April at a Glance



Broad Beans, onions (in trays or outdoors if warm). Brassica seeds sown now will take 4 months to mature. Lettuce. broccoli, cabbage, carrots, Chinese cabbage, leeks, lettuce, onions, parsley, shallots, spinach.


Cabbage, broccoli, cauli, kale, lettuce, parsley, silverbeet or spinach, strawberries, soft fruits such as currants, raspberries etc, fruit trees


Mound up soil around leeks. Keep well-watered along with celery. Weed around asparagus.  Protect heads of cauli from the weather by covering with big leaves. Keep weeding and hoeing between plants to keep weeds down.


Beans, courgettes, sweetcorn, pumpkins, main crop potatoes, carrots, parsnips, beetroot, spinach and silverbeet, herbs


Dig beds where crops have finished, add compost to trenches, Sow green crops, make compost and mulch bare ground in preparation for winter weather and preparing beds for spring.

Gardening in the Lockdown.

Now more than ever we need to get serious about growing our own food when we can.  It’s interesting that since the announcement here in NZ that we were going into lockdown in response to the COVID-19 virus, it wasn’t just the supermarket shelves that emptied out of staples such as bread, flour, yeast and baking basics. The nurseries all sold out of vegetable seedlings – except Brussels Sprouts and Kale which were the only sad punnets languishing on the shelves in the Warehouse when I managed to make it in there! There has been a massive instinctive move to provide for ourselves and our families in the most fundamental way.  We may have dabbled in the garden in the past but now more than ever it is important to think about other ways to provide for ourselves rather than popping to the shops every few days.   We are being assured that the supermarkets will stay open and the supply lines will remain intact but we live in uncertain times.  The garden is the place where we can find not only food but peace and comfort that comes from being in contact with the soil and the seasons.  There is comfort at a very basic level to know that we can plant a seed now and know that it will germinate and grow – life goes on.  And now we have time to actually work in the garden!

One of the reasons we don’t spend as much time in our gardens as we would like is that our lives are so filled up with work, family activities and other commitments. Ironically we now have weeks of enforced home-based living. I am still working but am flexible enough to get out and spend at least an hour in the garden a day. Plus I have some helpers who are in the “bubble” with me so making good use of the manpower!   So for the next few posts – expect to see some help getting started in your Kitchen Garden! (Especially for beginners)IMG_1086

Being Prepared for Emergencies


I lay awake last night with earthquakes on my mind. With the events in California in the past few days it really brought to mind the reality of an emergency situation like that and how if an earthquake was to hit at that moment – where even was my torch? How would I stay warm on a frozen night without shoes or socks?  It got me thinking that it was time to pay much more attention to what I would put in my emergency kit.  Earthquakes or other emergencies can hit anywhere and at any time.  It’s not just earthquakes of course although here in New Zealand we have had some very real reminders of the force of nature over the past few years. I live in the South Island where memory of the Canterbury earthquake is still raw and the possibility of a very big quake along the main divide is real so this is a good reminder to be prepared.

And not just yourselves – think about your relatives who may live on their own.   I remember with the Christchurch earthquake striking at night, reports were that it was very dark, that the contents of shelves and cupboards had tipped all over the floors making it very dangerous and frightening just to try and get out of the house to relative safety.  I was thinking about what my mother would do if this happened in the middle of a cold dark night.  Candles are not always a practical option in that situation so make sure you have a torch or a headlamp right beside your bed where you can put your hand on it if you need it.  Also with the new LED technology get a couple of lights you can put in key places that are triggered by movement. Not a bad idea for when you have to get up in the night anyway!

Just having a Backpack style close to the door or wherever you can grab it easily is a must.  There is plenty of advice out there for what to have in your bag. It doesn’t have to cost much – I have a back pack that I got from our local recycle centre for next to nothing.  After lying awake last night on a very frosty night, I thought I should also put in a merino vest and leggings which won’t take up too much space.  And keep good slip on shoes by the bed. Think about the things that are really important to you if you can’t get back into your house straight away.  Click on this link for some sensible advice.


Emergency Preparedness Kits.

Your Go Bag doesn’t replace an emergency preparedness kit. This should have enough food and water for a minimum of 3 days, an alternative method of heating food and water, hand sanitisers, first aid kit and other safety equipment. The thing about living rurally rather than in the city is that we might not have the same problems as they have in relation to water supply and toilets.  A lot of us have water tanks for example so even if the power goes off we can actually access water if need be.  We should also have a good supply of food on hand  especially if we live some distance from town.   However we should never become complacent about emergency preparedness wherever we live. The lesson as I lay awake thinking about what I would need at that moment if something happened was a bit of a wake up call to take our emergency plans away from theory and into the actual.  We don’t always know what the emergency will be so be prepared as far as you can and make sure those you care for are also ready.

