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Pam gave us a good drink this week. The ground has started to become soggy, and the hills are starting to green up. One would caught me standing in the rain talking to a farmer. On a completely side note, the latest X Factor incident would have put a lot of reality TV judges on their edge. I would put my money on them being more politically correct from now on for a period of time. Now, how do you say “you suck” without saying that literally.

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We have 30mm of rainfall. A high of 30.4dC and a low of 6.2dC. I have stopped irrigating at the Orchard Cottage. I might keep it that way, and just irrigate the Belgian Fence every few days if needed.

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I’ve started to get some of the materials in for the giant cloche. 2.7m in length, and 1.8m wide. The bed will be 60cm in height. The whole thing will be 1.8m in height.

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When I sow four different types of beans in the same spot, and not label them. I need to devise a plan to differentiate them.

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And pumpkins too. Though next season, I plan to cross Thelma Sanders Sweet Potato with Jack be Little and Wee be Little. It will be a simple method, grow 2 of each in the same area, save seeds from every plant, and sow a seed from every plant, repeat. Cross fingers and pray something different come through. A good tasting bachelor pumpkin that I can put my name on is what I’m after.

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Can you see it?

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Its not moving.

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It’s a wee mouse that’s feeling really miserable thanks to the weather.

I had a dream the other night, a big fat cat sank its sharp teeth onto my fist-ed hand, biting it in a like a python swallowing an animal whole. No mater what I do, the cat just won’t let go. That morning, I woke up after wrestling with that cat in my dreams, I noticed 2 of my mouse traps have caught a mouse each. Did our consciousness sort of connected in the stillness of my sleeping state?

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It’s greening up. No longer irrigating. My mum has gone along and gave the Tagasaste Tree Lucerne a good hair cut. Thanks mum! Love you always!

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The Orchard Cottage this week. 12kg each of BioPhos and RokSolid arrived today and will be spread out onto the forest garden tomorrow, weather permitting.

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When will we say the drought is broken? The hills are dried, most of the grasses on the hills looks like they have gone beyond dormancy, it looks like they have gone dormant forever, composting in situ. The dry dirt can be seen beneath those bone dry grass. The drought is threatening to turn the hills into dunes. We had some rain, but I still can’t see the slightest tinge of green in the dryness.

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Rainfall this week, 27mm or more. We have a high of 30.9dC and a low of 8dC. I can feel the season changing, with more Southerlies coming through. And a bit more rain too.

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The forest garden is being weaned off irrigation water slowly. The trees got the message, and started to go dormant. I have started my Autumn round of top dressing with BioPhos, Rok Solid, and Gypsum. And a bit of Neem oil spray here and there where needed.

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The Paw Paw is still flowering, no sign of fruit set yet.

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Pumpkin Australian Butter. It needs to be oranger.

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Pumpkin Thelma Sanders Sweet Potato. Also needs to be oranger.

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In the greenhouse, Small Sweet Orange Tomatoes have been left to ripen on the vine. That’s the last of the lot. I’ll do another strip pick and share it with the farm guys before I go on my road trip.

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Proud of my homegrown capsicums. Very good size red.

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Smaller size chocolate capsicums.

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Little orange capsicums.

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That’s it at the Orchard Cottage this week. Just enjoying throwing sticks into the forest garden and have Caesar leaping into it the find that stick.

 

 

Don’t play play, I can speak four languages in one sentence, scare a not? It’s been a long wait, 9 months, having put all my eggs in one basket, waking up one day knowing that a decision would be made that would decide if my adventure in NZ is going to continue or come to an end. Well, thank God that my PR has been approved, woohoo! That means that I can continue on more crazy projects around the Orchard Cottage. I’m truly grateful.

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Rainfall this week is pretty good, 8mm. It’s a good start. We have a high of 29.7dC and a low of 4.9dC. I have already kicked into the Autumn irrigation mode for the forest garden so that the trees can start preparing for dormancy.

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It’s greening up slightly now.

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The climbing beans have started flowering, finally. They were sort of stunted as I have sown them too early, and it took away for them to grow out of the shock.

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The banana plant is finally looking like a banana tree.

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The Orchard Cottage this week. A week of joy and gratefulness!

I was out at the Christchurch Botanical Garden yesterday and finally stepped foot into the Curator’s House for lunch, and that’s a really nice place to be.

