Rural People & Issues

Rural People & Issues

This section of the website holds articles on everything you need to know about non-farming issues when living in the country. Choose from the menu on the left to browse our articles.

hostsHe says she’s a wonderful cook. She says he’s a wonderful story teller.

27chwRah! Rah! Rah! I’m sick of the word ‘failure’. 

AltheaI have won an award! Amazing.

snowLast week I had a little reminder of what was to come.

shedThe Bafor and the Bahafta, is what my Dad used to say as he surveyed his day’s battle with the garden.

PeppermintPeppermint! #@**@# !!!




chapter22aw“I don’t want to be sustainable. It’s not who I am. It’s not what this little farm is about.”

chapter21awStrategizing is a skill you use when all else fails or if the problem looks to be too big.

chapter20When I came here, the farm was a mess. I knew what I was taking on – including the state of the soil.

chapter19“How extraordinary,” I thought as I watched the wind gusts swing the backing gate across the dairy shed yard.

chapter18Men love to keep tough things a mystery … and the way we ladies have been ‘conditioned’ to being semi-hopeless, hopeless, or drastically hopeless is a matter for the situation or the man’s ego.

chapter17Well, pregnancy testing is over. Thank goodness. Anxiety dissipates as the verdict “Pregnant” … “Pregnant” … “Pregnant” exits the vet’s mouth and I add another tick alongside another cow’s name.

grass fed milkRecently I made another one of those proper-dairy-farmer decisions and I changed my whole farming system so that I could supply a specialised GRASS FED milk.

chapter15Now, the most dreadful part of getting to know my girls again was the reality that I was a commercial dairy farmer and I had to make THOSE commercial dairy farmer decisions.

calvesLast season was wonderful in terms of reconnecting the old friendships I had with the girls.

chapter13wOne of the best things about the move to the dairy farm was getting to know my lovely cows again.

chapter122wAs I metamorphosed into a local, the weather became a key factor in my daily life. 

fencingBecoming a South Islander had a few problems … or should I put that as ‘becoming a North Cantabrian’ … 

chapter10But then, there was another one of ‘those phone calls’.

middelmostIn the meantime, while this was all going on, I was trotting back up to the North Island on a reasonably regular basis to care for my little farmlet up there.

They couldn’t believe their luck.The girls thought they had died and gone to heaven, and making the decision to go “Once a Day” was part of it.

The girlsThe rest of the season melded into a blur and, looking back, I realise how much the wonderful people around me became a gift that saved the farm from the disasters that might have happened.

storm damageAnd so my first season began. With high hopes and heaps of enthusiasm, I launched headlong into what turned into a series of nightmares.

middelmostMy head was exploding. People who know about stuff seem to be so willing to part with and share their knowledge.

LFMDF chapter 4The fourth 'Letter from Middelmost Dairy Farm'. I had to make the North to South move as simple and as smooth as possible otherwise I knew I was going to crumple before the trek had even begun.

chapter3wLetters from Middelmost Dairy Farm.  To have good people around you is essential and, in this matter, I was blessed.

chapter2wAnd so the scramble began.  First things first … I needed to sort the cows out as they had been dried off and were nearly ready to move to their next lease location.

chapter1I always wanted to be a dairy farmer but who has a spare few million lying about?

meatboardwRod Slater is correct in some of his responses to my article on home-kill vs meat works meat, however as he rightly points out, when I said home-kill was 'better' I was focussing on better welfare for the animals and a better financial deal for the farmer (who can make use of the whole carcase). I believe that these are issues that are important to most lifestyle farmers.

waterAnyone living in a remote area without an existing connection to the national grid faces potentially expensive solutions to their power requirements. Previous articles have looked at solar and wind options, and the likely costs involved relative to bringing in a line from the nearest existing power pole.

