You are currently browsing the monthly archive for January 2014.

Today marks the first day of the Chinese New Year. Traditionally, if I am back in KL, I’ll be getting red packets of money from my parents and just about anyone I know and met that is married. The joys of a kid that is, and when we learned to gamble, this is the time to have mini casinos with friends and families and just gamble away, and wash it down with lots of festive snacks and what not. Anyway, this is going to be a good year for me, according to what the Feng Shui experts say.

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So I completed the framework for the strawberry bed, along with the 4 covers. The raw materials came together pretty nicely. I am pretty proud that it is perfectly imperfect, and probably the most complicated thing I have built so far. I’ve had some plans to keep the lids in an open position, but the end product shows that it can stay open on its own. Now,  I’ll just wait for dad to come over and we will put the netting on.

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These are the NZ heirloom Paraketia potatoes. I’ve been growing them in 40cm pots, 3 seed in a pot. As you can see, they are truly of a gourmet size, and smaller. From my observation, it doesn’t seem to form much potatoes at the top, most of them are concentrated towards the bottom, but there were 3 seeds growing at the bottom, perhaps, they didn’t size up that well due to competition for space. Next season, I’ll try multistorey growing. One seed at the base, and then another seed at the middle tier. We shall see what happens then. Still, I’m not complaining about gourmet size potatoes, they are the perfect bachelor size potatoes, and for boiling up and adding to salad whole.

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Chervil self seeding now on the hugelkultur bed.

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An upgrade to the main fertigation system. This is still work in progress, a solar air pump and mini float valve is on its way from eBay somewhere. I’ll be brewing compost tea in the drum itself, the venturi kit will be sucking the juice directly out of the system, and while it is going, the mini float valve will ensure the drum never runs dry, and the solar air pump provides aeration to keep the compost tea aerobic and prevent larvae growth. I’ve already filled it with a lot of comfrey leaves. I choose a black drum to exclude sunlight, hopefully, to stop algae growth in there.

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This is Raspberry Ivory. Its a yellow raspberry. I’m going to dig them out in Winter and move them into pots.

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In sequence, Early Gem does really well here, Silver Platinum first to flower and a bit lanky, Rainbow Inca good strong plant, Painted Mountain doing better than Silver Platinum.

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The first tomato is ready! Indigo Rose. Really strong plant. Highly recommended!

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Some windfall here, Gravenstein, Tom Putt, and William bon Chretian.

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Just look at the roses!

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I am pretty sure this is Cleopatra.

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This is my all time favorite. Its a very detailed rose with nice soothing color.

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This jelly bean poppy decided to do a bit of shades.

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The wildflowers meadow is still going strong. Rudbeckias and daisies flowering, a bit of poppy here and there, and the rest are setting seeds for the next season.

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That’s the possums manor. I’m going to set the Goodnature A12 trap there. I have ordered more canisters and  a hit counter. So, we will keep track of this and see if the trap is playing up, if it is, Goodnature will be servicing it for free.

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The orchard cottage this week. I have started up my running program again. This time, its going to be running, and not jogging. The plan is to do 2 burst, run for my life to the church, catch my breath, then run for my life back to the cottage. I think this is a more useful form of training, in case a tsunami hits, no one is going to jog for their lives.

I need to get a USB keyboard, some of my keys have decided to stop working. 12347890=.

 

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Raining in town but not out here. Its bone dry out here in the valley despite having to turn up the car wiper just 5 minutes away. Two days of good rain in town, not a single drop out here. OK, I’m exaggerating, I’ve got 0.3mm of rain. The plan is to continue the existing irrigation program until Autumn, and I’ll start toning it down so that the plants get the idea to prepare for dormancy. That said, the poplars along Bonehill Vineyard has started to shed their leaves. Are they that sensitive to shortening day length?

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I don’t know what this variety of tomato is. But it is sooooo cute! Paint it grey, and it might actually look like a good old fashion pumpkin too!

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In permaculture design, they preach the full exploitation of the edge factor. Utilizing the gap between canopies, along the drip lines of larger trees. Maximum diversity, so on and so forth. And I, have unknowingly utilized the edge factor by growing vegetables in between fruit trees planted along the tucker patch.  Every conventional gardener says it can’t be done. This is my second year doing it, with good results.

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Roses! Finally some traditional dark velvet red roses. And something colorful as well. I’m glad that they established themselves well. Holding them off from flowering from the initial planting does yield good results.

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The gladioli that I got from Koanga Institute is just beautiful!

