Gratitude

If you’ve never seen a TED or TEDx video, you should watch this one.  There are thousands of videos out there to see, all of them unique and thought-provoking in their own way.

This one by Louie Schwartzberg at TEDxSF was posted over on Garden Girl’s blog for Thanksgiving, and I only just got around to reading it today, but I wanted to share it with you!

 

I need to do that more.  On rare days I nail it, but on most days, I don’t.  It takes a proactive thought process to constantly feel gratitude, even on the crappiest of days, and I am amazed by people who can turn their worst nightmares into positive things.

Still sick, but grateful to be alive today. :)

Did I get hit by a truck?

Oh no wait.  It’s the flu.

According to my doctor, a ‘real’ flu, which is quite shitty, in every sense of the word.  I’d rank this way up there with the man flu, tbh.  I have never been this sick in all my seven years here in NZ.

It’s really knocked me on my butt, so I don’t even have enough pictures from this week for my usual ‘a snapshot sort of Sunday’ post.

At least my very high fever is coming down a bit now.  Sleeping every few hours.  High fever + sleeping = really trippy dreams.  I seriously had to ask myself if I’d eaten any blue cheese before going to sleep, they were that trippy.

Anyhow, I’m still alive!  Will be back to regularly posting in a few days, I hope!

Hoping you are well. xoxo

Thankful gardening

I can’t tell you how much growing your own food makes you appreciate all the time you spend tending your garden.  There’s something about nurturing your plants that makes it so fulfilling when they finally give you something yummy!  I am so very thankful that I’m able to have a vegetable garden this year.

my first zucchini / courgetteI got to eat my first courgette tonight!  Leon tried to make off with it!  It was a very sweet little courgette and I’ve never had one as fresh as that.  I sliced it really thin and sautéed it with some thinly sliced button mushrooms in a little olive oil, salt & pepper.  Tasty!

Everything else seems to be growing at a very steady pace!  I was only in Wellington for two days, but I swear everything grew by 2-3 cm while I was gone.  My peas and beans have shot up super high, and I had to put a few more horizontal lines of twine on the fence this evening.

My first snow peaI also got to nibble on my first snow pea of the season today!  It was so sweet and lovely. There’s another little snow pea growing that I’ve got my eye on.  I feel bad for watching them like a hawk, but that’s what I’m growing them for! :)

While I was watering my garden, the neighbors behind us came home from work and I asked if they wanted any lettuce, as it’s been hard for me to eat it fast enough.  They gladly accepted, and we spent some time chatting about gardening.  I think the husband is now expected to build the wife a raised garden bed, much to his dismay!

Once they get that in, I said I’d be happy to give them a couple tomato plants and some lettuce, too, since I’ve got some seedlings almost ready to plant.  Or maybe I’ll sow some more seeds and surprise them with their own little seedlings.

It’s cool how gardening can really bring people together, too.  They are lovely folks, and I’m really glad I broke the ice with them!

Gardening makes me a very happy & thankful gwennie.

What was the first thing you picked in your garden this year?

 

Pie is good.

I didn’t get to post yesterday because I was just really tired when I got home, but man, the wind came out in Wellington yesterday!

And lots of rain, too.  I’m sorry that I spoke too soon in yesterday’s post by bragging about how beautiful the weather had been.

I guess this means I’m out of the official NaBloPoMo.  Oops!

But some awesome things happened that completely made up for it!

Paul's lime & coconut pieI was in the office for a pie dayEmma‘s husband, Paul, and I work for the same company and he ‘s known for his love of pie.

Some of you may remember the post where I talked about pros and cons of working from home.  Paul was nice enough to point out another con for me the day after that post was published with a picture of a pie he’d brought into the office that I would never taste because I work from home.  Cause that’s how much of a nice guy he is. *cough*

No really, Paul is an awesome dude, and he makes a mean pie.  He brought in not just one, but two pies yesterday!

The first one was one I’ve been wanting to try for ages — a lime & coconut pie.  It was so delicious.  The best pie I’ve had in practically ever.  I should really get the recipe from him sometime!

Paul's lime & coconut pie

The second one, I was unable to take a picture of because I ate it too fast.  It was like a strawberry mousse pie with an oreo crust.  It was so yummy!

I didn’t need to eat lunch yesterday, because I had the pie.  I know that’s super healthy of me and all, but I’m only in Welly once a month and it’s even rarer for me to be there for a pie day!  It was really lovely getting to see Emma again too, and their little munchkins who can make your heart stop from cute overload.

Next time I go up I need to take up some of my hazelnut shortbread cookies to balance out the distribution of calories.  They can’t all be coming back with me to Christchurch!  One of the other guys in the office is gluten free, so I need to do some testing to see if gluten free shortbread cookies are even remotely possible.  I have a feeling they won’t be.

