You are currently browsing the monthly archive for October 2013.

Its windy all weekend, I wonder when will I get the chance to treat the lawn with some persistent weed spray. There’s also a few stuff that I need to spray off, but they will have to wait till the wind calms down. In the mean time, the other garden chores gets done.

My first batch of coffee bean germination ended up as a fermented failure. I did not realized the cause until I did the second batch. Second time around, instead of using the sprouting kit, I had all the beans in a bowl filled with water. As the water starts to cloud up, I refresh it with fresh water. Then, I realized, the beans are shedding off a thin outer film, which when I refresh the water, washed them away, but in the first trial, they remain, and start to ferment.

Anyway, I have hand picked all the sprouted beans and sow them in the 72 cells seed trays which I have trimmed down to 66 cells so that I can fit 3 trays into each level of the outdoor nursery shelves. I have got 3 trays going and they are sitting on the top level. And I still have plenty of beans remaining, and sprouting, so I might get another 3 trays going soon. I have also got a tray each of goji berry, rhubarb, and globe artichoke.

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The first pot of potatoes that I started is finally topped off this week. Hopefully, some Xmas new potatoes.

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Should I eat this broccoli now or wait till it size up further? I am tempted to harvest it now and have side shoots soon.

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And the Precoce Romanesco has started to form a head too! That was fast, and less foliage bulk compare to the standard green broccoli.

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I am holding out for this Purple Dragon carrot! It appears to be the only one that I will ever be able to eat from the greenhouse. The rest decided to go to seed, and I pulled them out and put them into the compost bin.

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A mature Walnut tree is majestic. But a young one like this has got quite elegant foliage too!

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And the Pecan is not missing out either.

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Emanuel (1985) – This is a very robust and free flowering rose, bearing large, rosette-shaped flowers that are cupped at first; the petals later reflexing. The colour is soft apricot, paling to cream on the outer petals. The flowers are produced very freely, in large clusters elegantly poised on the end of slightly arching stems. They have a delightful Tea Rose fragrance. Named for ‘The Crocus Trust’, which has been set up to help sufferers affected by colorectal cancer.

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Glamis Castle (1992) – Pure white, cup-shaped flowers of typical Old Rose character. Its growth is quite short and bushy with numerous twiggy branches, upon which it bears flowers with quite exceptional freedom and continuity – making it ideal both as a border rose and for bedding. It has an English Rose, myrrh fragrance. Glamis Castle is the childhood home of The Queen Mother and the legendary setting of Shakespeare¹s play ‘Macbeth’.

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Ispahan (1832) – Damask, its origins are unknown, but it probably came from the Middle East. Double blooms of pink. Highly fragrant. Vigorous, healthy habit.

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Blanc Double de Coubert (1892) – Rugosa, created in France by Charles Pierre Marie Cochet-Cochet. Semi-double blooms of the purest white. Very fragrant. Continuous flowering. Shade tolerant. Disease resistant.

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General Gallieni (1899) – Tea, bred by Nabonnand. Full cupped bloomss. Red blends. Very fragrant and repeat flowering.

What I find with roses, no matter how disease resistant the claims are. They still do get affected by black spot and aphids. But that’s alright, they still produce masses of beautiful flowers! Anyway, I am thinking of adding a few more hybrid teas to the Orchard Cottage somewhere. Some interesting bi-colors and more exotic colors. The spot I can think of is by the side of the privet hedge, or the old strawberry patch. I have been browsing on South Pacific Roses, and the following do catch my attention, Copper & Bronze, Cleopatra, Tequila Sunrise, Peace, Sheilas Perfume, The Lady. I would also like a red hybrid tea but I am unable to decide between, Precious Platinum, Cardiff Bay, and Red Velvet.

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Well, I went to South Pacific Roses today and had a good look and finally decided on some, took them home and planted them along the back of the old strawberry patch, in pairs. From left, Copper & Bronze, Red Picadilly, Black Beauty, Deep Secret, Sheila’s Perfume, The Lady, Cardiff Bay, Precious Platinum, Joyfulness, and Peace. These are all hybrid teas. It will be very interesting to see the more formal roses along the path transition into the wildflowers behind.

