Monday, 21 January 2013

Golden harvest

The garden is still flourishing, and we are still enjoying the fruits of my labours (even if it sometimes feels that those labours were simply to put a seed into the ground and watch what grew...)

I panned for edible gold this weekend, digging into the second of my potato grow bags. Whilst there were only a few large potatoes (large here being defined as big enough to cut in half and still be visible in a roasting tin), there were enough middling sized ones to fill my collecting bowl, and we should get four meals out of them. There is something deeply satisfying in burrowing into soft soil (made nicer by the fact that, as they are in grow bags, I know that I'm not going to be digging down into an ants' nest, as I did when I grew potatoes on my allotment) and sifting out the glowing nuggets from the darkness. The largest of the potatoes made up part of our Sunday roast, along with peas, mangetout and the first of the runner beans. The flavouring on the chicken was also from the garden - my thyme bush which was on the verge of giving up the ghost a few weeks back has now bounced back into life.

The weather has been a bit topsy turvy over the last few weeks - torrential rain, followed by days of glorious sunshine and temperatures well into the twenties. My tomatoes are adoring this, and have exploded with fruit, to the extent that I've had to tie up outlying branches, as they have been tipping the pots over with their weight. It's also been nice for me - I've had a few days off from wandering round the garden with my watering can, and has the added bonus that I get nice surprises the next time I'm out when I see how much has grown in my absence.

Some of the surprises which greeted me this weekend have been the flowers which have sprung up. Mainly weeds, but a few deliberately planted as well - principally the sweet peas. They have been so plentiful that I have had a vase full constantly since Christmas, giving the room a subtle fragrance. Today, I was able to add to the vase: pink geraniums, purple lavendar, white Japanese anenomes and the stunningly orange crocosmia (I still can't really accept that a flower that beautiful is a weed, and my heart breaks a little every time I pull up a stem complete with bulbs at the end. But, if I don't want it swamping every thing else in the garden, I have to control it somehow!)

Whilst the nights are drawing in, and we are sending the sun back over to the northern hemisphere, it is still Summer here, and my garden is giving me great pleasure.

Friday, 4 January 2013

New Year

2012 has passed by in a flash. When I look back, it amazes me how much we managed to fit in to what seemed to be such a short space of time.

Both family and friends have come to visit, and we have done some more exploring of our adopted country.

I've sat five professional exams, with good results from the three that I've received so far; the last lot will turn up at the beginning of Feb, and I then find out whether I've got the first professional qualification out of three. Work has had its ups and downs, but mainly ups, and I know that there are good things coming in the year ahead.

I've learnt a new instrument to a semi-decent standard; good enough to play Hall of the Mountain King, but I still have a long way to go to pick up the notes outside the central register. We had three concerts, two of them performed twice in different locations, plus Beethoven's 9th Symphony as a workshop, including choir.

I've played for the women's first team in hockey, though I don't know if I'll get asked again, as I certainly struggled over the whole season - I was improving by the end, but we narrowly missed relegation at the end of the season, as well as being relegated at the start. So, I won't complain if I'm playing for the seconds next year, but I won't say no if I get asked to play for the firsts again!

We've spent a lot of time with the different sci-fi groups, at least one, and quite often two evenings a week with friends from one or other. They've introduced me to films that I wouldn't ordinarily have watched, both old and new, some of which I've enjoyed, and some of which I haven't, but all worth it from an experience expanding basis. I've learnt a lot of new board games, all of which have been good fun; I've even won a couple over the last year! I've reviewed a good number of books for SFFANZ, again, most of which I've enjoyed, and a few I've had fun explaining exactly *why* I didn't like them!

We've had our first year in the new house, enjoying being homeowners - no need to ask when we need to put in a nail, no more flat inspections (now it's just the panic tidy and clean whenever we have friends over for an evening or to stay - which is happening more and more. I may have to do regular housework at this rate!).

I've spent very many hours in the garden, with varying success - the weed patches at the front don't look hugely different for the amount of time I spent pulling them up. I do vaguely justify letting the grass grow to seed on the basis that the sparrows and silvereyes enjoy eating it (and then they go and eat the caterpillars which are nomming their way through my potato leaves - obviously that which is poisonous to humans has no effect on insects!).

Though, when I do look at the changes that a few months have wrought, I can see that the work has had some effects (here come the photos!) - this was the front garden in February:

and this is it now:

with a close up of the roses, geraniums and lavender (and weeds. The problem with roses, particularly heavily scented, and therefore thorny ones, is that they discourage casual, walk past, weeding. Good quality, leather gloves, are needed to get at the area in and around the thorns with any measure of safety...)

This is the decking in Feb:

and this is it now... The green tubs contain the potatoes (nearly ready to be harvested) and the red ones should have contained my heritage tomatoes, but they have all died now. The basil in there is doing well, though - I made homemade pesto sauce for the pasta last night, with four different varieties of basil.

The grapes are liking their sunny wall, though I now have a book on fruit growing, and know that I need to redo the canes that they are up against - a bit of work once autumn comes. The fig tree persists at growing at an angle back into the bushes, no matter how hard I try to get it to bend back upright again. It is happy, though, and has put on 36 cm along its longest branch, 25 along the next (and this from a plant that didn't have any branches at all last year) - it has added an extra third to its height!

The tomatoes which have survived (those passed to me as ready grown seedlings by a friend) ended up on the grass - they were on the decking until some very high winds started to send them flying, and I was worried about losing the baby tomatoes that were growing on the plants.

The area that I am most proud of in terms of effort put in is along the back fence. In Feb, it was covered in a nasty weed called Bears Britches.

Now, it is home to my peas,which have been feeding us about once every three meals for a good month now, beans (which have just started to flower) and sweet peas (which have refused to use the bird netting or the bean poles to climb up, and which are instead using the feijoa...). I also spent a considerable amount of time clearing out eleven bags of weeds (mainly Wandering Willie) from around the compost bin and the kowhai tree, discovered the concrete that had already been laid down beneath it (which saved me a job and money - I was planning on putting down some form of tiling!), relocated the compost bin so that it is completely upright, and added a weedmat to try to keep the weeds down for a little while. I think I've gained about 20 sq foot of garden for the effort - now I just have to make sure that I keep it tidy...

The vege box is also being put to good use - here it is when I built it back in April:

Now I have three giant borage plants (mainly used for attracting the bees, but I have added a couple of the smaller leaves to salads), a whole host of spinach, five very happy asparagus plants (the fern like ones on the right of the picture - I'm not allowed to pick any this year or next, but in 2014, they should give us a meal or so every couple of days; and at $2 a bunch at the cheapest in the market, that will do me fine). There's also one lonesome salad pepper / capsicum plant, still cloched under a half coke bottle. The rest didn't make it, but I have silverbeet seeds ready to go where they stood, once I know that the final one is going to survive an onslaught of other plants!

My birdbath is still giving me great joy - only today, we had the birds queuing up to use it - first a blackbird, with a thrush waiting, then, when the thrush had a go, it was joined by a couple of sparrows, jostling for the best space (they managed to move the thrush over half way round the birdbath before they both got bored and flew away!)

All in all, 2012 has been a good year, and I am looking forward to seeing what 2013 will bring.