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2 more weeks of Winter and then it will be Spring. Somehow this Winter doesn’t feel that wet. That I am surprised to hear that North Canterbury is still in drought. Do people realized by now that the man made change to the natural landscape is the reason for climate change? Perhaps, too much credit is given to our co2 emission? Nature is always on a correction course, whether we like it or not.

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Rainfall this week, 26mm. A high of 13.1dC and a low of -0.6dC. The snow has been washed off the hills from the weekend rain. The land is saturated, waterfalls are happening, and yesterday, the river came right up.

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What happens when the water reached the top 2 electrified wires on the fencing?

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It turned out to be a beautiful day today, albeit a bit windy. I gave all the Tagasaste Tree Lucerne a good haircut. It helps them to form a strong trunk, and also opens up the view.

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The tulips are coming through now, this one has divided into 2 bulbs.

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And the bluebells. I am thinking of some snowdrops next season. And a bit of division to go with that. Something like, cutting a hundred bulbs into quarters and you get 400 bulbs out of it. Did I read that one out of the Propagation Hand Book?

Some different tomato varieties that I am going to trial this season. It also occur to me that I can grow 2 generations of tomatoes in one season, with some luck. I’ll give that a go and see how it pans out.

  1. Eclipse Fireball F1 – Fruit are golden yellow with a distinctive ‘Eclipse’ colouring/shading on the shoulders of the fruit. Yellow fruit about ping pong ball size. The dwarf plants cascade well making it perfect for containers, baskets and small gardens. Most golden tomatoes are low in acid, but not this one! Acid is high, giving a magnificent flavour.
  2. Amethyst Cream Cherry – Lovely white cherry with purple antho splashes on the top. Great flavor, delicate but complex. Big production. Sunburn, crack resistant. Great hang time and shelf life.
  3. Blue Gold – Amazing 2-3 oz. Blue and gold bright yellow tomato with tops that turn black with anthocyanin. Interrior is red-yellow bi-color that is sweet and fruity. High production plant. Sunburn, crack resistant. Great hang time and shelf life.
  4. Weissbehaarte – We are proud to introduce this rare, old German heirloom that produces lovely, little 2 oz. cream to pale yellow jewels that are very juicy and sweet. Large vines set high yields, and tender fruit are globe shaped; skin is shiny and silky smooth.
  5. Blue Berries – 75 days. Here’s a small cherry variety from Brad Gates of Wild Boar Farms. Very dark purple color, which means it’s super-rich in anthocyanins. Unripe, the fruits are a glowing amethyst purple. At maturity they turn deep red where the fruit was shaded; the areas that received intense sunshine are a purple so deep it’s almost black! The flavor is intensely fruity, and sugar-sweet! Plants are very productive, yielding all season in elongated clusters that look so beautiful. A new favorite here at Baker Creek!
  6. Wagner Blue Green – 80 days. This great “Blue” tomato comes from renowned heirloom/OP breeder Tom Wagner. Color is an incredible blue, with green flesh! We were impressed with its beauty and great flavor! The round fruits are around 3 inches in diameter, and are very smooth and blemish-free
  7. Sunrise Bumblebee – 70 days. Chefs love the luminous swirls of reds and oranges, inside the fruits and out! Everyone loves the sweet, fruity taste, too! Oblong little fruits weigh barely an ounce, sometimes show a pronounced beak at the blossom end. Another member of the incredible new ‘Artisan’ series

These are out of stock at the moment, but hopefully I will be able to get my hands on them in November and grow them this season.

