SARAH THE GARDENER

There is officially TEN days left of winter.

And to be honest I can’t wait to see the back of it.  While it hasn’t been all that cold really – not in the grand scheme of things, but I am so over the rain.  Apparently we were blessed in July with twice the normal amount of rain for an average July and we have already gone past what is average for August.  Just when you think it is all over and there has been a surprising two dry days in a row and the surface water in the lawn begins to recede a little – then along comes a downpour so vigorous that it takes the puddles back to where they were and then adds more water for good measure – all within an hour!  I have spent ages in the mud digging trenches and channels and trying to keep the water flowing freely.  It has made a little bit of difference, but when the water table is above the level of the ground you know it’s a losing battle – but at least I can delude myself into thinking I am in some kind of control in this fight against the weather!

I have a strong desire to make little paper boats...

I have a strong desire to make little paper boats…

We are owed a good summer.  Last year was dreadful, so I live in hope that all things will be as they should in the coming months, however we have to get through spring first – a season synonymous with the expression “spring showers!”  I’m not sure I’ll cope.

Oh - I nearly forgot - I did do gardening.  I planted some peas

Oh – I nearly forgot – I did do gardening. I planted some peas

So on the gardening front, not a whole lot has been done except a huge amount of impatient waiting.  I am so grateful for my misting irrigation system – it makes things so much easier, however I still go out there in the mud a couple of times a day to check to see if my tomato seeds have come up…. So far – NOTHING!

I also took this months photo (a day late, but given I'm not doing any gardening, I guess it doesn't matter).  The Official Photo for August

I also took this months photo (a day late, but given I’m not doing any gardening, I guess it doesn’t matter).                                        The Official Photo for August.

And just to compare - here's last months photo.  There are a few small changes - but the most obvious thing July has in common with August is the soggy boggy wet!

And just to compare – here’s last months photo. There are a few small changes – but the most obvious thing July has in common with August is the soggy boggy wet!

The peppers and chillies are going great guns.  Some are even beginning to get their true leaves.  So my wee set up seems to be working. They are obviously warm enough, and they are growing straight and not too tall.  Nice solid stalks with no leaning into the light.  They are a good strong green colour and I couldn’t be prouder.  I had a tidy up and found the mirror that I was looking for when I set the peppers up, and so I tucked it in front of the aluminium foil – but I probably didn’t really need to as the foil was doing a great job.

Strong sturdy little plants, showing no signs what so ever of leaning towards the window looking for the light!

Strong sturdy little plants, showing no signs what so ever of leaning towards the window looking for the light!

Not satisfied to sit inside and wait for the rain to stop – I needed to do something, anything, gardening related.  So I took to scouring the internet looking for cool projects and stumbled across one that may or may not work, but it is timely and I’ve nothing better to do.  Even dreaded weeding is out of the question!  So the theory is that to stop birds eating your strawberries, then you need to paint some stones to look like strawberries and then put them out in your patch before the berries come out and the birds will peck them hoping to have their fill of strawberry deliciousness, only to find it’s not strawberries but a cold hard stone.  So then when the actual strawberries come out the birds will think “oh no I don’t want to eat those stones…”  I figure I have nothing to lose and it gives me something to do while I think of a clever – yet inexpensive way to net my very large strawberry patch.  I’m toying with the idea of rigging up some kind of contraption with a couple of mosquito nets….  Hmmm….  We’ll see.

Do these look enough like the real thing to baffle the birds?

Do these look enough like the real thing to baffle the birds?

Come again soon – I’ll either be building an ark and rounding up animals or I’ll be getting my hands dirty, toiling in the soil getting ready for spring!

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

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Another Yesterday full of excitement.

Yesterday was a day of two halves.  In the morning is was wet and miserable – with rain drops so fat and heavy that it seemed to come in monsoon proportions.  But the ground was already overflowing so the new rainfall just lay on the top of the lawn, with only the tips of the as yet un-mown grass poking through a sea of mud and water.   I was so yucky outside that I slow cooked a pea and ham soup, filling the house with warm aromas of winter.

Our new tractor - a 1952 David Brown. Hubby the Un-Gardener loves it. He says it makes him feel like a farmer. Although having a tractor without implements is like having a computer without software!!!

Our new tractor – a 1952 David Brown. Hubby the Un-Gardener loves it. He says it makes him feel like a farmer. Although having a tractor without implements is like having a computer without software!!!

Then I gathered together all my supplies and sat at the kitchen table and gently and lovingly sowed my tomato seeds for the season to come.  For me tomatoes are the epitome of summer.  A summer veggie garden without tomatoes doesn’t actually qualify as a summer veggie garden – it’s just pretending to be a summer garden.  So I savoured the moment.  Sowing tomato seeds evokes such pleasant thoughts of all things hot and sunny.  Without wanting to wish my life away – I can’t wait for the sunny season and having a garden full of flourishing plants.

From small seeds - great things grow!

