Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Our homeschool activities for term 4

Hey friends,

Last term I jumped from homeschooling one child to two, and this term I've jumped from homeschooling two children to three. Luckily the pattern stops there, since I don't have any more children to homeschool.

This term our schedule should be a little lighter than previously. The girls have finished club netball for the year and J has finished Kindy. We've also taken a break from formal swimming lessons for the term, although I'm planning to take the kids for casual swims at the pool when our other homeschool friends are there.

J's Kindy graduation ceremony was really sweet and made me cry. I had been thinking I'd keep him on at Kindy till the end of the year, or even until he turned six next year, but he asked to graduate. I think it was a right of passage for him. He'd watched all the older children at Kindy turn five and graduate, so his expectation was that he'd do that too. It seemed like a bit of a shame to have him leave when he didn't need to, but he had been there for over two years and was ready to move on, so I agreed.

He'll be pretty busy homeschooling anyway since, now that he's five, he can join our Christian homeschool group. The group meets once a week to do a sport and an art class. This term we're doing netball and string art. (Last term the activities were Maori and Celtic folk dancing.) It's pretty awesome that the sport for this term is netball, since that will allow the girls to keep up their skills in the off-season, and it gives J a chance to learn the game the girls love so much.

With our Christian homeschool group we'll also be going on a couple of excursions. One is a picnic at the Auckland Botanic Gardens and the other is to watch the stage performance of Shrek the Musical.

We are also part of another homeschool group that meets once a week. In that group, both my girls are taking a robotics class and a creative journaling class. L is also doing a jazz dance class while S and J do a Christmas crafts class together. J will also do Kiwisports so he can burn off some energy. This particular homeschool group meets next to a library, so J and I always spend the first hour reading books together. We both love it.

J has been desperate to do athletics all year, because he loves running and jumping. I took him to his first meet up with a local club this week and he loved it. Neither of the girls are keen to do athletics again, but I'm hoping they'll get so bored watching J every week, they'll end up joining in too.

L is continuing her Suzuki violin lessons and I've been amazed by how much progress she suddenly seems to be making. She spent most of the year working on variations of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, really mastering her technique, but now all that groundwork is paying off as she has started learning new songs in rapid succession. It's making practise time much more exciting for all of us, I tell you.

S is also continuing with her piano lessons this term, and even though she isn't doing them through a Suzuki teacher, I've been encouraging her to practise all of her songs every time she sits down at the keyboard, just like she would with the Suzuki method. It means she warms up on the songs she knows well, before tackling new songs. It also means she never forgets a song once she learns it, so she will always have a large repertoire to play. And it means she spends most of her practise time mastering songs, and only a small portion of her practise time on the difficult task of learning new material, so that overall she feels more competent about her skills whenever she sits down at the keyboard.

I have both girls filling out a 100-days-of-music practise chart at the moment. Once they've completed their charts, they'll be rewarded with a prize that they can not earn any other way. It was a motivation technique I picked up from the Andrew Pudewa homeschool conference this year and it's been really motivating for both girls. (Andrew Pudewa is the director of The Institute for Excellence in Writing and a regular speaker at homeschool conferences. I picked up so many helpful ideas from his conference.)

J isn't doing any formal music lessons yet, but we bought him a ukelele for his fifth birthday and he has fun strumming on that and doing his music practise like his big sisters.

The only other formal class happening this term is an after-school art class that L goes to. She's been going to this art class all year and absolutely loves it, as well as the group of girls who take the class with her.

I recently renewed our annual Friends of the Zoo pass, so we'll be spending lots of time at the Auckland Zoo while we have that. We went there with friends during the recent school holidays, but it was so busy I felt exhausted by the end of it. I love going during the week when it's not so packed. One of the perks of homeschooling!

This morning the kids and I went to a Literary Quiz organised by my wonderful friend, Erin, from Auckland Home Educators. The kids had so much fun and are already asking when the next one will be.

The homeschool shelving unit I set up in our dining room is working really well for housing all the kids' schoolwork. J has his work in a little filing divider under the stationary on the top shelf; L has her bookwork on the next shelf down; S has her work on the shelf under that; And I use the cupboards at the bottom to store stamps, water paints, washi tape, drawing paper and various flashcards and educational games.

Today I decided to set up a second small bookshelf in our dining room to house our shared homeschool library. This library includes reference books, bibles and read-aloud story books. On the top of the bookshelf I've set up a looping basket, which I'll explain shortly.

For our main unit study this term, we're studying Ancient History using The Story of the World curriculum.

