. All going well this dry spell will be gone as quickly as it arrived – so long as it leaves us with enough warm sunny days to feel satisfied that it was a good summer and the harvest was plentiful.
Come again soon – Christmas is almost here, hooray.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
Councils have great resources to help get through this dry spell. Here are a few with some great tips and advice:
Historically I have been absolutely terrible with keeping plants in pots and containers. There is so much pleasure and joy found tending the garden that I seem to run out of time for the small pot bound plants, not as in out grown with encircled roots, but bound as in confined without the freedom of sending their roots off at will in a direction that will bring them much needed moisture and nutrients.
These poor plants sit on the sidelines of the garden and watch the stars of the show go from strength to strength creating a bountiful harvest and hold their heads up high to the sun with a glimmer of pride bouncing off their radiant green leaves. In comparison the potted crew hang their heads in sadness and disappointment at their lot, as they wilt in the midday sun. Occasionally I remember them and have given them a place in my weekly schedule. I even put them in the Monday slot to increase the chances of quality care. Putting them down for a bit of Friday love would doom them!
However, as the summer heats up and the harvest from the main garden begins in earnest, even a prominent spot in the schedule doesn’t save them and they normally expire alone and neglected in a weedy corner of the garden after hearing “I’m so sorry, I’ll get to you soon…” one too many times. I feel horribly guilty as I clearly have to admit I love the independent free thinking plants a touch more than the needier, high maintenance containerised ones.
The thing is – if I’m honest, the Monday thing probably isn’t enough. Plants in small pots can dry out in an afternoon in the right conditions! Any attempt at growing will result in depleted nutrients in the soil that was once a rich blend of everything a plant could want to grow well. Then like baby birds in a nest, they look hopefully to me for a bite to eat each time I go passed. Maybe they do need to make noise.
(On a side note I once bought my Mum a bird shaped pot plant water detector that would chirp loudly if the pot got low on moisture. It was all very cute and she loved it…. Until it went off at 3am! I slipped further down the list of favourite child that night.)
With the horror of all this carnage behind me, this season I am trying so hard to keep these wee ones alive, because I want to take them with me to the new place. I have a couple of Giant Pumpkins that need to do well as I’m in the Giant Pumpkin competition again and I just have to do better than the dismal 1kg I had last year. Then there are about 60 strawberry runners I have an emotional attachment to – they are all the progeny of the first 6 strawberry plants I ever grew when we were city bound. Back in those days it was much easier to manage a large pot of strawberries by itself.
I also have a collection of raspberry plants that I put a lot of research into and then searched far and wide for just the right ones and were never planted. They weren’t cheap so they are coming too. I also have peppers as the harvest doesn’t really kick in until early next year and the spot they should be going into still has stuff in it anyway so we’d still be waiting about to plant them anyway.
Oh and we can’t forget the asparagus. Without any preconceived ideas, last autumn I started off a load of asparagus seeds, not knowing I would actually need them – I did it more because I could. Now I am doing my best to keep these treasures alive and they will find a home with us beside the sea. You can’t waste a moment of time with asparagus as they take so long to establish and having eaten fresh asparagus and realised how wonderful they are, I wouldn’t be without them! I also have a motley collection of other bits and bobs.
Keeping them not only alive but well has proved interesting. But we’ve had a lot on – more than just the garden this season, and there are probably 10x more of them, so their collective yell of “feed me” is noticed.
I have taken the matter more seriously. There is a greater priority. These are the pioneers and founding fathers of the new garden so to speak. And we need to make the journey to settling in the new land as least traumatic as possible. I have invested in these plants. I went out and purchased a load of ‘underbed’ storage containers because they are low, and wide and perfect for plants. Then I filled them as tightly as I could without creating bad airflow problems and positioned them near the tap. They were down by the greenhouse and it was a case of out of sight out of mind, but now they are up on the deck for all to see.
My new Terrace Hose Box is perfect for the job, as I can easily reach all of the plants without having to drag the long hose over from the garden. I can tell you now if I had to go to serious effort to get something done during this crazy stage of our life, it won’t get done. Having a short hose on a reel right where I need it is such a blessing. I could even ask someone else to give them a squirt as they wandered by. This may even be a handy technique if we need a minder – they wouldn’t need to come every day and you could tell them to fill the ‘underbed’ storage container to a certain level. Why didn’t I think of this before?
And with that – my potted plants will be the best they have ever been, but just being alive at this stage is a win.
Come again soon – there is so much excitement to be had I don’t know where to start.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
NB: Check with your local council before watering your garden to see if there are any water restrictions this summer.
If you had told me nine weeks ago that I would willingly give up my garden I would have told you that you were lying. I spent a long time dreaming and planning for this season. I have tomatoes from A to Z. My spuds, planted lovingly in September, aren’t due out until March. And don’t get me started on the sweetcorn. I was not intending on moving anywhere as I entered this new growing season.
But here I am just a week short of two months since the last frost day and there appears to be a rather large SOLD sign at the front of my house! Things have moved extremely quickly, and I’m pleased to say the lovely new owners want to use the garden to the full. That for me is a huge relief as there was the possibility that someone would just rip it all out and put in a pool or large deck or something. I worried all my hard work would just disappear… return to the earth unnoticed and neglected.
But it had to be something amazing that would make me hand over my garden to someone else, and indeed it is something pretty amazing. I will continue to garden at the new place, but I will be starting completely from scratch as there is absolutely nothing there except a whole load of wonderfulness and endless possibilities. I can’t wait to get stuck in.
Come again soon – 2018 is going to be a very interesting year.
Sarah the Gardener : o)