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

What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.

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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.

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! 😉

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Christchurch Botanic Gardens

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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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Preserving madness

The garden has done pretty well this year. To make me quite happy the tomatoes went a bit “bananas”. I have never to date managed to grow so many. I can tell you what I did, but as most gardeners can tell you, I was also lucky; avoiding ravenous insects and disease.  But the slightly mad thing was me, designing and drawing individual labels for each batch of preserves.  I am still a designer at heart and the latest design trend is “hand lettering”. I have always rather admired this and decided to hand draw, scan and print out our preserve labels this year. Not just one “blank” label, but specific labels for each thing. Yup mad. I did three. Then made a blank one. 🙂 I did have a few self imposed”rules”. It must be hand drawn (no re-touching just sizing and pencil lines maybe allowed). Below are the results, pretty “newbie” looking I think, but I am still pleased, if I had let myself tidy them up (or trace them and make look professional) they would have never have made it on the bottles.

Tomato ketchup tomato sauce courgette relish

Liqueur label

First I would sketch out a super quick idea, then measure the label in my workbook to twice the size. Then pencil out the final, colour in with black ink pen. Scan, size down by 50%, digitally rub out errant pencil lines I forgot to rub out then repeat them across a A4 size file and print them out, cut them up and attach to the jar/bottle!

workbook labels

Needle Felting – yet another craft

Every time someone asked me if I had tried needle felting, or indeed any type of felting, I would feign dis-interest or answer honestly; “I have too many crazy hobbies as it is to add anymore to the mix” Well that was then and this is now. I now have a child who plays with things and well, woolen felted people and animals are so much nicer than their plastic counter parts. They have more texture and personality. Without further ado here is attempt number one:
Feltman
I used this tutorial initially. Changed it up a little. Followed some videos from this lady and then kinda made the rest up. Its not what I want totally but its a start. His legs are not bendy and he cannot stand up by himself. I also used mostly wool I had lying around (brought the skin colour) and I was gifted the foam pad and needle.

I have decided needle felting is awesome and I have designed the man’s lady friend in my workbook (it will of course be an “improved version”). I have brought the colours for her hair and outfit and am ready to stab myself by mistake over and over again for my craft. I had no idea how satisfying it would be to watch it all mat up and compress to make a shape YOU specified (even when bleeding!). Oh the possibilities…

All you need to do is look on Pinterest for some amazing work. Do not take my attempt as an example of even a inkling of what is possible with my new found hobby! I have of course started my own board

Oh and does my child like it? He smiles and says “man” when he sees it then when it does not fit in his siku digger he puts it “way” in his toy box. But if he likes it or not its irrelevant for version 1.

Project finishing – Crewel Embroidery

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Once upon a month or so ago I looked at my tall boy (piece of furniture), which, as it happens, is the place I hang my “project bags” – the cloth bags that I keep my knitting, embroidery, crochet, hand sewing and whatever else took my fancy that day many moons ago. It was covered in project bags, any time now my little antique handles would probably break off under the weight. I declared it was time to finish some stuff. Here is the first project…. Last year while still getting up to feed the little Quinn in the middle of the night. I took some Crewel embroidery courses in the evening at our local and delicious embroidery shop “Broomfields“. I was usually pretty jaded by then but I enjoyed them immensely! Our Tutor was amazing and had such knowledge about all things embroidery that I came to every session that I could manage and took notes! 🙂 We did two different types from existing patterns. The first one I pulled out all stops to get done before the next class so I could use the same frame. Did you know that “crewel” embroidery means to embroider with wool? I just thought it was the stitches used.. like cross stitch. But its not Crewel embroidery is to embroider with wool. Jacobean crewel embroidery is the most commonly seen sort.

I also ended up buying this great book to help out with future projects, Crewelwork (Essential Stitch Guide)

Now I just need to get these babies framed and decide on what the next embroidery project will be.