Easter is a good time to go bargain hunting at Garden Centers. I must say, it is a fantastic time because the reduced to clear stuff became an even better bargain than a normal day.

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I got some dwarf lavenders for $3, some white currants, a lemon meyer, all healthy but further reduced. Some black raspberries. And I have also dug up the black raspberries in the garden for later planting elsewhere. In the process, I found some blackberries, which I also dug up, read to be planted elsewhere. This weather pattern is sort of perfect for the impatient haphazard trasnplanter. Plenty of gloom, moisture, and humidity.

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I have raised the windbreak on the North fence line to about 50cm. This is no ordinary windbreak. This is part of my flood mitigation plan. This will slow the water down from getting into the property. Behind that windbreak is a raised mound which I am going to do up a Belgian Fence that will have about 67 apple and crabapple trees. I am still contemplating if I should use sandbags or wooden planks to block the driveway gate. My inclination is with sandbags, though more sweat to put in place, it seems to be a more reliable option, independent, and not reliant on the integrity of the posts. I’ll also need to let the grass grow weedy near where the fence touches the ground, they seem to have an anchoring effect in keeping the fence’s integrity, and also provides resistance to water flow.

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Where do I get the soil to mound up for the Belgian Fence? Coincidentally, I’m doing some swales in the forest garden. So, those beautiful topsoil has got somewhere to go. And these are beautiful topsoil indeed, filled with earthworms, great color, great structure, much better than what I started off with. All the swales on this part of the forest garden will be connected, and will hopefully be connected to the larger part of the forest garden. Here we see the figure eight that circles the healthy apples and heritage plums. Still a work in progress, I need to level them out.

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Haphazard transplanting is like my second nature. 28 strawberry plants, some were tiny runners, with minimal amount of roots, severed from their parents, and seated into the soil. They are all looking good thanks to this weather pattern that we are having. I think the varieties I have in there are Seascape, Camarosa, Temptation, and Sunset. I decided not to put in the pink flowered one as that was just a novelty factor.

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The tomatoes in the greenhouse needed lots of love after much neglect. So, my colleague suggested that I roast them and preserved them in olive oil, which is what I was planning to do until I had a real good look at them tomatoes. Nope, all that rain had done plenty of damage, its time to put them into the compost bin.

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Not all of them made it into the compost bin. Some plants are still good to go for a while. I am saving seeds from Black Cherry, Black Zebra, Indigo Rose, Orange Fleshed Purple Ripple, Red Currant, Yellow Currant, Super Snow White, Tomaccio, and Pear Shaped Tomaccio. I’ll need to add a yellow cherry or cocktail type to my repertoire next season. Have also collected a potato fruit which I will save seed from and grow potato from aerial seeds.

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Hopefully, these mini capsicums will ripen up for me to save the seeds for next season. Need some naturalizing work done.

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Year 1, you plant a clove of garlic. It formed a clump, but you left it in the ground. Year 2, they sprouted again. What will result in Year 3?

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I found another pumpkin in the garden, after the flood. I harvested the other one, roasted it in the oven. It was smooth, but it wasn’t very sweet. Perhaps, it needs more ripening? I’ll keep this other one on the ground for longer.

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Amazing autumn foliage from the blueberries. They love their pots.

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Will the bumble bees perhaps leave me a jar of honey on my door steps one day for making the forest garden bee friendly?

2014-04-23 18.04.10

Accumulated rainfall this week, 64mm. Oh look! There’s an earwig behind! I almost forgot to do the reading, ran out just now to take this shoot and reset the rain gauge. It started to drizzle again.

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The Orchard Cottage this week. I managed to get a load of firewood organized for next week. Side note, I am really grateful that I am given the opportunity to experience this experience. Thank you!

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.

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…

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

The Orchard Cottage, where resilience is not an option.

It was raining. It is raining. The internet is down all over Banks Peninsula and will probably be down for another 24 hours or so. I still need to do my weekly blogging, so here I am, after taking Caesar to Paul the vet for his kennel cough vaccination in Little River. A cup of chai latte from the Little River Cafe, doing this entry on my iPhone in my car.

