As usual, I love the way the garden looks right now. January is such a wonderful time in the garden! Everything is at its peak of beauty, and the weeds haven’t taken over yet. I took a few minutes the other day to make a video tour. It was interesting watching it this afternoon. The little lettuces in the last minute have doubled in size since I took the video two days ago! And, it’s raining today, with more predicted tomorrow, so things should grow even more. (I also noticed that two of the cats managed to get themselves into the last couple of minutes!)
As usual, I have a number of photos from October that didn’t fit into their own posts!
Gayle often walks somewhere with the little girls on Sunday afternoons. They like to go down to the bridge, and one time he took a picture of them on the sign for our little town.
One evening, Miss Joy requested that someone take a picture of her holding Princess!
One day, we saw helicopters flying over the river. The next day, they were flying over it again. We watched closely, and saw them following the riverbed exactly. We couldn’t figure out what was happening, but then we started hearing jet boats, as well. I searched online for awhile, and finally found information about a jet boat marathon that was happening. One leg of it was up the Grey River, and into the Ahaura! We went down to the riverbed to watch the boats go back downstream. They move fast!
Our heifer Bluebell had her calf in October. It was a little bull, so we decided not to keep him. We were glad that the farm Simon was working on wanted him for breeding!
Someone gave a battery-powered car to the family in whose home we meet for church. The little children love it! It can be operated with pedals and a steering wheel on it, or by a remote control. Here, Miss Joy and another baby were riding while one of the older children operated the remote.
I think these pictures are actually from September. The greenhouse was looking pretty lush! Since then, I have ripped out the old lettuce and planted peppers along the right-hand side.
I did an experiment with onions this year. The ones to the left were planted from seed directly in the ground in May. To the right, the top tray is ones of the same kind that I planted in that try in June, and the others were a different variety, planted in the tray in July or early August. We set them all out in the main garden at the same time, in September. I am hoping for larger onions than usual! So far, the ones I started earliest are doing best. The ones started in June mostly died, and the red ones, started last, are doing fairly well.
This is how I plant onions. I dig a shallow trench and lay the roots in it, then cover them with soil. After a few days the plants stand upright, and, theoretically, start growing!
It’s that time of year when we start all the tomato plants we need for the upcoming summer! This year, Esther wanted to help, so she could learn how I do it; most years, I do all of this project by myself. Late in August, we put the seeds into the soil.
We put the tray of seeds in the greenhouse under a second layer of plastic until they germinated. Esther cleaned out that corner of the greenhouse. There are several tomato plants there that she transplanted in there from the garden, where they started growing late in the summer. We had kept an extra layer of plastic over them all winter, and they lived, although, with low light levels for a few months, they didn’t thrive. One has a green tomato on it, though!
About a week or a week and a half later, the tiny seedlings were ready to prick out and transplant into individual punnets. It was a beautiful day, so we sat at the picnic table to do this job.
I took this picture on the 25th of September, about a month after we initially planted the seeds. The plants had been in our hothouse, a frame covered with greenhouse plastic on our back step, which faces the sun.
Today, the 29th of September, five weeks after starting the seeds, I decided it was time to transplant the little tomatoes into bigger pots. Little Miss helped with this job; she loves writing the labels! We didn’t get the entire job done, but did about a fourth of them, choosing the largest plants to start with. Now, they get to live and grow in the big greenhouse until time to plant them in the garden.
The garden is at its peak of beauty right now, so I decided to do a video walk through it. I was especially thinking of you, Mom, and hoping you can watch it.
I had fun photographing some of our harvests lately. The first picture was my harvest the evening of Christmas Day; the rest were this past week (the 3rd-8th of January). I love bringing in gorgeous fresh vegetables!
Here are the last of the pictures we took in February! It seems like we haven’t been taking a lot of pictures since our trip, so I may end up getting caught up soon.
