Thursday, December 10, 2015


As always time is whizzing along very quickly. My blog posts are now very few and far between. So sorry for that and for this longish update.

Next year I'm thinking I may be changing the way I present this blog, perhaps just a monthly round up (might be more achievable) and possibly more photos than text.
The first of the Early Red peaches

Anyhow at the moment in the garden we have growing:

Yard long Beans
Zucchini (harvesting now)
Strawberries (harvesting)
Raspberries (harvesting)

Jocky cap flower

In the polytunnels we've got:


Coffee plants
Curry leaf plant
Galangal cuttings

All doing well although I did have a few aphids attack my eggplants, the ladybirds took care of those though! The coffee plants are ones that were planted outside but had not thrived. They are now doing really well although still a long way off producing berries!

We also had our large heifer butchered in November, and now have plenty of delicious beef in the freezer. As she was part Jersey the fat is very yellow, the meat is still just as tasty however!

Our own beef fresh from the butcher.
 In November we also enjoyed a visit to the wonderful Hamilton gardens.

The Indian garden - very pretty

The rose garden was spectacular in full bloom

The Italian garden - fabulous pergola with grape vines
This was our second visit to the Hamilton Gardens and will not be the last. The first time we were there it was pouring with rain so we didn't stay all that long. However, the Japanese garden was especially lovely in the rain as it had a large pond. This time round we saw some of the other areas we'd missed previously. Still at lot to see though and I could have spent ages smelling the roses! Hoping to get back there again at the end of summer.

Meanwhile our excursions are closer to home, namely walking the dog! Not that walking the dog is a bind though as we get to enjoy the beautiful Kaipara harbour only a few minutes walk from home.

Roxy enjoying 'walkies'

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Cabbage tree flowering season

It's mid Spring and right now the cabbage trees are in blossom. Not only do they look stunning, but the air is full of their sweet scent. I love to come outside especially in the evening when the wind has dropped and enjoy their perfume. It is truely a delight for the senses.

Close up view of cabbage tree flowers

It's hard to capture the scale of these lovely trees (actually they are giant lillies). They are quite tall now, approx 4-5m, hard to believe they have only been in the ground for about 12 years, so quick growing.

Also fast growing are these native 'Puka' trees. Just look at the size of the leaves! They are huge. Looking totally tropical and awesome.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Halloween treats

Just sharing the cupcakes (aka Slime cakes) and some small bread rolls I made up for D to take along to a local community organised 'fright night' last night. They were both last minute knock ups otherwise I might have got some special Halloween sprinkles for the cupcakes - oh well, maybe next year!

The cupcakes
 These were chocolate cupcakes - I always use Dutch cocoa which is a far superior cocoa to the standard cocoa in the supermarket, gives a lovely rich flavour and colour. The buttercream icing/frosting has natural green food colouring. Both D and G rated these very highly! I had extra cupcakes which I left unfrosted, while the frosting looks better for presentation it's too sweet for both my boys! I usually don't pipe too much on top as some folk do for this reason.
Bread rolls
The pumpkin shaped bread rolls were delicious and easy to do, just a little bit of time involved to make from scratch (same applies for the cupcakes!). I found the inspiration on Pinterest (of course!). Lots of ideas for some amazing looking food.

How was your Halloween? What special food do you make?

Friday, October 16, 2015

The new blender

After a bit of research I've purchased a new blender to make green (and other) smoothies. I decided on getting a Ninja Nutri blender. They have a few in their range, but I opted for the Auto -IQ one with a 1500w motor and it has a large pitcher blender jug as well as 3 sipper cups of various sizes. It is GREAT! You just put the ingredients in the cup/jug, fit it to the motor base and press the button. EASY!

Having a lot of fun experimenting with ingredients and steadily working through my green smoothies recipe book.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Asparagus time

I'm harvesting our first asparagus spears from the garden right now. It's been a while since these were planted and I've patiently waited 2 seasons so that the plants can get established. This has meant letting the spears grow fully (they develop feathery foliage) and then die off before I've trimmed the dead plant matter away. The spears grow rapidly - I harvest a few most days. I should be able to continue harvesting for about 4-6 weeks so far as I'm aware.