Apart from fruiting plants, veges and wildflowers, I seemed to be obsessed with roses. I think it is probably the only flowering plant that I will grow just for flowers.

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I finally, after much procrastination, got around to getting the fertigation kit going. This is a venturi injector, it works, and it is cheap. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to get it from TradeMe, but on eBay, there’s plenty, some with free shipping. I got the 1/2″ kit because I thought my water pressure was a bit too low, I had a 10Lpm flow rate. I had, until something fishy happened recently.

I bought some fancy new liquid fertilizer, came home and wanted to try it out, but as I fill the watering can, I discovered the water pressure was significantly low. I thought the farmers must have blown a pipe somewhere, or the cow knocked the water pump that service our houses over. Anyway, I took a walk around the forest garden as usual to chillax, and hear what appears to be the sound of leaking water. Presto! The joiner of the supply pipe had come loose, just beside the house, so I connected it back up and the water pressure is back.

My watering hose, has got a leak in it, which I patched up with some tape, and water usually just seeps out. Now, water is pissing out, leading me to suspect something is different with my water pressure. So I measured it today, and it doubled up to 20Lpm! No wonder it blew the joiner loose in the first place. Looks like the owner has decided to give us a big upgrade, thanks lots!

That said, my 1/2″ venturi kit is now a tad too small, so I decided to order a new 1″ venturi kit on eBay, and its on its way ;). Step it down to 3/4″ fittings and it will work like magic without impacting water flow to the rest of the irrigation pipeline too badly. The puzzles are falling in place together. Worm farm feeding on used coffee grounds for worm juice. Comfrey leaves for liquid comfrey. Fertigation to deliver them all around the forest garden! That’s good, because I am getting lazy to go around to foliar spray the plants, Canterbury AP Show Day is the cut off for my blanket foliar spray that covers the entire forest garden.

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Looking at this photo, I still haven’t figure out what I am going to do with the roof water catchment tank now. One idea is, with some ingenuity, turn it into a duck pond for my future Muscovies. It is not that hard, just need to cut it down to 200L from 1000L. Put some gravel in to form a bank. It’s already got a tap, so its easy to drain, and the drain has already been dug, rain water will replenish and refresh the pond. Mound up soil hugelkultur style around the “pond” and viola!

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Last week, I mentioned about my citrus troubles. And I asked around for opinions and got quite a few, that I sort of just lost myself in it, and decided to go about and improvise.

For the indoor potted citrus, the challenge is to keep the top layer of soil moist to keep the surface feeder roots healthy, as potting mix are quite free draining, all the water will eventually goes down to the bottom catchment. Usually, before this catchment dries out, the surface dried out, and you would have to water again, but as the water seeps down, and the catchment overfills, you get water everywhere. The solution I came up with is to incorporate water holding crystals into the top layer of the soil and just about anything that holds moisture well, and the mulch heavily. I hope it works. And I really have to watch my watering on the potted plants. To improvise even further, I decided to hydrate the water holding crystal with liquid seaweed solution, which essentially, we can hydrate the water holding crystal with any form of liquid fertilizer.

For the outdoor citrus, they were planted in raised beds with very free draining soil. I have already mulched the top heavily with used coffee grounds, so I am probably not going to break up the mulch and incorporate water holding crystals at the moment. Instead, I tried dealing with the spider mite problem by reducing dryness which spider mite thrives on. I’ve setup misters, 2 on each side, that jets mist into the canopy every morning for 3 minutes. The subsequent droplets will also fall on the drip line of the tree and help keep the soil surface sufficiently moist for the rest of the day. It seemed to be working and I am going to setup the same for the citrus on the hugelkultur beds.

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As for nutrition, I am going to try Wallys Matrix Reloaded, N:P:K 53.9: 11.0: 86.8 (g/L), also Ca 43: Mg 10: S 16.8: Plus Fe, Mn, Cu & B. Highly concentrated stuff used in high dilution which I will use to foliar feed. And Garden Works Garden Guano Bloom, NPK 10-10-2+TE for watering in. Then, of course, there’s also the diluted man juice, for outdoor plants only! I had a feeling I am going down the path of, if you can’t fix the soil, foliar feed instead, if it works…? Not a very organic approach to the purist.