To The Editor

I refer to Dr Marjorie Orr's article posted on your site recently; a number of statements are made that in my view are not correct. The first one being the headline "Why is home-kill meat so much better than meat from the works?"

possumWhether we like it or not, 1080 poison is widely used to kill introduced mammalian species that may threaten native wildlife and harbour TB. Occasionally large pest-killing operations take place in areas not readily accessible on foot. Licensed operators drop 1080-laced bait from planes and helicopters over huge areas of forest. The target animals are usually possums, rats and stoats.


windturbineYou live on a windy ridge. Sunshine is unreliable (imagine the west coast of the South Island), and you're a long way from the nearest power pole. The simple solution to your energy requirements is a micro wind generator, isn't it? The answer is "well, maybe."

meatThose of you who have eaten home-killed meat will have noticed that it is more tender and tastier than meat from animals killed in the freezing works. This is partly because commercial operators must comply with a regulation requiring that stock are visibly clean when presented for slaughter.

solarpanelFor most of us approaching the idea of solar power as novices, there are some daunting matters to get our heads around.  What are the components? How hard are they to get and how much do they cost? Out of the vast range available, what really is the best and most suitable for my particular needs?

solarSolar energy means different things to different people: is it solar water heating, or is it the use of photovoltaic panels to generate electricity? Is the aim to reduce dependence on the national grid or remove involvement with it altogether?

firewoodA supply of timber on your farm can be invaluable, both as a source of firewood, and as a future source of income if you grow trees for fine timbers.  Maxine Fraser, who also provided information on planning and planting an orchard, established a timber lot with her late husband Tony on their 80-acre property at Te Pahu, in the Waikato.

cherriesEstablishing an orchard on your lifestyle block can involve a good deal of work, and sometimes money, so it’s worth doing some careful planning before taking spade to soil. If you get it right, it will reward you for decades with home-grown fruit and nuts.

mozzarellaStrictly speaking, it's a cheater's cheese, as there's not even any culture added. But it's a big hit for when you're short of time or wanting to impress your friends by making your own cheese for the homemade pizza or summer salad of fresh mozzarella, fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes and basil leaves, drizzled with some extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with flaky sea salt and a dash of freshly ground pepper.

facecreamWe have been told many times that cosmetics are a rip-off, and that a $150 pot of beautifully packaged, expensively marketed  anti-wrinkle cream may be no better than a $15 jar from the supermarket. So there might be a lot to be gained from making your own, not only financially, but also from the fact that at least you know what you've put in it. In many respects, that's true. But as with almost everything, it's never quite as simple as you think.

mowLeonie and her husband Terry have twenty years’ experience living and working on lifestyle blocks, and they’ve lived with the good and the not-so-good over that time. Their present site, 18.5 acres of easy, rolling, slightly elevated land with big established trees and some very spacious outbuildings, close to Dannevirke and Norsewood, suits them very well, although Leonie says that they are reluctantly looking to sell in order to move north to a smaller property nearer their daughter.

cheeseIn many places of the world, cheese curds of many flavours can be found in the supermarket, and are a nice change to the bland block of cheese. Cheese curds retain a squeak that aged cheeses lose, because for the first few hours and even days, the binding proteins in the curds are still very elastic and squeak when you bite them, releasing some of the moisture that remains.  To make them may sound complicated, but once you get going, you may find that it's a nice change of pace to create in your home kitchen.

green cleanersWhen you live with a septic tank, and are concerned for the environment, the use of modern cleaning compounds may be something that worries you. But are the alternatives safe, and do they work? The uses of baking soda alone as a cleaner have been discussed in a previous article, but there are a number of other possibilities as well. One standard “non-toxic cleaning kit” is: baking soda (sodium bicarbonate); washing soda (sodium carbonate); white vinegar; liquid soap or a detergent if you have one you are happy with; and tea tree oil.

chainsawMichael lives on a one-acre block and has a neighbour who processes firewood for charity. Trouble is, he does it about 200 metres away from Michael's house. "He runs chainsaws every Wednesday and Saturday through the summer months for most of the day. Is there anything I can do about this, as the noise is excessive and is driving us to the point of selling?"  The neighbour, when approached, says he has no intention of stopping.

the perfect blockTara and her family have found their perfect lifestyle on a small block looking out to the Hunua Ranges. It took them twenty years to be in a position to realise their dreams and make the move to their haven on the side of a wide valley, and they think it was waiting for them, having been on the market for some time before they found it. After looking at many properties from Kaipara to Mercer, Tara says “As soon as we climbed over the gate it was just so still. No air traffic noise, no road noise, just a couple of fantails following our progress round the property, chirping at us.”

cheddarIn the latest in our articles on cheese making, Andrea Gauland takes us through a step by step guide on how to make delicious farmhouse cheddar.

