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.

42 mm rain already in 2016

Summer is here in Miranda and we have enjoyed the first seasonal El Niño weather event which has delivered 42 mm rain since the New Year began. I checked the rain gauge on Saturday morning the 2nd January and I was delighted with the reading.

I know that in the scheme of things 42 mm is not that much and there are many who have suffered greatly under this weather event with a great deal more rain and extreme winds.

For us it means full water tanks and that I do not need to water our extensive garden and orchard for a few days which is fabulous. The wind has meant our potatoes and tomatoes have been seriously buffeted and that is annoying but the extra water is fantastic especially as it is predicted that we may have a drought over the summer.

The rain is appreciated.

Our Fruiting Trees, Shrubs & Vines List as at 5th January 2015

We have purchased trees, shrubs, vines and strawberry plants from many different growers, nurseries and garden centres including Incredible Edibles, Kings Plant Barn, Farmers Markets and so on. We started planting in late October or early November 2011

Almond

Apple
Dwarf Apple (Malus domestica “Blush Babe”) grown by Waimea Nurseries. Red fruit crispy and delicious. Planted on east side of house
Sidero – Cider, Late season apple, round shape, medium size. White flesh, firm texture with a crisp flavour. Very Juicy and aromatic. Grows to 3-4 metres. – planted along the driveway ridge
Braeburn / Royal Gala. 2 on one tree. Braeburn – late apple, medium fruit, green skin shaded red, firm, crisp & juicy. Gala is mid deason red over yellow skin, firm flesh. planted along driveway ridge.
Granny Smith – large, late, crisp green, exceptionally white fleshed. Excellent keeper.

Apricot

Avocado – Hass

Banana
Banana x 4

Bay Tree

Blackberry

Blueberry
Blueberry Blue Dawn
Blueberry Blue Magic
Blueberry Muffin
Blueberry other – x 2

Boysenberry
Boysenberry Dream (Rubus Hybrid Tasman) x 2, can be espaliered like a fan. Summer Harvest

Cherry
Cherry Lapins – ripen late Dec early Jan. Self Fertile Grown by L.E. Cooke – Nurseryman Ltd
Cherry – other

Citrus
Blood Orange
Kaffir Lime – inside the garden, leaves used in Thai cooking. Knobbly skin can also be used
Lemon Genoa Summer fruiting – Frost tender, planted on east side of house
Lime Bearrs – Vigorous Compact heavy cropper. Small to medium fruit. Frost free, Grown by Kwan Citrus Nursery in Kerikeri.
Lisbon Lemon
Mandarin Satsuma – sweet seedless easy to peel mandarin ripening in winter.
Meyer Lemon x 5
Tahitian Lime
Tangelo x 2

Currant
Black Currant
Goliath – black large fruit late December to early January for about 3 weeks
Red Currant

Elderberry

Feijoa
Apollo x 2 – Mid to late season, medium to large oval light green fruit
Arhart x 2, very early cropper with large aromatic fruit
Mammoth – large round to oval fruit, ready mid season.
Sellowiana hybrid – hardy evergreen shrub will handle our wind and our few frosts
Triumph – short oval plump fruits, medium to large. ripens mid season
Feijoa – other x 32

Fig
Fig Brunoro Black x 3
Fig – other x 3

Grape
Grape Lakemont seedless – medium sweet juicy green/white grape. Ripens March to early April
Black x 2

Guava
Red Cherry(Psidium Littorale variety red. fruit borne from white flowers. Eat fresh from small compact tree April to June or use in jams and jellies. Will handle frost to -5. Round cherry red fruit April to June.
Yellow Guava, Psidium Littorale variety littorale, x 2, frost tolerant to -5. white flowers followed by heavy crops of large round yellow fruit April to June.

Hazel
Merveiller de Bollwiller x 2

Loquat
Kaitaia Gold
Other x 4

Mountain PawPaw (carica pubescens) x 2

Mulberry

Nectarine

Olive
Olive Ascolano x 4
Olive others x 4

Passionfruit x 5

Peach
BlackBoy
Golden Queen
Other x 2

Pear
Winter Nelis / Packham Triumph on one tree. Winter Nelis late dessert variety, small roundish fruit, Packham ripens mid season – mid March, medium to large fruit. Skin greenish, yellow, sweet and juicy.
Soldat Laboreur (Soldier Ploughman) Heritage Pear, large fruit, yellow skin, yellowish white perfumed flesh, very sweet and juicy. Late summer / early autumn ripening. William bon Cretien as pollinator. Hardy tree.

Pinenut

Plum
Black Doris – jam
Duffs Early Jewel
Luisa
Santa Rosa – Christmas plum, heavy cropper. Sweet yellow flesh, pinkish skin, prune in winter
Wilsons Early

Pomegranate

Raspberry

Rhubarb Victoria Excellent home garden variety. Pleasant flavour. Plant in full sun

Strawberries
Camaera x 15
Jan and Lens strawberries x 12

Tamarillo or tree tomatoe x 3 a yellow, an orange and a red.

And we have more to source – another almond, hazel (Alexander) to pollinate existing, a Nashi pear, Island pawpaw – if we can find a good position for it as we in a quite windy property and more Blueberries and grapes as time goes by.

I am glad that Christmas is alive and well in Miranda

We have been so busy with all the changes in our lives that Christmas preparation has dropped way down our list of things to do. It is a pity as Christmas has always been a family highlight, presents to buy or create, biscuits to bake, house to decorate, meals to plan and prepare, family to visit.

