Archives for category: gardening

“So what do you want to do?” asked L’Artiste. Mouse took him by the hand and led him to the window. “You know,” she said, “I realised, we have to view the current situation like a plane crash. The world is going down and the oxygen masks are dangling in front of us. We have to grab the mask and put it in our face first before we can help the others”.

“Are you saying we should be more selfish?” asked L’Artiste. “That is so not us!”

“You are right, but if we pass out we can’t help anyone and there are some who can’t help themselves.” Then she explained that the Dedes have to clean up their own act first. She, Mouse, had made the decision to go largely self-sufficient and pointed proudly to her garden.

“You can’t make the decision for our society!” exclaimed L’Artiste appalled. “You can’t tell me what I can do and can’t do, we are not living in a nanny state. Last time I checked, we were living in a democracy.”

“You are right, I can’t” said Mouse. “I said, I have gone largely self-sufficient.  I can make the decision only for myself. Look, I have read so much about food wastage. Did you know that in the European Union about twenty percent of the produced food ends up in the rubbish tip? Food production impacts heavily on the environment. Apart from that, 815 Million people worldwide go hungry while at the same time 650 Million people are overweight…. Wouldn’t you say something is out of kilter?”

“Right” admitted L’Artiste, “but isn’t that subject too big for us? We little no body puppets can’t change anything.”

“That is only the tip of the iceberg” said Mouse “the next thing is that people eat, but don’t nourish themselves. They eat empty calories, become overweight and their ill nourished bodies becomes sick. Then they have to buy expensive medicine… All along someone makes money…”

“C’mon stop this conspiracy theory!” said L’Artiste and held his hands over his ears.

“It is well documented that in America the biggest drug problem is caused by prescription drugs. Just remember the tobacco industry… It is one thing, if one doesn’t know. But knowing and covering it up for profit, that is criminal in my books.” Mouse talked herself into a real rage.

“So what is your solution, do you want to take on the entire world.

“Quite the opposite” said Mouse. “I want to withdraw from the market as much as possible. I am aware that in certain areas I have to depend on others, and I am also no angel, I have a few vices just like the next Dede, but we can do so much more than we are doing at the moment. I am prepared to learn. Are you?”

Mouse, the busy body of the Dedes, piled up lemons in the kitchen. “We have been quiet for too long” she muttered. “It is no good that we have been paralysed by politics. The world at large is in a grim state, but we are still alive and personally I think the only remedy is a new worthwhile project.”

To recap what happened in the last year: The Dedes moved to the countryside and into an old dilapidated house that needs a lot of attention. They are as happy as Larry in their new little environment. Around the house they have an acre with some fruit trees and three acres they lease out to the next door neighbour to graze his cattle in return for half a beast for the freezer. The first year they were busy establishing a vege garden and planting a banana grove and simply watch what ripens when. Thrifty as they are they don’t want to spend any money and they are learning a lot about how to make use of everything. Long gone are the days of only flour and water that led to the “Artist’s Survival Cookbook” project. They still make their own bread on a daily basis, but graduated from industrial yeast to sourdough.

As the Dedes are nobodies, who would be interested in their happy life? No-one, they simply assumed. However the other day someone asked what they are doing with the bones of their beast. “Broth” Mouse said, thinking that everyone makes broth anyway. “No, no” explained the person. “I make broth as well, but I envisaged you hand-grinding down the used bones to make bone meal for the garden or something!”

“Ah, right” said Mouse, “They contain a tremendous amount of phosphate you don’t want to waste. Here is what I do: First I make broth. Once this is done, I put the bones into the chicken pen for the chooks to clean up. When they are picked clean, I dry them and then I chuck them into the fireplace. In the end the go out with the ashes into the garden.”

“Do bones burn?”

“Well,” explained Mouse “the word bonfire comes from ‘bone fire’. They might not burn to ashes, but the become very brittle and are easy to break down. Your garden will love you for it.”