Tyres as tree protectorswNorthland couple Zena and Paul and their family are proof that you don’t need lots of money to live in paradise. With hard work and compromise, they are living well on their five acres near Kerikeri. They bought their land with the intention of owning their own place and being able to provide their own food. Zena grew up in the country with “chooks, house cow, garden and a pig now and then” while Paul had a more urban upbringing and has learnt by experience as they have developed their property.

baking sodaCommon household baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, bicarbonate of soda, or sodium hydrogen carbonate, has been used in many ways for a very long time – right back to when the Egyptians used it to preserve corpses. You probably don’t have any corpses you need to preserve right now, but sodium bicarbonate is useful for many other things, particularly cleaning, and provides a good alternative to a number of harsher chemicals

destressing on the diggerSeventy-two acres of hill country with poor soil quality, lots of rocky rhyolite outcrops, 30-odd acres of pine trees and strong winds is close to perfection for lifestyle blockers Shane and his partner Michaela. Which may seem odd, considering all they wanted when they started was a few sheep, chooks and a house cow and a bit of room to feel free.

first catch your hareThe story goes it was an 18th century food writer, Hannah Glasse, who began a recipe with the words "First, catch your hare."

spcaSome people get confused about the SPCA - there's the RNZSPCA and your local SPCA - what's the difference? The national RNZSPCA is an over-arching body with strong affiliation to 48 regional SPCAs.  It helps and supports them all. 

pole houseBuilding on a sloping building site can be fraught with challenges. It is always more expensive than building on a dead flat site and so it pays to take an 'eyes wide open' approach and learn as much as you can as early as you can to find the most appropriate solution.

the perfect lifestyle blockLifestyle blocks come in all shapes and sizes and before you start looking for the perfect block you need to know what you're looking for. The first thing you need to consider is what you want to do with your block.

Named for the Manchega sheep, this popular traditional Spanish cheese can be adapted easily for goatmanchego cheeses' or cows' milk. There are three varieties of this delicious cheese. Manchego fresco is only aged for 2 weeks. Manchego curado is aged from three to six months. And Manchego viejo is aged for one year

chevreChevre is the generic word used for any goat cheese, and comes in many shapes and flavours. Originating in France, this versatile cheese can be used as a sweet or a savoury, served fresh or aged. One of the simplest recipes follows, and can be adapted for use in so many recipes.

empathyOne of the nicest things about having a lifestyle farm is that we can keep a few pets and friendly farm animals, and most of us know quite a few youngsters who love to visit them. Why not throw the net wider and invite more children to share the pleasures of being with trusting friendly farm animals?  Bringing young visitors onto our farms gives us a great opportunity to teach the kids about the realities of farming animals and the need to take good care of them.

cup cheeseNow that you've had a chance to practice on some of the basic cheese making techniques while perfecting your feta, here's another recipe to try.  Cup cheese is a Pennsylvania Dutch creation, credited to both the Amish and the Mennonites from that area of the United States. There are some variations to the recipe, but it was from being sold in cups that it got its name.

Here's the thing - invite friends for dinner and when they arrive, surprise them with the fact they have to provide it.

making cheese cultureMilk becomes cheese through the actions of bacteria. Raw milk will have a variety of naturally-occurring bacteria (and even pasteurized milk will pick up bacteria from the environment). If we rely on this random mix of bacteria to produce our cheese, we'll get inconsistent results. Instead, we seed the milk with a culture of bacteria known to produce good cheese.

Louisa Eades and her chilliesChillies are the spice of life for Swannanoa-based lifestyle block owner Louisa Eades. Louisa and her husband Mike moved on to their 11 acre North Canterbury lifestyle block in the winter of 2006. Louisa says the main reason was to give their three boys more space to run around. "We wanted to use the land to do something productive since we were buying a small farm. I wasn't a very good gardener back then and the only plant I'd managed to keep alive was a chilli plant I'd bought from Mitre 10 and kept on my windowsill."

feta cheese makingCheesemaker Andrea Gauland shows us how to make feta cheese. Feta cheese was developed in Greece, and is traditionally made from sheep milk. Goat milk is now commonly used for a good feta, and cow's milk is an acceptable stand-in which is readily available for most. It's a good starter cheese, not as 'fresh' as a chevre or vinegar cheese. Since it is stored in brine, it keeps for up to 2 years if properly refrigerated.

cheese mouldsOnce you've made your queso blanco cheese, you'll want to make more complex cheeses. To really get going with more advanced cheeses, you will have to find a source of starter cultures. You’ll also want to extend your basic equipment so that you can dedicate some exclusively to making cheese, especially if you are using raw milk.

