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.

beets

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?

 

 

 

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.

calendula_1

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)

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…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. 

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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.

calendula_3

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.

this week

I had the best cafe breakfast EVER – avocado mashed with feta and mint on sourdough toast with a poached egg on top, at Tomato Cafe:

I DIDN’T buy these things from the op-shop:

Horse fire-guard. I love these gothy horses…but I don’t have a fire that needs guarding…

Gorgeous Magnolia plate….but $25?? C’mon, op-shops, please stop that grandiose pricing:

I’m loving taking photographs of stuff in op-shops, instead of buying them! I get to ‘keep’ the discovery…without the loss of cash or the clutter. I think a big part of the joy of op-shopping for me is just spotting cool old stuff, so snapping a picture is often thrill enough.

I did buy this wonderful handknitted deer jersey, though:

I pulled all my Penguin Classics from their various hiding places and put them in a pile. Just because. Some are originals and some are recent reproductions.

I worked a lot on my journal project – I have a (self-imposed) deadline for this because I want to enter it into a competition, so the pace is picking up a bit:

& just because it’s winter, it doesn’t mean salads can’t be pretty – winter greens, parsley, radish and calendula petal salad from my garden:

As well as that, my oldest son turned 12, which feels like one of those significant ages because next birthday means the teenage stage begins…causing me all kinds of nostalgia/melancholia/emotional-wrenching…..and also some cake-making and happy birthday party throwing.

Hope you have a good, warm, inspiring week. X

Juliette of the Herbs

I found a fantastic website the other day where you can watch hundreds of ‘Mind, Body, Spirit’ documentaries for free. It’s HERE – CHECK IT OUT. I love documentaries. I prefer them to ‘fictional’ films, just as in literature I prefer non-fiction to fiction. (I think of poetry as non-fiction – you can argue with me about that if you like, but I have many reasons for that idea.)  I love finding out about other cultures, other lives, other ways of seeing and being. I went through a stage last year of watching a lot of environmental documentaries, but I had to take a break because it was starting to wear me down – once you educate yourself about the state of the planet – there is no turning away from how doomed the world is and what a monumental mess we’ve made…

Anyway, I recently watched a beautiful, old-fashioned, gentle documentary JULIETTE OF THE HERBS . It is about the fascinating and adventrous life of herbalist JULIETTE DE BAIRACLI LEVY, who left England to go and live with the gypsies and farmers of Europe, Turkey, Greece, Israel and North Africa to learn plant-lore and herbalism.  In the film, she seems like a wise, gentle soul with great integrity and inner-strength. I found her very inspiring indeed.

(If you watch the documentary, do let me know what you thought of it…)

I’m teaching myself about herbs, too – just using books and at-home experiments. Whenever there is a gap in my garden, I try to find a new herb to fill it. I’d like my summer garden to be full of aromatic herbs and busy with bees!

Here’s an old wive’s tale for you – plant rosemary around your front door…rosemary is the herb for strengthening memory*, so if you have rosemary by your front door it’s believed your friends and loved ones will always remember you. Handily, it is also thought to ward off evil. Bonus!

*If you are studying for an exam or writing something which takes great mental focus, put a dab of rosemary oil on your shirt.