That night Mouse went home and discussed with Devil that, maybe they still have some tidbits to tell. Devil said, “yeah, you are right, it is definitely better than sitting around and moping about the rise of Top Dogs.”

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Monkey was intrigued by Loudmouth’s experience and being such a ‘me-too’ puppet he wanted to meet his doppelgänger as well. Out he ventured into the garden, though the best place to find a monkey is in the jungle. He searched for the thickest growth. Luckily I was there and could prevent him from taking to it with a machete. You can imagine his disappointment when I told him he was actually sitting between the lettuce and the tomato plants in the vege patch. He scratched his head and then his eyes lit up. “Ah, I know where I have seen my doppelgänger. Follow me!” And with these words he ran into the house, straight into the bathroom and blew kisses at the mirror. “No, this is your reflection,” I lectured him. I could see his frustration. “This must be it then,” he said and pointed to the cup from dededesign zazzle store.”Please do me a favour and look up what dopplegänger actually means!” I said, before he could grab a pen and draw his face on something.


top dog scare rain

The plan worked perfectly! Mouse and Devil had to use a tiny trick though. It was important to let Top Dog believe it was his idea to take part in the competition. So they pretended to talk in private about who should represent the Dedes in the Scarecrow competition. You may know, Top Dog is blessed with unbelievably good hearing, far better than any other Dede. (Sometimes they even wonder if he doesn’t have secret listening devices scattered around the place.) As soon as he hears an interesting conversation he pops by and participates, no, takes over. Needless to say, he immediately decided that he is the one and only perfect candidate to become a scarecrow. Mouse and Devil ummed and arred for a little while and finally said they would have to confer with the others and would get back to him. They just went around the corner to the art cup board and watched from afar how Top Dog immediately rummaged through the old rags in the laundry to find himself something to wear. Then he went out to the garden and found a nice position to practise his scarecrow skills, right next to a lovely green pepper for company.

It didn’t take long before it started to rain. Oops. All of a sudden he looked pretty scared.

top dog scare

This is no good. It is more than a month since I have written on my blog. Honestly, the Artist’s survival cookbook is progressing. Not fast, but it is moving forward. It is currently at the design stage. The Dedes had millions of boring meetings to figure out how they should publish it.  You know, those kind of meetings where the discussion goes round and round in circles. Then the meeting is declared over without a tenable outcome and a new meeting has to be called another time. And very quickly a week, then a month, passes by.

You might find it hard to believe, but the Dedes are usually good decision makers. Even though they banter a lot, they know each other’s strength and weaknesses and trust the next Dede implicitly. But then there is Top Dog. Top Dog entered the scene sometime last year and never fitted in. He is adamant he is the best, knows everything better and is not interested in anybody’s opinion unless it coincides with his own. He loves to manage but not in a co-operative kind of way, more like a despot. In short, he wants to run the show and is not interested in what others with arguably more expererience can contribute – unless he directs them to do so. The Dedes quickly figured out his cocksure behaviour was to cover up his own inadequacies. They avoided saying anything that could be construed as disagreement.  When he has the feeling he is being criticised he gets extremely aggressive and loses the plot. Ultimately, the Dedes keep to themselves as they don’t like unnecessary arguments, so they let him do his own thing and he could feel important in front of the mirror. It’s by no means the first time they have had to deal with a difficult compatriot. Though usually the difficult ones come round once they realise the Dedes are a knowledgeable and peaceful bunch who work towards building a comfortable,  non-threatening environment.  Top Dog, however, hasn’t settled. Instead he constantly complains about how he isn’t respected enough. Well, as Philosopher always says: “Respect can’t be demanded, it has to be earned.”

There is a point when even the most patient Dedes has to say “enough is enough”. So, the other day the core team of Dedes, Mouse, Devil and Witch, along with a handful of others got together to discuss what on earth they could do. They realised the presence of Top Dog undermines their work. Their plans have slowed to a near stand – still and the only way to get back on track is if he goes. As it happens, tomorrow is the Scarecrow in the Garden competition here in Beach Haven and Mouse, the keen gardener, suggested to nominate Top Dog to become their representative in the competition. That will make him feel very important, but of course, as it will rain on and off tomorrow, the weather will see to his demise very quickly.