easy cheeseThe easiest recipe to make can hardly be called a recipe.  Just about every culture has its own version of it.  It's just fresh milk and food acid.  Using lemon juice or vinegar is the most basic, about ¼ cup juice or vinegar to 2 litres of milk.  You may have to adjust the amount of acid you use, as acidity will vary.  Heat the milk slowly to 85C, stirring occasionally to avoid scorching.

animal neglectMost of us are responsible animal owners.  We take good care of our animals, and we encourage our friends and family to do the same. But what if you see someone else's animal suffering and you are reasonably sure it is the result of neglect or ill-treatment?  What should you do? You can report your concerns to animal welfare inspectors in the SPCA or MAF.  First though, it pays to ask yourself three questions.

cheese making basicsCheese is a simple thing to make from the milk of cows, goats, sheep, or yak, llama and horse if you're feeling a bit adventurous!  It's best to start simple and get the steps of the fresh cheeses mastered before jumping in at the deep end, unless you have chooks or pigs who would appreciatively eat your mistakes.  Fresh cheeses, or cheeses which are not cooked or aged, are very simple to make, and you can be eating your delicious results in as little as 12 hours from paddock to plate.

okonomiyakiOne of the best things of travelling abroad is trying out new experiences, especially if those experiences involve food.

stock losses in winter stormsIn recent months we've had snow, floods, earthquakes and high winds.  It's been a cruel spring for many New Zealanders, not least for farmers. Down here in the South our biggest challenge was a terrible storm that hit in mid-September.  It brought snow, sleet and icy gale-force winds.  It went on and on and on for more than a week, right at the height of the lambing season.
animal welfareAs a country based on animal exports, it's important that our animal welfare standards lead the world. We must be ahead of anyone who sees our standards as a way to block our trade.  Before we start trying to change the world, we need to start off at home, and New Zealanders need to know what's going on and especially why.

bunnies in the paddockThis is plain, no-nonsense country-style tucker: easy to make, sustaining, delicious, but Baked Alaska it is not.  It resembles, depending on how you make it, a bit of a hill, with little bunnies dotted around.

warming stewI'm so over winter. I've splashed out on extra warm gear and wear my new fingerless gloves under my old fingered gloves and still get frozen.

Earthtalk at AwhituEarthtalk is a 28 acre organic farm in Auckland's Awhitu Peninsula.  Its guardians, Tanya  Cumberland and Charmaine Poutney, left city life in 1992.   Both employed as change agents in their respective fields, Tanya in the social sector and Charmaine, the education,  they subscribed at the time to do the same for the land.  Today they are being duly rewarded by a new but more vigilant employer, Mother Earth. 

100 mile dietThe 100 Mile Diet, was born in 2005 - a one year experiment by a Canadian couple, Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon, in eating local food grown within 100 miles (160 kilometres) which is no mean feat considering the average ingredient in a  North American meal travels 1,500 miles from farm to plate.

There's nothing like the aroma of baking bread - especially if someone else is making it.  I found myself at the skull lady's house a few weekends ago, and she was keen to try a sticky bun recipe that had popped into her head.

It has been said that the most important ingredient in preserving olives is patience - six months worth to be exact. Olives contain a glycoside called oleurophin which protects the olive fruit from being eaten by animals and humans alike.  Although oleurophin is not poisonous, the taste of raw olives makes them unsavoury to eat. 

rural securityRural properties are easy targets for thieves. Here are some points to consider: Criminals like easy pickings so don't make it easy for them. Avoid leaving "starter kits" for young criminals. These are items like chainsaws and mowers that can be easily taken and traded for dope with gangs.

Imagine being able to taste your fruit and vegetables before purchasing them.  Wouldnt that be a novel experience, having merchandisers prompting you to try before you buy in supermarkets?  Considering supermarkets merchandise everything else why are fruit and vegetables excluded?

Neil has a neighbour with unstable pine trees on his property, bordering a shared driveway.  On the land on the opposite side of the driveway is a shared power line, not shared by the neighbour.  Neil wants to know whose responsibility is it if a pine tree falls across the driveway and breaks the power line.

Jacques and Barb have a problem with their three organic heifers - they've just become infested with ticks.  They write: "We have read that cooking oil can be effective. Do you know which type is most effective and how is it best applied? Is there any organic treatment that can be internally given?  We are BioGro certified so need to be very aware of what we are applying."

