Tag Archives: garden

Too Many Grapes – Never Enough Tomatoes

Garden Gone Wild

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A very special rose. This gift from a friend holds the memory of someone taken much too soon.

Record rainfall followed by hot sun

After a late summer of seemingly endless blue skies, South Head received an unseasonal 124 mls of rain between 08 and 14 March. On the first soggy day we were grateful as the water tank was getting low, but by the end of the second day the novelty had worn off. The rain followed by sun has turned the vegetable garden into a jungle through which I can barely navigate.

A carpet of green

kumara
A tangle of kūmara, melon and squash.

In early November, we planted three rows of kūmara tupu. ‘Tupu’ are the rooted shoots that grow on a kūmara tuber. The vines are very vigorous  and are spreading all over the garden. I’m very excited about this. We’ve had mixed success with potatoes and I’d much prefer to grow kūmara if possible. We’ll have to wait until the leaves start to die down before seeing what’s hidden in the soil. This could be any time from the end of March onward and looking at our plants I suspect it’ll be more like April.

After harvest (assuming there is actually something growing underneath all those leaves) we’ll set the best aside to start a new crop next October.

veges 02
Left to right: Basil jostling with carrots; okra; rhubarb; kale and silver beet (chard, to those of you from the northern hemisphere).

Our one surviving rhubarb plant is gigantic. The stalks are fat and juicy and despite baking them into Rhubarb Tarte Tartin and adding them to cereals and desserts, many will go to waste. We also have more than we can eat of basil and silver beet, and I’m curious to see how the okra turns out. Growing okra is another ‘first’ for me, and in my ignorance, I allowed some pods to grow too long, so have cut them all off and am hoping that more will be produced before it gets cooler.

veges 03
Left to right: Limes; habanero peppers; ‘Big Chief Butternut’ squash; bell peppers.

Continuing with the green theme, it looks like we’ll beat our record for limes as both trees are very well-endowed this year and also have a decent crop of new flowers. My favourite chile pepper, Habanero, is looking very fine, with each of the plants laden with flowers and young fruit. I also sowed a handful of seeds for a different squash, ‘Big Chief Butternut’, which apparently grows to 2 – 3 kg. And it is HUGE. And the capsicum (bell pepper) plants have become so large that we’ve had to support them with sturdy wooden stakes.

Zucchinis and tomatoes

This summer we’ve had the heaviest crop of both zucchinis and tomatoes since living at South Head, with green beans, coming a close third.

cleome and worms
Left to right: Pretty Cleome spinosa (Spider flower); a tomato fruitworm tucking into a green tomato; the disturbing sight of a grub inside a tomato; same grub after removal.

Scattered around the vegetable garden are self-sown Cleome. I planted a half dozen a few years back to attract green vegetable bugs and the Tomato Fruitworm, Helicoverpa armigera ssp. conferta. The Cleome attract both insects really well, but there haven’t been so many green vegetable bugs this year, and I’ve been picking off the damaged tomatoes when I come across them. The hens like drawing the fat green caterpillars out. I must admit that when I overlook one, and the tomato goes rotten from the inside, I can’t bear to look at them, let alone touch them. All that ‘goopy’ decay turns my stomach.

I’ve been freezing tomatoes in 400 gram packs for use over winter; the neat thing about outside-grown tomatoes is that they are easy to peel, which saves time later. And I’ve also bottled a batch of tomato sauce. I’ve used the zucchini for pickles and we’re eating them every other day. My favourite recipe is to slice them thickly before sautéing them with mashed garlic in a little olive oil. At the last moment, to throw in a few sage leaves. Because the Costasta romanesco variety of zucchini isn’t at all watery, the sage leaves quickly go crispy and add a delicious flavour.

And still there’s more…

There are some vegetables I haven’t really bothered with… lettuces, for example. We rarely get around to eating them and while I do have a row growing and gradually aging right now, there are several earlier plants that I’ve let go to seed; the fuzzy down drifts around the garden with the slightest breeze. Lettuces are unlikely to become a problem if they sprout everywhere… I allowed a golden turnip plant to go to seed in Spring and we now have them growing in a couple of the pathways. There are only single rows of beetroot, carrots, parsnips, golden turnip and rocket – not that you’d ever need any more than one row of rocket!

veges 01
Left to right: Asparagus still sending up shoots; zucchini Costasta romanesco; parsley; bulb fennel.

