After school holidays

Winners announced below.

I breathed a big sigh of relief sending the children back to school yesterday. We all really enjoyed the break but everybody was getting to the stage where we were seriously getting on each others nerves! My kids have 3 or 4 years between them, which was brilliant when they were little because I only had one in nappies at a time, but now they are finding it hard to get on. I wish I could say the older ones were lovely caring examples for their younger siblings, but that would be a bold faced lie. The teen is a grump to me and all who are younger, but is perfectly behaved when he wants something! I could go on all day about the sibling rivalry and where I went wrong, but what's the point?
Freya the old black cat and I are home alone, blissfully un- hassled, she sleeping and I sewing. It's rainy and warm, the house smells like tomato sauce which is bubbling on the stove. I'm happy, with my fabric stash all over the lounge, inspired by another new bag. I nearly made my perfect bag a few months ago, but with a few improvements I 'm getting even closer this week.

A bright tote is perfect when I'm going to a meeting or to the market but when I'm hopping in and out the car with a few kids to get in and out, maybe carrying groceries or library books too, then I need a bag diagonally across my shoulder so it doesn't slip off. The pocket on the front is working well for slipping my keys in and finding them again quickly and the size is just right.

I'm putting this delicious brown one in the shop.

I have drawn out names for my wee giveaway, a ball of wool for Michelle (choose a colour) and a brooch for Heart in the country .Thanks to everyone who took the time to enter, nice to meet you all.


Giving back

One of my fabulous Aunts has worked for most of the school holidays helping PJ with her reading. I feel very guilty that PJ doesn't find reading easy like the big boys did. I know that the effect of me working night shift when she was small is showing now, she simply didn't get enough storey telling as I rushed off to work at 7 o'clock every second night and then slept late each day. The red head who was a surprise baby, was such a blessing as I gave up my night shift of course and got the family back into a better routine. I feel such guilt though when I she her old Playcentre friends enjoying reading so much. I am not sure if PJ has something going on that makes it difficult to read but the school don't seem to think so. We're all reading alot more these days to try and support PJ.
To thank "Aunt" I made a few cloth shopping bags, she has commented on mine several times when I've been getting extra strawberries at the family farm.

I should also thank Mum as she drove PJ to Aunt's house every day before she went to work. Mum is harder to make things for though so I shall have to think on it a little longer.
My other fabulous Aunt was the classic 50's farmers wife. Excellent cook, mother and make do-er. She told me that she use to bottle her grapes with peaches for a yummy winter fruit salad. My peaches are all finished but I gave the grapes a go yesterday.

I had very good intentions of making strawberry jam for all the people who made meals for me recently, but I jolly well burnt it! Not too badly but it's not perfect enough to give away. I shall have to think of something more fabulous for my friends.

If anyone else wants to enter for some lovely possum wool or a "gillybean" brooch let me know before I do the draw. I love to do giveaways as I "meet" a whole lot of new people, so say Hi.


Back in the garden again

The Autumn colours in the vege garden are beautiful. My warm evening weeding inspired me to get the camera out, though my hand wasn't quite steady enough for the low light, the colours came out well.

I've had this goal to be self sufficient in fruit and veges. It is easy to achieve it during summer but for the winter garden my timing is still off. These beautiful coloured cauliflowers I planted in late January while we were all still on holiday. I staggered the plantings by two weeks and composted them well. Until recently the parasitic wasps kept the white cabbage caterpillars in check but then the population exploded so I used an application of derris dust to get them under control. The problem is that they are all coming ready at once despite the staggered planting. It's also a little earlier than I had hoped, with a few summer veges still to be found in the garden and glasshouse. The challenge for me is to be self sufficient in July and August as stores run low and frost stops the growth of everything. The gap in gardening last month isn't going to help the situation.
Another bit of bad timing is the peas which are just starting to flower, it's going to frost here within the next month so I doubt very much that I"ll get to harvest many of them. The plan had been to have them just sit through winter and then flower in very early spring like they did last year.
I'm not completely behind, this is just the first few pumpkins. "Austrian oil seed" and "jack be little" for stuffing and seed for baking. Their vines had died off in the frost before Easter.
I'm working on clearing up areas where corn and pumpkins have been in preparation for cover crops, composting and garlic beds, which I prepare with lime then a rest for a few weeks add blood and bone, then pot ash throughout winter until I plant. I try to leave it three years before I plant garlic in the same spot but as I grow such a large area of garlic I can't always manage it.

