Apple season

Apple cheeks, apple weeks, the race against the birds…

The inherited tree which has the codlin moth – I know it’s time to strip the tree when the birds begin to peck at the apple tops – this means they are sweet and ready. Cutting around the moth tunnels, making apple sauce which turn into breakfast or crumbles or just eaten with a teaspoon standing at the fridge when I realise I’m starving but have to do the school run in two minutes. (I continue to ‘battle’ against the codlin moth. They are determined creatures.) The commitment of using seasonal abundance. It’s a gift, sure, but it’s work. Sometimes hours and hour of work. Sitting at the table, making the meditation ‘can I take all the peel off in one go?’ Buckets and buckets of practice later tell me that I can’t, but it’s fun trying.

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The Ballerina apple tree which was a wedding present 20 years ago, and moved with us from flat to flat in a big pot, finally planted into the ground here and produces the most beautiful green and red apples, like the ones from Snow White…

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This tree on an abandoned section – the way fruit trees give and give, regardless of how they are tended or neglected. Walking onto ‘private property’ to pick the apples. Respecting the tree’s gift more than the human’s claim. Not wanting the generosity of the tree to go unnoticed, unappreciated. Leaving plenty for the birds.

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At my permaculture course, Duncan brings two beautiful baskets of apples from his small farm. Four heritage varieties – enough for everyone to take a few home to taste. On the permaculture course, people are passionate about plants, about fruit trees, about the earth. People have strong opinions – in discussion time the debates are weighty, rich, sometimes a little heated…but at lunch time, we sit around munching Duncan’s apples. That they are fine, crisp, tasty apples, we all agree on.

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The beauty of the simple backyard apple, wet from being rinsed in cold water, fresh-picked off the tree.

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Summer solstice brings intentions for the coming year…

On Sunday, I celebrated the Summer solstice at a dear friend’s house in the country with about twenty other people. We shared a feast and then lit a big bonfire, drummed and danced, burned things in the fire we wanted to let go of, and set intentions for the year ahead…

This week I am feeling very much like the new year has begun. I have taken some steps towards launching my new business – Helen Lehndorf: Mindfulness & Creativity (I’m on facebook HERE) …

This year I am employing myself to teach yoga, meditiation, creative writing classes, day retreats and more! I have great trepidation about the financial side of things, but otherwise am feeling happy, excited and very much like I am doing the right thing.

& I’ve already done a few things this week towards my goals for the year:

Here they are…

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(I’ve gotten into making vegetable juices this year – with some trial and error. I’ll write a post with some juicing tips soon.)

I’ve had some ongoing health issues (I won’t bore/overshare about them but they can be summed up in two words: ‘women’s troubles’) which I am determined to sort out this year. I also want to feel better generally. I am so clean-living (relatively) I feel like I should have more energy and vitality than I do. This week I have been to an osteopath for a crunchy neck that was giving me headaches, and a herbalist. The herbalist said the majority of her clients are ‘exhausted mothers who want more energy’. YUP! This is going to be the year of prioritising my health!

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I love to grow vegetables (this is a photograph which accompanied a personal essay about my vegetable garden published in the Dominion-Post a few years back – the cabbage-boob pose still cracks me up) but despite years of it, I still have a lot to learn….so over the next two years I am doing a Permaculture course through RECAP. The course covers soil health, water systems, animals…all kinds of things I know little about. I’m excited to learn, and to improve my garden.

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I bought my bike in 2007 with proceeds from a stall at a craft fair. I remember I told everyone who bought something from me that day that their money was going towards a bicycle, and how excited I was to buy it (especially choosing the bell and the basket to go on the front) … I used to cycle around our old neighbourhood all the time….then…we moved to our new house, so close to the centre of town it’s a ten minute stroll to the square and for whatever reason, I got out of the habit of cycling and subsequently lost my road confidence a bit. So this year is going to be the year I get back on my bike! I have lots of great cycling role models in Palmerston North – women who are much older than me who get around on their bikes, some towing their groceries on bike-trailers…one friend tows her dog around on a little platform!

I think they are all fairly achieveable goals. WISH ME LUCK!

Do you have any plans/hopes/dreams for the coming year?

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

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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.

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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.

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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

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reaping what you sow

Abundance of late:

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I do love my slightly-twee ‘picking’ basket, which I op-shopped last year.

So much goodness coming out of the garden right now…

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But on the downside – there’s been a bit of a sneaky drought on here, lately. I say ‘sneaky’ because it hasn’t made the news but it is definitely very dry lately. It hasn’t rained properly for weeks….so I’m behind in winter-planting because I want some rain to come before I entrust vulnerable seedlings and seeds to the ground. (I do water the vegetable garden, but it’s hard to keep it damp enough to support new life.)

