And life takes over again

Hi! I’ve not written for almost two weeks now & I feel like a lot has been going on!

Germination

Broad bean baby in mini greenhouse made from a milk bottle. November 2018

We’ve had a lot of progress in our garden. The above photo feels like old news now. I’ve been working on a very nerdy but useful spread sheet that lists when seeds are sown, germinate and are ready to harvest, among other details, including notes! I love it.

This photo is from about 2 weeks ago now. The broad bean is much larger now and when I looked at it (and its neighbour) I think they are almost ready to be staked. We’ve had such crazy weather with so much rain, gloom clouds and very little sunshine but the garden seems to be coping regardless.

We’ve got 4 active raised garden beds now. 1 has zucchini, one has lettuces, spring onions and onions, one is a 3 sisters planting and the first and final bed has carrots, beetroot, spinach and silverbeet. We’ve had to do a lot to protect our beds from our cat with moderate success…. The plants just need a little longer to really establish. My radish sowing is doing amazingly with expected harvest of round one next week. I have already done a successive sowing too!

The above photos illustrate the kind of weather we’ve had lately. This is CRAZY for November in New Zealand…. you know…. Summer!

I started staining our fence but didn’t get very far before I realised that the weather was far too dodgy and I’d have to call it quits. This is STILL the case. I want to do more after work each day but I can’t until the weather clears. It’s frustrating as the bit I’ve done looks great and I want to do more!!

I’ve had some garden sadness too. It looks like the 3rd broad bean plant rotted and some kind of critter (slug probably) ate one of my radish plants. This is part of being a gardener, you have loss as well as success. I think I might have lost some onions to the cat’s digging too. I’m thinking I might have to strategise better and let seedlings get much larger, growing more from seed, before planting them out. We have celery on the way but they are still very tiny though abundant. I need to look into other cat deterrents too as I’ve had a couple of suggestions to follow up.

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Our photogenic digger cat. November 2018

There is a lot more going on – basil seedlings doing well, a butterfly garden planted, swan plants too, much landscaping. I need good weather and I need good pictures!

I love being productive and working in our garden. I go to work wishing I could stay home and work there despite actually enjoying my job a lot. It’s bit of a crazy world. My Love has just secured a new role too which is really great in the scheme of our life together & our planning for our wedding have been part of the reason I’ve not written much lately – as well as nephew’s birthday and wedding dress fittings. ❤

Life feels busy but productive when you put it all together like this. I’m probably not writing coherently at this point but I am enjoying the reflective process.

Goodnight world.

After rain comes action!

So, there was a very soggy, sorry scene at our home on Friday night after a solid lot of rain. We had started lifting pavers to let the raised herb garden drain downhill and this inspired some big changes as well as soaking us right through! We were always going to lift these pavers and use them elsewhere, but our process has been expedited. We will lift all of the pavers but the photo on the right is where we have got to so far. The pavers are heavy but the thing that takes the most work is shovelling out the base course and sand (which we are also reusing to fill in raised beds and dips in our lawn) and laying down the bricks in a fashion that is reasonably even (not perfect! it needs character – you get that with recycled bricks.)

You can kind of see that part of our old concrete path got the smash too which is exciting as we start thinking out how to make our back door space look much better.

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New gate! 

My Love and his Father also put this gate together this weekend. Where you can still see a gap will be trellised with a climber growing through it. At least that is the current plan!

Ideas move and change quickly around here. One job we have now committed to is staining the fence. A giant bucket of stain has been acquired in a “Smokey Charcoal” shade. It’s not too dark but should tie in with some of the accents on our house quite nicely indeed. I am actually looking forward to that project a lot as I like painting.

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Cat-Proofed Three Sisters Sowing… With an Oak leaf scarecrow.

I finally got to sowing some seeds in our raised beds. Above is the Three Sisters bed, which is kind of 4 Sisters as I have also put a few sunflowers in there. We are trying out some heirloom corn that looks to be yellow, blue and red from the seeds. We will also grow beans and a variety of squash in here too but the corn and sunflowers need to establish first. Hopefully all those sticks and rocks provide enough deterrent to Mr Cat.

