Monday, August 4, 2014

Garden Share Collective August

This year is whizzing by and already it is time for the August update for the Garden Share Collective.

Just when things seemed to be drying up we got another 20 mm of rain and everything turned to mush again.  The goats were marooned for a day and ducks reappeared in the 'pond' in the paddock.  We had been having lovely days, frosts in the morning and sun, and even a couple of Nor'wester winds to dry things up.   Some days have felt almost spring like and I had to shed a layer of clothing.  It certainly is hard to know what to put on in the morning!

I have had a go at making some apple cider, using apples from a tree on the roadside outside our gate.  It is a simple recipe so fingers and toes are crossed it is successful. 

I froze 1.5kg of apples for a couple of days.  Semi thawed them, chopped them in food processor, and put into 10L bucket with 5.7 litres of cooled, boiled water.  Leave for a week, stirring morning and night.  After a week, add juice and zest of 3 lemons and 1kg of sugar and bottle.

We have been having lots of apple crumbles too, and the windfall apples have been getting fed to the sheep, much to their delight!

I have been busy pruning the fruit trees and sorting out the berry garden, and purchased a Hybridberry and Boysenberry on sale to add to the collection.  The Hybridberry is a Boysenberry cross so it will be interesting to see how it goes.
Things are fairly quiet in the vege garden so I have been taking the time to prune my roses.  18 done yesterday was a good start and it's sunny again today so I should get stuck in and do some more. 
The jonquils, crocuses and snow drops are flowering, the days are lengthening and the mud is drying.  I'll enjoy it before the forecasted wintery blast on Thursday!



Thursday, July 31, 2014

Recyclable packaging for bread the newest thing since....

I went to Couplands Bakery today in town to pick up some bread.  While I make some bread I've never been particularly successful making a loaf for sandwiches, and these are hubby's staple lunch item.

As I put the bread on the counter I noticed what I thought was a recycling triangle symbol.  On closer inspection in the car I discovered it definitely was for recycling and plastic 4.  I hadn't noticed this before and began to wonder if this was something new.  When I got home I checked the other bread bags we had in our plastic bag holder.  The other Couplands ones were recyclable, but none of the bread I have purchased from the supermarket sports this symbol.

I say well done to the small player in the bread market for leading the way.  At least this plastic can now have another use (as long as people recycle).  I think this may just persuade me to become a regular now at Couplands.  The bread is pretty nice too and a good price so winning all the way!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Plastic plastic everywhere!

As Plastic Free July draws to an end I find myself reflecting on my efforts to reduce single use plastic, and plastic in general.  While I have been making conscious choices to avoid plastic, it seems to leap out at me.

In terms of the TOP 4 (straws, plastic bottles, plastic bags & coffee cup lids) I have done ok. 
Straws - none
Plastic bottles - none personally but hubby has bought a couple of bottles of soft drink.
Plastic bags - probably about 8 for the month when I forgot a reusable bag BUT I have used my reusable bags for small shops, and also remembered my produce bags for small shops.
Coffee cup lids - Forgot the reusable cups at the weekend so that was 3 cups, but on the whole I have managed to avoid these, although the lids are recyclable so I don't feel as bad.

My pet peeves that I have encountered this month would be:

Stickers on fruit - really annoying, get everywhere and just rubbish.

Vegetables wrapped in plastic - I bought a cabbage that was wrapped in plastic film with the price sticker stuck to that.  I was really tempted to rip the plastic off in the shop but knew that would probably confuse the checkout operator.  They are not always wrapped so I'm not sure why sometimes the supermarkets insist on doing it.

Magazines wrapped in plastic - Some magazines come with bonus magazines or a calendar attached.  Some are wrapped in plastic.  I guess it is the different publishers but why use more plastic than necessary.  I also subscribe to a couple of different magazines.  One comes in a degradable plastic package, and the other comes in a paper envelope.  Well done Go Gardening magazine for escaping the plastic trap.

Courier packages - While some of these say they are recyclable, when I asked at our local recycling centre they were dubious as they have the address labels, or plastic invoice pocket, which is made of a different type of material.

Milk bottle seals - By these I mean the little pull off seal from the plastic bottles.  Then there are the little plastic rings which are equally irritating.  Both of these have a habit of getting everywhere but the rubbish, and the rings can be seriously damaging to wildlife when they make it into waterways.

Little plastic bag tags - Like the ones that come on bread bags, and in the produce area of the supermarket.  These are unnecessary at the supermarket if you use reusable produce bags such as these from Ecodeals.  I got mine from Total Food Equipment and there are also a range of reusable shopping and produce bags from Onya.  Alternatively, just twist the top of the plastic bag, and no need for a tag.

Nappies - Buying nappies in a cardboard box to eliminate the plastic packaging, only to discover the nappies are wrapped in two plastic bags inside the box! 

So what have I learned?
I now keep a foldable and reusable bag in my handbag, and also a produce bag so I don't get caught out on a quick trip to the supermarket.

I am more consciously thinking of ways to eliminate plastic usage, and look for plastic free alternatives. 
I am encouraged to continue to reduce one use plastic usage, and to become as plastic free as I can.  I still feel as though we have a lot of plastic ending up in the rubbish, so I have more that I can work on.

