Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

It's the end of 2010. The year has been quite a challenging one for us all here on Cabbage Tree Farm. Unfortunately this year the positive has been outweighed by the negative. I don't normally like to blog too much about personal matters. However since it is the end of the year I feel the need to divulge.
Earlier in the year I had a miscarriage which was hugely disappointing for us. We also had the anniversary of the death of D's brother in September. At the same time we had to deal with some very bad karma from our neighbours, after they accused G of doing something malicious (which he didn't do). The reasons behind their behaviour are still unclear, despite us asking them several times for an explanation. While this has been very stressful for all of us, it has - in a strange way - made us stronger as a family. It has reinforced to us that we need to look out for ourselves and focus more on what we are trying to achieve here on the farm. Produce as much food for ourselves as we can. Be less dependent on others, more self-sufficient. Make things when we can, buy less 'stuff'. And be happy with our 'lot'. You know the story.
So as you can imagine, we are looking forward to a new year, with a more positive outlook.
Wishing you the very best for 2011, and lots of good karma
Image from

Friday, December 24, 2010

Hoping for more chicks soon

One of the Araucana hens has gone broody, so we've taken the opportunity to buy some more fertile eggs for her to incubate. We have to wait for 21 days or thereabouts.

She's sitting well (so far) on 12 eggs, which are a mixture of different breeds - x3 each of Rhode Island Red, Plymouth Barred Rock, Barnevelder, and Light Sussex.

We intend to raise the hatched chicks for table birds, however I am excited about the Barnevelder breed, they lay dark brown eggs. So if we get a hen, I might keep just one!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Lunar eclipse and solstice

Today it was the Summer solstice here in NZ, also known as the longest day. Boy was it a hot one. Windy too.
But tonight the wind had dropped and with no clouds in the Eastern sky we were lucky enough to enjoy the rare lunar eclipse.
This photo does not do it justice at all, but it's the best we could get:

Red moon rising (light to bottom left is a house)
Just now (10pm) I've looked out again and the moon is getting brighter (coming out of the eclipse), with a bright crescent appearing at the bottom right, it looks pretty stunning with the constellation Orion just above.
Should be some good photos available on the net soon.
Happy Solstice folks!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Before and after in the new veg garden

Here is the rather bare view back on 12 Nov:

And here it is today. The zucchini (in foreground) and pumpkins are doing quite well. The sunflowers all in flower as of yesterday, corn to the rear left.

Newly planted tomatoes, basil and lettuces.
Same view today, grapevine to right of picture.

The soil is in pretty good condition as a result of all the pig manure (as this was the pig sty area for the piglets for a few months). We should hopefully get a few tomatoes this year if we can keep a handle on the bugs. Mind you saying that it has been very humid already this summer, usually that does not bode well for tomatoes.. But who knows, we'll keep optimistic! In between the tomatoes I've planted some lettuces, and loads of basil, the essential summer ingredient especially with vine ripened homegrown beautifully fresh tomatoes......(Drool) Can't wait!
Hope your gardens are all doing well, especially with all the recent rains if you are in this neck of the woods.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Soap update

The soaps came out easily from their molds

Ready for curing
Here are a couple of photos of the soap I made yesterday. I'm quite pleased with the result for a first attempt. The soap came out of the molds really easily. After slicing the soap made in the loaf pan into bars (approx 130g each) and also one of the oval sour cream shapes in 2, we ended up with 13 good-sized bars of lavender scented soap.
Now it has to cure for 3-6 wks, until the ph is 9.5 (or close to it) so that it isn't too alkaline, which can be a bit harsh on the skin.

