a and s’s beautiful permaculture garden

One of my favourite things to do is to visit other people’s vegetable gardens and have a good nose around…I always learn so much and get inspired to go home and get into my own.

(See photographs from an organic garden tour I did in 2013 here.)

Here are some photographs from a beautiful, well-established permaculture garden I visited in late spring last year. (It belongs to friends of a friend. They were kind enough to let me photograph the garden but wanted to be otherwise anonymous. I think it doesn’t give too much away to say the garden is in the lower North Island.)

Here is their garden photographed from just beyond their porch, you can see this from the house:


I loved the way they had their main crops (potatoes, corn) in large clear beds, their salad crops growing more ‘wildly’ in the shadey edges, and they had planted an orchard at the foot of the garden which doubles as the chicken run…the chickens keep the grass from around the base of the trees (most fruiting trees don’t like grass growing around their bases), and the chickens fertilize the trees with their poo…meanwhile, the trees offer shade to the chooks, and food, too. (Unfortunately for my chickens, the two huge trees in their run are feijoa trees, and it seems chooks don’t like feijoas, so no happy harvest for my lot!)



Everywhere I turned there were different crops – here you can see salad vegetables, calendula, dark leafy greens and garlic…


Near the house was an absolutely beautiful peach tree sorrounded by fennel, with flawless fruit dripping off it. I sat under it for a while – it sure was a special tree – and took a bazillion photographs…but I’ll just share a couple with you here as you may not find photographs of peaches so mesmerising as I do.



Beautiful hand-woven baskets and seedling pots made from newspaper…



I noticed they had a ground cover of red clover, too. Red Clover is a wonder-herb – read all about it here.  It’s also just pretty, as ground covers go, don’t you think?


I have another vegetable garden visit to share with you, soon. I hope you enjoyed this one!

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Black Doris did really well on Friday. She made me a little bit of cash and garnered many compliments on her fine appearance. Fun was had.


I’m having one of those times of life where the dial goes from ‘happily busy’ into ‘OVERWHELM‘ *cue obnoxious siren noise, flashing lights, general chaos* …

When the dial is up this high, I find it hard to move purposefully forward and expend too much times metaphorically running around in circles like a simile chicken.  (Poetry nerd jokes.)


Here’s what I will do:

a) drink tea

b) make a comprehensive to-do list

c) accept the bottom 10 things on the list may not get done any time soon. C’est la vie.

d) forgive myself for the dirty oven, the weedy garden, the imperfect parenting…

e) talk myself down from quitting my volunteer work (again); talk myself down from giving up trying to be a writer (again); talk myself down from running away to Iceland carrying only a little brown suitcase (again) …

f) drink some more tea. The sound of the kettle helps me relax. Breathe, tea coming. 

g) leave an unsubtle hint on my blog that I would like some nice snail mail, please, as all the bills and letter from the IRD are not helping the sense that life is all grown-up obligations and worldly worries…

h) do more yoga. I always let my yoga slip when I need it most. AND I’M A YOGA TEACHER. Gah. Get thee to the mat, woman.

i) find the jar of French bon-bons which I bought in Greytown at the start of May. Suck on a sour apple bon-bon whilst sitting on the back step and watching the chickens grab a bit of winter sun.

j) do the next thing on the list. then the next thing. then the next thing. Try just to do the next thing, rather than the thing I WANT to do. Accept ‘good enough’. Accept ‘hanging in there’. Accept.

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k) Take pointless photographs of old roses, just because.

Hope you are doing okay, too, whether you are living the dream or just treading water. X X X





the drought breaks and with it my rage and I farewell the tomatoes


It’s been raining a good few days now – after nine weeks without rain, this wet stuff falling from the sky seems a miracle. How quickly the garden wakes up, too. From desperate and dusty, to enlivened, greening…drinking it all in…

Just as well, because I was getting major ‘drought-rage’. What’s drought-rage?

Drought-rage is walking past a house where someone is using multiple sprinklers to water their….lawn.

Their f**king lawn! …….when there are water-restrictions in place! It made me want to run in, turn off their sprinkler and throw it through their front window. Selfish sh*ts.

Drought-rage is seeing a man using precious water to clean his…..driveway. Yes, the concrete which his car drives up. Because it’s so important that HE have a clean driveway, right? I mean, droughts get dusty, after all. Surely anyone who cleans their driveway must be sociopathic?

Drought-rage is hearing the DJ on student radio saying she ‘really hopes it doesn’t rain because (she) has to walk home’. Yes, because the weather is all about you, honey. Never mind if there are no vegetables to eat this winter because the market gardeners couldn’t irrigate their crops.

You get the idea.


Oh boy, the profound disconnect of people….with the weather, the local eco-systems, food sources, this earth which is our home. It pains me. It hits me in the heart.

On the recent writing retreat, my friend Helen said ‘there is a lot of rage in your writing at the moment…a bit of a rage-theme’ which made me laugh. Yep, I get ‘the rage’ about injustice and human stupidity often and intensely, but that is because I also get ‘the joy’. Two ends of the same spectrum. I love this world and this life so much that rage flares when I see people asleep to the riches around them and what their part is in the stewardship of what we all share…but joy rushes up just as quickly. I prefer my rage/joy existence to a sleepy/numbed/re-or-de-pressed one.

I was reading some yoga philosophy recently and it was describing how our environment, where we dwell, is part of our extended body. It described our physical body as our local body and our environment as our non-local body. It made total sense to me. The air we breathe becomes part of our body. The food we eat becomes us. Therefore our bioregion IS our extended body. Therefore, we should not waste the precious resources (like water when there’s a drought on) of OUR OWN BODY. & If our extended body is in drought, we ought to be happy to have to walk through the rain…in fact, if we are connected and awake…

that rain will feel like a baptism and a gift.

