Saturday, 1 June 2013

Shiitake Logs!

We love mushrooms!  In autumn we can sometimes pick them from our fields.  Recently we read about growing our own shiitake mushrooms.  We bought some 'dowels' (see the photo below) and prepared some logs.  About three weeks ago we chose a suitable branch from an old plum tree.  I cut it down and put it in the shed to dry a little.

These are the 'dowels'.  They are pieces of wood that have the shiitake mushroom fungus inside.  You can see the fungus has made them a little furry!


First I drilled holes about 10 cm apart for the dowels.  I put some red tape on the drill bit so I knew how deep to drill.  By turning the log I got 18 holes in this piece of wood.

Next Thom helped hammer the dowels into the holes.  He didn't like the loud noise of the drill so he wore earmuffs!

To stop other fungus from getting into the logs, my wife put some bees wax on top of the dowels to seal the holes.

Finally we put the logs in a cool, shady place.  The bricks are to keep the logs off the ground.  It takes about six months for the mushrooms to fruit, I hope it works!  The mushrooms continue to fruit until the logs have been completely eaten by the fungus.  I have never eaten them fresh, here in Gisborne you can only buy dried shiitake!

Sunday, 19 May 2013


Last week, Thom's teacher told his class about 'Geocaching'.  It's a hobby where people hide a container called a 'geocache' and post the location on a website.  It's like a treasure hunt! 

Here is one good website, you can change the language:

There are geocaches hidden all over the world.  The geocache is usually a container with a notebook and a pen inside.  Sometimes people put items in for swapping.  After you find the geocache you put it back and visit the website to write a comment.

Thom really wanted to do it so we used the website to find one close to us.  There is a geocache hidden near a waterfall only a few kilometres from our house!  Actually, there are many geocaches hidden nearby.  We followed the clues and found the geocache.  Luckily it was quite easy!

My daughter made some little origami cranes to put in the geocache and Thom put in a marble.  After we put the geocache back, the children enjoyed playing at the waterfall. 

It is a very peaceful spot and usually there's no one else there.  My wife and I both enjoy taking photographs.  She found a beautiful spider and I found some interesting fungus.  If you don't like spiders don't look below!

It was a fun trip, I think we'll do it again!  Have a look at the website, I bet there are geocaches close to your home too!

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Autumn Fruit

It's now the middle of autumn.  The days are growing shorter and the temperatures are falling.  Earlier this month it rained for several days.  That was good, I was worried about how dry the weather had been.  Our fields are green again.

We had a wonderful crop of summer fruit.  The apples and pears were delicious.  Our favourite fruit was the cherries back in December.  They were fantastic!  One nice thing about growing fruit is there is always something to look forward to. 


Do you know what this fruit is?  It's called a guava.  It isn't the big tropical guava you can buy in a can.  It's small, about the size of a marble, and very tasty!  Our tree is still small, they grow about 3 metres high. Guavas make great jam too.

Here is another wonderful autumn fruit.  It's called a 'feijoa'.  Like the guava it comes from South America.  New Zealanders LOVE feijoas.  This year they are quite small, probably because of the dry summer.  They are sweet and juicy! 

In winter we look forward to citrus.  You can see the mandarins on this little tree are beginning to ripen.  Children love mandarins because they are sweet, have no seeds and are easy to peel.  I love them too =)

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

'ago' and 'in'

Describing when something happened, or when something is going to happen can be difficult! 

Today we will learn about 'ago' and 'in'.



'ago' always means a time in the past:

Picnic   o---------- two weeks -------------o    Now

When was the picnic?  It was two weeks ago

New car o---------- three months -------------o Now

Three months ago I bought a new car. (or: I bought a new car three months ago.) - either is ok. =)

We can use 'ago' even if we don't know exactly when something happened:

Long ago people lived in caves.

Years ago I decided to become a chef.

If something happened one week / one month / one year ago we would usually use 'last':

Watched a movie  o--------------- one month ------------------o  Now

Last month I watched a movie. (or: I watched a movie last month.)



We use 'in' when something hasn't happened yet:

Now o-------------------- two weeks ---------------------o Picnic

When is the picnic?  The picnic is in two weeks.

Now o------------------- three months ------------------o  New Job

My new job starts in three months.

If something is going to happen in one week / one month / one year we use 'next':

Now o------------- one week -----------------o Going to the library

Next week I'm going to the library. (or: I'm going to the library next week)

'In' has some other uses too, we will learn about those next time =)

Can you write a sentence using 'ago' and a sentence using 'in'?

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Paper Wasps

I usually like lots of insects in our garden, but not this one!  This is an 'Asian Paper Wasp' nest.  The wasps sting and they also eat caterpillars.  I noticed we didn't have many Monarch Butterfly caterpillars this year.  I went looking for nests and I found this big one on a wall.  After taking the photo, I sprayed it with flyspray.

Here's a little Monarch Butterfly caterpillar feeding on a 'swan plant'.  The caterpillars grow to about 5cm long, then they form a chrysalis.  After a couple of weeks the butterflies come out.  When they come out of the chrysalis they are bright and beautiful.

Here's a Monarch Butterfly feeding on an orange cosmos flower.  We plant lots of flowers for butterflies.  They especially like the orange cosmos plants, they must have good nectar.  Can you see it's tongue poking into the flower?  This one is quite old, it's wings are faded and damaged.

I will look for more wasp nests tomorrow!

Friday, 18 January 2013

Summer Vegetables

In summer there are lots of vegetables growing in the garden.  Our tomatoes are ripe and we have lots of beans, green peppers, 長ネギ and courgettes.  This is our bean patch, every day we pick some beans.  My wife planted them, she is good at growing vegetables!

We grow two kinds of beans.  You can see some are green and some are yellow.  The yellow beans are sweeter, the green ones have more flavour.  It only took a few minutes to pick all these beans!  Actually we also have soybeans which are almost ready, and for fun I grew some azuki beans too!

These are courgettes, sometimes they're called 'zucchinis' too.  We pick them when they are this size.  If you leave them they grow huge!  When they get big they are called 'marrows'.  They taste best when they are small.  Courgettes and beans taste good together!

Here's lunch!  I made a stir fry with beans, courgettes, green pepper, 長ネギ with ginger and garlic.  I also added some Korean 'ssamjang' paste.  We love picking vegetables and eating them =).  What are your favourite summer vegetables?

Friday, 28 December 2012

Te Kuri Farm Walkway

Recently my wife found a great website.  It has information about local walking tracks.  We like to walk together so we chose to do the Te Kuri Farm Walkway.  One day we'd love to travel to other countries and do many walks.  At the start of the track there were some friendly goats =)

The walk is on a farm near Gisborne.  It started quite flat but then we started walking up some hills.  After about half an hour, the children were ready for a snack!  You can see that the weather was great!  We went in the morning before it got too hot.

We expected to see some nice views but this caterpillar was a surprise!  We think it's a 'Magpie Moth' caterpillar.  They eat 'ragwort' which is a serious weed on New Zealand farms.  We saw many, many caterpillars on the ragwort plants.
This is an adult Magpie Moth.  Many moths fly at night but these ones are active during the daytime.  Can you see the stripy body?  They were quite beautiful!

Finally we reached the top.  Our legs were pretty tired, there were some steep climbs!  The view was magnificent.  It was a great place to stop and have lunch.  On the way back down, the track went through some bush.  It was a very nice way to spend a Saturday morning.