Finally, I’ve got a proper soil PH test kit which I am going to start testing them soil. I’ve just tested the used coffee grounds, and they had a pH between 5-5.5, which is pretty acid. There in proving that the McGregor’s 3 in 1 Soil Tester is not getting the pH right as suspected, the tester read a 7 on just about all solid medium, it did get the pH right when I put it in a vinegar dilution. Good mulch for all the acid loving plants. I’m also going to feed them to the worm farm.

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The latest addition to Orchard Cottage, a tea plant. So it says on the label, “easy to grow, easy to brew”. Seriously hope so. There’s this little spot by the house facing the North, I used to grow, and is still growing Biodynamic weeds in here, but guess its time for a bit of an upgrade. After all, an empty plot can’t grow weeds forever, natural progression sees to it that a higher form takes over.

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Finally, after a year, General Gallieni (1899), is flowering properly. Last year, it keeps putting out ugly deformed flower. I think one of the key to dealing with these old world roses is to prune them consistently. If any flower buds are facing the wrong way, cut if off. If the flower is done, cut it off. If the stem is weak or going the wrong way, cut if off. Prune prune prune, and be rewarded.

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Glamis Castle flowering well too. Somehow, I don’t enjoy David Austin roses that much, it is probably because they don’t comply very much to the modern romantic bouquet of tea rose. But if you are looking to amass lots of rose petals, these are the one to go for.

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And I spotted the latest bloom in the wildflowers meadow. A velvety red flower.

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Poppies of different colours.

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Phacelia has started to flower too. That will totally bring on the bees who are now still obsessed with the lavenders.

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This will be the final year for me to grow climbing peas. I will stick with dwarf peas next season onward. Though, there are just masses of them, my greenhouse looks as if it is weed infested from the outside. The peas are podding up beautifully, I will hold back from harvesting them for a week. The carrots in there, most of them are going to seed, they got pulled out and chucked into the compost bin. I also took heaps of wasted brown mushrooms home from work to add to the compost bin, with hope of introducing the spores to the Orchard Cottage.

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Look! A broccoli head is forming! Broccoli is in very short supply in South Island right now, prices are sky rocketing.

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All the citrus on the hugelkultur beds out back have received grass clippings mulch. Cosy and nicely tucked in. Further watered down with diluted man juice. I planted a spreading rosemary in between each plant. Sow lucerne, lupin, allysum, borage, and whatever herbs I have in the seed box.

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Walnut is finally waking up, mid-Spring. Sure take its own sweet time to wake up.

Last weeks wet weather has resulted in leaf curl on the supposedly healthy Orchard Peach. Interestingly, the Northern part of the tree is least affected, most of the curly leaf is concentrated on the Southern aspect. I am doing a tripple mix of Seasol, MBL, and Mycorrcin foliar spray this week.

John and Tina came over today to pick up some green coffee beans for growing. Gave them a tour of the forest garden and picked John’s brain on a lot of thing. After all, he is greener than me. So we decided on a way to do cherry on trellis. And to get the hazelnuts into open centers. And to strip the fruits off the top canopies so that it does not distort the shape of the tree. And the sad looking new growth on the Santa Rosa Plum is perfectly normal. And my broccoli is perfectly healthy and unaffected by the caterpillar! Well, I have not seen that white butterfly around, yet.

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The herb pot was renovated. I don’t use the herbs anyway. In they go, soil and all into the compost bin. I got 2 funky ficus and 3 sticks of bamboo to occupy the pot. They look very interesting. Definitely more of a sight compare to herbs.

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The Orchard Cottage this week.

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Caesar is enjoying the shade right now. The weather is getting warmer, soon the soil will be warm enough for Jerusalem Artichokes to go in.

Almost 60mm of rain at one go. And -0.3dC overnight. That’s not too bad. Just as I thought I would have to start irrigating the forest garden.