Grapes and honey bees

grapes 01

Yet another amazingly productive crop we’ve had this season is grapes. The vine stretches along the sun-drenched,  north-facing wall of the barn and I’ve never seen as many. We can’t keep up with eating them, so they are all beginning to split and ferment on the vine.

bees
Honey bees (Apis mellifera) gorging on the over-ripe grapes

Grapes are particularly attractive to honey bees – more so in the morning, and in the evenings I’ve seen the German wasp, Vespula germanica hovering around, so I’m hoping to observe them at dusk at the end of one of the fine Autumn days we have ahead of us, to see if we can ascertain the location of their nest.

grapes 02
The picked grapes are sweet and juicy.

Northern Japan in springtime

In about a week’s time I’m heading to Asahikawa in the north of Hokkaido for about five weeks. The contrast in weather will be a shock, I’m sure – going from the mid 20s to low 30s Celsius to close to 0 degrees (at least, for the first week or so), but I’m very much looking forward to my very first visit to Japan and am planning on writing  about my impressions while I’m there. Because I won’t have the distraction of the garden, I should have much more time to write, which will be something I’m really looking forward to.

dahlia
DahliaCactus Colour Spectacle‘ growing against the old fence.

Poutu-te-rangi / March

edge
Dry maize rustles musically in the breeze

From Sweltering Summer to Temperate Autumn

The maize along the fenceline is ready for harvest. It’s a visual reminder that summer is over. The days are slow to lighten and early to darken, and the grass is thick with dew when I make my way to the barn in the early morning. The gravel road is dry and whenever a large truck rattles by, great dusty clouds drift across to settle on our solar panels.

It’s been several weeks since I’ve written about South Head. Or about anything, for that matter. It’s been difficult to knuckle down to writing after taking time off over the Christmas/New Year period.

While it’s been a very long and hot summer, we’ve also had a decent amount of rain, which of course has meant that everything has just kept on growing. We’ve created enough gardens here to keep us busy every daytime hour, and for the first time I’ve been wondering if it’s too much. What with the dead-heading, the trimming, the watering, the sowing, the harvesting… not to mention the tying, the squashing (caterpillars), the sampling, the digging and the weeding, always the weeding. (It’s making me exhausted all over again, writing about it.)

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Kumeu A & P Show: curious alpaca & disinterested rooster

So… we’ve mostly been home over the weekends slaving away in an attempt to keep everything under control, with a couple of diversionary breaks visiting the local A & P Shows – I like to check out the poultry while Ben looks longingly at the tractors. 🙂


 Bounty from the Garden

preserves
A selection of home preserves, from left to right: Beetroot; ‘Look Alike’ Lemon Curd; Spicy Tomato Sauce; Zucchini Pickle; Greek Tomato Paste

Since I last blogged we’ve harvested a parade of fresh produce, including grapes, lettuces, carrots, rhubarb, cannellino beans, sweet basil, garlic, cucumbers, peas, beans (green, yellow, purple), main crop potatoes (Agria), beetroot, silver beet, shallots, buttercup squash, tomatoes, butternut pumpkins and LOTS of of zucchini.

produce.jpg
A selection of produce, from left to right: white table grapes; cannellino beans; Rhubarb Tarte Tartin

To use up the rhubarb and zucchini I’ve made several Rhubarb Tarte Tartin and a few jars of Lemon Curd Look-Alike, as well as some zucchini pickle. But the neat thing about this year is that we haven’t had too much of one particular vegetable. Everything we’ve grown we’ve either eaten fresh, or I’ve cooked up, preserved, frozen or baked into something.

Tomatoes and Zucchinis

toms and peppers
Left to right: tomatoes & onions ready to be cooked for Tomato Relish; red and yellow habanero slices, arranged for drying

The tomatoes have been great, but I picked the last one yesterday and I know I’ll miss having them on hand at meal times. I’m glad that I preserved a good amount this season (Spicy Tomato Sauce, Tomato Relish, Greek Tomato Paste) and that I also froze about a dozen packs of frozen skinless tomato flesh for use during the cooler months.

Recipes

One of the easiest salads to throw together involves mixing chopped tomatoes with a handful of fresh basil (made into a paste), a generous squirt of extra virgin olive oil and finely sliced or diced zucchini or cucumber. I read somewhere that raw zucchini helps you feel ‘more full’ than some of our other salad vegetables, and it’s lovely and light when sliced thinly.

