crochet ghost stops his haunting to eat breakfast

My boy likes to hide in blankets.

He loves lying underneath the bean bag.

He loves making a nest of blankets and pillows in a tight corner.

He loves a three-person pile-up where the whole family lies on top of him, squashing him until he can’t quite expand his lungs…

& having a crochet-ghost at the breakfast table is not an unusual sight around here….



lots going on in the winter garden

With the warmish wet winter we’re having, the vegetable garden was getting over-run with weeds, but the other day I gave it all a good tidy-up and was pleased to see just how much is going on, despite the season. (I’ve said it before….we are so lucky to live in such a temperate climate that we can carry on growing food all through the winter.)

So, what’s growing? Lots of green things, of course. Winter is not the season of colour in the vegetable garden – the kale is growing great guns, rainbow chard, the lettuces are looking lush and lovely, the florence fennel is growing into tree-like proportions, the leeks are nearly big enough to start eating…



In terms of colour, there are beetroots, which I cannot wait to eat – I’m thinking beetroot/feta/toasted walnut salad will be first up!


The artichoke is thriving – this is looking down at it’s centre. I love the silver of it’s foliage.


The calendulas are going mental at the moment, and the fact that the nasturtiums are still alive shows how few frosts we’ve had – they are frost tender and don’t usually make it this far through winter in the Manawatu.


And last, but not least… first spring bulbs are popping up. Hoorah!



But it’s not all fun and games…

Failures this season:

Broad beans, alas I let the romping nasturtium cramp the broad beans style and they are stunted and pathetic. I will probably pull them out.

Carrots. I planted them in March, experimentally pulled one up today and it was the size of….a cherry tomato. TINY! They’ll go to seed before they’re big enough to be edible. It was sweet and delicious, but so uselessly small. I think I’ll give up on carrots, they are so inexpensive to buy.

Rocket. It’s called ‘Rocket’ for a reason, no sooner has it established it’s first edible leaves it goes to seed. I think I got one tasty sandwich off six plants. PAH.

If you are a vege gardener, I hope the season is treating you well, too.


battling winter drear

I quite like winter. (I like all of the seasons except spring, which I think is highly over-rated with it’s gales, lambs dead in sudden snow storms and obnoxious daffodils.) However, last week slammed me with a sick kid and then I caught his cold, too. By Thursday I was feeling kind of old-to-the-bones and deeply cranky and like the world is a grey old pointless place. This is a fairly common late winter experience, right? It’s all trucking along fine: winter soups, heater-side snuggles, catching up on the reading of long convoluted novels and other winter goodness and then SLAM! one snot-fest later and you are capital-O OVER winter as a concept and as a reality.

So I wrapped up my sore throat in a scarf and took myself out for a cafe lemon & honey drink, in search of a little colour in my week of winter-drear.

It was a beautiful Manawatu morning. I got a bit of much needed sunshine on my pallid face, treated myself to a free vitamin-D hit, a pretty cake (turned out I couldn’t taste it through my congestion so I took it home for the kids, but it cheered me just to look at it for a while) and spotted some cool yarn-bombing in a winter tree. It was just enough to take the edge off the winter-grims for a bit.




Begone snot-monsters, winter drear, wet window-inners, black mould, hacking coughs, and silverbeet silverbeet and then silverbeet again.

Walnuts, irises, peas….

Over autumn I foraged HEAPS of walnuts, plus my parents gave me a big box….they’ve been drying off for six weeks. I’ve just started cracking into them and they are good, fresh, earthy, delicious. Now I have a happy walnut glut and will be thinking of ways to use walnuts so if you have any good recipes or food combinations, let me know! I started with cake, because…..cake. I made an Alison Holst Date & Walnut Cake recipe, a rich combination of finely chopped dates and walnuts with only two tablespoons of flour! I made ginger icing for it and we devoured it for afternoon tea. It was more like a pudding in consistency….no bad thing!


On Saturday, I bought these irises at the vegetable market and also a twin bunch for my mother who was visiting. When I bought them they were very tightly closed. She took hers back to Taupo. Mine all opened at the same time the next day, hers didn’t open until today! Swamp-plain versus mountain-plain, I guess. What do plants MAKE of being shipped away from their home-terroir? Do they feel it?


Finally, also at the vegetable market I bought this bunch of pea tops. I have a bit of a fetish for pea plants – I love them! Something about those curly little climbing tendrils makes me feel all strange and happy. I hadn’t seen such a thing for sale as a vegetable before. I would be happy to buy them every week!


They taste slightly of pea, but mainly just of chlorophyl, of healthy green. I ate them in sandwiches and threw them into a soup I was making.


I am writing a long, ongoing poem about vegetables in the vegetable garden and the way they grow. It’s an odd project – I’m trying to capture each plants ‘essential nature’ in a short 4-8 line stanza. Why am I doing this? I don’t know…a combination of fun and to get to know the things I grow more intimately? Here is the ‘pea’ stanza:



fragile bright filigree

upwards gentle

spirals intently

tiny hands holding

tender opaque baby

mycology walk

After I read that Emma had spotted an autumn toadstool on her walk, I had a yearning to go on a mushroom/toadstool hunt in the bush. So last Sunday I took my family out for a ramble around a bush track on the Woodville end of the Manawatu Gorge, looking out for autumnal fungi. I was not disappointed!



