The wonderful folks at Penguin sent me a copy of Lynda Hallinan's Back to the land to give away to one lucky reader. I did a review a few weeks back which you can check out here.
I'm doing my usual easy entries but for the bonus entries I'm going to make you work for it just a little bit.
Open to New Zealand only.
There are three chances to enter. Leave a comment to qualify as your entry.
Last month I was in Masterton and I popped into Parkvale mushroom farm and I picked up one of their mushroom kits. I'm so excited to add home grown mushrooms to list of achievements!
I see that most Garden Stores sell some the mushroom gourmet kits (might have to try oyster mushrooms next time!!). My first harvest yielded me an impressive 472gms of fresh yummy goodness!!! You really couldn't eat mushrooms any fresher; unless of course you ate them straight out of the bucket!
These kits are super easy to grow; you basically put them in a dark cupboard and check on them once in a while. I was so surprised and excited when I checked on them yesterday and found am amazing mushroom patch!
So when you get your kit it maybe already have the "spider white webs" (mycelium) across it if so just add the peat that will come with the kit. Or if not as in my case I had to keep the bucket in the dark for two weeks till the webs grew then I watered and added the peat (about 5cm thick on top of the compost). Put a plastic bag/ cardboard box over the bucket to keep the moisture in. Put the bucket in a dark place that's not too hot (so not a hot water cupboard) and not too cold. I put mine in my hall cupboard. Then...
3 weeks later I had these beautiful tasty mushrooms.
To pick the mushrooms gently hold the mushroom by the stalk and rotate the mushroom; it will come out with a very satisfying pop. Once you harvest your mushrooms you need to water your patch. Basically get a cup of water and run the water down your open hand all over the patch then cover with the plastic and put it back in the cupboard for your next meal.
This was the biggest of my mushrooms (not very button like any more!!) this mushroom weighed 145gms!!! John and I ate several mushrooms raw; they taste so clean and fresh and full of life not dirty like mushrooms often do. I have to say I was a tiny bit nervous about eating these mushrooms even though the ones I buy at the supermarket come from the same farm!!!
I made mushrooms a la grecque for dinner. Was so yummy!!! I only used 250g so I have enough for spaghetti bolognese tomorrow night. I think I might get another bucket or two to have them all going at once to have an ongoing supply of fresh mushrooms. I'm having so much fun!!
I love having baths and I often have circulation baths they are so relaxing. I buy the epson salts by the kilo but I couldn't find a jar big enough to store my salts in. So when I saw this great idea on design, dining and diapers, I just knew that I wanted to make one of these!!! These jars are so easy to make and look super pretty. It would make a great gift too!
What you'll need:
A jar with a lid
Tie the twine in a knot.
Wrap the twine tightly around the jar until you have a thick band.
Keep the twine tight and also push the twine up to stop any gaps forming.
Once the band is thick enough tie the twine in a knot.
Take the washer and cut off enough twine to go all the way around the jar.
Fold the twine in half and thread the loop through the washer.
Take the end of the twine and pull it through the loop then pull tight.
Repeat on the other side.
Then tie the twine around the jar.
The back of my jar is a little messy with the twine being tied together but I figure it's the back of the jar which no one will see so no biggie.
My jar looks very pretty in the bathroom with the epson salts in it. You could add whatever you like in the jar (ie brownie in jar) and give to someone as a gift. The possibilities are endless.
The Humane Society released this fantastic video recently. It really makes you think. I'm a staunch vegetarian and have been for over half my life; this is now my second vegetarian pregnancy as well. I am a strong believe in only buying and eating free range eggs (I can't wait to get my own chooks then I will truly know where they come from!). Mr Ecochick and John are mostly vegetarian; in that we don't normally cook meat at the home but if we're out they eat whatever they want. If the boys do buy chicken or bacon it is always free range. Luckily in New Zealand all our cows and sheep live in fields and are grass fed.
I know buying free range is more expensive than buying factory farmed but it's about what's important to you. Since we don't often buy meat we can afford to spend the extra money on free range meat and eggs. Animal welfare is hugely important to me and so we add that extra cost into our budget.
I know if your family eats meat every day free range might seem out of your budget but choosing to go meat free a few days a week means you can spend the money to make sure the animals you do eat can have a better life.I hope I've given you something to think about.
Wow I've learnt so much about growing different fruit and vegetables. I thought I'd shared all the things I've learnt about tomatoes. Lets hope this ends in a bumper crop this year!!!