I love cooked zucchini, too. It’s such a versatile vegetable. My favourite quick recipe involves slicing the zucchinis thickly, then sautéing them in a small amount of olive oil along with crushed garlic and sage leaves. The sage leaves turn crispy and add a delightfully fragrant ‘crunch’ to the dish.

Habanero

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3 stages of habanero peppers – fresh to dry

Our habanero chiles are ripening as I type, so I’m picking them each day, drying them, then nuking them in a small food processor. We’ll use the chile powder all through the year to jazz up our meals. One of my favourite uses is to sprinkle a liberal amount into cheese toasted sandwiches. Yum!! (It’s very hot, though – not for the chile uninitiated.)

I’ve also raised a pink variety of habanero this year. It’s currently at the flowering stage, so, no fruit, but I can’t wait to see what they look like!

Pears

pears
Autumn pears & the finished product

March in New Zealand is the month for pears and melons. Our old pear tree has produced a good amount of sound fruit this year and yesterday I bottled a small sample in a light syrup. Not sure why I haven’t processed our pears this way before – I usually freeze them for desserts – but I do like to see the finished product in our pantry. And it’s so easy to preserve them using the water-bath method.

I didn’t remember until after I’d finished that you’re supposed to pack the fruit tightly into the jars to avoid having them float to the top of the syrup… oh well… next time!

Melons

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Melon, ‘Collective Farm Woman’ (Cucumis melo)

I sowed seeds for a different melon this year, Collective Farm Woman. It’s a small Ukrainian melon from the Black Sea area, about the size of a honeydew, with pale flesh, the flavour delicately sweet and slightly evocative of bananas.


 Bantams!

bantams
Our new bantam hens (left) and Charlie

We picked up a trio of Bantams at the recent Helensville A & P Show. They’ve settled in well and having Charlie (the rooster) crow loudly at 5.15 am hasn’t been too much of a shock.

When we first let the bantams join the rest of the flock, they kept to themselves, but they’re now walking around alongside the others. They choose to sleep outside  – the rooster up high in a branch of one of the feijoa trees, and the two girls on the fence below. Not sure if they’ll ever voluntarily join the hens in the barn. Perhaps we’ll have to manually move them there in Winter when it gets cold at night.

That reminds me… feijoas! They’re growing plump on the trees. And just now I can see two fat kereru perched up on the yellow guava, eating the first of the golden yellow fruit. The kereru started visiting again a couple of weeks back – I guess our garden is part of their seasonal food cycle, too.


sunrise
Autumn: Looking across The Kaipara at dawn

 

 

 

 

Egg Mountains

Where shall I lay my eggs today?

The usual nesting choices.
The usual nesting choices. Top left: The new nest in the kindling pile (preferred by Honey, and the older hens, i.e., Lottie, Lulu or Leila); Top right: Pompom’s choice is under the edge of the barbecue cover; Bottom left: Francesca, Pearl (in situ) and Hannah use the nesting boxes in the hen house. Bottom Right: Fatima always lays in a nest box in the barn.

As much as I love our hens dearly, sometimes they can be very annoying. This particular tale concerns a couple of our ‘saved’ hens, Honey and Perky.

Honey

Our saved hen, Honey.
Our saved hen, Honey.

In mid-September, Honey went missing for almost a week. Then on two mornings in a row, Ben spotted her eating pellets in the barn with the other hens – as if she’d never been away. Then she’d disappear again.

After some sleuth work (which involved spying and following), we found her in a grassy hollow in the back paddock, sitting on a mountain of warm eggs. She’d been sneaking back to eat at intervals, then returning to the (impossible) task of waiting for the eggs to hatch.

She was well into broody mode, so we had to remove all the eggs and separate her into the back hen enclosure for a few days. When we tested the eggs using the ‘does it float or not?’ test, they all looked a bit borderline so we disposed of them. (Ben later remarked that they didn’t look good when he broke them, so I’m glad I wasn’t involved with that process.)

Honey has stayed around since then, and has built a new nest in amongst the pile of dry kindling in the barn. And for a time, Perky, and our older hens started laying there as well. So there were generally 3 or 4 eggs in that particular nest when I’d check them each day.

Hens don’t usually lay an egg on every day of the week, so when the number of eggs in that nest dropped down to 2 or 3 on most days, I didn’t think too much of it.

