Thursday, December 27, 2012

A little post Xmas update

Hoping everyone had a pleasant Xmas day. Ours was good despite the warm, humid, windy & wet weather from the remnants of the tropical Cyclone that hit Fiji a couple of weeks ago.

Just thought I would post a few photos from around the farm. Here is our cattle - 2 cows and 1 steer:

They've been enjoying some flax (Phormium tenax/native harakeke) which I try to feed them on a daily basis, it's supposed to be good for them as I recall reading somewhere. They come running to me now in anticipation of a few leaves! Also they've got a Himalayan salt lick in their paddock (not in these photos) which has lots of minerals.

My Grosso lavandin/lavender hedge is doing quite well. According to the information I've read about it, Grosso is a relatively slow growing lavandin but considering it was only planted at the start of the year , it hasn't done too badly. The plants at the top and bottom of the hedge are doing the best, while the ones in the middle are a bit smaller - maybe it's drier there or soil not so good. Anyway, I shall cut the lavender on the next dry/sunny day and give the plants a feed. The mulch I put down a few months ago which looked great at the time has long since been scattered by birds and rabbits..! Never mind, it has kept them a little less dry, and the weeds down.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Summer Solstice

Today is our Summer Solstice here in the NZ (the 'shortest LONGEST day'), looks to be a beautiful day outside. Hope all is well with everyone and that your Christmas preparations are going well, the stress levels not too high! Always a busy time here in NZ, what with school holidays, summer and Christmas all at the same time.

I've been fairly busy here, doing the occasional spot of gardening, most of the veg are coming along nicely. We are getting regular zucchini (hoorah for zucchini!). I planted the ribbed Italian Costata Romanesco again this year which I think has better flavour that the smooth skinned varieties.

We've also eating beans, lettuces, herbs, spinach/rainbow chard. Cucumbers, chillies and tomatoes are in the wings. Pumpkins, corn, squash and more beans are coming along nicely. Hopefully we should get a good harvest of pumpkins for next year's pigs.

And here's a photo of the lovely hollyhocks, they are very tall (over 6 feet) and deep purple almost black. They obviously like the spot I've got them in. Might grow some other colours further along the fence next year.

Anyway, wishing you all a very enjoyable festive season and all the best for 2013.

Saturday, December 1, 2012


Just thought I would share this photo of our new hop structure. I started out with 2 plants 3 years ago, and had planted them temporarily in the veg garden up against a wall. While this worked reasonably well and they grew rampantly and produced lots of hops, harvesting them was another matter. Because the vines (or bines as they are correctly known) all wrapped around each other even though I had a string for them to climb along, harvesting was difficult as the hops were all tangled up together. It took ages, and that was just with 2 plants.

After a bit of research on the net, I decided the above structure would be simplest to build while letting the hops 'do their thing' i.e. grow skywards at a very fast pace! Come time to harvest the hops, all we/I have to do is undo the rope from one of the poles and lower the whole thing down - a bit like an old-fashioned washing line I guess. I can't take any credit for this other than finding the design, as hubby built the whole thing for me! (Isn't he wonderful :-))

We now have 9 hop plants, 2 are doing great guns and have already reached the top of the strings (they are the original ones) and I have another 2 of this variety (Pacific Hallertau) which I took as root divisions when we moved them. The other varieties are Sticklebract (x3 plants) and Smoothcone (x2 plants).

I've noticed that there don't seem to be many varieties available to purchase, while there are in fact quite a lot of commercial varieties. Maybe it's just a question of knowing where to get them. I'll do some further research on that. Meanwhile, if these 9 plants do well this year we should have a good hop harvest.

What to do with all the hops........I guess I'll just HAVE to make that beer!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Passionfruit syrup cakes

I was sent this recipe* from G's aunt L (thanks L!) and tried it out today. I don't have mini loaf tins so I used friand tins instead. The recipe made 12 of them. Note: for the mini loaf size the recipe says it makes just 8.