There were some wonderful red toadstools.

myc_1 myc_2 myc_3

Bright orange fungus:


Tiny ethereal mushrooms (hard to photograph! This one was not much bigger than a pea and I liked the way it was growing upwards towards the light from underneath a log.)




Warty armies of toadstools:

myc_11 myc_10

Odd phallic looking ones with speckles:


I don’t know enough about wild mushrooms to know if any of these are edible, so I let them be and just took photographs.

After our walk, we stopped for a simple picnic of pikelets and feijoas.


Back home in the fridge was a package of field mushrooms my friend Nat had picked from her farm. I cooked them in garlic, onions and lots of green herbs, stirred in cream right at the end of cooking and ate it on pasta. Amazing.


And of course, I can’t go anywhere these days without spotting a dahlia:



him belly full, but him hungry…

…a hungry man, is an angry man!

I’ve taken to listening to a local Reggae-all-the-time radio station instead of National Radio. The mix of hardcore left politics, quirky christian imagery and a zen-like focus on simple pleasures (food, weather, love) is comforting to me. More comforting than the news, which, lets face it, is always bad.

(Also, I can instantly tell if it’s 80s reggae because of the inclusion of a saxophone. The saxophone to the 80s is like the ukulele to…whatever this decade is called.)

Around 5pm each day, I ‘shop the garden’ and whatever I can scrounge out there goes into dinner. It’s often an odd mix.


I grew banana chillies for the first time this year. They grow big! As big as teaspoons. They are mild and child-friendly…like a slightly hot capsicum. I will grow them again.


From my summer garden this year I learned:

-I don’t like to eat artichokes

-tomatoes thrive without coddling (I was away at peak growth time & came home to a tangled tomato forest which fruited abundantly.)

-despite a record hot long summer, it is not hot enough in the Manawatu to grow watermelons. FAIL.

-Cape Gooseberries are little orbs of time-travel.


This is a clock. A clock of summer.


At the start of summer, I thread a bead and a bell onto some embroidery floss and as the chillies grow I impale them and hang in the kitchen where they dry. There were many other chillies which got eaten along the way, or given away to friends…but some made it on to the chilli string so that we can have their heat all through the winter. A dried chilli is not an attractive thing, but looks aren’t everything.

There are manifold ways to measure time. There are lots of ways to be hungry. There are immeasurable ways to make a living – the best is to Live a Making.

harvest time…again…


As it’s harvest time – around the country there is a fair bit of preserving going on – jams, relishes, sauces, bottled fruit and all that good stuff. But here is something that happens to me sometimes – I get to this time of year and look in my store cupboard and see that I still have X jars of Y left from last year’s harvest season. This doesn’t put me off making more preserves, but I do get motivated to use up last year’s, as it’s not good to keep it too long – I like to eat mine within the year (ish) it’s made if I can.

Of course, one solution is pass it on – friends, food banks, school gala days…

But I am tight thrifty when it comes to food, especially food which I grew myself so I thought I’d write a bit about other ways to use up relishes, pickles and chutnies, in case anyone else has a glut around this time.

Relishes etc. are most commonly used as a cold condiment to a sandwich or snack, but relish is just vegetables/fruit, sugar, salt, vinegar and spices so when you think about it – these are flavours which are good added to lots of things. Change your way of thinking about them – they aren’t just a condiment, they are like a little flavour booster. Just try to match the flavours in the pickle with what you are cooking. We think of relish as a cold food, too, but there is no reason it can’t be used in hot food.

I have a few jars of a dark and yummy plum/beetroot pickle that has been around for too long which I will be using up over the next eight weeks.

Here’s some suggestions for using up relishes and pickles to make way for this year’s batch:

-add 1 tsp to a tbsp to flavour mayonnaise…curry-based relishes + mayonnaise would be good with egg or potato salad, more vinegar/sweet relishes would be good with green salads. You could do the same with vinaigrette, too, of course.

-sitr through plain yoghurt as a raita alternative and serve alongside dahl

-stir 1-2 tablespoons into a 1 tbsp of oil and use as a marinade for meat or tofu.

-rub a teaspoon of relish into meat, fish or tofu before you put it into the oven to bake

-tomato/vinegar based relishes can be added to pasta or pizza sauces to give them a flavour boost. (Not too much! Just 1 tsp-1 tbsp.)

-add 1 tsp-1 tbsp to the flavour base of fried rice…as you frizzle your ginger, garlic, sesame oil, soy sayce etc, add a bit of pickle at this stage.

-use a little bit in soups to boost flavour, just as you would with packet stock. A tablespoon of tomato relish into a tomato soup really boosts the flavour. Of course you wouldn’t usually ‘waste’ relish doing this, but if you are using up a glut – go for it!

-use a little bit in casseroles, stews and oven bakes…

In other words – if you can add it to what you are cooking and it would improve and deepen the flavour, do it!

And of course, eat lots of it on water crackers with tangy cheese.

(I’m not sure if this post falls into the ‘teaching your grandmother to suck eggs’ category or if this is actually helpful, but anyway…pickle it up, folks!)