59mm of rain this week and counting. Despite all odds, I still managed to finish the swale around the cider apples.

I sow alyssum and lucerne into it, and might mulch it with pea straw in the future dependent on contemplation.

I have also started work on the next swale. This is a figure eight that loops the heritage plums and healthy apples.

And the excavated soil will go to expand the width of the hugelkultur beds or top up anywhere that needs top soil.

The alder fence are now clipped meticulously to the wire. The portable fence to let Caesar know it’s a no go.

This is the Bunyip 2.0 that I made to help me in digging my swales in contour. It is an improvisation from the traditional Bunyip.

The Orchard Cottage this week. I have finished reading Gaia’s Garden. Now I am rereading Design Your Own Orchard by Kay Baxter. I would love to meet her one day in person, she has been the starting point that got me down this path. It all started with the search of non hybrid sweet corn in NZ.

My weather station is no longer friends with the laptop. They have decided to stop talking to each other. Hence, no weather data is being uploaded. That is sad, I will need a special bridge to bypass the laptop and upload data through the router directly. That cost money, and I am not going to spend that money anytime soon. Currently, I’m scrambling to get all my PR documents together to be submitted. Then, Caesar needs to get his kennel cough vaccination, and arrangement for his kennel stay while I go home to Kay-eL in June. At the same time, I need to stock up on firewood. Definitely, practicing some financial prudence right now is very essential.

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Still. there’s work to be done in the Orchard Cottage. I’ve put up the mikroclima windbreak running the full length of the raised beds. This will provide shelter for the young seedlings to grow. Already, the little seedlings are popping up and I’ve started to thin them down.

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I tried out the panorama function on the phone. This one is in the greenhouse with all my tomatoes in it. I had been tasting them, and its interesting all of them have quite distinctive flavors.

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And a panorama of the young forest garden. I took the lawnmower to it and cut out some nice wide path with a plan in mind.

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I’m going to put in swales on contour. Hopefully, I’ll be able to linked all the swales up on one contour. This is still work in progress. There will be one running a circle around the cider apples, and another circle around the healthy apples, and one around the heritage plums, these in circles. Then a squiggly one through the apples right by the patio, and one zig zag through the pears. One circle around each walnut trees. And probably the pecans and persimmon as well. And they will all be linked up wavy-ly. I had a feeling the extended block will be on a different contour, but it can still be linked up through overflow. There’s a rainwater gutter by the patio that can be easily directed into the swale.

In the long run, I hope to not rely on conventional irrigation at all. Lucerne and white alyssum will be sown into the swales. It’s a lot of hardwork, I was working up a sweat on it all day. That should keep me well warmed up through Autumn.

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And my obsession with mowing down the wildflowers meadow earlier on has brought on another flush. It is such a pretty sight at this time of the year.

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The Orchard Cottage this week. I have finished reading A Fabled Land, The Story of Canterbury’s Famous Mesopotamia Station. It is a very inspiring story, and just shows how tough and resilient we can actually be.

Oh. I’ve yet to do any seaweed spray…

Mental note. One year from now, I will sign up for Geoff Lawton’s Online Permaculture Design Course. Some time in between, or later, I will attend a food forest design course for some hands on experience.

I realized how I enslaved I was to my smartphone last Friday. I dropped it, chest high, onto concrete floor, at work while I was having a conversation with my colleagues. Pretty much, for a moment, all of us had mouth round as goldfish. Something was obviously wrong with the display, but it worked for a moment, and later gave up the ghost. At that moment, I became a lost soul, disconnected from the world, dramatically speaking. I purchased a new smartphone that very same day after work.

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I did more work on the raised beds. The very mature compost from the old raised beds were transferred into the new beds. This gave me an opportunity to redo the old beds, layering the base with cardboard and newspapers, then a bale of pea straw goes into each bed and compacted down. Now, just a few good dose of used coffee grounds, fresh compost, and crusher dust, and Bed 1 to 3 is ready to go.

I did some sowing at the same time. Bed 4.