The other garden bed has two rows each of carrots and beetroot,  and 1 of silverbeet and spinach. I’ve got a makeshift greenhouse going over that one to protect from The Cat and to keep the seed bed warm. So long as it doesn’t rain like it did last week, I think it will perform well! My love also planted some celery and zucchini in egg cartons and toilet rolls and I planted a new batch of basil for the kitchen windowsill as the current plant has started to flower and looks pretty after serving us very well since we came home from Italy.

I need to remember at the end of these long days to take more pictures I have more to share but I might hold that off until I have the visuals. I also got a seed sprouting kit that I might profile once I’ve had a round of using it. Hope your weekends were as productive and happy as mine. Growing seeds and caring for plants gives you such a good feeling and I am so happy to be back into it, and to be able to teach My Love more about it too.

Growing food goals closer

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Raised Bed #1

This weekend has been divided by the weather. Plenty of garden soaking rain on Saturday and plenty of sun but also wind on Sunday. My Love & I packed a lot into Sunday as a consequence & now I feel like our gardening dreams are starting to take shape. The above photo is of our first raised bed which I am just going to let settle for a week to see whether we need to add another layer of compost. This one will then be planted with carrots, beetroot and silverbeet.

We are continuing on with our policy of reusing things. Our lawn is not level so as we dig bits out, we fill the raised beds. This is quite labour intensive as we try to reduce the recurrence and persistence of weeds. This bed here has a layer of dirt garnered from moving lawn around as mentioned, then there is a layer of very soggy cardboard (thanks bed packaging and thanks rain!) then a layer of lawn clippings and finally two bags of store bought compost – our homemade stuff is still maturing!

This past week saw the completion of the first 3 months since we bought our first home. It also saw the repair of the pipe we damaged in constructing our fence which in turn saw the completion of another section of fence.

Fence backside

This is the back of our fence, with the raised bed from above. We will have several garden beds along the length.

Having this fence is a game changer for us. We have a bit more privacy but it also childproof’s our property and makes the boundaries in our title much clearer. These are all important things to us. I really like working in the backyard now, knowing that I am hidden away.

Another example of reusing things was this little planter box made from fencepost offcuts.

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Fencepost mini planter box with plastic “green house’ whilst the seeds germinate.

So in here we have radish seeds and a seed for a broad bean bush planted. The plastic covering protects from our Cat and birds alike and keeps the area warm and moist during the germination process. Looking forward to seeing how this goes. You can see it here but it is at the end of what will be a path and I think the bean plant there will look quite good. I’ve also planted broad bean seeds either side of our two compost bins. Can’t wait for them to start growing to be honest. I think it will also look quite good.

I also re-potted another Roma tomato plant which i planted with some eggshell powder than I made on our rainy Saturday. I save all our eggshells for the garden. I eat at least 1 egg a day so we have quite a lot! Usually I crush the shells and put them around plants to protect them from slugs and snails who don’t like to walk on the sharp shells but I had read that ground shells in the pot equal amazing tomatoes! This is my prototype. I look forward to seeing how this goes.

Seeds

Dill seeds in improvised greenhouse. The weeds are determined in my herb garden. I need to mulch it asap.

And finally I planted a good sized pot of dill seeds and cut some plastic from our bed packaging to make a greenhouse. I recently realised how much dill costs to buy as a dried herb so I am excited to grow my own. I’ve not grown it before but I have it with my breakfast most days so looking forward to greater self sufficiency with this.

Considering we went to Italy for a large chunk of September, some of the stuff we have managed to do in 3 months has been quite great. It doesn’t feel like we’ve only been here 3 months in some ways but when I think about it all, we have done quite a lot. I really love being a homeowner for the simple reason that it allows me to live in line with some more of my values, in a much more simplified way. I feel very lucky.