Leeks, celery, radishes, silver beet, parsnip and lettuces are all growing well at the moment, I even have two fairly promising looking beds of carrots in. There's only 3/4 of a row of potatoes left while the yams aren't looking very prolific this year. The kumara were doing well but the frost killed their vines. I dug one plant up and only got four fairly average looking kumara from it but they do look better than the spindly looking ones I got a few years ago. I think I composted this lot better and I'm determined to keep trying with these.

Nasturtiums and pumpkins still going strong in a warmer patch of the garden, I like the way they smother everything in their path.


Fibre finds and a giveaway

We had a lovely day at the Easter Fair yesterday. It may have been a bit hot for people to think about buying my winter woollies but they were very kind and complimentary about them which always makes my day. All the sewing I did in the lead up to the fair was worthwhile though.

The highlight of my day though was the few careful purchases and trades that I did. Delicious alpaca/silk blend from Rotocard who have moved their business into our area recently after being in Blenheim. I'm going to spin it as fine as I can so I can make a lacy scarf.

A lovely merino top for the red head from pipimoomoo.

I also did a trade with my friend Melissa because PJ fell for one of her lovely Easter bunnies. I would have shared a photo of it but PJ has whisked it away for a night with Granny.

Now I've got one more show and tell and a wee giveaway:

I'm in love with possum merino wool in yummy colours made right here in New Zealand. (They don't have a website but email me if you'd like contact details)

My favorite brooch from the last series or 1 ball of wool is the giveaway. It always makes me feel great to give away something that I really like, it has happy energy attatched to it.
All you have to do is say hi and let me know which you'd prefer to win.


Easter Weekend

No baking or decorating eggs here for Easter.
Last minute preparations are under way for the giant Mapua Easter Fair. Printing labels, sewing new table covers and wishing I'd sewn and knitted a lot more items. The weather is looking promising so stop and say hi if you can find myself and Melissa amongst the hundreds of stalls.


Autumn 09

This has been a beautiful Autumn here. I've missed a whole month in the garden, but it carries on finding its own balance in the warm but wetter weather, with lots of seedlings coming up and brassicas plumping up nicely. I harvested masses of black boy peaches which I sold at the gate and dehydrated for the kids lunches over the next few months. Only I turned round one day and saw that skatey boy had found them, and in just three days had munched his way through 3/4 of an Agee jar of them, probably equivalent to about 25 peaches! I have hidden the other 2 jars so we have some winter snacks.

Our beautiful green grape is ready now, people always ask for cuttings of this one, I don't know what it's called but it's sweet and almost seedless and grows perfectly organically. It doesn't get any food or water but I give it a good prune in winter. It's a real asset in the garden because people are happy to barter for it. See below I've had tons of tomatoes from Dad and walnuts from my Aunt, while not pictured my neighbour has also been supplying me with hazelnuts.
A friend put the word around that I hadn't been well, so I've been spoiled this week with home cooked meals and baking. It is so healing to know that people care. All of them with busy lives themselves. Without the chore of cooking dinner I've made soup, sauce and paste from the tomatoes. While in the still room I've been brewing up some cider (a first for me) and drying lemon verbina, and tansy which are also romping away in the garden.
Tomato Paste is easy, here it is:
10 lbs (5kg) ripe tomatoes
1 Tablespoon salt,
white pepper to taste,
olive oil
Chop tomatoes and cook in a large pan for about half an hour or till very soft. Stir as necessary.
Remove from heat and mouli or puree in food processor. Return to pan, bring to boil then reduce heat and simmer until reduced by half.
Preheat oven to a very slow 120 degrees Celsius. Transfer puree to a greased baking dish and bake 4-5 hours till very thick and concentrated. Add salt and pepper and spoon into sterilised jars, cover with a thin layer of olive oil and seal.
Keeps for about a year.
If you don't want to bottle it, freeze it in kids ice block moulds, they are a good size to whip out and add to a meal.