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!


fresh inspiration

When is an ‘inspiration wall’ not an inspiration wall?

When it’s been up for almost two years and you’ve stopped seeing it anymore…

I have a creative room out in my backyard. Our garage was converted to a sleepout by previous owners and now we’ve set it up so half of it is guest-room (well, guest-nook) and half is my creative space.

The wall beside my desk I put up a montage of inspirational images. It was overdue for a freshen up, so for a couple of months I slipped anything that caught my eye into a folder (magazine cuttings, mail my friends sent me, vintage book pages etc etc) until I had enough material to redo the wall.

Here is the old inspiration wall:


& Here is the new:

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Do you think I am the only 41 year old still sticking photographs of pop stars on her wall? Ha ha.

sitting a house

Here are some photographs of the house we sat on our holiday. It belonged to a friend-of-a-friend so was not familiar to us – hence it had that nice mysteriousness of the home of someone you only slightly know. It was a great place for a holiday. I love house-sitting more than motels/hotels. All the comforts and personality of a real home is much more restful to me than an anonymous hotel room. I’m a bit of a nester!

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Candy Floss Trees


These trees are all in leaf now, but a coupla weeks back we took a walk to the Victoria Esplanade to check out the Cherry Blossoms and they didn’t disappoint. Candy-tufted trees looking all ridiculously Dr. Seuss-like.


I think I’ve mentioned before, Jolie Holland has a song called ‘Springtime Can Kill You’ and I feel like I really went through it this spring, with a long bout of illness which dragged on for almost six weeks….but I’m through the worst of it now and we’ve had some glimpses of summer, and today the wind stopped long enough for me to get the prize plants I posted about yesterday into the garden.


It’s been a year since I finished my job at the library and have been working from home. I do love being able to stop work to go and plant some vegetables or get the laundry in, to be able to deal with life-tasks as they occur to me, not to have to wait to ‘after work’, and in the last couple of months, I’ve put a toe back in the world of activism after a long break…it feels pretty nice to be working with some inspiring people to make the world a better place.

Here’s one thing for sure – each day starts with a long list of tasks and aims and wishes and demands on me…..and when I rest my head on my pillow at the end of the day, I never see the end of that list…..but I am getting much better at living with the endless list and not feeling stressed about it. Life is full. I carry what I can and try to make sure what falls off is nothing too important.

I felt like I got really behind when I was sick, but then a friend said to me ‘Give up the idea you will someday ‘catch up’ with life, if you believe that, you will always feel like a dog chasing it’s tale.’ (I have very wise friends.)

There’s a Buddhist idea that instead of stressing and worrying, we should just turn our attention to today and then do ‘the next right thing’….

….quite often for me, ‘the next right thing’ involves making more tea. (Work-horses need good fuel.)

I’m glad to have made it through another spring!


a conquest, a battle, a victory…

One way I can tell we had a mild winter, is that the nasturtiums I planted at the beginning of last summer didn’t die off. Nasturtiums are very frost tender and they usually die and wither over the winter when the frosts hit…but because the frosts didn’t kill them off, they have been partying hard-out in the garden.


I enjoyed the nasturtium riots for a long time but finally had to pull some of them out as they were romping all over the place and taking up room I needed for spring planting. I don’t like pulling out healthy and decorative plants, but had to let my desire for tomatoes and corn overcome my silly sentimentality.

Here is just some of the nasturtium we pulled out, the air was dense in that unique wet, peppery smell that nasturtiums have – peeeyuuu!


Garden wreckage becomes spontaneous landscape art…

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According to plant lore, nasturtium is the plant of heroes and represents ‘a conquest, a long battle and a victory’.

So who won, me or the nasturtiums? Ha ha…

There are still lots of nasturtiums blooming around the place, I only pulled out the ones in the vegetable beds.


I love nasturtiums – if I were braver and more certain, I would get a nasturtium tattoo – I really love THIS ONE.  But then I also love THESE DANDELIONS…..and THESE VEGETABLES  and THIS BEETROOT and THESE WILDFLOWERS …and this constant indecision is how I am 41 and as yet tattoo-less…..

Anyway, after creating all that space in the garden for spring planting, I entered a raffle at the Manawatu Harvest Festival on Saturday AND I WON! Sweet fortune!


Now these lovely plants are sitting in the driveway waiting to be planted – and as soon as the horrible spring wind stops blustering away, I will do just that.





Dahlia Fan Club, goes into the ground

I’ve planted my first Dahlias! I made a special new bed, just for bulbs and planted two dozen daffodil/earlicheer bulbs along the front of the bed, and dahlias through the centre. I didn’t bother photographing it at this stage, because it would be a photograph of some dirt with punga trunks around it….boring….but I will when things emerge.

Here is what greeted me when I went to the garden centre to look for dahlias. A dahlia bulb wall! So exciting.


Unfortunately, I had the kids with me and they said ‘Can we choose one?’

‘Sure’, I said, inwardly thinking ‘Noooooo! My colour scheme!’

I had planned a bright romp of pinks and oranges, but as it turned out – they chose OK. Not what I would have chosen, but okay…I’m not sure about M’s choice of BROWN (sigh)….but nor did I want to be a ‘Mommie Dearest’ kind of mother who says ‘Sure you can choose one, darling….NOOOO, NOT THAT ONE!!!!’


At $6 a pop, they cost a bit more than I had anticipated, so I am going to be on the look out for tuber-swaps next autumn.

So, anyway, as dahlias have names like roses, we have ‘Edinburgh’, ‘Sparkler’, ‘Nuit D’ete’, ‘Lucky Number’ and ‘Peaches’.

I chose the bottom row, Magnus chose the BROWN and Willoughby the orange. I am particularly excited to see ‘Edinburgh’ in bloom – I think it’s beautiful!


I hope hope hope they bloom big and busy and you can count on the fact there will be manifold photographs here if they do.



i’ve always thought Calendula would make a great girl’s name

It’s like Colleen, Angela, the ‘len’ of Lena, the ‘ula’ of Tallullah all in one word, and it’s the name of a brilliant herb flower.


While the vegetable garden is a sea of wintery green, the one bright spot is the border of calendula which is flowering in overdrive right now. I always grow calendula around the edges of my vegetable beds, partly because they are supposed to be a great companion plant to vegetables, and partly because they’re so pretty. Apart from eating them in salads and using them to decorate cakes….(this is a cake I made for a celebration of my yoga teacher, Nat)


…I haven’t ever made anything with them.

Then I read these two articles on the excellent ‘homesteading’ blog, Root Simple.

How to harvest and dry calendula.

How to make a calendula infused oil. 


And then I bought some sticks of beeswax at a market on a whim, just because they were inexpensive and smelled so great.

So now I’m planning to make myself some calendula salve using oil infusion made from my calendula flowers and the beeswax, but first I need to dry a heap of blooms. The great thing about calendula flowers is, the more you pick them, the more they flower.

(Speaking of beeswax, August is BEE AWARE MONTH in New Zealand. A month to highlight the current plight of the world’s bees. Read the BEE AWARE page for some tips of how to help bees in your backyard.)

I think it’s one of the prettier harvests I’ve had. The flowerheads are now drying in my hot water cupboard.


I’ve always wanted to make my own lotions and potions and have read that a basic salve or lip-balm is a great entry level thing to try. I’m excited to see how it all turns out.