From small seeds – great things grow!

Once I had finished tucking my seeds into warm seed raising mix, I looked out the window and all my summery thoughts evaporated.  It was still raining.  I needed to take my seeds out to the greenhouse – in the rain.  So this was the ideal time to put in to place a plan that had been rattling around in my head for a long time.  I gathered up my hoses and irrigation stuff, headed out to the greenhouse and set to work.

self watering seed trays

self watering seed trays

Using cable ties I secured irrigation hose to the top shelf and then installed some mister nozzles and then connected them all to the tap.  Much to my surprise – it worked!  Now I can water my seedlings in the greenhouse, by just nipping around the corner of the house, and I won’t even need to get wet!  Awesome!  This description of the installation doesn’t even begin to do it justice – but that’s OK because I videoed the unfolding drama and excitement and loaded it onto You Tube, so you can watch it by clicking >HERE<

Then the second half of the day kicked in.  The rain stopped and the sun came out. I’d like to say the place dried out – but I think we need a month of Sundays for that to happen.  It was time for the next exciting thing of the day.  So we jumped in the car and drove to a motorway service centre a little way further down the country and met a man we’d never met before who gave us the cutest bundles of fluffy joy!

Meet Pookie and Teddy

Meet Pookie and Teddy

We now have in our wee menagerie one cat, 2 goats, 1 rooster, 4 chickens, 5 baby chicks and TWO TINY BABY LAMBS!  The lambs are only 4 days old and are the sweetest things.  They are destined to become champions at the hands of Tim the Helper and the Joeyosaurus.  We are expected great things these wee teams at the school Calf Club event in October.  This is something that country schools do here in NZ and such great fun.  The kids compete for cups and ribbons for various animal rearing skills and if they are lucky then they get to go to the next round of competitions at the inter-school Group Day.

The Joeyosaurus with Pookie

The Joeyosaurus with Pookie

Tim the Helper and Teddy

Tim the Helper and Teddy

The lambs are the cutest little things and as yet the drudgery of the late night bottle feeds and the frustration of yet another successful escape from the chicken coop to the veggie patch, and the nagging to getting the kids to spend time training them – once the novelty wears off;  has yet to kick in.  It is Day Two and having lambs is the coolest thing about living in the country in the spring – apart from having tomato seeds in the process of emerging from the soil.

The first feed - too cute for words

The first feed – too cute for words

Come again soon – there is never a dull moment around here!

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

Yesterday was one of those ‘out of season’ magical days.

We woke to a foggy morning, but then that isn’t out of the ordinary down here on the swamp.  But to our surprise it cleared to be the most incredible day ever!  …well in a long while.  It was one of those blue sky days without a cloud, without a breath of wind.  But what made it special was it was warm.  There wasn’t a hint of winter in the day.  So there was only one thing to do with a day like this and that is to make the most of it – and make the most of it we did!

I finally got around to spraying the orchard to prevent fungal and bacterial diseases and hopefully will sort out the peach leaf curl.  And it wasn’t a moment too soon.  The buds are swelling and the Billington Plum looks like it is days away from breaking into blossom.

Next week blossoms, and then before you know it - plums!

Next week blossoms, and then before you know it – plums!

While I was in a spraying mood I dealt to the white flies in the greenhouse.  Since I repaired it the other week I have had to look at it through a fresh pair of eyes.  I can no longer see it as a crushed dream, but a keeper of dreams.  Very soon it will hold the beginnings of new life in my garden – the hopes of a full and bountiful harvest come summers end.  So I turned a blind eye to all the repairs and set about washing the walls with disinfectant and evicting forcibly any snails overwintering in what they thought was an ideal location, and yanked up any weeds that had sprung up in the cracks of the paving stones on the floor.  I have re-arranged the shelves several times but suspect it will all go back to last year’s layout as it did work well.  So with the impending sowing – the white fly had to go, after all spring is only three weeks away.

The new and improved chicken fence.

The new and improved chicken fence.

The next project for the day was to repair the chicken coop fence, not just because the chickens keep escaping, but it needs to be strong enough to temporarily house a couple of new tenants that arrive tomorrow.  So I pulled Hubby the Un-Gardener away from his usual position behind a spade and got him to give me a hand.  Originally we were just going to do our usual patch job, that – let’s face it – it’s ugly and doesn’t actually hold anyone within the coop for very long, until we struck upon a really cool idea.  We had some old pailings lying about and not only did the holes get covered over, but the look of the coop is much improved.  The only problem is the chickens are still getting out – there must be a hole somewhere else.  I think I need to spy on the chickens.

New top layers for the lucky chosen beds, built and ready to install.

New top layers for the lucky chosen beds, built and ready to install.

