Monday, April 29, 2013

Honey Harvest

We took our honey off the hives a couple of weeks ago. Mike helped thankfully. We're technically robbing the bees of most of their hard work, so I always approach it with a little trepidation. Plues I have one hive that is quite a bit stronger than the other and I was a little afraid that they would start going crazy with the scent of honey and start robbing the weaker hive. I've never seen it but apparently it is not a pretty sight.


Fresh honey tastes gorgeous. I never thought of honey as a fresh food before I had my own bees, but tasting it straight out of the hive is fantastic. Above is some 'rogue' comb where the bees have built it vertically from the frame, instead of across it. A good excuse for some hot buttered toast and honeycomb.


A new harvest necessitates  thinking about using up last years harvest, even though honey will last for a lot longer than a year. Fortuitously Alex decided to make some caramel popcorn.

The children have become a little silly about having their photos taken recently. I don't actually do it very often nowadays. Maybe I need to take more so they get used to it again 

  This was the best I got from the girl.

And here they were too absorbed in cleaning up the fresh honey from the drip tray to ham it up for the photo. 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Autumn Digging

The ground is perfectly moist for a little digging. Well actually a lot of digging for me as I have embraced the bio-intensive method for my annual vegetable beds which get the most use. I can take about 40 minutes, then have a little recovery time doing some gentle raking or transplanting.

Here's my nearly completed bed. Aiming to get up early tomorrow morning and finish  this one off before guest responsibilities kick in for the day. 

Here's my digging board so I don't stand on the bed. It's not really substantial enough, a thicker piece of ply would be better. Buying a whole piece of new ply just to stand on it in  muddy boots seems a little extragavant though.

 Here's another bed I've forked over, not double dug as it is at the top of a steep slope and not retained so would start falling down the hill if I disturbed it too much. I used to have my artichokes in here, but after a few years they didn't like it any more, so I've moved them to my food forest.

Grow little peas, grow. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Evening Walk around the Food Forest

I've been spending a bit of time in the last couple of weeks in my food forest. I also, I must confess, have had some help from a couple of German backpackers - weeding and mulching mostly. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the ground is still reasonably moist in most areas, enough that I have even done a little planting.

More areas are starting to look how I always imagined it. 

Pomegranate
...pomegranate flower...
 ...and pomegranate fruit! very excited! Hoping they have enough time to mature - 
need 5-7 months, and a hot summer. 

My soapwort plant is growing well. It has pretty flowers as a bonus. If I was really thinking I would have planted it next to the hose. Apparently you can crush the leaves and they will lather slightly, they have high levels of saponins. Will defiintely be collecting the seed to grow more, mainly because this idea has high appeal.  When the plant is bigger the book says you can divide as well.

My two tamarillos are doing well too. This is the first success I have had with these. I must have planted about five previously that all succumbed very quickly to powdery mildew. These have had a bit of mildew, but they have come through it okay. Have mulched them with heaps of horse manure. 

The red yarrow is adding a bright splash of colour - should really be called pink yarrow, rather than red. 

Also enjoying the white yarrow. I must pick some and see if it lasts in a vase. 

Bunching onions thriving, going to grow a lot more of these. 

One moan - surely an unripe persimmon does not taste that nice, even to a pukeko? Need to do some netting even though these are a long way off being ripe. 

The year for figs I think. Everyone is talking about laden trees. Certainly the most fruit my tree has ever had on it. 

My two new figs are establising themselves. They are planted in the toughest area  - mostly solid clay on this bank, at the top of the food forest (behind is a hedge of elderflowers, disguised by weeds). Have constructed a temporary retaining wall (bamboo stakes and manuka twigs), to stop the mulch from heading down the hill onto the path. 

 Angelica

One of my favourite flowers, these are from the 'rainbow valley' pawpaw

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Leaf Plucking

It's been a hot few days in the vineyard. The children have managed about half an hour each day , and have earnt a few dollars for holiday spending money. We pay them the same contract rate, they can work quite quickly, but need to work on their stamina....

Leaf plucking is taking the leaves away from the fruit to improve air circulation. It's necessary in our humid climate to help prevent fungal diseases. Like most jobs on the vineyard it's not hard, but is time consuming. I'm back on the Woman's Hour podcasts.

 From this...

 ...to this. 

Flora and Pinot Gris completed. Syrah next.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Winter Gardens

On a recent school field trip to the museum I made my fifteen year olds make a detour to the Auckland Winter Gardens. I don't believe any of them had been there before, not sure how impressed they were though.


I, on the other hand, would go just to see the tropical waterlilies. One day I am going to have a pond with lots of these. Mike once bought me a bouquet of blue ones for a birthday, and I would rate them as some of the most beautiful flowers ever.


I do like the bricks. There was a plaque which noted was opened in 1913. Not sure if the whole structure, but there might be some significant 100 year acknowledgement next year. Will keep an eye out.

The flower borders outside. I'm becoming more enamoured of this style of garden....

And this is what happens when you are taking photos with students... even at age fifteen, they still find this amusing.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

An evening walk around the garden

...with my new camera. My old one no longer focussed automatically, had no flash, and then I dropped it so it ony took black photos (not deliberately I promise). After using my basic point and shoot camera for a while, I am enjoying being in control again.

Dwarf sweet peas. 

White stock. All double as promised by the seed packet, but very small plants. 
Not sure if the seed or my growing of it.

Bishops flower. Grown for cutting, as a bonus it's also great for beneficial insects. 

Snapdragons 'Black Prince' (I think that is the variety).

Lettuce from seedlings from Annie. 

Tomatoes in cages looking good so far, fingers crossed. 

Globe artichoke flower in it's fluoroescent glory. 

Beans starting to grow, very late in this year. About to sow some more. 

And finally, enjoying all the flowering parsley.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Bio-Intensive Gardening Workshop

Indulged myself with a 3 day gardening workshop last weekend, tutored by Nathan Foote. Hosted by the wonderful Fi, and supported by the GROW Trust (who run the community gardens and the GROW produce exchange/donation table at the Saturday market on Waiheke).

Not all rakes are the same...

 Forks neither. I'm looking at my tools anew. They are mostly a motley lot, I can't recall where most of them come from. Except my trowels which I seem to buy with alarming regularity as they frequently disappear.

 The youngest participant.

 Making free-standing compost. 

 Demonstrating pricking out. Advice was to do it when they get their first two dicot leaves, which is earlier than I have always done. But I have tried it with my basil, and so far so good.

 Making own seed raising mix. Something I have never done, will know I am a serious gardener when I manage to do this!

 Transplanting. The bio- intensive method  is about maximising production in a minimal space, in a sustainable way. Everything has specific spacings. I quite liked these markers below which were used for spacing.


Broadcast seed sowing a compost crop. You can admire the double dug beds which were done by participants, although not, I confess, me. Had an unavoidable meeting... but have since done some double digging in my own garden. A little at a time!

Nathan Foote was fabulous. I could have listened and learnt from him for a lot longer. Highly recommended. New inspiration for the vege garden, which has been useful for these past few days in the heat.