No, not talking about the Garden of Eden, but rather our first garden up at the new house at Struan Farm. We've sprayed off the grass, and sister-in-law Anna and I are getting ready to lay out plants we've purchased (at least the first round), as well as some dahlias, hydrangea, and iris I've been stashing from the Homestead gardens down below.
Our strategy is to plant and then fill in as required. We'll then top off with leaves/mulch.
The good news is that John has released another section to us for planting. He's not a control freak, really...
John dug our first potato patch two weeks ago, and we planted seed potatoes the following week. Good to see some sprouts from the first early "Jersey Bennes" start to come up. We also planted "Agria," which should be a bit later.
This is my first attempt at growing potatoes, except for those that crop up on an ad hoc basis in the compost bin. I've read that rabbits don't eat potatoes, so we haven't fenced the patch. The aim is to have new potatoes with Christmas dinner.
And Spud, yes, of course he's watching everything through the fence, keeping an eye on those spuds!
Yesterday Piopio Primary School held its annual "Calf Club Day." I haven't been in Piopio during the week previously to be able to attend, so was really looking forward to seeing what went on. It's an annual opportunity in this small rural community for kids to bring their farm pets to school. All sorts of other interesting class projects are on display with prizes awarded for creativity/execution.
There were more lambs than calves in attendance, along with goats and horses too. Baking categories included cakes, cupcakes, Maori bread, plain scones, plain and iced gingerbread, and pikelets (pancakes). Crafts included "Aqua Jars" (flowers suspended upside down in water filled jars, might need to try this with Ella and Livvy..), "Vegetable Characters," and "Sand Saucers" and other types of floral arrangements.
As you might expect, I spent most of my time watching the pet lamb contests. High cute and chaos quotient. They were judged in pens by the ages of the owners, starting with pre-schoolers. Categories included leading, coming when called and following. It was actually pretty easy to see which were true pets vs. those recruited for the day, and those owners with real bonds with their animals. The judges had their hands full keeping everyone on track, did a great job wrangling kids and animals.
Here are some photos from the morning:
What a great rural experience and tradition--long may it continue!
We finally managed to get some fertiliser/lime spread on the paddocks at Struan Farm. This is done by truck rather than airplane given our relatively small remaining acreage (60). The original farm was much larger. The only problem now is that there's only one man in the area who does this sort of thing on a smallish, hilly property like ours, and he is getting rather elderly. Not sure what we're going to do when he decides to retire!
It's the first time in over ten years that we've had this done, and the paddocks have been crying out for it. This is usually seen in the type of weeds that crop up, like foxglove. Hoping that will now disappear!
I was at home the evening that he finished up, and watched this cloud of white powder roll up to engulf the house. Fortunately we've had rain since to wash it in and off everything...
The stone masons have been working away the past two weeks at Struan Farm, in between rainy days. Our front gate at the new house is finally finished!
After I took these pics John took down the ratty farm gate that we've used in the meantime, as well as the old farm fence. This extends the wooded garden area under the redwoods to the hedge of griselinia I've planted across the yard. So next autumn I'll be planting more bulbs and hellebores in this area too. The rhodos and camellias are already in.
Woo, woo! Starting to almost look ship shape, aren't we?
John has been doing really, really well with his "to do list." Much better than me! He's been busy digging post holes and putting up posts for our Struan Farm farmstay "Reception" and "River Track" signs that I've painted.
I actually hadn't watched the whole process before, but I now know what a "rammer" is used for:
The rammer John uses was his dad's, and is carved, made of a hardwood with metal over the end. While it's more or less an antique implement, it works really well.
p.s. I have told John that he can't tick this off the list until the signs are actually up!....
We're still a construction site at the new house at Struan Farm. Right now it's the backyard, where the builders have been constructing a rather large firewood shed, and laying out boxing for the concrete paths to my veggie garden beds:
Do you remember the TV show "I Dream of Jeannie?" Now if only I could wiggle my nose, bob my head and move this mountain of firewood magically from Point A to Point B!
Thinking about it, maybe the nose wiggle was "Bewitched?"
The irises are next to bloom in the gardens at Struan Farm, and I've been keeping my eye on them. Right now there are two main contenders for the first to bloom:
At the top is one I purchased from Richmond Irises and planted this past season, so it will be interesting to see it bloom for the first time, while the one below is one of our "heirloom" purple irises. So of course my money is on the Struan Farm heirloom to win this bloomin' contest!
Over the past two weekends I've been testing out recipes from Annabel Langbein's latest cookbook, "The Free Range Cook: through the seasons." A week ago I made "Farmhouse Chicken Pie," "Satay Chicken Salad," and "Avocado Salsa Timbales," to rave reviews.