Did anyone else sign up for Plastic Free July?  How did you get on?

Monday, July 7, 2014

Garden Share Collective

The shortest day has been and gone.  Traditionally this has been the date when garlic should be planted and then harvested by the longest day.  It has been so wet here I have held off getting the garlic in the ground too soon but with a fine week things have dried out a lot.  I will be using some of the garlic that I grew last year, which has without doubt been the best garlic I have ever used.  It is crispy, juicy and extra tasty.  Can't see me ever going back to shop bought garlic.

I have been tackling the pruning of the fruit trees.  I have to admit that some of them haven't been pruned in the two years we have been here, and are a bit overgrown.  I have given an Apricot tree a stern talking to as it has yet to flower and it is well and truly established so it might need to go and make way for something else!

The currants have all been cut right back, cuttings put in pots with fingers crossed, and when I clean out the chook house, the manured hay will be put around the currants for mulch.

The hens are still laying and I have been regularly getting 4-5 eggs a day from 8 hens.  As they are all 2+ years old I am more than happy with that at this time of the year.  We have been getting some good frosts, so the girls are pleased to see me in the morning with their warm rolled oats breakfast. 

I have collected some hazelnuts and almonds and am looking forward to eating them super fresh. 

The hazelnuts have their catkins on for winter.  They are fascinating to watch as they emerge and open out.  Such a nice contrast to the naked branches.

In the next month I intend to have the rest of the fruit trees pruned, the vege garden cleared out  a bit and some compost spread about in preparation for spring planting.  Then again, it is cold so I may just stay indoors and read some other blogs from the Garden Share Collective.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Plastic Free July

The first day of July begins a month dedicated to the cause of trying to reduce the use of plastic.

The website Plastic Free July gives you lots of ideas of how to eliminate the use of plastic all together, or for those not able to fully commit they can work on the top 4 uses of plastic - straws, plastic bottles, plastic coffee lids, and the every present plastic bags.  I have decided to work on the top four, and any others as I can.

I have reusable shopping bags, a reusable coffee cup and reusable produce bags.  Now just to remember them when I need them.

I see this as a good challenge.  I already shop at the local bin shop with reusable containers too but it is hard to escape plastic when grocery shopping with many fruits and vegetables wrapped in plastic.  Then there are the milk products - milk, yogurt, cheese.  Come spring when the goats kid I look forward to recycling my glass bottles for milk bottles, and making our own yogurt.  Cheddar cheese is a little different as I don't think I will have enough milk to tackle that.

With a young family there are a lot of plastic encounters.  With bubs there are disposable nappy packets, and the wipes.  To counter this we use cloth nappies, and cloth wipes most of the time. 

With our daughter there are the school lunches.  I do not use food wrap, instead using Tupperware containers.  Yes these are plastic and I am investigating stainless steel options to replace the Tupperware containers I have had for about 3 years.  Then there is the contents of the lunch boxes.  I try to make bread rolls, muffins, biscuits etc and buy as little pre-packaged items as I can.
Pet plastic annoyances are the plastic bread tags and the plastic handles on bags of flour, chook food, potatoes and so on.  I do make some of our bread, but the flour for the bread still has those plastic handles.
Then there are plastic toothbrushes and dishbrushes.  When these have passed their use by dates I will be replacing with alternative options.  Ecostore have wooden dishbrushes, and there are bamboo toothbrushes available.
What plastic that we do have I try to recycle rather than have it end in the landfill.
What ways do you try to eliminate plastic?

Monday, June 2, 2014

Garden Share Collective

Another month down and another update due for the Garden Share Collective.  May saw me picking Medlars.

 Medlars are an unusual looking fruit grown on a small compact tree which has a lovely white blossom in spring.  I covered them this year and managed to harvest a lot more than in the last couple of years. I am looking forward to Christmas this year and the chance to indulge in a little Medlar Liqueur.  By then I will probably not still be breastfeeding, and if I am it will be maybe one to two feeds a day so a wee snifter at night should be ok.  The liqueur has a light fruity taste a bit like apple or pear.

Medlar Liqueur
500g ripe (bletted) medlars
500ml vodka
375g sugar
Place the medlars in a large sterilised jar.

Warm the vodka just enough to dissolve the sugar, then pour the mixture over the medlars and seal the jar.

Shake the jar each day for a week, then leave in a cool dark place for 6 months before straining and bottling.

As I make mine in large Agee preserving jars I had to make some modifications.
490g medlar (the jar full)
400ml vodka
320g sugar

The garden is heading for hibernation and so am I.  This past week we have had a really cold snap, with the first snow of the year on the hills.  We have had 4 hard frosts this week and a lot of sad looking plants round the garden.  The last of the tomatoes are ripening in the glass house so I will probably pick them green and let them ripen indoors.

The rest of the garden is quiet.  The broad beans I planted in April have come up, the brussel sprouts and kale are lethargic at best and the ground is water logged and cold.

In an attempt to produce some more greens my daughter and I are trying our hand at microgreens.  We were sent some Cabbage Rubies free with the Go Gardening Magazine.  We sowed half in a pot and waited.  The packet said they would take 4-6 days to germinate and by the fourth day they were up.  They are meant to be ready to cut at 2-3 weeks.  Ours at one week are looking pretty healthy so it is time to sow the other half of the packet.