The job Hubby the Un-Gardener was up to was just below repairing the coop on the list of things to do before spring.  He was topping up my improved raised beds.  I’ve been putting up with soggy sodden raised beds that weren’t raised enough for quite a while but I’d run out of wood to sort it out as we had already pulled down all the fences that we could on the property.  So I took the bull by the horns and ordered some new wood to lift the low beds enough to give them a much needed lift.  Hubby the Un-Gardener doesn’t mind doing my digging – but he has been objecting bitterly to being forced to use a one handled wheelbarrow with a flat tire on ground so soft that the water is lying on the surface.  Maybe I should get a new wheelbarrow so I don’t lose my star digger.

Up... but looking a bit yellow.  I think in needs a bit of sun!

Up… but looking a bit yellow. I think in needs a bit of sun!

The other exciting news is some of the chillies have come up.  While it is exciting it is rather problematic.  I can’t leave the tray in the dark cosy spot in the hot water cupboard because the emerged seedlings need the light.  So I rigged up a new home in the sun.  For the all essential warmth I grabbed my wine making heat pad – but it’s a bit too warm so I lifted the seed tray up a bit, and positioned the tray in a window that gets the best north facing all day sun.  To stop the seedlings bended towards the light I read something somewhere that suggests putting a mirror on the other side so it evens it the light out.  I couldn’t find a mirror, so I put aluminium foil in an old picture frame and popped it at the back of the tray.  Time will tell if my seedlings grow straight.

A crazy middle of the night plan to keep plants from leaning over.

A crazy middle of the night plan to keep plants from leaning over.

Come again soon – I have the cutest surprise – but for now the rain has come back…

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

And lastly… The Game is a foot.

I have waited for this moment for such a long time, probably since about October last year.    But then again most years it is long a waited – although not as long as I have waited this year.  It is so exciting – it’s the start of something new.  A new growing season.

I hold in my hand the promise of summer

I hold in my hand the promise of summer

Today I sowed my first seeds.  The peppers, chillies and eggplant.  Experience has taught me that they need the biggest head start of all the plants I will grow.  They need to hit the ground running if I’m to get any fruit at all.  Last year was the most disastrous for these guys and I learnt two valuable lessons:

Number 1:  Fresh is best.  Make sure the seeds are fresh and two years is probably as old as I’d let them get.  Last year they were three years old and I had so much trouble getting them to grow that my pepper bed was a dismal sight with hardly any plants.

Number 2:  Peppers need a constant 22°C  (71.6°F) for optimum germination.  I looked it up when I couldn’t get things to grow last year.  The greenhouse, while warm during the day just gets too cold at night at this time of year.  The best place inside the house is on the top of the fridge as the warm air that comes up the back is just right for those wee babies.  Sadly the top of my fridge is so chocked up with junk that I’m really not all that desperate to sort out just now, so that location is out of the question.  But I have found somewhere better – the top shelf of the hot water cupboard – provided I can get the family to keep the door shut.  I think I need a sign.

Another lesson learnt the hard way - label your seeds well!

Another lesson learnt the hard way – label your seeds well!

I have also learnt in my pepper growing history that you should NEVER give up on a barren pepper seed tray.  I once had one come up after 53 days!

I knew by October last year that I was in trouble as what plants I did get in were late going in and I hoped and prayed for an Indian summer.  This is not an effective strategy to guarantee a bountiful harvest, but it was all I had.  It was all too awful.  We got an early frost and so we only ended up with a taste of all things hot – but certainly not enough to make my awesome hot sweet chilli sauce.

"sow" exciting

“sow” exciting

This year is going to be different.  I am starting nice and early, with heaps of time for a replant or two if necessary.  It is going to be a great season – it has to be.  It would just be too cruel to have two crappy summers in a row.  So for me this first seed is the first stirrings of spring and summer and the warmer, drier weather.  I now have a tangible link to those incredible sunny days that never seem to end, and I shall be there, sitting in the warm glow of an evening sun with a chilled glass of something, basking in the bountiful produce surrounding me.

That is how it will be and I will cling to that thought.  I don’t know how much more of this cold wet I can do before becoming permanently soggy.  I hope I haven’t over hyped this blog, but for me it is the most special day of the whole growing season – it’s the start!

In the mean time, we can begin to enjoy the over-wintered tomatoes that have just started to come ripe!

In the mean time, we can begin to enjoy the over-wintered tomatoes that have just started to come ripe!

Come again soon – it is only going to get busier from now on!

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

 

And for my second blog of the day we are going to have a celebration.

Everyone loves a cute chicken photo!

Everyone loves a cute chicken photo!

My last blog was all serious and a bit of a worry.  This one is much more upbeat.  All the while that I have been pacing myself with my blogs, keeping up with my gardening endeavours and not spending too much time on the keyboard – taking away from gardening – and more importantly – family time, I’ve been nominated for some awards.  I wanted to mention them, and I wanted to give them the full space and credit they need, without making my blogs too long, but the garden stuff just kept getting in the way.  I’m there is no excitement in telling everyone about a broccoli that is long gone, in a meal enjoyed ages ago.  A ready broccoli is something to be excited about at the peak of its readiness – otherwise it’s just a broccoli – a boring old broccoli.  Hopefully I’m not alone in this.  Maybe I’m just weird.

