Monday, 31 December 2018

30 December 2018

Hello folks! I haven't touched this blog, or my other one, for months. My only feeble excuse is that I've been pretty busy - if anything busier than usual.

I made the decision earlier in the year to do some study - New Zealand Certificate of Creativity Level 4 through The Learning Connexion (TLC) as a distance delivery student. I tossed up whether to do it this year or next and in the end decided to go ahead this year. It's Locket's last year of her degree so works out well.

This decision though meant that I needed to devote time to study. It averages out at 3.5 hours a day five days a week, or 17.5 hours a week, or 70 hours over 4 weeks. There is some flexibility around when you do your hours which has been great for me. At times I've found it a challenge to get the hours done, however I now have all the theoretical goals done and have only 70 hours left to complete by February 22 2019. So I'll get them done over the summer.

As well as the actual work there is photographing what you have done, filling in a visual diary and uploading everything (the images) to a storage place on the TLC site for a mentor to review. So sometimes the 3.5 hours stretches to five or six hours. You can count all the time you spend photographing etc, but I wouldn't always remember exactly when I started as I'd neglect to write the time down!

This has been my focus this year and therefore there has been less sewing and the gardening I was doing came to an abrupt halt. Although I could continue with the study I've decided not to. I don't feel I need to and I will keep on learning, just in my usual autodidact way. What I have done has served it's purpose but it's time to move on to other things.

One thing that has proved distracting this year is the development up the back of us, and in one way beside us. The driveway next door leads up to a section that has stood empty the whole time we've been here . . . till this year. Last year developers bought it and there are 17 townhouses being built on it . Earthworks started in April and currently the buildings are going up. There is the potential for at least 23 vehicles to go up and down the drive - not that the council thinks it will be a nuisance!

There is a lot to do around here to de-junk the house and tidy up the grounds in the event we decide to move, which of course takes time, the de-junking etc! It's easier to do it steadily over the next few years rather than having to do it all in a rush in a short space of time.

Enough about me! Boar has continued to work although he is increasingly looking forward to when he retires in less than three years. Another reason to get the house and grounds in order.

Locket has finished her degree and Brains has completed the second year of his degree. Frosty is on her own with Mr Magoo and living nearby. Braveheart still lives where he did and has the boys to look after. Smurfette continues with the work she does and is still living nearby. Absent-minded Professor and Moneypenny are also nearby with their three young girls.

All the grandchildren are growing up and the oldest ones are learning to read now as well. I love watching their blossoming minds and personalities.

I'm going to share some photos of some of the things I've been doing this year. Disclaimer:- I'm at the very beginning with drawing and painting so my efforts are explorations - not masterpieces! I will continue to practice but there is much room for improvement!


I did this drawing at a class at Karori Arts and Crafts Centre in a beginners drawing class taken by Helen Casey. The photocopy on the left is what we were given and my effort is on the right.

Trying to draw a pot - which is not as easy as it looks!

This one is looking at the shadows and shading. Crumpled paper is very tricky to do. Plus it took me a long time and the shadows were in completely different places by the time I finished!

This is Encaustic Wax Art which I did with my friend Arty Vicky. This was fun and easy to do so I'll include the link here in case you would like to see how it is done. Some of my efforts didn't work out too well but that's all part of the process.

Painting in warm and cool colours. Getting the angles right is challenging for me but hopefully with practise there will be a bit of improvement!

While I find the drawing and painting a real challenge I really enjoyed the screen-printing I did. It's something I've been wanting to do again since I was around 12 or 13 years old and did it at school. This was different in that it was photo emulsion screen-printing. This is one of the pieces I put into the TLC student exhibition.

 Another of the pieces I put into the exhibition, my first screen-print on fabric, white calico. I did this at the first session of seven classes I did at the TLC campus. I used black tape as a resist and just cut it and applied it to the screen in a fairly random way.

This is the third one I put into the exhibition. I used some manuka tree twiglets I found lying on the ground in the driveway of TLC. I wondered if they would make a reasonable exposure and was very happy with how delicate they looked. This print is also done on calico, this time unbleached.

