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Barefoot running is painful. I hit the tar road like an elephant, I can feel every single dent in the road, its as bad as taking a barefoot stroll down one of those foot reflexology path. I ended up running on the grass, which wasn’t all that bad. I think barefoot running is quite nice, I will do it again next week. My friend told me it would take a while before I re-learn running barefoot. Then, I tried barefoot walking, and it is equally as painful, and for a longer period too since I cover grounds slower.

A sore foot did not stop me from doing some gardening though. I found a quick and easy way to control the height of the ground cover without using any tools, be it hedge shears, hedge trimmer, line trimmer, or the chainsaw perhaps.

It’s a bit like hedge laying. All I did is to go along and step them down, folding them down with my feet. Into nice little squares they go. And they stay down, yet alive, and flowering, mostly. Now I can see my berry plants again! They were previously hidden away nicely by the ground covers.

I’ve been scoffing on the strawberries almost everyday. I made a pact with the slugs and snails too. They get free beer from me, and they leave the strawberries alone. In fact, I did the same on the tucker patch so that they will leave my veges alone too! However, I am such a cheapskate for feeding them the cheapest beer I can find in the supermarket, Tasman Bitter it is.

Of the day neutral varieties, I really enjoy the Sunset Strawberries for now, they don’t grow huge, but they are extremely fragrant and sweet, a more complex flavor instead of just sugar. Seascape Strawberries on the other hand size up really well, and I find that the ones that didn’t size up enough do not have much flavor to it. Temptation Strawberries are still a question mark, I have not been wow away so far, still waiting.

The upside down Camarosa Strawberries have also been re-potted. Instead of being upside down, they are now on their side instead. I hope they will recover soon and start contributing some delicious strawberries to my tummy.

On the other hand, if one is looking at strawberries for ground cover, the more exotic and expensive and original version of strawberry, the Alpine Strawberry, even though advertised as runner-less, runs like crazy. They are like ultra marathon runners! Believe it or not, one of them even tried to run out of the raised strawberries bed, from the middle.

We are looking at starting PYO Cherry next Thursday. The orchard will go boom boom boom, and honk honk honk for the next 6 weeks or so. That’s our bird annoying bike. We call it the Bird Banger 2.0. The original version, Bird Banger 1.0 only utilizes a gas powered canon that emits a loud boom. This new version, we also added on a 2 tone horn, as loud as a BMW horn. And also a pole with lots of fluttering blinks that will definitely piss off the stubborn wood pigeons at the top of the canopies.

This Spring turned out to be like last Spring. A Wintery Spring. One that left you feeling short-changed. But as orchardists, we shall soldier on! I might not have any peppers this season. I wonder if I could get my hands on grafted peppers. Hmmm, I just asked Google, and I was told that I can graft peppers onto tomatoes! That will be it next season as I will be saving seeds for tomatoes root stock!

Yays! I just did my first swim in the pool before Spring ends! We have a hot afternoon today, and now the clouds are rolling in again. Bugger that.

This post is a bit all over the place because it was written on Saturday, and Sunday! I’ve been busy. I went over to Governors Bay 2 days in a row to help new friends out with their permaculture section with a great view. It is the first time I use a grubber. It is also the first time I figured out how to prepare beetroots fresh from the ground, you have to peel them. I helped dug a swale for the first time too! Taught them how to manage Peach Leaf Curl as well.

So, here it goes again. No matter how many chemical sprays you put on, you are still going to get Peach Leaf Curl. In UK, they grow peaches and nectarines in greenhouse, so that the rain don’t splash on the leaves and ending up with leaf curl. I think that’s too much for commercial growers who only get about $3 to a kilo at best. Anyway, first up is pruning for good air flow, and planting in a spot with good air flow too. If you observe the shape of the leaves, you will notice that they are rather narrow possibly indicating their adaptation to lots of wind. The best way to manage Peach Leaf Curl is with one hand holding a plastic bag and another pinching out any leaves showing possible signs of infection, right at the start of the season when the leaves are starting to come out. The early signs are tiny red blisters on the leaves. Take out individual leaves for a start, and those you miss at the start will usually infect the entire shoot and you will need to remove them whole as soon as you spot them. Do it every year. Do it every time you take a stroll around your trees. It therefore pays, to have your trees pruned to a reasonable height where you can reach them easily. Though I must say, I am not a fan of the modern dwarf peach and nectarine variety. They are too stunted, the growth too bushy, and is a prime target for pests and diseases, think Brown Rot. One way for height control would be trellis, which is done in the UK greenhouse. Another would be planting 3 or 4 very close together as a guild, closer than the recommended spacing from nursery catalogs, root competition will help restrict growth. Or, maybe throw a tarp over your tree in Spring, or a greenhouse film!

