I’ve been upgraded!

This week I was offered a larger plot at the allotments: a half size plot. Mine is a microplot and they’re meant to be only temporary. Microplots are 50m2 while a half plot is 150m2. I was very pleased to get the offer because my plot isn’t getting much sun now. I also think a half size plot is more manageable for me than a full size one. I went to investigate yesterday and was very impressed. The new plot has lots of garden beds already, although they were full of weeds but still in much better shape than the microplot was when I took over. I also found heaps of onions and garlic ready for harvest. I wonder why the previous person left without harvesting their vegetables? They also left lots of useful garden tools, a shed, and a glasshouse.


The shed is in bad shape. The roof was leaking and there was a pool of water on the floor inside. Thankfully my father is visiting and I put him to work today to replace the roof. This should cover his board 😉


He has done a terrific job so far. The old roof has come off and some new plywood nailed in place to make a new roof. All that’s left is to put some roof felt on but we’ll do that next week.


Here are some of the onions and garlic I dug up.


Alien eggs in the backyard

Alien eggs in the backyard

Recently I spotted what had to be an alien’s eggs incubating in our backyard.


So naturally, I decided not to disturb them.

A little while later I went back and they’d “hatched’ but there was nothing to see other than a tiny slug. I’m pretty sure that’s a slug and not alien spawn.


Today I found another one in a different spot but this time something was growing out of it.


I guess they’re some kind of mushroom. Does anyone know? The stem looks rather like styrofoam.


It’s not as exciting as an alien but very unusual to my eyes.

A harvest of four carrots

I was horrified last week when one of the other plotters at the allotments told me the growing season is almost over. We really haven’t got very much food from our plot. Today I harvested our carrots. All four of them 🙂


You may be wondering why we only got four carrots and I’m embarrassed to admit this but it’s because I got a little carried away with the weeding not long after sowing the seeds. It reminds me of the time I accidentally ordered a single carrot from online shopping.

Rule number 1 of allotment gardening: don’t weed out the legitimate vegetable seedlings. 

I planted about a dozen kale seedlings a few weeks ago and all but one has completely vanished. I put them under bird netting so I can’t blame the birds. I suspect it was snails or slugs.

Rule number 2 of allotment gardening: don’t plant kale seedlings out until they’re larger than 5cm high.

Rule number 3 of allotment gardening: birds eat kale.

I wish I had planted more broccoli because that has been doing well and we’re enjoying eating it. The kids like it too and eat it raw.


I highly recommend the no dig method of gardening. I had a small patch of grass that I covered over with cardboard a couple of months ago. I started piling weeds on top, partly to stop the cardboard blowing away and also because my compost bin was full. Today I shoved the pile to one side to find a lovely patch of soil, without any weeds or grass, and full of small organisms. Here it is in this next photo: the square of dark soil is the earth that I uncovered when I removed the pile of cardboard and weeds. Previously it was just grass.


The growing season may be over for some but I’m going to continue through the winter. My favourite crops are green leafy vegetables and these can be grown all year round. I also sowed some parsnips today. I’m told they won’t grow because it’s too late in the season but I’m going to try anyway. If it doesn’t work I’ll know for next year.

Kia Kaha

I’ve had one glass of wine and I’m really pissed. I don’t want everyone to think I’m an alcoholic or anything because alcohol is best avoided. I don’t drink very often but I bought a half case of sulphur-free wine recently and I’ve really enjoyed it drinking it, especially the red wine.

The broccoli in my garden is starting to flower. I have some broccoli at the allotment but it was planted later and isn’t quite as advanced yet.


The blue poppies are also blooming again this year.


I have deliberately avoided writing about the terror attacks because I don’t think we should give the criminals the media attention they desire. It only adds fuel to the fire and encourages copy-cats. However I do want to send hugs to all those affected. Kia kaha is what the New Zealand Māori say and it means, stay strong.

Dinner is ready! We’re having spaghetti bolognese but made with red lentils instead of mince. Red lentils are a great replacement for mince. Meat-eaters like to laugh at me but my lentil meal is cheaper and healthier than the meat version and when I’m 80 and the arteries feeding my heart are clearer than the front windscreen of a freshly washed electric car, I’ll have the last laugh.


A hedgehog house

A hedgehog house

We got a hedgehog house for our garden. I hope a hedgehog finds it suitable and moves in. I think it looks very inviting. That old pot next to it has been dragged with us all over the world, from city to city and country to country. I think we got it in Christchurch.


