Life is so damp

Here in Miranda we have had a very wet winter and now a very wet spring.

We do have a number of chicks, 8 in total and a chook on a nest with 8 eggs, and another under which we will put what we are hope are 8 fertile eggs tonight.

We have started to fret that processing the possible chickens for our freezer may be a hard job as we both have arthritis in our hands and me in my wrist and shoulder. What we hope is that doing this killing, gutting and plucking will be done when the birds are younger and that just maybe the feather plucking will be easier.

I will report back because if potentially having to pluck 24 chickens is the ruination of my wrists, arms and neck then next year we will only have egg birds and give away the option to grow our own chicken meat.


But of course if we fail to cope with the chicken plucking then we still have great egg layers. These are our new shaver hens.

what is it about the birds!

We love the birds,005

We love that the birds love our garden.

Sort of that is.

Tuis love the flax.

Sparrows, thrushes, blackbirds and others love the strawberries and all other berries.

Chickens love whatever we share with them.

Wax Eyes love the flax flowers and the figs.

All the birds love our fruit.

BUT we have discovered an olive thief.

We have been watching our olive trees – we have 8 trees now, we have been watching the fruit grow.

This year all but one of the trees looked like they would provide us with an abundance. An abundance only because we have not yet had a harvest so any olives at all would be an abundance. Our trees are between 2 and 4 years old.

Suddenly all the fruit we had been watching grow has gone.

Oddly I thought, We have had many peacocks in the paddocks and orchard recently.

There has been an abundance of peacock droppings near our olive trees.

I did make the suggestion that maybe they like the olives.

Of course not said Best Beloved.

Well he was wrong, so wrong.

Bless his heart he even admitted it.

He and grandson watched some peacocks gathering olives from some larger trees across the road from the school bus stop.

Yes you guessed it – peacocks jump up and pick olives.

Now there is a new plan.

A plan to frighten away peacocks

So that we can have an olive harvest next year.

albino peacock and  friends

My friends are just great

Yesterday I called in to see a friend from olden golden days (school days), and out she came from her neighbours garden with some plants for my garden. One of those plants was Ceanothus Blue Sapphire. On the label it said it is an attractive dwarf ground cover featuring clusters of dark blue flowers in late spring and striking foliage which is ebony coloured during winter, changing to dark green in spring and summer. Which was a bit confusing because the plant I have is a standard form.

Ceanothus Blue Sapphire - standard

Ceanothus Blue Sapphire – standard

It also says on the label – originating from New Zealand and I have to confess I have not heard of this plant at all. The label says its size will be 40 x 60 cm – yet it is already over 60 cm grown as a standard not as a low ground cover.

It looks an interesting plant – so the question is how to propagate it as this plant seems to suit my environment very well indeed because it isn’t prone to insect or disease attack, tolerates a bit of shade or full sun, tolerates frost and will be great in garden beds or rockeries. So you can understand that this plant wants to be with me and I with it.

I love friends and I love google. The best method of propagating Ceanothus as per google does depend on whether it is evergreen or deciduous. I think that mine is an evergreen type.

Propagation options:

  • by seed, following scarification and stratification and planted out in late winter.
  • Semi-ripe cuttings in summer or hardwood cuttings in autumn – Plants raised from cuttings should be ready to flowers after two or three years
  • Evergreens can be raised from semi-ripe or hardwood cuttings
  • Deciduous varieties are best taken from softwood cuttings
  • blue sapphire 001

    My Ceanothus Blue Sapphire supposedly a compact evergreen low growing shrub will be covered in masses of intensely blue flowers in Spring. It will have long graceful arching stems covered in small very dark glossy leaves almost black in winter. I don’t mind that mine is not a low growing shrub. Being hardy, sun loving and drought tolerant makes this a low maintenance plant which will produce a wonderful haze of flowers. It is commonly known as California lilac because the flower supposedly looks a bit like the lilac flower. I’ll have to report later on that.

    Back to friends. My friend had a conversation about moi and my garden, with her neighbour and neighbours son living elsewhere had plants he didn’t need and I drive up having left Best Beloved at the Dentist for dastardly treatment and I am gifted the plants.

    How good is that.

    Now the fun begins – Where to plant and can I manage to propagate this plant?

    You too could carpet your garden paths

    Yes we know it is not usual BUT

    We have found in the winter that our paths are not very suitable for people of our very nearly advanced age and so we have been considering just what to do to make our garden safely accessible all year round.

    A friend had a big roll of old floral axminster carpet in her garage and she very generously offered it to us and of course we said yes please. We had already been using carpet pieces around most of our newly planted trees outside of our fully fenced vegetable garden. This was done to stop our free range chickens from digging up the young trees and for some reason we had positioned the carpet with its woven backing side up. Maybe it was because the carpet was a very unattractive beige.

    There is such a lot of carpet in this roll so we decided to use it for our paths inside the vegetable garden and you guessed it, because it is a floral carpet we positioned it floral side up. Wouldn’t you have done that as well?

    Yeah we know it’s a bit daft but a floral path inside a vegetable garden is just a bit special don’t you think?

    axminster carpet in garden

    Sadly we will cover it with some sort of mulch later. When the mulch breaks down it will be added to the garden beds and replaced as need be.

    In the meantime I shall enjoy strolling on my floral path as I work in our vegetable garden.

    Strolling on weed mat would not be nearly as enticing, would it?

    not a good idea

    To burn the fingers of your right hand at any time BUT when the peaches are ready that is just soo stupid. The blackboy peaches were slowly rotting on the tree just because we didn’t have the drought we were expecting and the beautiful fruit has been bruised whilst on the tree by the heavy raindrops at just the wrong time and I had burnt my hand.