Since Traumtanz has left the garden, the Dedes got quiet. There was discussion whether potatoes should be planted in the spot that the boat had occupied. But in the end the Dedes weren’t allowed to seize the patch as the boat might come back one day. So the Dedes focussed on the backyard instead and Mouse was busy planting winter vegetables like kohl rabi and broccoli. While she was out there she discovered the zucchini plants have an infestation of cucumber beetle. This is really bad news as the beetles and their larvae do huge damage to the plants and also carry bacterial wilt organisms. So Mouse was busy collecting beetles and squashing them and removing wilted leaves and fruit when she accidentally cut the stem of the tromboncino. Tromboncino is a climbing zucchini and we just have harvested one fruit yesterday, unfortunately the one in the picture won’t mature, due to Mouse’s inattention. I have never seen them in the shops and I am quite curious how they taste.

giant zucchini

Punch Drunk has figured out what went wrong with his recipe. It was just a tad too runny. But he still liked what he cooked and it got eaten anyway. Last night he finally caught up with Mouse and wanted tell her about his findings and discuss the amendments to the recipe. She wasn’t particularly interested. She was standing next to a giant zucchini she had just found in the garden and scratching her head. It took Devil, Witch and her half an hour to carry it from the garden into the kitchen on the first floor, as it weights a whopping 2700 grams. That is far more than the three of them together. Not surprisingly they were puffing, cursing and swearing while they heaved it up from one step to the next. “I don’t know what I can do with that one” said Mouse when they finally had it on the chopping board. “I have no idea how I could have overlooked it. It’s grown so big!”

Just as a reminder, the photo below shows Mouse proudly presenting the first zucchini of the season just after Christmas. And the Dedes have been eating zucchini ever since.

first zucchini


mouse devil eggs

“I would go for pasta without eggs anytime” said Evan G List, the vegan. “How can you possibly eat animal products when so many Dedes are animals?”

“Well…” Mouse felt uncomfortable. She understood Evan’s point of view but felt like she was put on the spot.

“Look” said Devil, who calls a spade a spade, coming to her aid. “We have the chickens in the backyard because there is too much weed and they love to eat it. In return they produce chicken poop, which is a brilliant fertiliser for the vege garden. It happens that they also lay eggs. Shall we throw those out, or what?”

“No, of course not. But you shouldn’t have chickens in the first place!”

“Then we would need to go and buy fertiliser. Who knows how that is produced. Sorry, that doesn’t make sense to me.”

Mouse does a wonderful job. All the food scraps go either into the worm bin or in the chicken trough. And what either of them produces from their food, goes on to nourish the soil in the vege garden. We eat the veges and produce scraps. It is a perfect cycle.

“But you don’t have a cow. And you use milk and butter!” Evan said triumphantly.

“Yes, you’re right, we’ve made a choice. Our mantra is everything in moderation.” Devil didn’t want to get into an argument. There are some things you just can’t argue about. (By the way, in New Zealand all cows are grass fed and outside all year round. However, there are far too many for the environment.)

Mouse turned to Devil and said, “I think we need some sort of summary about what we are actually doing here. Can you succinctly describe the reason for our recipe collection?”

Devil didn’t need time to think. “There are two goals, remember. Firstly, if you buy these staple foods in the shops, they are highly processed and contain too much sugar and salt, as well as flavour enhancers and additives to extend their shelf-life. Secondly, they are overpriced in my opinion. Well, maybe not too overpriced, as the processing certainly costs money. We just want to show everyone that you can make staple foods much cheaper and healthier at home. The recipes aren’t too difficult or time consuming. ”