It always amazed me to see people staking their newly planted trees. So much love! We planted quite a lot of trees in the orchard, and we did not stake any of them, except for taller trees, that is, anything taller than me. So, in my own garden planting, none of my trees are staked. The only time a tree fell over, is when Caesar knock the pot over. I get gusty wind here too! So, I think staking is over-rated. But you could possibly argue that staking helps the tree to establish themselves faster. Therefore, let’s agree to disagree and do what makes you feel better at the end of the day. Oh, I did stake the Apple Mother on a M9 root stock, it helps me to sleep at night. Cheers!

I’ve got some Powdery Mildew on the Pinot Gris and Apple Tropicana. Sprayed Thuja C30 on them, and I will need to monitor the condition and do a Thuja C200 on them soon. I did remove the infected shoots off the Apple Tropicana. The spray seems to help as the signs are easing on the Pinot Gris. I have somehow decided as a principal not to use elemental Copper and Sulfur in my own garden, not even spraying oil, except Neem Oil. It is totally hardcore soil health and plant health.

Coolest portrait of Caesar so far. I figured something out about him recently, being of a Border Collie and a Labrador Retriever cross, he must have got his wiring mixed up. He is now retrieving the sheep, and rounding up fallen game.


Yay! All the tomatoes are finally in the ground! I did not actually follow the planting plan that has been changed over and over again.

I planted 16 in the tucker patch. And then 8 in the cloche, which Caesar promised he will help to chase the birds away. This is my first season growing tomatoes, so I need to find out the best spot for them, and see if they get more heat if planted just by the house.

I’ve also got some tomatoes from the garden center. Tomaccio got my attention with all its advertising, and its like the only tomato I know with its own website! Its the type of variety bred for the making of sun dried tomatoes. I bought 2, one in the greenhouse and another one in the tucker patch to see the different in performance.

I also bought 2 grafted tomatoes. I wasn’t interested in the tomatoes that they are going to bear, but I am interested in the seeds off the root stock! There’s 2 type of grafted tomatoes, one which is a top graft (Megatom), and another one is very interesting, the original seedling still half connected to its own roots, and the stem of a root stock plant grafted into the side of it (Supertom). I have to browse through the displayed plants to find the ones that have new shoots growing out of the root stock.

My little apple and pear orchard is doing well. The white alyssum has started to flower around the edge of the pots and the apple tree has little apples on them. I can’t wait to take a bite out of these 200 years old cultivar, that is if I have any apple growing skills.

Behold the tucker patch. This is the part sheltered from the cold Southerlies by the house.

I think the whole thing looks like a weedy mess to most people. If I indeed achieved that perspective, then I have indeed created diversity! I allowed the ground covers to smother the fruit trees that are not bearing this year, and for those that are bearing, I keep the ground cover down. There’s lots of veges growing among them too!

I have also achieved abundance! That’s from one row of broad beans. I have 5 rows, 3 remaining. There’s so many of them, I can’t harvest them all at once, so they are occupying the ground, and the tomatoes can’t go into their place, and thus the tomatoes are planted all over the place. Lesson, Summer crop follows Winter crop, Summer crop can’t follow Spring crop, etc etc. I am going to make soup with all those broad beans.

This is the other setup of the strawberry patch. I have took away the frost cloth and put in bird netting which was attached to a lid frame. The next stage is to attach the frost cloth to the frame on top of the bird netting.

The view from Orchard Cottage. The wildflowers are now showing off the low growing blend. Just filled with lots and lots of poppies!

We love out roses. This is Emanuel from 1985. It is a David Austin rose.

Glamis Castle from 1992, David Austin rose.

Lydia from 1973, a climbing rose.

To think that all of them got stripped by possums last Autumn. I am glad I have Caesar around to keep them away.

At the orchard, we hired some backpackers for a couple of weeks. It is a very interesting experience this time. One of them kept asking for a pay rise, which is very annoying. So I sat him down and explained to him, due to the fact that him and most people are buying the cheapest groceries that they can get their hands on, Pack&Slave, he would have known that he can buy fruits and vegies at dirt cheap price. He nods. There, I put 1 and 1 together, growers are barely breaking even because the eaters are not willing to pay more, how can I afford a pay rise?

One day, we sent them into the orchard to remove suckers at the base of the cherry trees. At the end of the day, they complained it is hard work. I rolled my eyes mentally, and tell them I hope they finally understand that food growing is not easy, that fresh produce don’t just miraculously show up in the supermarket. Is is very sad to see modern society in general so disconnected from the real food process.