We are just too tired.

Thanks to Laurel, a new nearly neighbour and friend we know that Christmas is in safe hands.

angels in tree

decorations

lights on baubles

ma and pa Claus

Next year we will find all the as yet unpacked Christmas decorations.

We will — We will.

Written and posted on March 7th 2015. Hope we catch up with the backlog soon.

Of Possums, Mice, Roosters and Rats – the Joys of a Lifestyle Block!

My Love and I and I have retired onto a tiny lifestyle block in Miranda.  We are broke but freehold, and very happy indeed.

We are slowly beginning to belong properly in the country community, growing our own food organically, running free-range chickens, fishing in the estuary and loving every minute of it.  Our daughter, her partner and our grandson live right next door, so we see a lot of them, and look after our grandson before and after school each day.  The only major drawback has been the difficulty of getting a broadband connection.

After six long months, we finally have reliable internet here in Herkinderkin’s Heaven in rural Miranda.  Vodafone said they could do it and sold us a 3G data connection.  Sadly, their coverage maps were incorrect, possibly because they were based on incorrectly labelled street numbers in Google Maps.  Basically, mobile television and radio coverage here is weak and intermittent. We could connect only ten percent of the time, and even then it was terribly slow.  Vodafone technicians investigated and finally conceded that they could not provide the service they thought they could.  I believe they have now updated their maps, and I know Google have updated theirs because Google contacted me about it.

Our daughter and her partner have installed a satellite connection in their house, which is sixty metres away from ours.  Their connection is linked to our WLAN router via an 802.11n link.  So we share the costs and benefits. Wonderful – we can again communicate to the wide world!  It”s not quick, but it is reliable.

During the week on Monday’s, Tuesdays and Thursdays, I go up early in the morning to daughter’s to watch over grandson when they go to work. My laptop connects automatically to their WIFI when I arrive – it’s almost like working at Vodafone. But being there for an hour each morning gives me the chance to catch up on emails and rave on in Twitter (@herkinderkin).  Tuesday and Thursday nights grandson stays at our place, so I get to sleep in on Wednesday and Friday morning.

We are having a  great time – the good and the difficult – hey, we’re in the country and there are challenges. Getting to know the locals, too,  Garden is cranking up, and we enjoy eggs from our free-range chickens.  Next spring we’ll chuck a couple of beef calves into the paddock and see what happens.

I have become a mighty hunter – trapping and shooting possums (eleven so far) forty-three mice and two wild roosters that wanted to shag our free-ranging chickens.  Haven’t managed to bag a rabbit yet but it’s only a matter of time.

The possums have scored a few strawberries from us, and some tomatoes, but we are definitely winning the war.  We have temporary fences around the vegie garden, and plan permanent fences as we expand, with overhead netting so that we can remain on friendly terms with the teeming bird-life and not have to treat them as enemies. Man they are superb – tuis, wood pigeons, pukekos, fantails, welcome swallows, chaffinches, yellowhammers, goldfinches, kingfishers, sparrows, thrushes, rosellas, mynahs, harrier hawks, pheasants, cockatoos, herons, ducks, peafowl and turkeys.  The latter we will hunt from May to August to supplement our protein.

The local sparky has become a friend.  He welcomed us into the community by inviting us to his annual family Boxing Day spit-roast barbecue – bloody lovely!.  He sets a net in the mudflats at Kaiaua, and he and I take turns checking it.  We are getting plenty of flounder, and some kahawai and mullet as well.  The kahawai and mullet end up in my hot-smoker.

Retirement turns out to be rather busy.  We have a temporary fence around the garden to keep the chickens and rabbits out, and I am working on a permanent fence, 1.9 metres high, which will also provide shelter from the spring winds that blow from September through December. So far I have put in twelve fence posts, 2400 X 100 X 75 mm and 2400 mm apart. I drill post-holes 200mm wide and 500 mm deep in the hard clay, and ram the posts in place while my love keeps them vertical.  We have another twelve to put in place, then I must build and hang two gates for access, put in wooden rails top and bottom between the posts, and attach dense wind-break cloth.  Oh, and then I must line the garden shed and attach it to the water supply, so we can use it as a brew-house. We have planted 68 fruit trees so far, and plan a few more.  It’s hard work and great fun.  Best of all, I start each day when I feel like it, and knock off to go fishing or even have a nap if I get tired.  My love reckons I have more muscles now than at any time since I was thirty-five!

Here’s a picture of what I did to deal with a determined attack on our chickens from the local Norwegian rats.  Unlike the common brown and black rats, the bastards can burrow like rabbits.  They dug under the walls of the ark chicken coop to gain entry, and terrified the chickens so that they went off the lay.

Fort Fowl

Bugger – the ark idea has the advantage of being movable, so that over time the whole garden is worked over by the chickens in a controlled manner.  But who ever designed it didn’t have to contend with Norway rats!  So, plan B was executed.

Plan B is a 1.2 X 1.2 metre chicken house on legs, about 90 cm above ground, built of 18mm builder’s ply.  The three nesting boxes hanging on the North side (the sunny side here in the Southern hemisphere) have a hinged floor so that I can change the nesting material simply by dropping the old stuff into the wheelbarrow. The East wall opens out so that I can rake the droppings straight our into the barrow – mucking out takes less that a minute.  Best of all, it’s impregnable to the rats and because it’s off the ground, there’s nowhere for them to hide.

We call it Fort Fowl…