This one is done with transparent ink in layers so that you can see the different colours and how the colour changes when you layer it over another. 

Just a small sample of what I've been up to. 

I have ventured up to the backyard a few times but not accomplished anything. I went up the other day and saw that the lilies, arum maculatum, have produced the spikes of fruits that I was waiting to see. These contain the seeds that of course I've been neglecting to deal with and have helped the plant invade the garden! Until I researched the plant this year I didn't realise they could grow from seed. I took a photo tonight. 

There are still a few leaves but most of the plants have these spikes of fruit. The most effective way to get rid of the plant is to pull the leaves out when they appear and eventually the bulb starves. Something to keep on top of from now on. I put a whole lot of the leaves in black plastic bags and stuck them in the greenhouse back in February. I left them in there and when I went in recently they had turned to sludge! Quite a smelly sludge but I guess it's one way to dispose of the leaves and stalks. I think chopping them up would allow them to break down more quickly.

Somewhere under there is a raised garden bed that I plan to plant with flowers! Well, there are nasturtiums growing and convolvulus, plus long grass - lots of it. There has been stuff piled on here for a while, there are branches under there but eventually I'll get to the bottom of it! It's pretty much what the whole backyard gets like at this time of year when it's neglected. The grass grows very long. So another task I want to learn is to use the weed-eater so I can keep on top of the grass. It's the only way with our section.

The last photo I took tonight is of the Heartsease I planted earlier in the year which has given and continues to give me a lot of pleasure. It gives me hope that I will be able to get the backyard organised . . . eventually! 

And on that thought I'll wish you all a very happy new year and all the best for 2019. I don't think I'll get another post in before then! Fare thee well in the new year.  💕

Saturday, 21 April 2018

27 Feb to 3 Mar 2018

The next day (25th) I decided to do other things and have a bit of a rest day and the following day it was raining. The only thing I made a decision on was to start putting the chooks back in their coop each night. They had taken to roosting in the trees over the patio and that leaves a lot of chook droppings all over the patio. Good for the garden but not so much for sitting up there!

On the 27th I popped into the local garden centre and bought a few packets of seed and some Iceberg lettuce seedlings.

I'm going to try growing the tomatoes in the greenhouse. Not really the time of year to be starting them off but I'll see what happens.

Later in the day I dug over garden 7 and put the large frame over it. It needs a few repairs so hopefully Boar will be happy to do them. Before I went to bed I soaked the lupin seeds ready for sowing in the morning.

A few days later we went to Bunnings and I bought quite a few more packets of seed. The basil to go in the greenhouse, the heartsease in a pot outside the front, the cottage garden mix in another pot, marigolds for the garden beds as a companion plant and the wildflower mix to go right up the back. I'll need to fence the area off from the chooks though.

No notes for the 1st of March but on the 2nd March I watered the Lupin seeds. I was given a drying flower of renga renga by C next door. I've wanted some for ages so later in the day I shook all the seed out and collected it in a small jar. There must be hundreds of seeds, way more than I need but they don't usually all sprout.  

My mission for 3rd March was to reclaim the compost bin. It was well hidden by a hebe. This self-seeded as they all have. It took me some time but after an hour or so I managed to get it out.

Quite a good sized trunk, which will become firewood! The root system is fascinating too, all those wee feeder roots!

I also cleared around the peach tree, which actually had a peach on it. Just a small one but one never-the-less. I pruned it a bit, just the dead wood and need to do a bit more. I also put a layer of grass as mulch.

According to my notes I bought a bag of Lupin seeds from Bunnings as well as 2 seed trays and some Freesia bulbs! The problem with not writing straight away is that I forget, especially if I don't write notes down in my wee book at the time.

