End of November Vegetable Garden Update

Well I must say I am pretty chuffed with how the garden is going, I am now a “bio intensive” convert! The bed that got the best the plant food and also gets the best sunshine is now going gang busters, the others have various amounts of sun and whatever leftovers of garden food there was, all double dug as much as possible, these are chugging along. Slower, with more bug problems than the others. Pretty much what I have been used to seeing in the garden in the last few years with my ‘ad hock’ approach. I feel a lot better having a “method” to follow and, to be honest, far more motivated too!

Some details: Garlic has rust! I am blaming that on me over watering and it getting a tad too much shade from a tree next to the bed. Seeds for beetroot and carrots getting there, albeit quite sluggish (shadey tree, not double dug.).

Tomatoes, brassicas and silver beet in my middle, sunniest beds are big and happy.

Bed on the left is half Asparagus (I have let the weeds get too big, now I don’t know what to do with it, incase i disturb the Asparagus roots.. sigh) Right is happy Tomatoes.

Courgettes in a less than the sunniest spot, (but not too bad) are growing really well. They are planted quite close together so I will try to keep them well fed.

Courgettes and the rest of the Chard and Kale, at the end is some Oats and Peas.

After some help clearing the beds around the deck we brought some store compost and I have planted out a carbon crop of Amaranth and in the brick tubs I have Beans (thanks Kate!), herbs and Henrys Bush toms. I also put in some peas and oats down the side of the house and plan to put some more seeds down that whole length of that in the next few weeks.

Kylie clearing and double digging the bed next to the deck, everything all filled up.

I am slowly reading and watching all sorts of gardening info to try and get an initial composting/garden feeding system all setup, but for now I am using sheep pellets, weed tea, worms castings, store brought compost, and mulching with your standard pea straw. I only had enough compost for maybe one and half beds after the winter so its hardly sufficient! There will be more info on all of this as I work it all out. My mum gave me a Refractometer to help measure BRIX in your plants for Christmas, I plan on learning to use this to help me see whats working and what isn’t.

The weather has been crazy dry, keeping up with the watering has been quite hard. I hope to come up with a better system for that too. Love hand watering but some days it just takes too long.

Last but not least, the little bean thats taking up most of my time has turned one! ONE. She has only JUST started sleeping through (with some effort on our part!), if you count waking up at 5.30am as sleeping through that is…

Garden Plans

I mentioned in my last post a “research” theme in my time spent keeping a baby alive. Gardening! For some full disclosure, I have a garden primarily full of weeds. I wish I had a lovely garden where I spent hours cultivating beauty, bee/insect happy plants and delicious food. Wouldn’t that be lovely? But for me, when sleep deprived, recovering from carrying a baby, birthing a baby and feeding a baby there is so little energy left some days I wonder if I will ever do anything else ever again.

Finally, in time for Spring the little Xanthe started sleeping a little better so we have finally made it into the garden! I EVEN started some seeds! (I’m actually pretty amazed that happened.) In the last few weekends, my chooks, Kylie and I have enjoyed getting out and having a good dig. Quinn has directed and Xanthe has been swapped around to the parent not covered in dirt.

I wanted to approach the garden a little more methodically from this spring. Previously we have managed some basic vegetable growing, but its results have been pretty disappointing, which has led me to decide to give bio intensive methods a try. It involves cultivating and growing awesome soil with clever strategic composting and planting. One “double digs” the bed to help create loose nutritious soil more quickly (which is where we grab a Kylie because I managed maybe one and half beds before conking out). We also use soil tests to figure out what to feed the soil as you go.

This year we have started with the double digging, I have added what I have on hand for nutrients, sheep pellets, compost and vermicast. You can get this other stuff my plant guru’s recommend, but haven’t got around to ordering it yet. We now have a bed or two planted out, a few more ready to go and a few smaller ones ready for us to dig over for the carbon crops to the side of the house.

My main source of information and inspiration is the amazing Kay Baxter at Koanga Institute. I have huge amounts of admiration for what she and her crew are doing and wish I could just start all over again and go live there for a year back when I had no kids! Now I have little ones and we love where we are, so won’t be going anywhere. Her videos on Facebook are GOLD, I have her gardening guide and brought a few handbooks, they are all fantastic. So head on over to visit if you want to see what I’m talking about. She takes live chats (you can watch later) on Facebook too.

This summer I am focusing on just growing in the beds we already have, but by the end of this season I hope to have a better idea of how to completely re-jig the garden, so the vegetables get more sun, its easier to take care of and just grows us  food more efficiently than it has done previously.

I also want a jungle/natives garden room out front and flowers to pick for vases around the sunnier side… but thats another phase of the garden overhaul.

Side note:  I have uploaded some photos to Flickr. Embedding into the post looked weird and I don’t have time to faff! Follow this link.

