Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Talking about gherkins

 I grew gherkins last year in my glasshouse with great success, so this year I thought I'd try growing them outside. I started them from seed in the glasshouse and when the weather was warm in late spring I transferred them outside, to a climbing frame under the cherry tree. There, they grew quite slowly, had a few flowers and fruit form, but never really took off in the way that I was expecting. The site obviously didn't suit them well... too shady, too windy, not enough water perhaps? Luckily there was still time in the season to sow some more seeds and plant them in the glasshouse, where they grew rampantly. In fact, they are still there, still flowering and fruiting, much more to my satisfaction. Lesson learned: don't bother trying to grow gherkins outside even though there is more room and they would look so cute scrambling up a fence...

I pickle my gherkins in the microwave. Slice the gherkins if you like (cutting them in rounds means they fit in the jar better) and pack them in a jar. Add 1 tbsp dried mustard seeds and some sprigs of dill if you have it (sadly mine didn't self seed this year.) Pour about 1cm white vinegar in the jar and microwave for 1-2 minutes till hot. Pour about a cup of white vinegar (or you can used spiced if you want a chilli kick) in a microwave safe jug and add 1 tsp of sugar and 1 tsp salt (don't forget these or your mouth will pucker when you eat your gherkins!) Microwave for 3-4 minutes till boiling. Pour the boiling vinegar over the hot gherkins in the jar, then microwave the jar full of gherkins for another minute till it's boiling. Meanwhile pour boiling water from your jug over the jar lid to sterilise it. Using tea towels screw the hot lid on the hot jar. Make sure the lid seals, if it doesn't, keep the jar in the fridge. Wait six months before eating the gherkins.

That's my easy way of pickling one jar at a time which makes it easier to deal with the harvest. I'm looking forward to cracking these open in 6 months' time!

Monday, 21 April 2014

Pastel nails

 As I mentioned recently, I've been doing my nails as a bit of fun and trying out some different designs. I'm not spending as much time at home in the garden so it seems to last a little bit longer. And I also discovered nail polish remover which comes in little wipes, which makes it so much easier to remove when it starts to chip.

Recently I was contacted by Julep who are running a Spring Nails competition. They are looking for spring designs from various bloggers. It's not spring where I live, but that doesn't bother me since I love pastels and flowers all year round! So here's my take on a cute pastel flower manicure.

 I used a base coat of white, then applied dots to make the flowers using a stylus tool. The round tip of the stylus tool makes the dots perfectly round and even, it works much better than a toothpick. I used blue for three nails and pink for my ring finger. Then I used a sparkling silver for the centre of the flowers.

These pastel shades are not the easiest to photograph! They are easy to wear though and a lot of fun... I'll be wearing this again no matter what the season.

Do you like to paint your nails? What is your favourite look?

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

April flowers

 Autumn is here. Daylight savings ended last weekend and the weather has well and truly turned. The long warm days of summer are behind us. The garden takes on its end of season hues... seed heads and berries in warm russet tones, fading flowers and crisp curling leaves. It's not the best autumn in my memory but as always I only have to look around to find the beauty of the season.

Clockwise from top left: Cecille Brunner rose, pink salvia, federation daisy, Irish Yew berries, hydrangea, clematis seed head, delphinium, penstemon, chrysanthemum, foxglove, dahlia, echinacea. Middle: a foraged bouquet of berries and foliage. I have a seedling rowan tree that I grew from berries like this a couple of years ago, but it will be a while before it has berries of its own.

This is the yellow flowered clematis I showed you in March's flowers post. I like these seed heads a lot more than the flowers and they've lasted much longer than the flowers did, so it could still be a keeper.

I'm linking up to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day again. What is flowering in your garden this autumn/spring?

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Progress on repairs

 We're nearly halfway through the earthquake repairs on our home, and things are moving along! Every time I go to the house something else has been done. Probably the most dramatic of which was the removal of all the bricks on this end. This was necessary for the jack 'n pack - basically the floor and walls are jacked up, then packed with a strong timber to level them again. Then new bricks are put back on again.

