Hugelkultur

Screen Shot 2018-07-15 at 2.14.13 pmScreen Shot 2018-07-15 at 2.14.04 pmScreen Shot 2018-07-15 at 2.13.46 pmScreen Shot 2018-07-15 at 2.14.19 pmScreen Shot 2018-07-15 at 2.12.48 pmScreen Shot 2018-07-15 at 2.11.44 pmThis past week I’ve been working on an epically large project.  The ground has been dug up to about two feet to be lined with logs and fallen timber in a process of soil regeneration called hugelkultur.

It’s a simple concept.  You’re taking carbon life forms and placing them into the soil to slowly decompose beneath your garden bed.  The results can have a lasting effect for up to 20 years!

The bed I’ve created was lined with logs then filled with jade cuttings and branches from around the house yard.  The next layer was compost.  Topping that was a huge layer of seaweed which we collected from Greenhead.  The seaweed took three trips to cover the entire bed.  The last few steps involve topping the green matter with the soil that was dug out, then adding a final layer of compost and hay or mulch.

My body has pulled me through this process – surprisingly with little soreness.  Overall exhaustion though was at an all-time high after I singlehandedly dug out the pit!  This is definitely a job for multiple people.

Wesley has particularly taken to the pit.  He’s also found great joy in all the mounds he can push his little dump truck over.

Only time will tell if the soil retains moisture – we’re going to let it settle and get some more decent rains on it before moving to the stage of planting.

All in all – this has been a thrilling project.  I really can’t wait to see how the veggies grow!

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.

Collecting Seeds & Observations

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Last week I harvested some seeds from our sage and cilantro plants.  I just adore the flavour of cilantro.  I know it’s love or hate for most.  How do you feel about the herb/spice?

The petite seeds are now drying in our kitchen window.  As I harvested the seeds, I made a small observation and then tucked it away in my mind.  Several of the sage flower stalks had spiderwebs throughout.  On those particular parts of the plant, there were very little seeds.  In a way, it’s a small price to pay for the grounds keeping skills of the spiders.  There were still plenty of seeds to collect from the rest of the plant.

Our agapanthus are just about to bloom, and are crawling with little spider friends.

The hive is well and happy.  Mike took a peek inside and saw they were beginning to shape comb.  Yey!

The garden is cranking out food – so much so that we’ve not bought any type of leafy green in nearly 2 months.

Our little patch of baby monarch butterfly caterpillars are all gone.  Sadly, they were munched on by some very clever birds!  The only reason we know that’s what happened is a bird left the decapitated head of a caterpillar for the sake of giving us a rather brutal clue.

Some really good food has been masterfully (totally bragging here) created in our kitchen over the past few months.  I’ve taken to making buttery and garlic naan bread, palak paneer (with tofu) and Jamaican patties (with stuffings of spiced beans or even left over palak).

Here are some of the vegetarian recipes we have been leaning on:

This super easy naan recipe is completely vegan and crazy delicious.  We often don’t have any left by day 2!

These Jamaican patties took me back to my teen years microwaving pre-made patties from the supermarket.  We didn’t use mince, but chickpeas and beans instead.

This last recipe is for palak paneer.  My all time favourite Indian food.  I thought this might be quite difficult to make at home but it’s very simple and cheap too.  I’ve made it with the paneer but found it’s just as good with tofu.

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!

New Parents learning to budget.

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Since moving to New Zealand from Australia to raise our new family, we’ve been living on a small income as Mike is the only one who is currently working full-time.  I also work part-time from home for a marketing agency based in Perth but that being said, my hours are very minimal.

Neither of us have debt, nor do we use credit cards for any purchases so we are doing well in that regard.  We have savings however this could change very quickly if we’re not careful.

So, how do we manage?

First we sat down and really looked at what we could afford to spend each month on rent, food, baby necessities, internet, power, firewood, fuel and anything extra.  We were pretty stunned at how little we would have at the end of each month.

Mike suggested we only eat vegetable meals at home – and for the past four months we’ve been on a vegetarian diet.  I was really impressed when he made the suggestion to better our health and help the planet.  He was concerned because we’ve watched far too many documentaries to justify eating meat.  We will eat any meat that we have hunted or fished for, but that’s not happened yet!

We’re avid gardeners and recently collected some old pallets and put together some fairly cheap raised garden beds to grow our own vegetables.  The growing season is very long here in New Zealand and we’re pretty excited about the prospect of eating good home grown food year round.

We hardly ever eat out now, and can be found most weekends picking up fresh produce from the local farmers market.  Apart from getting some fried fish or the odd pizza we’re really turning into home cooks and this is a huge contrast from our time in Perth.

We’ve been super conscious of what Wesley actually needs and what is not crucial. He is only 5 months old now and becoming a very active little man.  We spend a lot of time physically playing and interacting with him.  I’ve been told as parents we’re the best toy he can interact and learn from and we have really taken this to heart.  I buy his clothing second hand and have been able to sell items that he no longer fits (on TradeMe) which is also handy!

Another way we save is by using re-washable diapers.  Most days we can get through a whole day with our reusables, and when we head out of the home we swap to disposables (which save us from any messes).

We bought a second hand car.  We’ve never owned a new one, and I oddly take great joy in this.  It’s not fancy by any means but it does drive well and it’s reliable.

For entertainment we have Netflix which is $8.99 per month, and we also rent books from the fantastic library here in Palmerston North.

Lastly, our home decor.  Whilst we’re only renting this property at the moment, it’s taken me some time to shape it into a space that we love.

We’ve made the space ours by investing in some quality furniture that should last us quite some time.  The styles we’ve gone for are pretty classic and simple.

The one way I’ve been able to contribute financially (even if it is modest) is by working part time as a copywriter from home.  I’ve been employed by the company since January, which was just prior to leaving Australia.  The company has been really flexible and I love being able to spend these important months with Wesley and also bring in some coin to help give us a little boost to our savings.

Some of the changes that we had to make revolved around my shopping habits…

Eeek!  I used to spend a bit of money almost monthly on clothing. I’m often still running around in my maternity clothes as they have a little more wiggle room. As the weight has been shedding I’m finding joy in wearing items that have eluded me for nearly a year.  It’s like reuniting with old friends.

Our weekend activities are pretty outdoorsy and generally cost nothing!  Walks in town, hiking in the hills or visiting family and sometimes fishing (this does require a license which was bought for the year).

We now savour the small moments (like enjoying a takeaway coffee or fish and chips on a Friday).  It’s been an eye opener in such a positive way.  We’re both really pleased that we’ve managed to get through our first year without dipping into our savings and are really looking forward to what the future holds for us here in New Zealand.

Have you ever had to live on a tight budget?  What were some coping strategies you used?  We’re always on the look out for better ways to save…we’d love to hear how you save money too.