1 cup SR flour
1 cup desiccated coconut (I had only thread)
1 cup caster sugar
125g butter, melted
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
pulp of 2 passionfruit
2 Tbspns lime or lemon zest

1 cup water
 3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup lime or lemon juice
pulp of 4 passionfruit (I omitted this)
1 Tbspn lime or lemon zest

Preheat oven to 180 deg C. Grease tins. Combine flour, sugar, coconut in a large bowl. Add eggs, butter, passionfruit, milk, zest. Mix lightly until combined. Pour into tins. Bake for 15-20mins. Meanwhile make syrup. Combine all ingredients in pan, stir constantly over low heat to dissolve sugar, then raise heat and bring to boil. Boil for about 5mins until becomes syrupy. Pour over hot cakes while still in tin and leave to cool for about 10 mins. Remove and cool completely on wire rack.

The verdict, very nice light cakes. If you don't like the crunch of the passionfruit seeds, sieve the pulp before using.

* Unsure of the origin of the recipe it came out of a magazine.
** NOTE - I didn't use all of the syrup over the cakes as I had too much, just a few small spoonfuls over each one is sufficient. Maybe I didn't boil it long enough to reduce down. I leave it to your judgement!

Friday, November 2, 2012

First blooms of my old fashioned rose

Flower bud just opening

Fully opened a day later
I just thought I'd share these photos. This is a bloom off my rose 'De La Grifferaie" - checking out its history it's an old fashioned rambler rose from 1845. This rose is currently growing along a wall in the veg garden - well I guess it is a potager really since I also grow flowers and herbs in amongst all the veg. Anyway, I planted this rose about a year ago and it now has quite a few blooms on it, with more to come. It has quite a good perfume, and is a lovely shade of pink.

I'd love to have a rose garden sometime in the future. There sure are plenty to chose from! What's your favourite rose?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Orange juice surprise

The other day a work friend gave me some oranges from her garden. At the time she told me they were Clementines, but when I cut them in half I was surprised to find the flesh inside was a dark orange/red  colour. When juiced up the 'orange' juice was dark red! (I've got my little helper doing the juicing in this photo shot!).

So I guess the orange must be a type of 'Blood' orange. The juice was absolutely delicious. Shame there was only enough for a couple of glasses!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Hops - sleep pillow

Filling the pillow

Back in March I harvested the hops from my 2 plants (see this post). Well I dried some of the hops and froze them for later use. Turns out 'later use' is not until now.......! I haven't managed to venture in beer brewing as yet (still on the 'must do' list however!). But since I often suffer from insomnia (probably due to working night shift) I thought it was high time I got my act together to make a wee sleep pillow. It probably took me all of 10 minutes!!!

Finished hop pillow
Hopefully it will help me get a better night's sleep!

More posts on hops to come..

Thursday, October 11, 2012

3 little pigs

OK well they're not quite so little now!! In a couple of weeks they will be approximately 6 months old. The two on the right are the Tamworths and the one on the left is the Duroc. It was hard to tell them apart for a while, until I discovered the Duroc has a pale smudge on her snout.

Compared to the photo from when they arrived and were just 8 weeks old they are quite a bit larger.

They have really done a great job of digging over the soil in their run, and yesterday we filled up some of their holes with water so they could have a nice wallow!

They also like to drink the muddy water too.........despite trying to keep their trough water clean they usually stand in it. They don't seem to worry though!

We also topped up their hay and they had a great time rolling and playing in a big pile, wagging their tails all the while.

I think they are 3 very happy pigs don't you?!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Spring flowers and update

Just to share a few photos taken recently:

Large kowhai in flower at bottom of our property

Flowers on one of the kowhai trees we planted in our garden

Flowering cherry (Prunus)
The cherry tree above is a street tree in a nearby town, shown here in full bloom - it was providing food for loads of bees - the hum was audible! Also the native bird Tui - there were several feeding, but it wasn't easy to capture them on my cellphone camera.

We've been reasonably busy outside. G has planted lots of trees and flax which has also involved a lot of mowing and weed-eating. I have been tackling the overgrown vege garden beds when time permits, digging, weeding and putting on compost and mulch. Always so much to do and so little time!