To everyone in the US, I hope you’re having a lovely Thanksgiving surrounded by friends and family and that you’re enjoying a pie of your own!

Windy Welly

I’m writing this from my manager’s dining room because I’m in Wellington at the moment!  It’s been a really lovely trip so far, even if it did start out really bumpy :)  Our landing yesterday was a true ‘Wellington’ landing — very shaky with the plane swaying its wingtips from side to side at an alarming rate.

Apparently if a pilot can land a plane in Wellington on a windy day, they can pretty much land the plane anywhere!

Trinity the catIt was cold and rainy yesterday, just like in Christchurch, but today was absolutely stunning — the sun was shining and the wind was very well-behaved.  I can’t complain, really!  And there are two resident kitties here that are very friendly, too.

My manager’s husband is the awesome guy I bought my raised garden beds from, and when I got here there was a new model for me to see!  It’s actually inspired by one my step-dad built my Mom many years ago.

If I had room for one of these in our front yard, I would so get one!

Stacking raised garden beds

Pretty nifty, don’t you think?  There’s nine compartments in all to plant in — the main one up top, and four each on the lower levels.  I think heaps of strawberries would look great in one of these for someone!

BasilOr perhaps different lettuces in each part, or a mix of herbs and other plants like they have here.  There are tomatoes in the top of this one with basil, parsley, chives, and thyme in the smaller compartments, along with a couple of small courgette plants and a capsicum plant.

If only I had more room.  It’s hard not to want more plants in your garden.  This I know.

I called Ben today and he swears he watered everything!  We shall see when I get home, lol.  I do miss him & the kitties.

Do you ever wish you had more room for plants in your garden?

Learning about tomatoes

First tomato seedling in October 2011

Tomato seedling (October)

Tomatoes are amazing plants.  Ben doesn’t like eating tomatoes, and he often thinks a cat has peed somewhere if I’ve been pruning tomato plants (they have a certain spicy smell to them), but I keep telling him that they’re awesome.  I mean, he loves ketchup.  I wish he’d eat tomatoes!

This year we’re overdoing it a bit on the tomatoes.  There’s a reason though.  We want to make chutney/tomato sauce, and for that you need lots of tomatoes.  Also, I can eat tomatoes at every meal.  Show me the tomatoes!

Last year, I cheated and got some seedlings from the grocery store after my seeds failed to sprout.  They were grafted tomatoes, and were massive producers.  I didn’t prune them or do anything special, just stuck them in big pots out front (the soil at our old flat was shocking) and left them to it.

This year, I’ve learned a few things about tomatoes this year that I didn’t know before.

Firstly, there are actual planting methods for tomatoes that will help them.  Tomatoes are a plant that will grow roots on any part of the stem that you put under the soil, so to get a really good root base, plant them deep.

Same tomato seedling in November

Same seedling (November)

That’s why each time I repot my tomatoes, they go into deeper pots, and I put them low in the pot and pile up the soil (a bit like how you hill up potatoes, really).

When you finally do put them in the ground outside, there are two methods you can use depending on what type of soil you have.

If you have good, easy-draining soil, the straight down method should work for you.  You dig a really deep hole, and pop your tomato plant in, leaving a few sets of leaves above the soil line.

The second method works if your soil isn’t very loose/well draining.  You dig a trench and lay your tomato plant down sideways, leaving a few sets of leaves coming out one end of the trench above the soil line.  You cover almost the entire plant in soil when you fill in the trench, leaving only the top part of the plant visible one end of the trench. Apparently the part you leave above the soil line will start growing upwards from there, resulting in a great root ball for your tomato plant!

Crazy, isn’t it?  I had no idea.

The other nifty thing I learned is that you can grow tomato plants from cuttings!  I seriously had no idea, but will keep this in mind for the future.

Do you know any other neat tricks & tips about growing tomatoes?  Are you a believer in pruning your tomato plants?

A snapshot sort of Sunday

I know I keep saying that the weeks are going by super fast, but really, they are! :(  Super fast.

I can’t believe Christmas is like 5 weeks away! Holy moly.

Here are a few of my favorite shots from this week!  Yes, you will see Mr. Courgette because I just can’t get over how amazing courgette plants are.  I heart him.

White rose
This is the first rose from the mystery rose bushes out back to have bloomed.  It looks like the larger bush is going to be all white!  Very pretty against the dark stain on the fence :)  The only (maybe) bad thing is that there’s an elderberry bush right beside this one and they’re growing up together in a very tall manner!  I had to push some elderberry branches out of the way to get this pic.  I’m looking forward to making some elderberry jelly (or something), though!

Little apple tree!

