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Today is the second time I have hitched a ride in my entire life. It took me half an hour walk to get onto the main road, and 15 minutes of the thumb and I got myself a ride, who turned out to be the brother of someone who used to work at the orchard. Small world. I am sure I could have gotten a ride a lot earlier if there’s more traffic in the valley, just time of the day where all traffic is just local farmers. Mental note, not much traffic around 2pm to hitch a ride.


12.5mm of rain this week. High of 18dC and low of 4dC. The oncoming frost event had me typing down some of the Tagasaste Tree Lucerne branches so that they form a canopy over the bananas and paw paws. The growth is quite dense now with a much higher humidity level.


What do you do when the weather is drizzling, wet enough to stop you from planting, but not wet enough to keep you out of the garden? I took the hoe out and start attacking the thistles. Its the least I could do, keep them under control.


I’m waiting for these Honeynuts to ripen up before I can start clearing away the area and start building the giant cloche.


This is an interesting specimen of the Rainbow Inca corn, where the entire cob had dark color kennel.


The bamboos have arrived, but they are not labeled. I have a feeling the one on the left is Bambusa gracilis and the one on the right is Bambusa multiplex Alphonse Karr. They are going into the Southern hedgerow, into the bamboo stakes fence. They will make good stakes in the near future.


The Orchard Cottage this week. Landscaping duties for the next few weeks.


Its 2.42PM and I can still feel the alcohol in my blood. I guess once a year I need a good reminder why I choose to drink moderately instead. Anyhow, it was great last night, and we shall do it again next year. I am just going to make this a quick one and get back to painting my room.


3.5mm of rainfall accumulated this week. It’s close to nothing as the weather held up its end of a bargain for the wonderful holidays. We have a high of 31.4dC and a low of 8.2dC. It was windy though, and I am not particularly wind resistant.


Let’s move on to my Boxing Day spoils. I got myself a pole pruner attachment for the line trimmer, which will come in very handy when I decide to attack the privet hedge again. And the really cool Gardena Comfort Aquazoom which allows you to adjust the width of the spray. In the photo above, I took it off the original base and retrofit it onto the raised beds with a minimalist attempt. I have not calibrate it yet as its too windy.


An update on the sweetcorn breeding project. The very early sown plants are stunted. Better luck next year. Though, I can still save seeds from the good plants.


The pumpkins are flowering!


This is actually a walnut!


And a hazelnut!


Look at these golden orbs of apricots! Looks ripe, but not yet, it ripens after Clutha Gold. A very high color meaty late season variety which is extremely delicious.


Look at those beautiful sprays of blue chicory flowers at the back! The mister was going at the subtropical garden. Another new leaf from the bananas, and the paw paws are pushing up through the sleeves.


Summer in the wildflowers covered forest garden can be quite yellow.


Caesar makes an appearance at the Orchard Cottage. I have only one new year resolution this time, its going to be a fun one. I am grateful for this amazing year, it has its ups and downs, but highlighted by successful life changing events. I can proudly looked back at this time last year, and give myself a pat on my back, I am better today than a year ago. Thank you all for your continued support. 2015 will be yet another amazing 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.



How hard is it to kill roses? I managed to somehow kill 3 of them. 2 climbing rose, Lydia, which I am not going to replace, and a Red Piccadilly Hybrid Tea, which I will be replacing. I also have a Grape Schuyler which has not waken up from dormancy yet. I wonder…

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Rainfall this week, 5.75mm. High of 24.8dC and low of 0.9dC. Is this as close as it gets or will there be a really late frost after Show Day? The weather has been kind to me again. Just when I wake up in the morning yesterday, it started to pour down. It decided to stop when its time for my morning run.

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All the tomatoes and capsicums are now in the greenhouse. I felt really good about the capsicums as this is the first time I have put so much love and effort into them to get them into such stronger and larger grade before planting out. These are Capicums Rainbow Mix and Capsicums Jingle Belles. I fully intend to save seeds from them and get them localized. From experience with saving seeds with the tomatoes, the localized version always germinate faster and are stronger too. Now, I just need the last lot of basil seedlings to go in between the capsicums.

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In the Strawberries bed, the shellout pea is just ready to bulk up. These dwarf peas are really interesting that they don’t have the usual tendrils. The bonus side to it is that they don’t make a twine-y mess getting all tangled up with the strawberries.

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Siamese twins strawberries.

