I am not being anti-social, but if you happened to know that I have been man handling cow dung today, you definitely would like to keep your distance.

Behold Maria Thun’s Barrel Manure. In New Zealand, its called the Cow Pat Pit and usually resembles a rectangular pit lined with bricks. But the original one is a bottom-less half a wine barrel buried in the ground. I decided to go with half a wine barrel because it is cheaper and easier. It costs only $60 for the barrel, but if you are going to do it with bricks, you need a minimum of 96 bricks which costs at least $96, and to line them up nicely… uhhh… I’m not a brick layer.

I improved the recipe a wee bit further. I fluffed up the soil at the base with some charcoal and compost to give it more biological activity. The normal CPP used 60kg of cow dung mixed with 200g of crushed egg shells and 300g of Basalt dust. I substituted the Basalt dust with Wally’s Rok Solid which is pretty much the same thing, silica dust. I also added a handful of EF’s Natures Garden. After all the mixing up, I watered in with a shot of Wally’s MBL which is pretty much liquid humate. Then cover with hessian sack, check and fluff monthly and to be used in Autumn, and a new brew will be started at the same time.

An interesting point to note while I was breaking down the cow dung to smaller pieces. They don’t stink. They don’t really smell at all. These are organic cow dung by the way. I got them from a new friend’s ranch where her organic-cow-who-still-has-her-horns is grazing. I pat that lovely cow too, she came up to us! Please, I am not getting all hype up because I am a townie who have never seen a cow before, there’s a paddock right opposite the Orchard Cottage which is sometimes filled with cows, and they usually keep a safe distance from me, they will follow me around, but they will always keep a distance. Its probably because they don’t have horns, makes them un-horny.

I cleaned up half of the cloche to make way for the Paraketia Potatoes. An old potato from the East Coast, and is still well known over there. Its growing habit is amazing, when you dig them up you see that the potatoes grow on long runners in the ground, like strings of potatoes in a line. They are oblong shaped, with round ends, they have purple skin, very shallow eyes and light cream flesh with purple streaking. They have a particularly good flavour, and are best boiled, steamed or in a hangi. That is enough room for 5 seed potatoes, and I am planting 6 more into 2 potato planter bags.

I planted the Yates Majestic Red Carrots in Autumn as part of my leaf-root-legume scatter seed experiment. I had to pull them out to make way for the potatoes, and I am in for a surprise! Most of them are not even babies, more like embryos. The left most is merely a teenager and I have got 3 babies of different shapes. Taste wise, they do taste good raw.

A very interesting notes when I clean the leafy greens. A whole lot of slugs are residing in it! In fact, when I go out at night, I can just about see slugs everywhere! However, the interesting thing is, despite the slugs residing among the leafy greens, there are no slug damage on them!

This Victorian era hand cultivator is really cool and it works like honey! I found it while “digging” around the orchard. I found another one, that’s two, I am going to give them some TLC, then make a contraption that will hold them side by side so that I can have a wider coverage.

The cherries are coming into blossoms in the orchard! Time for the bee man to bring his bees. We are planning on some drastic move in Block 6 where the single leader Lapins grow among the multi leader Lapins. Try to picture the current situation, crammed in a train, standing in the middle of the aisle between two tall basketball players who just finished practice and did not freshen up, both have their hands up in the air, holding the hand rails right above your head all the while exposing the fermenting sweat in their armpits, in the train crammed to the full. Euphoria. We are going to chainsaw all the single leaders at knee height and open up some air space for air movement. In the past season, I remember riding through this block and the whole environment change, no air movement, stuffiness and smells like an abandon boarded up house. Bad for business.

I transplanted the Aloe Vera into a 30mm pot and move it outdoors. It has been sitting tight in a small container for too long that I am just obligated to give a larger space to grow and flourish. Aloe Vera has got many uses. I will use it as a moisturizer, to sooth burns, and also sand flies bites. I will also use it as a pruning or grafting sealant after finding out rose growers use it to patch up wind broken standard roses, which works miraculously.

In the re-potting process, I removed all the baby Aloe Vera, cut away all but one leaf, they all looks like the international hand sign right now, but its all to alleviate transplant stress, and pot them up in little potters. Once I am sure they are going to live, I will be giving them away to good homes.

I have never successfully grafted something before. But one day, I will succeed. Originally this is a Goldbar Apricot on Plumstock. I grafted a Goldbar and a Goldstrike onto the original Goldbar stem. They are lovely apricots, Goldstrike requires Goldbar for pollination.

I also grafted a Goldstrike onto this Goldbar Apricot. Its on the lowest one year old shoot. I plug the scion wood in and then squeeze the Aloe Vera gel to fill in the gaps. Seal the exterior with an organic pruning/grafting sealant from Koanga, and wrap it up. Cross my fingers and hope for the best.

My broad beans are truly going for it now. They are gaining height as I blog, literally. The mikroclima windbreak definitely helped because plants generally don’t grow tall in gusty situations.

