Friday, December 28, 2012

Blossoms in a vegetable garden

Thornless blackberry, like tiny rosebuds
The blackberry a few weeks later, developing drupes

Southland Sno Pea, a heritage pea generous with its sweet crisp pods and pretty as a sweetpea.

A brown onion getting ready to burst into bloom (these were supermarket onions that sprouted, so I planted them in a pot to see what would happen).
Sweet smelling jasmine, one of the few 'proper' flowers round here.

Borlotto bean blossom (with fennel)

Celery going to seed

Chive flowers

The rambling red rose that I was so grateful flowered before anything else, and is now rain battered to death. When the rain finally stops I'll cut it back and see if it comes out for another round this summer.
Nasturtium for my salads

Pretty potato flowers
Mine is not a 'flower garden' but at this time of year it is full of blooms. I wouldn't pick most of them though as they promise fruit and vegetables to come.  Many are small and subtle- I'm letting spinach and other greens go to seed in the hopes they will self seed around the garden and save me some planting work later.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Rocket Stove firing up

Rocket stove blasts off
My sun oven stays hanging on the wall on overcast days, of which there are many in a Hamilton summer.  Even on bright hot days my shabby old model is not efficient enough to bake or roast- its more of a slow cooker specialising in leftovers, rice and stewed fruit. For the pleasure of cooking outside and in the interests of minimising my dependence on the electricity grid I've been wondering what kind of outdoor cooker to bring into my new place.  Barbeques are ugly and getting a gas bottle refilled via bicycle would be a challenge.  Pizza ovens too big and inefficient, and besides I want to be able to boil pots not just bake bread.  No, the cutting edge of sustainable low-tech cooking these days is rocket stoves.

Feeding sticks into the rocket stove.
Rocket stoves are apparently easy to make, and I was starting to research designs and gather materials when my friend Chris Fairly brought around his new one for me to try. Chris is a talented potter and and he's just finished making this elegant stove entirely himself, right down to the glaze on the mosaic tiles. I think its by far the most beautiful and streamlined stove of all the examples I've  seen on line (which are mostly ugly industrial or gigantic hippy earth buildings).

The first stages of setting up a summer kitchen on the back porch (the sun oven is hanging on the back wall waiting for the sun to shine again)
This is Chris's first rocket stove, and now he's seen it in action he's planning to refine the design of the next one.  But I'm finding its a pleasure to cook on as well as look at. The stove had its first run cooking steak at my housewarming party in the weekend.  Since then I've been cooking simple meals every day using just a couple of handfuls of twigs.  I'm out of practice with lighting fires and while I am getting my skills back up that's the most difficult part of the operation (and its not that hard!). Once the fire is going you just have to keep feeding twigs and sticks in through the fuel magazine, so its not the kind of cooking you walk away from for long (but really, most cooking requires regular attention anyway).

Cheese toasty with spinach picked while I was cooking on the rocket stove

The fuel is the kind of twiggy wood that is not good for much else. I might have used it for kindling the woodburner, or more likely left it to slowly compost.  It's free fuel that I can collect in my garden or just walking around the neighbourhood.

 The pieces of wood or other material burn at their tips, increasing combustion efficiency, creating a very hot fire, and eliminating smoke. The low-mass stove body and insulated chimney ensure that the heat goes into the cooking pot, not into the stove.  (Solar cookers world network)

Rocket stove fuel (in the background you can see the potatoes I'm growing in sacks)
Now that I've got comfortable with the basics of rocket stove cooking I'm ready to tackle some more complicated dishes. Check back for results over the next while.

The rocket stove heating leftover ginger-garlic rice with freshly picked snow peas (this was before I moved it onto the porch so I can use it in the rain)

Thursday, December 13, 2012


Eating from the garden every day. Is it possible to overdose on leafy greens? Because I've never eaten so many in my life before, I'm sure.
Oh dear, I keep forgetting to blog. And then remembering but not knowing what to say. Or having some idea but not feeling ready to share it here. The growing and changing is not all in the garden right now.  There are lush developments inside and out that are still too new and tender to expose to the harsh environment of the internet. Also I'm really really busy and not often by my computer.

before (a polyculture of carrots, mesculun and red onion;
with dill and beans coming on in the background)
after (a month later, thinning for salads every day)

Growing things (seriously) is still enough of a novelty for me to feel like I am witnessing miracles daily. I am awestruck by seeds germinating.  Every leaf and tendril is a wonder. The humblest blossoms delights me. Fruit forming from flowers is amazing.  Consuming food that I've grown feels like a sacrament.
Pretty pea flowers by the borage
I love sharing my yield with friends and family, nourishing them with the unqualified goodness I have nurtured.   If you come by, you will find a bag of salad pressed upon you, as the race is on to harvest before this unseasonably hot weather makes all the greens bolt.  Soon there will be peas, beans, zucchini and tomatoes to share. But the strawberry harvest is just (almost) enough for me (and the birds and slugs). Only my beloved father gets to also eat one now and then.

One of the daily salads of 15+ different leaves and flowers, all picked a minute ago.