When I was growing up I learned to play the recorder and flute through a local music school, and had lessons for them both for a number of years. The reason why I played the recorder was to learn music, so that I could get into the flute classes later on. As a child I very much looked up to the cool flute players that played in our music school's orchestra. And then there was the flute itself, how can you resist how shiny, and beautiful sounding it was. After a couple of years learning the flute, I finally joined the schools orchestra, and became one of those cool flute players I admired a couple of years earlier.
I had to give up playing the flute when I was a teenager (my parents couldn't afford to buy me my own flute or further lessons), but always remembered playing it fondly as an adult. A couple of years ago I bought my own flute, and began music lessons again, in the same music school I had as a child. I rejoined orchestra, and thoroughly enjoyed it.
But by this time as an adult I had many allergies, chronic sinusitis and many sinus infections. It got to a point that I was sick so much with these issues, that I couldn't play the flute as much as I needed to to stay in lessons and the orchestra.
I was feeling down about having to give up playing the flute, and mentioned to hubby that as a child I had also wished to learn to play the harp, but that was way out of my parents league money wise. And in Christmas 2021 there was a very special large surprise under the Christmas tree, hubby had bought me a lap harp so I could finally get a chance to learn to play the harp. It was a Dusty Strings Ravenna 26 lap harp, with full sharpening levers.
I was so happy, and I enthusiastically began learning the harp by myself using the book series by Pamela Bruner. But it got to a point where I struggled to make any more progress by myself, so I began taking online harp lessons in October 2022, with a very wonderful New Zealand harp teacher.
I progressed quickly, and soon outgrew my little lap harp. I couldn't afford to buy a bigger brand new 34 string harp, so I waited for months and months on Trade Me for a second hand harp to come up for auction that I could afford, and that was in driving range within the South Island of New Zealand. In May 2023 a Dusty Strings Ravenna 34 harp finally came up for sale, and luckily I won the auction. The next weekend hubby jumped on a plane to Christchurch, got a hire car, and picked up my new harp, and drove it home. It barely fit in the backseat of the hire car that hubby hired.
Once hubby and the harp had arrived home, I gave her a good clean, and tuned her up to Eb major. She sounded amazing, but in the future will need to be serviced and regulated. Unfortunately, there is only one harp technician in the South Island, and he only visits Dunedin once a year, and won't return to Dunedin until 2024.
I've continued to learn and improve on my new harp, and today I thought I'd share with you one of the Pamela Bruner pieces I learnt before I started lessons last year. The piece is called Early Waltz, and the composer is Pamela Bruner. My teacher has been encouraging me to perform pieces that I've learnt, so this was my first attempt.
I hope you enjoyed it.
Have a wonderful day.
The very worst thing that could possibly happen in the vege garden at this time of the year, happened on Friday the 10th of November when we had a super late frost. The day before had been blue skies and sunny, with a cool breeze. Our local weather forecast mentioned nothing about a frost occurring, so I stupidly trusted their judgement.
We woke up on Friday morning, and it was cold. I quickly checked our weather station, and the temperature in our backyard had dropped to -1.1˚C at around 6 am in the morning. I quickly donned my ugg boots and dressing gown, and raced outside.
So much damage had been done. The ground was white and crunchy with frost, and so was the vegetables in my vege garden.
I was so upset. Thank goodness that everything in my glasshouse was well protected, and most of my dahlias were unharmed thanks to me being way behind in weeding those areas of the back garden.
My pumpkins were dead.
And so were my beans.
My potatoes were damaged, but they will bounce back over time.
My corn plants were frost burnt, but are putting on new growth already.
After allowing myself to be grumpy for half a day, I pulled out the now dead pumpkin plants and resowed seeds directly into the ground. I'm about to do the same with the bean seeds. I'm not overly hopeful, but it's better than just giving up I guess.
Have a wonderful day.
Over Labour Weekend in October hubby and I planted our vegetable garden for the summer.
My first task was to weed the garlic growing in the smallest vegetable garden bed, and then also sow onions, carrots, beetroot, radish, sugarbeet and carrot seeds as well.
Hubby then dug over the two remaining large garden beds, and I added sheep pallet fertilizer for the soon to be growing plants.
For the next bed, which was already growing peas and potato plants by now, I added lettuce, rocket, black turtle beans, summer sprouting broccoli, and cabbage, that I had been growing in the glasshouse.
With the last large garden bed I planted maize, corn, and pumpkin plants in the top half. In the bottom half of the garden bed I sowed wheat and linen flax seeds, while hubby acted as a scarecrow to keep the birds off them, and then we double bird netted the seeds to protect them from the birds.
