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?