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The pumpkin seedlings are starting to come up now! With regards to the sweetcorn, I realized that even though I have sown the first few lots, before Labour Day, the color of their foliage don’t look very healthy, and they take a while to come out, most likely due to the still cold weather. Those that I sow after Labour Day are looking far stronger and less beaten up. Something to take into mind next year.

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Good fruit set on the apple trees. I have started thinning them now. Some trees did not fruit though, its probably due to their second flowering last season due to the warmish Autumn and mild Winter.

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I was surprised to discovered this Tagasaste Tree Lucerne is still alive. It was blown down by the wind early Spring, and I decided to cut it back severely to somehow balance the top with whats left intact beneath the soil. It worked, and the tree is going to grow again.

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The first rose of the season!


The Soldier Poppies are now starting to dot the wildflowers meadow.


The Orchard Cottage this week. Letting things grow.

When there’s a will, there’s a way. I woke up yesterday morning to rain, nevertheless, I am determined to do my morning workout. So, the weather decided to clear up temporarily for me, as I stepped out of the house, it was still drizzling lightly, and by the time I am half way through, it stopped raining. Only to start pouring heavily later.

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Rainfall this week, 26mm. High of 25.5dC and low of 1dC this morning, chance of frost in the morning tomorrow. About time. One of the main gutter on the roof was blocked! I had to borrow the ladder from Rachel, and carried the latter home, a quarter mile? And carried it back to her house after that. As I salvaged stuff from the orchard, I only brought back the smallest and lightest orchard ladder, I should have brought back the 9 stepper too.

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In the garden, the Austin roses are budding up, ready to put on the first show.

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At the same time, the hybrid teas are a feast for the aphids, adults and babies alike. I didn’t spray them, they are going to be predator food.

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Corn cockle started flowering. Looks like the flowers of Mallow. It is now extinct in the wild.

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The second year Moorpark Apricot is going to give me a good crop this year.

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Broccoli for dinner tonight.

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The While Dalmation Grape from Koanga Institute is growing quite rigorously. I’m training it along the bamboo cane.

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I think this is wheat. I like the form of it, compare that to the other grass species. A sort of elegance to it.

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Some good news, the Bearrs Lime is still alive and throwing out new shoots!

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Baby Goji Berry plants.

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I think I might have successfully rooted some MM106 rootstock? These were all from the rootstock I bought earlier in Spring, as I graft, I cut half the lengths off, and kept them.

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More rooting success story. Currants on the left, and plums on the right. They will be going into the forest garden. The plums will go into the Southern hedgerow.

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I saw this at Bunnings today. Its a double grafted tomato! The only reason I bought it is because one of the variety is Sungold, which I wanted to grow this year. The other variety on it is Sweet 100.

Also, Bunnings currently have the cheapest price for good compost at the moment. They are selling Daltons’ 40L compost for $4.69 at the moment. I bought 8 bags, as much as I could fit into my little car. It still smell quite potent, probably has got a little bit more of maturing to do.


Spot the tractor tyre.


The Orchard Cottage this week. I noticed an abandoned tractor tyre. And I immediately know where I can put it in the forest garden. Now, I can use it as a garden bench too! I have yet to decide what to grow in there. This year though, I’m going to grow pumpkin, squash, and watermelon in there.

That hedge by the road has not been trimmed for probably more than 5 years. I trimmed it the week before, and I trimmed it again last week, and there’s still more trimming to be done.

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Basically the hedge has grown too tall, too wide. I was at the top of the ladder with a pair of loppers pruning back to where the previous cut back was. Once I done that, I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to reach the center of the hedge from the other side. So the hedge, needs slimming down, which will be the next job, before I continue bringing down the height. Those trimmings, on the other hand, will make good mulch for my swales.

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Rainfall this week, 1.75mm. High of 27.7dC and low of 2dC. Noticed I’m now blogging on Thursday morning? I have successfully started on my 4.30am wake up every morning, 7 days a week! And kept up with my 4 days a week workout routine. Feeling pumped~

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This is last season’s guerilla grafting success. Angelina Burdett Plum from Koanga Institute collections. Soft, very sweet dessert, purple skin, yellow flesh. From Red Bluffs Nursery, Warkworth, from the collection of Tom and Robyn Morrison. Over 150 years in Northland. Ripens February. I did a cleft graft on this which I learned at a grafting workshop.

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This is current season’s guerilla grafting. Green tip on one of the scion.