So while it’s all full-baskets now, soon there is going to be slim pickings, while the baby leeks and spinach and silverbeet and fennel and parsley take root.

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Anyway – gather ye rosebuds, and all that…. or in my case, tomatoes.

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Rosy cheeks

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I got a horrible cold last weekend. One of those ones where your bones ache and your eyes run and you fill a bag with tissues in a few hours and you go hot then cold then hot then cold…for a couple of days I drank only miso soup and honey/lemon/ginger drinks, and felt pretty low…

I’m getting better  & there’s nothing like a bout of illness to make me GRATEFUL for my usual good health. My aim now is to boost my immunity and get strong for the long winter ahead.

I’ve been enjoying this new NZ-based healthy food blog, Wild&Good. To be honest so far I have just enjoyed the notion of the lovely recipes and pretty photographs and am yet to MAKE anything off the site….but this cold has motivated me to give my nutrition-intake a bit of an overhaul, and I’m sure this inspiring blog will help. Sometimes I get overwhelmed by being the food-provider for my family…and as I am the only vegetarian I think I let my own nutrition slip sometimes…putting the energy into whatever I cook for the family. It’s challenging to make things that children will eat AND things which are maximum nutrition AND which appeal to me, also.

Anyway, that’s a bit of a tangent….I meant to post about APPLES! We’ve been eating apples off the trees for a couple of weeks now, but suddenly they all just looked very ready and the blackbirds were starting to eat them, so I picked what I could from ground level, and then I sent Fraser up a ladder to get the higher ones.

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Then last night I ‘graded’ them into eaters and cookers. (Eaters = good-looking apples, cookers = ones with marks, bruises or blackbird pecks.)

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(In the basket you can see the two varieties we have, one is a Braeburn (I think!) – yellow & red stripy skin with sweet,  light, juicy flesh; the other variety, I’m not sure what it’s called but it has green and red skin with sour, very dense flesh.)

With the cookers I made a giant pot of cinnamon apples sauce. (Cooked the peeled, chopped apples with cinnamon, sugar and water until apples were soft, then blended it with a quick-stick). Apple sauce with very fresh apples is THE BEST. It goes very fluffy and velvety. I love having it warmed up for winter breakfasts, by itself or on porridge.

Now the freezer is full of apple sauce and we will chomp our way through the rest. I’m happy to have conquered the Codlin Moth which had afflicted the main apple tree, by planting peppermint geranium thickly around the base, a handy hint which a blog reader told me about.

Autumn is my favourite time of year.

 

 

 

good year, bad year

Good year – beets…

Bad year – carrots…

I love the way vegetable gardeners (and farmers, no doubt) talk in terms of ‘good year’/’bad year’ for produce.

It has not been the best summer ever in my vegetable garden, but like every year there have been highs and lows.

Bad year:

Corn – after several excellent corn years – this one was a wash-out. Instead of the usual few weeks of corn eating, we have had just a few days. I try to rotate big crops, but I think the corn did not like the spot I put it in this year. Also I grew painted mountain corn for fun. It might make great masa (if you grow craploads, …like a paddock’s worth) but it tastes like arse when it’s fresh – woody, bland, chewy. I won’t be growing it again in my small urban garden, but it was good to have tried it and it is very pretty.

Pumpkins – I usually grow a dozen or so. Today’s inventory – I can only see five. Not enough to get us through the winter.

Garlic – my garlic just did not swell this year. It’s still in the garden, stunted and shallot-sized. Pathetic.

I continue to not be able to grow a decent carrot. I keep resolving not to try any more because they are SO CHEAP…but then I do try again because I am stubborn…this time they are at least big enough to be worth picking and eating – even if they are stubby and mutant. Look at the verdant, beautiful green foliage! I was sure there would be some giant carrots underneath – but no, they are ‘all mouth and no trousers’ as a friend of mine says to describe people who promise much and deliver bugger-all.

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Good year:

Beetroot – big fat pink globes. Beetroot remains in my top ten of vegetables to grow for being easy, pretty and tasty.

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Basil! Glossy bunches of basil in salads, on pasta, mmmm….pesto. I love you, Basil!

Tomatoes! Is there anything more joyful than picking a bowl full of sun-warm tomatoes every day for dinner? So pretty, so delicious, so heart-warming.

Apples – both of my apple trees have an abundance of apples this year and they seem to be ready earlier.

When crops fail I try not to think of the money, labour, water, time, energy spent on them….& focus on the crops which are obliging me! I’m sure a cost/benefit analysis of my vegetable gardening would prove that buying vegetables works out, if not cheaper, then the same….but then what would I do for entertainment around these parts?

 

 

 

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…

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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!

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

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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.

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

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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.