Update and New Beginnings

How do I write down an update to sum up my life right now? I have tried four times and deleted all of them. Its a bit hard really. So I’ll begin it by bullet pointing.

  • New baby, Xanthe Kylie Louise Hills. Arrived 22nd November 2016. Born at home, no complications. She is incredibly delicious. Gets nibbled every day and keeps me awake at night. Quinn the son has started school (WHAT?!) in April. Love him, he is hilarious and growing up so quickly. Quite hard work at times but thats to be expected with all the changes.
  • Kylie, my love, rock and local funny man is also a zombie tired wreck who is ever hopeful he might get some… sleep at some point in his future.. possibly not in the next few months!
  • Cara – My little sister who was in an awful car accident 18th October 2015. She is in a Christchurch care and rehab facility. She is awake but needs 24 hour care, rest and gentle rehab. This is going to be a very long journey, for her, for her family and friends. We have small signs of her being still with us, but its cloudy in there and beyond hard to try and get out. We do whatever we can to help. Head injuries suck. Head injuries that would kill most people suck even more. Keep her in your thoughts and send whatever get well vibes you can.
  • Creative stuff. I painted a few pictures before I hit huge pregnant. Loved it. I have started a crochet blanket for Xanthe’s big bed. Always knitting, always sketching.
  • Food and Health. Things are tracking really well now. I have worked hard to find out what my body thrives on food wise and have been feeling the healthiest I have been in years, even when growing a baby and having no sleep. Shows how bad I got before i took back some control.
  • Garden, ticking along, quite neglected at present. With all the time spent breastfeeding I have used that time to read books and listen to podcasts, mostly about gardening and permaculture. I have been SO inspired, hoping to apply said inspiration and get in the garden soon. Many new layouts have been sketched, methods to make new beds researched… trying to get Kylie enthused to help also a daily activity… he helps, but usually to keep me happy… which I guess works well enough, I just need some other garden geeks to chew their ears off instead of Kylie!
  • I would like to be filling up this blog more. I have an itch to write, take pictures and create a space to catalogue exploits and ideas, even if largely unread… I know my family and friends read 😀

I’ll leave with some random piccies I have been taking recently. Botanic Gardens

Botanic Gardens

Margaret Mahy Family Playground

Xanthe Hills 6.5 months

Watercolour – another new hobby

Awhile ago I realised I needed something arty that I could pick up and put down in a moment. Something that worked with little ones and their unpredictable interruptions. Something that could look nice with quick washes, a book to help with colour mixing and maybe just maybe something that could end up being quite useful to make some sort of career out of as I get better at it. I decided that watercolour was the most logical choice and I have been having quite a lot of fun with it. The below is my first attempts at trying out different “styles” playing with colour and coming up with a nice end print for Little Man’s wall.

cars2 cars

What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.


Cara, me. 2004

As some of you will already know my sister was involved in a serious car accident in the US last month. I am finding myself finally able to breath as the flights to bring her home are booked. Now I feel like I can maybe write about this, a bit. You can find a description of the accident I wrote on the Give a Little page setup.

The last month has been the closest to hell I have had to experience so far in my life, I hope to never have to again. Reality is though, we all have to go through things like this at some point. Being far away and her being so ill has been so ridiculously hard. I remind myself every day that she hasn’t died and she is stable and recovering. Due to her head injury we still don’t know if we will ever get ‘her’ back. However, she is a little bit responsive and is more so each day, little arm movements, kicks, her pupils dilate and her eyes occasionally follow you around the room. For each day she adds to her list of abilities is a step in the right direction, something I continuously remind myself of when I start down the overthinking spiral of “what if’s”. One thing I know is she sure as hell would not give up on me, so I won’t her. I also know, she is stubborn and if she can recover, if anyone can, its her. She is one hard nut to crack.

Cara will be home on Wednesday, I will finally get to hold her hand and resist squashing her in a huge hug (still very much recovering, squeezing hug not so good). Finally, finally be there to help her when she needs it.

I have set-up a site to combine everything in one space that’s going on in “Campaign Cara-Joy“… the fundraising, the social network, the donation pages and more. So if your interested its all there.

Godley Heads Gun Emplacements Walk

For quite sometime I have felt no desire to blog. There was no room in my head. Make no mistake – I could probably make time. But you know when you just cannot face something? Or even think about it? Its not like I don’t LIKE blogging, its just I have been so mentally occupied. It wasn’t just the blog either, it feels like many things have been put on the back burner. Slowly however I am starting to feel like me again. Taking more photos for the sake of it, even a bit of art. Here are some shots of a walk Kylie and I managed to take when a friend of ours put our wee man to bed, allowing us to get out that much earlier to catch the lovely light.