The magic in your life depends upon the quality of your attention. 

Anyway, I didn’t mean to write a rave – I meant to write about how the wet weather got me out into the vegetable garden, which as I mentioned in an earlier post, I had somewhat neglected because of the drought.

I pulled a whole lot of crops, the rest of my squat little carrots, the last tomatoes, the last of the summer beans…(I’m going to make a big pot of ‘farewell tomatoes’ soup this afternoon)….I gave the chooks a good go at what was left and am now deep into planning the autmn/winter planting.





I’m inspired to make it a good season, despite the stalled start.

Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain…

See you next summer, tomatoes. x x x





transition towns garden tour – Feilding

A couple of weeks ago, I went on a tour of four organic ‘self-sufficiency’ gardens in Feilding, which was run by Transition Feilding.

***Do you know about the Transition Towns movement? If not you can read about it here.***

Three of the gardens were the urban gardens of people working towards self-sufficiency in vegetables (and some fruits, and in two cases, eggs) and one was the shared garden of the Bhutanese Refugee Community.

(I must confess my ignorance – before this tour I had not known about New Zealand’s Bhutanese Refugees. Here’s a little bit about it:

‘Since the 1990s, over 100,000 Lhotshampa (Bhutanese of Nepali origin) have been confined to seven refugee camps in south-eastern Nepal after the Government of Bhutan revoked their citizenship and forced them to flee the country. These Nepali Bhutanese spent 18 years in refugee camps, being denied integration into the local Nepal community or their return to Bhutan before the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) offered third-country resettlement as a solution. In 2007, New Zealand announced its inclusion of Bhutanese refugees into its annual refugee quota.’

(Taken from the dol.govt.nz website.)

Anyway, here’s some photographs – doing this kind of tour is my idea of BLISS, I could walk around other people’s vegetable gardens all day. (Ornamental gardens, not so much – I get bored after twenty minutes or so and think ‘gosh, you could grow so much food here!’) I love seeing how other people do things and getting ideas.

(I didn’t take photographs of the first garden, because it belonged to a friend and she wasn’t feeling all that public-ready on the day.)

Here’s some shots of the Bhutanese garden – they were donated an empty section by the local council, and the local Lions Club built them a fence around it so people wouldn’t nick their vegetables. They grow intensively, it was like a mini-farm!

They get horse poo from a local barn and man, their brassicas were HUGE!

I like the way they use tree windfall branches for bean frames:

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These shots are from the garden of the Brebner family – they have been self-sufficient in vegetables since the 1970s. Their garden was super-tidy, pretty and well-organised, with a beautiful mini-orchard of fruit and nut trees and cool little greenhouse. My garden never looks this tidy! It did make me yearn for a greenhouse – their greenhouse tomato plants already had fruit!

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The final garden was a ‘Reclaim the Lawn’ garden of the Witt family. It is a relatively new garden, and they are slowly reclaiming their substantial lawn and turning it into productive space. It was so inspiring to see how attractive the mixed beds were, with vegetables, herbs and flowers all in together. You can also see the start of a herb spiral. They also have lots of chickens and ducks! but I didn’t get a shot of those for some reason.

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It was a lovely way to spend a morning and I came home inspired to plant more & more & more edibles all the time, AND to do more mixing up of ornamentals and edibles in my flower beds.



This is not a gratuitous cute kitten photograph…

it’s a cute chicken photo, instead.

This is Cockatrice – one of our hens. She is the leader of the pack, top of the pecking order and frankly, the brains of the bunch. She was also a quick developer – the first to grow her full comb and to start laying eggs.

Cockatrice is intelligent, adventurous, nosey and demanding. She seems to be much more aware of us and interested in interacting with us than the other three chickens. She’s one of those animals who verges on being creepy, because you feel like she is way more sentient than she should be.

(A Cockatrice is a mythological creature which is half-chicken, half-dragon. Willoughby, our resident dragon-lover, named her. She is his chicken.)

My hen, Harriet, and Fraser’s hen, Hildegaard are bog-standard chickens. They are cute and charming, but don’t have the personality and boundary-pushing behaviour of Cockatrice.

Magnus’s hen, Syndrome (named after the baddie in the movie The Incredibles) is a silly chook. She’s not very bright. She gets stuck, gets lost and gets easily confused.

I swear Cockatrice knew what I was doing when I did this photoshoot with her – she stood patiently, stock-still in various poses, like a chicken supermodel.

I’m absolutely loving the chickens – they are funny, charming and hanging out with the chooks is a great way to de-stress.

(Now that I’ve done one of those blog posts about the personalities of my pets – have I gained crazy chicken-lady status?)


Here are some things which have happened lately….

I have been doing a bit of lounging beside creeks and rivers while the boys throw stones:

I got to visit the country getaway of some friends, which I think is what heaven looks like in my mind (i.e. a ramshackle country cottage full of charming objets d’art with a porch with a grape vine and a big rambling garden and huge trees and total privacy, with a large fruit orchard beside it and fields as far as the eye can see….yes PLEASE!) :

Made a ridiculous blue cake in the shape of a vehicle:

Received a gift of a giant lemon from Emma (yes, that is a standard sized coffee cup.):

We finally got the chickens I blogged about back HERE. They are completely charming and lovely:

& I had the best cupcake of 2011. It was at a work function. So often commerically made cupcakes are dry and disappointing – but this one was divine. Vanilla-tasting, soft and the icing was buttery and delicious: