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I finally understand what pay yourself first means after mum showed me the simple formula last night. It sounded easy, but it wasn’t. I was sort of trying to do that, but I wasn’t very disciplined about it either. I am trying to put away 50% of my take home pay every week, and that means that I really have to be careful about controlling my spending on non-essentials, like my garden.

I’m getting there, holding myself off from buying more seeds than truly needed, to keep reminding myself to check my seed bank before ordering any new seeds. I can’t help it, one of my favorite part times is reading seed and plant catalogs. I wanted to spend $360 on a Quad Thermo Heat N Grow propagator. But I already have a set.

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This thing of mine holds from 96 cells to 144 cells at one go. I’ve also make a mikroclima cover for it, everything works like clockwork. Then, a bit more contemplating, I thought of spending $156 on 4 Vented Large Propagator instead. I could use that to finish off the seedlings outdoor. And more thinking later, I decided on the most utilitarian form. I have plenty of wooden 100cm x 50cm seedling trays that I salvage from the orchard, I can incorporate them into a simple shelf unit 2m high, and with mikroclima covers for minimal cost, and there, I have my own outdoor seedlings nursery. It’s really time to rein in my expenditures, and bring in some side income.

The heated propagator are all ready to go, I’ll start the Pepper Jingle Belles and an assortment of tomatoes next week. The plan with the tomatoes is for grafting onto some interesting selection of rootstocks. I had in mind for rootstocks, a wild tomato where the seeds were saved from MegaTom, Tomato MonteCarlo F1 which is a vigorous plant resistant to wilt, fusarium and nematodes, and finally, Tomaccio, though mine will be of seeds saved from the F1, Tomaccio is the result of a breeding program using a wild Peruvian tomato species. Thing about the nightshade family is that the rootstock is able to transfer its properties to the scion, therefore, grafting a tomato onto a poison nightshade might give us a poisonous tomato.

There’s 3 rootstock selection, but I only want 2 of each scion variety in my greenhouse at the end of the day. How do I go about it? My feeling about it is to pair the cherry tomatoes scion with MonteCarlo F1 and Tomaccio F2, and the regular size tomatoes with MegaTom and MonteCarlo F1. Hopefully, MegaTom will prove itself the least favorable of them all and I can easily continue the trend in the future without the MegaTom, which I am not sure if it is really a wild tomato because we accidentally consume it last season and couldn’t really tell it apart from a mainstream tomato. I had a feeling it is just a more vigorous and disease resistant mainstream variety, hence why I decided to try MonteCarlo F1 and Tomaccio F2 to discover my own favorites.

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I’m all set for grafting, budding, slicing, or whatever. I am yet unable to explain this thing about boys and knifes. Throw in a sharpening stone and it gets worse. In my honest opinion, the Bahco grafting knife is my least favorite, though it has the meanest look. The Victorinox grafting knife looks like a shaving blade. And there, my trusty Victorinox Swiss Army knife which I have had for ages. I’ll be using the Victorinox grafting knife for all my propagation work as it comes highly recommended during a plant propagation workshop last season. Mainly due to the design of the shape of the blade, which makes top working easy, and that the blade is single sided, which makes shaping the scionwood easy too!

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That’s the display for my old weather station which sits in the greenhouse. 31.4dCelcius in the greenhouse! It is only half that temperature outdoors. On a sunny day, the greenhouse can be 10dCelcius warmer than outdoors. Very interesting.

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That’s the peas growing in the greenhouse. They are absolutely roaring away. Good news too, I’m measuring the ground temperature. Its about 10dCelcius in the greenhouse. 8dC in the tucker patch, 9dC in the forest garden, 7dC behind the house, 8dC where the Citrus will be doing. I’ll try to take a measure every week in the late afternoon. So far, the temperature has not gone below 0dC this week, though I noticed there’s a light frost in certain parts of the garden.

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I think I am finally going to have a flowering plum display this season. The buds are swelling up, just almost ready to go! Same to the blueberries and sour cherry! One can truly feel Winter is coming to an end and Spring is just around the corner. The hills are painted yellow by gorse flowers, and of course, the farmers got the chopper in to spray them off.

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The wildflowers are coming through. The seedlings are now at a distinguishable size. I can see phacelia, allysum, poppies, so on and so fort! There’s also plenty of thistles and nettles, which I am going around weekly to spot spray the thistles, which badly infest the ex-paddock.

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Dawson cherry on edabriz interstem getting espaliered. I’ll have to do some notching to get it to push out some shoots at some intended spots. Hopefully, it will know what to do and I don’t have to do it. Lapins cherry on edabriz interstem coming soon too, from Diacks Nurseries.

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I like brussels sprouts, or I thought I like brussels sprouts. But I don’t have much luck growing them, in photos I see them standing up on their own, so I didn’t bother to stake them. And they just flop over for the whole season and gave me dirty sprouts, slugs seconds, and so on. I’m not throwing in the towel yet. They got staked, and all the ugly sprouts stripped. Hopefully, they will give me a good crop in Spring. they do look better standing up.

There are so many things on my mind. So many things I want to do. I better start generating some income on this very capital intensive obsession of mine. And the best way would be plant propagation, and high value plants would be the way to go. Will the Almost Organic Orchard Cottage turn into a homegrown Almost Organic Nursery? Time will tell.