Time to put the fire on and read gardening magazines and seed catalogues and start dreaming about spring.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Munch Review - ChooMee Sip'n

Munch Review – ChooMee

I was lucky enough to receive a twin pack of the new ChooMee sip’n baby food pouch tops from Munch Cooking.  The BPA free silicone caps come with the slogan

Sip it.

Cap it.

Strap it.

And that is pretty much them in a nutshell.

 The ChooMee easily fits over the spouts on commercial and most reusable baby food pouches and with a handy valve helps to prevents the inevitable spills when pouches are dropped.   The valve also regulates the flow of food from the pouch which is great when just starting out with solids. 

The soft silicone is kind to baby’s mouths and stands up well to regular gnawing.  My son fussed a bit with it the first time we used it but by the next day he quickly put it in his mouth and was sucking and chewing quite happily on it.

The cap allows you to seal the pouch when you are finished using it. It is a bit of a fiddle when baby is feeding though and seems to get in the way.  My son quite like chewing on the cap and ring instead of the spout!   The large ring stretches and fits over the original lid of the pouch, including the new larger choke proof lids, so you can keep it sealed until you want to use it but still take the ChooMee out and about.

The ChooMee  Sip’n is reusable, dishwasher safe and freezer safe so if you are freezing your own food in pouches you can attach the Sip’n directly to the pouch.

Initially I had some reservations about the benefit of the ChooMee  Sip’n but I would definitely recommend them if you intend to use food pouches.  They make the experience so much cleaner for Mum’s and bubs alike.  Within a couple of days my wee man was keen to hold the pouch himself and had worked out that chewing on the spout made the food come out.

All in all I was really impressed and can see me using the ChooMee a lot in the coming months.

Thanks Munch for the chance to try these.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

What to look for when buying a Lifestyle Block

Five or 6 years ago my husband and I decided it was time to pursue our dream of moving to a rural area and buy some land.  In New Zealand small farms are commonly referred to as Lifestyle Blocks, LSBs, or farmlets, or in some cases hobby farms. 

Goats were on my list of must have livestock. 
We had both wanted to get out of the town we were living in and have more space to raise a family and had been working towards when we bought our second home.  After 5 years there we put it on the market and starting looking at what we could afford. 

It wasn't a quick process with our house taking 18 months to sell.  However, along the way we learned a lot about buying LSBs, and our needs started to win out over our wants. While for many it is about having more space, others will strive to live a more self sufficient life, hence the name Lifestyle Block.  Living on and running a small farm isn't as easy as it may appear on television, but there are a few things to look for when buying property that can make your decision easier.

The step from a small town section to acres of rural solitude is a big one, and not only in the financial sense.  Before making any decisions, it is important to answer a few key questions to help you in you search.
  • What are you looking for?  
Do you want to have more space for yourself and your family, or do you want to live self sufficiently off your property with your own animals and crops? The answer to this will determine the amount of land you require. To be fully self sufficient in a relatively dry part of the country you are probably going to require 5-6 hectares or more.  We have just under 3 hectares and have 3 steers, 3 goats, 13 sheep, 9 hens and an orchard with 17 fruit and nut trees, and various currants and berries.  There is also a large flower garden so plenty of space for the kids. 
We had to remove some trees to make space for hubby's workshop.  He is an engineer and home mechanic to his Land Rovers so it was important to have a decent work space for him.  They are hard to find so we have built two workshops
now at our last two properties.

  • Will you still be working full time, or part time?  
This affects the amount of time you have available for the more labour intensive activities on your block such as drenching, worming, fencing, tree planting, yard and shed building.  If you are not going to have much time consider a smaller block with some garden and some chooks so you have some time free at the weekends. This may also determine the property you buy as some will need some work done to bring them up to scratch again. (See How much are your prepared to spend?)  While there are people you can hire to do jobs around your place these all cost money.  Also do you have someone you can call on to help you out or look after the place if you go away for a weekend etc.
  • Are you ready to live in the middle of nowhere?
While the thought of being away from the hustle and bustle can be appealing, be realistic too.  If you have school aged children there is going to a lot of running to and fro to school, sports, and other pursuits.  Also consider if the roads are prone to flooding or snow you could be cut of for a few days.
  • How much are you prepared to spend?  
Do you want to buy an existing farmlet, build up an existing house with land, or build a new house on bare land?  Check out local real estate agents and relevant websites for current market trends. This may help you to work out if you are ready to do serious house hunting, or if you need to save a bit more.
If you have little or no farming experience, consider renting a property so you can 'try before you buy'. Also get books from the library and do more research on property types.
Once you decide you want to buy it is time to start looking.  It is really important to look at lots of different properties to get a feel for what you are going to be able to afford.  If you are looking at building, talk to local builders about the cost of building, including resource consents, and supplying services to the section.  Note that not all sections come with water and sewer connected so this will add to the expense.
If you are wanting to purchase an existing property there are two distinct small farm types on the market; the farmlet that has sheds, and has been used as a small farm, and the block that has a house, maybe a garage, and some paddock space.  The latter will require more cost as you add infrastructure to it.
There are several things you need to check when you are interested in a property before making an offer.
  • How much water is the property allocated on a daily basis? 
If the property is connected to a council water scheme you will be allocated a set daily amount of water.  Usually this is measured in points, or units. 1 point is equivalent to 400 gallons. Is there storage available via a large tank, or rainwater tanks?  Some properties only have bore, or rainwater so adequate storage will be needed.
  • Does the property get sun? 
The paddocks will require reasonable sun to help with grass growth.  Having north facing paddocks (in the southern hemisphere) means the ground will be warmer longer.
  • What are the fences and gates like? 
Will they hold stock or are they going to need rewiring, or an electric wire added?  Unless they are brand new you can expect to do some fencing in the near future.
  • What are the paddocks like? 
Is it going to need to be re-sowed or is there life left in it?  A soil sample test is a good way to see whether the soil is deficient.  Could you make hay from the paddocks or are they too small?  If you can't make your own supplementary feed then you will need to buy it in.  Are the paddocks flat or hilly, covered in scrub or lush grass?