I haven’t featured this guy in a few weeks.  Check out how many leaves he has now!  He’s a very happy little tree.  I am aware I sound like Bob Ross here.  I’m ok with that.

More female courgette flowers

Courgette!!  Two more female flowers opened up yesterday.  Sadly no male flowers are open at the moment, though, so I’m not sure if these girls will be properly pollinated. : / The first little courgette is really growing!  I think I’ll pick it in a few days.

Red lettuce & herbs

These are the herbs that I’ve put in the second raised bed, where they may be safer from the snails.  Am I wrong to worry about my oregano not standing up straight?  It seems to be too tall now, and wants to be a creeping plant.  You can see my thyme peeking out from one of the lettuces, and sage and Italian parsley on the right.

Nemophilia flowers in tire planter

I can’t get over how fluffy my nemophilia-filled tire planters have gotten!  Compare this pic with one from a few weeks ago, here.  Pretty impressive!  I just love the color they add to the porch, too.  I can’t wait for them to start putting out flowers.

Nemophilia close up

I love staring at them.  They’re slightly hypnotic.

Stages of chameleon rosesI thought this snapshot was really neat because you can see the different stages that chameleon roses go through! :)  It makes me want more roses.

Just an FYI — I’m headed out of town for a couple of days (let’s hope Ben does a good job at keeping everyone alive again) and may or may not schedule posts this time — I might gracefully bow out of NaBloPoMo this month.  Not sure yet!

If I do keep posting everyday, are there certain topics you would like to know more about?  Any gardening problems or questions (for new gardeners) that I can research for you? Let me know! :)

How do you like them apples?

I’ve updated you folks on just about everything I can in the garden week, so I was wondering what I should post about, drinking a nice cold glass of apple cider after work today.  And then it hit me!

Drinks are nice, right?

I went searching for some apple cider cocktail recipes, since I think it would appeal to  both the folks experiencing the wonderful colors of autumn in the northern hemisphere and the folks down under gearing up for summer.

Cider on the left, juice on the rightI need to point out some things before we get started.  In the US, the apple cider I remember drinking when I was young didn’t taste anything like the liquid I’m drinking here in New Zealand.  One of the fondest memories I have of being a teenager is going camping at a renaissance faire — one of the first Harvest Faires, and drinking hot apple cider to keep warm.  It rained the entire weekend, but we didn’t care! :) I don’t remember it containing alcohol…

I did some googling and found out that in the US, the only difference between juice and cider is that cider is unpasteurized, and cider is non-alcoholic, unless it’s  ‘hard cider’, which has fermented.

Which led me to search for how to make your own apple cider or hard apple cider.  Check out that link if you want to find out how!  Also, cute dog footage in the video there, too.

New Zealand Apple CiderHere in New Zealand, the apple cider you can buy in stores contains alcohol, but not a huge amount!  It won’t be knocking me on my behind anytime soon.  It’s also more of a summer drink, as far as I can tell.  Some of the local breweries often put out a summer beverage and an apple cider in the spring here.

I’m drinking an Incider while I’m writing this — the whiskey wasn’t getting consumed any other way, really.

Here are the drinks I’d like to try!

Cold apple cider cocktails:

Apple Pie Martini (via ask.com by way of )

1 1/2 parts vanilla liqueur
1 part vodka
2 parts apple cider
1 tsp cinnamon
squeeze of lime

Pour all ingredients into a shaker filled with ice & shake well.  Strain into a chilled martini glass & serve.

Apple Breeze (via Bar None Drinks)

3 oz. Malibu Rum
5 oz. Apple Cider

Mix together in a highball glass & serve (I’d probably have mine with ice).

Incider Cocktail (via Bar None Drinks)

1 1/2 oz. Blended Scotch Whisky
Apple Cider

Pour into an old-fashioned glass and fill with cider. Garnish with a slice of apple. YUM! :)

Hot apple cider drinks:

I can’t wait to try some of these when it gets cold out!

Hot Apple Toddy – sounds perfect for when you’ve got a sore throat!

2 oz whiskey or apple brandy
1 tsp sugar
hot apple cider
lemon wedge for garnish
cinnamon stick for garnish
2-3 whole cloves for garnish

Coat the bottom of an Irish coffee glass (or whatever glass) with honey.  Add the whiskey or apple brandy.  Fill with hot apple cider & stir well.  Garnish with the lemon, cinnamon stick and cloves.