For more information go to this link.


From the Kitchen Garden: Matariki and the Gardeners New Year

Here in the southern hemisphere we have just passed the shortest day on June 21st. Our Midwinter’s Day which of course translates to the longest day or Midsummer Day in the northern hemisphere.   It is also around the time when we celebrate Matariki here in Aotearoa New Zealand.  Matariki is now known as the Maori New Year and begins when the star group Matariki (also known as the Pleiadies, or the Seven Sisters) rises in the eastern sky.  It seems eminently sensible to me to continue in this wise tradition of our ancestors and make this the beginning of our gardening new year as well. This is traditionally the time when garlic gets planted and for me this marks the time when I rotate my beds around and the garlic is the crop that begins the new year by being planted in the next bed.

It is also the time when we can complete the previous season’s harvest by digging up any potatoes or root crops that we might have overwintered. You can still store in paper or hessian bags in a cool dry place but if you leave them in the ground much longer they may start growing again.   If you want to put some aside for seed potatoes choose blemish free ones and set aside ready for sprouting in the next few months.

Garlic is one of those must have plants that even the smallest backyard garden should find room for. We all need garlic and with a lot of our commercial plants being imported and chemically treated this is your chance to grow your own super healthy organic flavour bombs. Bear in mind that this crop will be in the ground for at least 6 months so think carefully where to put it – I usually put mine in a side bed where it minds its own business and does its thing until late December.

Garlic is a gross feeder so dig up a trench to the depth of a spade, add in lots of manure, compost, or blood and bone then cover over with a layer of good soil.  Break up your bulbs into the corms and plant each one (pointy bit up!) in rows into your trench.  I plant mine about 10-15 cms apart and the rows far enough apart to hoe between.  Then cover over with soil, topping up good compost if necessary.   Wait until the green shoots have emerged before gently mulching to keep any weeds at bay. Keep weed free, avoid disturbing the roots of the growing plants and liquid feed during the growing season.

What else is in the garden?  I have autumn sown broad beans growing well, adding nitrogen to the soil and getting ready to make delicious home-grown treats come spring.  In the next month or two I will start sowing broad beans and peas into the next bed in the crop cycle for the new year.

For those of you who are new to gardening and are not yet sure of the mysteries of what to plant and where – I still have copies of the Crop Rotation Poster available.  I am about to reprint some more for the coming season so to clear out what I have left over, I have a special offer for those of you who have “liked” my facebook page.   Two copies for $10plus P&P of $10.  Message me or email keren@professionalcountrywoman.com with your address and I will give you my account details for payment.

Seasons (and a confession)


Like all of you lovely readers I am a real person dealing with a real life and all of its ups and downs. Times of busyness and times of peace, different stages of family life and different stages in work life.  I was aiming for full-time self-employment with this concept of the Professional Countrywoman and then as often happens, life took an unexpected turn.  An opportunity popped up that was too good to miss. I had been working part time in role which suited me well. I was dealing with good old fashioned country hospitality, food, gardening, events, beautiful historic buildings and contributing in a small way to the appreciation of our rural roots.  I then was offered a full-time management position which after much thought I accepted and so have found myself totally immersed in the role for the past year.

It just reinforces the message that what the Professional Countrywoman’s life is all about. There are some seasons when we are really busy focussing on a big role – and that is where I am just now.  But even in that place all of the other things that are important to us continue to go on and if we’re not careful we neglect those really important parts of our lives.  Family, friends, our own health and well-being, our professional and business lives – all of those things that make us who we are.  It has been a real lesson for me to see how quickly I got out of balance, stopped exercising (too busy), stopped being in control of what I ate (give me food now!) and stopped doing a lot of the things I loved such as gardening (what month is it even?).  My friends probably only vaguely remember me.  These are the important things and of course the PCW way is to be able to wisely consider what is important in whatever season you are in your own life and make recalibrate your life accordingly.  Planning systems and structures and putting them into practice is still the best way to do that.  So it’s been a big lesson for me to get my own act together and practice what I have been preaching!

This past week I met a woman who inspired me to remind myself what is important and to get back into sharing news of those beautiful and useful things that make our busy lives easier and more beautiful, and sharing the stories of those women in business who are producing those products or services. Whatever the season.


Pikelet Day

PikeletsWith the weather reminding us more of winter than summer approaching, today is a bit of a pikelet day.  Simple and quick to make they provide an easy and satisfying treat for all.  We invented the “pikelet bar” in our house. Hungry students and their friends making brief forays home line up along the breakfast bar and consume these as fast as you could make them!  Put out bowls of jam, cream or just butter and watch them disappear.  You don’t need anything complicated to make them so can even make them if you are camping.