  1. Kaleidoscopic Jewel – Exotic small striped. Very, very beautiful tomato. Large productive plants. Oval shaped fruits that start off green with beautiful purple anthocynin stripes and splashes. As it ripens it turns mutiple shades of red and black with dark stripes. Flavor is good and it does well in hot and cool weather.
  2. Amethyst Jewel – Gorgeous pink with purple amethyst splashes. Large trusses load up with great tasting exotic looking fruit. 1-3 0z. Large production, hang on the vine ability with real tomato flavor. All around crowd pleaser.
  3. Gold Berries – 80 days. Incredibly beautiful cherry type in purple and yellow. Long clusters are packed with small, half-inch bright yellow cherry fruits. Each has indigo shoulders, bursting with loads of antioxidants, anthocyanin in this case. The flavor is very sweet and rich, and the plants are so productive. Sunburn and crack resistant, and the fruits hold well on the vine or in storage. A choice selection out of the original Wild Boar Blue Berries

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The Orchard Cottage this week. The existing tomato varieties that I will keep growing will be Indigo Rose, Tomaccio, Small Sweet Orange, Yellow Pear, Super Snow White, and Black Zebra.

Just a week of hiatus. I’ve been busy. Pre-ordered fruit trees are starting to arrive from around the country. I just needed a few to add to the ancient collection, and some crab apple trees to fill up the gaps in the Belgian Fence. I’ve design and made a simple and effective means of getting the grey water from the laundry into the Three Sisters patch. Common laundry grey water system puts some strain on the washing machine pump as it has to pump the water through the whole line. What I have done is to allow excess pressure to still exit into the septic tank, essentially putting no extra strain on the pump at all.

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The weather last week, 12mm of rainfall. A high of 15.7dC and a low of -2.5dC.

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And this week, dry, 1.5mm of rainfall. A high of 17.7dC and a low of -0.8dC.

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The warmth, has cause the almonds to bloom. That’s the Almond All-in-One. It’s the only almond in bloom out of three.

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I spotted the daffodils are coming up last week.

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And see how much they have grown in a week! I spot 4 bulbs in there, I only planted one bulb last season.

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The overgrown strawberry bed has been cleaned up. I started with 28 plants. They multiplied exponentially. And I thinned them down drastically, to just 18 plants.

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I didn’t throw the others away. Planted 72 of them in the raised beds, and another 6 in a pot, 3 in a rotten down tree stump. What I normally do with transplanting strawberries are quite brutal. The tops will be chopped off leaving nothing but pre-emerging shoots behind, and a good clump of roots. The ones in the raised beds are planted 12 to a square foot. The ones that show promise will be transplanted into the forest garden.

I did end the season with 3.5 times more strawberry plants.

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It took two truck loads of carting 50:50 compost and eco mulch to fill the Giant Cloche. It’s done now, I’ve hung up another bird feeder for the birds to eat and shit and get some biology going in the soil there.

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I’ve removed the weed mats on the Three Sisters patch today to put in the dripper line for the grey water system. Next week I will get some 50:50 compost and eco mulch on. I’ve lime and gypsum it today while I was at it. And I’ve gypsum all the raised beds too, including the greenhouse and the Giant Cloche, and the potted raspberries. All white and fluffy. And thought to myself, be nice to rain this week. And within hours, its raining, its raining now. Wash it all in!

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The Honeynut Squash have been a great success. Done this up River Cottage style, with blue cheese filling and a sprinkling of parmesan.

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I bought a really cheap bicycle. I’ve never had a bicycle with suspension before, and this one have dual suspension. Growing up, bicycles appear to be big, I felt like a dwarf standing next to my bicycle. Now, it felt like a BMX. I would have gotten a cruiser bike if they don’t come in pink with flower shape decals all over them.

Reason I got a bike, is so that I can “walk” Caesar over a longer distance, in a much shorter period of time. Effectiveness and efficiency. We got all the way to the Kaituna Valley Walkway car park today. And ride back with the tailwind.

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The Orchard Cottage this week. Lots of privet hedge pruning in the coming week.

Quote of the week, “the difference between knowing and doing is a world apart”.

Hooray!!! The shortest day is now behind us. Then, oh oh… The coldest day is now a month away. On the bright side, more daylight.

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40mm of rain accumulated this week. Plenty of hail and sleet. Just miserable and wet. We have a high of 13dC and a low of 0dC.  And plenty of snow on the hills.

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I’ve not seen this much snow for a number of years now. It’s a good cold year to give the pests a good natural winter kill.

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Some tiny hail stones in the raised beds this morning.

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The forest garden have had a top dress of lime yesterday, and the rain came again at night and today to wash it all in. The timing could not have been better. Good Calcium levels makes the fruit taste sweeter.

