Tuesday, May 17, 2016

An update and a farewell

After much thought, I have decided to finish this blog. At the start, blogging was a new thing to me but as time has progressed, as per usual, I've slowed down. Most of what we are doing here at CTF hasn't changed much in the last couple of years. Some new fruit has come on, persimmons for example, for the first time. So what I have decided is that, if in the future, unless things change or something new happens, I will not be updating my blog. It is with sadness that I do this as I have had some really nice people visiting my site, offering thoughts, ideas or just generally being nice. So, that said, I shall now give you a final update.

We're well into our Autumn here on CTF and the weather has been just fantastic. We've had some lovely warm days, not too much wind and hardly any rain. Last night we had a thunderstorm but it passed quite quickly with no damage. It is still a bit breezy this morning but there is blue sky to be seen.

In the gardens I have been trying to clean up a bit. We have a lot of overgrown plants and self sown trees and plants that need to come out. I've chopped down a couple of very large rosemary bushes (trees!) which had outgrown their locations. I held off doing this over summer as the bees were regular visitors to the rosemary flowers. I do have other rosemary bushes around so it's not that great a loss (to us and hopefully the bees!).

Kaffir lime
We have lots of monarch butterflies around, probably a combination of both the recent mild weather and the fact we have lots of food for them. While their caterpillars like to munch on the leaves of swan plants the butterflies like the flowers. The butterflies also seem to like the flowers of our native koromiko tree (pictured below). These trees self seed everywhere and we have mostly left them to grow where they come up, in one place they formed a nice hedge.

Monarch butterfly on Koromiko flower
Monarch butterfly on swan plant

It has been an added bonus to see the butterflies up close as well as provide extra food for the bees. This is important as they do the job of pollination as we all know. The bumble bees sure enjoyed this big sunflower!

In the orchard we've been harvesting lots of apples, lots of raspberries, the first of the persimmons, plenty of feijoas (pineapple guavas) and juicy sweet mandarins.

Satsuma mandarin

This year I have frozen quite a lot of fruit as we will eat it in smoothies (especially the raspberries). I also cored and sliced up several batches of apples for the dehydrator. These make a tasty snack, although they don't last very long once they are dried and bagged up for storage! I put them in the freezer until needed as this keeps them from going moldy as has happened in the past.

Excess fruit usually gets given away, or else we feed it to the cows (and pigs if we have them).

We got a very good amount of pumpkins this year and I have been making pumpkin soup and pumpkin curry. Again we tend to give away what excess produce we can as there is only so much of one thing that can be eaten!

Pumpkin 'Musquee de Provence'

And so to close, we continue to work on the land in tune with the seasons. I make meals from the produce we have grown and/or traded with others in our local Crop Swap, and learn how to preserve it for the months ahead. We have learned from others, from our own mistakes, from what we read, and we are still learning. We have a big property and lots of work, many projects on the go and only so much time, inclination and energy to do them!

So finally, I do hope that you have found this blog of some interest and for those who have just found their way here, I wish you well in your homesteading journey and your new lifestyle. Enjoy all the happiness and pleasure it will bring you along with all the hard work!

Love and best wishes Bridget

Tuesday, March 15, 2016


This summer we've had a little bit of success with melons. I think that has something to do with the unexpected rainfall, as a drought had been predicted. I didn't plant very many - one rockmelon which did not ripen very well. We enjoyed x2 watermelon, these were pink fleshed but had yellow skins and I forgot to take a photo of them - sorry! Have saved seeds to try to grow them next year as they were good.

I would say the most success however has been with these little Korean melons pictured below:

They are sweet and crunchy and as you can see by the comparison with the pen, only very small. This means one is a nice serving and you don't need to worry about storing excess cut melon in the fridge as you would with a large melon. Also the small size means that there seem to be more per plant than with normal melons. I have a couple of vines that have about 5 each on them, almost ripe so will be harvested any day now.

Otherwise in the garden things are starting to slow down a bit. Although having said that I am still picking tomatoes!

The pumpkins are just about done, have picked some and they are curing in the sun - we have had no rain for a few days now but I think it's forecast for the weekend.

Time to get in there and clear out a lot of stuff now, get the soil turned over ready for some seeds to go in for over the winter season. Mostly will be hoping to grow a decent amount of carrots. I have had some success with carrots in the past, tending to be a case of numbers - the more seed sown the greater chance of getting some to harvest. I normally just scatter the seed too rather than sowing neatly in rows. I also want to get some greens going, spinach and chard. My Cavolo Nero kale is still producing really well however.