 We used the opportunity to make a couple of adjustments to this area. I'd always been frustrated with the lack of light in this room - it faces southwest, has small windows, and the previous owners had built a cupboard in the corner to house the washing machine. Convenient, but it blocked another window! So the builders have removed the laundry cupboard which will be relocated to the small porch outside our back door.

Above is a before and during picture. You can see what a difference it's made just removing that cupboard!

This is the back door. It was so badly out of alignment that we broke the lock trying to use it, and had to put this bolt on in order to secure it. After the jack 'n pack the door fits perfectly in its frame again!

 Instead of reinstalling the small window, the builders put in a lovely big window that I'd purchased beforehand. And not only that, a set of French doors! And soon there will be a deck running the length of this wall.

See how much beautiful light is coming into this room now. It's made such a difference. The best thing is that I can now see the garden out the windows.

I'm counting down the days until I'll be back home again... the job is almost halfway finished (I hope!) But I know it will be so much better when everything is fixed and improved. And, although it took so long to get started, I count myself very lucky to live in a country where we actually do get earthquake repairs done. There have been so many terrible earthquakes around the world recently, and my heart goes out to all affected.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Talking about capsicums

One of the many reasons I'm grateful for my glasshouse is that it allows me to grow capsicums. I've experimented with growing them in it and also in the garden, and come to the conclusion that it's not even worth trying to grow them outside. (If I didn't have a glasshouse, I'd rig up some kind of cold frame for them.) But the glasshouse ones did well this year.

Last year in autumn I heard that it's possible to keep a capsicum alive over winter if you coddle it, and then it will regrow in spring. I decided to try that, so I trimmed the glasshouse peppers down to a smallish stump with a few leaves still attached, put the pots in a huddle together and covered them with frost cloth. One out of six survived, despite us having the mildest winter we'd had for a long time. In spring, the surviving capsicum did regrow and have flowers and put out baby capsicums . But the six new plants I'd bought as seedlings grew faster and overtook it! So again I conclude, it's not worth the bother of trying to keep them alive over winter.

So my method of growing capsicums is to buy a punnet of 6 seedlings in spring, when the weather has started to warm up and they'll be ok in the glasshouse. (I've tried growing them from seed but they take ages to sprout while the weather warms up, and I'd rather buy seedlings so they can take advantage of the growing season straight away.) I put each one in a big pot with lots of sheep manure and compost and water well. Then I treat them the same as I treat my glasshouse tomatoes.

As you can see I got some lovely big ripe beauties this year! I've put plenty in the freezer so I'll be eating capsicum for several months to come.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Temporary accommodation

As I mentioned last time, our earthquake repairs are finally underway. It's been quite the process getting to this point - we were originally told that our repairs would start in September last year and I spent quite a bit of time getting ready for that. But that ended up not happening, and everything went on hold for a few months. 

After the big earthquake in 2011, my house was damaged along with thousands of others. In New Zealand we are lucky that earthquake cover is part of our house insurance, so it was always known that the repairs would be done, but no one realised quite how long and frustrating the process would be for everyone! I'll cut a long story short and say that thanks to my builder's determination to start the job we managed to push forward and get going on things. I'd been slowly packing my belongings into boxes (since last August!) but there was so much stuff... plus there are always the things you can't pack till the last minute... not a fun job and I'm not really anticipating the unpacking with much joy either!

I found a house to rent not too far from home. Luckily our insurance company also pays the rent for this place. It's an ok place to stay in - it's furnished and comes with phone, power, internet and Sky TV - so there's plenty of entertainment, but it's just not home! I brought all my houseplants and put them on the windowsill so that helped a bit. And of course, we brought Mr Lui. He took a few days to settle in but he's fine now, sleeping on the couches like he owns the place. And when he's not on the couches he's on my computer case, an even better bed apparently.

I miss having a big crochet project like a blanket to work on. Since we are doing a few renovation projects on the house my spare money has to go towards that, so I'm not going out to buy yarn for a new project. And my stash yarn is all packed! So in an effort to create something cheerful and colourful, I've been painting my nails. Nail polish is cheap and there are plenty of ideas on Pinterest.

So that's the update from the holiday house. There are plenty of things happening at the real house too - I'll tell you about them soon. I also have some updates on my vege growing this season. In the meantime I'll be scouring Pinterest for manicure home decorating ideas.


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