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So, after the rain, everything became greener and taller. There’s more poppy ready to flower, and phacelia too ready to start their bee festival.

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About bees. They are loving the flowering comfrey now. And they still love the lavender too! An interesting observation, the bees seem lethargic these few days, probably due to the cold. They are flying slower, working slower, and hanging onto longer at each flower. I can almost hear them say, “I’m to old for this”.

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Poppy wears a hat.

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Little pecan tree decided to wake up. Only the walnut trees are left asleep now. And Apple Mother is still asleep too, sound asleep!

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The grapes are doing what I am asking them to do. Matakana Gold and Iona is doing fine. Cardinal on the other hand is really weak, and Muscat Hamburg is just limping along. It might take another season before they find their footing and shoot away.

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With any luck, I will have TWO apricots to snack on this year. A Gold Bar and a Gold Strike, that’s it.

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After doing this gardening thing for some time, the one thing that still amazes me is the assortment of garden hand tools! Yet, from what the market has to offer, sometimes it just wasn’t good enough to do the job. I have got 2 daisy weeder, a short handle and a long handle, you are suppose to be able to lever out tap rooted plants with this tool but it doesn’t work all the time, most of the time I resort to spaghetti roll them out of the ground. Then, there’s the 3 tyne cultivator, which I have removed 2 tyne and just left with one, works really well for cultivating my raised beds. I truly enjoy single tyne cultivator, even had a long handle old school Victorian one. The latest addition is the weed extractor by Wolf-Garten. The way I plan to use this tool is as a replacement for the daisy cultivator. Using the edge to sever the stem from the roots beneath soil surface, use like a chisel. I could have just bought a chisel.

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These flowering plum somehow managed to creep into the hedgerow. They will be grafted onto next season. I have done all my stonefruit grafting on Friday. The apples are done today. I hope they will take. At least one of each variety, will make me real happy. Or at least one. Haha!

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I am germinating green coffee beans in a sprouting kit. Google says it takes 60 days for them to germinate. Well, I managed to get some movements in just 3 days. We’ll see how it goes.

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I don’t really have much luck with Citrus. Look at this Lemon Yen Ben.

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And this Lemon Meyer.

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And the Orange Cara Cara. I think this is caused by spider mite.

I suspect it is some form of nutrient deficiency due to soil PH. Whatever it is, I am on a mission to get them back to good health.

We had another 12mm downpour overnight. That’s giving everything a really good drink. I did some weeding around the garden, make some space for the roses beneath the trees so that they have some better chances of establishing themselves.

Emptied out the 200L worm farm bin too. There were still some tiger worms in it, I am not quite sure it quite work because I fed a mix of stuff, and some wrong stuff in it. So there are still some undigested stuff all over. Threw some into the compost bin, some I spread around the apricot trees. I have got a real purpose built worm farm coming in the mail soon, and I am going to feed them mainly coffee grounds this time.

Finally, on a side note, I have watched Passion of Christ many times, the first time I watched it, I was in college, I don’t really have many reaction to it. Nowadays, the scene where Mary knock things over and ran over to Jesus when he fall down as a child, will definitely make me burst into tears. A mother’s unconditional love for her child, the seed for a better world.

My second take on tomato grafting is a huge success. Both Indigo Rose on Tomaccio and Tomaccio on Indigo Rose has taken! They are now sitting on top of the fridge hardening out. I have since grafted Black Cherry onto Indigo Rose, Tomaccio and Monte Carlo F1. I have also grafted Indigo Rose onto Oaxacan Jewel and Monte Carlo F1. In this twist of event, I ended up testing Indigo Rose on different rootstocks instead of Tomaccio. So far so good, all the subsequent grafting has taken. Cellophane tape seems to work rather well to bind the graft, I wonder if I could use it for tube grafting replacing the rubber tubing.

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Now this has gotten under way, I realize the need of the high dome propagator. Unfortunately, and surprisingly, its not sold in NZ, but I have since asked on LSB and hope I can get some answers. Otherwise, they would have to come from eBay shipped out of the states.