  • How far are you from neighbours? 
When we were looking at places I was quite keen to be more hermit than social butterfly.  Neighbours are still important for advice, help and especially in an emergency if you are a distance from emergency services, so being reasonably close has it's advantages?

  • What do you get for your money? 
Does it have a chook house, milking bay/shed, shelter sheds, haybarn, calf shed etc?  Is there farm equipment to be sold with it?  We bought the chooks, tractor, ride on mower and shearing equipment with our place, but there may be electric fence equipment, and other implements available too. 

  • Is there shelter around the property? 
A good shelter belt of trees is a godsend on a hot sunny day, a gale force southerly, or when it is raining. Flaxes and Toi Tois make good shelter for goats and sheep when they have young.  Also if you have trees you also have access to firewood if you have a log burner.  We have cut down over 12 trees in the couple of years we have been here so we have plenty of firewood now.  We have also planted trees so we never run short of firewood.
  • What is the house like? Could you see yourselves living there? 
There is no point buying a property if the house is going to drive you mad. If you want a house with a good sized kitchen or lounge, then wait until you find the right place. 
  • Is there a likelihood of flooding?
I grew up on a farm that used to get affected by flooding so it is something I was careful to take into consideration.  We were fortunate when we were looking at properties there was a flood.  It enabled us to check out the aftermath at a property we were interested in.  It was completely cut off and two thirds of the paddocks under water.  Needless to say we did not buy that property.  Our current place does get a bit of surface water in the paddocks, but there is plenty of higher ground for stock, and the house and sheds stay dry.

Flooding in our first year on the block.  Fortunately we have another 5 acres that were not under water!
We did get caught out buying our place.  The rainwater tank on the back of the hayshed was not specifically mentioned on the Sale and Purchase agreement and was taken by the vendors.  I have also heard of people buying a block only to find that the troughs in the paddocks had been removed!
    While this is not a complete list it is a good place to start.  If you have checked off all of these things you are well on your way to understanding what is involved in having a lifestyle block. With a bit of research and working out what you are prepared to compromise on and things that you won't buying your new property can be a great experience.

    We always wanted a verandah for sitting on and sipping a cold beer after a hard days work.

    Thursday, May 1, 2014

    Autumn antics

    Another month down and another monthly report for the Garden Share Collective .  Autumn is definitely upon us with the trees turning beautiful oranges, browns and red.  All this mean the rake is about to get a workout as will I.  We have a lot of deciduous trees in our garden but it is all great mulch and adds essential carbon to the compost heap.  My Father-in-law has also been busy raking and we now have a large area of the flower garden heavily mulched with these leaves.

    My kale is coming on and I have been picking leaves for my green smoothies.  My sprouting broccoli has been flowering so I think I am going to have to pick it quite small to avoid this.  The brussel sprouts are growing well although they have a way to go before they will be producing anything.

    We are getting lots of Cherry tomatoes but I have to say the other tomatoes are doing very little.

    The apple tree on the roadside is looking good and the birds are starting to take an interest so it must be time to pick some.

    I sowed a couple of rows of Broad Beans the week before Easter.  My Mum always said they have to be in before Anzac Day so I am to achieve that.  I will probably put some more in as Miss 6 likes them and they freeze well too if we end up with too many.

    As to my jobs from last month
    • Clear more tussock grasses for compost area and berry/currant garden.  All tussocks from this area are gone.
  • Preserve Blackboy peaches - All done until next year.
  • Wage war on weeds in the vege beds - A work in progress.
  • I also want to get some mulch down on the flower beds to reduce weeds in the spring.  Thanks to my F-I-L a good chunk of the garden is mulched.

  • To do list for May
    • Weed and mulch vege beds
    • Sow some peas and more broad beans
    • Harvest medlar and leave them to blet
    Things are cooling down here with night temperatures approaching 0 degrees.  It doesn't encourage me to go and work in the garden when the soil is so cold. It's getting close to hibernation time.

    Sunday, April 27, 2014

    The boys are in town.

