Well, there are a few Cooking Class posts banking up, but it’s been too busy to get them online. With any kind of luck I should find time away from the stuff that makes up our busy evenings sometime soon. Maybe. I’m not making any promises. The main problem is discovering Dowtown Abbey and Second Chef wanting to watch MOAR EPISODES.

Ah well.

Around here there have been some useful advances in suburban farming, with the garden giving up a pretty good supply of garlic this year, a kg of beetroots being turned into relish, the leeks coming along nicely, we have a few surprise self-seeding pumpkins coming along, and plenty of rhubarb, lettuce, bok choy, herbs and a HUGE crop of coriander seeds (the potatoes were woeful, the peach tree only produced one edible peach, the tomatoes failed, and the onions were put in too late). The coriander is really fragrant, so I’m very much looking forward to using them in cooking.

Also, a few weeks back I noticed that a friend on twitter was growing her own mushrooms in buckets. A bit of quick inquiry and a reference turned up these guys. Parkvale mushrooms will send you two buckets of pre-prepared mushroom mycelium for$NZ42.50. I followed the instructions, watered the compost, and put them in the sunroom under black polythene for a week or so, then parked them in the basement. Within another week I’m taking about 1.5kg of flat brown mushrooms off the buckets in the first flourish. Looking at the growth that still happening there I reckon we’d have at least that left to grow out. Based on an average price of about $NZ15kg for gourmet mushrooms I’d say we’d be pretty close to breaking even by next weekend, and they say that each bucket will flourish at least three times! And, they’re delicious.

Although, anyone with recommendations for mushroom recipes? They’ll be gladly accepted.

The further news is that the spent mushroom compost is excellent for the garden. With that and the chicken straw-poo the neighbour dropped around we should be well on the way to a big improvement in the former-packed-clay-garden next year. So all in all, pretty good.


Since Christchurch there has been a hell of  lot to do around here, and that has done a heck of a lot to stop me being able to commit my scant available time to blogging.

Here’s what I’ve been up to though.

Growing MASSIVE amounts of coriander

Growing some nice lettuces. The wooden trellising is working really well to protect the softer plants from the Northerly winds. We can get gale force cross winds and not lose all our above-ground vegetables.

We’re just finishing the last of the lettuces now. Currently have some kale in, and experimenting with brassica and the trellis. Next spring, she’ll be all go.

Painted the Great Wall of Newlands (with invaluable help from Second Chef and Chef Du Plunge).

Installed 2000 litres of tank water. It’s on a low skid, so can’t be rocked to bits by a quake, and holds enough water for weeks and weeks. Am considering plumbing it into the washing machine.

The next thing is to spray-paint them black, and build a fence around them to block them from sight. They’re not pretty things.

Built the garden shed. We keep shovels and handy stuff in here, but will also get round to putting some dried food, tins of stuff and the like in there for the ‘just in case’ scenario.

It has since gained a floor and door, of course. And the neighbour has gone home.

As I say, she’s been a busy old time here in Wellington.

Lookie here!

Brought up a sample garlic plant and discovered a bulb!

Am chuffed, that’s $2 I “saved”. With the other thirty plants I’ll have close to a year’s supply.

Now to plait and hang them.

Things have been busy up here at Newlands Manor. Woodburners went on special and we saved a boatload getting one installed, which also meant spending WEEKS getting wood together for next season. Man… that’s some hard-out foraging.

The good news is that it’s as warm as toast up here despite this patchy “Spring” weather.

The remainder of the story is that Chef Du Plunge and I have been working hard on getting the base of the garden laid in once and for all. This means that all the beds have been laid (we got a little guy his own shovel. He LOVES ‘dig dig!!’ and getting outside to help me in the garden), all the plants are in, and all the amateur landscaping is complete, for now.

Next is just ongoing maintenance, and maybe replacing some of the generation-old trees dying along the boundary fences. But, the good news is that for the first time since we moved in here (February) I don’t feel like there is stuff that absolutely must be done. Very relaxing.

There has been some failures though. I put in Broccoli and the wind was just too much for it. I’ll have to sort out some a wind-baffling system of some sort (currently thinking perspex – it’s a long story for another day). The mandarin is not doing well – have resorted to popping up there and watering it occasionally. Might end up replacing it with something. And the bamboo in the front garden stalled over the winter, but has started to perk up again.

Otherwise, beginning with that poor mandarin (which might just end up in  a pot so it can be protected a little more), here’s a few snaps. (more…)

I dashed out to the garden and but this little beauty.

Grows pretty well up here. The daffodils too.

It’s been busy busy busy here at Newlands Manor, what with the little man getting tonsillitis, keeping up with work, and generally doing stuff non-stop. I think what I’ve discovered about parenting is that the mark of a decent parent seems to be the ability to never, ever stop working. No matter how much you’d like to just take a tiny bit of time off, you just have to keep plugging away day in and day out to keep the household ticking over.

And it’s exhausting. But rewarding.

On the good news front there continues to be progress in the garden. A friend gave us anothe feijoa, so hopefully one or both trees will fruit this or next year. I’ve put in a blackcurrant bush, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it grows. I finally demolished and removed the weird toilet sitting near the back door. We’ve put in some more bordering trees, and the vege garden is coming along well (thus far we have bok choy, broccoli, spinach and garlic. soon there will be potatoes and beetroot). Meanwhile, I almost took down the neighbours phone line trimming huge branches off trees.

garden doing well, though it's hard to see the plants past the mulches!

On the downside, we attended the J’Ville playcentre gala today and it was a disaster. Chef Du Plunge was determined to get onto the bouncy castle they had set up, and after a bit of fuss getting gumboots off and the like in he went.

What we didn’t know was how completely hopelessly organised the place was. More and more kids kept piling into the castle, some of them as old as five or six, and it was like a toddler riot in there. I was watching carefully, and the wee man was mostly ok. But. The idiots running the show hadn’t secured the castle. This meant it was slipping backwards towards it’s compressor, and the feeder piping was kinking, meaning the castle was slowly deflating. The next result was obvious, kids began to pile up in the middle Simpsonesque style, and our lad was under the whole pile. The older kids are still going hard out though, and jumping up and down on the toddlers, none of whom could move. Trouble was, none of the adults could see into the castle. Second Chef could see through a side window, but couldn’t get to him because of some safety meshing. Irony much?

The result was that I had to launch myself onto the castle, and commando-crawl over to a heap of screaming, petrified toddlers, reach in, and haul Chef out by his jumper. And all the while fending off leaping and jumping sugar-hyped primary children.

Not fun. Let’s just say I waited to the event had died down a little, went back, and provided some “robust advice” to the munters running the show. Needless to say, they were mortified to find out. Apparently the person responsible had kept it all pretty quiet.

Anywho… a couple of weeks ago we were at Bunnings buying a tree saw (the one I used today to almost electrocute myself), and they had a sale on. The result was this:

Awesome. And it was a song. Once assembled it looks like this:

I cheered the Chef by BBQing some lamb from the Riverside Market in the Hutt. Extremely, extremely delicious. I also BBQ’d chicken for dinner. Am looking for decent recipes to make breakfast on it.

Last Sunday the weather was decent enough to be able to get out and attend to this specimen.
What we have here is a poor peach tree being choked by a lot of grass, and generally in a not-so-favourable spot. I’m not at all convinced I’ll be able to save it, but I do want to prepare the spot should I put something else here. A lemon tree would be pretty nice, for example.

The intention is to dig out all the grass around it, box up the surrounds, put in some compost and other material to make the soil friable, and all on a budget. Luckily, this property seems to still have quite a bit of stuff I can recycle into use in the garden.

And here’s the site. You can see a brick path I’ll eventually dig in (scored all these free from a neighbour who was giving them away!), the tree, and the retaining wall to one side. Above the plant is a grassy patch I’m eventually going to plant in shrubs to baffle the north-south winds a little. There will be edging running just in front of the lawnmower to the corner of where I’m going to put the boxing in. And, there in the front of the shot are two bricks found in the basement. They’ll form my base.

It’s actually hard to see in this shot, but I’ve dug out around the tree, but only to where it’s small feeder roots start to become apparent. I put all the soil into the wheelbarrow, and mixed it with some cheap compost I got from the Boy Scouts ($5 for 25ltrs!). I then back-filled the space around the plant, hoping that the new soil will allow the feeder roots to expand out, and the tree to establish itself properly.

The walls making up the boxing are essentially; off-cuts of some work we had done reinforcing the basement (it needed better earthquake proofing), some red bricks I found up behind the compost bins, and assorted old masonry discarded around the garden.

And there you go. It’s very much the average job, mostly because I’m not settled on this purpose for this part of the site. But if the peach really takes off then I’m firm up the brickwork and remove the bits of timber to somewhere else they’re needed. When I can rustle up som cash I’ll start mulching this as well.

Could turn out to be a good little producer. Time will tell.

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