SARAH THE GARDENER

Potting Up Seedlings

Just a quick wee message:

The first lot of seedlings are ready to be transferred from the seed raising mix into their own little pots.

Check out my You Tube movie showing how I did it.

Click on the link above to watch my movie

There is even a clip of the baby chickens going “peep peep peep!”

Come again soon – for more tales of how this spring is unfolding.

Sarah the Gardener : o )

Yet more babies….. Spring is in the Air

I’m the kind of person who can get distracted by the garden quite easily.  I was supposed to be doing some businessy stuff and went out to the office in search of a pen.  In this digital age it seems like quite an odd thing to need a pen! (I still have to scan and file the forms before I send them off – would have been heaps easier if it was an online form in the first place!)  Anyway I thought while I was out there I’d just nip across to the greenhouse to check on the seeds.

Over 60 varieties of seeds waiting to burst forth

I planted them on Monday afternoon and although all my knowledge tells me they won’t be up yet – I have still been checking on them twice a day (and some!), under the pretence I’m making sure they are still nice and damp in their soil, but deep down hoping – but not expecting – to see a hint of green.

Well lo and behold – there it was – not just a hint of green, but a whole row!  I actually made a loud gasp sound!  The rocket was rocketing.  In a little under 5 days they had pushed through into the light.  WOW.  What a surprise.

And the first to break through the soil is the Rocket

I hastily checked everything else, but nothing – yet.  On Monday I had gone ahead and sowed seeds for everything except flowers (because I ran out of time) and the plants that really do need to be started in the warm ground – beans, corn etc.  Just counting it up, I planted over 60 varieties of vegetable and herb.

I also planted carrots, parsnips and radish seeds in the ground in neat rows – I love order in my garden.  I lay plastic trellis over the rows to stop Toast the Cat and Brandy the Chicken from digging them up.  The trellis was a little too short but I thought it would be an enough of a deterrent.  I was wrong.  When the carrots do come up they will be mostly in a row with the end bit being a higgledy piggledy mess.  GRR.

I like order and straight lines .... the top of the bed is going to be a mess of carrots. Thanks Toast the Cat!

So back to today…  I took my pen back inside and got distracted by the new bag of chicken food at the door so I thought – I’d better take it over to them, but as I got near the coop I could hear a little sound.  Did my ears deceive me?  It couldn’t be 3 weeks already.  The noise coming from over by where Brandy the escape artist chicken had her nest was a little PEEP PEEP PEEP.  I dropped the chicken food – well it was heavy anyway – and went over to check it out.

Not one, not two but three fluffy chicks peeping and cheeping loudly.  For our chickens this is a bit of a miracle.  The most we have ever had from a broody chicken is one solitary baby and the last one turned into a boy – which is no good to us – we need girls!  Brandy is still diligently sitting on the nest so we may get more, but for now I am over the moon to have three!

Proud Brandy the Chicken and the first three of her babies

As our chickens are kind of mongrels – chickens of dubious parentage and are of no specific breed the babies are all a bit of a mixed bag.  So far we have a traditional fluffy yellow one that wouldn’t look out of place in a spring greeting card, we have one with stripes?! and just in time for the Rugby World Cup we have an All Black one!

I’ll try and post more pictures of the babies as soon as I can but at the moment they are all tucked up under mum’s wing where I can’t get at them with my zoom lens!

No paparazzi please!

Between the goats (who are doing well) the chicks and my seedlings – spring is doing its thing at our place!

Come again soon – see how many more babies we get.

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

Goodbye winter….. Hello Spring!

Today is the first day of spring – YAY!

Even the bee’s know its spring!

My spring has started a little too early in the day for my liking.  Hubby the Un-Gardener left the house at 4am to go to the airport as he was heading off to Wellington to go on the Telly to promote his new book “Selling yourself to employers” which is being released today by his publishers.  Sadly I won’t be able to watch him as our TV stopped working about a month ago and we have been enjoying its absence – although apparently we may need to do something about it before the Rugby World Cup, although I’m not that bothered.

So anyway – here I am in bed, in the dark, with my laptop, listening to the roosters (one still has to go) and have been joined by the early rising Joeyosaurus and its 5:30 in the morning.  Something is very wrong with this situation. I don’t do mornings.