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The building projects have progressed quite well. I’ve done building most of it now. Next is just to fill it up with with soil, and then finish putting the cover on.

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The greenhouse has got a new layout in it now. It all came together much better than it did the first time 2 years ago. I’ve got a tea and coffee plant, which I might plant it in the greenhouse too.

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The giant cloche is all nicely done. I’ll fill it up full with eco mulch and let them break down slowly over time. The only snag in this project is the planned perspex sheet cost more than $800 to cover the giant cloche. So, back to the drawing board for the back up plan of greenhouse film.

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On a side note, red kiwifruit anyone? It’s like a less tarty green kiwifruit. Gold kiwifruit is still my favorite.

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The Orchard Cottage this week. Caesar has figured out how to escape again. Luckily, I’ve found his escape path.

 

The weather calmed down a wee bit this week. We have some nice sunny days. In time for the firewood delivery. The last two year, the delivery of firewood was done in the rain. It’s not that fun putting wet firewood away.

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17mm of rain accumulated this week. Some hail, some rain, and now the hills are covered with snow. We have a high of 17dC and a low of 1dC.

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For the first time, the firewood were stacked away properly, like it should be, instead of being dumped in a pile.

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Obviously, I didn’t do it. I don’t think I am even capable of stacking firewood away nicely.

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I’ve set up a really cool wobbling sprinkler head at the top of the subtropical garden which will go on in conjunction with the mister in the wee hours of the morning to help with the frost fighting.

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The raspberries in pots are being moved to the front of the raised beds. I’ll use the raised bed structure to build a raspberry trellis.

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More work has been done on the giant cloche. It will need a bit more modification and next week, the whole structure will take its semi-final shape.

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The greenhouse have a new entrance way now. I plan to do the internal division next week.

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This bit here under the black weedmat will be a larger scale three sisters guild next season.

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Testing the viability of the saved sweetcorn seeds. Its creepy that they are all blanched. Growing in the darkness of the hot water cabinet.

 

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I’ve done the calculation on the fertilizer requirement based on the REAMS soil test report. I’ll need 135kg of lime, 10kg of Ammonium-N, and 200kg of Para-magnetic Rock Dust. The other nutrient levels are in fact quite good. I’m just surprised that the humus rating was quite low. Hopefully the mulching will help with it next season.

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The Orchard Cottage this week. I noticed some hazelnut catkins on the them hazelnut trees.

It rain, and rain, and rain. It got quite close to flooding but it did not out here. Maybe next time.

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I think some of the rainfall has evaporated. Brent’s weather station has recorded 41.7mm of rainfall. A high of 19.2dC and low of 1.8dC. Of course, here at the Orchard Cottage, it will be colder than that.

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The mikroclima greenhouse is further stripped down, the soil removed, and the inner boards removed. Some really good soil to go into other use.

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Like, 162 saffron corms in this raised bed dedicated for growing this exotic spice. And a few more extras in the grapevine area.

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And to top up all the other raised beds, and Spinach Santana was sown. I am not sure if they will germinate and give me baby spinach later. It’s a cold weather crop, it’s worth a try. We will know in 2 weeks.

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The building of the Giant Cloche has begun. I have the Strawberry Cloche there for comparison. It’s 3 times the size.

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I’ll be growing peppers, watermelons and maybe okra in there.

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It is a beautiful day, and a lot of doing. I’ve got the REAMS soil test on the North Fence and Forest Garden back. It appears that it needs Ammonia and Lime. I will work the numbers and share the details next week.

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Meet Fanny the fantail.

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And Porky the morepork.

“Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night’s Watch, for this night and all the nights to come.”

They are the guardians of the gate. The light in the darkness.

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The Orchard Cottage this week. The privet hedge avoided an attack this week. It is imminent. It will happen.

Pardon my England in regards to the title, I just can’t help it. Another killer frost on Friday with a -6dC in town. It definitely felt like Winter at night now. We are in the month of June now, Queen’s Birthday welcomes the Winter. I had a feeling this Winter is going to be a really cold one.