To support this ancient history topic, I've set up a looping basket full of books I bought secondhand from the library's three-for-$1 stand. The basket lives on top of the new bookshelf in the dining room, and is easy to carry to wherever we want to work.

This week I took the basket out to the deck and the kids worked on our outdoor table there. We were learning about how the Minoans used to somersault over bulls' backs to entertain crowds in vast arenas. Immediately my kids had to try this for themselves on our trampoline, imagining they were somersaulting over bulls' horns. I don't think they'll be forgetting about the Minoan bull jumpers anytime soon.

For Language Arts and Literature, all the kids are doing The Good and the BeautifulThey're each on a different level, so I sit down with them individually at different points of the day to help them with their work.

I also get the girls to do copywork each day, which is something I picked up from Darci Isabella, a YouTuber who homeschools, and then which Andrew Pudewa also spoke about as being highly beneficial for helping kids to adopt sophisticated patterns of language. We tend to alternate copying a Bible passage with a poem.

I recently purchased Math U See Delta for L's maths curriculum and am finding it excellent. L watches a DVD at the start of each lesson, which explains the maths concept for the lesson in an easy-to-understand way, and then she works through the pages for that day's lesson.

I want to purchase Math U See for J and S as well, and hope to do so when our government funding for homeschool comes through sometime soon.

In the meantime, S is doing Step Ahead Maths and J is doing maths worksheets that I print off for him from I bought a lifetime membership earlier this year, and I'm so glad I did because J requests multiple worksheets daily. At the moment he's going through a connect-the-dot picture phase, which has actually been really good because he's learned his numbers and his alphabet doing it, and has also learned skip counting in twos, threes, fives and tens, which will help him with multiplication later.

I also try to do lots of hands-on activities with J to help him cement his alphabet and numbers, like drawing them in coloured salt, or forming them out of play doh, or painting them with water paint.

And if you made it to the end of this post, you're amazing! I think I'll stop there, but feel free to ask any questions about what we're doing.

Emma xx

Saturday, October 13, 2018

We're getting chickens!

Hey friends!

I'm excited about today's post. It's been a long time in the making.

If you've been following Craving Fresh since its early days, you'll know we had chickens about ten years ago, but had to give them away because there really wasn't enough room for them in the yard we had at the time, and they were stinking up the place.

Now that we have a bit more room and I have my gardens set up the way I like them, I've reached the point where I want chickens to make my property more of a permaculture space. Chickens provide fertiliser for the gardens, they eat spent plants, weeds and scraps, and they keep the unwanted bug population down, all while providing eggs for us to eat. They are a permaculturalist's dream and I keep watching YouTube videos about people incorporating them into their homesteads in clever ways. Check out Justin Rhode's channel if you want to see what I'm talking about.

So, as much as I've dreamed about getting chickens again, I didn't think it would ever happen. For one, Paul was dead set against the idea (and still is). Two, I wasn't sure how to incorporate the chickens into our yard in a way that wouldn't result in all my gardens getting demolished, and everything getting covered in chicken poop.

But then my really clever and kind brother-in-law, Ben, designed the perfect solution for our space. And built it. And dropped it off to us these holidays. So the decision was made for us. Happy days!

I'm going to take you through Ben's design now, so you can appreciate how clever he is.

What he's built is a moveable chicken coop and run, that fits over my raised garden beds and can be moved in three parts.

Part 1 - A platform for the coop to sit on
Ben built a platform for the coop to sit on, which clips onto the end of any of my raised garden beds.

Folded metal bands hook over the edge of the garden bed and vertical metal bands dig into the ground to help support the platform from the other side. The platform allows the coop to float next to the garden bed, without taking up any space on the garden.

Part 2 - A chicken coop
The chicken coop sits on the platform described above, floating out from the end of the raised garden bed. It will provide a place for the chickens to sleep, lay eggs, and find shelter from the rain. We had lots of rain over the past few days, and the coop stayed nice and dry inside, so I think it will be a lovely home for the chickens.
The roof of the chicken coop is hinged and can be propped open for cleaning out the coop and collecting eggs. The coop has rope handles on either side to allow me to lift and move it to other parts of the garden.

The coop has two roosts built into its back corners, where the chickens can sleep at night. It also has a wooden nesting box with two compartments that Ben built for the chickens to lay their eggs in. The blue sheet plastic on the bottom of the coop is removable for easy cleaning.

On the back of the coop is a small top-opening door, which can be hooked open or locked closed.