Spring Treasures

As I am awake I may as well enjoy the first morning of the spring and make plans in my head about all I want to do today, this week, this spring and for the rest of the year.  Someone told me yesterday that there is only 16 weeks until Christmas but you shouldn’t think about Christmas until at least late October so I’ll pretend I never heard there were only 16 weeks until Christmas!

Today is going to be crazy, mostly because Hubby the Un-Gardener has taken the car.  So I have bribed a good friend to run me round a bit today.  I have been making all the bits and pieces that go into a lasagne to be assembled later to share for tea.  I made the fresh pasta from our eggs, and mozzarella cheese to go in the cheese sauce.  So all I have to do now is make the cheese sauce and tomatoey / meaty bit – using tomatoes from last season of course.  I have also made butter for bread rolls as I have found cream is cheaper to buy than butter and it’s actually really easy to make.   Only the best food will do when you are bribing friends!

Ahhhh - Pretty

I hope to squeeze in some time in the garden as I really want to get a row of peas and a row of carrots in, and maybe some other stuff.  I also want to plant more things in the greenhouse, to give them a good head start by the time they have to go out at Labour Weekend.

This spring is going to be good – we will have cutie fluffy babies about the place – although the goats are growing fast and Brandy the Chicken doesn’t have that great a track record of actually hatching eggs. The daffodils and tulips are starting to put on quite a show and before you know it the greenhouse will be a sea of green seedlings waiting for their chance in the sun.

Brandy the Chicken sitting on about 15 eggs

As the first ribbon of light stretches across the horizon, I am excited about all spring has to offer – longer, lighter days; warmer temperatures and the promise of summer.  But despite everything I shall miss the winter – a tiny bit.  This winter has actually been quite kind to us and was actually quite mild with only 2 or 3 really cold bits.  We have only used one and a half loads of firewood where we would normally be tucking into our third load by now!  The rain that caused the ground to become a soggy boggy mess was really annoying but unlike previous years it happened in the beginning of the winter and not the end, making spring garden preparation really enjoyable.

I reckon asparagus with poached fresh eggs for breakfast this Saturday - yum!

The sky is getting lighter and the birds have begun a lovely dawn chorus – I should really wake up early more often.

Snowy and Sweetie growing bigger every day.

I need to start thinking of getting up soon as the goat kids and the boy kids will all need feeding and I need to start the first day of spring by making my own cuppa tea!  I hope Hubby the Un-Gardener’s book success doesn’t interfere with my morning cuppa tea too often!

Come again soon – spring has sprung!

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

We have babies – tiny babies – sooooo cute!

The kids getting to know the kids!

Our menagerie has increased by 2 and in the nick of time.  We have baby goats.  Snowy (named after Tintin’s dog) is 5 days old and Sweetie (who is too sweet for words) is 2 days old.

The Joeyosaurus with Sweetie

We were beginning to think that they boys weren’t going to be able to partake in calf club at school this year as the  usual lambs were nigh on impossible to find this season and were really expensive to buy.  Besides we didn’t want to keep them – just love them, teach them a couple of tricks, wean them, parade them about at school and hopefully win a ribbon and then give them back to the farmer who knows how do the real farming thing.

Tim the Helper with Snowy

The date for handing in the registration forms was looming and there wasn’t a lamb or animal in sight.  Some of the local schools have increasing numbers of “townies” attending and so it isn’t possible for all kids to participate and have opened the day up to domestic animals and pets.  A friend was telling me yesterday of a kid that took along a water snail – the kind that lives on the side of a gold fish tank!    Our school is still proudly rural and calves, lambs and goats are being lovingly raised by enthusiastic kids and weary parents all across the community as we speak.

Toast the Cat introducing herself to the new arrivals

As the close off date got closer and closer the boys were beginning to realise they were going to miss out, when a wonderful friend went out of her way to source some goats for us.  As word spread – it turned out it wasn’t just us she helped out and has managed to find homes for at least a couple of dozen!  That’s a couple of dozen pairs of happy kids matched up!!

"Goats? In our house? What is the world coming to?"

