You are currently browsing the monthly archive for December 2014.

Merry Christmas! This is my 4th Christmas in New Zealand, how time flies. And how things remained the same, we stuffed ourselves full, and fall asleep on the couch. Christmas for Kiwis would be like Chinese New Year for the Chinese, there’s always good food to go around. On another note, Chinese in the Southern Hemisphere have been celebrating the Winter Solstice recently, in line with the tradition of the Northern Hemisphere. I have been most unkind to remind them that it is Summer Solstice down South, and there’s no point stuffing ourselves¬†full with glutinous rice balls at night meant to carry us through the longest night, on the shortest night, we should be doing that in June. Or should I say, unsentimental.

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This week we accumulated 9.5mm of rain. A high of 29.3dC and a low of 8.7dC. It is a pretty warm week. And quite a windy week too.

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The raised beds are coming along nicely. This is my backup plan with the sweetcorn breeding and pumpkin/squash/watermelon growing initiative. The sweetcorn are much ahead compared to those sown in compost bags. The compost bags growing thing wasn’t working out very well. I probably sown too early. I have already came up with a better plan for next season. There’s always next year.

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This would be the best looking raised beds among the others. Well, the others, had 2 Brassica in each, and they sort of spread their leaves big brother style and push everyone else out of the way. I should have gave them a trimmed up earlier on. Anyway, I’ve got plenty of Brassica leaves to mulch the Subtropical garden. The cauliflower from last week has gone humongous now. And there’s a lot of huge broccoli side shoots. And the cabbages are about ready. Will I be able to eat them all in time? Caesar might be on vegetarian delight for the next few days.

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Ripe Tomaccio for Christmas! I had not been in the greenhouse for a bit, and they started to send out new steroid fueled laterals!

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Capsicums! Woohoo! I wonder what color would these ripened into.

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More strawberries trying to escape.

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The Paw Paws are starting to grow taller. The double bagging is helping. Noticed some new comers? The one at the back, that’s got double bagging, is a Red Tamarillo dubbed Hardy Harry which I got from Oderings, supposedly selected for its extra hardiness. There’s also a yellow passionfruit, and a purple passionfruit, which I bought from Oderings, planted beneath the Tree Lucerne, with the intention for them to use the small tree as a growing structure. That said, I’ll need to give those Tree Lucerne a thinning to let more light through.

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Beautiful form of the yellow calendula.

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I did not get to take a shot of the Orchard Cottage this week. Caesar thus makes the backup appearance. I’ve been looking high and low for super firm mattress which incorporates coconut fiber in Christchurch, no luck online. My Boxing Day, thus shall be spent going from furniture shop to furniture shop to hunt it down.


Its drizzling now. I am grateful that I managed to fit my morning run in before the rain. It appears that the weather wasn’t warm enough to ripen up the stonefruits done in Central Otago, hence, lack of supply, high demand, price increased. At the Orchard Cottage however, my Lapin cherry would have been ripe for picking today. However! Some wood pigeon decided to jump the gun and ate it all a day too early! I’ll throw a net over them next year.

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Rainfall this week, 7mm. We have a high of 25.3dC and a low of 3.3dC. On the bright side, this year we are going into a sunny Christmas, albeit a windy one.

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This cauliflower came out of nowhere. All along, its just plenty of green, and then one day, it just puff up like a popcorn! That’s about 2 meals there, and some earwigs for protein. They would make a good Asian stir fry or braised in osyter sauce or whatever, I’ve don’t have all the other ingredients, so I just cut them into smaller pieces and roast it in the oven with eggs. Might add some sliced bacon or ham in and see what happens. I am after all, the guy who cooks everything in the oven.

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If you are wondering what I have done to the tractor tire, here it is. The pumpkins and squash on the side, and the watermelon in the middle, and I used the propagating tray’s cover over them. Next season I am going to plant a group of figs in there.

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The peaceful Peace.


The Spring flowers are about done. The foliage are going through a transition stage, towards the color of Summer, yellow. The poppies will be going to seed now, and the seed heads will shake about in the wind, creating little melodies of their own.


The Orchard Cottage this week. How’s your Christmas shopping going? I’ve just about done mine, just need to buy a few things for myself. I wonder what will I get from my secret santa this year.

I asked Google, “what is killing milk price”, and the answers I get are quite different. Google decided to jump straight to an alarming solution, “low milk prices have dairy farmers killing cows”, which hit the headlines in US in 2009 and 2011. It does make sense, as the farmers are losing money on every pint of milk they sell. On a more free market capitalist view, this will be a classic play out of the survivor of the fittest.

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9.5mm of rain accumulated this week, most of them yesterday. We have a high of 27.7dC and low of 2.7dC.

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The roses must have taken advantage of the warmer period with the newly planted Perception blooming in full force.