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The conservatory is one of my favorite place at the Christchurch Botanical Garden, that’s where most of the plants that are marginal for existing bio region is grown. I was looking at this huge cactus and noticed the very detailed layout of the spines, these are staggered form, as OCD as I can be. Perhaps, nature is trying to teach us the proper way to plant things if we are to do it in a mono-culture way.

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Back here at the Orchard Cottage, it was really dry. We have got 0.3mm of rain at best, 28.5dC high and a low of 5.1dC. Drought has officially been declared.

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In the greenhouse, the tomatoes got another hair cut to let more light in. I have save some seeds for next season.

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More light in helps to ripened up the peppers.

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And some tiny peppers. I will save the seeds of the good size one and plant them next season.

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The garlic is back!

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Very well formed rose. My favorite Austin rose.

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It is the Lunar New Year today. How many new year do we get to celebrate in a year?

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.

The grass grubs are turning into bronze beetles and have started their mating flights. I have started seeing chewed up foliage among some of the plants. However, I have something up my sleeves, I have started adding neem oil to my fertigation brew a few weeks ago in anticipation of this. If this idea actually works, each bronze beetles will only be able to take a few bites before the neem start working its magic and cause the beetles to stop feeding. Not that I really care much about the damage they do, you can remove all the grass grubs on your patch but more will always drop by from the neighbor’s patch.

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Rainfall this week, 8.5mm. High of 22.8dC, and a low of 1.4dC which happened today. Last night’s storm came through with plenty of rainfall and hail, followed by a cold snap in the morning.

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The forbidden fruits have arrived in temperate Canterbury. Banana Goldfinger, Banana Ladyfinger, Rainbow Valley Paw Paw, Cherimoya Perla, Wild Tamarillo, Yellow Tamarillo, and Passionfruit Sweet Granadilla. And they are not going to be planted in a greenhouse, or be kept indoors. The objective is to keep the plant alive, with the occasional harvest every few years when cosmic events aligned and make it conducive to be a fruitful season. Do take this with an open mind where anything is possible given the right brew. I know, many have tried and failed, yet Einstein didn’t stop trying having himself failed multiple times.

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In the greenhouse, Tomaccio are starting to set. Interesting to notice how the truss set out into a Y-shape.

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So, the little Walnut tree has decided to start flowering this year. They were growing beautifully. When I got them last year, they were just an unassuming whip.

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I guess its time to go out with the bill hook again and start whacking those hedge mustard. I’m going to resow sunflowers again, hopefully today. The last sowing is unsuccessful, with multiple possible indication for failure, one of it being sowing too early. This time, I will pre-soak the seeds, and give them a bit of a mulch.

On the sweetcorn breeding plot, I was amazed by the germination viability of all the pumpkin seeds as I have only sown a seed into each hole and they have all germinated! Some of the watermelon seeds have germinated too, and I have resow some which have yet to come up with pre-soaked seeds.

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The Orchard Cottage this week. The Grape Schuyler is still dormant, I tried bending a cane until it cracks open, the inner stem is still green showing that the plant is still very much alive, but still sleeping?!?!?! I’ve got some more Tree Lucerne to plant out, and time to do a proper record on the apple grafting to see which one is successful and which is not. Hopefully, I’ll have time later to head over to Prices Valley to get some farm hand experience working with lambs.

I have always been fascinated by the Fibonacci sequence, 1 1 2 3 5 8 13 21 34… The Golden Ratio, and how nature seems to follow its logic. Then, how do I, attempting to be the Da Vinci of gardening apply it to garden design? One way is to plant according to the outline of a Fibonacci spiral. I did saw some photos online of some raised beds designed in that form, but you will need a backdrop to fit it into, in other words, the application is very selective.

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Then, I started doodling, and figured out that it can be used for guild design. In this design, the Fibonacci sequence would probably be applied to the spread of a plant instead of its height. The one on the left follow a standard spiral form while the right just follows the sequence and more suitable if the smallest shrubs are not very shade tolerant. An example might go with, Comfrey (1), Comfrey/Gooseberry (1), Erect Thornless Blackberry/Currant (2), Apple on MM106/NSpy (3), Tree Lucerne/Alder/Acacia (5), Eucalyptus (8), Walnut/Pecan (13). Just an idea.

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Rainfall this week, 9mm. High of 21.6dC and low of -1.5dC. A couple of frosty morning but nothing too bad. A lot of plants are starting to move.

