Archive for December, 2006

Sweet Tastes from the Garden

Wednesday, December 27th, 2006

Our vegetable garden seems to be growing before our eyes! Every day there is something new to see or taste.

For a while now, we have been snacking on plump pods full of sweet green peas, and little woodland strawberries. At mealtimes we are enjoying lots of tasty vegetables from the garden. These are the tastes we dreamed of as we saved our pennies for the purchase of some land, and as we dug garden beds and hauled mulch and manure. The fruits of our first year’s harvest on the Farmlet bear the sweet taste of dreams realised. This food is fuelling us for more work in the garden, and firing us up to embark on further projects.

Squash down low, beans climb high

About a week ago, I dug our first potatoes of the season — a New Zealand heirloom variety called kowiniwini. After putting some of the potatoes aside to take to my parents, we used the rest to cook a special meal, made almost entirely from ingredients grown here on the Farmlet: Potatoes, zucchini, sugarsnap peas, green beans, green onions, and dill. We sauteed the vegetables in butter made here on the Farmlet using fresh cream from a nearby farm. The salt and pepper came from the shops! As time goes on, we hope to be eating many more meals comprised almost entirely of food grown on the Farmlet.

Harvest meal

We were delighted to be able to supply new potatoes for the family Christmas dinner yesterday, as well as green beans and zucchini. Being able to share good things from the garden with family and friends made this Christmas extra special and joyful for us. We wish you all the very best this festive season.

Garlic Harvest

Thursday, December 21st, 2006

Happy Solstice (Summer or Winter, wherever you may be)!

We planted our garlic six months ago atop rows full of semi-fresh fish guts. If you doubt the power of fish guts, the garlic we harvested is two to three times the size of the seed garlic we started out with! (And no, this is not elephant garlic/leek.) Some of them look like medium sized onions!

I knew, in theory, that growing garlic should be easy, but neither Becky nor I had ever tried to grow it. There’s nothing quite like making it happen for real! We both had a sense of great accomplishment as we pulled these precious bulbs out of the soil.

Becky and I stood there, looking at our bounty. I couldn’t believe it, actually. This is the best garlic I’ve ever seen and this was just our first try! Our cows were looking back at us from up in the paddock—probably wondering what all the excitement was about—and I could hear our goatlings bleating happily away nearby. I had a sense of well being that was so deep and profound that I don’t ever recall having such an experience in the past.

Garlic as religious experience? Hmm… 😉

Well, enough yammering about it. Here’s an extra big picture to make your mouth water:

Harvesting heirloom garlic

We’ve read several theories about drying and preserving methods for freshly harvested garlic. What do you guys think: Take the roots off, or leave them on? If you take them off, when?

Broken Shovel

Thursday, December 21st, 2006

I broke the handle on my primary shovel the other day. I wasn’t even working the thing very hard. When it snapped, the handle wasn’t bent much, and it broke cleanly and suddenly away from the blade. I looked at the point of break and noticed bit of dry rot!

Please learn from my mistakes

Oh, what I would give to have the hardened steel and fiberglass shovel I had back in the U.S. If such a shovel can be purchased in New Zealand, I’d buy two of them, almost regardless of price. I might actually look into getting this Nupla shovel imported. It looks like el ultimo.

Having a tool as basic as this break is a serious, “Oh shit!” moment. It’s unthinkable, really. Until it happens. I have a backup shovel, but it’s a similar design, just made out of slightly better materials. It is not sufficient. Please, don’t wait to get your tools.

General Hint on Shovels: If the nose of the shovel is pinned to the handle, just forget it. I’ve broken two shovels, one in the U.S. and one here in New Zealand. Both had blades that were pinned to wooden handles. I’m ready to say “forget it” to wood handled shovels as well. Whatever shovel you buy, choose it like your life is on the line. Then buy two or three of them. The same goes for wheelbarrows.

Related: Nupla Tools

Goat Walk

Monday, December 18th, 2006

We have started to take Daphne and Lulu for walks along the road we live on. It’s an unsealed road, a dead end, and mostly very quiet. Still, the risk of a car coming along means that we are very careful to keep a tight hold on their leashes. The goats are rather jumpy around traffic.

Becky walks the goatlings, Lulu and Daphne

Twice now, we have walked about a kilometer up the road, with the goats trotting along beside us. They like to stop once in a while to nibble at a juicy patch of weeds or scrub on the roadside. Since we do not have a dog, we really appreciate having animals to take for a walk. Our two little goats are great companions.

On our last trip to town, we bought grown-up collars for the goats — Daphne’s is red and Lulu’s is blue. The collars are too big at the moment, and look rather ridiculous. We hope they will grow into them in due course.

Daphne seems determined to go ahead of Lulu when we are out for a walk. Maybe it’s an alpha-goat thing?! Lulu’s main concern is getting between Daphne and whoever is walking her, so if we don’t watch out, we all end up in a tangle.


Saturday, December 16th, 2006

I planted lots of chamomile around our vegetable garden this spring, on the assumption that it would make a good companion plant. It does seem to be doing well at attracting bees and other beneficial insects. We think the chamomile is a very pretty addition to the garden.

Harvesting chamomile flowers

The main reason why we planted chamomile is so that we can make our own chamomile tea. I have begun to harvest the flowers and dry them. Harvesting the flowers takes a bit of patience, but it’s a beautiful job. The scent of the chamomile is wonderfully calming. I hope that even in the middle of winter we will be able to enjoy cups of tea flavoured with these lovely spring flowers.