Some of the plants did not survive so this year I planted out another 10 'crowns' - and we will have to wait for about 3 years until these ones are producing.

Here we have dinner of rump steak, mashed potatoes and fresh homegrown asparagus baked in the oven with garlic and parmesan.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A healthy spring lunch and a bit of an update

Hey guys, how's your Spring going? Mine's a busy one with work, family, puppy training, gardening and cooking from scratch. Also getting a bit of a health kick going with some 'clean eating' and exercise. Booya!

Walking and running with the dog is great for weight loss, but doing yoga and weights/exercise/aerobics not so cool with doggie jumping on me during my workout!!

Being a bit of a sucker and not putting her outside in her kennel.......!

Anyhow, here's what I had for lunch recently:

Homemade roasted red pepper hummus with wholemeal pita and some nice greens, plus a few herbs and some nastutrium flowers. Yum.

I'm still doing well with avoiding cane sugar (as much as I can) and trying to kick the cravings for sweet food. In fact, the times when I have given in to my cravings I have instantly regretted it and found the sweet 'treat' all too sickly. A good sign huh.

Next up is green smoothies. I'm currently researching a suitable blender, although I have a gutsy stick blender that will suffice for now. I fancy one of those blend and go machines with sipper cups.. Bought this recipe book to get me started:

With green smoothies in mind I now aim to harvest the kale and celery doing great in the garden, blend it up and freeze in ice cubes. With warmer weather on the horizon (although you wouldn't think so today with a cold southerly wind and rain), these crops may soon come to an end. Some of the celery I spied yesterday trying to flower/seed and the kale might follow suit soon. Time to harvest these babies before they spoil.

Also on the gardening front, D wants to have a vege garden this year so we have got him his very own garden bed. On the weekend we sowed spinach, basil, carrots, and radishes. Indoors he has sowed some sunflowers in newspaper pots, and we 'repurposed' a plastic food container as a mini greenhouse:

This year I used my heat pad to help raise the tomatoes and it did seem to make a difference to germination - they now need potting on and moving to my small outside greenhouse.

Tons of stuff still to do outside, it never ends. More mulch to apply to the garden and orchard, and loads more weeding. As always these things will get done time and weather permitting!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Today marks the beginning of our NZ Spring

and it definitely feels Spring like now. We have buds on our almond trees:

And on the plums:

the days are getting longer and the sun is warming up.

Work on the driveway has come to a halt as we've had a bit of rain lately so the ground is soft - not ideal conditions to have earthworks done. Hopefully it will dry up a bit soon so the digger guy can start up again. There's a fair bit of work to get done before it's finished.

Gardening wise I've planted out some cauliflower seedlings and sown my tomato, chilli, capsicum, and ocra seeds.

Weeding like crazy whenever I can, applying mulch to the beds as I go. I'm building up several compost piles and working with the compost that is ready.

Keeping the dog out of the garden is a priority because there are several entrances and no gates yet! Propped up sheets of corrugated iron are working as a barrier in the meantime.

How's your garden shaping up this Spring time?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Big bug came for a visit

I've been living in NZ for 25 years now and in that time I've seen various bugs of all sizes, including the renowned Weta.

But in all that time, I've never seen one of these 'little' critters:

I say 'little' wasn't little at all. Eek, this NZ native millipede (oops I mean centipede - thanks upcoming treechanger) measured up at nearly 10cm long. And with all those sure moved quickly. Hubby found it buried in a big pile of composting kumara. So long as it stays outside that's fine... Have to say it made my skin crawl somewhat!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Tangelos, cake and some sugar free chocolate cookies

Tangelos, in case you didn't know, are a cross between mandarin (tangarine) and a grapefruit. We don't have a tree but someone that does (and doesn't use the fruit) let us pick some of the ripe fruit. Most of this will probably be juiced, but I do intend to try it in as many dishes as I can. I started off with this lovely citrus loaf. It was really quick and easy to produce and made a nice dense, citrusy, satisfying loaf cake.
Hubby and D both rated it highly so the cake disappeared very quickly!