Food - I am so over it.  This unusual state of affairs came about as a result of over indulgence during the festive season.

I am proud.  I have baked my Christmas cake.  It is sitting in the larder, and when I remember, I give it a feed of brandy.

There's no question, food always tastes better when someone else cooks it for you.

Normally I’m quite fond of rabbits, and enjoy seeing them hopping about in that rabbit way of theirs.

I always know it's time to make a huge pot of Boston baked beans when the cat glues herself to the chair by the fire.

Vera Lynn got it all wrong.  She sang that bluebirds would be flying over the white cliffs of Dover and in fact there’s not a one to be found - bluebirds live in America.

Two in the morning is not my favourite time.  But we’d just been woken by terrible sounds coming from the hen house and had to investigate.

We had a fine old time the other night.  On the spur of the moment we decided to hunt tadpoles, which is really a big excuse for a picnic.

It gave me a glow of satisfaction to order my free-range, home cured ham extra early this year. 

My old hand-written cooking book is falling apart, and the ink fading.  It’s still the first place I look for certain recipes, despite its battered appearance.

I can still remember the shock, years later.  Casually I had enquired what David – who was turning older in a few weeks -  would like as a special birthday meal. 

Mother-in-law knew the importance of putting on a good spread.  The first time I met her I think she pinched my cheek and muttered something about fattening me up. 

Does anyone want a magnificent rooster?  Actually, I’ve got two I want homes for. 

‘Tis time.  Second Christmas is upon us.

Sharon said this can be made with just about any fruit but I don’t believe her.

They are waiting for me outside.  Every time I go into the garden I know they’re there, lurking.

I’m glad the summer is almost over.  As the days start getting chill I think about all those blood sucking insects who won’t be dining on me.  And it’s me they always go for.

I didn’t think she would believe me.  I truly didn’t.  There are some things my teenage daughter needs to learn about life.

Ah, Christmas.  The sparkle, the glitter, the food.  It was all set to turn to custard this year, however.

Good things take time, I recall Mariano telling me many years ago. 

Daddy has come home to live with me. 

Spring is a tricky time of year.  There’s new life bursting out all over the place, lambs, calves and weeds.  And it’s too windy.

We’d made a date.  Actually, it was more of a dinner engagement. 

It all starts innocently enough.  A quick phone call from my former workmates at the local paper, asking a few innocent questions. 

It’s not often that one gets called a Mighty Goddess of the Kitchen but it’s just happened to me.

It has begun.  Early in the morning, the first hesitant oodle noise.

If you have the good fortune to own a well established lemon tree - treasure it.

One of the most wonderful things about Horseradish is the way it looks after itself.

Tomatoes have not been an easy crop to grow this season.

ice cream chocolateThis is the time of the year when there is no longer the demand being placed on every drop of milk being wrung out of every willing, and sometimes not so willing, udder.

tamarilloOkay - so you have eaten them fresh with spoonfuls of sugar, you have mushed them up with brown sugar and poured them over cornflakes for breakfast

champagneWhether it is from Christmas, New Year, a Harvest Dinner or from a massive Family Gathering,

Pimm's No. 1 is a gin-based liquor made in England

lavender1wConcern for the environment means that we are less inclined to fill our cupboards with proprietary brands of household cleaner.

A bottle of something blue for one purpose, green for another, lurid pink for cleaning the shower, acid yellow for something else, and you see how the problem multiplies.

Noel Sweetman is a lifestyler and a luthier whose customers are among the finest musicians in the world. Outside his workshop he has 40 acres of rolling hills in the tiny settlement of Te Miro in the Waikato.

When Sylvia and Wayne Dering decided to move out of town and into the country in Oxford, North Canterbury, they planned to grow something that would bring in a small income so they could work part time and enjoy the time on the land and the lifestyle.

Paul and Jen are regular contributors to our discussion group and own their first lifestyle block in the Wairarapa near Featherston.

Sandy and Terry Cooper were born in England, met in Singapore and now have a successful small farm in Upper Hutt. Sandy works in the computer industry while Terry now works full time on their land.

Christine and Martin have lived on their 4 acre Makotuku lifestyle block for almost two years. When asked what made them buy that block, Christine answered that it was a good question!

My Mother had always wanted to get back into the country to live, "before she was too old to enjoy it" she said. We had planned on buying that piece of land once the kids had left home, we had sold the business and our Auckland house was sold.

