Hot Stuff!

It was another mostly computer gardening day today and to be honest I didn’t mind being tucked up in my cosy office as the wind was howling and it was rather cold outside.  Not exactly outside gardening weather.

But what I did manage to do is process a few chilies.  The ones smoked on yesterday’s BBQ had dried to a crisp in the dehydrator, along with some mulato peppers that are supposed to be perfect in a Mexican Mole sauce.  I am a bit disappointing with myself as I got impatient and harvested some of them too early.  They are supposed to be a rich chocolately brown when cut open, but many of mine were green.  But we are only three weeks off winter – how much longer did they need?


From left to right: Mild mannered mulato powder – which should be browner; Smoked chili powder – such spicy goodness and a bottle and a half of home made sriracha that will probably last us a very, very long time.

The smoked chilies didn’t disappoint and whizzed up wonderfully.  While I had the blender chocked up with hot stuff I decided my sriracha sauce had been fermenting long enough so I whizzed that up too, ran it through a sieve and boiled it until thick.  I didn’t try it personally but Hubby the Un-Gardener had a teeny tiny dab of it on his little finger and raced off for a glass of milk.  I suspect that means its a good sriracha?!  I really must stop growing habanero peppers.

Come again soon – I wonder what joys Friday will bring.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)



I have to say it is great to have electricity again, I really appreciate its value, especially when it enables my heater to heat my wee office because the temperatures have really dropped.  However on the flip side of not having electricity yesterday,  it meant today was spent in my cosy wee office catching up on computer gardening.  So much so I was in danger of not doing anything for Make May Count.

But I caught a glance of a bright coloured sticky note on the wall above my desk that says ‘Do one more thing’.  It is amazing how a piece of paper can chastise you.  So I gathered myself together and did one more thing with the chilies that have been hanging around in the kitchen.

smoking chillies

I won’t regret doing this one more thing… this delish powder will get used almost every day!

I popped a slit in each one and then set up the BBQ and put them on to smoke.  We did attempt to sit around the BBQ during the smoking process but it was just too cold to make it fun.   Now they are in the dehydrator and in the morning I should be able whiz them up to a fine powder in my food processor and have a spicy, smoky sprinkle to add to almost every dish I cook.

Come again soon – all going well tomorrow will have some genuine gardening going on.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)


There is nothing like trying circumstances to make things happen.  And as if the situation we find ourselves in right now isn’t trying enough, the step down to level 3 has meant the power company has gone back to work.  Ordinarily this really doesn’t concern me, however they have been doing maintenance work to replace all the power poles in our area.  This has meant every couple of weeks they would switch the power off for a day.  And now they are back at work, they switched the power off today to replace a nearby pole.  I’m sure I will be thankful for it when a dodgy old pole doesn’t fall down in a storm, but right now it is a bit of an inconvenience.

Planting brassica

With the luxury of time on my hands, I took care to plant out my brassica seedlings. I firmed the soil down, puddled the hole (fill the hole with water and allow to drain) and then firmed them into the hole.

Without power we obviously don’t have lights and anything you’d plug into a socket but are also without water as our water is drawn from the tank to the house via an electric pump.  And we also don’t have internet or phone.  This is a bit of a problem for Hubby the Un-Gardener and the kids.  Hubby the Un-Gardener is trying to bring our business back to life and help others who are in the unfortunate position of finding themselves in need of a job.  Another shameless plug for the great work Hubby the Un-Gardener does getting people back on their feet – if you need a quality CV to help find work then pop along to CV.CO.NZ.  We’ve been writing CVs for over 10 years and have written CVs for people from all over the world.     Anyway – that can’t happen without electricity and the kids can’t do internet school either.

Tree lupin seedlings

I have an army of tree lupin seedlings that will fulfill their destiny doing my bidding. I feel a little like a lupin overlord.

So, Hubby the Un-Gardener took the kids off to a safe place in town that didn’t burst any bubbles and left me home by myself.  I can’t remember the last time I was truly alone.  Well to be honest not completely alone as I had Jasper the Dog and Fennel the Cat and while they don’t quite get on like best buddies, they will tolerate each other if it means they can both be with me in the garden.

