Friday, December 23, 2011

Solstic sunset

Hi everyone

Yesterday (the 22nd) was our Summer Solstice here in the Southern Hemisphere. Also known as the longest day. We enjoyed this beautiful sunset:

Hope you all have a great Xmas, with plenty of good food and company!

I am finally posting this photo of our very modest Xmas tree, linking to veggiegobbler's Festive Fallen Branch Friday over here! Not strictly a 'fallen' branch, it's a bit of native Totara that needed pruning from beside a walkway. D thinks it looks good anyway and that's all that counts! Mind you, that could have something to do with all the presents underneath...........!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Pohutukawa flower

Sorry it took me a few days to get this photo, has been so windy and all the shots I took were blurred, then it rained and rained..!
Anyway, here is a close up of the flower as requested:
Busy time of the year for most folk. I am busy preparing last minute food gifts and will be wrapping presents to go under the tree - like to leave it to the last possible minute! It's a shame I am working this year but D and G will be enjoying Christmas dinner with his family while I sleep!
Hope you all have a lovely Christmas. We will probably celebrate the Summer Solstice on the 22nd too!
Season's Greetings everyone!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Baby chicks again!

We moved our chickens to another area a few months ago. Since then one or two of them have flown the coop on occasion and gone walkabout. One of our old hens, an Indian Game, went missing and we were wondering where she was.
Well G found her the other day, near to the old coop but hiding in a spot near a fence. It was as we'd thought, she was incubating some eggs. And as of today she has 5 little chicks!

We've put her and the chicks into a little coop of their own to keep them safe from predators like stoats, wild cats and harrier hawks. When they get a little older we'll move them in with the other birds.

It was raining all day long today which is great for us. The plants have all had a good drink and should grow well now. Oops have just see the news about Nelson and the flooding/landslides..... not good for those down there at all. 2 months of rainfall in one day...YIKES.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Pohutukawa in flower

December is the month when we get a special treat. It's looking at all the beautiful crimson flowers that are blossoming on the native Pohutukawa trees (sometimes known as the NZ Christmas tree).
Here is a photo of one of our young trees, which is flowering for the first time this year:
We have planted lots of these, as hedging, so in a few years they will look stunning when all in flower.

Here is a bigger tree down at the local beachfront:
And one up in Whangarei (our nearest big town):
For a little more on the NZ Pohutukawa tree see here.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Another batch of soap

Over the weekend I got around to mixing up another batch of soap.

This is my third time of soap making. So far I'm sticking to this basic castile recipe, which has worked really well so far. Previously I have added in lavender oil, but this time I left it pure, just the olive oil and lye. The reason for this is that I want to hand-mill the soap to add in other things, such as botanicals like the calendula petals I added to the round soaps in the photo. The soap on the left is the pure castile, and I used a silicone loaf pan and roughly cut it into slices since it will be grated and melted in the near future.

Hand milling involves grating the soap then adding water and melting it before adding in additional ingredients. With this method since you are using pre-made soap, you don't need to take all the precautions you would when making soap adding lye (caustic soda), such as protective eye wear and clothing, also I usually put newspaper everywhere just in case of spills.

This was my first try at hand milling and I am quite pleased with the result, although have not yet tried the soap, it still needs to dry a little more. I didn't use any colourants, it just looks this colour from adding the  calendula petals.

I want to experiment a little more with hand milling, on my list is rosemary soap (with rosemary leaves) and a citrus soap (maybe lime and coconut). I also want to get some better soap molds so will be on the look out for these on my next trip to the shops.
Does anyone have any good soap recipes/tips?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Liebster award

As Shaheen over at A2K - Allotment 2 Kitchen says she is not eligible for this award - having more than 200 followers, I therefore chose Laura at Our Wee Farm (but I also don't know how many followers she has...!!) So Laura if you are eligible, please accept the award. I always enjoy your posts even though I don't always leave a comment!

Friday, December 9, 2011

And I pass the Liebster blog award on to...

These 5 blogs (in no particular order):

Mrs Mac over at The Thrifty Garden/Home

Providence Acres Farm

Shaheen over at A2K - Allotment 2 Kitchen

BLD in MT: Living a Simpler Life in This Interconnected World

Ruth at Deep Into the Darkness Peering

I'm not actually sure how many followers they have, but if you haven't already visited, check them out!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

I've been given an award!