Hot Buttered Cider (via Flora’s Drink Hideout)
Makes 10 serves

7  cups  Apple cider or apple juice
1/3  cup  Brown sugar, packed
4    stick cinnamon
1  teaspoon  Whole allspice
1  teaspoon  Whole cloves
1    Lemon peel, cut into strips
1 1/2  cups  Rum
5 tsp Butter or margarine for garnish
Thin apple slices to garnish
Natural cheesecloth to make spice bag

Combine apple cider or apple juice and brown sugar in a large saucepan & add the spice bag made from your cheesecloth containing the spices and lemon peel.  Bring cider mixture to boiling, then educe heat and simmer, covered, for 15 min.  Remove and discard spice bag.  Stir in rum.  Pour cider mixture into mugs (make sure they can take the heat).  Float about 1/2 tsp butter or margarine on each.  Top each serving with one or two thin apple slices & serve!

Mulled Cranberry Apple Cider (via Tammie from Carolina Heartstrings )
Makes 4-6 serves

4 cups cranberry juice cocktail
2 cups apple juice or apple cider
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp brown sugar

Mix all the ingredients together in a large saucepan.  Cook over medium heat to boiling point.  Stir to blend the spices.  Remove from heat, ladle into a mug and enjoy!  Also, read Carolina Heartstrings, it’s great blog! :)

Do you have any apple juice/apple cider drink recipes to share?

Picture credit

On capsicums

Just a quick post from me today on growing capsicums from seed.

Last year, I tried to grow them from seed and they never came out to play.  It didn’t matter how hot it got, they wouldn’t sprout.  They’re supposed to like really warm weather to sprout, but I’m guessing I got a batch of bad seeds that season.

This year, I got my seeds from the same place, and they actually sprouted, albeit much slower than everything else.

I was ecstatic about them, though!

They’re doing ok now, but they are very fragile.I'll be your drama queen

Where my tomato sprouts can stand a cold breeze, these go all floppy at the merest hint of a cold front.

I’ve been hardening off everyone for a week or two now, which  means I’ve left them outside longer and longer each afternoon/evening the night, and last night was the first night I left everyone outside overnight on the back patio.

When I checked on them this morning, all the tomatoes & lettuces did really well, but the entire tray of capsicum sprouts looked like they were dying.  And the one lonely eggplant, too! I blame the capsicums for rubbing off on her.

I brought them inside right away, and put them in the bathroom where I normally keep them on cold days, and within 30 minutes they were back to being their perky little selves.

My experience with them thus far has led me to believe they are the drama queen club of my veggie garden.

To my capsicums:  All this babying better pay off, little plants.  I expect nice, sweet peppers from you in exchange for all the love and attention I’m giving you.  Love you!  Kthnxbai.

Have you ever grown capsicums from seed?  Did you have any trouble with them or other plants being difficult?

Weeding, weeding, weeding

They know, they just know where to grow, how to dupe you, and how to camouflage themselves among the perfectly respectable plants, they just know, and therefore, I’ve concluded weeds must have brains. 

~Dianne Benson, Dirt, 1994

Truth.  I spent two hours weeding the backyard and side of the house today!  Some of those weeds were hard to see!

Bastard plant!I should have taken before and after pictures, but I wasn’t in the blogging frame of mind.  Silly me!  It would’ve been great to show the transformation!  I still haven’t asked Ben’s Dad what the name of the weed that’s everywhere is again.  And now it’s too late to call him.

Wait!  I found it!  Google is great.  It’s called cleavers.  It’s a horrible, horrible plant.  It goes everywhere.  The only upside is that you can drag your garden fork or garden glove over it and it’ll stick, so it’s relatively easy to pull most of it up, but then you have to find the roots.

I picked up about 8,123,423 cabbage tree leaves, too.  Anyone who has ever had a cabbage tree on their property can tell you this is the best job ever.  I never want another cabbage tree for as long as I live.  I didn’t even get all of them…

It was a good work out though.  Could definitely feel the burn in my shoulders, back,  and calves when I came back inside.

I don’t know how anyone is honestly supposed to keep things from growing through gravel when there’s not really enough gravel anymore.  Maybe I should quietly ask my land lord for more gravel for the paths.  He would probably say no!  I don’t want to spray anything that will hurt the worms or the soil, but holy cow, weeds grow fast.

Slightly more exciting than weeds — my first courgette looks like a real courgette already!  I know might not be exciting to anyone but me, but I’m ok with that.

I went out early yesterday morning to see if I could catch the female flower open, but it looks like that window has passed.  I just hope that it was fully pollinated and that my first courgette continues growing and doesn’t turn to mush like so many of them do.

The first male flower was open yesterday, though and it’s almost as pretty on the inside as the female one! :) And, the first snow pea flower has appeared!  My runner beans are at the top of all the tall stakes and the spring onions & carrots are looking good.  It’s all happening! :D

Male flower on the right

First snow pea flower

Look at the little courgette! :D :D

How can you not look at that and smile?  It’s so cute!  And tasty!  I want to eat it!  Soon.

Is there anything that has you very excited in your world?

Cleavers photo credit

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