Perky

Our saved hen, Perky.
Our saved hen, Perky.

Yesterday, I was deliberating on the fact that our total daily egg tally still looked a little low. I’d still have expected to see 4 eggs in that nest every so often. And we remembered that the week before last, we’d had to rescue Perky when she got herself stranded between two fences along the edge of the back paddock. (I still have no idea how she got there. It was raining and she was as wet as a shag.)

Missing eggs + Perky behaving suspiciously in the back paddock = one conclusion.

Testing the Theory

Last night, Ben shut the gate to the hen enclosure and let the girls out early this morning so that he could see if any of them ran off somewhere.

Believe it or not, there are 18 eggs in this pile!
Believe it or not, there are 19 eggs in this pile!

Sure enough, Perky headed out (the long way) to the back paddock and settled herself down amongst the long grass. Ben found one egg all by itself nearby and left her there to finish laying. When he went back an hour or so later, he found a nest with an additional 19 eggs! Not again! So he brought all the eggs inside and left a fake egg in their place.

At least we know to look there now, and at least Perky hasn’t shown any signs of broodiness. It seems she’s been content to lay an egg on that huge pile, then join her sisters for the rest of the day.

Eggs in a bucket.
Eggs in a bucket.

I’m going to check the 20 eggs for freshness, and I may end up discarding a few of them, just to be on the safe side. And if I do… well, that will be the annoying part. The waste of all those beautiful big eggs.

Molly is generally oblivious to the goings-on of the hens.
Molly is generally oblivious to the goings-on of the hens.

Changing of the Season

 End of Summer

Maize being harvested.
Maize being harvested.

It’s definitely Autumn.  As I sit at my computer I can hear the rumble and whirr of the combined maize harvester driving along the paddock adjacent to our property.  As it moves down the rows, capturing everything in its path and discarding all but the individual maize kernels, great clouds of dust rise around it.

The wind has picked up this afternoon and is blowing in from the north… It was supposed to rain, and perhaps it still will, but right now it’s a mixture of bright sunlight and racing clouds.

The Garden

This beautiful buttercup squash weighed 3.189 kg.
This beautiful squash, ‘Burgess Buttercup’  weighed 3.189 kg.

Clean Up Tasks

It’s the time of year for clean-up and maintenance tasks in the garden. The squash and pumpkins are ready to be cut from their vines and stored in a dry and airy place.

The twisted brown tomato stalks need to be pulled out and burned, along with the remains of our former passion fruit vine.

I made the decision to remove the vine after it had finished cropping, due to it being afflicted with disease.  It has been incredibly productive this year, and I’m sure we have eaten more than 200 individual passion fruit.  So, it was with a heavy heart that I cut it away from the fence yesterday.  All that is left is to dig the roots out of the soil.

Fruit

A scattering of fruit; Feijoa and Guava.
A scattering of fruit; Feijoa and Guava.

Plump feijoa and red and yellow guava are strewn on the grass outside our kitchen window; an array of yellow, green and red baubles.

While the guava are quite definitely edible, now that the feijoa are ready they won’t get a look in with me. Back in Spring when the blackbirds were stripping the petals from the flowers, I could not have imagined that the trees would be so heavily-laden.

A pair of kererū in the yellow guava.
A pair of kereru in the yellow guava.

For several days we’ve had two plump kereru camped out in the fruit trees.  At night they seem to seek refuge in the golden totara, but by day they stay in the yellow guava, gorging on the fruit (they can swallow the guava whole!) or just sitting still in the sun.

Juicy pears.
Juicy pears.

We’ve also had many pears.  The only problem is getting to them before the blackbirds!  But if we go out early in the day we can usually rescue most of them.

Vegetables

peppers
Capsicum, Eggplant and Chillies.

For the first time, we’ve had eggplants that have grown to maturity and we’ve had an amazing crop of capsicum.  I’m hoping that these will keep cropping until May or June.  We also have abundant habanero and one other (unidentified) chilli pepper.  This latter plant came from a packet of chilli ‘Caribbean Blend’ so I’m not really sure what it is. We sampled it (with trepidation), and although it was hot, it didn’t seem as hot as a habanero, nor did it have the beautiful floral flavour that a habanero has.

Chilli peppers strung up in the barn.
Our new seasons’ chilli peppers strung up in the barn.