So these cute little additions have spent the afternoon being lavished with cuddles and settling into their new home in hay strewn chicken coop!  At this stage they are about the same size as the chickens!  I’m not entirely sure the chickens were that impressed with their new roommates but it’s warm in there and fully fenced!

Sweetie

Snowy

Spring must be well and truly in the air, as these aren’t the only imminent arrivals at our place.  Brandy the escape artist chicken has settled down just outside the coop with a clutch of about 15 eggs which should hatch in about two and a half weeks.  It’s not the first time she has tried to have a secret uneaten family, but so far they only offspring she has managed to raise is a young chap that unfortunately needs to “fly the coop.”  He’s a bit of a handful for his family – challenging his father’s authority and terrorising his poor aunts – luckily mum is off keeping the eggs warm or who knows what would happen!

Baby Tomatoes

I also have babies in the greenhouse with tomatoes, melons and Sweet Williams pushing through the soil.  It’s not a 100% strike rate yet – but it’s still early days and still very exciting.  I must get onto planting the next round of seeds so everyone is at the optimum conditions when they go into the patch on that magic Labour weekend in at the end of October.

Come again soon – spring is in the air and life is good.

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

Not a bad haul for August – despite the snow

Bowl of winter tomatoes

In this bowl is a whole 26 grams of sweet summer goodness and I couldn’t be more excited.  These seven red orbs are more than just tomatoes – they are like a promise of what is to come.  They are summer encapsulated into 4 grams of juiciness.

This means more today than at any other time in the whole of winter.  I have been going on for months about how it’s not winter it’s just a wet autumn in fancy dress; it is too mild in temperature; I haven’t lit the fire or used any form of heating in weeks, blah blah blah…

Until this week.

It is cold.  Very cold.  We had snow on Monday!  We don’t get snow here.  I use the term “snow” loosely.  There were a dozen or so flakes falling amongst the rain drops.  They were all white and floaty while the rain was coming in at an angle and fast.  But we mostly got hail.

This is no good for building snowmen!

Even Auckland city had snow and that hasn’t happened since 1939! It brought them the coldest day on record of a “shocking” daytime low of 8.2oC.  Although those caught in the snow further south actually had enough to make snowmen and many were made.  Many towns and cities are still struggling with the weather today, but not us – there is a nip in the air but the sun is shining brightly.

Some schools and business have been closed and there is concern for the lambs and calves entering the world in the midst of it all and for those still living in earthquake damaged homes in Christchurch – but the storm was such an unusual occurrence it was mostly met with awe and delight which was best captured in a video posted online which you can see here.

Then a strange thing happened – the population was overtaken with a condition called “snow envy” were towns were pitted against each other as to who had the best snow.  It was even raised that Auckland didn’t even have snow but a substance called graupel.  I’d never heard of it.  Apparently it’s “Very similar to snow to the naked eye but more like soft hail. It is little round soft balls of ice which can bounce, but it can also float in the wind as it’s not as heavy as hail. It melts quicker than hail and is softer. Doesn’t have that snowflake shape”. (http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/5456087/Snow-The-Cold-Facts)  I’m sure the snow I had was proper snow – all 16 flakes!

By this time next week life will return to normal and one day people will be telling their grandchildren “I remember when it snowed in Auckland back in ’11”.  Meanwhile the cold will slip away and winter will be replaced by spring, the days will lengthen and the earth will warm up and seeds will be planted with such hope that this will be the best summer ever for veggies.

Bit of a change from a week ago - where's my woolly jumper?

Come again soon – the seeds are due to rise out of the seed raising mix any day now.

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

Today is a monumentally exciting day!

It’s the first round of seed planting for the season.

A good sign it's seed sowing time.

This will be the 4th season I have put a seed into soil and anxiously awaited the results.  I am hoping that this year will be the best year, as now I have something very valuable that I didn’t have when I first started out: “The benefit of hindsight” and all the experience and wisdom that brings.

I think it is fair to say in the early days I was a bit naïve.  One of my biggest problems of the past was over planting.  Just because the lettuce seed packet has 1000 seeds in it doesn’t mean they should all be planted at once by sprinkling liberally over a small space.