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This has been on my to-do list for ages. I finally got to finish it off today, add in the sprinklers, hook it up to the irrigation with the electronic timer on it. Done and dusted, calibrated. Now I will need another set of electronic timer for the main irrigation system. This can be a simple one that can be turned on for longer hours as I am using it for drip irrigation and no longer for frost fighting.

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The weather has been warm. This is the first pot of potatoes I have done, 5 weeks ago, and I just added another layer of comfrey leaf, neem granules and hill up with compost. I had a look through some leftover potatoes in the drawer meant for the tummy, and wow, those have chit really well with nice long thick shoots! I will sow the purple heart, agria, and desiree together in the wine barrel. I have another pot of paraketia potato to start next week, then I will be down to the small pots which I will be using the tiny seed potatoes from Koanga, grown from actual seeds.

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I stumbled upon a snail on the window. Why is it on the window? I don’t recall hiring a window cleaner.

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I have stripped the dwarf peas of their peas. We shall see if I can get a subsequent crop off them. In the meantime, the greenhouse has been a sight to behold. Lush growth of peas growing at weed-like proportion in there. I might have too much pea that I end up with a peaver and get nightmares and pea in my pants.

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And asparagus peas too! Oh dear… I can see that glut coming around the corner, pea pea pea.

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So, I took some cuttings of the gooseberry, and poke them deep into the saffron pot, and forget about them. And here they are, reminding me that I put them there. These can come out and go into the hedgerow come Winter, along with the other currants cuttings that have rooted.

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Avocado Hass on the left and Bacon on the right. I have decided not to let the not so hardy plants camp it out in the greenhouse any longer. The weather is getting very sunny and hot, any plants in pots will easily dry out easily and weaken the plant.

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And I mowed the lawn. And dump the lawn clippings around the plants. There’s extra heat right there. I’ve also jumped the gun and start my corn hybridization program early, trying to combine Early Gem, Rainbow Inca and Silver Platinum and see what I can get. I sow 2 lot in there. I think this will be a very good spot, and I can sow the mainstream ones on the tucker patch and their pollen won’t get mixed up.

The only good thing about a lawn is that I get lawn clippings to mulch all those trees in the forest garden!

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From left, Satsuma Miho, Tangor Kiyomi, Satsuma Silverhill. Out they go into their designated spot at the back of the house. The hugelkultur beds are ready to finally host the citrus and avocado.

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From left, Grapefruit Golden Special, Tangelo Seminole, Orange Best Seedless. All the citrus are on Flying Dragon dwarf rootstock, and the avocados are on the more cold hardy Zutano rootstock. The end result, they are raised at least 1 feet off the ground in a very warm bed. I will probably be applying straw as mulch.

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The aphids on the Austin roses seem to have scattered. Before, they were all on the right most plant, but now there’s not much left, and I saw some on the middle plant, but not at a scary proportion. Something must have come along and have a big feast of aphids. Thank you very much you unsung hero!

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I like bumble bees. I was stalking them today trying to get some macro shots while they were bumbling around the lavenders. They are amazing, scientifically, they are not supposed to be able to fly, yet they fly. And for things that can’t fly but do fly, they can accidentally collide in mid-air without subsequent explosion or crash and burn.

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I can count 2 poppy flowering in the forest garden. Soon it will be a bee paradise.

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Just as well, they can help to pollinate all my fruit trees. Apples are flowering now. I have also gone around and did some pruning just to tidy things up.

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I am an impulse shopper. I saw this Red Cherry Guava at the garden centre. Why not? Heh!

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If you have the red one, you should also get the yellow one too! They will be a great addition to the hedgerow-in-making. Yes, I’m a sucker at impulse purchase.

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The Orchard Cottage this week. You can’t see it but the wildflowers are growing taller day by day.

I did barefoot running today. It was a bit crazy as I have not done any running for God know how long. And I just go for it today, did an hour of running at a rather good and consistent pace too! I did thought of doing a 30 minute run at first, but at that turn around point, I decided to just raise the stakes. Feels good!

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