As you can see from the photo above, I’m going to dry the chillies this year.  We have such a huge chest freezer, that even with the baskets at the top, we tend to lose track of small things.  It will be interesting to see if I’m successful or not.  I thought it would be great to grind them up and use them with a pepper shaker.

This morning I took a bucket to the farm across the road and collected some field mushrooms. Yum!!! These are my favourite funghi.  They have such a rich taste in comparison with button mushrooms purchased from the supermarket.

Field mushrooms, freshly-picked this morning.
Field mushrooms, freshly-picked this morning.

They’ll be great sauteed in butter and stirred through some freshly made pasta.

After the Harvest

What's left after the harvester has done its job.
What’s left after the harvester has done its job.

The harvester has finished in the field.  All that is left behind are the husks and a few dried leaves.  It’ll be tough for the small shrubs we have on the fence-line, especially now that the wind is coming from the north.  For a good six months they’ve been sheltered by the maize!

The maize field is now stark against the sky.
The maize field is now stark against the sky.

Gardening Chores and The List That Grows

 Garden Diary

Glass of Corbans 2002 Private Bin Hawkes Bay Chardonnay, after a day gardening
A welcome glass of Corbans 2002 Private Bin Hawkes Bay Chardonnay, after a day gardening

After a calm and rainy Saturday, the sun showed its face again today and we spent our time trying to knock some items off our ever-growing gardening ‘To Do’ list.  The trouble is, one thing always leads to another – and the ‘other’ is usually something that wasn’t on the list to begin with.

For example, we had two lovely dahlias growing (or trying to grow) under the Feijoa trees.  This had turned out problematical for two reasons…

  1. it’s extremely dry under the Feijoas and even though they have struggled on bravely, the dahlias have definitely suffered during the height of summer.
  2. The hens.  (Isn’t it always the hens?)  They love to sit in the shade under the Feijoas and scratch around, digging up anything that isn’t solid rock.  Their scratching shreds any new growth trying to push through the dusty soil.

Multiplication and Division

So, the plan this morning was to move both of the dahlias to a new site.  Stage One was accomplished without undue hassles.  This thanks to the fact that a space became available yesterday when Ben removed the Buddleja Globosa growing alongside the banana plant at the front right of the house.  The Buddleja had been a disappointing addition to that part of our garden – it had never done very well, hadn’t even flowered in the three years it had been there, so we’d decided to get rid of it.

Actually getting rid of any plant is always difficult for me, but this decision was made easier by the fact we’ve been able to take two rooted runners from it and plant them elsewhere.

The new site for the dahlias with Campanula persicifolia around the edges.
The new site for the dahlias with Campanula persicifolia around the edges.

It was while Ben was digging up the dahlias that I noticed the clump of Campanula persicifolia growing alongside.  I’d grown this from seed way back in 2011, but it, too, had never flowered.  However, the clump was looking surprisingly healthy this morning.  So we dug this out as well.

It’s really too late into Spring to divide a perennial – and it had quite a bit of new growth – but we managed to split it into about 20 separate plants.  These have now been transplanted into various other flower gardens, and watered copiously.  Fingers crossed, they’ll survive.  I should have done this a couple of months ago when we divided the Geums and the Asters.

Vegetables

Rocket thinnings - these were great in lunchtime sandwiches with avocado and egg.
Rocket thinnings – these were great in lunchtime sandwiches with avocado and egg.

I didn’t get much achieved in the vegetable garden today – in fact I pretty well gave it a wide berth.  But I did manage to thin out the rocket seedlings.  I’m so glad we have rocket again – just the smell of it makes my mouth water.

Pruning – Long Overdue

Left: Mandarin trimmings - pity about the fruit but we couldn't reach it anyway; Right: Firewood-sized plum tree trimmings.
Left: Mandarin trimmings – pity about the fruit but we couldn’t reach it anyway; Right: Firewood-sized plum tree trimmings.

Another task that hadn’t been tackled yet was the pruning of the old branches off some of our very old fruiting trees – especially the apricot and one of the three plum trees.  We’ve been working away at this judiciously each year to encourage new growth further down the trunks.  It’s a slow process, but of course today I noticed that we still hadn’t done this for this season.  Again, it’s getting too late into Spring for this task – but what is the best solution?  To just leave them as they are?

Left: View of the lichen-encrusted branches on the old pear tree; Right: Pear prunings.
Left: View of the lichen-encrusted branches on the old pear tree; Right: Pear prunings.