The Sunday afternoon right after Simon sprained his ankle on their tramp, we were relaxing after getting home from church when we heard the ice cream truck coming. It plays the traditional tune of ice cream trucks, and comes through randomly, several times a year, on Sunday afternoons. Simon decided that his little brothers needed practice making purchases, so he pulled $20 out of his wallet and sent them across the road to flag down the truck and buy ice creams for all the boys and Little Miss! While the truck was stopped there, several other neighbors came out to buy ice cream as well.
The garden was so beautiful in February! Picking green beans in this tunnel was so easy; I’m definitely doing that again. I planted two varieties of runner beans—Blue Lake and Cobra. The Cobra beans came on first, and produced bushels and bushels, then stopped; the Blue Lakes came on about that time. They, too, produced bushels and bushels. Meanwhile, the Cobra looked like they were dying; the leaves were even turning yellow. Then, when the Blue Lakes quit, the Cobras came on again, with new foliage and lots of nice beans—not nearly as many as the first round, but enough for several meals for the ten of us in a week’s time. I’m planning to plant both varieties again, but maybe more of the Cobra and fewer of the Blue Lake. That way, I can do the bulk of the canning at once with the Cobras, and have the Blue Lakes to fill in for eating on while the Cobras take a break. (A bit of trivia: It’s easy to tell the difference between the seeds—the Cobras have black seeds, and the Blue Lakes have white ones. This is significant because the labels I used to mark which kind was which got lost, so I wasn’t sure which I liked better till I saved seeds from both and compared with what was left in the seed packets!)
Little Miss wanted me to take a photo of this dill plant, since I had asked her to bring the camera out to get a photo of the beans. The garden doesn’t look this pretty anymore. Almost everything is dead now.
A week ago, the garden was about the most beautiful I have ever seen! Everything was in beautiful shape. Then, we had a week of rain. We got 185 mm (7 1/2 in) of rain in 5 days, and one of the days we had gale-force winds, as well. There was hail a couple of times, too. A lot of plants, especially lettuces, got badly bruised, and the peas got knocked partially off their trellis. The runner beans got broken off at the top of their trellis. Because of the rain, the stems of a lot of plants are very brittle, so when I try to straighten them out, for example to help a runner bean up its trellis, they snap off. It could have been a lot worse, though. In Motueka, on Christmas weekend, they had about five inches of hail! I’m thankful we didn’t get that.
Here are the tomatoes. The ones in front are the South Australian Dwarfs, which don’t do well with staking but put on a prolific crop.
Inside the greenhouse. The cucumbers are nearly done. The pepper plants just to the left in the middle lived over the winter. We put a small, plastic-covered box over them so they didn’t freeze. They are loaded with chilis already, and I’ve been picking bell peppers, too.
The peas have this trellis. The peak of it is about five feet high, and before the storm the plants stood up at least a foot over that. I’m trying to get them to stand up again, but I’m not sure it’ll work.
Lettuce, carrots, and potatoes behind them. I have dill all over the garden. We just weed out the excess, and have plenty for pickles.We found this giant in the garden when we came home from our big trip! Stuffed zucchini on the menu, for sure.
Today’s helpful tip: If you buy plastic for a greenhouse, make sure it is high quality. We bought greenhouse plastic twice, a few years apart. The first cover was used in Cheviot for a couple of years, and then we bought another cover for another greenhouse. It was never used over there, but we brought it here, and when we set up the greenhouse last year, we used both pieces to cover it. The newer piece shredded after just a year, and when we had a couple of storms in the last few weeks, with high winds, it blew off—in pieces! The older one is still in good shape. So, we bought a new piece of plastic to cover the entire house, so it won’t have to be pieced together. When I got on the website of a greenhouse supply company in the North Island, I found the end of a roll of plastic that was bigger than we needed, for less money than ordering the exact amount cut to size! That gives us enough to recover the miniature greenhouse I use for starting plants. On Saturday, the boys got the old cover off, and they and their dad put the new one on. At one point in the afternoon, I was urgently called outside—all hands were needed. They had unfolded the new cover and put it over the greenhouse—the wrong direction! I got out there to see this:
After I took that picture, Simon said, “Wait! Let me pose!” So, he struck this pose of wondering what to do about the mess they were in.