The smell is fantastic!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Making my first batch of soap

So as it was raining today and I was home by myself for a change, I took the opportunity to have a go at making some soap.
I used this Cold-pressed Castille Soap recipe. The only addition was some dried lavender flowers which I thought I would experiment with on one surface. I sprinkled these liberally in the base of 2 molds.
The only thing I hadn't really considered well was the use of the silicone loaf pan as a mold. It didn't keep it's shape when I poured in the soap. However, I'm hoping the silicone makes for easy release of the soap when it's ready to be cut into bars. I didn't use the other loaf tin as it was not required and I chose to use the silicone one instead..
This was a practice run before I try with the tallow I made recently (will post on that soon).
Here are a few photos:
The molds in readiness

Using the stick blender to combine oil and lye

The filled molds
I really enjoyed making the soap as I've been wanting to do it for a while now, the rainy weather certainly helped motivate me, but it also made it pleasantly cool to work. Of course I've still got to use it to see the results but from my initial attempt today I know soap making is going to feature frequently here at Cabbage Tree Farm.


At last after weeks and weeks of very dry weather (officially declared a drought here in Northland), we woke up this morning to lovely rain.
It's been raining fairly steadily since about mid morning and has just turned to light rain/drizzle now.
Our rain gauge even has water in it!!
The plants/fruit trees will have had a nice drink. It would be even better if we got some more rain over the next 24 hours to really make a difference to the dry conditions.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Rustic peach tart

G had to pick all the peaches off the tree since the birds were going for them and really doing a bit of damage to the fruit. A bit of a shame since some of them would be better if they were riper. We will have to get some bird deterrents sorted for next season as even with the netting on the tree, the birds were able to get through to the fruit.

So with a large bowlful of peaches on hand, I was able to knock up this peach tart for dinner this evening. It was pretty good. We had it with a dollop of homemade vanilla ice cream.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Update on big fire

I found this article about the big fire that was pictured in my last post. 115 hectares of forest (guessing it's pine). When I got up this morning I could smell the smoke and there was a haze.
See this link for the article.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Big fire on the horizon at sunset plus crescent moon

This was our sunset tonight. Somewhere in the distance, someone was having a HUGE fire!
Crescent moon just visible top right of bottom photo.

Mystery flower - mystery solved!

While checking out the suggestion from Killcrankie Farm that it might be a Tigridia, I found this link.

Looks as though the plant is actually a Neomarica caerulea, native to Brazil. The flowers are short lived, in fact this one only lasted a day.

Hoorah, I'm so pleased to discover what it is as I hate not knowing!
Thanks everyone for your suggestions.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Peaches from the orchard

We've starting picking the first peaches of the season from our orchard. They are just as sweet and juicy as you would imagine them to be. The name of the peach is a bit of a mystery however. The trees we planted were labeled 'Nectarine Early Red' (an earlier post I had a photo of the tree with this name as the caption). So unfortunately we are none the wiser. But it won't affect us eating them however!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Mystery flower

Does anyone know the name of this iris-like flowering plant?

Saturday, December 4, 2010


 This was the ham I prepared yesterday. It took about 4 hours to boil it, then another hour in the oven with the glaze. This was the first time I'd cooked and glazed a ham and am reasonably happy with it, perhaps next time I should do it for longer in the oven (or higher temp) as the fat was a little 'wobbly' not firm. But apart from that, the verdict from G was 'the best ham he's ever eaten' so it was a pretty good result. Our butcher did a good job on preparing the meat for us, the ham has a nice smokey flavour.

And I made a potato salad with chives to go with it - borage, calendular and nasturtium flowers on only 1/2 as I am more a fan than G!


G went out on the boat yesterday and came back with these:

We had them simply sauteed in a little butter as a starter for our meal last night, yum!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Meat in the freezer!

We picked up the remainder of the pork from the butcher, all the bacon and hams. So far we have tried the pork chops and pork fingers (belly strips) which were very nice. Looking forward to the smokey bacon! I will be cooking up one of the hams (and glazing it, something I haven't tried before) any day now.

