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Well, after a week of constant internet problems, here's hoping I will be able to complete my progress blog!
Winter has definitely made itself noticed this past week. Temperatures have dropped, winter woollies are being pulled out of the bottom of the closets and heaters and fireplaces are being put to good use. Unfortunately, we don't have a fireplace but most houses I have lived in have not had fireplaces. We are lucky that our winters are considered mild to some other areas around the country. And we have a reliable gas heater! Snow is already falling in the south island and parts of the north island. We do get some icy cold nights where we live and so far our winter garden has handled it well.
Last week I planted out my little plot of garlic cloves which will eventually become roughly 3 dozen garlic bulbs. Traditionally, Garlic is planted on the shortest day of the year and harvested on the longest. I have recently learnt that if you plant your garlic out about a month before this date, you will give your bulbs a chance to develop bigger, healthier roots before winter sets in. This also means the bulbs will be bigger, hardier, and more disease resistant.


 
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Today was a bit of a sad day. Our favourite little Pekin, Mickey Jr, passed away this morning. He had always been quite a sickly little guy. He caught a respiratory infection a few months ago and even though he was given antibiotics and recovered, I'm not sure that he was ever 100% healthy. Because he was quite sick he spent a lot of time inside in his "quarantine" cage and become a real charmer. He used to love sitting on my lap getting groomed and having cuddles.
I noticed a few days ago that he was starting to get a slight mucous build up in the corner of his eyes and in his throat, and today I noticed him sitting in the yard struggling to breathe after eating his breakfast. I noticed he had some food lodged so tried massaging his neck to help it down but he sadly didn't recover and made his journey to the big chicken coop in the sky to be with his dad. 


 
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Yesterday was a fine day so I planted out our strawberries - with a little help from a four year old and some of our feathered friends. Pekins are the perfect breed to have if you have a lot of vegetable gardens and don't want to have fences around every one of them. Their feathered feet prevent them from scratching too far into the dirt and they are so small and lightweight that they barely make a dent on your garden. Two of the young boys even had a mock fight amongst the young Silverbeet plants and even after landing on a few, they caused no damage at all. They looked like little moving garden ornaments, picking their way delicately between the plants and scratching and eating up bugs. They didn't even bother to touch the vegies. I'm not completely fooled though. I know that once the fruit starts appearing in the garden I will have every bird in the nearby vicinity stopping in for a midday feast. I am going to start investing in a lot of bird netting so I can be prepared for hungry birds and chooks who can't resist the juicy red strawberries.


 
I have been thinking a lot lately about where I want our family to be heading sustainability-wise. Granted, it's not always easy if you don't always have the finances to back you up but I would like our family to at least have the knowledge of how to be self-sufficient and how to avoid chemical, pesticide ridden foods and medicines wherever possible. 

I do sometimes cringe at the thought of using plastic bottles, even though I am currently using some as seedling planters (Ironic I know) I would like to one day not have to use plastic at all just due to the negative effect that plastic has on the environment. Understandably, plastic is very hard to avoid these days as it is all around us and, in a way, I'm hoping that re-using certain safe (well safe compared to other grades of plastic anyway!) plastic bottles wherever possible will keep them out of landfills. However small the effort may be. I will be a lot happier when we can stop buying milk in plastic bottles altogether and have our own fresh milk daily straight from the cow or goat :-)
And by creating sustainable vegie gardens, we won't have to rely on supermarkets and produce stores so much. Also raising our own grass-fed beef and poultry would be one less thing to buy and we wouldn't have to worry about what was being injected into our food. 

 
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As I mentioned earlier, I have never had much of a chance to grow a winter garden before so, this winter, I am going all out to see just what we can achieve on our little LSB in the coming cold months.
I already have two different varieties of Silverbeet in different stages. If I can't grow Silverbeet in a winter garden, there won't be much hope for me! But never fear, they are the hardiest of plants that anyone can grow all year round. I also have some baby mesclun leaves but am considering growing a different variety. I have my beans protected with frost cloth but as they are very frost tender I don't hold out much hope of them lasting the winter. I barely managed to save my Brassicas from being demolished by those nasty green caterpillars. We had a week of heavy rain which prevented me from checking them earlier but they are recovering well. I'm also glad to say my Potatoes are actually growing! I planned to leave them alone over the winter but I will give them a top up of compost soon to help them along.