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Winter? Are you there?

What a welcome site Winter is! Um - that is - I love that it's winter, but it's not wet or really cold - yet. This is supposed to be the really primal part of the year when we crave fire and blankets, rich warming foods and we grieve the loss of the light. I know I sure do! As the wind becomes chilly, the plants crawl into the warmer earth for survival and the plants that are more resilient, toughen their leaves and hold tight in the wet soil. There are still the summer fruits in the stores - expensive and with lots of food miles on them - but as long as we insist on eating out of season this will always be the case. I'm happy with the stored apples and winter veg. I return more to my fermented foods to keep up the vitamin and pro-biotic level that I have become accustomed to while I sit in the afternoon sun that I would complain about in the summer.

Our verge is planted with spinach, rhubarb, radishes, dandelion greens, nasturtium, calendula and much more. We are fortunate to have a tree on the verge which attracts the bees, butterflies and birds all through the year and they are a delight. So while the tree offers shade in the summer and some protection in the winter, we allow a lot of our plants to go to seed, not just for seed collection but for the bees - our contribution the the bee highway.

We have a good amount of bumble bees on our property. We have a couple of deliberate hives down the back and they love the macadamias. We have to be careful when we check out our hollyhocks as they seem to go frenzied with the amount of pollen and are completely encased in it when they leave. Now it's time to offer the bees vegetable flowers to help them through the winter.

This is also the time when the chickens wait for my dance down the slippery goat track that takes me into the backyard. So I've bitten the bullet and decided that these lovely creatures, while not laying, are going to be re-homed for a while so I can move their cage to my front yard - yes, I am going to entertain a different set of neighbours with the antics that it takes to feed them. The lovely little house that we have for them will be "renovated", (a rather polite way of saying I'm going to put a lick of paint over it and make it a bit more sturdy). It will definitely me much easier to keep the production and cleanliness happening in these mucky, sodden clay months.

By now, you should have a good store of dried herbs for your chicken boxes. If you don't, that's OK- you just need to follow the rules of picking herbs, which are:

1. Pick your herbs in the morning after the dew has dried off and the sun has been on them for a short while.

2. make sure that the quality of what you are picking is edible. No matter how you are going to use it. You may decide to use it for something in the winter and a good, healthy dried store is what you want.

3. Store in a cool, dry area where there is plenty of airflow. I dry mine in the hall where I have a herb rack hanging from the tall wooden ceiling. If you only have a hot water cupboard, this is OK, just keep a very close eye on them so there is no moulding happening.

I use Thyme, Lavender and Rosemary (sounds like a song coming on) and after it is dried I store it in large jars and each time I change the straw/paper from the nests - which goes into the compost - I add a good mixed layer. This helps to prevent any issues and has worked well so far. I also use fresh rose geranium as it is always grows so prolifically.

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