Mouse said “Yeah right, now I remember. The idea was conceived when you lost your job, wasn’t it? You didn’t get out of bed and moped about because you had nothing to do and no money” Devil didn’t want to be reminded as it was a sad time for him, but Mouse was right. It was the creative L’Artiste who suggested they should write a book called The Artist’s survival cookbook or 101 recipes with flour and water. He knows a thing or two about living on the breadline. Mouse was excited that all the Dedes were working together to make it happen, even though the bulk of the work landed on her. Again! She doesn’t mind. “It’s coming together nicely” she said. “But we need a full Dede meeting to get ideas on how to take it further.” Mouse is a good administrator, but creativity is not one of her strengths.


mouse zucchini2

Mouse proudly presented her first harvest yesterday. A zucchini nearly as big as herself. Ah well not quite, but certainly big enough to be proud of. Some of the Dedes were gathered on the kitchen bench to celebrate. After all the “hurrahs” and “well dones” someone commented that it was rather sad that those days where all the Dedes would get together to have impromptu celebrations of the little things in life seem to have gone. Now there is always a Dede missing or moping or thinking it wasn’t a worthy cause to celebrate.

Philosopher said “We need a new project! One that everyone can take part in and take responsibility for the outcome.” That seemed to be the cue for Witch. It was obvious she had been waiting for the right moment. “Remember there was this book we wanted to write?  That would be perfect!”

“Which book do you mean?” Philosopher asked, as in times of change so many ideas get thrown around and plenty of them don’t stick.

“The artist’s survial cookbook. 101 recipes with flour and water” Witch replied excitedly. “You know, the book we wanted to write with simple recipes from buns and scones to pita bread.” It is no secret that cooking is her big passion. She constantly hangs out in the kitchen trying new things.

“But that is so polictically incorrect” interrupted Bad Conscience, who had observed Devil carrying in big 5kg bags of white flour for Witch every other week. “In this day and age, you can not write a book promoting the use of mainly white flour and water. Where is the nutritional value? You, of all Dedes, should know.”

“That is not he point” said Witch defending the idea. “I know that white flour is questionable, but the bread or buns in the shops are mainly made of white flour and have additives to boot. Wholemeal my arse… marketing trick I would say, and don’t even get me started on pancake mix or custard powder.” Everybody was surprised at Witches strong language.

“What’s the point then?” asked Detail to get her back on track.

“I want to show others that you don’t need to be an organic nutter or have heaps of time to make your own stuff” said Witch. “Just start somewhere and it will become routine. You can save so much money and you know exactly what’s in your food.” Witch told them how she did a lot of research when the idea was first floated. Basically she told everyone about it and had nothing but good feedback about the concept. The book would be just perfect for artists and students and everybody else on a tight budget and who wants to be in charge of what they are eating.

“It should be easy” agreed Philosopher. “If each of us writes down their favourite recipe we should be done in no time.”

“I’ll do pancakes” trumpeted Push Push, “yummy buckwheat pancakes. Mmmm”

“But there is egg in it, isn’t there?” asked Detail.

“We have to approach it a little loosely,” said Witch. “Let’s limit ourselves to five or six absolute basic ingredients, flour, water, yeast, egg, butter…”

“I’ll do chocolate” said Top Dog who had just entered the kitchen to look in the fridge for something to eat.

“But” said Witch “chocolate is made of fat, cocoa and sugar. There is no flour and water in it.”

“Forget it then” he said and wandered off again.

“Just let’s get started and hopefully he will come round” said Mouse as she grabbed her notepad and pencil to start writing down her favourite recipes.


planting out

Today was the big day. Dee came round with some seedlings and beans to plant out. As I suspected for a while, the only Dede truly interested in gardening is Mouse. She virutally wanted to hop into the basket with heritage beans, but when Dee showed her the seedlings she had been raising for us, Mouse clapped her mittens in excitement and then ran off to fetch her shovel. Dee had to show her what to do next. But before we could plant the seedlings I had to put more compost and potting mix down. Mouse just couldn’t lift the big heavy bags.

Dee showed her how to plant out the young beans and when it came to the tomatoes, Mouse wanted to do it all by herself. She nearly disappeared in the soft bed, but she seemed to have fun.

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