We also collected our beef (1/2 beast as 'payment' for having the heifers graze our land), so the freezer is pretty full now! So we have lots of lovely steak, mince, stewing meat and roasts to see us through for a few months.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Some veg and flower pics

'Wando' pea
Bean 'Shining Fardenosa', capsicums in background

Swan plant to attract the Monarch butterflies
Thyme in full flower
Potato patch looking good
Flowering coriander
Nectarine 'Early Red'
Peach 'Black Boy'
Beautiful bearded iris - not sure of variety - was a gift from mother-in-law.
And this one is for Harvey who left a comment asking how my Tsasoniki eggplants were doing.. Well they are taking their time to get growing, maybe too dry despite my efforts to water them! -
Eggplant 'Tsasoniki'

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Fresh peas

Our very first pea harvest!

A nice bowl of freshly podded peas
These are the 'Wando Select' peas I sowed back in September. I'm kind of wishing I'd put in more, but at least we will get to enjoy a few more meals with fresh peas yet. They are nice and big too. They are the first peas I have grown, and will definitely feature in next year's Spring garden. I'm not sure if I left them just a wee bit too long for harvesting as some of the pods had started to go a slight bit wrinkly, but the peas inside looked and tasted just fine!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Time at the beach

Yesterday we did our usual run up to Whangarei to do some shopping and on the way home we stopped off at Uretiti beach on the East coast. How wonderful to be able to pull off the main highway and after a short walk through the dunes, this beautiful place. Much enjoyment had, especially by D!

Broad bean harvest

I harvested the remainder of the broad beans yesterday, got about 3 bucket loads of beans which are now shelled and in the freezer. This was my first attempt at growing broad beans and on the whole I thought they were quite successful. Note for next time: stake them well despite growing 'dwarf' varieties as the wind does tend to knock them about!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Re-cap on the pig butchering - with photos

I didn't post any pictures of the pigs/pork on my last post so here they are now.

A finished pig ready for the butcher

A nice pork shoulder roast!
We are just waiting on the bacon and hams now. Have quite a lot of roasts and chops in the freezer.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Update mid November

We've been busy planting. Trees mainly, getting them in before the summer heat kicks in for real, although it has been fairly hot and dry already. We did get a slight dowsing of rain today - hoorah! and it has been a bit cloudy for the last couple of days. We (this is the royal 'we' here, as G has done most of the hard work!) have been planting all types of native tree, in various spots around the farm. In a few years time (and it doesn't really take long) they will be flourishing, and providing us with shelter and privacy, plus attracting the birdlife.

Taraire tree being planted and watered

I've also been busy working away in the veg garden, getting in some more veg, zucchini, chillies, capsicum, eggplants and herbs. I have some more watermelon seeds coming up and will plant these with the others ASAP. The pumpkins, corn, melons and tomatoes are all doing really well in the old pig area.

Also today was a big day as the pigs were slaughtered (stop reading now if you are squeamish!). G had a friend help him and in no time the pigs were dealt to and hair removed by soaking them in a boiling hot bath, then they were hung up and gutted. Now they are with the butcher and next week we should have some lovely bacon, pork and hams to fill the freezer and enjoy over the next few months.

While killing animals is never a pleasant job, we can feel good about the fact that the pigs enjoyed a free-range natural environment with plenty of fresh air, good food and the occasional head scratch! Sadly the bulk of commercially available pork in NZ is not from happy pigs (see here for more info).

And in terms of permaculture, we closed the circle by burying their remains in the old pig area now the new veg garden, next to the pumpkin patch. Thank you piggies.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Our life on the land

It's sometimes hard to explain to people in a nutshell what we're attempting to do on our land. Especially those whose lifestyles are far removed from ours.

We've learned a lot of things in the few years we've been working the land. We've also made lots of mistakes!

I think this post on the interesting Freedom Gardens website, and this short video sum it up very well.

Happy Growing!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Spring pasta dish

I harvested some of the broad beans last night:

I cooked them briefly, then added them to our dinner, which was smoked chicken tagliatelle (homemade pasta), with a little chilli, garlic and onion cooked in a creamy white wine sauce, topped off with some grated Romano cheese:

Went down pretty well!