Gratuitous garden photo so this blog doesn't seem so long - broad beans

Gratuitous garden photo so this blog doesn’t seem so long – broad beans

Anyway I’ve had not one, not two but THREE AWARDS!  I think two are the same, but have different pictures and two are different but from the same person.  These awards appear to travel around the blog world like wild fire, and it seems that not everyone is into them, but they are a lovely way to shine a light on the blogs you enjoy.  The “rules” seem to be the same for most of them, so if you are a stickler for the rules then maybe Google them to find out exactly.  I’m not so good with rules for things like this so hopefully nothing bad will happen if I deviate a bit from the expected format.  (“They” can’t kick me off the internet can they?)

The general gist is to link back to the person who gave you the award and say thank you.  Which is only manners and should be done regardless.  Then you share 7 things about yourself… can be as silly or serious as you like or even just 7 random facts.

Another photo to hid the fact this blog is too long - kale

Another photo to hide the fact this blog is too long – kale

Then you have to nominate others to receive the honour.  Some say 10 and some say 15.  Not everyone will throw themselves into the spirit of the award, but you can still bless others by telling all your people about how cool your favourites are.

Oh and you have to display the awards on your blog somewhere.  I shall put mine on my about page – that is probably in desperate need of an update.

So without further ado…

I would like to thank:

LubbyGirl at The REmissionary  for the Lovely Blog Award and the Very Inspiring Blogger Award.  I am very humbled to be chosen for two awards from you.  Thank you so much.    She has such a lovely blog with heaps of cool things and a heart that is in the best place – the right place.  Go and have a look.

I would also like to thank:

Cheryl at gardenhood for the Lovely Blog Award and I think the best thing I can do for Cheryl is nominate her for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award that LubbyGirl gave me.  Oh my goodness this lady is a huge inspiration.  She comes from Colorado in USA and not only was her community devastated by a dreadful hail storm, but in the following weeks a wildfire that took out large parts of her community.  Her words spoke of such bravery and courage that left me feeling such awe.  Please check out her blog – she is such a wonderful writer and gardener as well.

Ok next:  The SEVEN THINGS

  1. I’m actually quite shy in person – until you get to know me.
  2. Hubby the Un-Gardener isn’t as incompetent as I make him out – he’s actually a very professional businessman making his place in the world and becoming more and more respected with his achievements every day – until I undermine all that in my little corner of the world.
  3. I am actually amazed that there are people out there in the world who don’t like gardening – I mean REALLY?  How can you not.
  4. I drink far too much tea.  Well it’s not so much the tea that the problem – it’s the 1 sugar that goes into each one.
  5. Life is good.
  6. I can procrastinate a bit – well actually an awful lot!
  7. Saving the best until last…  I have written a book – a proper one!  I’m still in a bit of shock as it has happened so quickly.  The seed company that first got me into blogging by hosting a Blogging / Gardening competition have very generously arranged to have my blogs from the competition – along with a whole lot of new stuff I’ve written – turned into a book with their publishers HarperCollins and endorsed by them.  So thank you Yates for your support.  The book should be in all good book stores and garden centres in NZ and Australia from March next year.  That’s the crazy thing about blogging is you pour your heart out and put it out there on the internet and you never really know if it’s good or not.

Which brings us to a nice Segway…  there are heaps of people out there just putting their stuff on the internet and I just want to say that it takes courage to do so and I have to pick some people to let you know I like their work.  I’m I bit narrow focussed when it comes to reading blogs – let’s say I’m a gardening purist.  But not everyone who reads my stuff is the same so along with nominating gardeners I also want to say thanks to those of you support me.

I genuinely wanted to share this photo - the first asparagus of the season - yummo!

I genuinely wanted to share this photo – the first asparagus of the season – yummo!

Firstly I want to highlight some fellow kiwi gardening bloggers who are doing great things:

I also want to share another Sarah’s garden:

And lastly some of the people who always support my blogs:

For those on the list you can choose to accept either or both of the awards – both apply to you.  Or you can choose to ignore them, I won’t be offended.

One last gratuitous photo of my red cabbage

One last gratuitous photo of my red cabbage

Thanks to everyone who reads my blogs and a special thanks to those who let me know you like it.  It’s nice to remind others that someone out there is actually reading their blogs so don’t be shy with the like button.

Well that’s about as much as I should say without turning this into a dreary long blog.

Come again soon – there’s one more for today and I’m so excited I think I’ll pop!  But I must get on or it won’t happen.

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

The good, the bad and the exciting.

Today I am going to do something I don’t normally do….  Multiple blogs.  I try and do one a week or every ten days at most, however things are really starting to snowball in my head and if I don’t share then, I’m likely to explode!  I have a back log of things to share, and it’s only going to get worse as we run into spring and summer.  I may need to blog at will instead of trying to be consistent.

