Fresh Figs and a homemade chicken coop

Screen Shot 2018-02-08 at 1.46.35 pmScreen Shot 2018-02-08 at 1.46.19 pmScreen Shot 2018-02-08 at 1.45.57 pmScreen Shot 2018-02-08 at 1.42.24 pmScreen Shot 2018-02-08 at 1.43.22 pmScreen Shot 2018-02-08 at 1.44.13 pmScreen Shot 2018-02-08 at 1.44.22 pmScreen Shot 2018-02-08 at 1.45.26 pmScreen Shot 2018-02-08 at 1.47.18 pmScreen Shot 2018-02-09 at 8.24.59 amScreen Shot 2018-02-09 at 8.25.17 amThis week Mike and I passionately worked to complete our chicken complex.  The idea originally came to us when we first moved in, that summer was particularly hard for our last lot of chickens due to the sun exposure of the last pen.

We tore down the old space and placed our 16 chickens into a temporary shade sheltered pen for the past 5 months.  In the mean time Mike, Ashley and I have worked together to meticulously measure, concrete and assemble a sustainably recycled shed and pen for our little chooks.

It’s just in time as these birds will begin laying soon.

When we first got them they were teeny tiny chicks.  Wesley harassed them quite a bit with love during their time in the back porch and I was more than happy to take the chicken poop smell outside and while I can’t speak on behalf of the chicks I feel they might have been relieved to be away from prying fingers too.

This pen has ample room and a large shed for the birds to roost and lay their eggs in each day.

We’d love for them to be free range, but learned the hard way a few years back that fox and wild cats are always looking for an opportunity to get to birds left out in the open.  There is already evidence that they have tried digging and also pulling on the chicken wire.

The concept for fox proofing the space involves laying the chicken mesh in two layers about half a foot below the sand and two feet away from the structure.

Quite a bit of sweat went into this project and I think it’s one of the biggest projects we’ve undertook as a couple together.  I call it a sustainable effort because we salvaged the mesh doors and built the hut entirely from other peoples left over metal.  Pretty awesome way to recycle and save some $ too.

For now there are three roosters testing out how fox proof the space is.  Tonight is our third night and I really believe they will be safe.

The other night I heard some terrible screeching outside by a fox and took a headlamp to investigate.  I found it climbing up a fig tree!  The sound is similar to cats fighting.

Speaking of figs, we are now collecting fresh ripened figs in the quantities of about 20 a day.   It might be time to make some jam.

Also pictured:

  • 1 tiny chunky jumping spider
  • 1 large crevas dwelling jumping spider (the spider with the white line)
  • A three inch long little lizard
  • Beyond the bamboo and gumtree there was this wonderful creamy sunset.

Catching Bees & Baking Challah

Screen Shot 2017-09-13 at 9.46.55 amScreen Shot 2017-09-13 at 9.47.29 amScreen Shot 2017-09-13 at 9.48.22 amScreen Shot 2017-09-13 at 9.48.56 amI’m going to give myself a big pat on the back here – for I wasn’t sure if I could do either these things before I gave them a try.

First I baked my first two loaves of challah bread.  They turned out wonderfully.  The best part about challah left overs – are the epic french toast that can be made the next morning.  I froze one loaf so Mike can enjoy some with us while he’s home too.

I used to work in the financial district of Toronto, and beneath this section of this city lay an underground network of cafes shops and passageways for workers to move between buildings without being exposed to the cold weather.  It is truly an ingenious system.  But I digress – what I found down there was a small bakery beneath my office that sold the most delicious challah buns.  They were golden yellow and would melt in your mouth in only a couple of bites.  They were a huge treat, and since I’ve left the city have not seen any where that sells these special pastries.  So, after what seems like now a decade I’m taking my challah love into my own hands and making it myself.  It’s surprisingly easy to make.  If you’re keen to try making them at home yourself – here’s the challah recipe I used.  I would love to show you a photo but sadly my camera is still broken – but I’ll be making these again and will endeavour to show you the results.

The other was briefly touched on a few posts back.

Bee capturing!  Mike talked me through it over the phone, and assured me I was safely protected by a bee suit.  The bees were full of honey and wouldn’t be able to sting.  Ok, I’m in!  That thrill of trying something new and scary was so rewarding.  We now have a second happy little hive!

They had been swarming on a branch in the yard so I put on the suit and placed a box underneath the swarm.  Then gently moved the branch to drop 70% of the bees into it and close it off.  You basically have to pray you caught the queen, otherwise they will just walk out and fly back to her.  My first attempt looked successful, but a few hours later I found them all back on the branch.  I gave it one more shot and woke the next morning to discover they were all happy and warm inside.  Moving beyond my fear of being stung, I knew it would make Mike really happy if I tried – so there it is, success!

Organic Gardening – Trial & Errors

Today I dug for potatoes.  I thought, maybe there might be something there?  And by god there was!  About a month ago I pulled up one shoot only to see the teeniest little spud growing.  Mike assured me we should wait a lot longer.  After this tragic realisation, I had a flash back to that time I dug up my dead guinea pig.screen-shot-2017-01-06-at-8-21-30-amscreen-shot-2017-01-06-at-8-18-57-amscreen-shot-2017-01-06-at-8-19-33-amscreen-shot-2017-01-06-at-8-19-47-amscreen-shot-2017-01-06-at-8-22-17-amscreen-shot-2017-01-06-at-8-19-59-amI had thought at the time, that it might be a “dinosaur” (it was 2 weeks post burial).  I was around 8-9 years old (My shovel hit something and when I pulled it out from the earth there was guinea pig skin all wet and sticking to the shovel.  My 4 sisters were screaming at me, and I think they all still consider me a terrible monster for digging in the first place!  Anyway, clearly the lesson was not learned.