I grew several seedlings from seeds I was given (they are still rather little but you can get an idea of what I'm talking about with these photos). I dug the hole very deep; so that once the plant is put in the ground only the top few leaves are above the soil; any area below the soil will grow roots and provide a good root stock for the tomato. In the hole I added tomato soil mix, then I added a few tablespoons of milk powder plus some banana skin. I am now growing all my tomatoes like this. I also intend to water with worm wee every two or three weeks once flowers start to develop. It pays to stake the plant now to avoid damaging the roots later; yes it'll look rather silly having a tiny plant with a 1.5m stake but they will grow into them, and one bamboo just won't cut it. I read that mulching with banana skins help increase the potassium going to your plants so all my skins from now on will go on my plants.
It also pays to remove the side laterals; these are the small branches that grow between the main branches on the tomato plant. Did you know you can put these in the soil and they can grow into new plants?
Some other tips: Later in the session when you have a lot of fruit (yes tomatoes are a fruit) on your vines remove a lot of the leaves (especially the lower ones) to help with air flow and circulation, also to try to reduce the chance of blight. Don't plant your tomatoes in the garden until all danger of frost has past. Watering: When watering your plants water the soil around your plants and not the leaves as this can increase the risk of disease. Also when your milk bottle is empty fill the bottle with water and pour the mixture over the leaves to help keep diseases at bay and also the plants will like the extra calcium. Companion plants: marigolds (I've added calendula around my plants), garlic, onions, shallots, chives, nasturtiums, borage and of course basil.
I thought I'd share all the different places and ways I'm growing tomatoes this year. I have two black cherries in large (32cm across) pots. I've made bamboo and a metal teepees to support the plants. I'm very excited about these black cherries and can't wait to eat some. It was really windy here the other day so I protected my new seedlings with some old milk powder bags. I guess this could work as mini greenhouses maybe they will grow quicker? Maybe I'll put them back on!
I have two purple Cherokee seedlings that I've planted in sheltered areas. I really hope they get enough sunlight. I have them near the fence so that I can simply tie them up as they grow.
I also have two more cherry tomatoes in my washing planters under my broad beans. I grew tomatoes in these planers last year and grew beans in them over the winter to nitrogen fix the soil. I understand these aren't really happy bed partners but there are still too many yummy beans on there for me to pull them out so for now they have to play nicely together.
My own little (tiny) seedlings are being grown in my raised beds. I found some metal poles floating around the garden so Mr Ecochick cut them up with an angle grinder (what fun to see all those sparks flying) and then he banged them into the ground for me. I attached some twine bewteen the poles to support my tomatoes. Last year I didn't give my plants enough room or support and so have now planted them 50cm apart with lots of support. I was even able to give some seedlings away in exchange for fresh eggs from a friend (had amazing poached eggs this morning!).
My last few tomatoes are tiny toms in hanging baskets. Last year we were eating tomatoes as early as November and as late as May since the deck provides a lot of sun and shelter. Fingers crossed they will do as well this year.
I'm really hoping that all these things will help me get a better crop than last year. What are your top tips for growing tomatoes?
Simple steps to growing food, keeping chickens, worm farming, beekeeping and much more in New Zealand.
WOW is all I can say about the amazing gardening/ self sufficiency Green Urban Living by Janet Luke. I love, love, LOVE this book!!! I love that Janet calls Green Urban Living Gurbing. I love that each chapter is broken up into individual fascinating topics, these topics include creating a green urban garden, growing vegetables/ herbs/ fruit/ flowers and micro-livestock. I love that there are loads of natural/ organic tips from companion planting to dealing with pests and making your own fertiliser.
The chapters are jam packed full of easy to follow information with great top tip boxes plus wonderful step by step guides for a variety of super useful gardening resources/ items, for example how to build a chicken tractor (I can't wait to get my chooks so that we can build one) or make your own compost tumbler. I love all the see how it's done you tube videos that accompany the fabulous information. I love that everything in her book is about living sustainably but doing so on a budget. I find too many sustainable books I've read are not practical unless you have a lot of money but Gurbing is all about using items you already have around the home or can buy easily and cheaply.
Green urban Living is full of super useful information for the compete gardening beginner to the more advanced/ experienced gardening or someone living in an apartment to someone with some or lots of land. This book is a must for anyone who wants to grow a few vegetables in pots or most of their own food to learning how to live more sustainably or be more self-sufficient. I love that you can pick and chose how much you use from this book. If you only ever bought one gardening/ self sufficiency book this should be it!!! I know I will be re-reading this book again and again and again!
