Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Crimson Queen and The Summer Solstice

This burnt reddy-orange radius of JOY sums up the season here and we have them bursting open and lording it over the perimeter of our Permaculture Mandala Gardens, attracting beneficial insects all the while... The variety is "CRIMSON QUEEN" - from Kings Seeds and has multiple flowers blooming over weeks - love it!
Everytime I look at one I'm reminded of the simple complexity and utter beauty of nature. From the speed at which they grow up their extremely tough stalk to a height of 2ms+ to the amazing double-helix pattern revealed when finally the seeds emerge at the flower's centre after the pollen has gone and petals have all fallen.

Beyond the Giant Picket Fence...

...here I'm sharing with you something special for me about our vegetable gardens and indeed the view from the kitchen sink, even... often I just stop and look across at the surrounding hills and my eye ALWAYS rests on the little dips that create the gentle focal point in the centre of this skyline. Yes - there are layers of hills creating this scene and I never tire of it's softness and all the different colours, tones, shadows, seasonal effects and moods...another aaaah!

Summer Growth Spurt

Maybe what I really need is a fish-eye lens and some photography knowledge to really show you what's happened over the past couple of months in the Permaculture Mandala Garden. These first two pics are from September this year...Spring...What I see now is an abundance of lush, green growth sprouting from every conceivable nook in our gardens, where once, one was able to navigate paths without even a thought as to finding them! the pic above and just below are from the same spot in the garden, although the Chook Dome is in a different position...Now there has been such vigour some plants are even lying down on the job - I imagine from their sheer effort!
We are so grateful for this bounty of life, food and wonderment!

Butterfly Creek

We puzzled to ourselves as we perused the menu of admission entry options about the combination of butterflies, crocodiles and farm animals as we arrived at...Butterfly Creek. Well, I'd have to say that in some weird kind of way - it works...Both Phoebe and her best friend Lulu had a lovely time delighting in butterflies that arrived silently...and rested unobserved mostly... in a special humidity and temperature-controlled 'Butterfly House' where special plants are grown for all aspects of the butterfly life cycle - it was so warm!...cuddling the very relaxed and fluffy bunnies and not so fluffy guinea pigs (make that wirey!)....... spying the prehistoric-looking crocs lurking in their pools, their only perceptible movements, nostrils flaring (this pic is for YOU, Jesh!)...but I'd have to say that the event that got their attention the most was... ...the beautiful white Saanen goat clattering up onto a bench to be milked in front of us all, then nuzzling into 'Michael', her "milkman" to say thank you afterwards...aaaah!

Festive Faces

AS well as meeting up with family, we like to make a little celebration ourselves at home...and this is what it looked like...

Christmas Baking

As perhaps 'incongruent' as it may be seem, one thing that I really enjoy about the 'festive' season is the excuse to make mini Christmas Mince Pies (given that we are in this balmy, sunshiney time of the year, here in New Zealand!). And, I'm doing my best to infuse this into Miss Phoebe...who as you can see doesn't really need too much encouragement! Our particular recipe includes plenty of crystallised ginger and PRUNES added into the usual dried fruit 'mince'. YUM!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Our Latest addition...

what a tense 24 hours we've had...it was hatching day yesterday...and my hopes were for 6 lovely little Cayuga Ducklings to emerge and then 6 Silver Seabright Bantams. We have plans to have a flock of ducks for our developing Permaculture Food Forest (currently = small orchard) and I was hoping to surprise our wonderful neighbour, Pete, (who won't read this!) with some of the special bantams he loves for a Christmas present - he sort of knows I'm looking for fertile eggs, etc Given that ducklings need a longer incubation period, I had timed the placement of the bantams a week later, to coincide at hatching.
The result, I believe of our Cayuga hatch is just this one, very much loved little hatchling - named 'Asha' by Phoebe - because it's black. Rather disappointing as at the very end of sitting for a whole 4 weeks, our broody hen, Perky, decided to ditch the eggs - and I only just rescued this one in time - pipping and broken through it's egg a 3cm hole, but cold and very weak - so gambled and broke the egg for it and freed it - Perky pecked at it straight away - she didn't want to have anything to do with it or the other duck eggs, 3 of which have an embryo in them.
So, a sad learning experience here - and that is life, is it not? - sometimes it doesn't all go to plan - and really we are so grateful for all the beautiful creatures we are blessed with already.
My fingers are still crossed for Pete's bantams - Perky went back on and I managed to get a hot water bottle under/to the side of them - and she has stayed there all day today...we shall see...