Caesar does planking too!

I spent the entire weekend doing a crash course in food forest permaculture design in Lyttelton. I was so grateful that the team at Project Lyttelton organized it and allowed me from the other side of the summit to participate along. I can read all about permaculture, all about horticulture, but it would never beat the experience of learning it in person from someone who has walk the talk, and also take me through it hands on.

Its great to get to know more people too! To expand my social circle, and stop being a hermit in Kaituna Valley. I know I am turning into one when I don’t really have a social life. Or, my social life involves me hanging out in my manager, Grant’s garden. Rural life can be cruel to ones social life.

The greatest secret of pot luck discovered! Scour through the garden and find what’s in season. Then, there’s no need to spend a single cent at the supermarket to whip up a meal. Strawberry sandwiches with Bio Dynamic strawberries. I wonder what will be in season for the 1st December Kaituna Valley Christmas Pot Luck.

I have moved the upside down strawberries from the patio to the woodshed, they get more sunlight there. I just can’t bear to give them too much of a hard time. Partially, its also because some of them are starting to wilt, and just not doing well. I need to find out the error in cultivation before I have their saps in my hand. One possibility is the lack of sunlight, which I have remedied. Another might be the unsuitability of a transparent container. Or it might be the use of peat as a potting mix, once dried out, is not easy to re-wet, so a re-potting with more compost in the mix might help.

In the orchard, we finally got all the wildflower seeds and herbay ley sown. And now, this heavy rain is pounding them into the soil and help to kick start germination. Looks like we are well prepared for next season’s display of colors.

Caesar is being such a darling! Did I mentioned he destroyed the phone last week? He gave me an excuse to spend some money on an answer phone from Noel Leeming. I couldn’t blame him, Border Collie has got a very destructive behavior when they were bored. Being put under house arrest for 3 days would drive any one crazy, not to mention a puppy.

Yes. I am now in a relationship with Sally!

She is the infamous tractor of Kaituna Orchards. One day while driving this nameless tractor, it dropped in on me that I should name her Sally. Rumor has it that it cost more to keep her going than the purchase price. As we are in a situation where a brand new tractor is not an immediate possibility, I will just have to build a good relationship with her and coax her to get the job done without much hiccups. Now, I might just name every other things on wheels in the orchard…

We have a cold wet spell yesterday, I am stuck indoors. Finally, there is a reason to start baking again! Its the first loaf of bread I have baked in a long time, I have lost my original recipe and had to look it up on the internet for a reasonably simple one. This wasn’t the best, in fact, I think this is worse than the first bread I have baked in my life. Next time, it will be better.

After the rain stopped temporarily, I went out and clear away the other annuals that serve as a Winter blanket for the roses. The cornflowers and poppies, very lovely in their own right, is stealing all the limelight off the roses, as if they have not had enough in their wildflowers meadow. A firm hand with no remorse does the trick.

General Gallieni (1899), tea.

Ispahan (1832), damask.

4 out of 6 of the straggly strawberry plants are alive! One of them literally sprang back to life! I hope the other 2 is just taking a rest beneath the surface before rising from the dead again.

Looks like I am all set for Summer. My first plantings of the 2 brothers are coming up nicely. They managed to survive the late hail and frost, tucked away neatly under a blanket of frost cloth.

Broad beans are the top crop for Spring 2012. I have sown Broad Bean Superaguadulce and Broad Bean Dwarf Early Green, both from Kings Seeds and they came up beautifully. So full of vitality, they just take the beating of hail and the freezing of frost, from Autumn, through to Winter, in to Spring! The birds and slugs and little bugs have so much respect for the broad beans that they literally leave the plants alone! I am so proud to have this triumph under my belt, knowing that I can confidently sow this crop next season with pretty much a guaranteed harvest.

I cleaned out one of the five rows to make way for the tomato plants that I am going to put in later this week. I finally experienced my first glut! Without being a glutton, I gave them all away. Bio Dynamic broad beans.

Out of pure curiosity, I bought myself a bumble bee nest, so that I have something physical to copy and build myself more. Might make some to put all around the orchard too! Bumble bees are like farmers, they work whatever the weather. Honey bees are like orchardists, whenever the weather turns wet or cold, they stay home and put the jug on.

Oh my Caesar lost his balls, Ee i ee i oh! I had him neutered on Friday, just about 28 weeks old. I thought of waiting till he is 9 months old but decided against it when at 7 months, his testosterone is driving him feral.

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