Sep 30, 2007

My veggie garden

I just realised that I hadn't bragged about my veggie patch yet. I do love to have a veggie patch. There's nothing quite so satisfying as watching your own food grow in your own back yard.

I'm a big fan of John Jeavons' "How to Grow More Vegetables..." book. So have thought about incorporating compost crops into my veggie space. I'm also extremely proud of having actually double-dug the patch before planting it out :-)

In our last house I experimented with the no-dig garden method. It was a total loss. I think it could work really well if you're using a piece of land that has already been gardened. But I was using lawn that had previously been cattle pasture - on clay. So it was totally compacted clay pan and my poor wee plants just couldn't send their wee roots in deeply enough - they just laid them down on top of the ground and under the mulch. So I ended up with mighty green bean plants 6 inches tall and broccoli that fell over in the wind.

This time I am dig, dig, digging. I'm hoping that after two or three seasons of double-digging etc that I'll be able to ease back to a no-dig version. Perhaps only digging every 3 or 4 years as the soil gets compacted. We shall see.

This wee patch you can see here is our main veggie spot. With two pre-schoolers I am aware of biting off more than I can chew as far as gardening work goes. I have started small. In this patch Miss 3 and I planted a row of sunflower seeds along the back. Then I cheated and bought seedlings from the garden centre for pretty much everything else: cauliflower; pak choi; silverbeet (swiss chard for you north americans); perpetual spinach; mesclun mix lettuce; calendula; parsley. We did plant seeds of beetroot, carrot and radish in this patch too.

I have another patch about the same size, maybe a little smaller, down by our compost heap which is all planted out in sweetcorn.

I'm still working out what will grow in this climate. Not quite a year ago we were living in the North Island of New Zealand (closer to the equator), and now we live in the South Island (closer to the south pole). Things which we could just plunk in the ground any old time at our old house will only grow in summer here, and things that we used to be able to grow outside on a sunny wall (like tomatoes) greatly prefer a glasshouse this far south.

All a big adventure :-)

Miss 3's favourite bit so far was making our scare-crow - isn't she pretty? Dressed in old cloth nappies which are no longer absorbent enough... Read more...

Sep 29, 2007

Flight of the Conchords Groupie

Okay, so I'm a big Flight of the Conchords Fan. :-)
Groupie fan site here Has updates of what they're up to currently.
And, of course, I just can't post without this baby


Sep 28, 2007

Compost this?

A site to check whether anything can be composted! very handy indeed Read more...

Sep 25, 2007

About Mum

So. Back to Mum's health. It's not good. This last lot of chemo was really only to try to delay the inevitable. The Drs were going to give her a bout of drugs about once every 3 or 4 weeks for maybe 4 or 5 months and see how it went. But the first try hit her so very hard that she ended up in hospital for 5 days with a white blood cell count of zero. This is not uncommon, but to cut a long story short Mum has decided that she'd rather have a few short months to live and feel tired and ill than have a few short months to live and feel utterly atrocious.

So Mum's decided to stop the chemotherapy. She can take it up again whenever she feels like it, but I don't think she will. She looks so frightened of it when she talks about it.

Hard as it is to watch her dying, I think she's made the right choice. Don't know what I'd do in her situation, but whatever will make her happy over the next few months is what she needs to do. My emotions about it are a bit detached at the moment. I have days where I'll be hanging out the laundry on the clothesline or whatever and suddenly I'll be bawling my eyes out because I'm going to miss her so very much. But mostly I veer away from the abyss. Right now I can only deal with my grief in little packets.

But that's okay - loss is not something you ever get over - you just find a way of making it a part of you so that you can keep getting up each day. I don't really believe in 'closure' or 'moving on' from something so big as this. 'Closure' seems to imply that you're somehow finished with your grief and your memories, and that just seems wrong. I will always miss my Mum. There will always be a Mum-shaped gap where she should be.

In a way that's kinda comforting.

But not very

The Experiment - day 7

What with everything that's been going on in the last few days (vomiting children and parents, big family meeting about Mum's health - more on this in the next post - my brother in town... not to mention a stack of good books from the library) I have rather neglected to look at my little plant pots by the back door. Also, the weather has been filthy the last couple of days so I wasn't up to lingering outside in the cold drizzle.