My war with the slugs and snails continues. I haven’t lost any of my new seedlings so far but I do put a lid over this compartment each night.


I planted a sweet pea in an old bicycle basket a couple of months ago and put it in the glasshouse. It’s grown a bit out of control but there aren’t as many flowers on it as I’d hoped; maybe it hasn’t reached its peak yet. I love reusing old baskets and containers as flower pots.


My garden

My garden

I lay on the trampoline today looking up and this is what I saw.


Very soon now the trampoline is going to turn into a gigantic bucket of leaves – they’ve already started falling – but I’d still rather have the trees.

Here’s my garden produce on the dinner table tonight:


Everything on that wooden chopping board came from my garden. Isn’t that wonderful?

I’ve also got cyclamen in my garden. I’m amazed that they grow in the ground and without any attention from me. Years ago when I lived in Brisbane I struggled to get them to flower and look healthy. Here I just dig them in the ground and do nothing and they look beautiful. That’s my kind of plant.


Castle Fraser

Castle Fraser

My aunt and uncle have left now – I thoroughly enjoyed having them here. We went to Castle Fraser on Thursday and I’m only just getting around to posting the pics. I haven’t been there for over a year and it was wonderful. The walled garden is one of the best I’ve seen with a very productive vegetable garden and lots of fruit trees.





It’s an attractive castle from the outside. I like the gateway into the courtyard and the asymmetry.



There’s a nice view from the top.


Here are the servants’ bells.


This is one of the bedrooms and you can see the rope hanging on the left which would have activated the corresponding bell in the servants’ quarters. Very high tech 🙂 The big tub is a bath and the ceramic bottle on the bed is an old hot water bottle.


They currently have a 19th century wedding dress on display which was worn by Blanche Mackenzie Fraser on her wedding day.


Most of these old castles also have what is called a Laird’s Lug which was a way for the Lord to eavesdrop on conversations in the great hall, and Castle Fraser is no exception. It seems humans have been eavesdropping on each other for centuries; only the technology has changed.

I asked the helpful employees at the castle why this one is called Castle Fraser and not Fraser Castle and apparently this is something the Fraser family chose to do to make the Fraser name seem more important. They also told us that no-one knows where the Fraser descendants now live but they think some left for Australia. The property is owned by the National Trust now.

Harald has been Wapuued

I finally did it! I plastered Wapuu stickers all over Harald. These are the Wapuus of Europe.


I also took another selfie of my sunflower which is now taller than I am. Five days ago it was about up to my eyes (pic here). Now it’s over my head. I’ve discovered there’s a downside to having a new camera with a really good resolution: it shows all the wrinkles, damnit!


A poppy from the garden.



The gin verdict

This might be a little premature because I haven’t finished the treatment but so far, gin seems to be working well as a weapon against hair lice. I treated Elizabeth’s and my own hair twice last week. Then I did it again earlier this week, but just the once. I’ve been inspecting Elizabeth’s hair and haven’t seen anything there for well over a week now. I’ll treat it one more time with gin next week and hopefully that will be the end of it but I’ll keep you posted!

I picked the first kale from my garden today and we cooked it in a curry for dinner. It looks so fresh and green. I haven’t sprayed it with any pesticides.



Brexit and other things

On the 23rd June 2016 the UK will vote on whether they want to remain in the European Union. We get to vote in this referendum and although I’m still undecided, I’ll probably vote to remain in the EU. I say I’m undecided because I haven’t really looked closely into the pros and cons of leaving versus staying.

I can think of one good reason to leave and that’s the incredibly irritating EU cookie law. For those outside the EU who may not know what this is every website in the EU is required to get permission from users viewing their website to store cookies. It pisses me off because it’s an annoying dialog I have to repeatedly dismiss and it’s particularly annoying on a mobile device where it obscures half the screen. If users don’t want cookies saved to their computer they can just disable them with their web browser. Why the rest of us have to click an accept button for every fucking website is a mystery to me. But in the grand scheme of things this is a pretty minor complaint and we may still be stuck with this law even outside the EU.

One of the benefits of staying in the EU is because they have legislation governing things like air pollution which serve as a protective measure against allowing the unchecked poisoning of our children which David Cameron and other British politicians seem reluctant to tackle. On environmental issues the EU seems to be ahead of the UK.

What are some other pros and cons? Feel free to add them to the comments.