So today I have three things on my mind that deserve attention but each thing would spoil the other and also would make for a tale so long that no one would have the stamina to read. I have something really good and genuinely nice; something that is bothering me in the garden, and while I try to keep a light-hearted feel to my stuff, I feel compelled to share because when I found out about it my face had that look of shock and disbelief that causes the jaw to drop closer to your toes than your eyebrows;   and finally something so exciting that I think I’m going to burst if I save it to last – but I will save it to last as it’s more fun that way!

So let’s get to it…  The bad….

 

I DID NOT KNOW THAT!

I read a blog about a week ago, and I’m sorry I don’t know who you were as I read sooo many cool blogs, but this blog hasn’t left me.  I don’t like to think of what I say as “scaremongering” as it makes such perfect sense that I’m surprised it hasn’t occurred to me before – or anyone else.

A hose is a hose is a hose - or is it?

A hose is a hose is a hose – or is it?

How well do you know your hose?  This innocuous looking tube that delivers life giving properties to the very food you eat.    Apparently I didn’t know mine very well at all.

Now I grow my garden for a couple of reasons:

Number one:  to save cash!  We hardly ever buy veggies, and we are eating the cool expensive ones alongside our spuds and carrots.

Number two:  I know what’s on my veggies.  I don’t claim to be organic, I try to be as “clean” as I can but if there is a bug or problem I can’t shift, then I’ll reach for a bottle.  There is nothing that is going to come between me and my meal!  But the thing is I know what I put on my plants –I make a carefully considered choice, so we aren’t eating things sprayed willy nilly with goodness knows what that you find in shops.  (I have to say that I’m not all that informed about what’s on crops here in NZ and I’m sure with the clean green image this country has then it can’t be too bad).

Number three:  I love to garden – the health benefits from gardening are just too numerous to mention.  For me it is more than a hobby – it is a lifestyle.  I love my garden.

But what I read the other day has thrown reason number two into complete disarray.  You see when you are gardening to save cash (reason number one) and your garden is a long way from the tap, then finding a cheap hose at a half-price sale is something to be celebrated.  It may be a false economy in the long run as they never seem to last longer than a year before they become cracked, kinked and err um  get run over by the lawn mower because it wasn’t put away – but have you seen the price of the posh hoses!  So off I trot to the store to replace it with another cheap hose.

This hose has NO life left in it!

This hose has NO life left in it!

This other blog couldn’t have been more timely.  The new season is about to start and my old hose is munted!   So what did this blog say….  TERRIBLE THINGS!!!!!  Hoses are responsible for delivering ONTO YOUR FOOD such nasty chemicals that it throws all organic efforts (no matter how half hearted) right out the window.  There are heavy metals – cadmium and barium, BPAs at super high levels – those nasties that everyone went nuts over recently in baby bottles, there is lead – especially in brass connectors and nozzles – I nearly bought a set because the plastic ones kept breaking.

I did a bit of a look about the internet, but I’m the kind of girl who watches scary movies through my fingers held over my eyes.  If you are braver than me and want to look into this as good place to start is   >here<

I’ve seen enough to know it’s not good, and so when I bought my new hose it not only claims to be UV protected and anti-kink – my two biggest hose dramas, but it is also cadmium and barium free!  It’ll have to do.

I may hold them to that 8 year guarantee

I may hold them to that 8 year guarantee

The other things you can do, short of buying a hose that says “safe for drinking water” although you may need to mortgage your home for that one.  You can run your hose for a few minutes to get rid of water that was lying in the hose before you water your plants. You can keep your hose out of the sun (which means actually putting it away after use – but my hose is sooo long and I’m sooo lazy) and don’t drink out of it (I have such fond memories of as a child racing my siblings to get to the hot water out of the hose first – I still remember that warm hose taste – if only we knew) or you could forgo the hose all together and use a stainless steel watering can – if you have a teeny tiny garden.

This one's good, God has been watering for me!

This one’s good, God has been watering for me!

It’s ok if you are watering flowers, but when you water the food you give to your kids….  It’s a whole nother story.

Ok that’s it for now…  I need to get on or Hubby the Un-Gardener will look at me with that “what have you been doing all day” look in his eye.

Come again soon – real soon. The next one is a celebration.

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

Oh what a night… or more aptly Oh what a nightmare.

I am soooo tired.  Last night was possibly the most horrible period of darkness we have had in ages.  On the grand scheme of global disasters then our night was completely insignificant – but to us in the midst of it – in the black night – it was a doozy.

It started out with us being quite tired.  I think we are beginning to lose our grasp on our youth. The night before we had been watching the Olympics for what felt like ages, so headed off to bed – only to find it was only 9:30pm.   So more to prove a point to ourselves, we ended up surfing the internet from bed until it was an hour that claiming tiredness could be justified.  However this set us but badly for what was about to come.

