It's time to catch up on tips and questions sent in by the oily rag community. It's also time to start thinking about planting strawberries for a bumper harvest in spring and summer.

Nanna from Whangarei has this recipe for feijoa parcels. "Put 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tsp grated nutmeg and 1 tsp cinnamon in a shallow bowl and mix well. Peel about 16 to 20 medium-sized feijoa. Make a sweet short pasty, roll out thin and cut into oblongs about 7cm by 12-15cm. Place the peeled feijoa in the sugar mix and coat well, then roll each one up in the pastry. I roll them so that the ends of the feijoa are exposed. I place my parcels a little apart on an oven tray with sides, as the parcels may leak. When the tray is filled with 'parcels', sprinkle the remaining sugar mix over the top, then bake at 175C for 20-30 minutes. Delicious served with milk, cream, yoghurt, icecream, or custard when warm, but also nice when cold. They can also be frozen in small or large quantities."

MJ from Dunedin writes, "grew up with my Mum adding dumplings to soups, stews and stewed fruits. Rationing during wartime Britain was probably behind this but I loved them - very filling!"

Carolyn from Napier writes: "I have a query regarding staining wooden trellis work. I have extensive wooden trellis sections that I applied a commercial stain to about eight years ago, costing many dollars! Would anyone know of a 'home-spun' method -- perhaps using a household oil like linseed or something else? I would be most appreciative of any suggestions."

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NS from Canterbury asks, "does anyone have any pet-friendly ideas for controlling insects like ants and spiders?"

Jane from Auckland is also asking for ideas. "I have been collecting grey water from the shower and using it to flush the toilet but the toilet bowl is now stained a light rust colour. I have tried vinegar and baking soda and a lot of scrubbing but this has been unsuccessful."

Now for something delicious! It's time to plant strawberries and look forward to treats in the spring and over summer. Experts say you need to plant at least five plants a person in your household, but strawberries are such a favourite that we have more. Space the plants about 15cm apart. Plant in a sunny spot. If reusing plants from last season then plant the runners as new stock. The runners form roots and become new plants. Each plant should last a few years but the harvest drops away after the first year. Plant different varieties so you have a constant supply.

Strawberries can be planted in well-draining pots, hanging baskets, or directly into a garden bed. The commercial growers use rows of raised mounds about 10cm high for good drainage, covered with polythene to keep the soil nice and warm (up to 5C warmer). If you do not use polythene as a ground cover, mulch them using hay or straw.

Use a home-made liquid fertiliseror a diluted seaweed soup. Plant in fresh soil, ideally your home-made compost.

Watering is usually only required in very hot weather -- unless plants are grown in a container in which case regular watering will be required.

Cover the plants when in fruit to keep the birds out.

Do not grow in soil used for potatoes or tomatoes in the previous season as these encourage the build-up of root diseases in the strawberries.

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Many commercial growers use varieties called camarosa or pajaro. Other recommended ones include chandler and sundae in the North Island; seascape and gabrielle in the South Island. A little work now will provide you with a bumper crop of delicious strawberries

If you have a favourite winter meal you want to share, please send it by visiting oilyrag.co.nz or write to Living off the Smell of an Oily Rag, PO Box 984, Whangarei.

* Frank and Muriel Newman are the authors of Living Off the Smell of an Oily Rag in NZ. oilyrag.co.nz