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The subject title of this post was supposed to be 33 Knots, but just as I started writing, 36.9 Knots gust slammed into the house. My plants ain’t happy, the birds ain’t happy. The 48 hours continued gusting invokes a sense of helplessness in me as a human because in all our quest to subdue nature, we are unable to subdue the elements. On the other hand, we are subdued by the elements instead!

On the other hand, its good to know that all the structures that I built on a budget are still standing, flexing in the wind. Nothing has been blown off yet.

My winter legumes were attacked. Most of the peas have been chewed almost back to the ground. The 3 culprits are rabbits, slugs, and caterpillars. Not taking any more risk, I implement a 3 prong defensive strategy. I went all out setting up plenty of beer slug trap in the tucker patch, sharing my precious beer with the slugs. Be careful, binge drinking is deadly and you may drown happy. I have chosen neem oil as my only defense against bugs because it only harms anything that harms the plants by chewing or sucking. I have also completely fenced off the tucker patch to fend off the rabbits. I don’t think rabbits would do a 30cm high jump to the other side when there’s grass right where they are standing on.

A note about neem oil and used of pesticides in general. My believe is to apply on a re-active basis and only on affected area that truly needs to be remedied. If we went all out and kill all the undesirable, it will also cause a reduction in beneficial insect population as they run out of prey.

We pruned some apricot trees this week just to get the hang of it. As the trees are trained on a trellis frame, the pruning approached thrown me off my sense as I am so used to pruning trees as a modified center leader or multi-leader vase. At my first try, I tried to do it like how one would prune a hedge, comb through from one end to the other end. But that ignores the structure of the tree and its multiple leading branch. In the end, the improved technique is similar to how one would do a center leader or multi-leader, pruning by following each leading branch. Prune the tree, not the hedge. I believe the reason it was trained onto a trellis is to maximize production, much like kiwifruit growing system, cover the whole trellis with fruiting wood so that the whole trellis will be covered with fruits!

I was at the Christchurch Botanic Gardens earlier. I saw this at the vege garden section.

They planted mustards and lupins as winter cover. Guess what’s happening in my tucker patch right now?

Great minds do think alike! Now, I just got to wait for the minus 3 degree Celsius to winter kill the mustards.

I saw a few cloche design at the garden as well, which reminds me I have yet to figure out the most ideal design that I would like to use in tandem with a raised bed system. It needs to have dual function, one that would protect it from the frost and wind, which will feature a frost cloth, and another that would protect it from birds and rabbits but not exclude bees, which will have a bird net. The other issues are sufficient height, ease of use, single user operation, affordable, easy to build, etc etc. I am now thinking along the line of Lego pieces. Before this I was considering a skeletal structure with the bird nets and frost cloth as a curtain and shade system.

The thinker shall continue thinking.

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The nature of our orchard and vineyard business, we don’t really get to take a break because there’s work to be done all year round. But we decided to have a week of shutdown period anyway. So what do you do when you have a week off but not going anywhere?

You can trim the hedges with a pair of secateurs because you are too cheap to buy a proper pair of hedge shears or hedge trimmers.

Scrutinize every flower in the wildflowers meadow and come upon a very interesting one like this one, which gives the impression of a flower stalk growing out of the middle of a flower.

Finish a book that you bought with the mere intention as a bookshelf decoration. I would say this book would form a very strong foundation of gardening knowledge, apart from the continuous recommendation of disgusting chemical products.

Plan next season’s spray program according to the ancient knowledge of farming based on astronomical events, which most people knew it as gardening by the moon today. Bio Dynamic Preparation 500 to be used twice in Spring and Autumn, in the afternoon before the full moon (preferably in the descending period). BD P501 to be used in the morning before moon is in opposition to Saturn from Spring through to Autumn. BD P508 to be used 48 hours before full moon from Spring through to Autumn. BD Cow Pat Pit to be used in the afternoon before the full moon (preferably in the descending period), from Spring to Autumn. Liquid feed twice a month, once during mid of descending period and another before full moon, from Spring to early Autumn. Kelp feed when moon is in Virgo, Capricorn, and Taurus all year round, reduce frequency during wet period. Neem oil to be used on a reactive basis.

You can also upgrade the heat trap corner by putting in raised beds, and raise it further when you plant a Lemon – Yen Ben and Lime – Bearrs. Train them on a trellis too because not a lot of people do that. But I train them in order to manipulate the sap flow and stimulate them to start setting fruits. This corner will also be used to grow garlic and peas in the winter as well as basil and asparagus in the summer.

Finally, do something adventurous like using dandelion leaves as leaf vegetables! I grow these dandelions myself from seeds I bought from Kings Seeds. People thought I was crazy to pay for weed seeds, but hey, its has the extra element of selection from the seed savers. Weeds, when well cared for, grew to absolute beauty. Too much love can kill weeds too! You might want to try throwing the herbicides away and instead shower the weeds in your garden with love!

I usually base the forecast of the weather on MetService’s 3 day rain forecast. Even that, the accuracy is just about the very first +3 hour forecast, and everything else is subject to change, even the +3 hour. We were expecting it to rain cats and dogs from Wednesday to Friday. The rain forecast keep affirming that up to the point I go to sleep on Tuesday night.