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So, you would have remember sometime back, I spent $199 on a Goodnature A12 Possum Bach Kit. Each canister can kill 12 possums, and the bach kit comes with 3 canister, theoretically, I would be able to bag 36 possums. Unfortunately, I only ended up with less than a handful and 3 empty canister, and no idea what is wrong, probably a faulty or leaking A12 Possum Trap. Money well spent? Yea… nah. I am yet unable to remove the trap for inspection despite following the instruction manual. With all the spare parts still in a box, I manage to come up with this idea when I am doing my business in the toilet. Won’t you agree that’s where the best idea is usually born? Drill a hole into the spare bite block so that it can slide up the metal rod in the good old possum trap, spread the possum paste from the spare tube generously into the bite block. This is pretty much fool proof. And I don’t need to worry about rotten apples, or stolen apples.

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Got some bamboo hoops for my potted berries. Gave them a little prune to cut off all the canes that have fruited. Its quite easy to spot because they show obvious signs of senescence. Ate some yummy blueberries too!

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The sides have gone in on all the new raised beds. I’m starting to build up the base layer on one of the beds. Sheet mulched with thick newspapers, then I mix of used coffee grounds and spent compost from the potatoes pot goes in. I might be adding some greens in considering I can get an abundance of them from work. It will be composting in situ. No coffee grounds for the asparagus bed as they don’t like acidic soil. Perhaps, rotten branches from all around might work. Maybe wait till Autumn and gather up the oak leaves.

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That’s the strawberries bed, work in progress. The gap on the sides will be patched up with mesh, it serves to give a raised side of about 15cm before the slanting mesh roof takes over. The covers will be 4 pieces, 2 a side. This is perhaps going to be one of the most complicated things I am building so far.

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I’ve marked out the full grown edge of the nut trees to find out how things will look like when they are matured. And of course, to find opportunities to plant up the edge with some apple trees and stone fruits. Definitely there are some part where a few stone fruits can go in where they is an imaginary heat trap, and apple trees will line up the other parts. And maybe some pears? As I planned to use the clearing in the middle for my sweetcorn project next season, I found out it was not round in shape, but more of double rounds. The plan is to do a S shape with tails that curl deep into itself, like Sssssss, haha! Anyway, I will know if it works when I start lining up the compost bags to make the pattern. It will be two spiral that joins up. I think its quite symbolic. Now I just need to be able to save my first generation Kaituna corn seeds.

Having pruned the roses quite steadily for a few weeks to keep them from flowering and also to get some structure in, I have finally let them loose, and see what they can come up with.

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That’s a beautiful bi-colour one.

I ate a Devonshire Quarrendon the other day. There were 2 apples left on the tree, when I checked it, both has fallen, one has been gnawed by a possum, and the other is in good  condition, gave it a good brush on the shirt, and it’s in my mouth, yum! It’s a bit of a ritual for me, a good sniff to make sure it smells good. And then a bite, hoping it is truly ripe. It will then be either chucked away or completely eaten, depending on the edible-ness of the fruit in question.

I thought the Gravenstein were quite ready too! I bought all the ingredients required for making an apple crumble. Unfortunately, when I checked them, they are still quite green, I am still waiting for a bit more yellow come through for ripeness. Just as well, I forgot the vanilla ice cream.

While we were on the topic of apples. My latest plan is to plant a Belgian Fence along the north facing fence. It will run for about 14 metres, at 50cm spacing, would accommodate about 28 trees. It will start off with a columnar crab apple, then every other tree will be a crab apple, just to add interest. Golden Hornet, Gorgeous, Jack Humm, Jelly King, and Wright’s Scarlet, are the crab apples I can get my hands on, all from Edible Garden. I’m starting it up with healthy apple, Monty’s Surprise, Hetlina, Tropicana, Calville Blanc D Hiver, and Fuero Rous. Then connoisseur’s apple, Cox Orange Pippin, Mother, Jonagold, Tydeman’s Late Orange, and Freyberg. Perhaps, the 3 different apple trees by the road too! I am indeed very exited about this whole Belgian Fence thing!

At the same time, I’ll be adding a few more apple varieties to the collection, expanding to the 1700s. I will get scionwood and do my own grafting whenever I can, to save on cost.

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There’s also a slight change of plan for this trellising project, instead of doing a plain cordon, I’m going to do a candelabra. And to spice things up further, at the vertical point for the bottom and middle tier, I’ll be grafting a different variety on! Just to add interest, I’m doing the grapes and cherries on plain cordon already anyway, and there’s a Belgian Fence coming, and this will be a nice template to try out candelabra.