You'll notice the orange flowers to the right, these are calendula (pot marigold) which self-seeds freely. I don't mind that as I use the flowers and they feed the bees, but the lemon balm in the's lovely BUT will pop up everywhere given a chance and is invasive like mint. I think I might dig it all up and grow it in a large pot instead of the garden. Also self-seeding is the Iceland poppy (orange flowers in top/middle of picture), and borage (blue flowers). Periodically I get brutal and rip up these, which is a shame for the bees, but I need growing space in the garden! I've moved the blueberries to a better spot and they seem to be doing well. Also had to dig up the hop bines which were along the fence to the right. Thought that was a good spot originally, but they also get quite invasive, the roots spread quite a distance and put up new bines, great if I wanted it my own brewery, but I really only want them for craft (sleep pillows and floral decorations) and maybe the odd batch of homebrew. So these came out and now I have to figure out where to plant them where they won't create any problems..and of course they need some kind of structure on which to climb.

A few other photos from the garden:


Nasturtium flower

Carnations (pinks)

In the citrus orchard we've harvested a good amount of lemonades (a type of lemon) off our small tree and the Rangpur limes are doing well as usual. I've taken a few lemons off the other trees too (Yen Ben is one variety). We also got a few grapefruit this year. The 'Cutlers Red' were particularly tasty:

Cutlers Red grapefruit
I juiced up a few of these and the juice was delicious. The lemonades will also get juiced and the juice frozen for later use. We enjoy homemade lemonade in the summer months and it will be a lot easier to make it with the juice already at hand.

The clay bank next to the garden
The clay bank is looking a bit more presentable, filling out with plants and flowers. I'm not sure about the geraniums, as pretty as they are they do tend to get quite woody. I think they are better in pots, Mediterranean style. On the plus side they take really easily from cuttings. A while back I planted a hedge of lemon scented geranium (pelargonium), which have not proved to be a good choice, especially with my lack of care with pruning..Now they are all coming out and G is going to replace them with a hedge of Griselinia (kapuka - a native shrub with glossy green leaves). The daisy flowering plants to the left are doing great at covering the bank though, so I will definitely divide these and continue planting along the rest of the bank.

Right better go outside and get planting!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Update for late August

Sorry guys for the absence and lack of posts.......! Don't know where the time goes.

Have been busy in the garden now that the weather has improved and we are not sloshing around in a whole lot of wet mud!

Trying to make the most of the soft ground by planting lots of plants/trees. G has been busy with the trees, putting in a lot more native shelter/hedging trees, although it will take a while for them to look established getting them in the ground as we know is paramount! I've been putting in some flowering plants/shrubs that have been sitting around in pots for too long.

Spring is just around the corner and the plants and flowers are starting to look good. I have several rosemary bushes and the bees (mainly bumble bees) are loving the flowers!

Bubble bees are going crazy on the rosemary

The clay bank by the side of our garage is now looking a lot more presentable, with the geraniums/pelargoniums, irises and an unidentified plant with daisy type flowers huge and pink - does anyone know what it is? I think it may be South African ?daisy or similar. Growing really well on the ugly clay bank.
Clay bank now covered in flowering plants

This plant is doing really well, huge pink flowers

I'm also busy preparing the ground for Spring planting, doing much-needed weeding (ugh!) and getting some seeds going in readiness. Namely tomatoes and chillies on the 'must-have' list. Will attempt to grow lots of pumpkins for pig food this year.

Oaty slice/flapjack/muesli bars

In the kitchen my latest favourite is a flapjack type muesli bar. I got the recipe off River Cottage Everyday (their episode on Breakfast if you are interested). It's basically melted butter, peanut butter, brown sugar, then added oats, seeds and dried fruit, baked in the oven. This morning I bought some Chia seeds to try out in another batch, and this time will use almond butter instead of peanut, and coconut oil instead of butter. Will be interesting to taste the difference from the first recipe. Handy to have a healthy snack at the ready instead of reaching for the biscuit/cake tin!

Have a great day!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Just a few good things for today - Friday

Pumpkin - actually this is for our pigs!

Pumpkin pie! Definitely NOT for the pigs!