 

 

Privacy is Blooming

Our home got a lot of attention this weekend (as it does most weekends!) and therefore our fence is almost complete!

My Love’s father was back, bright and early, to help more with this project and share his experience. We were worried as rain was predicted but much of the work was completed before that got too bad. That said, we did hammer a lot of nails in the rain! We were just lucky that it was not cold…

Here is the view of the fence from the back. We still have that plumbing issue but should receive the quote today (plumbers are very busy here) so we can’t complete one section of the fence yet. We also need to decide how to do the gate! The bulk of the fence is up though and it really does feel like we have a lot more privacy but that is balanced with not sacrificing too much sunlight that comes into our yard later in the day. For that reason our fence is not really tall and is multiple heights.

Here is the view from “the driveway”… I call it that because the driveway doesn’t really exist anymore…. but that’s a project for much further down the track. The fence looks a bit funny with its incomplete bits. Also we plan to stain it so it is a uniform colour. I have ideas for planting too!

The area in front of the fence is allocated on our title as two car parks. It looks like we’ve given up a bit of land but it’s actually not ours to give up. We have a strange title but that’s the way it is. The expense to change it is not worth it for us when this is likely a short term home.

The old rotary washing line also came out after much effort by My Love. I’ve been using some of the old path to continue on with the low maintenance area around the back of the house. As I’m doing a cheat but putting down broken concrete and the a top layer of white chip, this is a bit more labour intensive than the first segment. I have to sort through the rubble but it’s worth it as I’m quite passionate about us re-purpose for as much as possible

Work in progress. Cardboard weedmat, concrete, white chip, bricks from around the property and river rocks to fill in the other gap til the concrete is ripped out here.

We live in an area that was once a riverbed so there are many rocks to be found when we’re working around the yard. The concrete path I’m standing on must go as it is old, poorly done and cracked. The rocks are unlikely to stay but make a good weedmat for now.

I also randomly-ish extended my herb garden to start a beneficial insect patch. There is already a forget-me-not coming through the fence that bees love, I’ve planted a sad aloe vera in the hope it might live and two swanplants to attract monarch butterflies. I got a couple of packets of seeds from a gardening website called “Butterfly Garden” and one of those will go there too. Again, rocks to put the cat off digging, fingers crossed!

It’s Monday so I’m back to work. Today I’m involved in some systems testing and reviewing some policy. These are things in the background before I can really get my new team that I’m heading up and running. I want to be back in the garden though!! Have a great week!

Friday Night Wine & Revisiting Italy

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Looking down the Spanish Steps, Rome, September 2018.

I’m going to try to revisit Rome, again.

The above picture is from shortly after we arrived in Italy. We were stubborn and determined to walk from Roma Termini, where we were dropped off by a bus that we’d caught from the airport, to our accommodation, just off Piazza del Popolo.

Google maps is a bit of a saviour. I can’t really imagine having to look at old school maps to get around a city like Rome, with a suitcase, in that heat – 34 degrees celsius. We didn’t really know it at the time and partly followed our noses as much as the map but the route we took was quite scenic, leading us to see some iconic sites of Rome on the way! The aforementioned heat is NOT something we are used to in New Zealand so we had to stop several times on the way, simply to rest. Our walk was probably about 40 minutes, maybe longer with the stops and the uneven cobblestones but we were really relieved to find ourselves safely at our apartment – Al Corso 4.

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Looking down onto Piazza del Popolo, Rome, September 2018.

Our accommodation was just at the entrance to this piazza and we walked down these steps, rested a bit and then realised just how close we were. We were too early for our prearranged check in though, and still had our suitcases which were a bit awkward, but decided to eat our first Roman gelato of many and tried not to melt ourselves.