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Woot! Not supposed to be having any grapes this year as I am focused on setting up the plant framework. Pinched off.

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I found this growing where it was. I think its Raspberry Ivory. Might as well dig it up in Winter and put it in a pot. Since I have already paid royalty in its purchase price. I know its not a Llyod George from the pattern of the spines, Lloyd George is ferocious.

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WIP. The 4 new raised beds, the framework stakes have been knocked in. Some of the sides have been put in. I’ll put in the rest in time, slowly. I only need the base level in, in order to fill in a layer of used coffee grounds. The far end would be the strawberry bed, which I planned to do as a project with my dad when mum and dad visits in February. The that other one would be the asparagus bed, which will be wood chip and compost mix. I’ll need to get some hoops for the asparagus bed so that I can throw a black cover on for blanching the asparagus.

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The gladioli is flowering. Yays!

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It was very windy, and chilly windy. Its supposed to be the hottest day anytime this month. I hide out in the greenhouse giving the tomatoes some love. The laterals need pinching out, and the leaders need to be trained up the strings. Look at the Tomaccio!

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Strong flowering arm, that is going to be a really good truss of tomatoes!

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Caesar enjoys spending time in the greenhouse with me too!

I was contemplating about the fencing that will eventually carve out the duck area. An idea came when I was looking at some photos on Toi Toi Manawa, and saw one where the guys were building a fence out of wooden branches. Now, that got me going! Freely available material. I think I can still get my hands on a hell lot of old bamboo canes! Then, inspirations! A living fence! There was a 10 meter strip, that I can do a living fence, at 10-15cm spacing, Elderflowers! These will grow readily from cuttings, they can also be persuaded to go upright. It’s going to be free! Pretty much, the other spaces where it is hard to maintain a living fence, I’ll be using the bamboo canes. The spacing will be just right to keep Caesar out, and the ducks in. I think the ducks will have to wait for another season. Which is just fine.

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I went to the Little River A&P Show today. Its a good little community fun where everyone sort of knew each other or have seen each other somewhere before. Familiar faces all around. I especially enjoy the dog trying to scale the straw bales competition, that’s a lot of fun to watch and plenty of laughter to follow. I might enter my fresh produce for showing next year, it seems easier, and not as challenging as seen on River Cottage show. Hey, I might even beat my supplier and grab first place for strawberries!

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The Orchard Cottage this week. More Tagasaste Tree Lucerne has been planted. This week, we have a low of 3.6dC on Tuesday, followed by a high of 31.8dC on Thursday, and then followed by Southerlies gusting up to 45.1km/h on Friday. Despite the weather forecast a good downpour, we had a miserable 4.1mm. In the end, I had to stake down 3 of my apple trees to keep them standing straight. Tom Putt and Bleinheim Orange had a really good lean. Hopefully the fast growing Tree Lucerne will help to calm the wind.

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Hibiscus Flower of an Hour, this lovely plant self-seeded from last year’s planting. Pure white with a dark center, really pretty flower.

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The morning glories that I have painstakingly grown from seed indoors and planted out is flowering! I hope the moon flower is still in there somewhere and give me some pretty white flowers too.

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I am starting to observe this growth pattern induced by the waxing and waning of the moon. I will continue to pay close attention to this to confirm my findings.

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Indigo Rose, first off the start line, last to finish.

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How does Quince taste like?

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Look at this tiny peach. Why you still so tiny?

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Pears!

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Lots more apples!

So, growing fruit trees with wildflowers as ground covers worked. After the wildflowers have done their dash, gone to seed, the dried up stalks can be trampled into the ground to form a mulch.

It seems like Gravenstein (1669) ripens in January. And Devonshire Quarrenden (1676) after that. I might look into making some apple crumble this weekend with the Gravenstein.

Its really lovely to just wander the garden at this time of the year, looking for windfalls, because I still have no idea how to tell a ripe one from one that wasn’t. Even with windfalls, they might not be ripe at all, only a bite will tell.

I need to make room for more apple trees joining the collection next season! Rota Eiserapfel (1650), Api Rose (1628), and Broxwood Foxwhelp (1600).

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50 Tagasaste Tree Lucerne arrived in the mail yesterday at 4.30pm. They were all in the ground complete with tree guard at 8.00pm same day.

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I first drown them in a dilution of Seasol and Myccorcin, with the idea that the concoction will get them going. The holes were dug, a teaspoon of Rootblast was sprinkled, and the plants go in, the combi-guard goes on. Done! Interestingly, the combi-guard at $1.75 is more expensive than the plants, $1.35 each. All the plants were cut back to the level of the combi-guard sleeve to reduce water stress and also to encourage them to bush out. In the picture above, I planted the Tree Lucerne in the middle of every imaginary triangle that forms among the Olives, Hazelnuts, and Almonds.