A few hours later I went out to see how the project was progressing, and they were finishing fastening the plastic to the roll-ups on the sides. They had the plastic securely fastened down to the side of the house, but the bottom foot and a half or so on each side rolls up on pipes.
I went online to find recipes, and discovered that green tomatoes are as safe to can as ripe ones, or maybe more so, since they are more acidic. I decided to make green tomato salsa first. I didn’t follow the recipe exactly, but the changes I made would have made it safer, since I reduced the volume of peppers. This is the proportions I used; you can find the original recipe here:
1.5 kilos green tomatoes
400 gm onions
2 small HOT peppers plus several milder ones (recipe called for 250 gm; I used more like 50-100 gm)
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup vinegar (called for lime juice, which I didn’t have)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
I coarsely chopped the tomatoes and onions, then put the peppers and garlic in the blender with the vinegar. After adding the vinegar mixture to the pot, I mixed in the salt and pepper, then brought the whole lot to a boil. I did 4-7 times this amount in each pot, using three pots at a time. And here’s a tip if you do something like this: weigh the tomatoes after chopping, then use a dry-erase marker to write the weights on the outside of the pot. It washes off easily when you’re done, and you don’t lose track of how many batches you’re making! I just discovered that this year. After the salsa has boiled for a little while, put in jars and seal. We don’t like this for eating as salsa, but it’s great in soups. I’m planning to use it through the year when I am making a soup that I want some spice in; I won’t have to chop onions for the soup, either!
Here are the jars of this salsa that we canned. A lot of the tomatoes were half ripe, which is why it looks fairly red. (I should mention that the reason we didn’t leave them to finish ripening was that the slugs were getting them and they would have rotted before ripening.)
I also experimented with pickling green tomatoes (results aren’t in yet), and made a few pots of half-ripe ones into juice. It’s not quite as tasty as juice from ripe tomatoes, but when I use it with ripe ones, we don’t mind it at all. Just a way to squeeze a little more production out of the garden!
All fruit and vege shops were shut down during lockdown, and we don’t have any on the Coast anyway. However, I have my own private one. One day I went out “shopping” and this was what I brought home for dinner. So much fun! I love walking out to the garden every afternoon to harvest what we need for that evening’s meal, and getting the rest from the freezer or jar room. We are rich, and I am thankful God has given us this place where we can grow so much food. (I think it’s good for my mental health as well as our physical health, too!)
We took quite a few pictures this week! Miss Joy has been quite busy, and she is so cute we can’t resist taking pictures of her. She learned to climb up on things, and one evening she was delighted to get up on a box and find another box within reach, with delicious peaches in it! Then, she sampled the zucchinis that were next to her.
I came home from my trip to town this week and found these “zumpkins”. Now I know who picked them! We left the self-seeded pumpkin plants in the garden; obviously some of them were a cross between spaghetti squash and zucchini. They are good with meatloaf baked in them.
After we got home from town, I carried Miss Joy into the house in her carseat. The next day she was playing in the living room, and climbed into it. Somehow she tipped it over on top of herself. She wasn’t worried; she just crawled away, with the seat going with her! Someone called her a turtle.
Mr. Sweetie was washing the kitchen floor, so I told him to turn a bench over to keep Miss Joy out of the kitchen. She immediately crawled over to it, stood up, and put her leg over it. So much for that idea!
And game time!
While I was making lunch today, I went out to the garden to harvest veges for our stir-fry. I brought in this kale, silverbeet (Swiss Chard), basil, spring onions, and a rock melon. I told Gayle I had been to the shop. He said I’m the kind of woman who goes to the market every day. I replied that it’s sometimes several times a day! Sure enough, by the end of the day I had been out there three times, even though it was raining. This is my favorite kind of shop!