Banks Pennisular Gun Emplacements
Banks Pennisular
inside old gun emplacements
old gun emplacements
banks penninsular
banks penninsular
banks penninsular
banks penninsular
banks penninsular
banks penninsular
banks penninsular
banks penninsular
banks penninsular
banks penninsular

I feel very out of practice with the photo taking these days! Its usually my point and shoot with kiddo and chaos reigning. It might be time to start hauling around the big camera even for the standard family outings. Get the hang of it again. Not to mention I am using Kylie’s camera after selling mine. I need to get used to a whole new camera!

Art in the Garden 2014

Last Saturday we spent the morning in Flaxmere Gardens enjoying the “Art in the Garden“(facebook page) exhibition. I only took my point n shoot due to having Quinn about, I did regret it! The gardens were so beautiful and the exhibits left me feeling inspired. Kylie and I are now quite sure we need to convert some evenings over “art nights” where we attempt to be more creative. I have put together a wee flickr slide show of all the shots, because there are so many! Look out for the “Tea Party” that was our friends exhibit. As I was taking my photos I heard quite a lot of dialogue on how people at first took it as a “chaos of tea pots” then slowly realized there was a lot more going on, tea pots having a tea party…

Making Websites again…. but not by myself.

Well life’s been far from quiet as of late. I have started working again! As a contractor for Board of Design. Setting them up so that they can offer web design and development as a service. It works perfectly for me right now. It allows me to “leave the office” (well for the most part) and be mum at home in a very flexible setup. Ensuring my little man is never far from home for very long, thanks to an awesome day care, grandad and my partner (the daddy) taking some time off work to be with him too. It’s really not a huge amount of work. But it has been just enough. Which is all I am thinking about for now! I have a few very cool projects in the works. Will post up here when they are done.

But for the mean time….. I have not stopped taking pictures! Here are a few from a wee trip one weekend we all headed into town for free Tram rides…as a result this mum got some free time to play with her camera in The Christchurch Botanic Gardens. What me take photos of plants? That’s new! 😉






Christchurch Botanic Gardens


Sewing a little Jacket


Recently finished a tweed jacket for my adorable 2 year old. I cannot find FIVE buttons that I like. So we have been managing just fine with the two I took off an old jacket. Buttons are pretty expensive these days, so we muddle through with what I have from a stash I brought second hand and pilfering off garments we don’t wear anymore! Its not like we can’t afford them, but I have been poor in the past and I cannot seem to shake my cheap skate ways.

The Details!

Pattern: Out of Town Jacket from the book Sewing for Boys: 24 Projects to Create a Handmade Wardrobe

Size: 2 Years.

Fabric: A thrifted tweed for the outside and soft check fabric for the lining (hoping the actual fibre content is wool and cotton respectively). Used a thick cotton flannel in the middle.

Review: Easy instructions for my sewing level to follow. Pattern needed no adjustments, may have done a bit more top stitching and edge finishing than specified. This is my second project from this book. Enjoying it thus far, really like how the patterns are pretty basic styling so you can put your own stamp on items by changing out the fabrics.

Mummy review: I get SO MANY comments on this jacket. Its the classic clothing you put on to get smiles and make an impression! Also good for those days where the wee one may all of a sudden throw a wobbly – people seem to be more forgiving when they look cute. Also really handy as a windproof layer that’s not a rain jacket. The three layers of fabric just gives it that warmer edge.

On doing it again I would make the ends of the sleeves fatter and less tapered. I really use it as a layer on top of sweaters etc and the narrow sleeves make slipping it on and off a bit more work than it needs to be.

jacket (1)

Exploring my wasteland

I live at home, in the ‘burbs, bringing up my wee 2 year old boy. Rarely do we go into town. If we do, its Hagley park, big enough to never need to venture beyond, or the hospital (for many reasons it has been way to often in the last few years). So when we do go to town to look around, each time I feel like I am some tourist in a creative, destroyed wasteland. Not in my home town visiting a local cafe. New sparkly buildings contrast with the remains of old skeletons and rotting remains of what were once the most beautiful. Dying prematurely. Miserable aren’t I?

There are many thoughts and emotions running through me as we walk around, such anger for it all leaving. So suddenly. With such sadness in its wake…  And relief at the new pretty ones popping up. Curiosity, the artworks that are appearing everywhere fascinating me, drawing me in. Graffiti is king in Christchurch right now (thankfully its not just tagging). I watch and wait for things to improve as we slowly, building by building, claw our way back to having a city again.
This is to our left,
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And this is to our right,
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Big holes for new buildings,
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Cleaning up after demolishing another,
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Art in windows,
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and on walls,
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Shrink wrapped buildings – quite a few of these,
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And old facades that look beautiful even from the back,
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