I’m still impatient.

We’ve now dug up a medium sized bowl full of all sizes of the glorious spuds.  These were planted in about September.  We had a potato in our pantry that had grown eyes and lots of shoots at the time.  I segmented it into separate parts for each shoot and dug them into our pallet garden bed.  Seriously stoked, each time I dug into the dark soil – there was another pale nugget!

We’ve learned the hard way not to plant sweet corn near our tomato plants as they attract a moth that lays it’s ravenous little babies (whom especially love the corn but also enjoy green tomatoes).  To combat this issue naturally, Mike trimmed the tomato plants at the base up to 12 inches from the ground.  He also did a thorough scan for the caterpillars and “eliminated” them.  I think he fed them to the fish tank…

Initially Wesley and I would spend about 10 minutes a day weeding in the garden.  We did this for about 3 weeks.  Now, there are very few weeds to pull and it’s all become quite an easy process.  To be honest though, I found weeding quite therapeutic (at least this standing version anyway – probably wouldn’t have been so keen bending down).

Most of the other plants have grown exceptionally well (bar the capsicum and chilli – they seem to be awaiting warmer weather).

A few months back I harvested the seeds from the coriander, sage and thyme plants.  I then trimmed them down.  They all have continued to flourish – and I’ve noticed even now the sage is flowering again!  It’s quite a stunning plant, and looks great in the batch we have growing.

The herbs we have successfully grown:

Coriander, Thyme, Sage, Lemon Grass, Rosemary, Italian Parsley, Broad Leaved Parsley, Watercress, Chives, Rocket and Basil.

Plants that we’ve grown or are in the midst of waiting:

Eggplant, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Sweet Corn, Kale, Lettuce, Capsicum, Silver Beet, Beetroot, Chilli Plants, Capsicum, Strawberries, Apple Seeds, Lemon Seeds, Radishes, Fennel, Spinach, Perpetual Spinach, Baby Carrots, Tomatoes, Potatoes, Red Onions & Leeks.

Total failures:

  1. Mint.  Which is pretty odd considering the stuff grows like a weed everywhere else!
  2. Avocado.  These have been in water waiting to grow for months.  Either we’re doing something totally wrong or the seeds aren’t good for germinating.  Has anyone reading ever sprouted an avocado before?  Mike’s brother managed to get some sprouting in a humid glass house…but we don’t yet have one of those.

Dear reader what natural strategies do you use to manage pests?  Do you have a preferred vegetable that you enjoy growing each season?

Ps: Yup, I wear overalls now.  Haha, my sister really despises them – but who cares! Ever since Wesley was born I’ve found them to be the best thing to roll around and get messy in.

Mr. Giggles

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Mr Giggles.

This little giggly one is now near 6 months old.  He finds plenty of amusement in the silliest of things.  He’s curious and is constantly trying to work things out… like his jolly jumper.  I’ve caught him a few times looking up at the main spring and trying to wrap his mind around how he gets the bounce in it and nothing else.

He has a really enthusiastic deep hearty laugh, that I don’t think we will ever tire of hearing it… Some nights before bed I play videos and Mike and I relive the little victories we’ve had getting to this point.  He’s gotten so big.  He’s now over 20 pounds!

Garden Update:

We’ve been harvesting (and eating) loads of kale, spinach, rocket, watercress and multi-coloured frilly lettuce.  The little caterpillars are growing on our swan plants and just about everything we’ve planted has taken root and is growing really well (apart from our eggplant – can’t figure out what’s up with them!).

The sheep have grown just as quickly as Wesley…they are so plump now!

Spring has…exploded!

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Yesterday, little Mr. and I headed to great grandmas for some gardening.  There was a weedy patch that I cracked into for a while.  At the end we gathered some insanely colourful flowers for a bouquet and I thought they were beautiful enough for a photo…and then it struck me that something else might make them even more beautiful… haha.

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The colours erupting from the trees and earth this spring have been pretty spectacular.

Our little herb patch has nearly tripled in volume in the warmer weather, and I can only guess how many lbs of parsley I’ve had over the past few months.  It’s cranking out produce.  We are so thankful for the bounty this little space has already provided us, and hopefully when the flowers turn to seed shortly, I’ll be able to save a few and plant even more.  Fingers crossed the large garden beds are up and ready soon so we can also enjoy some home grown veggies.

Do you keep a veggie patch/herb garden?  Which types are your favourite to grow?

We’ve had a few spring visitors which include all the local dogs (thank god Tess is fixed!) and some hungry sheep with their wee lamb in tow.  Many of the paddocks around Palmerston are full to the brim of fat little lamb and calves.

The orchard facing our house was a mass of white and pink flowers a few weeks back – and looked absolutely stunning particularly in the later hours of the day when the soft sunlight shone from behind lighting everything in a really nice golden hue.

Anyway that’s me rambling on about how gorgeous it is here in New Zealand right now!

Till next time…

x

Holly