This was our first lesson in how much Italian we DID NOT learn in advance. We also found ourselves getting stage fright with what we did know. And the conventions of buying things in Italy are not the same as New Zealand. Usually at home, we pay after we have ordered and pay the same person, generally, who served us. We sort of knew in advance that things could operate differently but it was amazing how long we took to get used to this and how intimidating it was at times. We eventually worked it out, after browsing gelato flavours for some time, that we were doing something wrong and were directed to purchase the gelato at a cash register quite far from the gelato. This probably sounds silly but we are just not used to that, and after hours and hours of flights, walking in the heat it all felt quite odd! That said, the eventual cooling gelato made the whole awkward experience worth it!

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View of Piazza del Popolo from our apartment. September 2018.

We checked in to our lovely apartment at Al Corso 4 and I think we just kinda collapsed for a bit. We rested and I had preplanned the route to the supermarket which we headed to later in the day, an early evening stroll, to get essential supplies, coffee, genuine spicy Italian deli meat (I think it was salami?) gluten free crackers, pickled onions, olives, and surprisingly cheap Italian Brie. We basically made a really lame antipasto. With wine. When you are as tired as we were, that seemed amazing.

I am struggling to remember the hazy details of our first day in Italy. We were a bit overwhelmed by the bustle of Rome – so, so different and about a million times busier than our home city Wellington – the smell, the heat, the hustlers (that we observed but were not hustled by on this day), and the language barrier. I want to keep writing about Italy because I am realising that it is fading a little. I have been reliving the experience a little through other people’s photos on Pinterest and of course my own. More to come.

Life in a little place called Home.

I’m not sure if I will ever get to writing up our entire trip to Italy. Maybe instead of thinking that I have to do that before I ever move on, I should just write about it when the mood takes me. I have wanted to write about things happening since we’ve been home more but I’ve told myself I cannot until I finish writing about Italy. This is madness!

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Moving Thor Home. Late September 2018.

Since we came back home from Italy, a lot has happened, even though it has only been a month. Wow! A month!

My Cat is happily living with us now in his senior years. It was an easy shift this time as he has slowed down a lot and seems most content to live the snug life inside, doing lots of sleeping and cuddles.

My Love & I have also begun doing a lot of work around the place and have started building a fence with the kind experience and help of My Love’s Dad. We have had a rather major mishap however and now have a busted pipe in our yard. When digging holes for the fence posts, one was placed incorrectly and the pipe was damaged by spade or crowbar. It’s not an emergency scenario but one that is important to remedy. The financial damages will become apparent this week. Not much you can really do in this situation other than accept it, get it fixed, learn the hard lessons about checking and double checking, and then moving on. All part of the joy and sorrows of being a homeowner!

A minor project we did was some small landscaping with things we already had around the place. We have used cardboard, bricks and white chip rocks to create a low maintenance edging.

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Brick and white chip edging, completed late September 2018

As you can see, this looks a bit rough around the edges. This was the day we finished the main work. Since then we have topped up the lawn with more soil, removed lots of weeds in that area and sown some new grass seed which is starting to come up now that we are more diligent in watering it. We intend to carry the bricks and chip along the full back length of our house and if there is enough white chip (this is currently at the front of our house and we are moving to the back) we might carry this around the other side too.

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Late in the day, 22 October 2018. The grass is a bit patchy now, and some weeds are sneaking in, as well as the ever present oak leaves. Some baby oak trees, potted up for My Love’s Mother are next to the flourishing potted pansies, gifted by my Father.

The above picture really makes me want to get out some white paint and sort out the bottom of the house! The projects are never-ending, really!

I’ve also started planting up my herb garden which I am really excited about!!

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Right after I’d just planted the first few herbs in. L-R – Lovage, Lemon Balm, Italian Parsley, Garlic Chives, Lemon Bergamot (a rescue plant, new to me!) Lemongrass, Oregano, Rosemary and Purple Sage. 7 October 2018

I have since added in a few new herbs, place eggshells around the plants to protect from slugs and naughty bugs and have added cat deterrents against digging. Oh and stuck in some solar lights which look cool at night. The below pic also shows the lavender plant that I just picked up and need to repot.

