SARAH THE GARDENER

Goats love Kale.

Don’t panic, this isn’t going to be a story of dread, terror and frenzied destruction. Dawn broke this morning on to what I hope will be a perfect day as this day is special.  It’s not any old day – it’s the first day of spring.  The seasons have changed and this is the season of new life.  It’s the season that gardening can begin in earnest.   I love spring, but I only really get disproportionately excited about this first spring day, and this year it has blessed us by falling on a Saturday – So I shall be able to enlist workers – willing or otherwise.  I’m sure Hubby the Un-Gardener couldn’t possibly have plans for the first sunny weekend in absolutely ages?!

A rare treat for greedy goats

A rare treat for greedy goats

Winter was gracious enough to provide us with the most incredible last day.  It was warm and sunny and it hadn’t rained in ages and so the ground while still a little soft is miles away from the soggy boggy of months gone by.  It provided a feeling of excitement like that last day of school before the holiday – everyone is buzzing – and in my gardening there was no exception – there were bees and bumble bees everywhere!

In preparation for the new season and to embrace the gorgeousness of the day I spent every minute I could in the patch, starting to get it ship shape.  You might even go so far as to say I was “spring cleaning” my garden.  I did so much and this morning my old bones are a little weary, but nothing will stop me from getting out there and doing stuff today.

Transplanting seedlings is such a relaxing task

Transplanting seedlings is such a relaxing task

The greenhouse is beginning to develop that lived in look.  The first job I did was transplant all my peppers and chillies as they had grown a magnificent set of true leaves and were strong and tall, without the hint of a “window lean.”  I hope they survived their first night in the greenhouse – it probably came as a bit of a shock, after all the pampering from the formative days of their lives!  Then I did a wee count up to see who was missing and sowed extra seeds so that I end up with a full set of plants to go in the garden, a full set of backups should anything untoward happen and heaps of spares to give away.

You can never have too many chillies - right?!

You can never have too many chillies – right?!

Emerging from the potting shed I seemed to be drawn to the first bed I saw:  the old carrot bed – I knew there were carrots in there among the weeds – I planted them well over six months ago and hadn’t eaten them.  The haul wasn’t all that flash – they were there in the right numbers – but size… hmmm leaves a lot to be desired.  Maybe I shall tell everyone they are those mini gourmet ones – only aged like a good wine!  I also found some beetroot that should be harvested and processed, parsnips that have reached the point of parsnip perfection.  The last of the turnips and a row of radish that I planted with the intention of making radish relish but never got round to it, had bolted and had flowers on tops of some very tall stalks.  I decided to leave these in for the time being as they appeared to be bee magnets and I want all the bees to know this is “the” place to be this summer.  So we shall call it a floral taste of things to come; although not a sign my garden will be a weedy overgrown mess as this year I have full intentions of keeping on top of the weedy interloper invasion and I shall keep on top of the harvest!

These tiny carrots are all that I have to show for a better part of six months growing the silly thing!

These tiny carrots are all that I have to show for a better part of six months growing the silly things!

Then I looked across at the potato bed.  The spuds have been chitting for ages and their bed was weeded and dug over weeks ago.  I even took the effort to calculate back 100 days from Christmas so we will have fresh Jersey Benne potatoes on our festive table.  So with 15 days to go before I’m going to plant the spuds, I was a bit mortified to see that the bed had developed a green fuzz, which on close inspection revealed a load of weeds that are too small to just grab by the leaves and yank, and too numerous to even be bothered to try and remove them one by one.  So over the next two weeks I have to just keep turning over the soil until they all give up and die – well that’s the plan.

As much as it pained me to remove my beloved kale from the garden – it was looking so sad and had started to bolt so there was nothing else I could do.  So I removed it and gave it to the goats, who couldn’t get enough.  I made sure they didn’t see where I had come from so they couldn’t plan an escape plan to see if there was anymore.  Pulling out the kale revealed two of the fattest fennel bulbs I have ever grown but had forgotten that I had planted.  I can’t wait to eat one in a crisp salad and other slow roasted…  mmmm….

Who knew these there there?  Not me!

Who knew these there there? Not me!

So slowly but surely there is the stirrings of change as the garden transforms itself from its winter slumber to a hive of frenzied activity.

Come again soon – spring has sprung!

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

When life gives you lemons…

When I loaded the last story I found on my camera a load of photos that I had taken in anticipation of a full and exciting blog and then promptly forgot all about them.  So I feel it is only right to give these photos their fifteen minutes of fame!

Nothing tastes better than fresh

Nothing tastes better than fresh

The first and carefully staged photo is when I made the most incredible lemon honey.  A friend dropped off some lemons which we were extremely grateful for as in the five years we have been living here I have never had any success with citrus trees.  Our climate is perfect for lemons and oranges and grapefruit and there are backyards everywhere I go mocking me with their heaving golden bounty – mostly being left to fall on the ground – so much is their abundance.  My tree is very possibly smaller than when I planted it and it kind of cowers when we come near.  So while a gift of lemons is possibly rubbing salt in the wounds of my inadequacy – they are still welcomed into my kitchen.

So I had all these lemons – more than we could use – particularly as no one had a cold or even as much as a sniffle and the chickens had started laying again and we have gone from no eggs to 3 a day.  We had gotten into the habit of eking out the insipid shop bought eggs that claimed to be free range, only to end up with fresh – if not a little muddy – eggs coming out our ears!  So I decided to put the two together and made the most incredible spread for my toast in the morning.  I only got three jars, but as the eggs were still warm from the chicken when I made the lemon honey, it turned out to be a deep rich yellow colour, that came as a bit of a shock because all the lemon honey I’d ever seen before was a paler yellow.