Fennel the Cat in a plant pot

I’m not sure this is what full grown fennel looks like when planted in a pot.

And the garden was the best place for me as it doesn’t need power – just a bit of will power as I’ve been procrastinating of late and should have put my winter seedlings in a few days ago.  I’m not sure while I’ve been procrastinating, but it could have something to do with the weather.  It has been cold, rainy, windy and a tad stormy.   If you have a choice between being warm and dry in the office doing computer related gardening, or cold and wet in the garden getting dirty, one of these options is always more preferable.  Except for today when there was no choice.  It was get cold, wet and dirty or get bored.

flax phormium tenax

This is so cool, I have grown loads of flax (flax Phormium tenax) from seed. I know they will grow well here as there are already loads of them about the place.

Having said that there was plenty to do in the dome to keep me busy.  I knew I had seedlings to transplant but I never expected it would take a full 5 hours of pottering about.  I didn’t push myself, initially because I didn’t want to run out of things to do while powerless, and towards the end because it was a little tiring standing on a concrete floor for 5 hours.

Jasper the Dog

Hanging out in the garden is exhausting.

But I gardened well and at the end of the day when the power came back on all of the seedlings that could have been transplanted found themselves in new, larger pots and even got a soak in seaweed tonic to help them settle in.  The nature of the seedlings has shifted slightly from the normal.  There were the usual cool season vegetables and those ended up in two groups.  The best of them were planted into the garden and the rest ended up in paper cups so they can find new homes once I’m satisfied the good ones have settled into the garden.  Then it will be like leaving a foundling child – all my little green babies, on someone’s doorstep and hope they will be taken in and given love.

Spare seedlings

These spare seedlings will have to be delivered in a drop and run style so as not to burst any bubbles.

But it wasn’t just the veggies seedlings, which is just as well as I would have been bored well before lunchtime.   I have my tree lupin plantation coming along nicely.   These will either form the backbone of my mulch program or become nursery plants for the windbreak I want to grow.   This is also coming along nicely as I had loads of flax seedlings that needed transplanting as well.

Thai Silk Californian Poppy

This Thai Silk Californian Poppy is so pretty. Just imagine how wonderful the display would have been if I’d only managed to get it out of the pot.

But there is also a significant number of flower seedlings.  When I was going through my seed collection to find the veggies that could be sown in autumn I strayed into the flower section and thought to myself ‘why not.’  So now I have a load of plants I need to find out more about in order to get the most out of them.  Ordinarily the flowers don’t fair so well in the spring as I have enough on my hands dealing with the edibles and that often means many of them don’t actually make it into the garden.   Or get close to it.  I have a lovely Thai Silk California Poppy doing really well at the moment, but only because its roots found away through the pot and into the soil it was sitting on!

Not a bad day, all things considered.  And now for a hearty soup for dinner to warm the cockles!

Come again soon – with the luxury of electricity who knows what will happen.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)


Monday Message

Do something you have been putting off for ages.

Sarah the Gardener Monday Message

The weather isn’t exactly gardening weather and it seems it will be like that for the next few days.  It would be easy enough to while away the time waiting for the bad weather to go away, but I need to be productive.  Instead of mindlessly swiping through social media, I will brush up on some skills that I hope to put to good use in the future.   You should never stop learning.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)


Day of rest

Ok, we are only three days into Make May Count and I didn’t do anything at all.  But I have my excuses at the ready.  It is Sunday, which is a day of rest, and I feel like I need to charge my batteries for the month ahead.  And it was raining.  The rain is welcome as it was quite dry in the garden.  But rain isn’t the nicest working conditions so I took a rain check.  (See what I did there).  And in this strange old time the last thing I want to do is make myself sick working in the rain.

Geodesic Biodome greenhouse

I’m sure my seedlings will be fine in the dry of the dome for a day.

And there you have it…  Nothing was done today and I’m ok with that.

Come again soon – A new week starts tomorrow and it will be productive.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)


Off to a good start

I do have to say, when you have a reason to be productive, other than the normal reasons, like it needs doing or you’re being paid for it, then you manage to find some kind of inner energy to make things happen.  Having said that we are only on day 2 of Make May Count.