Still, pathetic excuses aside, I noticed 'my experiment' on the way to the compost heap this morning and on closer inspection discovered that some germination has happened! yay! So that's exciting. I raised the glass off the pots and angled it in front of them - like a cold-frame I guess, but open to the elements from the side. There will be more sprouts to come, since this is a mixed lot of seeds and they'll all have different germination times, but it's nice to know that they're growing. Read more...

Sep 24, 2007

Birthdays Without Pressure

Birthdays Without Pressure. Just the way I like them Read more...

Sep 23, 2007

Book review - Kage Baker's Company novels

I was delighted to see Kage Baker's 6th Company novel "The Children of the Company" when we were in at the library yesterday. I love this series. Whenever I see a new one at the library I snaffle it up immediately. They're a deceptively easy read. You get sucked lightly into the most complex plots and it stays in my mind for days afterwards as I work through the implications of what happened in this book in the context of the whole story.

The main over-arching plot is a science fiction cross with historical fiction and adventure/suspense. The Company exists in the 24th Century and has unlocked the keys to time travel and immortality. Sadly, time travel is hideously expensive and painful, and immortality (in the form of being converted into a cyborg) is the same - and can only be done on small children of the right physical type. No good for aging millionaires. So The Company decides to make its money by planting cyborgs in the ancient past and plundering treasures from past civilisations. "In the Garden of Iden", the first company novel, is a captivating read - mostly set in 16th Century England. As the series progresses the role of The Company gets more sinister and more complex as you find out more about what different 'immortal operatives' understand about their role and the history of The Company.

I'm sure I'm not doing it any justice at all, but it really is exceptional. If you at all enjoy historical fiction, mystery novels, suspense or any science fiction at all you will like these books. Read more...

Sep 21, 2007

Miss 3 being cute

This story was relayed to me by Miss 3's kindy teacher earlier this week...

Miss 3 and her best friend S were in the toilet area. S had finished and was waiting for Miss 3. "Miss 3, do you have a willie?" asks S (who does).
"Yes" says the little miss, after some thought
"Oh, cause my Mum doesn't, but maybe girls do and Mums don't"
Miss 3 pauses for more thought, "My Willy is a monkey and he sleeps with me in my bed at night" Read more...

Sep 20, 2007

rant for the day - 'christian' political parties

What is it about neo-con middle-aged christian men? Why this seeming compulsion to band together, wave their fists in the air and form political parties? (although, I was pleased to hear on National Radio this morning that this latest 'family values party' appears to be dead already - two days after it was born)

Actually, my real objection is to their usage of the word 'Christian' in their party name, and their assumption that they speak for all of Christ's followers. The Christian community is a very broad one indeed - including socialists, libertarians, people who see vegetarianism as an expression of their faith, capitalists, 'closed' communities, conscientious objectors, street-corner bible-bashers, blah blah blah. One political party can never hope to represent all Christians, and to claim that they are is either dishonesty or arrogance.

The Church as State was an experiment tried by Constantine in 303AD. It failed. The situation is created whereby anyone who aspires to political greatness is forced to rise to greatness within the Church first. This means that the leadership of the Church is suddenly populated by politicians, not people whose primary concern is the spiritual well-being and pastoral needs of their congregations. Of course, there also needs to be a State-endorsed church too (either official or unofficial) otherwise, how do we know if the politician is really 'christian enough'? or 'the right kind' of christian. And of course, then there are suddenly the 'wrong kind' of christian.

All of which is a mighty distraction from the real business of Christ - did you clothe the naked, feed the hungry, love God and other people? Read more...

Sep 19, 2007

vomit, vomit everywhere...

and I don't like where the rest of that sentence is leading so I'll stop. It wasn't exactly that bad but the day did start to the sound of Miss 3 choking in her own vomit.

at 6am

Didn't get a whole lot better as the day progressed either. Had some bad news about Mum today, but shan't go into it right now as the baby is teething and grumpy. Read more...

Sep 18, 2007

The Experiment - day 1

For the background to this experiment, see here

Miss 3 is at kindy, the baby is napping, dinner is in the crock-pot, all seems quiet... so I took the opportunity to set up the four seed pottles.

I used Yates Seed Raising Mix as the potting mix, Mesclun Original Mixed Species from Kings Seeds, and followed the instructions on the back of the potting mix bag.

