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!

victory gardens / mend and make do

I’m very inspired by World War Two imagery around Victory Gardens and Mend & Make Do campaigns. I’m also fascinated by the Land Girls / Womens’ Land Army, and the way WW2 changed work life for women in the West forever.

I recently had a pile of WW2 social history books out of the library and wanted to share with you some of the images. (Sorry I didn’t have the time/patience to scan them, so they are photographs of book pages. Not ideal. Forgive me.)

I don’t at all idealise the 1940s. I’m know it was a very hard time, a frightening time, lots of death and fear and sadness and people worked very hard just to keep their houses clean and keep their families fed. All the same, I enjoy the parallels between the Victory Garden movement and the 21st zeitgeist of backyard chicken farming, raised bed gardening, community gardening, CSA schemes, Seed Banks, recycling, upcycling etc….the similarities are strong.

There’s a great shop on etsy which sells modern day ‘victory garden’ posters – great witty designs. It’s called ‘The Victory Garden of Tomorrow’. I so want to buy something from the shop for my kitchen, but I can’t make up my mind which one I like the best!

Here are some of my favourite WW2 images from the books:

Women darning their tights….


In today’s world of ‘from sweat-shop to landfill’ fashion, I’m proud to say I DO mend my clothes…as below…


Dig for victory NOW!


I would join this girl gang of happy gardeners!


Have you ever seen a sugar beet? Not the most inspiring of vegetables…. 


The lawns of Kensington Park in London were dug up for food production….


Love the way the word ‘FOOD’ is made from vegetables here… 


Even Yardley face cream got in on the victory gardening trend for it’s advertising… 





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





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.

harvest weekend

It was a big harvest weekend in the garden – I did a lot of garden/kitchen stuff which I will tell you about over this week.

Here’s a start: I pulled all the dying summer crops out of our biggest garden bed – all the tomato plants, harvested the pumpkins, the last celery, lettuces going to seed, picked some corn for dinner.

Then I weeded the whole bed and gave it a deep feed of my Dad’s magical fish-guts fertiliser, dried blood and sheep poo. Gosh, it’s a glamorous business, gardening. By the end of all that I was covered in dirt and stunk pretty bad.

After a wash, a cup of tea and a sit down, I wandered down the street to the supermarket which has a great selection of Awapuni nursery seedlings – came home, planted stuff for winter: brussel sprouts, spring cabbages, leeks, spring onions, beetroot, more silverbeet and moved some self-seeded purple kale from the backyard to the vege garden. It looks pretty unimpressive right now – but I’m hoping to have a terrific mid-winter-garden photo to compare it to in a few months time:

Roasted some pumpkin to to made soup:

Here are some of the other pumpkins – they look a bit mutant because they are self-seeded ones out of the compost so they probably cross-pollinated or something – but they are still entirely edible, even if they wouldn’t win any rosettes at an A&P show! There are another six still growing around the bottom of the corn, so we are going to be eating a lot of pumpkin:

After being so covered in dirt in my gardening threads most of Saturday, on Sunday I felt the need to wear something pretty, so out came my bloomers and sari-skirt – however, I ended up wandering out to the garden again late morning and next thing I know, I have a trowel in my hand and my bloomers have big grass stains on the knees and then I ripped my skirt on a nail. Proof that a) no matter what I start out in, I always end up looking a wreck and b) wear ridiculous clothing when you garden at your peril!

But who cares? The garden got a heap of loving, it was grand for my body and soul and I have enough kitcheny/gardeny tales to tell from the weekend to last me through the week. Hoorah!


the poppies live on

A few years ago, I rescued a whole lot of plants from a garden in my old neighbourhood which was about to be demolished. You can read the whole story over at my old blog HERE.

When I moved to my new house, just over a year ago, I was careful to shift a lot of the tiny poppy baby plants from the legacy of that garden-save. (At the time, with a whole household to move, faffing about digging up tiny seedlings seemed kind of mad – but I now I am glad I took the trouble to do it!) I am happy to report they are doing well, and doing what poppies do in their second year, which is ‘pop’ up in all kinds of places which are often not garden beds.

As well as the red poppies from the old house, this year I also planted big pink poppies. Alas, on the verge of flowering magnificently – they got blown over in last week’s winds. I will leave them in anyway, in the hope they still go to seed, so I can at least have them next year.

(Photo one above is the pink poppies about to pop. Photos two and three are rununculas, in lieu of the (now horizontal) pink poppies. The rununculas are being the pink poppies ‘stand-in’ for this post – lol.

I also planted yellow californian poppies. These are lovely, elegant plants. In New Zealand you often see them around lakes and rivers. There are lots of bright orange ones around Lake Taupo, for example.

As well as poppies, I’m planting as many self-seeding flowers as possible so that after a few years, I will have a low-labour, self-sustaining flower garden.

Viva la poppies!

replacing one cat with four chickens

(Vegan friends – you may want to skip this entry…)

In autumn we lost our beloved family pet, Rocket-Cat, to throat cancer. Here he is in his favourite sleeping spot – my knitting bag:

Instead of replacing him with another cat, we have decided to get some chickens. Since going gluten-free because of the dietary needs of our youngest son, we are powering through the eggs. We eat eggs for breakfast everyday, plus using them in baking, cooking etc. So it makes sense to us to have a go at getting chickens for their eggs, as well as their general chickeny charm. We’re also trying to adopt more permaculture practices in our garden all the time, and chickens are a valuable asset to permaculture gardening.

I like chickens a lot. Whenever I visit friends who have chickens I always have to go and hang out with the chicken for a bit. A couple of weekends ago I got to walk around my friend’s farm with a cooing chicken tucked under my arm and it made me pretty happy.

Of course, I am at the romantic stage of my chicken experience. My friend Kimberley also recently got chickens and, although she still likes them, blogs here on ‘the truth about chickens’.

My other friend, Helen Heath, has told me some fairly horrific stories about her chicken owning experiences. She does a priceless imitation of a sick chicken. (She has an hilarious/dark essay about her pet killing experiences in the forthcoming 4th Floor Journal. I’ll let you know when it’s out.) 

I have also been watching various youtube horror flicks on chicken-care, like Green Urban Living’s ‘Almost a Snuff Movie’ here. Yeek! (I love the way she is demonstrating how to kill the chicken and keeps saying ‘just relax, darling’ to the chicken. SINISTER! lol)

We’re at the ‘building materials all over the back lawn’ stage of chicken-getting – but I’ll be sure to introduce our flock to you when they arrive. (This is a photo of me chasing a friend’s chickens, like the chicken groupie I am.)