I've been given an award. Maa over at Maas Journal thought my blog worthy of the Liebster Blog award. This award is, as I understand it, to promote less well known blogs (or at least those having less than 200 followers) on the blogosphere.
I'm honoured. Thanks Maa!
Now I will have to think about 5 blogs I visit to nominate for the same award.....back soon!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Salt lick for the cows

Check out our cows enjoying their Himalayan salt lick we got for them today!

Himalayan salt contains no less than 84 minerals, so apart from giving the cows something to do, it's also very good for them.

Thank you to my niece L (who is a qualified animal behaviour expert) for suggesting we get them a salt lick.  We now have some curious, and presumably, happy cows!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Rosemary and mezzaluna

One of my favourite new(ish) kitchen gadgets is this mezzaluna. The word mezzaluna means 'half moon' in Italian. It's great to use, and nice and stable with the twin blades (you can buy them with just the single blade).The concave board is made of coconut wood.

The mezzaluna makes short work of chopping herbs like this rosemary in the photo. I made foccacia (bread) today and topped it with olive oil (from olives grown by our neighbours W & P - lucky us!), rosemary from the garden and some sea salt (I use a brand that mixes NZ and Celtic sea salts with sea kelp).

I have quite a few rosemary bushes this year 3 in the ground and 2 in largish pots. The 2 in pots though are much smaller and obviously stunted. I'm not sure if I should keep them in the pots or plant them in the ground and free up the pots for the 2 gardenias we bought recently. Has anyone grown gardenias in pots and if so how big do the pots need to be?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sculpture in the park

I don't know the name of the artist who created this this fine looking piece. It is on display at a new park up in Whangarei. The Heritage Trail and Art Walk is at Hihiaua peninsula down in the town basin, alongside the Hatea river. I guess next time there might be a bit more information available, hope so anyway. I'll take some more photos of the other works too, a bit hard to capture them well with my camera (or is it just my photography skills - or lack of?!).

This sculpture was one of two standing close together, and standing tall too, around 5m high at a guess.

The Maori name Hihiaua apparently means 'fishbait'.

There was a lot of Maori history to read and take in, I definitely need to go back to spend longer there.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

We've been busy shelling peas and broad beans here on CTF. A job that D enjoys helping me with luckily. While the pea harvest has not been huge (note to self - grow more next Autumn/Winter!), what we have had we've really enjoyed.

Broad beans (fava beans), on the other hand, there are no shortage of, since I put in lots of plants with a view to not only eating the beans but to improving the soil - the roots have wee nodules that supply nitrogen to the soil. I have a few broad bean recipes I'm keen to try out, such as falafels (made combined with the usual chick peas), linguine with broad beans, bacon and mint, and ham hock with chorizo and broad beans. Not everyone in the household is quite so keen on them as me though, so I might have to make 'dinner for one'!

These frilly lavender blue sweet peas are just starting to bloom, their scent is delicious!

Other flowers in the garden at present are these geraniums:

Gardenias -
And this lovely pink petunia (thanks to my mother in law), which is called 'Raspberry Blast' -

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Out and about

Yesterday we visited Omeru Pa Scenic Reserve which we stopped in at (it's on State Highway 16) on our way home from Helensville. Helensville (originally known as Te Awaroa - The Valley of the Long River) is further south in Kaipara (see this map). There is some interesting information here about the Omeru Pa Scenic Reserve. I particularly like the Maori proverb at the beginning.

We all enjoyed exploring the old Maori settlement (hilltop fort), D climbed to the top at the earliest opportunity, we all walked through the bush, over bridges and up close to the waterfall. Magical.

Waitangi Falls
Waitangi Falls

D at the top of the Pa site

Panoramic view from the top of the Pa.
Interestingly there were some old fig trees growing on the side of the hill. Wonder how come they got to be there.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Garden notes for early Nov

Big bag of fresh broad beans (plus chive flower!)

Today D and I have been harvesting some of the broad beans which are starting to get to a reasonable size now (maybe a little on the small side but that's OK!). I will be giving away quite a lot of beans as there are many more to come, and I will probably freeze a few for us to have later too. We enjoyed some tonight with our beef stew (done in the slow cooker) and some mashed potatoes.

I've been doing some much-needed weeding up in the veg garden and am busy putting in some veg. D wanted his own garden this year so we are working on that at the moment. I will post some photos once we have worked on it a little more. He is quite enthusiastic about it, lugging up his watering can and watering the little seedlings. He even planted his cucumber plant all by himself (unbeknown to me until later!). So far in his garden we have peas, lettuce, corn, capsicum, cucumber, tomatoes and basil, dwarf beans and some sweet peas. D will be sowing some flower seeds too. He has also planted some 'King Kong' sunflowers along the fence. Can't wait to see it established.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Flowers at the beach

Just a few photos of some lovely pink flowers at Uretiti Beach (about 1/2 hr drive from us here at CTF). Aren't they gorgeous?