I am very happy to announce that I have a signed copy of Green Urban Living to give away to one luck New Zealand reader. Since this book is about gardening and living self sufficiency in New Zealand the competition is only open to New Zealand.
a Rafflecopter giveaway THE APPLICATION DOESN'T APPEAR TO BE WORKING PROPERLY SO PLEASE LEAVE ME A COMMENT BELOW AND I WILL DRAW A WINNER RANDOMLY. Along with sending me a signed copy for myself and one to give away to one lucky reader. Janet was kind enough to also send me a packet of the wonderful bee banquet.
This is a wonderful collection of flowers that will attract bees to
your garden. I'm also super excited as next month I'm going to meet
Janet with some friends to look at her amazing garden! I can't wait!!
Wow my pregnancy is flying by and boy we're both growing very well! I am so much bigger than I was with John!! John is super excited about the baby well the idea of it, well see what the reality when the baby arrives!!! I'm doing really well, loads of energy though am having some braxton hicks which are rather painful but other than that I'm doing fantastic.
From the beginning we've told John we're having a baby and taken him along to both scans so he can see the baby. He comes with me to the midwife and he can listen to the baby there. I think it is really important for John to be a part of the whole processes (we'll not all of it I don't think he needs to be there for the birth, though I know some people choose to do this and good on them). John and the new baby are a part of our family and therefore are treated as members of our family rather than just a little child who doesn't know anything.
John is super cute you can ask him where the baby is and he'll point to my rapidly expending belly. He'll also give my belly kisses, cuddles and say hello baby. The other day I put his hand on my belly and he felt Grape kick. He thought this was great and was just delighted. He sat still for about 10 minutes feeling the baby kicking. So cute!
I've been taking over more and more of our garden and now I think it's transformation/ take over is finally complete! Check out my over grown and very wild driveway that I've never really had any interest in. So the drive was sweep occasionally and Mr Ecochick would prune the trees but other than that it just was. The drive really made the house look untidy and the plants went all over the drive which was super annoying and very untidy. So when my MIL was redoing her house she gave us a whole pile of half rounds and this gave me the idea to line the drive with these half round and creating a new garden.
We started by getting a skip bin to get rid of all the concrete we dug out from the side garden earlier this year. We also got rid of heaps of stones and some plants on freecycle. John was super helpful with his little wheelbarrow. So cute. He loves helping. His wheelbarrow loads didn't always make it onto the skip but he thought it was great nonetheless.
Now all the rubbish was gone Mr Ecochick banged in a whole heap of stakes. Like vampire stakes with a sharp point which made it much easier to smack into the ground (so I'm told). Mr Ecochick put in 6 stakes and then we attached 3 half rounds to make sure we had the spacing right. We used huge self taping screws to attach the half rounds to the stakes. We then continued doing 3 rounds at a time to make sure the stakes were evenly spaced on each end of the rounds.
We then got 3 trailer loads of garden soil to fill the new drive garden. Luckily my MIL was here to help so it didn't take us long to fill the drive. We only had to buy the stakes, screws and soil since we got most of the half rounds from my MIL and my brother had a few at his house. The last little section we put in a marble stone that we found in the garden when we were cleaning. This stone is a stepping stone to empty the mail box so easy and looks great.
I'm so happy with my nice, clean, organised drive. I've planted medicinal herbs all the way down the drive. At the moment they look a little sad but I'm hoping in a few months time there will be lots of pretty flowers and in years to come these herbs will self seed and will over run areas they have been allocated. Stay tuned for other new gardens. It's all go here!!
What happens when it's gardening day and you want to tie up the out of control broad beans and of course you can't find your garden ties? You take an old t-shirt and a pair of scissors and cut away!!! No need to waste money on garden ties when there are plenty of old rags around the house.
I shredded the t-shirt into long strips. The t-shirt being old is nice and soft and so wont hurt my plants. Most garden centres sell these ties but cutting up an old t-shirt is much cheaper and lots of fun!!! Broad beans for dinner tomorrow night. Yummy!
Wow I'm loving this custard that Mr Ecochick has been making (actually the recipe comes from the wonderful Edmonds cookbook). I think we've had this custard as a desert with fruit and yoghurt for the last few days as it's so yummy. I'm not normally a huge fan of custard but this custard is super yummy!
What you need:
1 T custard powder
2 tsp sugar
1 cup milk
Place milk, sugar and custard powder in a pan. Whisk egg separately and
add to milk. Heat pan and stir with whisk until mixture thickness and
boils. This can be done quickly since it is being stirred constantly. Remove from heat. As mixture cools, stir from time to time to prevent a skin and lumps forming.