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Apple grafting, these are all done with the omega grafting tool. I’m very pleased that green tips are forming. I was doubtful at first as some of the scions are of smaller caliber than the rootstock, and looks odd with the two omega cuts merging together.

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Most of the tomatoes have been planted out into the greenhouse. They have grown too tall, and without any supporting stakes in the pots, they have reached the point of flopping over.

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The peppers have been potted up further. These will go out into the greenhouse mid-November. Some have started forming the first set of flower buds, which will be pinched off to encourage further bushing out. A few more tomatoes still need growing out.

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In the raised beds, this looks like the start of a broccoli. I don’t really know because I bought a mixed brassica punnet.

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This little Pecan tree is very enthusiastic, the other one is just started to leaf out.

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And this Walnut tree is waking up to a dazzling season.

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Someone got caught selling OZ toms as locals, and of course without irradiation signage. I like the new signage, but I would pay a dollar for that, not four.


From the far side of the Orchard Cottage this week. Poppies all about, along with Phacelia Lacy. The Red Soldier Poppies are starting to come up too.


This week at the Orchard Cottage. Another step towards a healthier lifestyle.

The latest issue of NZ Lifestyle Block have an article on the use of Silicon for the prevention of disease. Indeed, it seems that someone has been doing some scientific research on Si. Meanwhile, Rudolf Steiner has already incorporate Silica into Biodynamic practices decades ago. The article gave me an idea to add what’s left of P508, which is equisetum horsetail into one of my fertigation system that mists the citruses. It will ferment nicely in the drum as part of a cocktail blend of liquid seaweed, comfrey and mycorrcin.

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Rainfall this week, 0.75mm. This week, we have a high of 15.3dC and a low of 0dC. Quite a mild week here due to the constant overcast condition here in the valley. In the city however, -4dC on 25th July, which has been the coldest in July 2014. We shall see what August will bring, otherwise, the coldest day is already behind us.

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And so, the flowering has begun. Lots of bud movement everywhere. Even the Cootamundra Wattle has started flowering with its tiny flowers of pure yellow.

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More plants have arrived from Te Kahuri Nurseries and Mara Whenua Nurseries, and they went straight into the ground. The Belgian Fence had a few more additions, Hetlina, Cox Orange, Freyburg, Monty’s Surprise, and Calville Blanc d’Hiver. The Black Mulberry went into the Southern Hedgerow along with a transplanted Gooseberry Pax. Currants went into the food forest to form the bush level of the pipfruit guilds. It’s been a day with a lot of digging and planting, I am truly grateful that it has been a reasonably mild day, and the gusty wind did not pick up until late evening.

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Then, its on to rooting the cuttings. I’ve got 6 varieties of Figs from Koanga Institute. These will eventually go into the ground as 3-in-a-hole to control their vigor.

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Checking in on the cuttings that I have down a while ago. They still look pretty promising. My experience with buying Currants so far has let me to recommend Te Kahuri Nurseries. Brian shipped them to me, full size, what it means is that there’s plenty of wood to take cuttings from, for just $4 a plant.

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The greenhouse beds are being prepared for Summer tomatoes and peppers. Mustard seeds sown densely to cleanse the soil and as a cover until planting time.


The Orchard Cottage this week. The dry’ish weather means that I have been doing some Winter pruning to reinvigorate some of the fruit trees. I still need to deal with that big lanky Almond tree, but that will have to wait as doing it while its dormant will just make it even more vigorous.

This week will be a bit of a snowy weather, except there won’t be any snow this low, just hail, sleet, and wetness. On the bright side, we are going to get more daylight from now on. Hurrah! And soon, it will be time to get some head start on tomato seedlings among other heat loving plants thanks to heated propagation trays. Then there’s all the plantings, and grafting, and building projects that’s going to take place. It’s all going to come in a dash, and I might as well take this time to rest, and rest well.

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Accumulated rainfall this week, just slightly over 0.5mm.

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With the lengthening daylight, and the looming coldest day, I felt pressed to work on my propagation plans. I took cuttings off all my currants, red, white and black of a variant of varieties as well as Damson, Greengage and Coes Golden Drop plums. Had good faith that the currants will strike well. Not sure about the plums, but I think with some luck, I can have some free addition to the hedgerow.

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I bought a 6-pack punnet of Camarosa strawberries and viola! The strawberries bed is full house! I noticed the plants have started flowering too!