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This week we have 11mm of rainfall. In the sheltered Subtropical Station, we recorded a low of -1dC and a high of 15dC.

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With Winter starting, I have decided to round up all the pumpkins and ripen them up indoors. Apparently you can still help the pumpkin to color up with sunlight and warmth.

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Bringing all the harvest in means that I can now move those compost bags which I grew the sweetcorn and pumpkin in. I have to harvest all the raised beds then, so that I can top up the raised beds with the spent compost in the compost bags.

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Something else that I started doing as well is to cut back the privet hedge really hard. I pretty much took out half a meter of thickness from the hedge.

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It will make good mulch and firewood. I am also going to bring down the height of the privet hedge as well after I slim it down.

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I’m saving the seeds off my sweetcorn. And each cob goes into a separate bag. Here, Silver Platinum specimen 1.

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Silver Platinum specimen 2.

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Silver Platinum specimen 3. Stubby and not a bit on the yellow side. Seems to have a heavy degree of cross pollination with another variety.

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Silver Platinum specimen 4. Skinny.

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Early Gem specimen 1. The only one, I think we ate the rest.

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Golden Bantam specimen 1.

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Golden Bantam specimen 2. A pretty well crossed specimen.

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Golden Bantam specimen 3. Not a lot of crossing.

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Rainbow Inca specimen 1. Bendy.

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Rainbow Inca specimen 2. Seem to have cross with Silver Platinum.

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Rainbow Inca specimen 3. Good shape.

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Rainbow Inca specimen 4. This is a good looking one.

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Rainbow Inca specimen 5. Blue corn chips?

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Rainbow Inca specimen 7. I somehow skipped 6. 7 is as good as it gets. So much for saving the best for last.

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I have also seeds for Pumpkin Australian Butter. Its the tiny one a quarter the size of its big brother of the same variety. I prefer the smaller size single serve pumpkins.

Winter came, I’m going to start building the giant cloche next week. I am not sure if I will finish it completely right away, I might just build the structure, fill it up and grow the three sisters in there again next season.

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The Orchard Cottage this week. Caesar is really tired, he had a long walk yesterday, and had a good swim in the river today.

The ceiling was wet. Its leaking somewhere. I opened the hot water cylinder cupboard, and its quite wet in there, something’s leaking in the attic. I found the leak in the attic eventually. Some thirsty rat must have chewed the water supply pipe so that it could get a drink, didn’t bother to inform me to patch it up. A 15mm joiner does the job. The past few warm days were good, I opened all the doors and windows to air the house out. Got the hedge trimmer out and gave the native hedges that were growing too close to the back of the house a good trim back, reduce the damp, according to River Cottage.

Bought a book. Permaculture – A Designers’ Manual. Authored by Bill Mollison and published in 1988. It cost me AU$104.45, and a painful AU$39.05 to have it posted here, it must be a really heavy book. This is the textbook for the 12 Day Permaculture Design Certificate course. If I am going to take that course one day in the future, I might as well start preparing for it now. This book better be worth the read, its cost 5 times the price of other Permaculture books. That is, if you judge the book by its price.

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About 7mm of rain has accumulated this week. We have a low of 4dC and a high of 18dC.

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The mild weather means that the greens are growing. I need to give some of the forest garden area good mowing soon. I can see signs of weeds I don’t like starting to grow. Like the cleavers. And that fumitory. Thistles and nettles are easy to deal with, with the hoe, I no longer call them foe, the way they fall prey to the hoe. Cleavers and fumitory on the other hand, a bane even for the most resilient gardener. If there’s any weed spray that kills specifically only cleavers and fumitory, I will happily pay for it.

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Daikon radish grows like weed in the forest garden. They got here because I sown packets and packets of seeds. Just like putting in piles to build a solid foundation for a building, these drillers helps build the foundation of good soil drainage. How deep does the root go?

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The pumpkins airing out. I think I might be planting a few variety of figs together in that tyre next season.