One of these things is not like the other...

One of these things is not like the other…

Another thing clambering for my attention is my attempt to grow kumara (sweet potato) slips.  Every year I say I’ll never grow them again because they tend to go off too fast to prepare them for storage – I haven’t got that figured out yet.  But then this year I got lured into trying to grow the slips myself from actual kumara.  So I bought a red one and a gold one from the supermarket, popped toothpicks in the side and hovered them in a jar just below the surface of the water.  The red one went nuts and put out lots of roots and has now started to put on leaves.  But the gold one has done nothing.  I even moved the toothpicks and turned it upside down, just in case I had it in the wrong way round – but still nothing.  I wonder if it has been treated with something to stop it sprouting while in storage.  Oh well – I’ll just have to rely on my red one for a huge harvest.

While I'm ok with getting food from the dirt to eat - something feels weird about putting perfectly good food into dirt!

While I’m ok with getting food from the dirt to eat – something feels weird about putting perfectly good food into dirt!

I also decided to plant ginger.  So it was back to the supermarket to look for the knobbliest bit.  Then I mixed up a rich soil mix and filled a bucket (with holes in the bottom) to most of the way up and placed my piece of ginger in the centre and covered it with about  5cm or 2 inches of soil, popped it in the greenhouse and hoped for the best…  well I’ve got nothing to lose.

The remaining photos were just a whole load of gratuitous spring like pictures that I couldn’t help but record for posterity!

Come again soon – everything will be different – but still be the same.

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

This time next week we will officially be in the season of spring.

The change of season happens with the back end of August, so I have five days left dwell in the dying days of winter.  The weather is supposed to be a mixed bag of rain, sun, and cold and then unsurprisingly the forecast for the first few days of spring are almost identical to the last days of winter so I don’t imagine there will be a magical transformation in the atmosphere at midnight on Friday.  The seasons tend to slip into one another and without the measuring of time that seems to be an obsession with our world, we wouldn’t even notice the exact moment in time when winter is overtaken by new beginnings.

What better way to herald the changes than beautiful blossoms

What better way to herald the changes than beautiful blossoms

Having said that, the thought of the new season fills me with a slight sense of panic – there is so much to do!  There is still heaps of digging and weeding, although with each passing year as a gardener, while there is always weeding – and somehow the demand for digging hasn’t eased, the soil seems easier to work.    But as we have only recently increased the height of some of the gardens then there is a lot of soil shifting to do to get them spring ready.  It is reminiscent of those early days when we first built the garden.  Back then I had a shiny new wheelbarrow for Hubby the Un-Gardener to use – now I have a one-armed, flat-tired, cracked-base wheelbarrow that I expect him to use.  I think it’s time for him to have a new one – I wonder if I can get away with giving it to him for father’s day?

Garlic looking good

Garlic looking good

In between the rains we have had some cracking days and I managed to achieve enough to leave me with a satisfied feeling that gardening has been done and progress is being made.  I weeded the garlic and the onions.  The worms are such nosy creatures and they all came to the surface so see what was going on.  At first I was delighted to see that I had heaps of worms, but it didn’t take long to get annoyed with them.  Once they realised what was going on – they behaved in a sort of panicked way and tried to flee, but their sense of direction is dreadful and they just kept getting in the way.  I fear I may have killed a couple in my efforts to eradicate all trace of weeds from the garlic and onion patch.  Next I gave the plants a feed with a chicken poo / sheep poo juice combo, because apparently they love a good feed at this stage of the game – helps them to grow fat!

Heaps of support as my peas reach for the sky

Heaps of support as my peas reach for the sky

I also made an awesome trellis out of string for the peas to grow up into… until I ran out of string.  I’ve made enough for them to have something to cling to for a while yet as I don’t imagine they will leap ahead by over a metre in a week.  If I haven’t managed to get string by the time they reach to the top them I will have been very slack indeed!

I took a look at the seedlings languishing on the outside shelf and they were beginning to get neglected.  There were a whole lot of leeks that I only vaguely remember sowing.  They weren’t looking too flash so I popped them into new slightly larger pots full of rich soil to give them a bit of a revival.  But I need to go back to the plan and find out where they need to be, as I will need the pots I put them into, in a couple of weeks for the tomatoes seedlings that are going great guns in the greenhouse.

Little did I know how important these guys would become

Little did I know how important these guys would become

I repotted the asparagus as its status has changed from casual interesting project, to completely replace an entire garden.  I have two beds for the asparagus and they hold about eight plants each.  One holds mature crowns that we can eat willy nilly and have been already – soooo good! The other holds two year old crowns grown from seed, but the level of soil in the younger bed isn’t all that deep and with all the rain we’ve been having – while one bed is going nuts, the other one is shows no sign of life.  Suddenly those scruffy looking seedlings have become very precious.

Then I popped some of the herbs from the outside shelf into the herb garden – half a dozen coriander plants and a thyme.  The baby chickens on seeing the action came running over to check it out.  I think they think I am their second mum, because they are always following me about the place – mostly as I “pied piper” them back to the chicken coop!  As I dug holes for my plants I was stoked to see how many worms there were.  I had heaps.  I speak of this in past tense as they were all quickly gobbled up by greedy chicks hovering way to close to my trowel for my liking!

I had forgotten just how pretty blossoms can be.

I had forgotten just how pretty blossoms can be.

So as winter ebbs away, the craziness of spring is just beginning to make itself felt – and it feels good!

Come again soon – the modification of the chicken coop fence has just climbed up in priority on the to do list.

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

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 )

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 )

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