    It has been two weeks now that we have had a buck hanging out with my 3 does.  If you have never come across a male goat during the breeding season let me warn you that they stink!  If you have a sensitive nature maybe don't read the first paragraph.
    They really are quite disgusting and I'm glad I'm not a goat.  Their mating ritual is fascinating but is really pretty gross with frequent urination, sniffing, snorting, pawing at the ground, biting and so on.  Fortunately we have borrowed this buck off a friend so in a month or so he will leave and take his smell with him.  It is so pungent I can smell him as I walk out the path to their paddock, and it lingers on you even if you have done your best not to touch him.  The interesting thing is that for about half the year they are completely different animals, lose the smell and the desire to urinate on anything that walks once the does are in kid!  It will be more that worth it though when we have some kids arrive in September.

    "Spot" the boy!  Hoping Shadow gives my girls some spotty babies in spring.

    We also had a ram arrive on loan from my sister and brother-in-law on April 17 - my birthday.  Pretty cool present and a sign that my priorities have changed since we have moved to the country.  Birthday presents have included decent gumboots the first year, a solar electric fence unit in the second year, and for the last couple of years we have used the services of one of my sisters old rams before they become dog tucker.  What a great way to go out!!!  This year we are hoping all 13 ewes will lamb, which is 2 more ewes that last year.  Our pet lamb from our first year, as well as 3 other two tooths, are out with the ram this year so it feels like we are making progress when are replacing the old ewes and building up our flock.  To be honest lambing around 12 ewes is probably enough at the moment.

    Our three steers are growing and are cleaning up the rough grass the sheep have left behind.  We had a great debate about what to call them when they first arrived.  After much discussion we came up with Schnitzel von Steer (think Hairy Maclairy and Schnitzel von Krumm), Centre Steer (reference to the Land Rover) and Freddy Steer (Fred Astaire).  They are not pets, but with a 6 year old animals tend to get names.  Miss 6 is aware that we will sell two and one will end up in the freezer, and we have been through similar processes with our pigs Teddy and Salami, and an old ewe known as Mutton Ham! 

    Freddy and Centre relaxing in the sun.
    It has been quite an education for her as she learns where food comes from.  That was something we were hoping would come from living on a farmlet and that certainly has been the case.  While we have a long way to go on our journey to great self reliance/ self sufficiency/sustainability whatever term you use, we are increasingly providing more from our own property.

    Sunday, April 6, 2014

    It's raining, it's pouring...

    Another month has flown by and it is time for an update for the Garden Share Collective.  Well the weather man was right. It is raining and is expected to last over the next few days. It has been a lovely sunny autumnal week and I am not complaining about the rain.  It saves me watering, although I had hoped to pick some Black boy peaches and do some preserving so I guess I will have to brave the weather to collect them.

    In other happenings my coffee grinds do seem to be keeping slugs and snails at bay so my kale, brussel sprouts and broccoli might stand a chance.  The strange cold/hot/cold/hot weather has caused one of my broccoli plants to go straight to seed with the first shoot it produced.  It is a sprouting variety so hopefully I still get some from it.

    The tomatoes are ripening well now on the Sweet 100's, and I have managed to salvage a few Peasgood Nonsuch apples that the birds did not eat!!

    There is a good crop again on the Medlar tree and this year I have been more organised and covered the tree to keep the birds away and hopefully increase the amount of fruit I will pick in late May/June.  Medlar is an ancient fruit that has a lovely blossom and unusual looking fruit.  The other odd thing about it is that it needs to "blet", a process that basically sees the fruit start to rot, before you use it.  This year I will be making another bottle or two of Medlar liqueur (medlars steeped in vodka for 6 months), and also some cordial.  You can also make Medlar Jelly, in a similar way to Quince jelly.  I have made the liqueur before and it is delicious, like a fruity cordial but with punch.  It definitely has an apple/pear sort of flavour and is really yummy.  I'm looking forward to indulging in an alcoholic beverage over the summer as I'll probably be finished feeding bubs by the time the liqueur is ready.

    My Mum has been keeping us in Courgettes after the slugs ate my plants.  My husband is not a big fan but I have discovered he doesn't mind when it is in a chocolate cake.  We have been eating lots, and I have also used the same recipe to make muffins which I have put in the freezer so the glut is not wasted.

    I have been digging the potatoes as I need them.  Last year I cleared an area in the vegetable garden, spaced out some sprouting potatoes and covered them with pea straw.  I left them alone until now and we are enjoying some nice tasty potatoes.  It is the ultimate in lazy gardening but worked well as I was 8 months pregnant when I was planting them so I wasn't looking for anything too labour intensive!

    In the next month I plan to continue work on berries and currants area.  I have been clearing tussock grasses in an area of the garden to set up my compost bins and also plant some raspberries and more currant cuttings.  I have been feeding the tussocks to the goats, much to their delight. 

    I have a buck turning up on Monday to hang out with my 3 does for a while, so fingers crossed we will have kids in September.  We are borrowing a ram from my sister as well so we will be lambing about the same time as kidding.