Weedy Bed

Before: this shouldn’t take long if I just got stuck

Today, being Saturday, I had a bit of a lie in and watched some gardening videos on You Tube.  That is my weekly indulgence and is often the only time I can catch up on my favourites totally guilt free.  There just seems something wrong with watching You Tube videos at 2 o’clock on a Tuesday, no matter how you try to justify to yourself that it is ‘work related’.

weeded bed

After: Now that wasn’t so hard.

The day started off well, it was nice and sunny with a warm breeze from the north, so when I went into the garden to open the greenhouse and give everything a drink, I walked past one of my 1 metre by 1 metre beds and like always noticed it was weedy and made a note to self to do something about it at some point.  But then I chastised myself.  I should do something about it now.  So, I grabbed a bucket and in 10 minutes the whole thing was clear of everything that shouldn’t be there.

moving photos

It is so good to finally see these images being moved to a safer place. It has been bothering me for quite some time.

Then back in the house I took on not one, but two projects.  The first one had caused great stress the previous weekend as it was all about computers and sometimes, no matter how hard you try to do something that is supposed to be sensible, it just doesn’t work.   We bought an old desk computer a few months ago that we got modified to become a storage server for all my millions of photos, because our internet is too bad to send them up to the cloud and I have lost too many photos in those portable hard drives as they are quite fragile.  I still have them, in case, one day by some miracle, technology will improve to the point that it will be cheap and easy to retrieve them.  At this point it is neither cheap or easy.  Last weekend, no matter how hard I tried it just wouldn’t work.  As we were now in Level 3, Hubby the Un-Gardener can venture a little further afield and went back to our IT guys and got them to look at the computer and today it is super fast and easy and I have been safely sending thousands of photos into their new forever home and importantly freeing up space on my phone and computer as both are screaming at me in red that they are within an inch of being full.

Hot sauce

There is nothing like a whipping up a batch of hot sauce to clear your head!

While that was sorting itself out in a set and forget kind of way, I stepped into the kitchen to deal with some of my chilies and peppers.  I have been on a bit of a mission to treat them in a way that brings out their best and today I made a relish and a hot sauce.  I will go into more detail with this soon as it has been such a long project, with such care taken that I want to do it more justice than a brief mention now.

garlic cloves

The big fat garlic cloves that ended up in the ground and not in the kitchen

Yesterday I was productive too, I got my garlic in.  Even though the old wives tale is to plant them on the shortest day, but I find when I plant them then, they don’t get enough of a chance to get going before the rust strikes.  So if I go early they manage to be big and strong enough to brush off the inevitable rust and still product big fat bulbs.

Planting garlic

I always forget what the spacing is for my garlic so this time I got the tape measure out and wrote it down for next time. Normally I end up making a spacing mistake while planting that bugs me all season with the odd row too close to another for comfort and good airflow. Hopefully I got it right this time.

The funny thing was Hubby the Un-Gardener came out into the garden while I was planting them and was blown away at how big the cloves were and complained bitterly about having only fiddly, piddly little ones in the kitchen to cook with.   But I had saved my best ones from last season because that is what you do, in hope that the next harvest will be big fat ones, just like their parents.  Maybe one day I will be successful and he’ll be able to use big fat garlic in the kitchen.

Planting garlic

It is always good to pre make a hole for the garlic so you don’t damage the basal plate when pushing it into the soil. If the hole collapses before you put the clove in, try wetting the soil.

But now the weather has closed in and the temperature has dropped so I think now is a good time to say enough is enough for today.  I made the day count.

Come again soon – I still have to get my brassica seedlings in.

Sarah the Gardener : o)



Make May Count 2020

Last year I started a thing.  Just for me, for now.  Maybe it could become a global phenomenon, but right now I am only thinking of myself.  Looking at my history it would seem last year I didn’t Make May Count very well, although I gave it a good push.  May has 31 days and I only posted an update 13 times.  Having said that I didn’t start making May count until the 5th and it was a new idea so I was feeling my way into something new.