Pak Choi Flowering Kale Squire Mesclun Italian
Mesclun Kale Mesclun Lettuce Mesclun Oriental
Mesclun Red Alyssum Mesclun French
Carrot Mini Sweet Alyssum Carroy Paris Market
Chicory Palla Rosa Early Spinach Santana Chicory Sugarloaf
Baby Beets Onion Red Bunching | Onion White Welsh Spring Onion Ishikura | Leeks Lungo Della Riviera

Bed 5.

Flower Sprouts Kaleidoscope Flower Sprouts Kaleidoscope Flower Sprouts Kaleidoscope
Brussels Sprouts Red Ribs Brussels Sprouts Fillbasket Broccoli Sprouting Winter Rudolph
Flower Sprouts Kaleidoscope Alyssum Broccoli Sprouting Winter Rudolph
Flower Sprouts Kaleidoscope Alyssum Broccoli Sprouting Winter Rudolph
Brussels Sprouts Red Ribs Brussels Sprouts Fillbasket Broccoli Sprouting Winter Rudolph
Brussels Sprouts Red Ribs Brussels Sprouts Fillbasket Broccoli Sprouting Winter Rudolph

I was wondering, is irrigation really necessary for these raised beds?

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Harvested the corns today. From left, Early Gem, Painted Mountain, Rainbow Inca, Silver Platinum. Taste test, Silver Platinum is the best, however, its not the strongest grower. Early Gem is the strongest grower, but lacking in sweetness. Rainbow Inca is a bit starchy, seems to struggle a bit in the local climate. Painted Mountain is an awesome grower, only to realized its a flour corn.

I am most impressed with Painted Mountain, unfortunately. Its unfortunate that I have no intention of incorporating it into my diet, or perhaps, I have not explored that path yet. What do you do with flour corn? However, if I do plan to grow this on, it will be for the chooks.

My cross breeding project failed miserably this season due to poor site selection. Let’s try again next season, just 3 varieties, Early Gem, Rainbow Inca, and Silver Platinum. I have saved most of the cobs for seeds, hanging under the garage to dry out.

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The garlic that I left in the ground has started to sprout again. And they will keep multiplying, and that’s my garlic bank securing my food (garlic) security.

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At this time of the year, there’s really not much to do in the garden except observing, and what little projects I have that I need to work on. Of course, there’s the spraying and grubbing that needs to be done whenever I feel like it. Perhaps, I should get on to transplanting the old world roses into the forest garden, move those lavenders. Probably time to start saving seeds on the tomatoes. I am on the fence about giving the plants a few seaweed foliar sprays. The whole place is just about spray free now, except for some pre-emergent and grass killer that I spray occasionally. The only input is when I was fertigating from a fermenting drum of comfrey and other weeds. Even that has stopped since Summer ended.

I think I would do the seaweed spray next week, if the weather is good, just for insurance. Something about making swales in the entire forest garden has been playing in my mind for a while now. However, its quite a flat land, so I plan to do it differently. Its going to be used to just keep more rainfall on the land and slowly soak into the soil. Still thinking. Because it will be hard work.

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The Orchard Cottage this week. I am getting ready for an influx of plants next season. Grant from Thunder Mountain Nursery was kind enough to supply me with an Apple Foxwhelp scionwood for grafting as he was unable to supply it as a grafted tree. Among other things, more pre-1800 apple trees, and connoisseur rated apple trees, crabapples, prune plums heading this way. Oh yeah, 50 mm106 rootstock coming this way, a lot of grafting happening! And I am very keen to get the Red Leaf Black Boy Peach grafted successfully next season. All my stonefruit grafting failed because the scionwood has degenerated by the time I took them out of the fridge. I’m going to graft earlier this time round.

There’s the easy way, and there’s the right way. Unfortunately, they don’t rhyme all the time, but when they do, it’s called the smart way. Otherwise, its just hard work.

Diversity breeds resilience.

That went thought my head today as I was trying to be not so stubbornly perfect with the things I do in the garden.