I have taken my life off Facebook for almost a month now. Maybe more. I did not keep track on that. It feels good. Not to be an addicted slave to a virtual world, virtually empty. Not to lay in bed before I go to sleep, and when I wake up in the morning, smartphone in hand viewing Facebook. Not to jump onto Facebook during every break. A recent research shows that Instagram can be depressing, and I would like to add, so can Facebook. If I roll over and die every time I get exposed to nonsense, Facebook would be like exposure on steroids. Anyway, if you are reading this, and you are on my friends list on Facebook, just know that I have disabled all forms of interaction and sharing, I only used the messenger to chat with my mum and friends now.

Now for some mind boggling stuff which I came up with when my mind is boggling. I’m not sure if they are original, I am sure someone with perhaps equal or more wackiness in their brain cells would come up with these…

What tractor climbs tree?

Caterpilar.

Why can’t the John Deere get into the farm?

The farm was deer fenced.

Why was the blue tractor deported?

It didn’t have a valid visa (New Holland).

Seriously lame aye~ Good night!

 

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We have been busy with our fruit thinning, we have to get to them before the stone hardens, and so we hired more staff to get the job done.

There’s always this debate that you are leaving too much fruits on, or you are taking too much fruits off. So… who is right?

Is fruit thinning a science or an art? Or both?

I’ll like to think of the fruit tree as a factory producing fruits. The number of fruits it can produced will be limited by its production capacity, such as machinery and labor.

Say, if the factory can only produce 100 fruits, and some greedy salesman took an order in for 200 fruits, the factory need to work at twice its capacity. What will happen? Machine breakdown… Staff go on strike… Low quality outcome… Trees dropping off fruits. Trees with very small fruits. Broken branches. Trees bearing very little fruits the following year. Sounds familiar?

Yes, take more fruits off, tell the customer that you can’t do 200 fruits without compromising quality.

Then do you go about producing 50 fruits? Because maybe if you operate below capacity, your staff will pay more attention on each fruit as they go past? Say, if you are the only customer at McDonald and you ordered a burger, will the staff give you an extra slice of cheese? Not unless you pay for it.

That’s when you hear your boss coming around and tell you that “you are taking too much off!”.

If the factory can produce 100 fruits, you should make it produce 100 fruits. Now, the factory is the tree. And there are so many trees in the block. And each tree/factory is different and has got a different optimum production capacity. How? *palmface*

Unless, you have an equipment which you can point at a tree and it will tell you what’s the optimum capacity, much like the speed radar used by traffic police. When you have that, then its science. Else, its art.

It comes down to looking at each tree, getting a sense of how it is doing by looking at the foliar, are they dense or scarce? How about the fruits, are they exceptionally small, or a tad bit larger than the average, or just average? Press your ear onto the tree, can you hear it whispering to you and tell you how it should be thinned out (just kidding).

Fruit thinning is a science, to know what is the general size of the fruit, specific to variety, and leaving enough space for each fruits to size up. Keep a shark in a 1 meter tank and it will be a 1 meter shark. Put it in a 2 meter tank and you get a 2 meter shark.

Fruit thinning is an art, to go about each tree, assessing it, deciding if you should thin it harder because the tree looks like its struggling. And of course, getting rid of that very talented fruit at the end of tip of the branch because it will break the branch and lose all your fruits on it.

In a nutshell, is fruit thinning an art or a science?

We are having a smaller crop than expected this year due to the Spring weather. Cloudy, cold, wet. Something that the bees would say, “its too cold and wet for me, not work today!”.

But we are still going to have a good crop!

What might be a usual reaction is for the grower to cut back on the nutrition program because there are less crop, or to cut the nutrition program altogether and call the season a flop. No. We won’t give up without a good fight. If there’s half the amount of cherries left on the tree than expected, we’ll want them to weigh twice as much because the sales are by weight and not the number of cherries you put through. We’ll be giving our trees the best care possible to ride out this season with heads held up high.

In fact, I had a call from a fund raiser last week who wanted to buy some of our cherries to sell for some fund raising activities. First pre-order of the season!

I’ve been studying on the job. That’s actually part of my job now. I’ve been drowning myself in the NZ GAP manual, and then the Health and Safety manual, and then a whole lot of other manuals. And then attending the Growsafe course as well as the forklift course. One of my responsibility now is to know how to run the entire orchard administratively and in compliance with all the standards required in order to quality our produce to be sold to consumers at a commercial level.

This is nothing new considering the industry that I came from and all the hoops that I have to somersault through. I’ll get the job done and it will be better than the last. It’s really interesting that these are truly all common sense documented in black and white to be executed, which signifies that generally people do not have much common sense at all.

Our Sweetheart and Lapin varieties are getting a head start ahead of the other cherries. In fact, they are already bursting out of their buds, which calls for Boron and Zinc as well as control for Brown Rot and Botrytis. Even the Southern Glo and Spring Crest peaches are coming into full bloom soon, which are are still frantically pruning. Our grapevines are now in the late swollen buds stage, luckily we have manage to complete all main pruning and following days, we’ll just go through for wrapping and cleaning up the whole job.

I would not be able to update that often nowadays because my Farmside Satellite Broadband has been nothing but a pain in the arse. 4 hours of downtime on Saturday, more than 2 hours of downtime on Sunday, and continuous intermittent downtime over the entire week, even the CEO Richie Smith will wake up in the middle of the night with cold sweats after a nightmare of me hacking up the satellite dish eerily in front of his bed. I lodged a complain on Sunday and was promised an installer to come over to fix it with the understanding that such faults are urgent which led me to believe its the type where installer-will-call-you-next-business-day-to-come-out-and-fix-it urgent. Yeah, you read my mind there, every time the house creaks, I thought the phone rang. It never rang. No installer. Virtually unusable internet connection. A very pissed off customer.

Ok, let me check if I had the fleeting moment of internet connection before I click “Publish”. Yep! All clear!

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