Misty day in Morere

I will own this - I would have loved it if
Phoebe was as bewitched by these incredible drops and droplets hanging on everything we looked at as if all the fairies had left their jewels out all over the place in some grand fairy jewellry display - but it was just me!

She was much more excited to get on
and feed the neighbour's pigs and cats for him!

Mavis, Hope and Kevin...

dinner bounty in a basket!

really a 'just because' kind of photo and a little bit because I'm in a green and red vibe...and that's not just because we are choosing exterior house colours at the moment in green and red or because Phoebe (and our neighbour, Pete) is already into the Christmas music...I just have a strong affinity with these two contrasting colours in any way they present. And it is just so luscious being able to pluck one's own organic strawberries fresh from their plot - although Phoebe is a little apprehensive now that her Father has just fertilised them with a highly potent, flowformed cow poo tea! (full of potassium for voluptous fruiting! mmmm!)

Rainbow washing and the everyday art of happiness...

...well, my version of it! To some, this may seem like an inane waste of time or a "who would even think of doing such a thing?" type of idea, let alone being considered at all to be written about on a blog!
Well!, - I like to think of this colour-grading of my washing items as a little bit of everyday happiness - it just happens and it's only when I'm about a third of the way along I realise I'm doing it and then, of course, I BEAM, because - why shouldn't the washing on the line be pretty? Huh?! Don't go into the matching pegs, though - that's just between Pam and myself!

...and the answer is...


We were certain after all our talking about acidity and it's effects that it would either be the Coca-cola (which, by the way, was purchased specifically for the purpose of this Scientific Experiment!!) or the Baking Soda/Vinegar mix.

And the second most effective was...milk! Go figure!

We learned was it was fun to devise a way to find out the answer to a puzzling question right here in the house and to lead ourselves in the direction of the resources we'd need to find out.
We also learned some more about waiting and being patient for the reaction to occur (on it's own!).

Poppy and Pansy Duck!

Our two, sweet, soft yellow bundles of joy, our Pekin x Aylesbury pair are progressing very well - they grow surprisingly faster than chicks!
the photo on the left is of Pansy at under a week, resting happily on my cousin, Anna's hand...with the ever-attendant "nana" Luke.
And on the right, Miss Phoebe is carefully perched up the ladder to her Apple tree, holding Miss(?!) Poppy (at about 3 weeks of age - much larger) 'just so' - we have been having lots of learning about how to handle these precious small creatures - for their own safety and their general wellbeing - ie a sense of security in how they are held, too! There are challenges every day...

Phoebe's Patch

Phoebe's interest in the garden is growing quickly...she is now as interested in growing vegetables as she is in her beloved pansies and poppies (incidentally, the names the new ducks have been given!). So now, as well as her pocket-handkerchief flower garden, she has Phoebe's Patch! This is one of the eleven circular beds in our Permaculture Mandala Garden, which will be visited by our chooks in their dome at the end of December, to do their 6-monthly weeding and fertilising stint. Right now we all decided it needed an end of Spring Spring Clean and spent several hours weeding and mulching - it was surprising how much was growing there. Phoebe is now rescuing anything and everything and fully experimenting with her own vegetable growing!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

November Crafts

Here are a couple of products of Phoebe's craft times lately...whilst needle felting a blanket for one of her little 'guys', she found a method that begged repetition, so she made four small, brightly coloured blankets, extremely quickly! After the initial 'buzz' wore off, she noticed they were a bit loose - so with a little tutoring in how to tighten them up, she made them stronger. The next leap was even more interesting to me as she was next to a gloriously-coloured peggy-square knitted blanket, like the ones my Nana Joy makes for charity. Phoebe then joined all four blankets together into one beautiful, larger one. It led to a discussion about what Nana Joy does, what other people in the world have or don't have...interesting!
And, some modelling with a polymer modelling clay called DUKIT - she only has primary red, yellow and blue plus white and is having a lot of very creative time mixing different amounts of colours together to create the ones she wants - and gets some lovely surprises, too! These are mostly for her very small gnomes and fairies in her play area inside...

How do we clean these old moneys, Mum?