Checking the Lupin seeds I sowed on 28th Feb they are sprouting already! The next lot I may sow without soaking to see how long it takes for them to sprout.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

24 Feb 2018

The next day I finished clearing this garden bed and felt a small sense of victory! Weeds: 0 - Me: 1      😀  I also got the path between the two gardens cleared as well. When I got to the end near the steps I spied a bit of green so started tugging at it. It was well covered by earth and grass had grown over it but in the end I got it free. Lo and behold a perfectly serviceable price of windbreak fabric! I got most of the dirt off by shaking it. It is 2 - 3 metres in length, and in the photo you can see it folded up near the right front corner by the steps. For now it is spread out in the greenhouse on the unused garden bed. I'll give it a hose off one day soon . . . or more likely put it out on the patio area on a rainy day and let nature wash it!

I remembered when I made the garden steps waaay back I built a couple of small ones from near the main set of steps to the gardens we first built. There was grass covering them however I was able to locate them and free them of the grass. All the steps make it a lot easier to get around the section. They all need some attention though as I've noticed most of the steel reinforcing rods are poking up above the wooden fronts . . . just waiting to catch toes unawares! Time to replace the wood I think. They have been there for years after all . . . since 2003 according to my garden diary!

In the next photo the hens nesting box is in the lower left corner. Just behind it is the first garden we ever built and retained. It is now bulging out at the front though so needs something done to it. There are tyres with potatoes growing in them and a slightly munted flower windmill which I shall soon replace as it brings a smile to my face when I see it twirling in the breeze 😀

Boar has mentioned building another greenhouse on this site. At first I wasn't too keen but now I think it's a great idea. When I mentioned it the other day he was a bit more cautious about the idea so I shall leave the idea with him and see what happens.

Top left of the photo is a peach tree grown from a seedling. Pa grew it from a peach pit from the tree at his place. Braveheart discovered a lone peach on it yesterday so there is hope for it yet! The grass has grown up around it, and honeysuckle vine and convolvulus both do their best to strangle it  😟

Top middle of the photo is yet another Hebe shrub! It is self-seeded like all the rest. If you look closely you can see a dark patch in the gap . . . which is a compost bin hidden by the Hebe. So the Hebe will be going for two reasons. #1 - I want to be able to access the compost bin again. #2 - If we do build another greenhouse the Hebe is in the way. The bees like the Hebes but I shall grow some other plants and flowers to attract bees.

Late in the afternoon our neighbour, D, gave me some lupin seed. He had mentioned it as a nitrogen fixing crop the other day and I'd said it was something I would like to do. It is very timely as I will sow it on the garden bed I just cleared.

Today I remembered another reason I often found it a challenge to get up to the garden for any length of time. Soon after I got my boots on and got up the back to do some clearing I heard wee voices, at first happy but then squabbling, sometimes crying . . . the usual things that seem to happen when a few children of similar age are together. "That's right!" I thought to myself. "I remember getting all the way up the back, not being there very long and having to go back down to sort out squabbles, fights, feed young children, have willing helpers disappear after a very short time etc." The difference today was that they weren't my responsibility - they were their parent's! So I was able to carry on and spend a couple of hours up the back. When I'm the only one looking after any/some of the grandchildren I might get a little bit done, depending on what else is happening at the time.

I remember chatting with my late mother-in-law around 25 years ago and sharing how lovely I thought her garden was and wishing I could get mine looking better. She thanked me and then quietly said that her garden had not looked as it did now when her children were young - they used to dig roads for their toy cars in it! Her comment has always stayed with me and given me hope that eventually I will get on top of it - it just takes time.  😊

Monday, 5 March 2018

23 Feb 2018

It's so easy to get a bit behind . . . Hopefully I'll catch up a bit this week. Although it has taken me a few days to write this post so we shall see!

The 23rd Feb was last Friday and a special day for Sunshine who turned  years old! Sunshine loves unicorns!

We all went to her party at home, a family dinner, hosted by Moneypenny and A-M Prof. It was a lovely time. Spending time with the grandchildren is always special. I had cuddles with Blossom as I walked her in the baby carrier. At nine months old she is a bit heavy for me to just carry in my arms. She was tired and I was able to get her off to sleep for a while.