    My to do list for April
    • Clear more tussock grasses for compost area and berry/currant garden.  This is an ongoing project as there are some Silver Birches to be removed before it will be completely finished but at the moment I am getting the compost sorted and taking some cuttings of my existing bushes.
    • Preserve Blackboy peaches - fruit in syrup, stewed, jam, fresh in my tummy.....
    • Wage war on weeds in the vege beds
    • I also want to get some mulch down on the flower beds to reduce weeds in the spring.
    How did I do for March?
    I started digging the potatoes as we need them.
    Hazelnut suckers removed and some hazelnuts appearing on the tree.
    Cuttings taken and some more to be taken for berry/currant garden.

    All in all not bad considering the month flew by and my bouncing baby boy is now 18 weeks old.

    Saturday, March 15, 2014

    Green Urban Living 12 Week Challenge

    I'm taking part in a 12 week challenge set up by Janet over at Green Urban Living.  From 1st March to 24th May there are a variety of weekly challenges from going chemical free, to carless days, going foraging and recycling. Participants are encouraged to take part in as many of the challenges as you like, and interact on the websites forum and/or Facebook page.  There are a number of judges including Wendyl Nissen from Wendyl's Green Goddess , Lynda Hallinan from NZ Gardener, NZ Eco Chick, and Malcolm Rands from Ecostore, who will give out prizes to some of the lucky participants.

    Week One was to Ditch the Chemicals.  I already use Baking Soda and White Vinegar for a lot of things - cleaning the toilet, Vinegar as Rinse aid in Dishwasher, Fabric softener in washing machine etc.
    I cleaned the dishwasher with some vinegar in the top rack and some Baking Soda sprinkled in the bottom.  Seems to have come up a treat and I think the dishes are getting cleaner too.

    I have also made some Dishwasher powder too using Citric Acid, Washing soda and Baking Soda.  I'm yet to try that as finishing the previous "green" one I bought.

    A couple of years ago I invested in a second hand steam mop and love the result on the kitchen lino.  The ultimate no chemical clean using just water.

    We are using cloth wipes with bubs and after using up my bottle of Wendyl Nissen's wipe solution, I filled the bottle with water and added a few drops of both tea tree and lavender essential oil. It has worked really well, with no ill effects and it has saved me trying to track down affordable rosewater and witch hazel extracts that were in Wendyl's mix.

    Week 2 of the Challenge was to shop local and source as many locally produced foods as you could.  I have been using some of my own vegetables and fruit, and was also given some apples from my Mother-in-law.  Buying local is one of those hard ones as everyone's idea of local will differ.  For one Canadian couple the magic distance was 100 miles.

    A few years ago, when Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon learned that the average food in a North American meal travels 1,500 miles from the farm to the plate, they decided to launch an experiment to reconnect with the people and places that produced what they ate.  The 100 Mile Diet was born and they documented their journey in a really easy to read book.  They discovered the story that went with the production of the food, and the disturbing trend of  food that has travelled half way round the world.  I enjoyed reading this book, and know that the connection with the growers and producers  one of the reasons why local farmers markets have become so popular in recent years.

    Next weeks challenge is to go foraging.  I know there are quite a few roadside fruit trees in the neighbourhood so might have to take bubs for a walk in the buggy and load it up!  I'm always a little wary of trying some foraged things so I am looking forward to other peoples ideas of food that is safe to collect in the wild.

    What foods do you like to collect in the wild?  I've always like paddock mushrooms and I loved picking wild blackberries when I was holidaying in the UK.  There is something ultra satisfying collecting food that nature has provided for you without you having direct input.

    Sunday, March 2, 2014

    Garden Share Collective - March

    This is my first post as part of the Garden Share Collective, an initiative where like-minded bloggers join together and share the happenings in their gardens.  It's a great way to share ideas, get motivation and encouragement as we endeavour to provide produce for our families.  If you are interested in joining contact Lizzie from Strayed from the Table.  Her blog is well worth a look, and also has links to the other members blogs too.

    February brought with it 58mm of very welcome rain, and the promise of a bumper crop of Black Boy peaches. They have swelled noticeably since the first rain earlier in the month. The Golden Queen Peach is bare, and the Peasgood Nonsuch Apple and the pear have been attacked by some very hungry birds.  I have hung some old Cd's in the trees in the hope that will scare the birds....

    Oops seem to be a bit lopsided!

    I have spent more time in the vege patch in February, taming the wild jungle that had taken over in the months prior to the birth of our son in November. 

    Currently growing in the garden are silverbeet, kale, brussel sprouts, broccoli, pumpkin, carrots, and beetroot.  In the glasshouse I have tomatoes, and a cucumber.

    Kale, Brussel Sprouts and Broccoli protected from the chooks.

    The Damson Plums have finished and I managed to get a little over 5kg of fruit.  This was turned into Damson Plum jam, vodka liqueur, cordial and a bottle of Damson gin for my Mum.

    This month will see me

    1. Resting the bed that had the Broad beans.  I'm layering various compostable materials and will let that sit over winter.
    2. Digging up potatoes.  These were planted in a 'no dig' fashion with seed potatoes put on bare soil, then covered with layers of pea straw.  I am planning to plant my broad beans in this area in April.
    3. Harvesting Tomatoes that are starting to ripen .  We have Sweet 100, Money Maker, Black Krim and an unknown variety from my Mum's neighbour.
    4. Starting a new compost heap.  I have got coffee grinds for this as well as for snail/slug protection as I mentioned in a previous post.
    5. Pruning currants/raspberries/blackberry, and taking some cuttings for more plants.
    6. Clear space for a new berry garden.
    7. Sow some more carrots.
    8. Remove suckers from Hazelnuts.
    I am hoping that by writing down these it will motivate me to get things done.  It can be a challenge in between caring for bubs, taking Miss 6 here, there and everywhere, looking after the animals on our 7 acres, and everything else an "Undomestic Goddess" does!  I'll update my progress throughout the month.