Last night, after muddling through the day ever so slightly dazed, we returned to bed justifiable tired as we had had a full and busy day, only to be disturbed by Tim the Helper manifesting classic symptoms of a tummy bug all over the living room floor!  I won’t regal you with the details, except to say it was quite a while before we were settled back in bed with that psychosomatic squeamish-ness makes sleep difficult.

The wind was so strong it tossed our outdoor wooden furniture like it was a toy

The wind was so strong it tossed our outdoor wooden furniture like it was a toy

The next time we were woken at 2 am with the worst wind I think we have ever experienced while living here.  It was loud.  You could feel its tendrils wrapping around the house with its tight grasp and giving it a firm shake.  I believe if the house was made of different material we would have lost the roof.  It was pretty scary.

I gave a brief thought to my greenhouse, but it had survived other storms so I thought it would be ok and so when the noise died down I fell back into a heavy well deserved sleep.  But alas – all was not well.  Two panels had popped out of their tracks and one has completely disappeared.

And the dawn breaks on the carnage

And the dawn breaks on the carnage

I surprised myself, in that I didn’t cry.  I cried the first and only time it fell apart in a storm.  I had saved hard for this greenhouse and it wasn’t cheap.  A nice green aluminium frame with polycarbonate panels. A new generation style greenhouse.  I constructed myself with a lot of blood, sweat and tears.  It was supposed to be my forever greenhouse.  So when it broke after standing for less than a month – I cried.

Although I could be worse - it could be beyond repair

Although it could be worse – it could be beyond repair

Under a misguided understanding of aerodynamics we decided to leave it open in the face of a storm – expecting the storm to just blow through it, leaving it intact.  DON’T DO THIS!  It didn’t work.  I think I lost 6 panels that day.  It was repaired but was no longer pretty.  Now we lock it down tight in a storm, especially since we discovered the greenhouse materials make it too flimsy to be insured.  I don’t think I cried, because I have long since fallen out of love with it.    The final straw is the panels which are supposed to be strong enough to last for at least 25 years have begun to perish in our strong sun after only two seasons.

A dodgy bodgy repair - I hope it get us through the season!

A dodgy bodgy repair – I hope it get us through the season!

I didn’t cry because I have spare panels, recovered from the last spot of destruction, the plants inside don’t show any evidence of their traumatic ordeal.  And there is always duct tape. Lots of duct tape.  So I shall bodge the house back into working order and limp it through the coming season and make plans for a proper greenhouse, made of wood and glass – and maybe make it a bit bigger!!!

There is always a bright side - this wee blue flower wasn't in the pot outside the greenhouse yesterday

There is always a bright side – this wee blue flower wasn’t in the pot outside the greenhouse yesterday

Come again soon – the sun is shining and broken can be fixed.

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

I had a marvellous day, doing the most mundane thing!

A sign that this wet miserable winter wont last forever

A sign that this wet miserable winter wont last forever

I’m sitting here beside a roaring fire, watching the rain beat against the window, but all is not lost.  It has still been a productive day.  This afternoon I defrosted the freezer.  It isn’t a task one would choose to do on a freezing cold winter day – but it was a bit of a necessity as it had iced over so much is was becoming difficult to shut.  I thought it was because the kids were leaving the door ajar and after a stern lecture on shutting the door properly and the purchase and installation of a kiddie lock – not to keep the kids out, but to ensure it shuts with a reassuring click, I soon realised what was going on…   Sorry kids for going on at you – but having said that “kids make sure the freezer shuts properly – with a click!”

But it was a good and timely job to do – as it is a preparation project for the summer harvest to come.  We will need the space before we know it, so now we can clearly see what we have.  I’m a bit of a geek – I roughly organised the veggies in alphabetical order!  I couldn’t help myself… well they had to put back into the freezer in some kind of order!  I also updated my blackboard letting everyone know what is in the freezer and what shelf it can be found on.  We can’t afford to afford to deviate from our golden rule:  Something from the garden in every meal!”  Time is against us – I need that freezer empty!

In the beginning of winter it's "Don't eat too much - it has to last"    Now its "Eat up family - I need the space!"

In the beginning of winter it’s:                                                                                                           “Don’t eat too much – it has to last”                                                                                         Now it’s:                                                                                                                                 “Eat up family – I need the space!”

But this wasn’t the marvellous thing I was talking about…

The other day we have had another break in the rain and was blessed with a day so blue and sunny, you’d think it was summer – only colder and minus leaves on trees!  It was the kind of day you couldn’t help yourself and had to get stuck in.  So after whipping around taking care of the small weeds – such a rewarding task as it is so quick to do and looks so good.  Keep on top of your weeds while they are small and you will thank yourself later.  Having said that I still have some serious weed issues in a couple of beds and so I am still coming to terms with this fundamental basic of the gardening lifestyle!