How is your garden shaping up this Autumn, and what do you intend to grow over Winter?

Thursday, February 18, 2016


Plums. Lots of them this season. And the best ones so far here at CTF have been the Luisa variety, which is a Japanese type of plum. We have 2 trees of this variety and they have done really well, producing lots of huge juicy fruit.

 The Luisa plums can get pretty big...

Here's a link to a page telling about the history of the plum in NZ - you need to scroll down to almost the bottom of the forum to see the post. Very interesting.


We are suffering with very high humidity here at the moment (approx 96%) and many of the other stone fruit trees are succumbing to rot, but not the Luisa plum. It's fantastic. We have picked numerous kilos of fruit, it's a real winner! I have bottled them in the past but we are not eating much bottled fruit now that we have cut down on sugar, and besides these plums taste best when fresh.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes........!

Yes it is that time of the year again. We have loads of big juicy tasty tomatoes ripening daily. The varieties I grew this season are beefsteak, the red one is 'Brandywine Pink' and the green is 'Aunt Ruby's German Green'.

And they can grow pretty big, especially the Brandywines. Here we have a few heavy weights, the first weighs in at 444gs:

This one a little heavier 474gs.

But this is the winner (so far), 603gs! A record.

I should also note here that these tomatoes have done well pretty much all by themselves, they were planted with a good amount of compost in the hole, I haven't fed them much other than a slosh of liquid manure and they have pretty much relied upon rain to keep them alive (thankfully we had a fair amount in January while I was away). So these are winners!

So what do with all those tomatoes you might ask? Well we've been eating them almost at every meal, and are not sick of them yet! Last night they were made into sauce to go with meatballs and spaghetti (zoodles for me).

I've cooked up a few batches just simply with onion, salt and pepper, then processed preserving jars full of cooked tomatoes in my Fowlers Vacola. I now have several lovely jars of ready to use tomatoes lined up on the shelf for when needed.

Apart from preserving the tomatoes, I have also frozen quite a lot of them. I just chop them into big chunks, freeze them on trays then when frozen bag them into Ziplock bags. That way I can just take out however much I want for any particular use (i.e. making a pasta sauce or pizza sauce, or adding to mince for bolognese sauce).

Here are the Aunt Ruby's German Green variety:

These are quite big tomatoes also. They are ripe when slightly yellow. They are not quite so disease resistant however, but still a very nice tomato, and the green colour is pretty. This biggy weighs in at 456gs:

Tomatoes in the garden, early January 2016

Note to self: always stake tomatoes well! The sheep netting affair I have here is not adequate to keep them staked properly and with the weight of all those heavy tomatoes they are now flopping all over the ground :-(

Aunt Ruby's German Green

The garden late January 2016
This was the first season in the new garden space. It is flat, and fenced from the wind. Next time round however I will do things a little differently, like not having pumpkins and melons trailing everywhere! More photos and blog posts to come soon on these.

Saturday, January 30, 2016


Hello and a very happy new year to all!

I have been away in England for a month and am slowly getting back into the swing of farm life again!

The main adjustment has been the weather. Coming from a UK winter (albeit a mild winter) to the peak of NZ summer with 100% humidity and temps up in the late 20s has not been easy! The morning I left England it was minus 4 degrees C! We are however enjoying some beautiful sunny days, mostly with a slight breeze and some lovely sunsets at the end of the long summer evenings.

In my absence, the garden has been growing like crazy. Hubby did a great job of watering my plants in the grow tunnels, and harvesting the produce as it ripened. The Brandywine Pink heirloom beefsteak tomatoes are doing really well, I have picked several kgs of these already with many more to come. We've had some nice homemade tomato soup and they are also getting used up at every meal, fried with bacon and egg for breakfast, sliced up with cheese inside a bread roll for lunch, and made into sauce for pasta for dinner.

We're also harvesting cucumbers (Indian variety - Poona), Italian zucchini, peppers, scallopini (patty pan) squash and potatoes.

The plums were very good this year, we had lots (most of these eaten while I was overseas!).

 A handful of blueberries from off our young bushes, not many at a time but they are very tasty!

The pumpkins are growing well, this variety is Musque du Provence a very large French heirloon variety, it will turn yellow/brown when ready. I also let some self-sown pumpkins grow where they sprouted so will be interesting to see what type they are. Can't have too many pumpkins as they also make good stock food for when we are raising pigs.

Scallopini or patty pan squash

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