    Friday, February 28, 2014

    What's cooking?

    While reinventing my blog I have taken the time to do some research.  AKA reading lots of blogs.  As I love cooking, a lot of the blogs I have come across discuss food, and more increasingly 'diets'. 

    I don't really like using the "D" word as I always think it implies an end date.  For me I try to strike a balance by not really classifying foods as bad or good.  Rather I aim to eat lots of fruit and vegetables, mostly home kill meat, and breads/cereals.  We do not have any food allergies or intolerances in our family so no foods are banned on this basis.  I guess I just try to eat most food in it's most natural state, but have to say I find it hard to give up potato chips!

    I love baking but there is so much talk these days about the detrimental effect of sugar, I have been looking at sugar free options.  I'm ok with honey as an alternative and have used this successfully to make bread.  However, it has become increasingly clear to me a lot of these 'sugar free" recipes are just that.  Free of sugar, but still contain a sugar like substance.  As I would prefer to eat food as nature intended I steer clear of artificial sweeteners like aspartame and it's various cousins.  I'm also wary of "syrups". How is corn or rice syrup created?  It reminds me of a comment I read regarding rice milk.  It was written by a raw milk advocate and they asked what a rice cow looked like.  Ok so not everyone uses cows milk for a variety of reasons but the point they were trying to make was more about the over processing of our foods and the impact that can have, particularly the rise of obesity and diabetes.

    That brings me to the Paleo diet, or cave man diet as some refer to it.  As it is the 21st century I'm not sure why we want to eat like cave men, but I think the basic premise is that we eat less processed and more "as nature intended it" foods, and avoiding grains, legumes and some dairy products.  Sad face.  I loooooove dairy products especially cheese so don't think it's for me.

    Paleo is a lot like the dietary guidelines from the Weston A Price Foundation (WAPF).  I have a copy of Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon which discusses a diet of saturated fats, fermented foods, soaked grains and fresh organic produce.  I think this one is more me, although as busy Mum I find it hard not to look for convenience at times.  I don't think my sweet tooth will allow me to completely eliminate any 'sugars' but certainly reducing them, or finding less refined options can't be a bad thing!

    Interesting! Where do u fall?
    Shared on Facebook by Eatplaylovemore via

    Friday, February 14, 2014

    My light bulb moment

    It is coming up 2 years since we moved to our 7 acres of paradise, so it seems like a good time to reflect on our journey thus far. 

    Reading Linda Cockburn's book Living the Good Life really started me on the journey I am on today. We were living on a quarter acre section in an urban area with dreams of a lifestyle block. The house wouldn't sell, I was dealing with Post Natal Depression and life didn't seem so great. And then the light came on.
    Reading Living the Good Life I realised I was putting my life on hold waiting for the dream property and then I would live a more self sufficient life. I had things round the wrong way. So I started living the way I wanted to, even if it was on a smaller scale. I got the vege garden well established, filled the glasshouse, learned how to preserve fruit, made jam, and did lots of research (and testing) of making things from scratch.  We even got some hens!  Somehow they made it all seem more real. 
    We did eventually sell our house, and pack up and move to 7 acres 10 minutes drive from the town we had been living in.  We certainly have no regrets about the move, but there are always jobs to be done so it is no walk in the park.  It is however, more that worth the effort when you sit down exhausted at the end of a busy day and know you have done an honest days work.
    We have learnt some lessons too in the short two years we have been on "the block".
    • Where there are livestock there are dead stock.
    • Never trust a goat.  They can leap over fences as tall as me and love nothing more than to eat my fruit trees!  I wouldn't be without them though.
    • Hens really do have a pecking order and if the top hen "exits stage left" it really unsettles the rest of the hens for a few days until another hen assumes the throne.
    • When it rains lots over 3 consecutive weeks, water can appear to be coming up from the ground in the strangest places.
    • Having a torch which works is really important because when you have animals to look after, going for midnight walks with your husband can be a regular occurence.
    • A 5 minute job will always take 60 minutes longer than that!
    • Goats can jump really high.  Especially if there is a fence to the orchard in the way.
    We have also learned a lot about ourselves too.
    • Chickens REALLY are good for the soul.
    • I missed living in the country.
    • Our daughter can sing incredibly loud.
    • When we need to we can work pretty well as a team.
    And finally
    • Baling twine really is the farmers duct tape.
    • I love baling twine and all it's various uses.
    • My husband does not like baling twine.
    • My husband is a perfectionist.  I am a "it'll be ok for now" fixer.  The two do not always work that well together.....


    Thursday, February 13, 2014

    10 ideas on how to stress less

    I found this yesterday on Facebook from The Organised Housewife.  It has some good simple advice for us all in a busy world, especially my current chaos with a 6 year old firecracker, and her 11 week old brother.