We live on the Otago Peninsula, about 30 minutes out of Dunedin, and have been there six years now.  The views pretty much sold us on the place I guess.  Husband could see if the sea was flat enough to go fishing so he was happy. 

Gavin Martin lived on a lifestyle farm in Hanmer before moving to his current farm at Okuku in North Canterbury three years ago. He owns 9 hectares but leases some adjoining land from the regional council so altogether farms about 30-40 hectares.

As a country based on animal exports, it’s important that our animal welfare standards lead the world. We must be ahead of anyone who sees our standards as a way to block our trade. Before we start trying to change the world, we need to start off at home, and New Zealanders need to know what’s going on and especially why.

burying dead livestockNothing ever is dead easy, is it?  Troubled of Horsham Downs, Waikato, has a tiny worry.  Her husband is often out of the country on business trips leaving her to mind their 3½ha lifestyle block.  While she and daughter are awfully competent types, she does wonder what would happen if an animal died. “Goldfish are a piece of cake, you flush them down the toilet.  But a 500kg Friesian steer is a different matter.  We don’t have a front end loader or any useful machinery for moving the thing…”

spray driftSwaggie certainly did.  Her question:  what can you do if you or your property gets unintentionally sprayed? The family live in Australia a fair amount of time, and camp on their 80 acres in the Franklin region when the urge takes them.  Last June they were accidentally sprayed. She didn’t know what the spray was, who the contractor flying overhead was or, for that matter, who’d arranged it.

compostWaikato conservationist and permaculturalist Maxine Fraser says people get very hung up about compost.  “There’s pages and pages and books and articles written about it, all these rules about what to do and what not to do.

“Compost is just a whole lot of organic matter which, if given time, will break down into soil.  There’s many ways of doing it, and I’ve probably tried them all.  Now I make it the easiest way I know how.”

goats and zinc sulphateKate has 30-odd (very odd, she says) goats who get a zinc sulphate footbath (for scald and ...) every five to six weeks. After they’ve been treated, the contents are diluted and drained into the ground.  She wants to know is this environmentally safe and is there a better method of disposing of it. “The footbath holds 40 litres but we’re about to get a larger bath that will hold more. Sometimes we use copper sulphate.” She adds that while re-using the solution is great in theory, the goats don’t understand theories so use the footbath as a lavatory while in there…

Janet is looking for an alternative to having to join her local council’s proposed new sewage scheme.  Are there any other options?

Niwa’s Chris Tanner says putting in an alternative is more than possible, it’s a sensible idea.  He says there are already examples of people working together to use an alternative system in New Zealand.

The post always gets through.  Or does it?   And there's much more at stake than a birthday card to Aunt Joan going astray.

Here's a burning question.  AJ lives on a small block, a short distance from Hamilton.  She's been approached by a community group who want to hold a bonfire on her property to raise funds.  It's all for a good cause and she'd like to help them but in this modern age is a bit worried about things like liability and OSH and other scary stuff.   What's the situation, she asks.

We have all heard the current good news that world markets are going crazy for organic produce. Consumers are concerned about their health, food safety, animal welfare and preserving the environment.

In Organic Farming good productive pastures come from healthy soils, and the nitrogen cycle is very much part of this achieving this.

A weed is simply a plant out of place in the opinion of the farmer. But remember that weeds can be valuable natural indicators.

Is organic farming for you? This is the most important question of all. If you are only half hearted about the concept, then keep right away.

Soil organic matter (OM) is at the very core of successful organic farming and is vital for a healthy, living, productive soil that will sustain plant, crops and animal production.

Animal health costs are continuing to rise, and along with supplementary feeds (apart from interest and fertiliser) are the two largest farm expenses in recent years. The range of veterinary products on the market today has never been as great, aided by sales promotions and selling incentives.

Consider the soil, as a nutrient bank for plants - if you take nutrients out you must put them back. Some organic farmers see this as an over-simplistic view. They ague that it ignores the contribution the soil biomass makes to fertility.

The 1st March heralds the start of Autumn, a time of rest for mother earth.  In Autumn gardeners are busy preparing their patch for winter edibles – so there’s no better time than now to start an organic garden. 

Pesticide-free fruit is typically the last bastion for most organic gardeners.  It’s a hard ask to ally with natural deterrents and win the race against pests to get to your fruit before they do. 