I woke up on Wednesday morning to absolute silence, I started to hallucinate about the sounds of raindrop falling on the roof, rainwater running off the roof gutter into my fertigation tank… Nothing. Absolute silence! I reached for my smartphone and checked the rain forecast, what was indicated as the heart of the storm the night before is now just a sorry patch of drizzle.

It did not rain, not even drizzle, but mere occasional spitting. We called Wednesday off, and it rained at 4.30pm for half an hour and calls it a day. However, this is not the first time, I can quite confidently say rain forecast for weather system coming down North of Banks Peninsula only has 50% accuracy level. If it comes from the South however, its very likely to rain unless the rain clouds decided to thin out.

I just longed for that downpour, giving the earth a refreshing Autumn shower to officially mark the entrance into Winter. Mother Nature is often the better irrigation specialist compare to mankind. She knows exactly when to do it and how much to put on, but mankind keeps messing up her plan by trying to turn the entire earth into a greenhouse.

The broad beans and peas that I sow are coming up through the pea straw now. The mustard are growing well and the lupins are just tailing behind. I can already see the seedlings of alyssum emerging from the soil. I have also reworked my planting calender to incorporate more vigorous companion cropping.

I have started to harvest from my cloche now. I am going to pick out some of the mesclun daily for consumption, and this will also slowly open up more space for the brussel sprouts and dwarf peas to grow. I think they are organic, the only unconfirmed factor is the Tui Vegetable Mix (The MSDS says: Vegetable planting mixes are made by blending naturally occurring materials including bark, pumice, sand, plant mulch including chicken compost with a mixture of minerals. The material contains a variety of living micro-organisms including bacteria, fungi and protozoa.) that I used, which is blended with worm castings and compost. Completely spray free too!

Just look at this Seascape Strawberry, just going for it! By the way, I ate 2 of the Pajaro Strawberry early this week. Its just amazing how fragrant they taste to the mouth!

I contributed 8 mice to the compost bin in the span of a week. I saw another mouse looking at me yesterday, I looked around the house and I still can’t figure out how they got into the house.

The coldest night happened on Thursday at 6am with a minus 0.5 degreeC. It was a very cold night hitting 0 degreeC at 2am. So, we have a mild frost, and I had my fire going for the first time this year.

Frost are just frost, some will shudder at the thought of them because they can be detrimental to plant life, but we have frost protection for that. I find frost beautiful, its like hell froze over and Picasso came out and made his mischievous art. The attention to detail are flawless and divine.

These cute little mustard seedlings mounds are still alive. These kamikaze comrades of mine are deployed for one sole purpose, to get frost bitten, die, and return organic matter into the ground. A very noble cause. I preferred to sow them in Autumn, sown in Spring they do get out of control very quickly if not dealt with.

The orchard can be a very cold place to be in a frosty morning. Now painted in shades of yellow and red, the autumn leafs are falling off the tree onto the ground revealing the skeletal structure of the Summerfruit trees. Pruning them now is going to be more hard work when the wood starts to harden up. And we’ll have to start using Bacseal more vigorously as the tree’s sap flow slows down to a complete stop.

Its over. We have shipped all the grapes to the winery, soon they will make their way into the bottles and head to Europe where they so crave our wine.

The net machine was put on the tractor and we roll up all the nets, store it away for good. Next season, the rolling out of the nets would be a much easier job once we change the multi-row system that we are using now where a roll of net covers a whooping 7 rows. The effort to put out nets over 7 rows is just short of trying to build the Great Wall of China, imagine cracking the whip over the bare sweaty back of slaves.

The first and second strawberries to ripen up at the Orchard Cottage! That’s the Pajaro variety. I had a peak into the Strawberry Cloches and the fruit set are great too! I won’t be completing the project until after I come back from the Biodynamic Conference in early June.

I bought my Citrus! Lemon – Yen Ben and Lime – Bearrs on Monday. Both on the dwarf rootstock. I was going to build the raised beds yesterday but life threw a lemon at me (probably a Meyer variety as it wasn’t that acidic), I received my very first Meridian bill that spans from August 2011 to April 2012. Add that up with the Farmside bill which is due on the same day, its a huge bill. Now, I have to deferred all my planned spending so that I don’t run out of money. At least I ain’t broke, so that’s a Meyer.

I realized that I don’t really know when I can start harvesting them Mesclun Mix and Carrots, I’ll need to research on that. I am not sure I even know how they are suppose to look like, but I think I know, with some good guess. I just did some research, the Majestic Red Carrots takes about 14-16 weeks to mature, I sow them on 25th of March, 15th of July would be the time to harvest them carrots. The Mesclun French Salad Mix on the other hand takes 4-10 weeks to mature, which means that I can harvest them by 3rd of June! Brussels Sprouts will be late winter.

The full moon happens at 4pm today, while the perigee happens at 3pm. Its once a year supermoon, and the time when werewolves wear speedos and a cape and become superwolves!

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