Thursday, February 20, 2014

Berry Bliss

We've been loving fresh berries this summer!

The strawberries in the Big Garden have had a bumper year.

The raspberries now look to be similar.

Plus we've collected small handfuls of wild blackberries a few times, and stocked the freezer (almost to overflowing) with blueberries.

There is a name for this:  berry bliss!

And with lots of berries to eat, there have been some delicious treats.


Strawberries with plain yoghurt, coconut, and maple syrup, with just a sprinkle of icing sugar on top.
Yummy dessert!

Blackberry and pear smoothie (with a healthy dose of greens too, of course, but I forget what!). Just look at that gorgeous light purple colour! 

I just love berry season!

What seasonal delights have you been savouring lately?

Friday, February 14, 2014

My Lettuce Free Life

If you listen in on any gardening show, read any gardening book, or follow any gardening blog, you'll probably be told that lettuces are among the 'must haves' for the novice gardener.

They are quick and easy to grow, we are told.
They taste delicious, so people say.


Well, that's what I think at any rate.

Lettuces are NOT easy to grow.  Why anyone ever claims they are is beyond me!  They have to be one of the most finicky, fussy, annoying vegetables EVER to grow.

And at this point, right here, you might start to get the idea that I have not had a great deal of highly rewarding salad production.  You'd be mostly right.  I can grow lettuces.  I can, honestly (sometimes, if everything works in my favour).  But most of the time, there are just too many variables outside my control.  You see, the thing is that lettuce doesn't like to get too hot.  Or too cold.  Or too damp.  And definitely never too dry.  It has soft, juicy, succulent leaves just begging to be munched by every marauding insect that roams the earth. 

(Short interruption as the writer goes to check text: reminder from husband not to forget the sprinkler.  Opps, that's right, I am trying to water the garden and blog at the same time, probably not a wise juggling act.  Sprinkler now off.  Husband thanked.  Wet shoe removed.  Wet sock and skirt drying while writer continues writing! - moving the sprinkler never works the way I intend it to...)

Lettuce is a pain to grow, at least in my temperate bordering sub-tropical Tauranga, NZ climate.

I currently have three lettuce seedlings in my garden.  Bedraggled, I wonder if they will survive to produce me anything edible before succumbing to the heat?  My parents garden does have lettuces.  Mollycoddled lettuces, but lettuces none the less.  Twice daily watering of seedlings, fertilizer, mulch, and (the piece-de-resistance), a cloche with shadecloth over the top.  Shade, and protection from the chickens, blackbirds, and sparrows that would just love to nibble on tender lettuce leaves or dig in the nice moist earth for worms.  They are looking good.  I am hopeful.

But in the meantime I am buying lettuce from the Farmers Market.  Our silverbeet and beetroot have grown like crazy this summer, so I'm not to fussed about lettuce.

Once the heat of summer leaves, the Big Garden (my parents') will hopefully be stocked up with lettuce and other greens for winter smoothies, soups, stir-fries, and salads.

But while my garden will have beetroot, celery, kale, and silverbeet, it will probably not have lettuce.

Because there's another reason I don't currently grow lettuce.

Would you???!!

I killed over 100 snails in one raid, then a week later Boyo and I killed maybe 321?  Plus slugs that were eating my veges left, right, and centre.  I forget, it was awhile ago - but suffice to say we were squishing as fast as we could and stomping on quite a few without even intending to!  He held the torch, I stomped in the gumboots.  We were a ruthless, efficient, snail-killing machine.  There were snails EVERYWHERE!  Nice gentle rain after a month without much, and they all wambled on out from their hiding places in the agapanthus.  Seriously, if you are a gardener, you should NEVER grow agapanthus.  Talk about snail heaven!

Just don't tell my son.  He loves snails.  Munchkin has pet snails.  He did notice the carnage, it was a bit hard to camouflage hundreds of squashed, dead snail bodies strewn over our lawn, but fortunately he was easily moved to other more interesting things. 

Infestation under control?  I hope so.  My son has got about 3 new snails in his terranium from gardening endeavours over the past week or so, so I've obviously not got them all yet...


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Gardener's "Gold"

My worm farm is overflowing.
Okay, so if you know me you probably realise I am prone to exaggeration.
But it is pretty close.
We (Munchkin and I) only emptied it a few weeks ago.  And it is again nearly full to the brim.
The corn is probably what tips the balance these days, but we don't put cobs, just the leaves as the worms actually like them.  And if it wasn't that it'd be something else.  Feijoa skins if we get enough given to us!  Or cabbage, cauli and pumpkin from winter soups.