Earlier in the day I went to my Life group and when I got home I found Braveheart, Halfpint and Battler had come over. Frosty got busy with the weedeater and later Braveheart got stuck in as well. It was great as they got a lot of the backyard mowed which means it looks quite a bit tidier  😁

While Frosty was busy further up the back I got busy picking up all the fennel I'd cut down a couple of days ago. I filled a whole chook feed sack!

A number of years ago Boar brought home some old ceramic stormwater pipes and dug them in as garden features. There was one that had a sycamore growing out of it and Braveheart managed to get that one out . . . after removing the pipe from the ground! Another one had a clump of grass in it and I managed to get it out without removing the pipe from the ground.

The roots had found their way all the way to the bottom of the pipe!

I think I'll plant some herbs or a creeper type plants in the pots. Something useful and pretty to look at.

The next challenge was to clear one of the gardens. In the photo below there are two gardens. The windbreak and wood sticking up in the air is actually a taller frame we built quite a number of years ago. Underneath it is one of the shorter frames. They are both on the higher of the two gardens. The one I began clearing is below it . . . yup, the one with all the blackberry, long grass and weeds etc! According to my old garden diary notes it is garden number seven.

I pottered away, after putting on my leather gloves because blackberry = thorns. Over about an hour I had cleared half to two-thirds of the garden bed. It was made a lot easier as the grass had been mowed in front of the garden. Before this it would have been quite high, nearly the height of the garden, if not higher! There is still a clump of fennel in the corner of the garden, well the stalks have been cut off. It will get dug out.

I cut up all the blackberry stems and for now have put them under the seat so no young children stand on them. They run up the back barefoot so thorns in feet would not be a good thing!

That was it for that day! A good day where quite a lot was done. The party at the end of the day was a lovely way to finish the day  😊

Saturday, 3 March 2018

22 Feb 2018

Here is a photo of one of the weeds the day after having salt applied. It's already starting to wither.

The ivy below has a few spots of burnt edges, but I suspect will need multiple applications. I may end up just pulling it all out!

Today the one thing I wanted to do was to cut down the Hebe by the trampoline. I know the flowers are good for the bees . . . but there are a few that have grown in places where they're in the way. The one below has grown out over the trampoline which is not helpful for the grandchildren who want to jump on it!

In the photo below you can see how the trunk is growing over the step Boar made for the children (ours!) to climb onto the trampoline.

One of the girls came to see what I was doing. They are pretty tame. We only have the two now . . . maybe time to get a few more.

The hebe took me only around 10 minutes to cut down with the pruning saw. It looks clearer now  😁

Later in the afternoon I was looking after Mr Magoo, who turns 5 soon, and I suggested we go up to the trampoline. He jumped happily while I cut down the other Hebe beside the trampoline.

Again it's in the way and will only get bigger. They self-seed really easily . . . At least they seem to on our place!

A lot clearer 😀 Now there's only the honeysuckle, gorse, blackberry, convolvulus, wandering willy and long grass to get control of!

I get a lot of pleasure from these wild flowers I planted late December. It was a wildflower mix and once they took off they grew quite quickly.

Today was one of those days where I was reminded why the place gets so wild and overgrown. It's what I call "an in & out day." In other words I seem to be going here, there & everywhere most of the day meaning getting up to the garden can be a real challenge! I got done what I wanted to though so was happy about that.

This is the first post I've done partly on my phone. We are down to one computer - my laptop. So I need to share it with Boar, which means he uses it in the evening. If I want to keep up with my blog posts I need to use some evening time too. So time to get used to doing it on my phone. As long as I load the photos during the day it works out well 🙌

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

21 Feb 2018

It's been a few days since I got back to writing a post. The morning of the 21st February I salted the patio and the brick path. The patio I did after I'd hung out some washing.

I took a couple of photos before I did the job of salting the path. These are the lower few steps.

These are the rest of them and as you can see they are rather overgrown!  First job was to cut down all the fennel so I could actually apply the salt.

A little less wild in this photo, and the salt has been liberally sprinkled.