A vision came through to me during the week. In it I saw a flowering specimen tree of a weeping form right in the middle of the wildflowers meadow. I got on to Southern Woods and look for weeping flowering specimen tree of the ideal height, not too tall. None truly fit the bill in terms of price and availability, so I dismissed the whole notion. Until Friday, I was in Mitre10 and I had this urge to go into the garden center, and there, right at the center, a solitary weeping flowering cherry – Falling Snow. That was it, it will grow to 3 meters tall final height.

I answered another calling earlier. To collect pre-1800s apple varieties. So I did. I got them in from all over the country, it will take a few years for them to naturalized to the Orchard Cottage micro-climate. I planted them in 45mm self-watering planter pots with a special mix of half and half of compost and organic potting mix, charcoal, wood ash, Neem tree granules and a handful of EF’s Natures Garden. The edges are companion sown with Alyssum and German Chamomile. The apple trees are all of mm106 root stocks as I don’t intend them to be in the pot their entire life. Fully dwarf root stocks would possibly have a weakening effect on the trees. They will need to be root-pruned every few years while in the pot.

Front, left to right,

Devonshire Quarrenden (1676, English) – A beautiful looking apple with bright red skin and sweet flesh that is said to carry a distinctive strawberry flavour. Very popular in Victorian times as a dessert apple but actually dates from Devon in 1676 hence the name. Edible Garden, Palmerston North.

Golden Reinette (1600s, English) –  An ancient variety from Europe that is worth growing for the historical interest alone. The skin is yellow with a strong flush of red and lightly russeted. A good eating apple or can be used for making cider. Good disease resistance. Te Kahuri Nurseries, South Taranaki.

Calville Blanc D Hiver (1598, French) – A revered French Apple dating back to 1598. The medium sized fruit are pale green with a splattering of red dots. The flesh is aromatic, sweet, spicy and juicy making it a popular dessert apple especially for ‘Tarte aux Pomme’. Very high in Vitamin C, ripe in late summer. Country Gardens, Christchurch.

Back, left to right,

Blenheim Orange (1740, English) – A well known English heritage apple from 1740. Large, round, flat fruit with skin that is shaded orange-yellow. The yellow flesh is crisp, sweet, juicy and aromatic with a distinctive nutty flavour. Great for fresh eating or cooking. Mitre10, Christchurch.

Tom Putt (1700s, English) – This English Apple dates back to the late 1700’s. The fruit which ripen in autumn are large and have a flattish appearance. The skin is green flushed red and the flesh is firm and quite sharp in flavour. A superb cooking apple and perfect for making Cider. Named after the Reverend Tom Putt, who was the Rector of Trent when this apple was named.  Wairere Nursery, Hamilton.

Reinette Du Canada (1771, French) – From France dating back to 1771. Ripens very late in the season and stores exceptionally well. The dull green skin is sometimes flushed with a little red and often russeted. The creamy white flesh is firm and juicy with a spicy flavour. Excellent dessert apple. Wairere Nursery, Hamilton.

I treated all the transplants with Arnica C200 today.

This lovely citrus bud on the Lemon Meyer wilted. I thought a caterpillar had sucked it dry and I was looking for it day and night but can’t find it. Then I found scale insects! I watered the roots with Neem oil and spray the canopy with it as well. Neem will literally turn those bugs into retards.

In my 200l liquid manure drum where I brew nettles and thistles of all kind along with worm juice and garlic peels, it usually give off a revolting smell. So, I bought a second hand aquarium air pump and an air stone which I bend into a spiral with a frame made of willow wood. Set the whole thing on a timer which turns on for an hour every six hours. The aeration helps to keep the liquid manure in aerobic condition which promotes good bacterial growth instead of anaerobic which promotes unwanted bacterial growth. In just a weeks time, my liquid manure no longer stinks!

Books from the library continues to pile up. That thick books at the bottom, Science & Civilisation in China. Vol6 Part1 Botany; Part2 Agriculture., my quest to find out more about ancient techniques. Nourishment Home Grown by A.F. Beddoe would be my latest recommendation, its based on Dr Carey Reams’s work. Talks from a scientific point of view of how plants and soil works, in my own opinion, I am very fascinated and definitely going to buy a copy for reference as he goes into more detail than our consultant and salesman can. It is a book neutral of organic or chemical farming methods. Certain chapters are very boring though.

There’s a window I can finally open for warm night. I DIY’ed the insect screen with 0.5mm grade agriculture insect screen. Now, that will keep the lake flies out while I ventilate the house at night. That stick on the table is my Bio Dynamic stirring stick. Patio furniture courtesy of Graham.

Caesar ran into Pat’s car 60km/h car on Monday evening, broke a few teeth and sprained some muscles. I was so worried I took him to Little River Vet so that Paul could give him a proper check up. He also get 2 jabs, a painkiller and an antibiotic. He is doing fine now, a bit of a limp from the sore. I hope this will stop him from stalking and chasing after cars. I don’t want him to get hurt or cause anyone trouble.

How can anyone not adore Caesar?