Avoiding the twelve most pesticide laden fruits and vegetables can reduce your pesticide exposure by up to 90% automatically and ensure that at least 14 different pesticides are removed from your daily intake.  My advice? Plant these twelve as a matter of principle.

Avoiding the twelve most pesticide laden fruits and vegetables can reduce your pesticide exposure by up to 90% automatically and ensure that at least 14 different pesticides are removed from your daily intake.  My advice? Plant these twelve as a matter of principle.

Crop rotation requires that annual herbs and vegetables are re sown in different areas of the garden each year . Plants grouped according to their nutritional needs and susceptibility to certain pests, are planted together. 

The humble earthworm (eisenia foetida) plays an important role in the garden.  They aerate the soil helping air and water circulate through it and encouraging root growth in plants. 

snailSpring has sprung.  September to November heralds new growth in the garden and the cycle of creation begins again.  Young seedlings are prey to pests of all kinds during the growing season so in addition to companion planting why not employ some recycling practices to aid your cause?

This year petrol prices have made the headlines and hit our wallets hard and the impact of it has had me thinking about something infinitely more valuable to us. Have you ever considered that our food supply could be impacted in the same way? 

Aside from the obvious benefit of free plants there are several reasons why you would want to harvest your own seeds. It may be for sentimental reasons - a favourite family plant for example or because it is familiar and you are knowledge of its habitat and performance. Or maybe you are on a different crusade.

Aside from the obvious benefit of free plants there are several reasons why you would want to harvest your own seeds. It may be for sentimental reasons - a favourite family plant for example or because it is familiar and you are knowledge of its habitat and performance. Or maybe you are on a different crusade.

Moon gardening or lunar gardening, as it is sometimes called, is one of the oldest gardening practices, dating back to the Babylonian era.  The premise is that the earth is a large gravitational field, influenced by the sun and the moon. The tides are  at their highest during a waxing moon, when the sun and moon align with the earth.

With colder weather approaching lettuce is a commodity in the organic garden which goes off the menu.  Lettuce based salads can easily be replaced however with home grown sprouts and garden greens and flowers provided by mother nature.

Winter is a time of rest in the garden but for gardeners it is a time to do repairs and prepare for the upcoming growing months.

Paint or stain sheds and fences if required, undertake maintenance on compost bins, purchase seed and manure and clean and sharpen tools.

 In the Victorian era winter was a time when you consumed the pickles and preserves you had set down in autumn or took advantage of a hot bed.  Hot beds gave savvy gardeners the upperhand on their contemporaries. 

There aren't too many, now 'middle aged', kiwi kids that can't remember their mothers in the kitchen bottling the 'summer harvest' for winters consumption.  Sadly the same can't be said of the next generation.

The worldwide organic food market has been growing at a rate of twenty percent per year, since 1990, and accounts for one to two percent of total food sales.  In a ten year period in the UK, organic food sales increased from 100 million pounds to 1.2 billion pounds.  Similar growth has occured in the US,  which combined with the EU accounts for 95% of all retail sales of organic food products. One study undertaken by the Organic Trade Association, indicted that sales of all organic products rose from $1 billion in 1990 to $24.6 billion in 2008, with a reported increase of 17% in that year alone, despite other industries being severely impacted by the recession.

Slow foodThe slowfood movement was originally born in Italy in 1986 when sixty two founding members of the forerunner of Slowfood met to inaugurate 'Aricogola'.  In 1989 delegates from 15 countries signed the 'Slowfood 'Manifesto, an order that today has 100,000 members in 15 countries.  Their philosophy is this - "that everyone has a fundamental right to pleasure and consequently the responsibility to protect the heritage of food, tradition and culture that make this pleasure possible".  

treelandscapewTrees add value to almost any property. Architects’ drawings usually include a tree or shrub to offset straight lines, soften sharp corners, accentuate geometric shapes and create atmosphere.  When selling anything, eye-appeal is the first consideration. If the first impression is pleasing then minor drawbacks can be overlooked.

landscapeTrees add value to almost any property. Architects’ drawings usually include a tree or shrub to offset straight lines, soften sharp corners, accentuate geometric shapes and create atmosphere. When selling anything, eye-appeal is the first consideration. If the first impression is pleasing then minor drawbacks can be overlooked. A few strategically-placed trees add monetary value beyond the mere cost of purchase and planting.

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