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I was reading Gaia’s Garden, and was briefly introduced to keyholes. And I was looking at my raised vege beds, and an inspiration struck. I could turn them into keyholes! That means I am getting 4 additional 90cm x 45cm raised beds which can be planted, and I choose to plant them with a grapevine each which I am going to transplant from the North fence, under planted with lavender and herbs.

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The addition of windbreak on the West fence means that I have made available a rather narrow pathway by the sleepout for planting. In goes boysenberries and hybridberries to be trellis against the fence. Strictly no raspberries even though I love them simply because they send out root runners which suckers.

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The Winter Luxury Pie Pumpkin is making a run for it! It’s going yellow now, soon it will be pinkish orange and ready for harvest! I need to research earlier maturing varieties of pumpkins, squash, and watermelon which would be more suited for my region.

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The bumble bees are addicted to the sunflower. They just hang out there for all the while ignoring me while I was taking plenty of photos of them.

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Remember a while back I bought a McGregor daisy weeder? Well, its a tool that is meant to draw up the weed along with its taproot, and it didn’t work as designed half the time, and I ended up using the spaghetti twirl motion. I’m not blaming McGregor, I have other daisy weeders and they suffer from the same issue.

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So, I took out the grinder and gave it a good grinding. With a very simple idea in mind, I just need a tool that can cut the top off the weeds along with a bit of root with it.

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This is the Thistle Chisel, or Thistle Jabber. It worked, as intended! Just jab the thistle slightly below soil level and the tops come clean off. Useful for area too delicate for the grubber. I can also use this tool to harvest asparagus, I have seen something like this on River Cottage for harvesting asparagus.

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The Orchard Cottage this week. Going through another flush of wildflowers.

Nah… I think this one is going to fizzle. At least, I don’t think it is going to hit us hard in terms of rainfall.

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Anyway, it got me into getting my weather station up to scratch. The whole stand has got 2 warratah to hold it steady in terms of rain, and the internals had been cleared of spider webs. So, hopefully it will read correctly this time, that is, recording actual rainfall, and not skewed by the gust.

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The windbreak on the West boundary has been repaired. I used 2×2 for the main posts, and rebars for the intermediates. It should be strong enough this time, unless a branch from those oak trees decided to take it out.

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The solar power air pumped has arrived. It wasn’t exactly what I expected, but this will do. This particular thing, uses the solar panel to charge the battery, and the battery powers the pump. This means that the pump will not start automatically in the morning, when the battery runs out at night. Means that, I have to manually turn on the pump each time. I would have like something that will automatically goes as long as there is sunlight. This will do for now, the system is complete.

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The possums are back! I have defoliated the roses, and working on the flowering plum. I have, unfortunately sent my A12 trap back to Goodnature for servicing. One of the possum is bold enough to poop on my doorstep. This is war!

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Sitting the Pumpkin Winter Luxury Pie on a bed of straw. Will it ripen in time?

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A good harvest of tomatoes, and more to come. The odd shape Tomaccio taste really good too! There’s all kinds in there.

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Look! A sweet chestnut on my really young chestnut tree!

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The wildflowers meadow is regenerating itself. I went out and chuck some of my old seeds on, carrots, radishes, and other stuff. Mainly root crops that will punch organic holds into the soil. In other ways, it contributes to my food security, I might forage for veges in the wildflowers meadow in the future.

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The Orchard Cottage this week. The cookbook, Single Serve by Penny Oliver is really helping adding culinary diversity to my weekends. I hope they find MH370 soon.

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.

Mum and dad has gone back to Kay-eL. Coming back to an empty house without the smell of home cooked Chinese food lingering around felt unusual, lonely. The house even feels a few degrees colder. And I picked up the pieces and continue where I left off, with Caesar, the partner in crime.

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The forest garden is bountiful with apples and pears. The nashi pears were amazing, and the high Vitamin C of the sour-ish Calville Blanc d’Hiver makes me feel oh-so-healthy! Then, there’s plenty of tomatoes, or should I say, they have gone wild because I have not pinch off the laterals for 2 weeks.

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Look at that bush! By the time I got through them, I am all green.

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Now, that’s better, a lot more sunlight coming through to give the tomatoes some sunny goodness.