The pottles were filled to near the top with potting mix, then firmed down. I watered each pottle with tap water (I ran the tap for 20 seconds before collecting water to minimise metal leaching from the plumbing - I will do this every time I get water but won't mention it again). Then I sprinkled seeds into each pottle, trying to keep each one evenly covered and about the same as each other. They are quite densely sown. I covered the seeds with a light covering of potting mix, placed the pottles in their drip trays (old takeaway containers), put them in a sunnyish spot and covered them with a plate of glass (an old car window I found under the house).

So we shall see.

Sep 16, 2007

How to go Green

Treehugger is a top site. Well worth checking every day. Here is their menu of 'going green' articles. Helps to break the steps of being a greenie into bite-sized chunks. Read more...

Sep 15, 2007

Death and Dying

Miss 3 and I went to the cemetery today. It is 2 years since my Nana died of cancer and I wanted to go put some flowers by her headstone. I wasn't sure about taking our child along with me, as the whole concept of death is a daunting one to have to explain - although it's not entirely foreign to her - she does know that people die, and that means that their bodies stop working and the bit that they think and feel with goes to be with Jesus. But what she might actually think that means I don't know.

I came to the conclusion it was a good idea to take her with me. You see, my Mum (Miss 3's beloved Nana) has cancer too, and will probably die within the year - it has spread through her liver and lymph system and is spreading very fast. She may even die within the week, having been admitted into hospital today and put in isolation to try and head off a terrible case of flu she's come down with while being on chemo.

So in the light of that, Merl and I decided that a trip to the cemetery to put flowers on my Nana's grave and to have a good cry and a talk about the good memories I have of my Nana would be good. So that's what we did. I had a cry and explained that I missed my Nana (her Great-Nana) very much and was sad that she had died, and also that she had been very unwell so when she died she had left her sick body behind and didn't need to be sick any more, so that was actually a good thing.

Perhaps this will help us all grieve a little easier for my Mum when the time comes. who knows. We just do what we think is best at the time. Read more...

TV and tots

I like this Salon article. It affirms my practice of settling Miss 3 in front of a couple of Berenstain Bears episodes while I get dinner ready. Basically says that so long as TV is age appropriate, for fixed time periods, mindfully watched and never just left on in the background it's ok. Also, no good evidence that kids who watch a lot of TV are physically inactive - seems to be very little correlation between TV time and physical activity in preschoolers.

It also, strangely, reinforces our decision not to actually own a TV. Any 'TV' watching we do is on our computer - a DVD or downloaded TV series. So it's never on as background noise - everything that we watch is a conscious decision. Read more...

Sep 14, 2007

Is Microwaved Water Safe?

A good question, I thought. I have been bothered by this thought since seeing this website. Basically, a school student fed two plants some water - one with water which had been microwaved and one with water that had been boiled on the stove. Both lots of water were cool before she watered the plants. After being watered like this for a couple of weeks, the 'microwave water' plant died.

Yep, died.

Now a plant can die for all sorts of reasons, so before abandoning my beloved microwave I have decided to check it out myself. I figure that with my (somewhat rusty) background in scientific endeavour (I have an MSc) I should be able to design an experiment that will at least indicate whether there is any difference between microwaved water and other water. Personally I hope not, because I love my microwave for defrosting stuff, and reheating stuff, and melting stuff... And the husband in the family loves to make our daily porridge in it.

So. The basic plan is;

Plants watered with differently treated water will thrive, regardless of the treatment that the water has received.

1 new packet of Mesclun Mix seeds
4 plant pottles with separate drip trays, all washed and rinsed in municipal supply water
1 new bag of 'seed raising' potting mix
municipal supply water
stainless steel kettle
pyrex jug
'microwave safe' plastic container

OK, I'm still thinking about this, but I'll probably grow all the seeds to the first true leaf stage on normal tap water and then change their water supply. The four groups will be 'normal' (unheated) water, water microwave boiled then cooled in a 'microwave safe' plastic takeaways container, water microwave boiled then cooled in a pyrex jug, and water boiled then cooled in an ordinary stainless steel electric jug (element concealed, as it happens).

It's spring in this part of the world, so just the right time for sprouting seeds and all that fun stuff Read more...
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