However, while this cake suited the boys, I am still doing my darndest to steer clear of sugar so it was off the menu for me. Instead I made up some of these fantastic chocolate and sea salt cookies from Nicola at Homegrown Kitchen. These are really good! I will definitely be making these little treats again, perhaps trying some slight modifications - this first batch was made using standard plain white flour but I could test out different flours for the best texture and flavour combinations. I would also like to try almond butter instead of peanut butter.

 Even G ate more than one of these and thought they tasted quite nice! Hooray, success all round this baking day!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Lazing in the sun today

Well not me exactly.....guess who?

Although I did sit down to relax a few times...! So nice to enjoy the sun and lack of wind in the middle of winter.

Spent the day tidying up a lot of gardening 'stuff' (seedlings and planters mainly) and moving it from where it was to where the potting shed will go.

We are also getting some earthworks done which is great, widening the drive, putting in drainage and repairing the surface. It's been sometime since we had the driveway formed (from grazing land) and there's been a certain amount of wear and tear since then. Here are some then and now shots.



Still a bit more work to go before it's done.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Homemade doggie biscuits

Sharing a couple of easy recipes for homemade doggie biscuits. Cute and healthy treats for the wee pooch.
She loves them. I want to get a bone shaped cookie cutter! Still tiny hearts and paw print rounds are cute enough eh!

The yellow ones are made with pumpkin puree (or you can use babyfood for ease) organic brown rice flour and egg. The darker ones are made from organic buckwheat flour, peanut butter, mashed banana, ground flax seed and rice milk. Loads of recipes on Pinterest. Basically mix all ingredients to make a dough, roll out and cut out shapes, then bake in the oven.

Little Roxy sure enjoys them..

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Frosty weather over the weekend

Just sharing a few photos from over the weekend. Here in the "winterless north' we don't usually have many frosts and they aren't usually very heavy. This weekend however, we had 3 in a row and they were very heavy. It was cold! Yes I know if you are further south in NZ it was REALLY cold. We just aren't used to it here!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

I've been somewhat distracted..........

by a new arrival - meet Roxy the labrador cross.

Isn't she a cutie? Of course being a puppy she is requiring a lot of attention right now, just like having a new baby really! Consequently getting time to spend on to most of the gardening jobs is a little difficult. But I'm not complaining, we're having a lot of fun!

I have however planted my garlic and am finalising plans for planting out the new walled garden.

I'm steadily making more and more compost, and preparing new beds for planting by digging in lots of kitchen scraps (since we no longer have pigs - yes they are now bacon, ham and pork in the freezer). I then lay wet cardboard on top and put mulch on top of that to keep the moisture in and the weeds under control.

I'm also applying mulch as and when to the fruit trees, and onto the existing beds in our original vegetable garden. This is going to be more of a herb and flower garden this coming season. It is on a slope and quite exposed to the wind, and gets quite dry in the summer, so it's never been really suited to growing vegetables. The herbs and flowers on the other hand are doing well there, and I've got lots of plants self-seeding all over the garden. Looking forward to seeing the flowers in bloom come spring-time.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Big carrot and a few photos from around the farm


We are so lucky living here. Especially at this time of the year which is "officially" winter (although the winter solstice is on 22nd).  I say lucky because this morning I have been sitting outside in a T shirt (and pants!!) enjoying my morning coffee. The sun is out and it is so nice - calm and warm.

Just sharing a photo of a huge carrot I dug up the other day as I was clearing the carrot bed. I had no idea this biggy was lurking there! D found it very amusing!

It will probably be turned into carrot soup. I picked up some kaffir limes the other day (I do have a tree but no limes on it at the moment), so I am feeling a Thai inspired soup would work well, with some coconut,  lemongrass, ginger, garlic and chilli. Mmmmm.

Talking of citrus, the mandarins as I mentioned in my last post are producing super well right now:

We're having no trouble at all eating these and they also keep relatively well (although we don't need them to keep!).

 Here is the soap I made recently. I'm really pleased with how it came out, and it's lovely and creamy, lathers up well too.

Lastly, here's Polly the goat enjoying the sunshine. D took this photo and I think it's really good.