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When I first saw this in the greenhouse, I have no idea what it is because I have decidedly not plant any ugly weird looking tomatoes. It turned out to be Oaxacan Jewel, but my Oaxacan Jewel last year looked nothing like this. Perhaps, some ancient gene has been reactivated? It looks like Zapotec which hails from the high altitude region of Oaxacan in southern Mexico first brought to Europe in 1521.

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Look at this supposedly Red Currant tomato! I planted 2 Red Currant, the one at the back, is red, and the one in front turned out to be yellow?! And the yellow one is just so awesome, the truss is just about a foot long, or longer!

There’s a lot of interesting surprises going on with the tomatoes this year. I planted 3 Tomaccio from 3 different supplier. The one from Egmont grow true. The one from TradeMe turned out to be a red pear shape cherry type, and the one from a LSB member had a low growing bushy form. I’ll save seeds from the Egmont and TradeMe and see what they do next season, and get fresh seeds from Egmont again as well, just in case.

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I’m getting some pumpkins! Should I think the plant down to just one or two pumpkins?

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These white alpine strawberries are the bomb. The run really well and form a good smoldering ground cover. The white strawberries are larger than the red alpine strawberries, and taste just as good too! Due to their smaller size, they hang well and does not lay on the ground. That translates to the strawberries not attracting attention from slugs and slaters.

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Finally! The peach tree is doing something to size up the peaches! Now is a good time to ripen up, prices of summerfruits are going up to $8/kg at the supermarket as the season is coming to an end. What my peach tree is doing, is baffling. Cory dropped by the other day to drop off some Blackboy peaches as I asked for some stones to grow some seedlings, would be pretty good as the maiden tree is just around the corner. Blackboy peach is very interesting, port wine flesh, and a reasonably thick skin.

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What happens when you plant pear trees and cherry trees nearby each other? You get the pear and cherry slug. I am still waiting for some natural predators to show up before I attempt to sprinkle flour over them which is said to help kill them off.

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The fertigation drum gets its float valve. That means I don’t have to worry about it running dry anymore as it will fill itself up. Now I just need to wait for the solar air pump to arrive in the mailbox for aerating the liquid.

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Bought a book today. Have always been fascinated with history relating to the land.

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And some really cool bookmarks, just because I am reading more than one book at the same time. Retailing Management, Gaia’s Garden, A Short History of New Zealand, etc etc.

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The Orchard Cottage this week. I’ve got big plans for this place.

We drove up to Kaikoura this week!

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We arrived at 4:30pm because we had an awesome lunch at Wairapa Hills Winery & Cafe. Tried to find a spot for a cup of coffee in Kaikoura town but nothing seems to be in the mood for it, the one we settled for in the end managed to burnt the coffee. So, we wanted to try some fresh crayfish too, and decided to head out to Nins Bin just in time for them to sell out and close for the day. Went back to Kaikoura town again, decided to try out one of the restaurant, and got served mushy seafood.

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So, that was it, not much luck in terms of food, but plenty of good scenery out there!

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Headed out to Christchurch Botanical Garden again, and saw this! I had a feeling this is more exciting than America Cup. We had a wander around the garden and I checked out the native plantings to get some inspiration. I managed to get some, but I still need to process that into the Orchard Cottage. Think Ponga.

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Went to Birdlings Flat for the first time in my life even though it is just around the corner and I have been here long enough. Its beautiful, the pebble beach is awesome!

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Went to Willowbank Wildlife Reserve. Its a lovely place to just chill and wander around and look at stuff.

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Proud to say, I finally know how a Kiwi looks like!

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Took the Transalpine train day trip today. It is beautiful! I can’t wait to hop on the train again early Spring, the view will be magnificent. As we passed by the Alpine Fault, I saw some paddock which is on pretty flat land, being ridged into a wavy pattern, like a crinkled potato chips, with the edges joining to form one interconnected ditch. It is as if the farmer has swale-ed his flat paddock. Does that give you a permaculture design idea on a piece of flat land?

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So, I took the ladder out, stand on top of it, and took some pictures. The birds definitely got the better view.

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The Orchard Cottage this week.


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