With most of the glasshouse now empty of plants, we emptied out the space, and hubby dug over the garden bed. After that there was just the task of fertilising the soil, and then planting cucumbers, basil, chillies, capsicum and many tomato plants. There was also the big task of setting up all the climbing frames for the growing plants.
It's been a few weeks now, and everything is growing nicely in the garden, despite low snow falling the week after we planted everything. I can't wait to feast on all our vegetables over the coming summer.
Have a wonderful day
My winter citrus gardening project is finally completed. A couple of weeks ago, I dragged the citrus trees out of the glasshouse, and gave them each a trip on the wheel barrow out onto the patio. The next task was digging three very big wholes into the ground to make space for the citrus trees.
The first tree to go in was the lime tree. It only took a couple of bangs on the outside of the pot, and it loosened up enough for hubby and I together to lift the heavy plant into place.
Then it was just a task of filling in the hole, sprinkling both citrus fertilizer and water retention crystals onto the soil, and then watering the lime tree in.
Next up on the list was to do the same to the lemon tree, which is now sitting quite happily underneath the kitchen window in the herb garden.
And last of all was the mandarin tree, which is now sitting in front of the newly painted white fence in the front garden. If you've noticed the three green pegs in the ground, they're soil water monitoring sensors, which I can keep an eye on to see how much water each plant is getting. The pegs are connected to our weather station system, and I can check them online whenever I want.
I've repurposed the now empty large pots, and they're now housing three of our tomato plants, a yellow Honey Bee plant, a Pomodoro plant, and a Juane Flamme plant.
And last of all the planter box has been painted a pretty shade of sage green, and it is now full of annual herb plants.
I'm really happy with how this garden project has turned out. Now all I need to do is paint our patio garden furniture sage green, and then the whole area is spruced up. Over the summer I need to come up with a plan to protect the citrus from frosts and snow over winter, but for now I can just enjoy the fruits of my labour.
Have a wonderful day
Earlier this year, in the middle of summer as I was harvesting some of my many lavender bushes, an idea popped into my head to one day extract my own essential oil from the flowers. I dreamed up so many ideas of what I could do with the resulting essential oil and hydrosol, that I knew it was something I wanted to do in the future.
I had done this many times before in the lab when I worked as a plant biochemist, but back then I had a lab full of equipment at my command, but now, not so much. I couldn't exactly call up a local lab supply place any longer, since I didn't belong to a scientific group where this was thought of as an appropriate use of said equipment. So I had to come up with better idea. I did come across alembic stills for sale in New Zealand, but the stills were very large, and there was no way I could fill up any one of their stills.
Then I came across a small pot still from Still Spirits called the Air Still. With a big base like a kettle, and an air cooled distiller on top, it was perfect for me in home use. It is typically made to make and distill alcoholic beverages like gin and rum, but the instructions also include a method to distill essential oils and hydrosols from plants. After waiting for a while, one was finally available for sale on special, and I ordered one for us. Unfortunately by this time it was the middle of winter, and there was nothing to distill yet.
When it arrived, I was quite happy with it. I did the first cleaning, and then did a trial run by making distilled water, which could potentially be helpful in a natural disaster when water is contaminated. Ever since then I've been waiting impatiently for some plant material to be ready.
And our growing peppermint plant was the first plant material ready to actually try the Air Still out on. I started by harvesting a big bunch of peppermint leaves from the edge of the plant. I washed them in water to clean them, patted them dry, and then cut them up into smaller sections to fit into the still. The total weight of the peppermint plants going into the still was 234 grams.
I popped them into the still pot, and then boiled up 3L of water in the kettle. Once I added the boiling water, I inserted the still head, and turned it on. It
was less than 10 minutes before the liquid began to come off the still as the water boiled, and there on top of the hydrosol was a fine layer of peppermint essential oil. I was so excited.
The peppermint and hydrosol came off at a decently fast rate, and it wasn't long before I had 0.6L of combined peppermint essential oil and hydrosol.
All that there was left to do was separate the hydrosol from the peppermint essential oil. I bought a chemistry separator funnel online, and was able to separate out the hydrosol on the bottom of the liquid, from the essential oil on the top.
In the end I got about 0.5 mL of peppermint essential oil, and 0.6L of peppermint hydrosol.
Considering that I only added 234 grams of plant material to the still, I thought that it was a pretty good harvest rate. It didn't take a lot of effort and time, and it's a fun project to do. I will definitely be repeating this method with my lavender and rose harvests in the future. I will be using the essential oils and hydrosols in my home, and my sister as also requested some for her to use at home as well.
Have you ever done something so completely geeky around the home, that it makes you really happy to see the results of your endeavors? I'd love to know...
Have a wonderful day