This brings me nicely to my next learner error:  spacing.  Needless to say 1000 lettuce plants wedged in tightly into a confined space quickly lead to a mushy slimy mess which was taken full advantage of by marauding slugs and snails.

Another sign its the right time to sow seed.

I also had difficulties in looking at a small seed and thinking “how big could it possibly grow?” and plant things way too close.  Being a visual person I like to see things in action before attempting as this brings, for me, the best understanding.  Looking at words on a page is all good and well but “just how big is that?”  A quick search on You Tube generally answers that one, and being “down under” here in New Zealand, northern hemisphere crops are at the height of their potential as I plant my seeds so I can get the premature benefit of someone else’s hindsight.

Another aspect of the garden to be modified is: how much.  I usually plant extra seeds, just in case germination fails and I don’t have to start again, but then I am left with extra plants that in the past I have just popped in the garden with the rest because I hate waste.  Last year I found 7 zucchini for a family of 4 where the kids hate zucchini and can spot it a mile off is about 6 zucchini too many!

There is enough here for everyone!

This year I am helping out friends, by planting seeds for their gardens, it’s not much more of an effort raising extras, but to be a blessing when times are tight is a good thing.  The dilemma this raises is – do I rely on my extras planted in case of non-germination for these “gifts”, or do I plant more seeds with their own extras?  I would hate to let people down, but I could end up with so many spare plants I could open a nursery!  I so hate waste.

This time I am being more sensible with my timings.  The year I first got a cheap plastic greenhouse I planted EVERTHING 8 weeks before it was due in the ground – even carrots!  I have since learnt – this is a dumb idea.  Some things do better for being started in the ground – peas, beans, carrots, corn to name a few.  Some things don’t need an 8 week head start – and just end up weak and leggy and no good for prolific cropping.

Some things do benefit from an early start.  Tomatoes can grow tall so they can be planted deep, peppers have to be the slowest thing in the garden and need all the help they can get.  Other crops like melons that need a long hot season also get a bit of a hand up so they can start pumping out the goods and soon as possible before it goes all cold on them leaving us empty handed at the end of the season.

Come again soon – see how the seeds are doing – this is just the start of great things to come!

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

It can’t be winter – it’s not cold enough

It is August.  It is supposed to be the coldest month of winter, when the snow comes and dumps heaps of white stuff on the mountains so thrill seekers can lob themselves down mountainsides at break neck speeds, barely controlling themselves.  (That used to be me in an earlier version of my life – never very good at skiing – but oh the thrill!).  Not that we get snow here – we are too northern, however a good sharp frost or two and a bracing southerly wind is normally the way of August.

The thing is – this year it’s just not happening.  I haven’t had to light the fire in days and even then it was to create the perception of cosy because it was grey and yucky outside – but not actually freezing cold.  Ok we have had a couple of “cold snaps” where there was a heavy dumping of snow in places that normally expect snow and even a smattering or two surprising places that normally don’t.  Schools were closed and people stayed home from work.  But it was all over as quick as it came and in a mere 3 days it was a distant memory.  We didn’t get snow, not even a frost – although there was a brief moment of extra-large hailstones! Business as usual.

A winter sky

This winter has been memorable for the wrong reasons as far as I am concerned.  The warmer than normal temperatures has its blessings; however what I am cross with is the rain.  We have had more rain than you can shake a stick at.  It had turned my veggie patch into a soggy boggy quagmire.  We haven’t mowed lawns in months for fear of the mower sinking into depths of the lawn only to be lost forever.  The kids don’t play in backyard for fear of drowning in it!

Not exactly a weather forecast to make me grab a woolly jumper

However this crazy mixed up August is about a week old and we have hardly had any rain at all.  So the ground has started to dry out.  Not completely – it was still a bit tacky but up to holding the weight of the mower.  This was a moment to be seized – who knew when an opportunity to mow would come again.  This in itself brought momentary indecision.  Do I mow around the house so it looks nice and cared for to those who come calling, or do I mow around the veggie garden to provide that illusion that all is under control in the patch.

Actually the decision was easy – the veggie patch.  I also took it as an opportunity to do some more sneaky land grabbing.  One extra sweep of the mower and who’s to know.  So with a surprisingly warm north wind blowing across my shoulder I got out there and gave the patch a cut.  It always makes it look so good. Out of breath and overheating in my un-necessary long johns I finished the last strip and went off to get Hubby the Un-Gardener to admire my work.