Anyway there I was, standing on the edge of the garden admiring my efforts when what seemed like a permanent feature caught my eye.  The Brussel sprouts.  I planted them back in March 2011.  They have been in for a year and a half!  The seed packet promised maturity in 16 – 20 weeks!  I’d never had much luck with them before, but I gave them another go and they didn’t come to anything… no big fat mini cabbages popping out the stalk, so I left them in just in case and then in the last couple of months I read somewhere that you need to nip the tops out to make the buds fatten up so I gave it a go – and it worked!  I couldn’t believe it – after such a long time I was actually getting brussel sprouts!  This week the time had come to chop them down and harvest the sprouts.  The stalks were so thick I had a bit of a job chopping them down – think small tree!

These were a long time come - and took a long time to peel and chop

These were a long time come – and took a long time to peel and chop

The weather was too nice to sit inside so I set myself up outside to sort out the sprouts.  I had about a kilo and was stoked, but we weren’t going to eat them all in one go – they needed to go into the freezer.  So I had the most relaxing day peeling off the outer leaves and chopping in half what seemed like a million sprouts.  Cutting them in half wasn’t necessary – but they had been hanging around for so long that I wanted to guarantee that there was nobody lurking inside.  Not a surprize I want to find on my plate!

An abundance of bees - such a good sign for my garden

An abundance of bees – such a good sign for my garden

While I was sitting there my hyacinths were smelling incredible and the blue anemones were attracting so many bees that I am convinced that there is not a drop of pollen or nectar left on the flowers!  The bees weren’t the only visitors to my wee work space.  Brandy the Chicken has taught her babies the fine art of escaping the coop and they stopped by to peck at the sprout peels that had fallen at my feet.  It was so cute.  Then they wandered off and climbed into the bed with the celery in it.  I nearly instinctively chased them out, but decided that there was little damage they could do, but they could have their fill of slugs that have been having their fill of my celery.

Brandy is such a great mum

Brandy is such a great mum

Once I finished I took all the brussel sprout peeling and stalks to the goats who thought all their Christmas’s had come at once and every time I went near them after that they got all excited with expectation – only to have their hopes dashed!  I hope I haven’t given them a taste for the garden.  I shall worry if I see them hanging out with Brandy the Chicken!

Chicks in the celery

Chicks in the celery

I also tried to mow today, but the rain beat me to it – however it was a bit of a half-hearted attempt as the ground is still too wet.  I need at least seven days of sun and wind to dry things out enough to mow.  But I can’t see that happening anytime soon; there is no sunshine on the next ten day forecast.  But it is winter after all!

I also got my peas put in...

I also got my peas put in…

A passionfruit! In my greenhouse!!  In winter!!!

A passionfruit!                                                    In my greenhouse!!                                                                                            In winter!!!

Come again soon – I am of the edge of the most exciting thing in the gardening calendar!

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

It was such a lovely hole.

As far as holes go... this is a good one!

As far as holes go… this is a good one!

Well … I’ve been true to my word.  The weather has done nothing but shine and I have made the most of it!  My promised sunny days came with the bonus of starting a day earlier than predicted.  The weather forecast suggests that it may rain on Sunday and continue for the next TEN days and possibly beyond!  But instead of moaning, I am pleased with what I have achieved!

I planted my clearance bin rose, although it is in a pot, but it is where I’d like it to go, but it would take more work than I can manage at the moment.  So this time next year I will build an amazing garden to house it, but until then it is just a dormant rose bush in a pot, waiting the construction of a frame for it to grow up.  Hubby the Un-Gardener made vague promises, so I shall have to pin him down.

The orchard is starting to stir with buds fattening up...

The orchard is starting to stir with buds fattening up…

I also planted my trees – well most of them.  I decided that the coffee plant would flourish better as a potted plant in the office, which has better conditions than some of the extremes our climate would throw at it outside, and the tea plant has a place for it – although I’m not quite ready for it (translate: where I want to put it is a big weedy mess!)  So I shall re pot it and hopefully rehome it sooner rather than later.

The rest of the trees were taken down to the orchard and with the help of Hubby the Un-Gardener we set about planting the trees.  I placed the trees where I wanted them and he cleared the grass with the weed eater and dug the holes.  My orchard is laid out nicely: plums in one row, apples in a row and quince and pears in another and peaches, apricots and nectarines in the far row.  There are also two rows of miscellaneous shrubby plants like feijoa and elderberry.  The rows haven’t been measured out with a string line and like my veggie patch (no string line used there) the best way to describe my orchard is a probably “rustic!”

The pine nut bush in it's second new home... and I have to say - this hole wasn't as nice!The pine nut bush in it's second new home... and I have to say - this hole wasn't as nice!

The pine nut bush in it’s second new home… and I have to say – this hole wasn’t as nice!

So Hubby the Un-Gardener dug the first hole, and it was a good hole, nice and round, the correct depth and he’s even roughed up the sides up so it was easier for the roots to grow into. (Goodness knows where he learnt that trick!)  So we planted the first tree – the pine nut and it looked great – until we stood back… I know the trees aren’t perfectly in line but this was way out!  Hubby the Un-Gardener was not impressed when I made him dig a new hole a metre over!  The rest of the trees went in well, although soil was still quite damp so I think I’ll wait until God does the watering on Sunday – He’s so much better at it than me!