On the other hand, I have moved the some soil, really good soil, from the greenhouse, into one of the raised beds. In it, I transplanted the saffrons, and various hard neck garlic. I still have a lot of hard neck garlic left in the greenhouse, I will have to lift them, divide them, and plant them somewhere else. They have been left in there for 2 seasons now. I think I will plant them under the cherry trees. The spring onions project I did before did not take, so hopefully this will.

The saffrons I have had, had never flowered for me, I had them for a few seasons now. A blog post I stumbled upon recently shed light upon it, that I must have not planted it deep enough. The little corms just keep dividing. And dividing. And dividing.

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Early in the season I sown a lot of calendula and cornflowers, but nothing do come up. Until now, the calendula are popping up. I think there’s a few different varieties in this bundle. Might have been one of the seed balls I have made.

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The Orchard Cottage this week. I was meaning to fit the pole pruner that I got on Boxing Day Sale on to the weed eater attachment, but the engine refuse to idle, but instead stalled. Something wrong somewhere, I have sent it in for service. I must admit it wasn’t well looked after. I only use it once or twice a year. I’ve got about 25m of overgrown privet hedge to chainsaw back to a more manageable height.

By the way, there’s some volunteers needed for a conservation work at Little River this Sunday 24 May at 9am in Little River. Tract cutting, and some weeding. If you are keen, please get in touch with Banks Peninsula Conservation Trust.

Thank you for the congratulations on my residency! Truly appreciate it.

I had to get a new pair of glasses this week after a pineapple attacked me at work and broke my glasses. I was stacking off cartons of pineapples in the chiller when one decided to jump out of the box and land on my face. My glasses, which I have had for 4 years, had one of the nose pads broken off beyond repair. I only had a minor bruise on the nose, but I was shaken. I was attached to this trusty pair of glasses, I have had it for 4 years when I used to wreck a pair of glasses just about every other year. And getting a new pair of glasses usually goes with an image makeover. And the new pair of glasses that I have chosen, after 3 painful hours of choosing, and deliberating, is quite a radical makeover. From the Oakley Bracket 4.1 to the Oakley Tailspin. I could have gone for the Oakley Tincup but I did not, for a split second, I was feeling adventurous.

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Rainfall this week, almost 1mm. Almost. High of 31.3dC and low of 4.9dC.

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Back at the Orchard Cottage, the garden has decided to have a life of its own. It is thriving on neglect.

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There’s plenty of spiders around, this is just one of them.

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This looks like a giant earwig?

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Plenty of bird food? What does stink bugs do? I don’t think they are a good thing, will be getting some Neem Oil and give the patch a good spray over.

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The raised beds have been taken over as well. Everything has been growing in a truly awesome way. Really fat good size corn like the ones found in supermarket too!

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The apples are coloring up nicely.

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Red tree-ripened apples. These are for cider, or juicing.

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So, some Jerusalem Artichokes decided to show up. I bought the roots from work and planted them.

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A very late blooming sunflower. And the only sunflower at the Orchard Cottage after I have sown so many earlier on. This is a sign that my new irrigation setup is working.

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The impulse sprinkler is also doing its job quite well, helping some of the young trees that were struggling to establish better.

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The Orchard Cottage this week. I am grateful for my new dentist, usually the most painful part of a dental surgery is the anesthetic injection, that large probing needle. The way the new dentist does it, I don’t feel much of the jab at all. Amazing!

Looking back, I think the hottest weather is behind us. It usually peaks after middle of January. We had a few drizzles the last few days, so pathetic that nothing registers on the rain gauge. On the lookout for something more serious to come this way, and I doubt anything of significance will happen till after next Tuesday.

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This week we have a high 32dC and a low of 3.9dC. The wind was consistently gusty. I have setup a new line of irrigation to water the berm on the North fence, where the Belgian Fence is forming. It takes 2 hours to put out an inch, and I have to switch all the other lines off to have enough pressure to power all the strip-pattern microjets.

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It’s quite dry, only the trees are still growing. I am thinking of bark mulching on an extremely large scale next season. Like 10cm thickness covering a square meter of area around each tree. Reducing dependency on irrigation water is very high on the agenda. You can only pump so much water out of the ground or the river before it dries out. If I could have it my way I would dig swales in all the hills in the valley just to hold water in all the gigantic soil mounds.