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Orchard Cottage this week. The back paddock has been flattened and mowed. Tagasaste Tree Lucerne was planted around the slower growing nut trees which are more exposed to provide shelter. Big project next season, grow out the sweetcorn in this paddock. Still contemplating how I should do it. Fibonacci square? Fibonacci spiral? Or just monoculture straight lines?

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Took Caesar out for a walk this morning, he sniffed out the roadkill and took it home.

During this season, what would be your wishlist for receiving gifts? For me it would be bales of pea straws, dump of gravel, bags of compost, and truckload of firewood! Once upon a time, it would be iPhone, a new laptop, etc etc. Just think about it, how many bales of pea straws can an iPhone buy?

The poor Apple Tropicana had collar rot, and its dying. Well, that’s one tree I killed in 2013, many less compared to 2012. Now, I got to get a replacement. Its interesting how a certain online shop, listing things online, and taking payments upfront online, never responds to customer’s email, which was sent online. But they do answer the phone, every time. I don’t think I will buy any tree from them until they email me and confirm the actual availability of stock. 2 reason I like online shopping, I don’t have to talk to anyone, face to face, or through the phone, I was shy. 2, with the click of the button, I will get what I want pronto, 99% of the time if they are in stock as they claimed to be, kiasu-ism.

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I’ve marked out the area where the new raised beds are going to be. It sort of gives me a clearer perspective of how the end result would look like. It’s quite exciting, I have yet to do the budgeting. But this is going to be a medium term project, so the financing will be secondary. I have got more pressing matters at hand.

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I took the quadbike to what’s left of the not so newly acquired paddock. I guessed I jumped the gun with the wildflowers. The removal of the initial paddock and tilling of the soil has awaken plenty of weed seeds. It might need a second round of treatment to truly get things going in the right direction. Then again, some time for contemplation of what would be the ideal ground cover for this olive and nut groove? Would a white allysum and subclover do? Or just well mowed weeds?

I harvested my first pot of Paraketia potatoes. They were tiny. But that’s fine, I learned to love tiny potatoes, they were just so bite size, great for tossing in among salads. Perhaps, the lesson learned, is to use only one seed potato for each pot instead of three. This lesson will be confirmed in the near future once I harvested the other pots.

Had an idea about starting a maiden vegetable garden that would possibly get the weeds out of the way, and nourish the soil at the same time. How about, covering the ground with bags of compost, still in the bags. Then puncture planting and drainage holes into them. In this case, I might make the drainage holes towards the lower edges instead of directly at the bottom, which could help stop stubborn weeds from getting through. Or just, lay card boards and newspapers on the ground and have the compost bags on top. In this instance, I think only root crops would not be suitable for this growing method. At the end of the season, just cut the bags open, tip the compost out into the ground, and restart the process, and you will slowly end up with a nice slightly raised bed. In fact, this is my plan for growing out the sweetcorn from my breeding program next season. I will have it laid out that I could just irrigate it with an oscillating sprinkler.

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Behold, the amazing Tagasaste Tree Lucerne. This darling is amazingly fast growing! Planted early Winter, they are now as high as the grape post fencing! Higher! Nitrogen fixing, and bushy, amazing nurse plant. I am going to plant more of them strategically next season to create some much needed quick shelter. When its done the job, it can be cut down for firewood too! I am getting another 50 of them to inter-plant among the other fruit trees to establish some quick shelter.

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Tomatoes are loving it in the greenhouse. Pretty strong growth there, and some fruit sets already. As usual Indigo Rose is the first off the mark, and most likely last to finish.

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Lots of pears from William bon Chretian weighing down the limbs.

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Self-seeded tomatillos! Just unbelievable! Of course, I did not harvest anything last season. I will, when I finally get my head around making chutneys.

Something to think about. I have planted 3 plum trees, Damson, Greengage and Coes Golden Drop in a triangle 1 meter apart. The plan is to induce natural grafting by linking their limbs, and through some miracle, abracadabra! The limbs fused together naturally. Imagine 3 person standing in a circle joining arms. What happens next? Will the dominant variety take over? Will there be a Damson-Greengage hybrid fruit? Will it turn into a three-legged monster tree and run around smashing everything that smells of green revolution? Something to think about…

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You can always stop to reflect and look back on your life but it must be lived forward.

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