    I had intended to stew and freeze peaches as well as make more blackboy peach jam and maybe even peach ice-cream. None of that has occurred. Best Beloved is not too good with fruit and my right hand has been burnt.

    I know I could still have done it and I did go and pick the best of the remaining peaches doing so through the swarm of buzzing bees and wasps who were all having such a party in the fermenting peaches. I bought in two large bowls and set them on the bench to process but couldn’t manage the peeling and slicing with my bandaged hand.

    So this morning I took the remaining peaches out to the chickens compost area – and had to fight another swarm of bees and wasps enjoying the fruit there already.

    I just hope the chickens are wise enough so that they are not stung.

    And next year when the fruit is ready I will not be injured.

    I will not.

    Lovely daughter sent down a jar of her homemade BlackBoy Peach jam made from our peaches.
    A lovely consolation prize.

    I am running out of containers

    And it is a bit of a bother.

    It seems as though I have been cooking for days on end – courgettes, tomatoes, peaches, apples and more. I have dried tomatoes and figs, stewed fruit, and I’ve even made Blackboy peach jam. Why would I do that? We don’t even eat jam, well, not very often. I have even pickled peaches which we haven’t tried yet and we have given away lots and lots of fruit and vegetables.

    But there are only so many people who will wish to take away a bag of cucumbers. Again I mean. After I asked would they like a few cucumbers and the answer was yes, and I gave them a few, maybe a dozen or so. Next time the eyes glazed over when I offered cucumbers. I just didn’t have the strategy right, give a few and they will take more next time, now that would have been sensible wouldn’t it. Maybe I’ll do that next year, or maybe our Audrey (the cucumber vine which has delivered 250 plus cucumbers), will not reappear in our garden next spring.

    IMG-20160318-WA0000Black Boy Peaches

    But the biggest bother of all is containers, or lack there of, and of course the fact that I have still more cucumbers, figs, apples and peaches etc to process in one way or another.

    My friends know that I have always shouted from the roof tops to anyone with half an ear listening that I simply don’t do desserts. My family has had to eat fresh fruit for dessert except on those rare occasions where a dessert really is required – maybe at Christmas or on a birthday or if we are entertaining.

    But now – you guessed it. I will now have to be a creator of desserts. I have stewed apples and peaches and I must use them. I must. I must. I must.

    So we have a freezer full of soups, sauces and stewed fruits. Cupboards with dried tomatoes and figs, a couple of jars of the pickled peaches and pots of jam.

    And it is what we wanted when we came here to Miranda.

    Yes it was.

    Yes it really was.

    I just didn’t realise how many containers I could need.

    Best Laid Plans

    You might know already but just in case you have forgotten I am going to reiterate.

    We are what might be classed as “elderly”. That Best Beloved will be 71 and I will turn 69 this year.

    Our wee plot of land is steep apart from our garden which is on the flat but with steps and slopes to negotiate to get to the garden beds.

    We are surrounded by cabbage trees and flax both New Zealand natives and beautiful. They were planted by the original owners of this slice of heaven without considering management of the land. But as I said we are fast approaching elderly. The flax has to be cut back with a special Niwashi tool before we (Best Beloved) mows the grass and the cabbage tree dead leaves have to be collected because they fall all over the areas that have be mowed.

    We are working towards minimizing the extra labour required to maintain the areas around the vegetable garden and house for our safety and that of the mower itself. We do have a covenanted bush area as well as the house section and a paddock.

    Yesterday we carried on removing the cabbage trees and have done quite well – BUT we decided, when we were hot and sweaty at about 2pm, to go down to the wee village of Kaiaua and buy fish and chips for our late lunch to eat at the beach.

    When we got home we went to check on the wee goats next door.

    and that is where Best Laid Plans comes in.

    Next door have 3 goats which have wings no matter what is done. Because of their propensity to fly over the fences they are each chained to a wee log which they drag with them always to stop the flight experience.


    One goat had broken her chain and it (the chain) was entwined with the chains of the other two goats. So we had two goats pulling 3 blocks with the chains all wrapped around each other. They must have been playing jump rope (chain) in turn to become so entangled.

    Best Beloved, myself, and our grandson took some long long minutes trying to disengage the goats from each other without harming them or us. I cuddled one goat whilst holding it also by the collar, Best Beloved held the other goat, and grandson untangled the chains and the blocks.

    You might ask – why didn’t we just undo the chain at the collars. We asked that too. But grandson assured us that these goats would begin to fly the minute they were unattached so we persisted with the slow process of untangling 3 chains and 3 blocks.

    These 3 goats are for the chop very soon because flying goats are of no use to a wee lifestyle block owner and they do make great roasts if dealt with young enough and good curries if a bit older.

    So if you are a goat and reading this take heed don’t start to fly or you will fly to the oven.

    And we have to continue our garden cleanup.

    Just so you know – the cabbage trees are all in the gully where some will re-sprout and the seeds have been strewn as well. We are planning on planting flax in the gully area as well but lots of it will be removed by a local farmer who will be planting it along his stream banks as part of his management of his land. We are making our land safer and easier for us but we are still going to have lots of flax and cabbage trees for the the birds and to extend the bush.

    The next cabbage tree will be relocated into the covenanted bush area as will some of the flax.

    I am in a state of shock


    It seems rather premature to me to be talking about autumn and preparing for winter crops when the temperature outside is over 23 Celsius and the tomatoes and cucumbers are still dripping with fruit and the Blackboy peach is still laden with as yet unripened fruit.

    But according to someone in power somewhere in New Zealand we are now officially in the autumn or fall season.