1 egg

¼ cup sugar

About 2/3 cup of milk

1 cup flour

1 tsp baking powder

25g melted butter



Beat egg and sugar until fluffy.

Sift flour and baking powder

Add with the milk

Add melted butter and mix to combine.


Melt some butter in a heavy pan or skillet

Drop in spoonfuls on hot pan. About 4 per batch.

Flip when bubbles appear around edges

Keep warm in a clean teatowel and serve with jam and cream.



Elderflower Champagne and Elderflower Cordial

The Professional Countrywoman


One of the sure signs of early summer with a promise of warm summer days to come is the billowing of the elderflowers in our hedgerows. Down here in Otago our hedgerows are blowsy with elderflower and hawthorn.  We still have the remnants of those hedgerows in our area and they are a precious source of shelter and fodder for insects, birds and animals – and us humans!   I look at elderflower and think… elderflower champagne and cordial followed in autumn by berry wine and nutritious cordials. In fact, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas now without enjoying a delicious glass of delicate bubbly elderflower summer delight. Here are a couple of easy recipes for Elderflower Champagne and Cordial.

Picking Elderflowers.

Like all herbs, gather the flowers on a warm dry day and go for the ones with a mix of some open and some buds. It would be hard to pick…

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Apple and Rosemary Jelly

A good way to use up the plentiful autumn supply of apples or crabapples.  There are usually plenty of wilding apples out there for foraging as well.

About one kilo or 6 large cooking apples such as granny smith or the equivalent in crab apple. (or a mix of both)

2 ¼ cups water

1/3 cup fresh rosemary

2 ¼ cups cider vinegar

2 cups sugar.

  1. Wash and chop your apples – no need to peel or core.
  2. Mix together with the water and half of the rosemary in a preserving pan and gently bring to the boil. Simmer for about 15 minutes or until the fruit has pulped down well.
  3. Add vinegar and then once cool let the mixture strain through a muslin jelly cloth overnight. If this is the first time you have made jelly then make sure you don’t squeeze the bag or force the juice in any way – that will make your jelly cloudy.
  4. Next day put the juice back into the pan and bring it up to heat. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved, then boil rapidly for 30 minutes or so until it has reached setting point.
  5. Pour into hot sterilized jars. Of course your rosemary sprigs are going to want to go to the top of the mixture so wait until the jelly has just started to set and push the remaining rosemary sprigs into the mixture. It’s a bit tricky determining that point but if it doesn’t look as beautiful as you want, don’t worry as it will still taste good. Seal as usual. Delicious with lamb or pork both hot or cold.



Garden Notes for the Family Vegetable Garden: March

March is a lovely month as we head towards the start of Autumn. It’s still warm and wet so plenty of growth still happening – as anyone with a lawn can tell you.  I am happy to report that we are picking sweetcorn and harvesting tomatoes. We had several plantings of potatoes over the growing season and so been enjoying different harvest times of different varieties. Mounding up continues of our main crop Agria potatoes which are still my favourite.   Over this month, the natural cycle of many of our vegetables will be coming to an end so you will be busy in the kitchen preserving and outside beginning the tidying up ready for winter. Keep an eye on the hedgerows for blackberries, hawthorn berries and apples for jellys and sauces.

Keep harvesting runner beans and once finished let the vines die back naturally to provide food for next season then use old vines as compost. It’s a good idea to have perennial runner beans in a permanent spot at the back of the garden somewhere as they will stay there for a few years. All other beans and peas can be cut back and dug into the soil to provide carbon and nitrogen for the leafy plants to follow in the Spring. Start sowing broad beans and peas that will also provide a green crop over winter for this bed.

Root crops will be growing well for winter eating.  Thin February sown carrots at night when there is less chance of carrot fly attack.  Thin beetroot seedlings. Feed and keep the water up to brassicas, celery and leeks. Keep an eye out for sources of animal manure and other compost materials to put on empty beds in preparation for the coming cold months. If you have a patch of ground that is not in use until spring then make that your compost bed and throw all your garden refuse on it, add some manure, blood and bone, a little lime, cover with straw and leave.

Jobs for this Month

Sow. Carrots, parsnips, radish, lettuce, beetroot, Swedes, leeks, onions, peas, Sow green crops in any bare patches.

Plant: Broccoli, cabbage, cauli, Kale, silverbeet and spinach, lettuce.

Cultivate: Keep up feed and water for leeks and celery. Mound up around them if growing well. Keep mounding up maincrop potatoes.

Harvest: Potatoes, tomatoes, courgettes, pumpkin, corn, beans, cabbages, cauli, broccoli, silverbeet, parsnips, carrots, beetroot.

Prepare: Start preparing soil for winter and then the new season. Chop up old sunflower and corn stalks and bury in garden, collect manure and bean stalks for mulch