The garden is at its peak as far as beauty this week. It is so lush and green! We’ll probably get more of a harvest in another couple of weeks than we are now, but by then it won’t be as beautiful, so I took some pictures this week of what I get to enjoy.
This was my harvest on Wednesday afternoon: zucchini, cucumbers, spring onions, beetroot, radishes, lettuce, green and purple beans, basil, a cabbage, and a kohlrabi.
As you walk into the garden between the garage and the container, this is the first garden patch you come to. There are climbing sugar snap peas and runner beans along the side of the container, and beyond that is a tomato patch. The sunflower/cosmos “house” is just past them, and there are pansies planted in the top of the stump. Next is a bed of cabbage and broccoli, with some calendula in it. I also have a few tomatillos and ground cherries in that bed, but you can’t see them in this photo. The next bed has a few cucumbers at this end, then cauliflower, kohlrabi, silverbeet, and then kale. The second photo shows that bed better; past the kale is the old lettuce bed, which needs cleaned out, and then cabbage. On the other side of the path is a patch of cucumbers and corn, and there are self-seeded pumpkins here and there. The turkey run is on the other side of the fence, past the corn.
Turn around, and past the red currants, you’ll see this patch of tomatoes and green beans, with cucumbers at the far end. The greenhouse is beside them. The pink/lavender building is the back side of our garage; the building in the back middle of the picture is the neighbor’s workshop, where they maintain their fleet of tractors and other agricultural equipment. Our three youngest have been putting water in the yellow bathtub and playing in it.
On the left, past the peppers, are eggplants. I’m not sure what the tall plant is. It masqueraded as an eggplant when it was tiny, but now it looks like a nightshade. I’m waiting to see what the fruits look like when ripe before deciding on its fate.
Past the eggplants, there are a few cabbages, then this silverbeet left from last winter, and then a tomatillo, tomatoes, and basil. On the right are a few carrots, more tomatoes and basil, and then a patch I planted in carrots (although they aren’t coming up) and two or three borage plants that grew when I gave up on them germinating and dumped the pots!
Come out of the north door of the greenhouse, turn left, and this is what you see. The first bed is beetroot, then spring onions and leeks at the far end, with a cosmos or two and some dill. Next is a small patch of potatoes and the onion patch, with dill in it, too. Close at hand, on the far right, is a Daikon radish that went to seed. The bees love it!
Looking back toward the greenhouse and the garage. The white building on the other side of the dill is the chook coop (or turkey coop, right now). The plants with white flowers, sprinkled through the potatoes and onions, are coriander (cilantro) that self-seeded and is now going to seed again. I’m going to try to save the seeds.
On the other side of the path, behind the magnolia tree, is the zucchini patch, and the rest of the tomatoes. The turkey run is that fence past the tomatoes.
Here are the turkeys! The white one is the tom; the others are hens. We also have a white hen. She’s sitting on eggs at the moment, at the other end of the run. There are two more nests, too; I was informed yesterday that another hen is setting now.
We’ve had a dozen turkeys hatch this year; five have survived the weather. They’re getting pretty big already.
I also have a couple of small garden spots by the house, just outside our bedroom. It’s sunny and sheltered here, and handy to the kitchen, so I have my herbs here. This one has celery, parsley, basil and rosemary, and some flowers. There’s also a tomato that snuck in with a basil!
On the other side is this patch, with more basil, some silverbeet, calendula, nasturtiums in the bathtub, and still more tomatoes! Little Miss is loving picking edible flowers for our salads. We’ve been using calendula, nasturtiums, pansies, and borage. So fun to dress up a salad that way! The boys are disgusted, though. They like plain lettuce.
I am thoroughly enjoying the garden right now. We were able to get so many grass clippings this spring that weeds have been minimal, and the boys weeded the rest of it. We’ve also had a nice amount of rain (since the monsoon came to an end in early December and allowed things to start growing!), and with all the mushroom compost we bought, everything is doing well. What a blessing!