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Black Beauty.

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And Deep Secret.

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The Manuka tree is flowering too. I planted this 3 years ago.

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The peppers have finally started to flower. I just need them to fruit and I can save the seeds to start establishing a landrace.

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The Pinot Gris grape is flowering too. The Schuyler grape is still dormant! I broke off a bud, and it is still green on the inside. I wonder why?

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I’ve been hanging out by the strawberries bed after work just about every day. Snacking on the shellout peas growing in there, and also the awesome tasting strawberries. Now, they are trying to make a run for it, see those runners trying to get out of the raised beds. I enjoyed the White Alpine Strawberries that were growing in the Asparagus bed too, they simply melted in my mouth!

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And the occasional ripe raspberries.

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Was it just me or the black raspberries seem to be a bit tart?

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The Hybridberry Thornless Jewel had some really large berries.

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Berry laden Boysenberry Tasman.

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In another week or two, I might be able to feast on these lovely cherries.

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Finally, I will be able to enjoy the decadent Goldstrike Apricot again! These apricots will color up beautifully even before they are ripe enough to eat. When they are ready for eating, their color is like that of the orange sun.

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The bananas are growing again, shooting out the next leaf. They flower after 42 leaves.

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I have started potting up the rooted cuttings. Purely by chance, I made an interesting discovery. It would appear to me that coarse sand, some of about 1mm grade, makes better rooting medium compared to really fine sand. The cuttings from the coarse sand managed to develop roots that were stronger and well spread out from throughout the cuttings, compared to the ones in fine sand. Its also easier to remove them from the container and repot them.

I didn’t managed to put up all of them as I ran out of PB3/4 planter bags. I think next round of propagation, I will use coarse sand in 60 cells propagation trays, see how that work.

The currants and gooseberries are going to be planted all over the hedgerow next season.


I’ve planted the pumpkins, squash and watermelon into the tractor tire. In the future, I am likely to plant the rooted figs in there as a tight clump, and keep them low.


The Orchard Cottage this week. Amazing sprays of Bishops flower, and tree lucerne growing well. The poppies will now slowly give way to Summer daisies.



In the blink of an eye, Spring is over, and here we are waltzing into Summer. There’s no late frost, or not frost at all for Spring this year, that’s interesting. Paying more attention to my seed sowing this season helped me to gain a deeper understanding into when to sow. Well, I should only start sowing after Show Day to get the best results when the sowing is done in the open. With plans to modify the greenhouse and build a jumbo cold frame for next season, I might attempt to start some seedlings outdoor under cover.

Just had an eureka moment on a raised bed cover that I can put over a section of the raised beds for sowing direct too. *Quickly sketch it down onto some random piece of paper*

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The weather this week is quite amazing. We had 25mm of accumulated rainfall. Its what we needed as it was quite dry. Had a high of 25.9dC and low of 2.8dC. Some hail and thunder, and more to come later.

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I accidentally broke the fruiting branch of a Cara Cara Orange the other day, and the fruit pretty much needed to be picked. It has really strong color in the flesh, despite not much promises from the outer skin. Though, it has a nice bum typical of sweet eating Navel Oranges. It is definitely not tart, it is sweet!

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Proof that the Bearrs Lime and Yen Ben Lemon is very much alive. The immediate remedial action has been good for the plant, the first shock of a plant that thinks its going to die, is to putting all of its energy into flowering profusely, and I picked off all them before they even resemble any form of a flower bud thus saving the energy, let the plant calm the farm down and put on some foliage buds. They will regrow, and next season go into the modified green house.

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Back to the Subtropical plot, I have double bagged the plants with an extra layer of plastic, salvaged from used compost bags. I’ve started mulching with cabbage leaves, and a colleague at work offered me plenty of spent straw from her chook house. This is sort of a on site composting approach, composting generates heat, and on site composting means that the surface layer will continuously have some sort of hot energy going on. Not only that, composting requires a certain level of moisture, and that means humidity, hot humid energy, just what the subtropical plants need. I am really more into humidity than heat, that’s where my greenfingers instinct is pointing. Humidity, humidity, humidity.

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The proof is in the bacon. This Avocado Bacon has truly come back to life after being hit hard by frost last season thanks to over confident me that did not bother about putting a cover on until, “oh its frosted, let’s put a cover on now”.

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Remember the strawberries twin? Well, they have made good progress, and ready to eat in a couple days time. The strawberries bed have been my after work indulgence. Ripe strawberries, and peas so sweet, yummo! Caesar gets to share in the occasional snack too, he loves them peas, eat them shellout pea whole.


I’ve attacked the hedge mustard with the bill hook last week. They have started to lignify, makes them harder to cut down, and they don’t break down that quickly anymore.


The Orchard Cottage this week.

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