It's a great worm farm, and family sized.  But I guess we just eat a lot of fresh food. 

A good problem to have, but I am still not comfortable with leaving good food wasting in a rubbish bag when it could instead be enriching my garden and therefore my food and personal well-being.  Big garden prunings go in the fadge in the back corner.  My dad is going to swing by and add it to his truck one day when he has room on a green waste run for his business.  But that's nearly full too.  After just a couple of months...and we have at least 4 deciduous trees on this small section and autumn on the way.

I've wanted a compost bin for awhile.  Actually, I'd like two.  Just basic ones, nothing too fancy, but one that is being filled and one that is decomposing.

This is the week.

I finally bought one!

I found it at the Warehouse.  It's similar to my mother-in-law's which I know works well for them.  It fits snugly where the worm farm was (till it got too hot and was moved under the lemon tree).  And it cost me $30.  And I managed to put it together (just!) by myself.  Grin.


It already has some prunings and a container of food scraps in it.  Hooray!

I took a few photos of the garden while I was out there this morning.  It's been a long time since I recorded what is in it...

Beside the house.  Dry, and needing some soil TLC but still growing tomatoes (aren't my stakes fascinating?!)...some violets conveniently found it too hot and died off so I now have a bit more space for my I already transplanted violets under the lemon tree where they are very happy I remain unfazed. 
Beside the shed. Another rather dry little garden. The rosemary and fennel were here when we arrived.  Will be taking the fennel out soonish, I've just left it to self seed into the garden beside it.
The 'main' vege garden at my house.  Area on left to be planted in beetroot soon.  Zucchini taking over lawn.  Kale (dark green at back), and celery.  And I've got herbs along the front. 
So there you go.  Hopefully a richer garden soil next year than this, but good food to eat anyway in the meantime!

Amy - proud compost-bin-owner

Saturday, February 1, 2014

When You're Feeling a Little Bored

Sometimes even a good thing can become a little same-old-same-old.

You know, when you've used it so many times that you're just feeling a little jaded?

Seemingly overnight, something that you or your kids just LOVED for weeks and weeks is now sitting, unused, forlorn, forgotten, gathering dust.  The kid's moved on.  The old toy's forgotten.  And you're left with a house full of unused stuff.

Ever found that happen in your house?

I think one of the great unacknowledged tragedies of our modern, instant-gratification, new-is-best generation is our inability to really milk something for all it's worth.  We're really not good at getting every little drop of use and goodness out of things before discarding them for something newer, faster, brighter, shinier.  Our landfills are testament of our passion for the short-term fling, the buy-it-cheap, use-it-fast, and throw-it-away-as-soon-as-it-starts-looking-tired mentality.  It's sad.  And what's even more sad is that we're raising an entire generation (several of them in fact) who know only this.  They don't really know how to look after belongings to make them last the length of a person's lifetime.  They don't know how to repair, mend, or replace parts to renew an old appliance or give new life to an old toy.  They don't know how to use their imaginations to create something new from something old.  They get easily bored, easily distracted, easily led to the latest gadet or fad leaving behind them a wake of half-used toys, discarded clothes, and unwanted gifts.

But what do you do?  It's such a pervasive attitude that runs throughout our entire society, half the time I find myself giving in to it without realising why.  Why do I need new cushions?  Does it really matter that a few of them don't match, when I have a pre-schooler who likes to play with them, drool on them, and pillow fight with them?  Surely I could just wait a few years.

I've watched friends give away or sell unwanted toys, after discussions with their child about how they don't use it any more so they should let another child have it instead.

I know a few folks who hide half the toys in a back cupboard somewhere, while the child plays with the others.  Then every few months some toys are 'swapped out' with cupboard ones.  It's like having new toys all over again!

Here's a solution from the Munchkin:  When you get bored of using something for one purpose, find another way to play with it.  Engage your imagination.  You'll have already seen that Munchkin LOVES his sandpit.  He loves to dig in it, he loves to zoom cars around a  race track or through bridges.  But even sandpit play can get boring.  Recently the cars got to have a rest, and the toy animals came out to play instead. 

It was amazing listening to my little guy create intricate story lines around all the things his animals were doing!

So, when you find your kids (or yourself!) a little bored, perhaps instead of something completely new, it might just be time to move things around a bit, change how you play with or use them, see them in a different light?

What creative ways has your family reused or otherwise adapted the use of something recently?