Well! Another Silly Season has gone and I have had a nice ‘break’. I let myself have a few weeks off writing the blog, and took a couple of weeks of annual leave at work, so I was at least free of some responsibility.

But there’s always something to do on the farm. And mid-summer isn’t really the time for a part-time farmer to take a proper break. So while I wasn’t writing or turning up to my place of employment, it definitely felt like I was still working for a lot of it.

Still, amongst the things that needed to be done, there was time to see family and friends, and to read a couple of novels. Here’s a quick catch-up on the highlights.

Harvested catnip

Between Christmas and New Year we got a good run of not-rainy days. Morning and evening when it wasn’t too scorching, we were harvesting, bunching, and hanging catnip.

Our cat Patu likes to join us for the catnip harvest.

I harvest our catnip as the buds are developing for maximum potency, so nature really drives when we do it. For a while there, it felt like life was just about catnip. I was glad I’d taken time off from my paid employment to take advantage of the time we got.

We were forced to stop when it started raining again, and have continued to take it off when we have the opportunity and space.

Catnip hanging in the container

I think we’ve harvested enough to fill 400-500 bags this year, but I’m still processing it off and figuring that out.

Kat’s Nip took a little break over the holidays. Today the store has re-opened with the first of our freshly harvested batch of NZ-grown, spray-free catnip back in stock.

Drenched the cows

A break from the rains also meant we needed to get the cows up to the stockyards to be drenched. That happened just before Christmas.

The drench kills parasites living on (or in) the cow, and helps them keep in good health and putting on weight with all this lush grass. It gets poured along their backs.

Cows getting drenched

That means the cow has to be dry when you apply it, and then they need to remain dry for at least 24-48 hours afterwards. Which made it a difficult job to get done this year!

Our cows are pretty flighty and don’t like me much. We haven’t been able to figure out a way to get close enough in our own paddocks, so we have to run them the kilometer (uphill!) to the stockyards.

Our neighbours gave us a hand and we took the dogs along for the walk. By the time we got back, everyone was in need of water and a nap!

Ran the Little Free Mobile Garden Centre

Last year I turned up at the houses of friends and family with a boot full of plants on Christmas Day.

This year, I did it again. The plant list included burn jelly, aeonium, jelly beans, lovage, banana, yellow raspberry, cherimoya, licorice, tobacco, and silver dichondra.

2022 Little Free Mobile Garden Centre and Farm Shop

I also added some seeds, pickles, garlic salt, and eggs for those less inclined to growing things.

Once again, it was a challenge coming up with plants that would suit a wide range of people. Some of our friends and family have green fingers and lush gardens filled with every conceivable plant. Some prefer indoor plants, and others are just getting started on their home garden.

But I think there was something there for everyone.

Pickled stuff

Summer is the time of harvests that need eating or storing. Pickling is a simple way to keep eating your harvests after the growing season has been and gone. After a couple of years off the pickle-train (because I’d been eating all the pickles), I ran out of pickles and needed to jump back on again.

Last spring I planted some marked-down beetroot seedlings. Just before Christmas I harvested a big pile of them to make my Gran’s pickled beetroot. Beetroot was ever-present on Gran’s table and being able to make her recipe with my own beetroot was really satisfying.

Beetroot relish and pickled beetroot.

Then the next week, I found myself with enough gherkins to do a few jars of those too.

Unfortunately when I went to go harvest them (in the dark, by torchlight), I managed to snip the main stem of one of my plants. So I got a few jars of gherkins, but I don’t know how many more jars I’ll get off one producing plant this year!

Made a garden bed

Last year I utterly missed the planting gap for leeks. They took much longer than usual to reach harvestable size, and we didn’t have as long to eat them before they went to seed. The weather at the time delayed a potato harvest which meant the planned bed wasn’t available when I wanted to put in my leeks.

I was determined not to do that this year. But come January I was looking at garden beds that were either full, or which had grown alliums too recently (the perils of being a garlic farmer).

A new garden bed at the front of the main garden.

So we finally created the very-long-awaited Bed 13. I ripped out the weeds; dug out the edges; and spread blood and bone, gypsum, and horse manure. Then Richard got to work with the rotary hoe and worked it all in. Finally I gave it a plastic edging to keep the kikuyu away and got the leeks planted.

There’s 45 leek seedlings in there. That should be enough for us – they’ll be ready from around May-June.

Left the farm

When we moved here in September 2019, I made a promise to myself that I would get off the farm at least once a year. We managed to leave for a couple of nights in February 2020, and then – well, we all know recent history.

So I hadn’t spent a single night off-farm since February 2020. There’s a few reasons for it, but almost three years later I was thinking it should probably be a goal for 2023.

And then some friends visiting from Wellington invited me to a BBQ and to stay with them for a night in Russell. I was off work with no major responsibilities. Richard volunteered to hold the fort at home, and none of my usual reservations really applied to this situation, so I went.

I’ve always really liked Russell, but I haven’t had much reason to go since we moved here. It’s not far away (about an hour including a ferry ride) and piggy-backing off my friend’s holiday made it a relatively cheap excursion for me.

Kat with her friend Jo swimming at their rented accomodation
Saj and I outside Hone's Garden's epic succulent wall in Russell.

Left, in the pool with Joanna in Takou Bay. Right, outside Hone’s Garden in Russell with Saj.

I am wearing a ‘Cornelia’ dress from Joanna’s clothing line House of Boom. Check out her stuff and help her pay her tax bill.

I got to ID kiwi-call for my friends (awesome, because in general I suck with bird calls), wander Russell’s arty-shops, eat some delicious cauliflower tacos at Hone’s Garden (and marvel at their amazing succulent wall), meet my first weka, relax in a spa, catch up with old friends, and meet some new ones.

It might have been a very short break, but it was absolutely needed.

A weka that showed up to say hello

I’d still like to get to Wellington sometime soon, but Russell was such a lovely little getaway and chance to get away from the farm, if even for one night.

Back into it

Of course, that’s not everything I got up to, but it’s a decent overview.

It’s hard getting back into routines now I’ve taken a break from them, but here we are for another year.

This year I’m hoping to really get stuck into a drainage project on the property that will (finally) put us in a position to look at building an actual house. It might even net us our own private swimming pond along the way.

We have a pile of tōtara and mānuka growing for this year’s plantings, which will extend our ‘main fenced area’ down the paddock and towards the orchard.

Last year’s garlic grew well enough that we should be putting in a fairly large crop this year. Building new beds for them is beginning to become a priority.

We’ll just keep trucking along as best we can. I’m hopeful 2023 will be a good one.