I still felt it was better to clean things up a little bit, so we set aside one hour and spent that time cutting back branches on our two mandarins, the pear and that one plum tree.   Mainly to remove the worst of the out-of-reach lichen encrusted limbs and to (hopefully) encourage lower growth to sprout.  Many of the branches we removed had died back, or had only a few straggly leaves.

We didn’t manage to get to the apricot – this will have to wait for another day.

Perhaps we should just give up on these old trees, as they don’t always produce much fruit, but I like the fact that they’ve been here so long and that someone else planted them all those years ago.  I like to feel the links to the past, I guess, the continuity.  And why destroy a tree if it still provides something –  even if it’s just shade, a place for birds to build their nests and the occasional piece of fruit.

Update on Blackbird Chicks

Left: Nest with chicks, 15 October; Right: Empty nest, 17 October.
Left: Nest with chicks, 15 October; Right: Empty nest, 17 October.

We were away from South Head almost all of Friday.  When we arrived home later in the afternoon and I checked the blackbird nest, it was empty.  There was no sign of any damage to the nest, nor were there any signs of anything worse, i.e. feathers or baby chick body parts.  I can only assume that they grew large enough to fly.   I last took a photo of them on Wednesday 15th (see above).

We’ve seen the hen blackbird a few times today and she seems to be taking worms, etc., up to the Lilly Pillies over the fence behind the plum tree.  We’re hoping that this is where the family has moved to.

Vriesea

Vrisea hyeroglyphica.
Vriesea hieroglyphica.

Finally, here is another photo of one of our bromeliads.  Again this is a form of Vriesea hieroglyphica.  A striking green one, this time.

Winter!

Nuts in June

The nuts are starting to drop from our macadamia trees.  I’ve collected over 100 in the past week, with more falling when it’s been breezy overnight.  Even our smallest tree is producing a few this year.  We still have a decent amount of nuts from 2012, which we’ll have to get through.  It just takes time to crack them but it’s something that can be done in the evening while watching TV.  Once they are shelled, I’ll be toasting them and then grinding them; mixed with a little sugar and coconut oil, they make a really yummy gluten-free, vegan crust for a dessert pie.

Bristly Ox-Tongue

I’ve finally managed to identify a weed we have on our property.  Helminthotheca ecioides, or Bristly Ox-tongue.  It was apparently naturalised in NZ in 1869.  It’s a horrible weed as it grows up with nasty hairy spikes on its stalk and leaves, and these can really hurt if you try to pull one out with bare hands.  We’ve mostly eradicated these from our property, but they still come up here and there.  This is one ugly weed.

The Prodigal Hen

Strangely, Lottie came back last Friday.  It was a rainy, squally day and I hadn’t been outside much, but when we checked the hen house after dark before closing the gate of their enclosure for the night, Lottie was sitting on the very top perch (having evicted Lulu and Leila) as if she had never been away. The poor Orpingtons had had to vacate the bottom perch and were sleeping together on the floor.  We were away overnight Saturday / Sunday and weren’t sure what we’d find when we came back on Sunday afternoon – I was very curious to see if Lottie was still at home, and if she was, what shape she was in.

When we arrived, Lottie, the two White Orpingtons (Francesca and Pearl), and one of the Black Orpingtons (Fatima) were nowhere to be seen.  Lulu, Leila and Hannah (the youngest Black Orpington) were pecking around the property in their usual fashion.  We called and called, at first to no avail.  Then the four wanderers appeared, casually walking back from across the road.  My heart sank at the thought that Lottie might start luring the other hens away during the day.  That night when we shut them into their enclosure, we wondered what would happen the following day.

As it turned out, as soon as I let them out on the Monday morning, Lottie strutted off at great speed, across the grass, past the garage, down the driveway and across the road.  She hadn’t even had the decency to lay an egg before leaving!  Fortunately the other hens didn’t notice her departure, so not one followed her.  She didn’t return on Monday evening, but to be honest, I wasn’t worried as my thoughts were that she was likely to cause more problems if she did come back permanently.

Then surprisingly, later on this afternoon, who should we see but Lottie making her way back home across the road.  Tonight she has been shut in a separate area of our enclosure, and I won’t be letting her out tomorrow.  We’re going to see if she copes with being kept shut in for a few days… it will be interesting to see if she lays an egg while she’s here.  When we checked her tonight, she was sleeping on the top perch of her house – all alone (of course).  At least she won’t be pecking and bossing the other hens around, and nor will she be leading them astray (tomorrow, at least).

