Hut building

One cold winter day, in between showers, we went for a stroll in the forest and built huts.

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Growing gourds

The gourds grew well in the garden this year. I was told they need a long summer growing season, so I always try to have them in the ground by mid spring. This year though, I was given some seeds that I gre later in the summer and put them in anyway. Surprise, the gourds grew fast, and they grew huge! They are from Waiheke island apparently. I haven’t quite figured what use to put them to, although I know they would traditionally be used as vessels for carrying liquids. I had the idea of using some as bowls, once they are dry I might cut a few up and see if they work out. In the meantime, we had great fun carving a few of them, and once they are dry, I plan on painting the remaining ones. Perfect rainy day winter projects (I have a few of those on my list though, Gisborne winters never last long enough for me to do it all!).

Shed earth floor and wind turbine

The great about having woofers is how much we get done… We had four wwoofers help up with the earth floor in the shed, and in a week it was done. It looks great and minimises the dust we were getting. They also helped with other projects such as erecting our wind turbine. Unfortunately we are still not harvesting energy from the wind. First the pole that was to be erected proved to be too high for our means, it snapped in mid air (luckily with no damage to the turbine) and Josh had to shorten it. Then as he was testing it to see how much power it was drawing in he short circuited it. It had to be sent back to the company we bought it from. The whole week it was away the wind was awesome. Then we got it back and the wind dropped… A week later and finally the wind pick up again, the wind turbine is spinning full speed and it looks a though everything is working… but again no power seems to be going into our batteries. of course it’s a Sunday so we have to wait a day to ring around and figure out what the problem is. Will we get wind power on our side? Let’s hope so, and soon!

notice the snapped pole bottom left…

The downside of having woofers is the overload of stuff everywhere. We live in a small space, and slowly the clutter builds up with everyone’s stuff all over the place. I am no cleaning fairy but I do like a bit of order. The pile of gumboots in from of the doorway was threatening to trip someone up (most likely a small person) or smear our legs and ankles in mud. I ended up putting two cubbyholes by the doorway and nicely asking for gumboots to be strategically placed out of thoroughfare. Mixed success. Glad we don’t have 6 kids.

bad feng shui
Bad Feng Shui…

The weather turned cold suddenly, at least that’s how it feels. Luckily we were ready for it and got the fire place going. The living space is actually warm and cosy, so we only need a fire morning and evenings. It hasn’t been connected to the hot water yet… maybe next winter.

woodstove 2

Morere hot pools

Winter is a great time to visit the hot pools at Morere. They’re only 45 minutes drive away and when winter turns our farm into a cold muddy place it’s our cheap escape plan. The water comes from a natural hot water source, coming from the sea and traveling underground for thousands of years. Yes, thousands of years. Picking up lots of underground goodness on the way.

morere 23

The pools are at the end of a 5mn bush walk (over a concrete pathway, great for wheelchair access) and a surrounded by bush. Two simple metal pools, one hot and the other hotter, plus a cold pool. We usually aim to get there by mid morning, so we can have the pools to ourselves.

There are also a few bush walks, which we have been talking about doing since we moved to Gisborne. Recently we finally packed the backpacks and went for an adventure. The information board said it was a 2h30 walk, in reality it took us just under 2 hours, with two kids in tow (and three wwoofers) and taking our time… a bit of up and down but nothing too strenuous. The track was well maintained but not too much that it felt like a highway. Part of the track was actually really narrow, taking us across a steep hill. The end of the walk we were crossing a stream back and forth, rock hopping our way to the hot pools, a real adventure. It was beautiful bush the whole way and we all loved it (except Tahi who kept complaining). We are definitely going to give the other tracks a go, hopefully soon!

growing blueberries

Last year we planted a lot of trees. The idea was to plant an edible food forest, using up the many different “layers” of space: underground, ground level and above ground. because we have limited budget and time, we decided to grow it in stages (I will expand on this in a future post).

Blueberries were definitely high on my Wishlist, and even though our climate is possibly too warm I wanted to give it a go. Since they like an acidic soil, I thought I would plant them around a pine tree, which will eventually be tall and big enough to shed its pine needles around the blueberry bushes to naturally create that acidic environment. For now, I put flour of sulfur and coffee ground in the soil when I planted them then dress them every few months with more coffee grounds. Blueberry bushes also like moisture. While our winter are wet, our summers are rather dry. Our bushes are planted on a slope, the soil is a nice black loamy soil. I noticed that the early varieties, ripening in spring/ early summer,  had a better crop that the later varieties, ripening late summer. My thought is that the lack of water in the summer is affecting the qualities of the berries, which were small, crumpled and lacked the juiciness the early berries had.

I decided to try creating a small swale around each plant (they are all still small) to hopefully maximise water intake. I also have plans of directing our grey water to that area, so that they have a constant supply of water. I am still not quite sure if I will set up a system to filter and clean the grey water (this system is what I have in mind). It will happen in time…

Ok, so it’s pretty hard to tell from the photos… Good to have as a reference and hopefully the next post about this particular project will have better pictures!

Pallet couch

When we lived in Josh’s house in town, I’d set up a pallet couch. It was great. I’d found some foam squares and sewed up some covers to make cushions (another one just had a mattress), and there were lots of pillows… We used to stack them up with all our blankets and duvets and the boys would jump on them. Lots of fun.