Today I will start by planting my garlic. I saved the best bulbs from last year. They are an early variety but most garlic can go in from now until July.

The thing is May is a strange month.  It is the waiting room before winter.   Not quite cold enough but definitely not considered warm, judging by the meagre number of summer plants still lingering in the garden.  As I have been removing plants as they come to an end, the garden is looking tidy and in control, so there isn’t a lot to be done.  May has the potential to be that month that slips away unnoticed with nothing achieved and as a result become known as Melancholic May, bereft of joy and hope.

Brassica seedlings

Today is also very gloomy, the ideal day to plant seedlings and my winter brassica are ready to go in.

Well.  I’m about to change that in my bubble.  Today is the first day of May and intend to make it matter.   I will find things to do.  I will be productive.  There will be change. However, at this point I’m not sure what they will be…  but I’m confident I’ll think of something.   There will be challenges, like not having the ability to just go out and get all the necessary supplies to support brainwaves of genius (that may or may not work) or wander the aisles of the garden centre or hardware store looking for inspiration to jump out at you.  This month will not disappear without something to mark its presence.

Swing seat

I will need to convince myself that sitting and pondering is not a waste of time, it is an opportunity to allow ideas to flourish.

Join me this month as I #MakeMayCount.   It will be an adventure, although no promises it will be an exciting adventure.

Come again soon – I’m really not sure what will happen.

Sarah the Gardener : o)


Monday Message:

On a Tuesday…  again.

Same same but different.  Stay home, stay safe.  Shop local, shop sensible.

Sarah the Gardener Monday Message

This is a still a weird old time.  The Monday Message is on a Tuesday because we had a public holiday on Monday and I try…  in normal times to not work on weekends and holidays so I get to enjoy my family.   So even though they Mondayised an important holiday, it still felt strange to be having a day off when one day doesn’t seem any different than any other day.  But I took the holiday, and spent some time binge watching landscape design shows.

The garden

The garden looks so familiar but so different to what it was just a few months ago.

The holiday, wasn’t one to celebrate, it was to remember – ANZAC day.  All those young folk who lost their lives for my freedoms.  It becomes even more apparent what they did when our ‘freedoms’ are temporarily suspended for the greater good.  I say freedoms loosely as this isn’t a time to get all snippy about me me me.  Collectively as a community we all need to work together for the greater good, like those brave folk did.   Fortunately, this time our sacrifice (which to be honest isn’t that great in the scheme of things) has saved lives, and so ANZAC day was a great opportunity to reflect on loss and the community spirit within our nation, but also appreciate our efforts now.  We had to get creative to mark this point in our calendar that calls us to account each year and due to circumstances this occasion was marked even louder and prouder than normal, just in different ways.  Ya gotta love kiwi ingenuity.

Poppies on letterboxes

Lest we forget

And this week is also marked by another weird thing.  We have after just over four weeks made the step from level 4 to level 3.  Yesterday there was only one new person ill, but we mustn’t become complacent and take back our ‘freedoms’ too hastily as the day before 9 ill folk were reported.  We need to stay at home a little longer, but the designated shopper in your bubble can buy a few more things and we can do a bit of online shopping in our PJs.  But supporting local business is important if we want to step back out into a world we recognise when they finally say we are truly free.

Burning tomato plants

To take care of the disease that has ravished my tomatoes all season and reduce the chance of it coming back I have burnt every last trace of tomato that was in my garden this season.

As for me and my garden, change is slow.  I have taken down the tomatoes finally and burnt their disease ridden remains in our fire pit as the sun sunk into the ocean and the stars in the heavens punctuated the sky in a magnificent display.  Before the lockdown I got some new glasses, it was a clear night and for the first time in ages I was able to see that the stars were amazing!   I can’t believe I’ve missing something so spectacular for so long.

cool season seedlings

Whatever happens there is always something new waiting to take the place of something old

There are a multitude of seedlings in the garden that are ready to be planted out for the winter season and the beds are mostly ready to receive them.  A job for this week I suspect.

Come again soon – It seems like this week is a good week for a bit of change. 