Seasonal Fruit

We are still eating feijoas (although surely they will have all finished ripening, soon) and are starting on tamarillos.  There is a farm up the road that sells bags of the latter for $2.  These are so much nicer than any I have ever purchased from a store, and our own orange variety, ‘Tamarillo Bold Gold’ is also producing fruit for the first time.   The fruit is smaller than the reds, but very juicy and sweet.

The bananas look like they are starting to ripen.  They are certainly getting fatter and the top rows are definitely turning a lighter colour.  As these are the first bananas I’ve ever grown, I have no idea what to expect as far as time to maturity is concerned.

Our two young lime trees are a mass of flowers and small fruit.  Typically, a strong wind started blowing in today from the North West.  I’m hoping that it doesn’t inflict too much damage on the new growth.  The lemon trees also look to be producing buds, but not as energetically as the limes.

Garden Diary

It’s been wet off and on for over a week now.  We do get a degree of sunshine during most days, but then the clouds build up and it’s gloomy again.  I think this June our solar generation will be the lowest ever.  Thank goodness it’s not long until the shortest day.

In the vegetable garden, broad beans have come up, as has curly kale.  The Egyptian Walking Onions are looking good, as are our mixed lettuces, beetroot, rocket and radishes.

I don’t know why I grow radishes – probably because the variety I have sown, ‘Easter Egg’, is so pretty when they are small – white, pink, purple and red – but I tend not to eat them myself as they are too peppery for me.  And this from someone whose favourite chili is the Habanero. 🙂

Speaking of which, I am still picking habaneros, and our basil still hasn’t died off, although it’s getting a little straggly as I have omitted to keep up with removing the flower spikes.  I have had absolutely no luck with parsnip seeds this season – nor with leeks.  I’ve sown a couple of rows of each of these, but none have germinated.  Very annoying.

 

What happens when you go away for two days

pumpkin patch

It was as I expected.  When I braved the heat yesterday afternoon, I discovered that the plants in the pumpkin patch have put on a huge amount of growth and there were 6 gherkins big enough for pickling.  The two days I’d been away had been hot, dry and sunny.  Weeds are rampant and most of the plums have ripened and dropped (or been eaten or frozen).

It’s actually too hot to stay out in the sun for too long in the middle of the day.  I spent about 15 minutes trying to weed around parts of the vegetable garden, but it felt like the heat was pushing down on me as a physical force.

I tried a new gherkin recipe yesterday afternoon.   You can sample them after a minimum of 3-5 days, although of course, ideally they should be left for at least a month for the full flavour to develop.

If this recipe tastes good, I’ll use it for any  more that are produced.  It has no added sugar, which will suit my taste buds much better than the sweet gherkin recipe I tried a couple of years ago.

Pickled Gherkins
Pickled Gherkins

In the barn, the four blackbird chicks have left the nest.   We could see three last night – two perched on the washing line and one huddled down on a ledge.

Earlier today I could only see one chick.  It was standing on the woodpile, staring solemnly at me, and not moving.  When I left the barn, the blackbird hen flew to it with a beak full of worms.

blackbird chick
blackbird chick yesterday
Blackbird chick today
Blackbird chick today

Currently we have the following herbs and vegetables in the garden ready for eating: asparagus, basil, beetroot, coriander, dill, lettuces, silver beet and zucchini.

The climbing beans are on the point of being ready, as are the strawberries, and our tomatoes are tiny and green.    But now that the fruit has formed, eating them is not far away.

Pickled Gherkins Recipe

500 grams gherkins
125 grams sea salt
3 cloves garlic (thinly sliced)
1 bay leaf
1 bunch fresh dill
1 tsp coriander seeds
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 cups water

Wash gherkins thoroughly and dry.
Cover them with salt in a sealed plastic bag and set aside for 3-5 hours.
Mix the vinegar and water in a pan, and heat.
Add garlic (thinly sliced), bay leaf, dill and coriander seeds.
Simmer for five minutes.
Remove the gherkins from the salt.
Wash them thoroughly and dry them once again.
Place the gherkins in sterilised jars;
carefully fill with the vinegar/water solution (gherkins should be covered) and seal.
Set aside at room temperature for three to five days before eating.