Friday, February 26, 2010

Dog Food - Make Your Own!

Just a short list today; 2 dog food recipes, albeit only links to great recipes that we've tried and are now regularly using.

We have large Golden Retriever. His name is Valentine, and he's about two years old. He's very active around our lifestyle block and thus needs plenty of healthy food. The great thing about making your own dog food is that you know exactly what has gone into it, there's no empty filler, and it's definitely cheaper.

- Down to Earth's dog food recipe

- Gourmet Sleuth (make sure you add the supplement mix also)

Wendyl Nissen also has a great recipe in her book; "Domestic Goddess on a Budget"

Try these, and let me, and also the people who own these recipes, know how they've gone down with your dog.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Valentines Day Follow Up - Giving a Goat

I had some good online and offline feedback about my Valentines Day list posted last week.  But I think i surpassed myself by getting my wife a goat this year.

Her name is Thimble (the goat that is) and she is a Saanen goat from an organically farmed milking herd.  We picked her up on Saturday and have really enjoyed her presence on the block since then.  She is full of personality, loves company, is quite inquisitive and great to milk from.

Some photos;

The developing new chicken coop is in her paddock, and Thimble spent some time checking on progress.  It's a little bigger than her own shelter, and she seems to prefer this larger, newer shed....  Our Dexters found Thimble's appearance quite a pleasant surprise also. 

So to the list then....

Why a goat?

- She will provide all of our daily milk requirements
- She is a friendly and interesting addition to our stock
- She eats things that other animals don't eat (like blackberry and gorse)
- Her milk will eventually be used for cheese and yoghurt.
- The kids love her

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

List of 10 Valentines Day Ideas on the Block

Valentines Day is coming up this weekend. The day can be overly commercial. The real opportunity is to use the day to let your loved one know that they are loved. The following ideas are 100% original and conceived by me just now;

- Scratch “I love you _____” into the metal / stone chip on the driveway.

- Alternatively, mow a message into the lawn, or maybe a paddock if you have a lot to say.

- Find somewhere nice to have a picnic. Perhaps a home cooked breakfast under a tree. Use your own free range organic eggs.

- Leave a little note in the letterbox. Maybe a little chocolate too.

- Get the kids involved. They make singing “You are my sunshine” so much cuter.

- Write a wee note on one of the chicken’s eggs. She’ll see it when she goes to collect the eggs.

- Pay your oldest child to make a valentines card for you. Print out a valentines poem or message from here; and stick it in the card and sign it.

- Make some creative garden art. For example, two flax fronds (not the leaf, the long stalky bit that grows over summer) with hooked ends could be pushed into the ground so that the ends cross over and form a heart shape. With ground conditions so dry at the moment you may need a post hole borer to get the hole started…

- Tie small bells to the dog and the cats. Give your partner a note that says “Whenever you hear bells you’ll be reminded of just how much I love you!” (my personal favourite)

- Put the kids to bed early with the excuse that they have school tomorrow. Enjoy a wine on the deck watching the sun go down together.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


It's not all hard work on the block.  We've taken a few weekends off for some summertime adventures.

I've taken each of my kids out for a kayaking adventure recently;

I've made them each a single ended wooden paddle which is much easier for them to use.

The top pictures are the adventure which started in Matakana, went through farmland and estuary to Sandspit and then round the coast a bit to Buckletons Bay.  

The next trip was from Buckletons Bay, up the coast and into Campbells Bay, collecting cockles, and then home again.

The critical components of successful kayak adventures with kids are;

- Talk it up.  Build the excitement.
- Take plenty of breaks.
- Bring some warm gear (just in case) and make sure they wear a lifejacket.
- Take a snack pack.  We take chocolate, lollies, drinks, some fruit, maybe a sandwich and then some more chocolate.  I'm pretty sure this is currently the highlight of adventures for our kids.

Friday, February 5, 2010

List of Money Saving Ideas in the Garden

Reuse the laundry water.  We use Eco Laundry Balls, so our water is left with no washing powder remains. We intend connecting the washing machine to an outside tank so that the water can be reused in the garden. There’ll be a bit of capital outlay initially, but savings thereafter.

Composting – save on fertilisers and avoid buying in soil to top up the gardens. We have bins in three areas on the property so that there’s no excuse not to put compostable waste in one when it arises.

Make your own fertilisers - I’m still keen on the comfrey tea. Try collecting seaweed. Try worm farming and using their castings as fertiliser. Castings have a NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorous, potassium) ratio of 3.2-1.1-1.5. These nutrients are readily available to the plants and will never ever burn your plants.You’ll avoid buying fertiliser and will greatly improve the productivity of your garden.

Stale coffee and coffee grounds also make great organic fertiliser. They provide many trace minerals and low, gentle levels of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous

Reuse stuff – our blocks are bigger than a city site so we can afford to have some unused resources lying around. You never know when that piece of wood, or tire, or wire netting or plastic bin or whatever might come in handy.

Grow from cuttings.  Ask neighbours for cuttings of desired plants instead of going to the nursery and buying one.

Eco-source some plants.  We’ve successfully transplanted Karo, Totara and Five Finger from local properties where these have self seeded.  Ask permission first.

Keen on flax?  There’s always people keen to get rid theirs so place an ad in the local paper and offer to dig it out for them. Replant at home. Its hard, hard work, but you’ll get free plants.

Collect vegetable seeds. Okay, we don’t really do this yet, so I can’t say how to do it.

Used carpet can be cut it into wide strips and laid it down between the rows in your garden as a walking strip. Or you can use it as mulch/ no weeds layer.

Cutting up pine trees for winter firewood? If left for a while the bark falls off. Collect it and use the bark to make garden paths or mulch. It rots down eventually and serves as a useful compost.

Water in the evenings. The water is more efficiently taken up by the plants. Water less frequently but in decent amounts when you do water. This allows the plants to root deeply.

Use flax flower stems as garden stakes. This idea came out this month’s NZ Gardener magazine. The flax stems are ready to be cut, and this is what they’ll be used for on our property in the near future.

Any other great ideas?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

10 reasons for friends and family to visit/stay at our lifestyle block

- It’s very peaceful out here. The evenings are long and warm.

- Paddocks are a nice place to contemplate in.

- There are plenty of jobs you could assist us with (splitting wood is the current big job on the go)

- It feels rural out here, but we are really still very close to town. You won’t be stranded.

- Please come and stay if you are a professional electrician, plumber or builder. We have a variety of issues you may be able to help with

- We have two spare rooms and three spare tents, if required.

- My wife is a marvelous cook and my children are fun and entertaining (I may have some bias here)

- “It is only in the country that we can get to know a person or a book.” Cyril Connolly

- Visit us and meet our animals; “Animals are such agreeable friends - they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms.” George Eliot

- We have fresh homekill beef in the freezer and it is still barbeque season…