    10 ideas on how to stress less

    I would sum it up by saying "Do things that nourish you".  For me that is a walk, yoga, listening to music, gardening, cooking, reading and play time with family to name a few.

    With that in mind I'm enjoying a quiet afternoon inside as the rain has finally arrived.  Nice steady rain is a wonderful sound on the roof, especially when I spent an hour in the vege garden yesterday clearing weeds.  I took a before photo so you could see the wilderness I am working with!

    This morning I made some Damson Plum jam with plums Miss 6 and I picked the other day.  I also made a jar of Damson Liqueur. My Mum has put in an order for Damson Gin for her birthday so when I pick the rest I'll make her some.

    What have you done lately to nourish yourself? 

    Friday, February 7, 2014

    Attack of the killer snails

    Over the summer I have had terrible trouble with snails and/or slugs eating all my vegetable seedlings.  I lost 3 courgette plants in one night!  Needless to say I felt the need to do something about them and starting seeking out options.

    Of course there are commercial baits but I would prefer to be as chemical free as possible while still managing to salvage some vegetables.  I also have chooks that free range around the garden so I would prefer not to have pellets scattered round if I can avoid it.

    Some ideas I have heard of:
    - Cut an orange and leave in the garden.  Slugs love them and for whatever reason get stuck to them.  I tried this and got one slug.  Does this mean it doesn't work?  Well I'm not sure really.  It obviously got one but if I thought I was going to have loads of protein for my chooks I was mistaken.  I also seemed to create a fantastic home for ants.  On to plan B.

    - Go out at night with a torch and a bucket of salty water to drown snails.  I haven't tried this because I have a 10 week old baby and if I am not feeding him at night I am in bed.

    - Sprinkle coffee grounds around plants.  I like this idea as the coffee grounds will break down and condition the soil so it is a double whammy.  I'm collecting some coffee grounds from home but will also ask at my local cafĂ©. 

    I am going to try a comparison between commercial pellets and the coffee grounds and see if there is a marked difference.  This is sprouting broccoli on the left and Kale on the right with coffee sludge poured around the seedlings.  Lets see what happens.

    What other solutions have you heard of and/or tried?  I would love to hear.

    On a brighter note my tomatoes seem to be taking off and now starting to ripen.. Fantastic.  I have some Sweet 100 which are great for school lunches, and a tasty morsel on the way past the glasshouse, Money Maker and Black Krim.  Here's hoping for a good crop this year.

    Monday, February 3, 2014

    My new reality

    It's the first day back at school for my daughter today after the summer break.  I have to admit while we butted heads at times over the holidays it is VERY quiet this morning.  I put the wee fulla back into his bed when I got back from drop off and he has gone back to sleep!

    Soooooooo what to do.  Well most importantly have a coffee and something to eat in peace, listening only to the sound of the birds in the trees outside.  Mr Bellbird has gone AWOL this morning but there are plenty of others chirping on a lovely sunny day.

    Washing is already hung out.  Animals fed.  Lambs collected by Dad and taken to saleyards.

    Today is going to be a day for me and only me.  Well, interspersed with feeds for Dylan, collecting Miss 6 from the bus, making tea etc. 
    Coffee and morning tea finished and now updating blog.

    Maybe a to do list of goals for the week.
    1. Declutter and tidy pantry
    2. Clear space in garden and plant out broccoli and kale seedlings
    3. Read books/magazines/blogs
    4. Go for some walks
    5. Do some Yoga

    Right that is enough I feel.  Of course that is in addition to my normal everyday activities like copious washing (cloth nappies and baby clothes as Master 10 weeks has explosive bowels!!!), feeding animals, retrieving goats from neighbours, fixing electric fence that was wrecked when goats escaped into neighbours, cooking meals, and if any time left housework, and gardening.

    It just makes me feel tired looking at it.  Maybe I need to schedule in a nap this morning :)

    Tuesday, January 28, 2014

    Welcome 2014

    Happy New Year everyone!
    It's been a crazy start to the year for us as we welcomed the newest member of our human family at the end of November 2013.  Master D is now 8 weeks old and thriving.  Big sister has made some huge adjustments and is learning to share time with Mum and Dad with her brother.

    We had a wonderful family Christmas with both hubby and my sides of the family joining us for a Potluck lunch which we ate in hubbies new workshop.  That way I could have the house to myself for feeding etc.  We did the same thing when Miss 6 was born and it was brilliant and proved to be this time as well.  We were all exhausted at the end of the day with so much talking, laughing and eating!

    My garden that I had so carefully planted out in anticipation of the new arrival has been enjoyed by slugs and snails!  They even gobbled up my 4 courgette plants in one night!!  After watching River Cottage one night I tried Hugh's suggestion of cut oranges left out for the slugs.  I caught one which the chooks enjoyed and unfortunately created a lovely home for ants.  Oh dear....

    I have been stocking up on reading material for my Kindle and one day when I have 5 minutes I intend to read some.

    On my list are

    I have taken up a Challenge on Facebook to get rid of 2014 things in 2014. I'm up to about 170 so a wee way to go but it is a good challenge for me and therapeutic having the odd 30 minute speed clean.