Lovely fresh lemons - thanks L!

Beautiful orchids

A good read
Hope your Friday is shaping up well. It's a bit overcast and windy here on CTF. Have been outside to plant the last 2 packets of the Spring daffodil bulbs - way late I know but I have had them in the fridge so they should hopefully come up OK!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Update for mid July

Life has been fairly busy recently. We're on the last day of school holidays and after a nice break from class D is ready to go back! The first week we spent a few days down in Auckland, visiting the zoo and a crystal museum, and caught up with reli's.
D with huge quartz crystal

A very tame parrot (Kea)

This week just gone wasn't quite so fun however, as I was unwell and got to spend a couple of nights in hospital! Nothing major though, and I'm on the mend. Just not so exciting for the wee fellow, although by default he did get to visit a few playgrounds en route to visiting the Docs and the hospital!

Consequently, this has put a bit of a halt to doing much outside, which is a real shame as I have loads of things to plant! Will have to get into it as and when.

At least the garlic is in and coming up, and I dug up the last of the carrots. The swedes are getting a good size now, and I'm still getting lots of herbs from the garden. The broccoli is also doing well:

The daffodils I planted out a while back are starting to come up. This lot are in a lovely wooden barrow handmade by G's late Uncle:

Hope all's good with everyone, look forward to catching up on your blogs in the coming week.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Lemonade scones

Since we don't usually have store-bought lemonade on hand, I have not made this unusual scone recipe before. However I had it in mind that I would try it out soon and today was the day. Apart from just being a tasty treat for afternoon tea, scones are extremely quick and easy to make. When G is outside working in all weathers on various projects around the lifestyle farm, scones and a cuppa are just the ticket.

Anyway, the recipe I used was - 2 cups of flour, 2 tsp baking powder, about 150mls cream, and 150-200mls lemonade. Mix all together gently (add sufficient lemonade to make the dough just the right scone consistency - should form a soft dough but not sticky or wet or sloppy!). Cut out scones with floured cutter, brush with milk or egg, and bake on cold ungreased tray for about 12 mins at 190 deg C.

Also, I did not realise until today that scones should be placed on the tray so that they are touching each other in order to help each other to worked! and the scones tasted lovely especially with the homemade strawberry jam.

Fiddling around today

with the look of the blog. I'm not sure yet if I'm going to keep this template but I like the way you can change the look of the blog easily by choosing the views on the menu to the left.

Back soon with a post on scones!

Movie list, I've moved them into this post for now

Some films I've watched lately..
  Before the Rains - sad, but beautiful

The Secret World of Arrietty - lovely animation from the Studio Ghibli team

A Cat in Paris - really cute story, great animation

Urban Cowboy - an old one I'd not seen, starring John Travolta
Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll - biography of Ian Dury, excellent performance by Andy Serkis

Grow Your Own - a nice film about refugees who are given allotments in the UK

Burn After Reading - Very good

Cafe (awful..)

Sherlock Holmes - A Game of Shadows - Fast paced and brilliant

The Trip - very funny

Transformers - Dark of the Moon - Great animated action

Tin Tin - excellent animation

Twilight - Breaking Dawn Part 1 - kinda creepy but I've watched the others

Idiocracy - funny but kinda scary

Red Riding Hood - a dark folksy version

Rosso come il cielo - Red Like the Sky - true story of a boy who goes blind

The Station Agent - 3 people find friendship,great movie

Abduction - fast paced action

Is Anybody There? - Michael Cain in a rest home? Great film.

Nowhere Boy - the story of John Lennon growing up

Monday, June 25, 2012

Miniature garden again and new piggies

The wee garden D and I constructed together the other day has had a few alterations. We found some small iridescent blue coloured glass pebbles and thought they would look pretty in the garden. Some of the bigger stones we took out, leaving just the 'crystals' (not sure what the rocks are, they were found locally on the shores of the Kaipara Harbour). D picked more flowers. I can see this could be habit-forming, and can see making one in a larger container might be on the cards!