This custard is SO super yummy!!!! Mr Ecohcick even wrote the instructions for me as I've never made this and he is the resident custard (and food) expert!!! This is great hot or cold the day it's made or the next. This custard tasted just like the store bought stuff but costs MUCH less!! It cost us about .80c to make and store bought is $1.80 for the same amount so save yourself a trip to the store and $1 per serving. However of course the smallest amount you can buy is 600ml and this costs $3.85. Also make it whenever you have the urge!!
Wow I've learnt so much in my last year of gardening. Last year when I started I had no idea what I was doing. I mean they are plants right? you put them in the ground, they grow, you eat! Makes sense. Well it is and it isn't that simple! I though I'd share my mistakes plus what I've learnt so you can save money and avoid these mistakes:
1. Compost, compost and even more compost! Your soil really does determine what quality and quality of the product you grow and can eat. Add way more compost that what you think you'll need and then add some more. You can't expect lots of food from soil that is depleted and had no love. So before you spend the money on seeds or seedling fork out the money (or make your own) to add lots and lots of compost to your garden.
2. Read the instructions! Plants come with instructions on where to plant them and how to look after them. Follow these!! They are not guides or recommendations they are instructions. I've wasted money and killed several plants since I decided where they would grow rather than where they actually needed to grow. Read up about a plant before you buy something this will save you money and disappointment when it doesn't perform. My poor Fig tree has been rehomed four times now since I actually bothered to read where they like to grow. Now I expect it to produce well!!! Knowledge is your friend.
3. Seedlings are fantastic. Seeds are great and give you a chance to grow a wide variety of plants (including unusual ones) but seeds can take a lot of work and if you're not sure what you're doing seedlings are a much better way to avoid disappointment. A lot of people will tell you seeds are much cheaper (they sure are) but they also take more time to grow and take more effort. So now I use a mixture of both to keep a steady supply of plants.
4. Add fertiliser and poop! So now that I've improved the soil with compost I've also added heaps of sheep poop and will water with worm wees and make comfry tea when my comfrey is big enough.
5. Water is your friend. Water your plants! We couldn't survive without water neither can our plants. I'm pretty good at watering but sometimes it's just too much effort. Result my garlic just wasn't as big as it could have been! Not to self water more deeply.
6. Space. Some plants need a lot some not so much. I have a habit of leaving too much space between plants and then the weeds come help themselves. Or I don't leave enough space and they compete too much. Read the instructions! (See note 2!)
7. Mulch. Yeah yeah I know all the books say it, all the experts say it but did I do it? Nope. So this year we've added 2 trailer loads of mushroom compost all over our garden to work as a mulch plus soil improver. Looking forward to a bumper crop. Mulch suppresses weeds (should be enough of a reason to mulch!), it reduces water loss, it suppresses weeds, it adds organic matter to your garden (i.e improve soil quality), oh did I mention it helps suppress weeds!!!
8. Know your garden. Spend some time studying your garden; get to know your garden and then plant your plants according to where the instructions say. Some areas of the garden are sunnier, or winder or wetter than others plant your plants accordingly.
9. Read, read and read some more. There are plenty of amazing people, books and blogs that will save you a lot of pain and money. You do not know best (this is you meaning me!!!). There are a lot of experts out there they DO know what they are talking about. Humans have been growing food for a very long time; how and where to grow plants really doesn't change with time!
10. Have fun. The most important thing of all. If you're not having fun you wont feel inclined to go out in the garden. The more my garden produces the more inspired I feel. So feed your soil, read your instructions, water and enjoy.
I'm a huge Lynda Hallinan fan; I love the NZ gardener and the Homegrown series (I have all the books bar the fruit tree one as I'm still looking for it); so when Lynda released her new book I just knew I wanted to read it. The lovely folk at Penguin sent me a copy to read and review. Thank you so much. The subtitle to the book is "a year of country gardening" and that is exactly what this book is. It's Lynda's diary of living in the country; all the amazing plants she planted, harvested and sold plus her first year at motherhood and life on the farm. Her book is very inspirational and I am oh so jealous that she can order (and has room) for hundreds of fruit trees!!! Even ordering 100 at a time!!! Wow how exciting would that be?!
Back to the Land is (of course) very well written and beautifully presented with loads of amazing full colour photos of Lynda's garden in all it's glory. The book is divided into the four seasons which works as a great seasonal gardening guide on what to grow, preserve, plant, eat and make each season. There are over 60 yummy looking recipes from cinnamon brioche and pickled onions to fruit sorbet and apple cider. This book works as a great guide of which fruit tree or vegetable or flower variety to buy and Lynda has also included her top 10 favourite roses. So when I was deciding which pear tree or nasturtium seeds to buy this was my go to book no doubt I will return to this book again and again when I want to buy and plant something new.