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The second Acu-Rite weather station has arrived! I mounted this on the sub-tropical area. The main reason for the additional weather station really, is because it comes with the standalone internet bridge which uploads data directly to the internet bypassing the PC. I’ll get the bridge up and running as soon as I get a suitable power adapter for it as it came with a US adapter, totally incompatible.

At the same time, signs of life with the frost bitten Bacon avocado! I’ve noticed some new buds starting to break through. This is good news!

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Spring flowers from the flowering plum. Confused?

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Full on bud burst from the All-in-One almond. Totally confused!

Perhaps, they are very low chill, and it has been a very cold Autumn with plenty of chilling hours?

With regards to the 15 Tagasaste Tree Lucerne that has bite the dust, Helen from 4Trees is replacing them FOC! Such wonderful supplier. 5 stars recommendation from me.


The Orchard Cottage this week.

Bruce left me a bottle of his home brewed cider, the recipe, and the seeds to some “REAL BIG APPLES”, this week. We had a brief conversation about this stuff last week at the domain Christmas pot luck. I also found out there were 3 feral apple trees by the road just outside the domain! Anyway, he collected the seeds elsewhere (I have forgotten, but do remind me to ask him about it), and they were real big apples! I can only think of, Peasgood Nonsuch?

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Anyway, I did some research online and figured out how to grow apple tree from seed. Press seeds on top of moist tea towel in a plastic container, cover it and put it in the fridge, leave it for a few weeks until they sprouted. Indeed, they will sprout in the fridge! Then pot them up about half an inch to an inch deep. And they will pop out of the surface in another month. I did just that. This time next month, I shall provide an update.

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I’ll name this Apple Kaituna. It’s a medium size bush beside a wild rose bush. The shape of the apple is quite typical. Hopefully, I’ll be able to taste one when its ripe.

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And this is Apple Ataahua Alpha. This is round the bend by the Ataahua Domain. Oblong shape. Really old tree.

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Apple Ataahua Beta. This is near Alpha but further away from the Ataahua Domain. About the same size as Kaituna. The type is similar to Alpha. Most probably seed from the same parent.

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Hand me a lawnmower and I’ll show you what it can do. They are not designed to just mow the lawn. Gardening books would have told you to use them to mulch up prunings before you add them to the compost heap. As for me, I use it to return an overgrowth of wildflowers, weeds, lots of weeds, into flat land. Revealing, once again, the little feijoas, and the rootstocks. I also use it to cut paths into the wildflowers meadow which is now growing at about 1.5m high. A good modification though, would be larger wheels for higher ground clearance, which makes it easier to run things down.

I’ve just sharpened the lawnmower blades today. With just a hand file. You need no motorized grinder to get the job done.

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Indeed, the grafting were done just about exactly 2 months ago. None of the stonefruits grafting took. I would pin it down to poor scionwood. They were in the fridge for too long. On the other hand, all the apples have taken! I’m stoke!

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Little ladybird on the scion.

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All that clearing allowed me to expose the hedgerow plantings. All healthy.

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Ripe blueberries! And yummo! I’ve had some of the best tasting raspberries off the pot too!

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I was just eyeing up the golden with a red blush apricots the other day until the cows decided to have a munch over the fence! Boooo! In my protest, I will be eating plenty of beef steak in 2014!

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Well, at least there will be plenty of apples to go around to feed one tummy. And I’ll be eyeing this one, Golden Pippin.

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William bon Chretian is promising something. I’ll be having Doyenne du Comice and Nashi this season too. Yums!

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The tomatoes are starting to do their thing. I’ve sprinkled some crushed eggshells around them for some added Calcium.

I’ve also spiced up the fertigation tank (its actually a 20L Seasol container, what do you call it?), with comfrey leaf, seasol, and various other goodies.

The cherries on edabriz rootstocks are almost vigour-less. Leaf size are average, and shoot extension is minimal. Its like they have got a good shot of Payback. Is the dwarfing capability of edabriz that powerful? I’ll start foliar feeding them. Some VIP treatment.

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Purple is the theme. Like this tiny flowers.

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And this purple Californian poppy.

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That’s the Orchard Cottage this week. I have plenty of seedling rhubarb and globe artichoke to plant out sometime soon. I’ve just sow a tray of Rue too, I have a rough idea where they would go, but things can wait a bit.

I’ve discovered that from the cottage to the end of the valley is just 8km. Now, if I do a 16km run… Very interesting. I might need a hydration pack.

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.

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