Our garden changed dramatically in the week I was away. At this time of year plants I never knew existed seem to spring up out of no-where. The daffodils are in full bloom now and very pretty. My wormery seems to be ok although a few worms committed suicide in my absence. Ben didn’t notice but I found a few dried and shrivelled worms on the floor of our laundry.


Frogs in my garden

My father is making a very speedy recovery now and going from strength to strength which is a huge relief. This means I can start worrying about unimportant things that don’t matter like staining white sofas.

Some new sofas arrived yesterday afternoon. We got rid of ours in New Zealand before the move and our rental came with sofas so we haven’t needed any. I decided to get Ikea sofas with white covers. White might seem like a dumb choice but my logic was that I can bleach white. Other colours can’t be bleached. Yesterday I was stuffing all the cushions into their covers and somehow cut my finger and ended up bleeding all over a couple of them. Fortunately it washed off with soap and cold water.

Elizabeth said something funny last night. Ben was reading her a story and in the story one of the characters says, “For Pete’s sake”. Elizabeth said, “Sake is a bad word, isn’t it?”. She’s obviously heard the other version: “For *** sake”.

We have two Victoria plum trees in our new garden and they’re fruiting right now. The plums are delicious. Here’s a pic:


I also found this tiny frog just beneath the tree:


He was only a couple of centimetres long.

A new home

It has been a hectic and stressful week this week. Settlement for the house we bought was on Friday and we moved in yesterday. But the most stressful part was when my father took a turn for the worse on Thursday night. He had an emergency heart bypass last Tuesday and seemed to be recovering well. However he suddenly deteriorated on Thursday and they had to operate again. They accidentally punctured one of his lungs during the first operation. This is apparently one of the risks of having a heart bypass but it’s not usually serious and the lung eventually returns to normal. However he was finding it increasingly difficult to breathe and eventually went into cardiac arrest. They had to give him adrenaline and CPR and in the process fractured one of his ribs which caused a laceration to his heart. This led to internal bleeding and the need to operate again to stop the bleeding.

My aunt was at the hospital at the time – it was the middle of the night in Brisbane – and relaying information to me over the phone. I could hear the fear in her voice. This is one those times when it’s hard living so far away from family. We were all extremely worried for a few hours there. By the time the surgeon arrived Dad was stable again but still critical. My aunt let me listen to what the surgeon was saying over Viber and after that I think we all felt a little bit reassured. Thank goodness for technology. The second operation went well and now Dad is back to complaining about the nurses which is a very good sign 🙂

The house move was fairly non-stressful as far as moving house goes. We didn’t move very far and because we were moving from a rental property into our own home, there’s no rush to get everything out in one day. Our lease doesn’t expire for another 10 days so there’s plenty of time to clean up.

We’ve bought what is known locally as a double-upper. It’s a Victorian house built over three levels. The bottom floor is a one-bedroom flat and the top two floors form a large family home. The top and bottom each have their own front door. There’s also a large backyard which, although shared, is divided so we have our own part and our part is particularly huge. The backyard is magnificent and one of the things which drew us to this place. I love gardening, I always have. The women in my family have all been keen gardeners going back for generations. My main worry now is that I won’t have the time to keep it looking so good but I’m going to try. Here are a couple of pics of our new garden:IMG_2915


For the first time ever we’ve also got an ensuite. Luxury! The toilet seat in the ensuite does not stay up. It must have been designed by a woman. Ben is not very impressed and nor is Daniel.

Time to go and do some cleaning at the old place now.

Zeki’s grave and photos

We buried Zeki in our back yard and planted a fern on the grave. Daniel helped us and was very interested in the process.   He does not seem bothered by the fact Zeki is gone and never coming back.

Zeki’s grave
I thought I’d take the opportunity to post some photos of our garden since I had the camera out. 
Some veges.
New BBQ – the right way up
Fish pond garden

Our lounge with a busy boy and sleeping dog

I bought this dress for $5 at an Auckland op-shop. It’s Marcs and the fabric is 70% silk, 30% linen. Bargain!

The kids were invited to a birthday party this morning and there was a great deal of excitement leading up to it, especially from Elizabeth who is right into parties. She often sings happy birthday to her toys and there’s always mention of cake. She was the first to take her place at the table prior to cake-cutting. The child’s parents hosted his party at the local kindergarten which was a fabulous idea and one we’ll definitely follow next time.