This past weekend I switched to seafood, and made "Seafood Risotto with Fennel," and my first curry ever, "Fragrant Fish Curry," served with "Coconut and Cardamon Rice" and topped with "Crispy Shallots." I used monkfish and prawns for the curry, and here it is, ta da!
On our table this weekend we had an arrangement of Michelia yunnanensis, which is related to camellia. It was imported originally from China, and does have that Asian aesthetic, doesn't it?
Although we're still working like crazy around the property, I feel like we're getting back into a more settled groove for our weekend dinners, which I've always used to experiment and test out new recipes.
Just finished painting signs to guide first time farmstay guests from Struan Farm's main entrance via our farm track up to the new house, aka "Reception."
John decided we should leave nothing to chance, make the route completely obvious. The drive goes over two cattle stops, which could be confusing to people who haven't seen or driven over them before. He's asked for signs, lots of signs, so he's got them. Last week I did the lettering over two rainy days, and this past weekend I painted directional arrows now that we've decided where the posts will be (and which way the arrows need to point).
Also did one for the River Track to help guide walkers around the property. I'll be escorting guests upon arrival to their self contained accommodation at the Homestead, Cottage, and/or Jim's Hut, so nothing needed for those right now (and thinking this might be too much of a good thing).
They turned out reasonably well for something to be viewed at a distance (colour matches our logo), just don't look too closely! Now it's over to John to put up the posts.
I rarely, if ever, write two posts in one day. However something rare happened today.
Today was my day to go into town to food shop and run errands. As a result, I was a little late feeding Spud his lunchtime bottle. When I got home, I discovered that he'd moved out of the house paddock and wandered off with the mob. So I made a bottle and went off to find him.
Clifford and I found him down at the pond, on the opposite side. I walked along the track, trying to get him to walk parallel to us. But instead, once he saw that bottle he jumped into the pond! My heart sank, I realised that if he went down and started drowning that I'd need to jump into the mucky water and save him. But guess what?
SPUD CAN SWIM! Spud it seems is Super Lamb. I'm just not sure how long he's going to stay a pet lamb if he's behaving like this. We'll see if he stays near the house for bottles, or not, because I can't hunt him down three times a day. He may be ready to run with the mob. Stay tuned.
Our little friend Spud is back at home at Struan Farm after his stint at Auntie Anna's. He started to misbehave, getting out of the paddock. And with bulls going in next door it was decided he should return home.
It's a wee bit of an adjustment for us all, but we're happy to have him back as the farm's official pet lamb. While he stays near the house in the paddock below for his bottles, he's already starting to notice the other sheep, a good thing.
And here he is below, pestering the builders as they work on our new firewood shed:
We had an amazing run of beautiful spring weather this past week at Struan Farm in Piopio. So much so that I had no choice but to get out and paint the garden trellises at the Homestead.
The joke in John's family is that the trellises used to get painted for weddings and funerals. I'm trying to be a wee bit more consistent and less ritualistic, freshening things up annually in spring.
This year John repaired/remade the old trellis near the front entrance gate, and it looks much better. I'm eyeing two others for next year!
I've had two garden benches sitting on the Homestead lawn at Struan Farm staring at me, waiting to be painted. They weren't accusatory, pretty patient actually. They've been there for months. Okay, months and months.
I thought they might be painted bright blue, like their sibling. John's dad Maurie, the original recycler/scrounger, made all three benches from recycled motorcycle shipping crates he scored from the local garage many years ago. Crates obviously used to be made out of good quality timber, since these benches endure.
I tackled the faded green one first, but something happened as I started to undercoat it. It spoke to me, telling me that it didn't want to be blue, it really wanted to stay green. Green like Heidi's Green Gate and our front entrance gate would be good.
Green is serene.
And so it is. Now on to the next one. Maybe I should just stain this one brown to maintain the status quo, not listen to any voices, and call it a day?
This past week I managed to get the garden planted above the new stonewall at the Homestead at Struan Farm. A good mix of flowering shrubs: pierus, cistus, azalea, viburnum, spirea, daphne, deutzia, raphiolepis, prostanthera ovalifolia, camellia, cranberry, and a few interesting small conifers: "Cupressus sempervirens Totem," "Chamaecyparis obtusa Tonia," "Thuja plicata Stoneham Gold," and "Chamaecyparis obtusa Tempelhof."
My sister-in-law Anna tells me I have rather old fashioned taste with respect to plants; I think/know she means this as a compliment. I like older varieties, those that "real" gardeners tend to like, and I love conifers, even if they grow slowly. The only challenge is that these are harder to find as a large number of independent nurseries have gone out of business. Our plants were purchased in New Plymouth at Cedar Lodge Nurseries (conifers) and Big Jim's Garden Centre, and in Gordonton at Wairere Nursery. These are all wonderful pitstops for gardeners.
This bed is an interesting mix of colour and texture, it should look good as the plants grow to size and I keep those shrubs meant to be pruned, pruned!