A few weeks ago, our wonderful neighbour, Pete, gave Phoebe a collection of his old coins from various travels...interesting...And then on Sunday Phoebe bagan examining them, sorting them, spreading them out, looking at the pretty designs, only they were all covered with...verdis gris and general 'gunk'. So, what to do? Mummy, how do we clean these "moneys"? has now led to our first Science Experiment...Cleaning Coins.We decided on a mixture of Baking Soda and White Vinegar, which we know is good at cleaning all sorts of dirt off all sorts of surfaces. Then, we had a visit from Uncle Ray - he's a geologist and knows plenty about Science! He and Aunty Raema suggested coca-cola and orange juice. And then we considered milk as an alkali liquid to see what might happen with that and then as with all science experiments, you really need to have that thing called a control - so we chose water.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Beach Rambling

I just came across this photo which seems to capture a certain rugged feeling I enjoy about our region - or is that raw? Luke and Aaron are on one of our 'scavenger hunts', which we relish - not quite as often as perhaps we could, though... it usually involves getting out to one of our local beaches - and driftwood, pumice, shells, smooth, flat, rounded pebbles... then creating with these gifts of nature. Many of the beaches have this dark gritty sand on the upper part of the Hawke Bay, then closer into Mahia, there is lovely softer, paler sand.

"Violet Ducklings"

On 20th October, we had two lovely, soft fuzzy bundles of yellow duckling arrive overnight, much to our delight. They had been hatched by a very generous broody hen, named Violet. Until we had a home to place them into, Phoebe and Kade thought it best they get as many human cuddles as possible...A few days later and they were suddenly much bigger and more active...cuddles are still the number one activity here...and still small enough that Phoebe was able to have double cuddles...just!
Big enough to step out for a walk...to the pond in our Mandala Gardens...with 'Nana' in tow (Luke!)Like...'ducks to water', they took to the pond... and still 'Nana' must make sure his(?!) babies are fine :)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A full shelf in the greenhouse...

we recycle and repurpose as much as we can and here is one of our adopted ways.... straight out of Linda Woodrow's book, The Permaculture Home Garden. We scrounge polystyrene lidded boxes from the rubbish pile at the Supermarket - they have seafood delivered to them in them - sometimes they are a bit smelly! Then cut them in half to make two trays. Have to be a bit careful with the half that comprises the lid as it's base, though mostly this is fine. From the recycling section at the dump we take back as many square, 2-litre, plastic milk bottles and cut off the top and the bottoms, leaving about 15cm+ open-ended rectangle. Then fill the poly trays with the cut down milk bottles - sometimes I find a row of square, 1-litre bottles is needed if the shape of the tray doesn't fit neatly. We fill these with our potting mix and transplant our seedlings in one per milk bottle as soon as they have their first pair of true leaves - sometimes the seedling is only a few cms tall. We leave them to grow here until they are about 15cms tall, so they are strong and sturdy by the time they are ready for the garden outside. We feed them with worm wees whilst in the greenhouse. At the moment I'm using a commercial mix, after running out of an easy supply of 2 of my ingredients for home-made potting mix....will get back to that soon....so the worm wees is a great boost for the seedlings.
The punchline for this system is, of course, that one simply makes the hole in the garden bed where the seedling is to be planted and gently tips the whole milk container into it, until the soils are level, tuck in with extra compost/mulch and shimmy up the milk bottle to create a perfect micro-climate/protection barrier around the new plant until it has settled in (2-3 days). Easy.

Pond update

as you can see, we now have a few plants softening the edges of our pond - calendula, borage, chamomile, red day lillies, red cabbage trees, a few bromeliads and a passionfruit vine beginning it's travels over a rustic Manuka frame work and a selection of rocks and driftwood which are added to each time we return from an adventure... ... a work in progress...

Next WInter's firewood supply already...

An overgrown bunch of Sheokes or Casurina trees on our property suddenly became next year's firewood supply already...not really suddenly! Aaron has been working solidly a bit each day for the last couple of weeks to create this masterpiece. The trees have been cut so they are now able to be coppiced in the future. As they happen to also be a nitrogen-fixing type of tree which releases a dump of nitrogen upon being pruned/trimmed, we are feeling very good about being able to maintain them now...for lots of reasons! Just a little bald along the highway at the moment.this too, is being solved by Aaron, who is in the process of building a new enclosing fence - I'm trying to convince him that there needs to be some pretty cut-outs or something beautiful included - he likes the idea of the beautification, just not the fiddly bits when we just need a fence up now! (I think!) Here he is preparing the first posts for concreting in.