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Late in the day 22 Oct 2018. You can see the addition of Green Sage, Curry Plant and Tarragon. Sort of. I need to take some better pics!

I do have more to say about the outdoor work we’ve been up to and not to mention other life changes in the realm of work…. but I think that’s enough of a post for this evening!

I wonder what other people are getting up to in their gardens?

Time travel, History, Now

I think I am still digesting the fact that we went to Italy. The whole time that I was there it felt quite surreal despite things being so different to life here in New Zealand. I theorise that the sheer amount of people & tourists made it feel unreal or perhaps that so much of what we saw, I’d seen before, through school books, and online.

We originally were going to go to Prague. I’ve wanted to go ever since I saw a travel show about it when I was 18. Then we thought about it – and both of us are interested in the history of Rome and I had studied it at school and at university – both in classical studies and art history. It started making a lot more sense to go to Italy.

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Piazza Barberini – Late Medieval square with Bernini’s 17th-century Triton Fountain. Sept 3 2018

The above fountain is one of the first I saw in Italy and was certainly the first that made me stop and take a picture, despite the heat and dragging a suitcase across cobble stones.

Everyone tells you that Rome is dirty. There was definitely a hint of rubbish stench in the air and a lot of rubbish discarded around the streets. It’s odd though because I don’t really recall seeing anyone littering as such, so perhaps it is more that the infrastructure just cannot cope with the population, both resident and tourist.

And the weather was hot. It was 34C for a lot of the time we were in Rome. I’m not certain that I had ever experienced that before though it was a different heat to what we get here at lower temperatures. It was a lot more bearable and less searing.  I guess that is what having an intact ozone layer gives Europe. And I have to say, I liked it. I liked it even though it was wearing and we took afternoon breaks most days.

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Finding shady relief on a walk up Janiculum Hill, overlooking the heat of Rome. Sept 14 2018

Considering the conditions, we did a great, huge amount of walking. I think that is the best way to travel, particularly if you allow yourself to get a little bit lost from time to time. We saw a lot – tourist sites and things less well known – but we could have seen plenty more. I already have things saved in a list in case by the good graces of the gods we get to go back one day. Two weeks at a time is the best amount of time away from home for us but it does also place limits.

Here is a list of what we did see (just in Rome – we went to Naples for a few days too) :

  • The Spanish Steps
  • Piazza Del Popolo – we stayed in an apartment overlooking it.
  • The Pantheon
  • Hadrian’s Column
  • Largo di Torre Argentina (Ruins & Cats!)
  • Vatican Square and St Peter’s Basilica (though we didn’t go into the Basilica)
  • Castel Sant’Angelo
  • Lots of walks along the Tiber and the various bridges
  • Villa Borghese – a beautiful park with an old villa full of breathtaking art.
  • The Roman Forum and Palatine Hill
  • The Colosseum – we honestly only needed about 10 mins here… will elaborate in a seperate post.
  • Trajan’s Column
  • Fontana della Tartarughe – Turtles!
  • Capuchin’s Crypt and Church
  • Piazza Navona
  • Piazza Venezia
  • Fontana Di Trevi – I have NEVER seen a photo that can do it justice
  • Santa Maria Maggiore
  • Santa Maria in Trastevere
  • A church that we randomly went into – Igreja de Jesus e Maria
  • Stayed in and dined in Trastevere
  • Baths of Caracalla
  • Walked along part of the Appian Way and got lost into a park.
  • Capitoline Museums
  • The Vatican Museums
  • Villa Farnesina – Beautiful villa with amazing art
  • Crypto Balbi Museo
  • Walked along many streets…

I’ve undoubtedly missed things that looking through my over 1300 photos will remind me to add to the list. I still look at the map of Rome and see things that I would like to have been able to see but we took the path of caring for ourselves and making sure that we were able to do something significant every day.

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A street in Trastevere, early one morning. I love the foliage taking over the buildings. Sept 2018

More Italy to come ❤