The other thing I did was to make up a weedkiller. Similar to the one I used in October but this one has salt added as well. The link is here. I sprayed all the weeds and ivy at the back of the patio and under the wooden steps.

Then I scooped up all the chicken poo and leaves that had accumulated under where the chickens roost at night. I've started putting them away in their coop each night so that the area will stay cleaner.

The other thing I did was pick up a whole lot of Karaka berries as they drop about this time of year.

Saturday, 24 February 2018

It's nearly the end of February . . . already!

It seems as though not much time has gone by . . . until I see the date of my last post! Then I realise 4 months have sped by.

Christmas and New Year have come and gone. We've been away camping, come home and then Locket and I took Brains back up to Auckland. He was best man at his best friend's wedding at the beginning of February, and soon begins his second year at Unitec. We stayed with E & E at Waihi Beach for a couple of days as well and it was great to catch up with cuzzies too. Especially T & C who were over from Old Blighty (England!).

Late last year I was chatting with our lovely neighbour about plants and discovered she had some Chatham Island Forget-me-nots. C said she was dividing them and when I commented that I was wanting to grow some she offered to bring me some. They were quite wee and fragile, so I carefully potted them up and they took off pretty well.

I was checking on them early in January and noticed a fair bit of one leaf was gone . . . then the next day the entire leaf had been eaten!

Not so easy to tell from this angle . . .they're looking pretty healthy.

There it is, the telltale sign! The leaf eaten leaving just the stalk! A hunt was made and on the underside of another leaf I found the very hungry caterpillar!

A good size, and I found a new home for it on a nasturtium leaf. I do not know if it eats nasturtiums, but I figured it was a good place, and it would hopefully find the food it liked if it didn't eat nasturtiums!

Alas, alack, the patio has grown a good crop of weeds. They need to be dealt to. Most likely they will get a liberal sprinkling of salt.

Time marched on and the weeds and grass grew prolifically. I hadn't been up the back much since October and when I ventured up there on Tuesday of this week I found it more of a wilderness than ever. To the point that it was quite overwhelming!

Since there is a whole lot to do to get it under control I decided to try and commit an hour a day to the outdoor areas. Why an hour? I have seen 15 minutes suggested, or even 30 minutes. The problem with that is by the time I've got changed into older clothes, put my boots on and gone up the back I'd rather stay a reasonable time. Partly because to get up to the greenhouse area is 20 plus steps for a start. If I go right up the back it's another 30 plus steps.

Once I've got on top of the outdoor areas I might get away with 15 minutes of maintenance in an area but for now an hour gives a decent length of time to show some results.

On Tuesday I popped into the greenhouse and decided I'd just try and clear the right hand side bed. Which has never really been utilised much.

I started and this is when I've done a tiny bit . . . and then remembered to take some photos! It's a good record for me to keep as I can see what I've done, which encourages me.

This is what the rest of it looks like! Weeds, ferns, a bit of potting mix in a bag and lots of rubbish! The blue bin holds the chook pellets.

A different view to show how well the ferns grow . . . but unforutnately for them they're not where I want them to be. The black netting is used over the garden beds to keep the chooks off the gardens when I actually grow veges.

And here it is around an hour later! I potter, work sedately and steadily. This soil is pretty compacted though and needs a good dig over. It was raining while I was doing this and it was quite lovely to be pottering away in the greenhouse with the rain falling on the roof.

It had been raining the night before and the water tank outside the greenhouse was full to overflowing. So I decided to use some of the water and liberally watered this side of the garden. The tank filled up again fairly quickly.

The other side, which I hadn't had to do anything to. Looking from the left: under the basket is a bucket full of rain water. I covered it to keep bugs out and I'll most likely tip it on the garden soon. Next the chook bin and watering can. The sacks are old chook pellet ones and they're quite handy for putting stuff in. The one with the red top holds all the rubbish I found, the other one has all the weeds and vegetation I wanted to get rid of.

A view of the other end.

The other end on the other side.

Now to decide what to grow! Watch this space  😀