I will lock the door closed when the chickens are inside the coop and I want to move them to another garden bed. Otherwise, the door will remain latched open so the chickens can move between their coop and chicken run, which I'll show you next.

Part 3 - A chicken run
Ben built this chicken run to fit exactly over my narrowest raised garden beds. I have five raised beds in total, but two are slightly narrower and longer than the other three. When the chicken run is on one of the three shorter gardens, as above, I'll use bricks to cover the slight gap at the end, otherwise the chickens might try to escape through it. The bricks will also help keep the run in place, if we have strong winds. The open end of the run butts up directly against the back wall of the chicken coop, so the chickens can easily move between the run and their coop, without escaping.

When Ben delivered the run, it wasn't covered with anything, so I got the chance to figure out how I wanted to enclose it. I chose to cover the main part of the run with square aviary wire to give the run extra stability, and then used cloche fabric to cover the exposed end of the run, so I could open that end to throw food scraps into the chooks.

I used a staple gun to secure the cloche fabric to the bottom and sides of the run, after I had sewed a fold into the top of the fabric and threaded a curved cloche wire through it. The ends of the cloche wire are longer than the fabric, so they can hook into the aviary wire on top to close the flap. It's really easy to unhook the wire to open the flap from the top, and then hook it closed again.

In order to be prepared for the incoming chickens, I spent a few minutes yesterday sketching out a garden plan and figuring out which order I'll rotate the chickens through my garden beds. There may come a point that I don't want the chickens on any of my vegetable gardens, at which time I'll move the chickens to another area of my yard, possibly with a larger, more open run area. But we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

The first garden the chickens are going into has been growing kale for a couple of years and needs a change of crop. The original kale plants went to seed and more kale plants popped up from that seed, so it's been kale, kale, kale ever since. I've also got kale growing in another couple of gardens, so I won't miss this lot. The chickens will get to eat the kale that's in there, as well as any slugs, snails and white butterfly caterpillars they find. They'll also turn the soil over for me and poop into everything, fertilising it nicely.

Before setting up the chicken run today, I topped up the garden it went onto with homemade compost from one half of my rotating compost barrel, and then covered that with a layer of wood mulch. The chickens should have fun scratching through the mulch, looking for worms, pooping in everything and turning it into lovely soil for my next crop. I'll try to add a few more loads of something like lawn clippings into the garden while the chickens are there, to get it nice and full before I move the chickens onto the next garden.

The other item Ben built for the chickens was a chicken feeder. It's pretty ingenious. He made it out of three bits of pipe fitted together, with the ends blocked off by plywood. You remove the top section of pipe to tip the chicken food inside. The food then gravity feeds down to the bottom section which has a hole cut out of it for the chickens to peck the food. I've taped up the hole for now to keep the food fresh until the chickens arrive, but it should be a good system for keeping the chickens fed if we need to go away for a weekend.

Now that we have this brilliant system all set up, we need chickens. Hopefully they'll be arriving tomorrow. We're just getting two, from friends of ours who are moving cities soon and needed to find a new home for their chooks. It will be interesting to see how this moveable system works with actual chickens in it.

I think that's everything I can tell you about the chickens for now. I'll update you when the chickens are here and tell you how it's all working in practise. In the meantime, let me know if you have any questions about our chicken system.

Emma xx

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The Anger of Angels - a giveaway

It's a good day to be alive, my book-loving friends. Sherryl Jordan is back!

Like many of you, I had a love affair with Sherryl Jordan's writing during my teenage years. In fact, I credit her with getting me a lead role in my high school play. I acted out a scene from Winter of Fire for my Year 10 drama class, and I could see the scene so clearly in my mind's eye (because Sherryl Jordan is such an epically good writer), that my drama teacher gave me 20/20 for my acting and cast me as Frenchy in Grease. It was one of the highlights of my high school career, so thank you, Sherryl!

In any case, I was gutted when I got the news that Sherryl Jordan had to stop writing because she had crippling hand pain caused by OOS. It's been a long, sad Sherryl-drought since then.

Until now.

Sherryl Jordan's first Young Adult fiction in ages just hit the shelves, and I devoured it. Oh yes I did.

The Anger of Angels has everything I desire in a book: good people thrust into difficult situations and choosing to do the right thing despite the potential cost to themselves; a sweet love story between two people I care about; and magic. (All books should contain magic, if they can possibly help it.)

The Anger of Angels also has a sequel in the works, yet the story feels complete enough on its own that you won't be throwing coffee cups at the wall when you reach the last page. I am definitely looking forward to the sequel though, because there are things I want to see play out.