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The flowering plum is flowering full on. All the apple trees planted along the Belgian fence have been cut back to the first level, come Spring they will sprout new shoots and form a nice Y-shape.

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This asparagus is getting a head start. I will be harvesting this season despite expert advice. I believe there is a way around it, eat half, leave half, feed well.

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This is the preparation for the corn breeding project. The sweetcorn will be planted into 35L bags of compost placed on top of the weedmat with slits poke right through so that the wandering roots of the sweetcorn can go all the way into the soil. I will also be doing it the three sisters way.

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I unwrapped the tape around the apple grafts. So, this is how it looks like. It is amazing how nature works!

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I gave the Hybrid Tea roses a good prune. And then decided that I might as well label them up pretty and this is what I ended up with. Here we have Peace and Joyfulness, what a perfect pair!

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I figured out how to different the second year bluebells from the first year.

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This is the first year bluebells, just started to come out of the ground.

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The daffodils on the other hand are all popping up. These are the naturalizing mix.

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And this bumble bee is doing what bumble bee do. Chewing its way into the bee food.

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I didn’t realized how much I missed these lovely bugs until I see them again!

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I decided to prune that Almond Monovale anyway. I can’t resist.

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It looks better now. I will need to actively shape it this growing season, mainly managing the length of new shoots, and encourage it to branch out more.

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Lemon Meyer!!! Finally, I’ve have lemons! Maybe I will make myself that cup of honey lemon ginger tea tomorrow.

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This is the Cara Cara Orange. So, I must have done something right for the Lemon Meyer and Cara Cara Orange to set beautiful fruit. Now, just got to wait for the orange to ripened up. All the citrus have survived the Winter so far. We shall see what happens next Winter when I foray into sub-tropicals with the likes of banana, cherimoya, mountain paw paw, passionfruit, and tamarillo.

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The seeds of the Solanaceae family has been sown. This season, I’ll be grown Bell Peppers Rainbow Mix, Bell Peppers Jingle Bells, Tomato Black Cherry, Tomato Black Zebra, Tomato Indigo Rose, Tomato Small Sweet Orange, Tomato Super Snow White, Tomato Tomaccio B2, Tomato Tomaccio E2, Tomato Yellow Pear, and a aerial seed potato. Seed tray covered with mikroclima, if I use the plastic dome and the afternoon sun shines on it, it will be 40dC underneath. Sits it on the pet heat mat set on 25dC with a temperature probe monitoring soil temperature. I need it around 20dC. The peppers will take 8-20 days to germinate while the tomatoes will take 10-14 dys.

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The Orchard Cottage this week. Didn’t get much done. Just observing. I particularly enjoy the part where I was just sitting on a portable beach chair in the larger part of the food forest charging up on Vitamin D.

Had a feeling last night that it’s going to flood. So I went out in the rain and howling wind to move the car and point it outside, so that if it does flood, the water will not wash into the exhaust.

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When I woke up this morning… The wind was howling with top gust speed of 33 knots. That is just 61 kph, I can feel the house trembling laying down in bed. Wondering if my trees out there is still standing talk, I got out of bed to find out…

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I have slept through the most stressful part of the flood, the beginning.

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The water level was slowly receding as I washed up. The raised garden beds served their purpose. As I write this, 63.5mm of rain has fallen so far.

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Caesar went out to scout the property, and probably looking for the road kill rabbit that he brought home yesterday. This is the first time I spent the entire event on the Orchard Cottage, and I got to make some meaningful observation.

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That’s my personal Niagara Falls. Existing waterfalls on the hills are going for it, and streams formed along the hill gullies. To reduce the impact of flooding on the property, I need to slow the water down, and divert them around the property. Thus, I am going to do the Belgian Fence on a raised mound, like a berm. And standby sandbags to put along the gate.

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The water is low enough for me to go out and stake down some of the trees. Had a walk around the place and did some gardening. Can’t help it. We shall see how that new swale work out.

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That’s the rainfall last week, taken in the morning yesterday.

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The Orchard Cottage, where resilience is not an option.

As we waltz into Autumn, we get the strange feeling that the heater was turned off at a flick, and within a split second, the tap flows and the fan blows. Then, it pour down for 3 days, and it flood. They call it one in a hundred year flood, the folks in the city were hit really badly with flood water entering their houses and messing things up. Muddy wet carpet would be my worst nightmare, having seen that 3 years ago in the sleepout cum storeroom by the cottage.