There are advantages to not mowing...  like finding lettuce growing among the grass!

There are advantages to not mowing… like finding lettuce growing among the grass!

I didn’t mow, and I think I’ll be hard pushed to do it before it begins to rain again as the soil hasn’t dried out enough yet – no surprises there!  I haven’t cleared a bed for the peas, but I’ve asked a friend to help out there, but judging by last year when I had to repeatedly resow peas due to rotting in my wet soil, I think I’ll sow some in the greenhouse which should buy me some time to get the bed sorted.  The raspberries are still neglected and I still feel bad about that and there is still a blueberry languishing in the mud.

There was a worrisome moment when I could remember how to put them back together!

There was a worrisome moment when I couldn’t remember how to put them back together!

However I have pruned all the trees in the orchard, which I always find nerve racking, but I think I did an OK job.  I even took my pruners and loppers apart and gave them a good clean and sharpen before I started and even remembered to wipe the blades in methylated spirits between each tree to prevent spreading disease – not that my trees have disease!

Strawberry runners all wrapped up and ready to go...

Strawberry runners all wrapped up and ready to go…

I also potted up enough strawberries to replace a third of the bed next year and wrapped each of the remaining runners in newspaper with a dash of soil tucked inside.  These will be handed out by the Strawberry Fairy to deserving new owners.  I have purchased a solar powered fountain on an online auction, gathered up almost all the seeds I need for the new season, painted up what feels like a million ice block sticks to use for cool labels and weeded my flower garden (my first attempt at having one of these – wish me luck!)

Well...  maybe not a million - I may have exaggerated.  I shall write the plant name on with a ordinary stationary correction pen...  seams to work well!

Well… maybe not a million – I may have exaggerated.              I shall write the plant name on with a ordinary stationary correction pen… seems to work well!

Hopefully we will be able to squeeze out a bit more time before the rains return and once again surrounds us in a quagmire!

Here's a gratuitous picture of a daffodil

Here’s a gratuitous picture of a daffodil

Come again soon – I have started buying seed raising mix soil in anticipation of sowing the first seeds of the new season.  It’s coming and I’m soooooo excited!

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

Could-da, would-da, should-da

Once again I am so annoyed with myself.  We had over a week of glorious sunshine.  It is the middle of winter – this should not be taken for granted.  But I did!  I should have been out there every day doing things, making a difference, making things easier for my spring garden.  While I did do some things, I didn’t do as much as I wanted to do.  There was even a day that I didn’t actually leave the house – not even to poke my head out the front door!  And now I look out and I kick myself!

She's a bit wet!

She’s a bit wet!

It has been raining…  a lot!  It hasn’t stopped since Saturday afternoon.  A steady heavy rain with solid drops.  This is more like the winter weather we are accustomed to.  All the more reason why I should have gone outside and done things.  At the very least I should have mowed the grass around the veggie garden while the soil was dry enough.  That window of opportunity has now closed until the next period of dry that lasts beyond five days – although judging by the amount of water out there now I think I need a month of Sundays to dry it out!

I hope the strawberries will be ok

I hope the strawberries will be ok

Looking on the bright side the temperatures are about 10 degrees warmer. And I just had a quick look at the long range forecast and the good people at the weather office have promised me sunshine from Wednesday all the way through to Sunday.  I hope they aren’t teasing me.  I won’t hold out too much hope as they have been wrong before and have moved my sunshines across the forecast like chasing the pot of gold under the rainbow!

So here and now I declare that when the sun comes out again and the ankle deep water on the lawn subsides, I WILL:

  • Plant my trees – the pair of hazelnuts, the Stella cherry, the Santa Rosa plum, the fig that has been hanging out in a pot since last winter because I never got round to planting it, the tea, coffee, macadamia and pine nut we were given earlier, and the new bare root rose I bought last week for $5 in a clearance bin (I don’t know anything about roses – yet). It would have been so easy to do it last week.  I kick myself with my muddy gumboots – hard!
  • Mow!
  • Rescue the last blueberry not in a raised bed.
  • Clear a bed to plant the first of the spring peas (should be ready to eat in the spring)
  • Start to weed the raspberries that are awfully neglected.  I moved them from the orchard so they wouldn’t get ignored and they have just been mistreated dreadfully!
Crash course in rose care coming up...

Crash course in rose care coming up…

The orchard also needs attention as it needs to be pruned and sprayed and don’t get me started on the digging and the weeding…  Oh so much to do…  why oh why did I waste such lovely weather.  Never again!  A sunny day is a blessing and should be treated as such, not taken for granted and ignored!

This months photo...

This months photo…

... compared with last months photo

… compared with last months photo

Come again soon – it can’t be floody and muddy forever!

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

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