Now, I have a giveaway for you. (I told you it was a good day.) If you live in New Zealand and would like to enter the draw to win a copy of The Anger of Angels, simply comment on this post, or on my Facebook post about this post, or on my Instagram photo about this post. That's it.

For extra entries, tag a friend on Facebook or Instagram, who you think would like to win a copy of The Anger of Angels. I will draw the winner at 2pm on Saturday 6 October.

Good luck!


Monday, September 24, 2018

New hope

Hey friends,

I've thought of you all many times since my last post. You sent so many encouraging messages. It was incredibly uplifting at a time when I was feeling pretty low.

Thank you!

Life has been full of really good things since I bared my soul to you a fortnight ago. I've been listening to Lauren Daigle worship music as much as I can, setting my mind on good truths. Whenever things get fractious at the homeschool table, I turn her on and the mood immediately lifts.

I've also been to counseling twice more, which has been really positive. I'll tell you a little bit more about that at the end of this post.

A couple of weekends back I went to SISTAS conference, and it was exactly where I needed to be. I came away recharged, hopeful and full of specific advice for my situation - even though the speakers obviously had no idea what my situation was when they were writing their talks.

I had a lightbulb moment at SISTAS when Paul de Jong spoke about dealing with issues as they arise. He said that if we don't deal with painful things in the moment, they become stumbling blocks that will continue to trip us up.

That has certainly been my experience.

Of course, when I was a kid I didn't have the maturity to deal with the things that were going on for me, so I made a lot of false assumptions and put the blame for my poor relationship with my mother on me. There must be something wrong with me, I thought, not understanding that she had her own issues going on.

I couldn't figure out why this seemingly minor thing kept tripping me up though. So what if my mother hadn't loved me as a kid. Lots of people have way worse childhoods than I did, yet they seem to get over it and move on with their lives. Why couldn't I move on? Why did it keep messing me up? Was I destined to live a half-life forever because I couldn't just get over it?

Paul de Jong's talk gave me hope though. I am old enough to process it now. I have support that I didn't have as a child. I also know how important it is to deal with all the false beliefs I adopted as a child, and I'm willing to do whatever it takes to sort them out.

Paul de Jong recommended that once an issue is dealt with, we leave it in the past. Don't continue to bring it up, or we'll be scratching the scar and causing it to become inflamed again. That metaphor really spoke to me, because this situation with my Mum will always leave a scar, but that scar shouldn't continue to bleed if I let it heal properly.

I discussed this idea with my counsellor and she noted that things might come up that trigger certain emotions for me, but I can speak to those feelings as they arise and say, "I see you there. I know why I'm feeling like this, but I don't accept it." And that awareness could help me work through the difficult moments.

My counsellor has also given me an activity to do - to speak and/or write to my childhood Emma and tell her all the things she needed to hear back then but didn't. I'm looking forward to that and hope to have it done before my next session with my counsellor.

So it's feeling positive. I have a lot more hope than I did when I wrote my last post. Please do continue to pray for me though, as that prayer coverage has really buoyed me up in a difficult time.

With much love,

Emma xx

Monday, September 10, 2018

A child of neglect

As Paul and I were prepping the food for our daughter's birthday party on Saturday, I mentioned that my parents had never organised a birthday party for me when I was a kid. Paul seemed taken aback by that news.

"We had very different childhoods," I explained.

And it's true. Paul never doubted he was loved by his parents. As a kid, I was pretty confident in my dad's love for me, but was equally confident my mum despised me. She was, at best, disinterested in my life. At worst, annoyed by it. Her catchphrase, when I approached her, was a cutting, "What do you want now?"

I learned to stay out of her way.

As all children of neglect will know, there are some advantages to having an absentee parent. I became fiercely independent, very young. I was free to roam wherever I wanted, without anyone checking up on me. I got to play and explore to my heart's content. I got myself the three kilometres to school and back every day, building my strength and self-confidence. I did my homework because I wanted to please my dad and my teachers, who were the reliable adults in my life. I did things for myself that most little kids don't do, so I became competent at a lot of things really early.

Thankfully, my relationship with my mother did improve in my late teenage years, after Mum underwent counselling. However, the damage to my psyche had already been done, because, despite all the good that can come from neglect, there are inevitable downsides.

The most significant downside for me is that I don't trust my heart easily. The one person who was supposed to love me, didn't, and I interpreted that to mean there was something fundamentally wrong with me. In all my relationships, I withdraw at the first sign of trouble. I do not show people the real me. I either leave people alone, or I show them what I think they want to see and leave it at that. If I suspect my friends are getting sick of me, I move on, despite the love I may feel for them.