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The very brief drizzle gave me the opportunity to get the mower out and cut back some lush grass and weeds. And I spotted this wee praying mantis on the mikroclima cloth. Been more than a year since I spotted a praying mantis at the Orchard Cottage.

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There, that’s taken in March 2013.

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Little spider enjoying some peaceful times on the rose aptly named Peace.

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Does Tomaccio comes highly recommended?

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This is the Black Zebra.

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The Black Cherry is slowly coming along.

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Super Snow White has got an interesting ripening pattern. Most tomatoes ripened from the inner trust towards the outer trust, this however, is more or less going the other way round. The skin adheres to the calyx, tears easily when removing it off the vine. On a separate note, vine ripened tomatoes will come off the truss without the calyx on. So, when you see all the beautiful tomatoes on the supermarket shelves with the calyx on looking all pretty, know that they are not vine ripened, the potential of their flavours and goodness has not fully developed.

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The Pumpkin Thelma Sanders are amazing! These are growing out of the raised beds. Quite a few of them just forming on each vine.

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This would be the Squash Honeynut. I think I am having a good year with Cucurbits.

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This is the sweetcorn landrace breeding project. Its not exactly a great success, nor a total flop. I am just grateful that quite a few Silver Platinum are growing strong and healthy, these I will save seeds from, as well as from the Rainbow Inca.

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Abundance of lunchbox size nashi pears.

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The first appears at the Orchard Cottage. These are Blenheim Orange. That biggest one towards the left, I already ate it. Lunchbox size as well as I didn’t thin down the fruit sets.

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Caesar doesn’t seem to be a fan of apples, unlike the late Lucky who loves apples. He likes his bones.

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The Orchard Cottage this week. This panorama shot captures the dryness in the valley. The stark contrast of the dry hills versus the green irrigated pastures. The drying wildflowers and weeds in the forest garden versus the lush green trees and bushes. My lawn is bone dry, I balked at the sight of people irrigating their grass by the road along Halswell, then they took the mower out to mow it, and throw the grass clippings away. Wasting water, wasting petrol, wasting organic nutrient.

Twelve. And there’s only four 15 minutes in a hour. It is obvious, and we never think of it, but now, let it sink in. Everything takes time, and its how time is well spent, or for the worse, wasted.

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The weather this week… Just 3mm of rain. A high of 33.8dC, and low of 8.9dC. That’s pretty warm for the week. And the subtropicals are growing exploiting the condition.

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The bananas, with the mister going on timer.

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The paw paws are well out of the double bags.

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The tamarillos seem to be on a growth spurt. There’s three of them, one more in the background.

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The black and yellow passionfruits reaching into the Tagasaste Tree Lucerne. These are growing quite fast too.

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Trying to persuade the Passionfruit Sweet Granadilla to climb into another Tagasaste Tree Lucerne.

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Bamboos establishing itself underneath the Tagasaste Tree Lucerne. Could be useful for the Passionfruit Sweet Granadilla to climb in the future.

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My little pumpkin patch. I watered them only once or twice a week.

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Watermelon is flowering! I hope I get a good watermelon this year to save seeds from.

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Two sisters in the raised bed doing well.

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This is my best looking raised bed planted using the square meter garden concept. It looks so good I am reluctant to harvest the spring onions.

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I’ve got two of these huge cabbages.

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Tiny, small, medium sized onions.

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Pink flowering strawberries.

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And more strawberries trying to do a runner.

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The improvised oscillating sprinkler in action.

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Tomaccio is going crazy and I have been having them for dinner every evening!

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And some pear shape tomatoes.

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Pears.

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Apples.

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Neglected globe artichoke.

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Pinot Gris grapes!

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Lemon and lime that came back from the dead.

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A spider did this. Do you know that spider is the one that kept insects from being the dominant species in the world? So that mankind can be at the top of the pyramid.

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I wish your day is as joyful as this Joyfulness rose.

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Masses of blue cornflower.

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The Orchard Cottage this week. Very dry.

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