Have a great Sunday folks.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Where to start?

I've been away so long it's hard to know where to start!

Sorry for the long absence, I've been up to stuff ,but nothing particularly interesting to report on. Also have been working some extra nights at the rest home so that has gobbled up a lot of my time.

I used up the last of the stored pumpkins from last season, they kept remarkably well, although the woodlice/slaters did start to invade. I made us a lovely pumpkin pie a couple of weeks ago. I still have a few chunks and pulp of pumpkin stored in the freezer, no doubt another pie will be in the making soon (maybe Halloween if I have time). Outside I have a few pumpkin seedlings coming up for planting this year, and am growing the same varieties again - Musquee du Provence and Queensland Blue. When we get pigs again next year these will be useful food for them - as well as us of course!

I harvested some of the globe artichokes from the garden and with rather a lot on hand decided I would try making some soup. Previously we've just have them boiled with hollandaise sauce. I followed a recipe from my book How to Store Your Garden Produce by Piers Warren. Unfortunately it did not turn out well though, I think the problem was I used quite large artichokes and the result was a very woody mush despite going through the food processor, and when I sieved it I was left with only a tiny dribble of very thin artichoke 'milk'. Not a good result!! There must be some other recipes out there to try, or perhaps I should try again with smaller chokes.. I hasten to add that How to Store Your Garden Produce is, however, a very interesting and useful book! Does anyone have any tips/recipes for globe artichokes?

Lovely large artichokes

A lovely large mess!
We've also had Scottish shortbread. I dug out my wooden mold to make this one day:

I've been out in the garden when I can, lately digging up purple carrots, some of which are quite big, and hopefully not too 'woody'.

I'll be working up in the garden digging over the next few days as will be needing the space for summer veg soon. Plus by leaving all the weeds etc I'm providing a nice habitat for lots of snails and slugs..... I went on patrol last night and squished lots. Had to resort to slug bait around my pea seedlings as they are getting munched.

Today D and I made these Rocky Road cookies. We found a packet of mini marshmallows in the pantry, but I didn't have enough chocolate on hand to make true Rocky Road. Anyway, I found this recipe on the net (thank you Rachel) and we whipped them up in no time, actually D did most of the work on these. Here he is mixing in the marshmallows:

 And here are the cooked cookies:

OK I'll finish here. Hope all's well with everyone.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Normal transmission will resume shortly...

Yes I am still alive! Sorry folks for being offline for so long........will be back soon!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

What is a cabbage tree?

I'm resurrecting this old post to clarify just what a 'cabbage tree' as we know them, actually is.

In the southwest of England they are known as Torquay palms, but in fact are not a palm tree at all. They are a giant lilly.

They like wet conditions and so I planted out a whole lot in a boggy patch on our property. These ones are about 6 years old:

Small boy in photo shows scale!

Spring is....beautiful yellow kowhai

Just a short post to show this photo of the native kowhai trees which are in flower at present. These trees are at the bottom of our property in the 'wetland' (or what used to be wetland prior to it being turned over to farming). It would be just fabulous to see the foreground filled up with cabbage trees at some point in the future. But that's a big project for later on, we are still busy with landscaping our immediate surroundings!

Have a lovely day everyone.

Friday, September 23, 2011

On my mind

Those aren't weeds at the back that's coriander!

On my mind (mostly!) today is weeding. I've been up in the garden, at long last getting stuck into some much required weeding. I need a few more hours of hard labouring to get it looking better. Weeding (as G will gladly testify) is NOT my strong point. I see weeds and think "must get onto a bit of weeding soon" but then they grow so rapidly and spread everywhere, including the paths, that the job becomes a mammoth one and I procrastinate about doing it *sigh*.

However, this lovely sunny Spring morning I felt motivated to make a bit of headway with the long garden bed along the fence. I removed some shallots and replanted them elsewhere, dug right along removing weeds as I went, and left the 2 blueberry plants (was going to move them but it's too late now), a chilli plant which has a solitary chilli on it, my 2 hop bines, some lemon balm (although this is growing everywhere now and is invasive like mint) and some marjoram. I think I might put some peas, beetroot and lettuce along here with some calendula.
The job is by no means finished but it's a start!