The lie I believe in my heart is that all people will reject me as soon as they glimpse the real me.

I learned early on that the only safe person in my life was me, and so I've coped these thirty-something years by keeping myself to myself. Yes, even in my marriage.

It's really debilitating.

I don't want to live like that anymore.

Thankfully God has been working behind the scenes in my life, and I've come to trust that he won't reject me. In fact, he sees my flaws better than anyone and has paved a way for me to be restored to the wholly beautiful Emma he intended me to be.

In the hope of something better for my life and my relationships, I've started going to counselling again. My aim is to try and combat the lie I believe about myself, as well as to find strategies for investing myself in relationships, even when the inevitable conflict arises.

I also want to find my rest and comfort in God, which is something Abraham, King David and Jesus all did during their times on earth. It's something I've been thinking about since going on a retreat earlier this month run by On Becoming Esther.

To aid in the process of sinking into God, I've joined a contemplative prayer group, started doing a bible study written by Aimee Walker of On Becoming Esther, and bought myself a ticket to SISTAS conference for my birthday. I'm looking forward to spending a solid 48 hours soaking up God's presence.

All that said, please pray for me. I have hope, but I also have doubt. The patterns are so ingrained inside of me, it's going to take a miracle to unravel them.

Emma xx

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Karaoke birthday party

Hi friends! I hope your weekend has been good. We've had such a full weekend of fun, celebrating our eldest daughter's 9th birthday. That's her above, wearing the dress she and my husband picked out for her birthday (it's an annual tradition called Daddy-Daughter Dressy Day that they've been doing since her first birthday).

One of my daughter's dreams when she grows up is to be a pop star or a songwriter, so I thought a karaoke birthday party would be the perfect theme for her. I kept it a secret from her right up until the morning of her party, when I started slapping American Idol signs around the place. She didn't actually know what American Idol was, so I had to explain it was a singing competition and that we were going to be doing karaoke for her party.

I would have done something more current for the theme, like X-Factor or The Voice, but my daughter had picked blue for her party colour scheme and that perfectly matched the American Idol logo, so that was the theme I ran with. Together we had made a balloon arch out of dark blue and light blue balloons tied together with fishing twine. It was pretty simple to make (we watched a YouTube tutorial) and looked really striking.

Party guests signed in as competitors at the door and got an American Idol contestant number stuck to their chests.

We'd borrowed a karaoke machine from my lovely neighbour and we hooked it up to our iPad so we could play YouTube karaoke songs. It was a neat set up because the kids could search for any song they wanted to sing.

We didn't actually hold a singing competition during the party - I thought that would end in hurt feelings, so the American Idol concept was more thematic, although most of the guests did have a go with a microphone at one point or another.

I kept the party food fairly simple - vegetable crudites and hummus, a fruit platter of pineapple, grapes and strawberries (man those strawberries went fast), sausage rolls, cheerio sausages and potato chips.

The birthday girl has been learning cursive for homeschool, so I had her write her guests' names in vivid on individual glasses so they could reuse their glasses throughout the party. We served juice and water infused with strawberries and lemon for party drinks.
My daughter doesn't really like cake, so we have got into the tradition of making her ice cream cakes for her birthdays instead. My talented sister-in-law, Mandy, assembled this cake for us, which was made with salted caramel ice cream on the bottom and peppermint chocolate chip ice cream on top. She decorated it with mini flakes and MnMs for a splash of colour.

As well as the karaoke entertainment, we ran a few classic party games: pass-the-parcel, musical-cushions (although we had to cut that one short when my son got landed on), and chase-Paul-to-rip-the-lollies-off-him.

Paul then took all the kids to the local playground for a run around, and we finished the party with a spa in our lovely neighbour's spa pool.

It was a really fun day and we were lucky that the weather was beautiful for it too. My daughter was so happy with how it all went and had an amazing time with her friends and family.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Garden update August 2018

Hi friends! It's been so long since I've done a garden update, but it feels like spring has come a little early this year, so my thoughts are turning outdoors.

I've been making a lot of green smoothies lately, to take advantage of the abundant leafy greens I have growing. My smoothie recipes are ever-evolving, but my latest one featured silverbeet, spinach, three types of kale, parsley and mint from my garden.