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The gusty wind took down the windbreak, I found out the rebar stake were hollow, and pretty much bend and snapped. I’ll have to use timber now.

I woke up yesterday morning to the wind howling and rain pouring, look out the window and saw the river about to burst its banks, had my breakfast, and the river burst its banks and the water is starting to cross the road. That’s my cue to get out of there, or at least, get my car out of there while I still can. All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go, I got Caesar in the car, and off I go, I just managed to wade the car through the flooded road and off to the farm yard to wait it out.

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It’s not really a hundred year event for the valley at least, because it floods every year. 3 years ago, the river flow went up to 44 cubic metre per second, that was some serious shit, yesterday, it did 43 cubic metre per second. The water recedes enough at 5pm for me to go home and assess the damage.

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The reason for my 30cm raised beds in the first place, is to flood-proof it. It works by keeping all the cultivated soil in there from washing away. I can proudly say that erosion is minimal this time round. The water barely reach the first steps to the house, it did wash through the woodshed.

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The wind has been quite a menace, look at the lean of this almond tree! The weather station recorded 58kph maximum wind gust, along with that, rattled the weather station so badly that it messed up the rain gauge reading.

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A lot of fallen trees all over the places, a huge willow branch snapped and came down on the windbreak. I cut it away with the trusted handsaw, its just willow, easy cutting.

So, things to do next week, sort out weather station, fix windbreak, mowing, shovel gravel from the road.

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I managed to plant the living fence today. The first part will be of alder, and the other part will be elder. Caesar almost ran into it. Now he know its there. Fingers crossed, I hope it works.

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The Orchard Cottage this week, the plants survived the flood. And Caesar found himself a dead possum.

We have always hear holy people say, “God works in mysterious ways”. Well, today, that proves too, and the un-holy me shall say it too, “God works in mysterious ways”.

I have not gone biblical, but it just happened that I almost killed myself, twice, today. It started with digging holes to plant the trees that arrived from Te Kahuri Nursery this morning, when I got a sudden urge to go out to Southern Woods Nursery to pick up the remaining of my trees, which I have decided upon a Griotella Tart Cherry instead of Oblacinska. It is an urge beyond impulse purchase, as if being pushed and pulled along  a set destiny.

Hey, I do want that tree, so I obliged. The car sounded a bit funny but I did not think too much of it. I was later on distracted, and annoyed by this Honda CRV dude who was tailing at quite a can’t-brake-safely-in-time-to-kiss-my-arse distance even when I am already travelling at the speed limit of 100kph. Anyway, coming round to the Lavender Farm corner, my car fish tailed, not once, but twice! The 4WD kicked in and got everything under control. For a moment or so, I do feel like a professional rally driver, not sweating it. That SUV behind, still tailing me at the same 0.01 second rule distant, one hand on the steering, the other one resting on the door, yes, he is that close I can see his nostrils through my rear view mirror. Nor did he give me any signal or warning that I am actually running a flat…

I discovered that I did actually have a flat tire at the back when I come into Halswell where the roads are bumpy and I can hear the sound very clearly telling me I have a flat. With the SUV still on my arse, I pulled to the side of the road, and watch him passed in ignorance, definitely not a country driver. The last flat tire I had was more than 2 years ago, amazingly, I am still quite adept at changing to the spare tires.

The thing with running a flat at the rear is that it is seldom noticeable because the steering don’t pull to the side. In my early years, I did drove home from college which is some distance away, with 2 flat tires on the back, at speeds up to 150kph, without realizing it until I arrived home. Won’t know, not with the speakers blasting away at hearts content.

Why is God involved here? Had I not been urged to go into town in the morning, the next time I got into the car would be at 5am in the morning when its still dark, and the road could be wet, or wrought with morning frost. And what of to discover I had a flat somewhere along the way, and had to do a tire change in darkness? Today, I missed my turn into Lincoln and had to take the longer route through Halswell, had that not happened, I would not have quite a safe spot to stop the car to do a tire change, nor perhaps, I would not have discovered I had a flat until its too late.

Perhaps its karma too, that I informed Brian from Te Kahuri Nursery that he forgot to bill me for the Hazelnut Ennis. My honesty and integrity then repaid with safe journey.

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Come again next week and these peas will have reached higher. And more about the forest garden at the Orchard Cottage taking shape. Hugelkultur, and weather stations. Ps, I’m not a religious man, yet I believe in something greater than mankind and their brain.

 

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