I thought I’d do the same in our new space… Pallets are free, I have a sewing machine to sew up cushion covers. I wasn’t so keen on using the old foam or buying it new and thought for a while about how to avoid any non natural material for making the cushions. Then I remembered those old heavy wool mattresses we slept on when we were woofing in the Italian alps. We shear our sheep once a year and had a couple of fadges waiting for a project… So I gave it a go.

I sewed up some cushion casings, then filled them with wool. It has to be quite tight because the wool will compact over time. My first attempt was ok, it was comfortable albeit not a springy as foam or synthetic stuffing, but the cushion kept loosing its shape and flattening like a pancake. I remembered seeing beautiful old cushions and mattresses in France, they all had a rib along the sides. So I sewed a rib along the edge of my cushions, by hand. The result is a bit rough but it seems to be working. The first two cushions had already been stuffed full, and seeing the rib was hard work, I had to move the wool around inside the cushion as I sewed around and pinching the edges quite tight. I decided to try an easier way for the last cushion and only filled it half full, then used that wool to sew the edges and finally fill the cushion completely. The result wasn’t as satisfactory and I ended up with wonky sides.

Nothing that can’t be hidden with a piece of fabric though… The couch is firm but comfortable, and it was cheap and easy to make. It’s two pallets high, and the little cubicle underneath are great for storage of yoga mats or other small thing. The only problem is the dust that accumulates and is hard to get to!

Wellington graphics

We spent a couple of weeks in Wellington… Josh was working, Tahi was keen to walk into a real hobby store (and spend money), Miro was just keen to spend money and we hadn’t seen the family for a while… Good excuse for a road trip!

This time I enjoyed taking pictures of the graph spread about the CBD. My special favorite being the three David Bowies just off Cuba street.

 

We had some interesting weather, the kids and I did a lot of walking in town, the family time was great. As much as I love the city though, two weeks was long enough and we were all looking forward to being back on the farm, walking on grass, sunbathing and hanging out at the beach. There is also this annoying fact that whenever we go away, our list of jobs when we get back seems to have doubled as does the list of priorities.

On the drive home we stopped in Eketahuna for lunch. We hung out at the playground, where Tahi could fly his latest ornithopters and the kids could run around and stretch their legs. I took photos of the interesting frise painted on the wall facing the playground, some kind of graph in a different style.

Cook’s Cove

 

Named after the famous British navigator who charted New Zealand… We went for a walk to Cook’s Cove, in Tolaga Bay. The day was a mixed bag of rain and sun, luckily the rain waited for everyone to have finished with their picnic before becoming a nuisance.

The walk goes up the hill, granting us with a panoramic view of the inlet and Tolaga Bay in the background. Then it winds through bush and out into a plateau. Cook’s Cove looks like a needle’s eye, through which you get a glimpse of sea and sky. The cliffs are steep, a decent drop, and you can see the famously long wharf in the distance.

We walked a bit further to a little river mouth where sheep were walking around the shallow waters. Somehow this vision didn’t feel quite right, land animals and sea… and most certainly their pees and poos mixing with salty sand.

The walk itself was a good length for a family walk, not too short that we felt frustrated (and it justified the length of the drive) and not too long that the kids would start moaning and complaining.

Afterwards, feeling hot from the walk and the heat from the sun, we headed to the wharf, walked all the way down and jumped in the sea (most kids and some adults, me included). A great way to end the day!

Healing salve

I have been saving pages about making herbal ointment on my Pinterest. My goal was to make a salve that would be useful for cleaning and healing small wounds, bumps and bruises. I don’t know why it took me so long to get round to making one. I have all the raw materials needed: the herbs (in this case I wanted to use plantain, hypericum, yarrow and comfrey), the oil and the beeswax. The first time making anything always seems so daunting, the task impossibly complicated.

As is turns out, once the herbs are dry, making an ointment is as easy as cooking. I ended up adding calendula to my mix of herbs, just because it was there, dried and ready to use. You will find many blogs that explain in detail the benefits of the herbs I used so I won’t go into detail. I do believe though that using the herbs that are grown on our property add some value to the finished product. I have a special affinity with

yarrow, which didn’t grow on our property originally and I sowed from seeds gathered from our neighbour. There is a good patch of it now and it was this herb that helped me get rid of the chalazion I had growing on my upper eyelid last year.

 

My goal eventually is to have a medicinal herb garden, a place where I can gather herbs when I need them but where I can also take sick animals so they can self medicate (or at least show me what herbs they crave). The list of herbs/ weeds is growing. I haven’t quite decided yet where I will place it, if it will be integrated into the vegetable garden, near it or in a totally separate area, away from stock or near it… I know eventually I will have a clear picture of where it needs to be, at the moment I know where to gather any of the herbs I need. There is something quite primal about hunter gathering your own medicine, it’s very satisfying and empowering.

I have had a few occasions to try out the ointment, and although I find it hard to tell if it really helps with healing, I have noticed that it works really well with mosquito and sandfly bites (as well as the only natural product that works for me, Combudoron by Weleda). In any case, I carry a tin of it in my bag and use it whenever the kids or I get a cut…