Linking to Rhondas blog.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Bring home the bacon


Last night hubby collected the pork from the butcher (from our 2 pigs). We only just fitted everything into our 2 freezers (with existing fish/beef/lamb/pork). Now we have loads of delicious smoked bacon again! We also got some roasts, chops and a few hams.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Important - proposed Food Bill

Not content with meddling with our food by allowing GE into the food chain, the Govt is now wanting to restrict our right to trade seeds, food and natural remedies, making it harder to sell produce at markets etc......
Anyone from NZ should read this info about the Food Bill. Many thanks to from Romi at Kaiwaka Organics for permission to use the following text:


The government is being directed to take away some of the rights that you thought were eternal and inalienable. This will effect all of us. If you want to save seeds from your garden and share them
with other gardeners or seed banks this will effect you.

The Food Bill 160-2 (2010) is before parliament and has already passed through one reading and recommendations of the assigned committee have been made to parliament. This means that it is due to go for it’s second reading at parliament with the recommendations integrated into it. It could easily be mistaken for a Bill designed with public safety in mind, but a closer look reveals that this Bill would put an end to your basic right to freely share our food, seeds, and natural remedies.
Anyone selling their own produce would be required to gain legal authorisation to do so, at a cost. Small scale growers and sellers at farmers' markets would be hit with increased costs of compliance, that would of course push up food prices. hurting the growers and the buyers of produce. Not being legally allowed to share seeds without authorisation will discourage diversity of seeds, encouraging homogenisation of seed stock. This would provide massive market advantage to multinational seed corporations such as Monsanto.
You may wonder why the NZ government would want to push this bill through.There are many reasons, but the main reason being presented is that we must comply with the the rules set out for us in the World Trade
Organisation (WTO) which the the NZ government is a signatory to. So why is the WTO so important?
The WTO is the corporate/elite police which rules 'Free Trade', supervising tariffs, subsidies and export barriers. It’s rulings usually favour the US, it upholds the $US as the global reserve currency. This is the same struggle that is going on all around the world, involving 100s of millions of poor people, and it has been hidden from us by our media.
If this all seems surreal and overwhelming to you, you are not alone. This Bill is not yet law, and despite formal public submissions being closed (though few of us heard about it when the submissions were open), it is not too late for those opposed to the Bill to make our voices heard and have a very real impact on parliament as they consider it’s merits.
What can we do about this attack on our fundamental rights to food sovereignty? While there is very narrow provision within the law to opt out of this proposed law being enforced upon individuals this simply is not enough. We believe that it must be stopped! The law can be changed. This is a call out to everyone to get ready to take action.

Sign the petition on line:

We encourage everyone to forward this email to as many people as possible
There is some helpful analysis and other useful information available here:

You can also get an update from Sue Kedgley's blog:

And you may also want to visit:

Monday, September 19, 2011

Our hols and some pics

Hi everyone, I'm back from hols. We had a nice little tour around, visited our lovely friends and had a break from the daily grind on the farm and our paid work.

Get this though, we got all the way to Mt Ruapehu and then could not get up the mountain as the road was closed because of snow and ice on the road.......GO FIGURE..! Not sure what the tourists here for the Rugby World Cup would think of that!! We were not impressed and D was disappointed. However we did manage to find a smattering of snow nearby so he could throw snowballs!


We really enjoyed the beautiful scenery:

Tongariro National Park

Bush (native forest)

We happened upon the Old Coach Road and drove along it as far as we could following the track along farmland. We reached a gate and went through on foot and shortly we came across a beautiful sight:

Mountain Cabbage Trees

Just fabulous! We'd never seen so many together like this.

More beautiful bush and a mountain stream

Snow-capped mountains

Lake Taupo

Thermal activity by lake
The week went very quickly indeed. Now we are back on the farm, and it will be time to swing into action again with so many jobs still to do before the heat of the summer kicks in. We have just had a big thunder storm pass over so a hoorah for a bit more much needed rain water in the tank, but it has been a pretty dry Winter so we are conscious of the fact we don't have a lot at present. Getting the veg garden in order, seedlings underway/planted and also planting the last of the trees/plants we have sitting around the place will be our priority. Sometimes it feels like we're not making a lot of progress, but I guess we'll get there someday!

And lastly here is our lovely view of the kowhai trees with their yellow flowers. They blossom every Spring in early September and put on such a great show all along the wetland area at the bottom of our property.