Freshly mown and looking good

I had only just started showing him my efforts when it came down.  Rain.  Huge heavy drops coming in thick and fast at a pretty sharp angle and it didn’t let up all day.   Needless to say the patch has returned to its standard waterlogged state, but it does look pretty for its new haircut.

Come again soon – do I pack away my winter woollies now or just wait – to be on the safe side.

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

I nearly killed Hubby the Un-Gardener

If you recall my last blog where I proudly presented little red goodies from my winter greenhouse, well since then things haven’t gone according to plan.

The tomatoes were great – oh so sweet and yum, Oh how I missed you, fresh tomato.  It doesn’t hurt that this is my all-time favourite tomato.  It’s a wee cherry style called Strawberry Tomato.  They were being sold in the local supermarket last winter for a really good price so I couldn’t resist a punnet of summer in the middle of winter. I don’t normally buy produce out of season (if I have to buy at all).  They were so nice I kept the seeds.

It was a bit of a gamble growing them:  I didn’t know if they were dwarf or would they need staking – they grow VERY tall; I didn’t know if they were determinant or in-determinant – they were the first to come ripe and the last to stop; I didn’t know if they would produce fruit at all or if they had some kind of GM sterile seed – it turned out mine were even yummier than the ones in the supermarket.

Strawberry Tomato - a bit spindly but loaded with tomatoes and flowers

So back to the outcome of the last blog – the tomato was so small I wasn’t going to cut it into quarters to share with everyone – but I’m not that mean that I wasn’t going to go halves with Hubby the Un-Gardener, same with the pepper, so I put them both aside to share secretly when the kids weren’t about.  Good news is the rest of the tomatoes seem to be ripening up thick and fast so maybe if the kids are lucky they may get a taste.

Soon there will be enough to share

Now the history with the pepper plant is:  It is of the Cornos variety and had been growing in the garden all summer as I had grown several from seed and when summer turned to autumn I couldn’t bear to just leave it to die so I dug it up, along with an eggplant and a plant that came from an envelope with the dubious handwritten label “good little chillies”.  I suspect they are jalapenos but I can’t be sure.  I re-potted them into buckets with holes in the bottom and moved them into the greenhouse.

Cornos Pepper with a split personality

In the garden, the Cornos peppers were long and mild with a slight kick and a really sweet flavour.  So it was with great excitement that the other night after the kids had gone to bed I halved the tomato and savoured the sweet juicy flavour, and then sliced open the pepper.  I should have been alerted to the fact something was amiss when the fruit only yielded 3 seeds and was smaller than the summer ones.  I gave half to Hubby the Un-Gardener who foolishly – yet trustingly popped the whole thing in and started to chew.

I was just about to nibble on my half, as I wanted this unseasonal summer experience to last.  I was stopped in my tracks by breathless gasps from across the room “IT’S HOT!!”  As Hubby the Un-Gardener bolted past me and into the kitchen where he proceeded to gulp down 2 litres of milk.  Still feeling internally scorched, he settled down to bed, wondering if it would be better to make himself throw it back up again to save his poor body from having to process it further.  While contemplating this great conundrum, he rubbed his eye, scratched his head and itched his butt.  Moments later he leaped out of bed like a rocket and jumped into the shower to sooth the burning sensation spreading all over him where ever he touched.

Too hot to handle

Watching all this frenzied activity, I looked at my half still in my hand and thought, “I’ll just pop this in the fridge” and we ate a tiny bit off it for tea tonight in a yummy pumpkin and bacon risotto.

Pumpkin and Bacon Rissotto

I have no idea why something that was mild in the summer could be so searingly hot grown in a greenhouse in the winter.  Oh well – lesson learnt for next time:  Caution winter peppers can be hot!

Come again soon – I’m about to reach for my seed packets and start the gardening journey all over again.

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

Splashes of red in a winter greenhouse – and a significant amount of rambling.