While wandering around my yard last Saturday, I noticed the soil level on the raised bed pictured above was getting low. I'd recently sprinkled seaweed and used coffee grounds on all of my gardens, but that hadn't increased the contents of any of them by much, so I got to thinking about where I could gather more free garden fillers from for this particular bed.

On a whim, J and I drove to a couple of local cafes hoping to gather more used coffee grounds, but one of the cafes was closed and the other one had its own composting system. Not wanting to waste a car-trip, I filled up three large plastic containers with wood mulch that had been dumped at a local park and carted them home instead.

I was thinking about clearing out the low raised bed completely to refill it, but several of the plants in it were well established, so in the end I just moved the smaller plants to the next raised bed down the hill (pictured above) and dumped a layer of wood mulch around the more established plants. I also added sheep manure to help the wood mulch break down.

I was racking my brain for what else I could add to the garden to top it up, when it suddenly occurred to me that I have a compost bin full of grass clippings and various other garden material I've been chucking in there over the past year. Now, I must admit, I've mainly been using this compost as a place to dump garden waste, and haven't taken the time to stir it, or been particularly careful about my ratios of brown to green materials. As could be expected, when I opened it up, I discovered it hadn't broken down particularly well, but I figured it would break down eventually, mixed in with the wood mulch on the raised bed, so I pulled it out and spread it around.

Taking a break from the raised garden mission for a minute, I pulled out my loppers and pruned my nashi tree (pictured above) and one of my apple trees, which were both looking a little criss-crossed. I've never pruned a fruit tree before, but I understand the theory of it from having done a Certificate in Horticulture, so I decided to give it a go. Since it was my first time, I didn't take off many branches, just the ones that were obviously growing into the centre of the tree instead of out. If I had any doubts about a branch, I left it on, figuring I could get it next year if I need to.

I then spent an hour mowing our lawns and refilling the large compost bin with the grass clippings. It is always a treacherous affair mowing our lawns in winter, when the clay soil turns to bog, but it had been sunny for a couple of days so I got away with it.

I was definitely in the gardening mood and it was such a nice day that I just kept going. I emptied one half of my rotating compost bin (the half that has been composting away while we filled the other half) and sprinkled that over the raised bed I was trying to top up, as well as around my citrus trees, which always need more loving.

I had to take a shower after emptying the rotating compost bin, because there's no way to do it without getting smeared in stinky compost. I figured that was a good time to call it a day in the garden.

But I was straight back into it on Monday afternoon, when S helped me pull out the dormant asparagus crowns from around my citrus trees and move them to the raised bed I've been trying to fill. It was a tough job pulling them out. They did not want to budge. Their roots have really spread out since I planted them in the citrus garden last year. I needed to move them though, because over summer and autumn they were shading out our citrus trees. Since we'd all much rather eat fruit than asparagus, it was an easy choice to shift the asparagus.

I then collected another three containers of wood mulch and used it to finish topping up the raised bed I'd been filling, as well as to fill in the gaps I'd created in the citrus bed when I pulled the asparagus out. I'll need to top up the whole citrus bed with soil before spring really hits, but need to pull out all the strawberries and then replant them in the fresh soil to do that, so it's quite a big job.

My other gardens are doing their own thing at the moment. The other half of my wraparound deck garden is currently growing lettuce, carrots, coriander and strawberries.

The gardens I topped up and planted in June are doing well. I harvested some of the silverbeet for my smoothie this week and everything else is growing nicely (lettuce, broccoli, spinach, basil, kale and coriander).

This avocado tree planted itself from a discarded stone in the perfect spot, exactly where I wanted a big tree to grow to give us privacy from the road. It's doing well there, and even if we never get an avocado off it, I'll still be happy it's there. (I hope we do get lots of avocados though!)

Our feijoas are filling in and getting taller. I'm hopeful we'll get fruit off them for the first time next year. We all LOVE feijoas.

This plum tree, which I thought had died, has just started budding again. I'm so relieved. My other plum tree did die, so I'm not sure if this one will actually fruit unless I plant a companion plum tree for it, but at least I won't be starting completely from scratch.

Our Star Magnolia tree has been blossoming abundantly and scattering its petals like snow over our lawn. Beautiful.

My rosemary is almost as tall as our fence. It thrives in this hot spot against our house.

These are some of the pretty flowers I planted back in June. The purple ones are spreading well, and seem to have settled into their new home nicely.

So that's how my garden is looking at the moment. There's always more I'd like to do, but then I think back to how my garden looked when we bought this place two-and-a-half years a go, and I remember to be grateful. There was not an edible thing here when we moved in, and now there is an abundance.