Sarah the Gardener  : o)



Monday Message

As the days grow cooler, the love of a good chilli can add some heat!

Sarah the Gardener Monday Message

I have plenty to choose from in my garden – cayenne, jalapeno, padron (gone too far to be a playful game of spicy roulette – they are all very hot now), habanero, birds eye and a few others.  And they are all ready and waiting for me to do something with them!  Watch this space.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Lockdown Funk

This lockdown has been a bit of a strange creature for me as far as productivity and getting stuff done goes.   I have to confess a lot of time has been spent in a bewildered state.  While my life hasn’t changed all that much, I work from home, Hubby the Un-Gardener works from home and it felt like the school term hadn’t been going that long so having the kids around just feels normal, like it was in the summer holidays.  Thank goodness they are teens and self-managing.  Although I do feel like I have been a bad parent as unlimited screen time has been the default activity.   We have managed a few family walks on the beach as it is close enough – ie on our back doorstep, to be considered local.

Onion seed sowing

And for the 12th time I have sown my onion seeds so they are ready to plant out as seedlings in the middle of winter. They were my last pre-lockdown purchase.

The first half of the lockdown did feel a little bit like those first few weeks of the school holidays.  The weather was lovely and, while there was work to be done, it was hard to focus.  Ordinarily this would be due to the Christmas build up, but this time it was the anxious watch of life around us and wondering if our bubble will be breached by this totally unexpected situation.

While work has been a bit of an anchor to keep things real in an unreal world, things in the second half have shifted slightly.  The weather has changed.  It may have felt like summer going in but coming out it feels like winter.  It has been a long four weeks.  The kids are now working remotely for their schoolwork and it seems to be going well, yay for engaged and motivated kids who have a desire to learn.   Hubby the Un-Gardener’s business is starting to pick up again.  In the early days no one was thinking much about their careers, but as we approach what looks like the end, those who have lost their jobs are beginning to approach us to get their CV’s done.  (Shameless plug:  if anyone needs a new CV to give them the edge over all the others looking for work in the coming weeks and months check out our other business CV.CO.NZ – at the very least it will keep Hubby the Un-Gardener busy and out of my projects.)

But for me as Sarah the Gardener, it has been a little hard.  The garden really doesn’t need me much at this time of year, so it has been a little hard to throw myself into it.   We had a great project to start off with the shed shelf project that went remarkable well and then I harvested almost everything left in the garden and so all that is there is beds filled with the dying remains of the summer season.  I don’t know why I am reluctant to remove them.  Possibly with thought that once it’s done there will be nothing else to do.  This garden has been designed in such a low maintenance way that it has almost become automatic, rather than the creative joys of gardening in those heady days of not knowing what I was doing.  It is almost like the garden has become a job, that doesn’t pay very well – unless the global currency changes to zucchini, then I’d be rich indeed.


If zucchini was a currency I would be so very rich!

Other things that incited a game of hide and seek with my mojo has been the anxiety of the situation hasn’t been good for my MS and so most days I’m running at probably 80% energy levels – sometimes much less.  And we are in the middle of another great storm, with winds howling around us for days and days.  Hardly gardening weather.

But the wind has me thinking about wind breaks and how I can grow something amazing to protect the garden from the worst of the elements.  A crack appeared in the lockdown funk…  researching all things windbreak lead to a distracted shift in thinking and a whole lot of “I wonder if I could….” And even a google search on ‘inflatable beach toys’ (that word beach is very important).   Just as well I can’t go out and just buy loads of things because projects I rush into tend to be a bit of a disaster, and those I take the time to mull over surprise me with how well they come together.

Lupin seedlings

These lupin seedlings have an important job as nursery plants or in my mulch plantation. So it is worth saving them from the hoe as I tend to my paths.

So, the garden mojo is back….  But it won’t always be in the veggie patch I have got 10 acres of crazy coastal land to whip into shape and the inkling of plans are forming in my head.  But for today I’m going to clear out those old summer beds so I can end this lockdown with a clean slate and a fresh approach.

Come again soon – things will start to look a little different around here.  It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

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