Today saw the arrival of our new pigs. This year we decided to get 3 little piglets, since we do love our bacon and ham, and I would also like to have some pure pork sausages this time round. So many commercially made sausages contain lots of undesirable additives. When we lived in the UK for a while we used to buy delicious pork sausages directly from a pig farmer at the growers market in Buckfast in Devon. Pork and apple, pork and sage, pork and juniper berry were some flavours I remember.
Anyway, I digress....back to the pigs!  2 are Tamworth and the bigger one is a Duroc. We have not kept a Duroc before so will be interesting to see what sort of temperament it has. They are all tame at present and have been well cared for by a local pig farmer.
The piglets are cute, friendly, move very fast and were extremely noisy when lifted out of their transport crates! But they seemed very happy to have a lovely big enclosure to explore and lots to munch on!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A miniature garden for little people

D has been at home sick with a cold for the last couple of days, so I thought I would suggest to him we make a little garden. We recently watched the beautiful Studio Ghibli film The Secret World of Arrietty, which is based on the The Borrowers books by Mary Norton (if you remember those from your childhood).

So having this theme in mind, we were inspired to make a little garden together. We filled a shallow pot with some potting mix, collected moss, stones, crystals, shells, leaves, flowers and a wee succulent for a 'tree'. We made the chair from 2 little scallop shells, while the shell in the middle is a little pond. The whole pot is sitting inside another shallow pot which has water and sparkly rocks in it.

D thinks that Arrietty would really love to rest in this little garden, but that she was hiding from us until we'd finished! :-)

Arrietty with sugar cube

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Monarch butterflies are still hatching!

It's Winter here in NZ. As we live in the 'Winterless North', it's not very cold here during Winter, despite the recent frosts.

Anyway, I was still surprised to see that we still have Monarch butterflies hatching out in the garden in the middle of June! Here is one that has only just hatched, sitting on D's hand:

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A frosty start to the day

Brrrr! It was cold overnight, and as expected from the clear skies last night we woke to this a heavy frost this morning:

But the day is now beautiful - still and sunny, just a little light cloud about, and I should definitely be outside gardening instead of glued to the computer blogging and eating chocolate cake with my cup of coffee!

I've recently discovered a great chocolate cake recipe that uses pureed beetroot. This is good, since I have beetroot from the garden to use up. You do need to cook the beetroot first which takes a little time. I did several in one batch and kept them covered in the fridge, they seem to last OK for a few days.

The cake recipe is one I found online here. There were a few cake recipes to chose from but some of the others had ingredients I was missing in the pantry so I made the 'Beetroot Cake' one. It's good with a little whipped cream for a dessert.

I previously tried making some beetroot and chocolate chip muffins but because the recipe used raw grated beetroot, the flavour was too 'earthy' for us, and especially the wee fellow who would not eat them at all. So that was no good, I shan't be making them again. This cake on the other hand is wonderfully moist and chocolatey (although it uses just cocoa and no 'real' chocolate) and the beetroot gives it a nice dark colour.

Do try it!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A bit of a tidy up

 A while back I took some photos around the property (see this post). Along the driveway fence by the entrance, I had a whole lot of jade plants and other succulents in pots, which we lined up there as we had so many of them and were not sure where to place them. But I wasn't really happy with them there, both because of the look of all those pots and also because that spot is shaded during most of the day and I'm pretty sure succulents like full sun.


Anyway after a bit of thinking and planning, I decided to move all the pots away and put some largish rocks and gravel down. Looks a little sparse maybe I might add some more rocks, we do have some more and while they are heavy, I can get them on a hand truck/trolley and put them in place with a little effort!

A little further down the drive I planted some native iris plants, 'Libertia peregrinans'. They have striking orange striped foliage and little white flowers. We had them in our Auckland garden and they looked great en mass. I will also be planting some Ajuga ground cover by those rocks, which has purple/green leaves and likes the shade. The green plant half-way down is a native geranium, a really good ground cover and has tiny little pink/white flowers. It self-seeds everywhere and is growing really well in lots of spots where we have gravel down.

Next I have to carry on further down the drive and move that wood pile away. But at least it looks a  little tidier, and the gravel will be a big improvement on the weed patch that tended to grow there before!