Normally winter is a barren and unproductive time in the garden, apart from the usual suspects that at this time of year are beginning to be regarded as boring – well the cauliflower is.  I planted heaps without checking that the freezer was already full of them and to compound the problem I somehow planted a row I what I hoped to be broccoli for them to develop a lovely white curd in the centre and not the lush green I was expecting – opps.  I’m giving them away now.

Just what I need - more cauliflower!

All the other winter crops are still developing so we haven’t had any cabbage, Brussels sprouts, carrots, beetroot or broad beans at all.  I think the soggy soil is holding them back.  We haven’t had rain for a while now and it is turning from a soggy winter with grey days to a cold winter with sunny days. The “experts” have stated the worst of winter is over and things should get better and by the end of August we should have a whole hour extra of sunshine. Hopefully the ground will dry out and the mud will disappear, which will be great news for the Joeyosaurus.  I sent him out the other evening to shut the greenhouse door and when he didn’t come back in I found him stuck up to his ankles in the mud crying.  Luckily I found him before he started to freak out.  The mud was holding on to his gumboots tighter than his little 5 year old legs could pull them up.  I haven’t asked him to do that job again.

Don't be fooled by that mud - it can EAT small children!

Now I am just rambling on about the weather.  I find that as a gardener it has become almost an obsession as to what the weather is up to and I’m sure I bore people with it, almost as much as when I talk about the garden.  People ask me how I’m doing and I invariably end up replying “great, but I wish the rain would stop so the garden will dry out.”  It’s up there with the madness that prompts people meeting at a doctor’s clinic to respond to the same question with “I’m fine” which clearly you aren’t or you wouldn’t be at doctor’s clinic.

Anyway, I started writing this blog to share with you the exciting treasures to be found in my greenhouse and I let my fingers take over the keyboard and all this other stuff came out…

So in my greenhouse I have a red tomato, a red pepper, an eggplant, a sunflower and 3 potato shoots – all of which are out of season and doing great!  What started as an experiment to “see if I could” has brought excitement to an otherwise impatient gardener.  But it won’t be long now, before I can start planting those spring seeds… how cool will it be to nibble fresh tomatoes while doing so!

winter tomatoes

winter peppers

winter eggplant

winter sunflower

winter potatoes

Come again soon – spring is around the corner – I can feel it in my bones!

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

You can have anything for dinner – so long as it includes something from the garden – even in the middle of winter!

I’ve spent quite a bit of time lately planning my summer garden, contemplating the kind of garden I would love it to be, drawing inspiration from other blogs and You Tube and sorting out my seeds.

I’ve been reminiscing over veggie gardens I’ve grown before and making a note of things I really need to remember for this year:  things like 7 Zucchini plants are 6 too many for a family of 4 especially when the kids don’t like them!  This led me to think of the gluts of the past that I have managed to hang on to – in the freezer, in jars and bottles.

Its July – we are sitting on mid-winter – although it doesn’t feel like it – it was warm enough last night not to need a fire and the spring flowers are all confused and have come out already.  June was apparently warmer than normal, as was May and April.  The only wintery thing has been the rain – only there has been so much more than normal,  I need it to dry out a little so I can mow the knee high lawns!

So here in mid-winter there isn’t a lot going on in the garden (except a little flooding), although I did find some broccoli and some cauliflower today, but the tea time catch cry:  “You can have anything for dinner – so long as it includes something from the garden” still applies.  Even takeaways aren’t immune and out comes the homemade sweet chilli sauce.

The problem is that as the months move on, the freezer is starting to freeze over and so is my brain – I am having trouble remembering what is in the freezer and opening it doesn’t help much as everything has become iced over.

I need to take action.  The freezer needs defrosting and I need to take a stocktake.

Aside from the ability to eat wonderful summer veggies that I grew myself – in the middle of winter, the need to get through everything is a bit of a necessity – I will need the space in the freezer and as many empty jars as I can lay my hands on for the summer bounty, which will be here before I know it.

In order to remember what is available when deciding what to have for dinner I have made up a wee blackboard to hang in my kitchen, so whoever is cooking dinner has no excuse to break the rules….

There is now no excuse not to use the veggies in the freezer!

Eat up family – I need the space.

Come again soon –   I need to come up with as many uses for cauliflower as possible – why did I grow so many?

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

%d bloggers like this: