It rained. And it wasn’t enough.


About 4.5mm of rain has fallen yesterday. And that was the accumulation for this week. Grass needs 25mm of rain a week. Its not enough. More rain please. This week we have a high of 32.5dC and a low of 8.3dC. All this hot weather means plenty of gusty wind, and some of the younger trees have started to lean. The Tree Lucerne on the North fence are pretty much growing sideways.


The heat though, is causing a boom in the pumpkin patch.


More watermelon flowers.


Pumpkin flowers, these are the guys.


And I think this is a lady.


Fruit set.


And a different variety.


Captivating patterns looking down the corn stalk.


This is the Painted Mountain corn.


Spring onions flowering.


Delicious strawberries. These are the second flush now, previously I trimmed off all the flowers to give the plants a bit of a rest. And all the runners have been cut off.


Last chance to spray those grapes.


This lateral wasn’t there last week. The tomato plants got a big hair cut this week. I was in the greenhouse removing all the lower leaves as well as the leaf immediately below each truss. Don’t think I have an Indigo Rose this season, seed saving gone wrong, turned out to be a Super Snow White.


The Alder fence is looking good. They will be duck ready by next season.


Gladioli in their second season. They came up through the berm! Pretty much means that they pushed though a foot deep of soil!



Chicory flower up close.


Cherimoya is coming along nicely.


Tamarillos have grown.


Paw Paws showing just as much growth.


Bananas in pyjamas.


It’s really dry out here. The oscillating sprinkler I have retrofitted among the raised vege beds takes an hour to put out 1 inch of rain while the impulse sprinkler in the greater food forest takes 4 hours to put out 1 inch of rain. I turn them on once a week during this dry period to really give the ground a good soak in.


The Orchard Cottage this week. After the rain.

The cloud came in but no rain has fallen. It was just gloom, like the gloom of drought. Now the cloud is gone, and rays of sunlight pushes through again. All good to those who can irrigate without being held back by water restrictions. Out here at the Orchard Cottage, I will take it as a blessing as the drying out helped to put a check on weed growth. Everything else that needs water, I have irrigation systems in place.


You can just see the dryness in the panoramic view. Only the deep rooted species are going to make it through. Or those who happened to be in the path of the drip lines that runs in the forest garden. Our rainfall this week is just 0.3mm, a high of 30.8dC and low of 7.7dC.

The sky was clouded up with increased humidity yesterday, but not a single drop of rain has fallen. I see that as an opportunity to pour some water on. My newly purchased impulse sprinkler did the job quite well giving the greater food forest a good drench.


I went out and check on the guerilla grafting of Angelina Burdett plum. It is doing well, I may need to hack the rest of the tree off to force more growth into the new wood.


And so I noticed those wild plum trees have got plums on them and they ripen to a much darker shade of red, like maroon. I wonder how they taste like as the birds often got to them before I do.


In the greenhouse, where I also planted some garlic from last season, they have gone to seed and the little bulbils are all over. I’ll need to collect them and plant them next season.


Checking on the Tomaccio.


This Tomaccio is a F2. I grew the F1 from seed last season, and save the seeds. True to seed indeed.


Grafted Goldnugget I bought from Oderings.


Very beautiful pattern on the Black Zebra. I might, from my seed saving selection, has inadvertently selected for smaller fruits. Which is good for me, I like them small.


I think this is the Pepper Jingle Belles, very advanced in terms of growth.


And this would be the Pepper Bell Colour mix. Or it might be the other way round, but I think I am right the first time round.


When the raised beds are just not big enough, everyone decides to do a runner.


Prickly chestnuts.


Obviously, I forgot to thin this Devonshire Quarrendon.


The Orchard Cottage this week. I might be getting my hands on a DIY soil test kit do some lab work. You can’t improve what you don’t measure.

I am very excited about the prospect of getting ducks in next season. I am definitely on to 1 male Muscovy and 2 females. And another 2 to 3 more layers that doesn’t fly, probably Orpington.



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.


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.


The bananas, with the mister going on timer.


The paw paws are well out of the double bags.



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


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


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


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


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


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


Two sisters in the raised bed doing well.


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.


I’ve got two of these huge cabbages.


Tiny, small, medium sized onions.


Pink flowering strawberries.


And more strawberries trying to do a runner.


The improvised oscillating sprinkler in action.


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


And some pear shape tomatoes.






Neglected globe artichoke.


Pinot Gris grapes!


Lemon and lime that came back from the dead.


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.


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


Masses of blue cornflower.


The Orchard Cottage this week. Very dry.

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.

Merry Christmas! This is my 4th Christmas in New Zealand, how time flies. And how things remained the same, we stuffed ourselves full, and fall asleep on the couch. Christmas for Kiwis would be like Chinese New Year for the Chinese, there’s always good food to go around. On another note, Chinese in the Southern Hemisphere have been celebrating the Winter Solstice recently, in line with the tradition of the Northern Hemisphere. I have been most unkind to remind them that it is Summer Solstice down South, and there’s no point stuffing ourselves full with glutinous rice balls at night meant to carry us through the longest night, on the shortest night, we should be doing that in June. Or should I say, unsentimental.

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This week we accumulated 9.5mm of rain. A high of 29.3dC and a low of 8.7dC. It is a pretty warm week. And quite a windy week too.

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The raised beds are coming along nicely. This is my backup plan with the sweetcorn breeding and pumpkin/squash/watermelon growing initiative. The sweetcorn are much ahead compared to those sown in compost bags. The compost bags growing thing wasn’t working out very well. I probably sown too early. I have already came up with a better plan for next season. There’s always next year.

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This would be the best looking raised beds among the others. Well, the others, had 2 Brassica in each, and they sort of spread their leaves big brother style and push everyone else out of the way. I should have gave them a trimmed up earlier on. Anyway, I’ve got plenty of Brassica leaves to mulch the Subtropical garden. The cauliflower from last week has gone humongous now. And there’s a lot of huge broccoli side shoots. And the cabbages are about ready. Will I be able to eat them all in time? Caesar might be on vegetarian delight for the next few days.

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Ripe Tomaccio for Christmas! I had not been in the greenhouse for a bit, and they started to send out new steroid fueled laterals!

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Capsicums! Woohoo! I wonder what color would these ripened into.

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More strawberries trying to escape.

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The Paw Paws are starting to grow taller. The double bagging is helping. Noticed some new comers? The one at the back, that’s got double bagging, is a Red Tamarillo dubbed Hardy Harry which I got from Oderings, supposedly selected for its extra hardiness. There’s also a yellow passionfruit, and a purple passionfruit, which I bought from Oderings, planted beneath the Tree Lucerne, with the intention for them to use the small tree as a growing structure. That said, I’ll need to give those Tree Lucerne a thinning to let more light through.

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Beautiful form of the yellow calendula.

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I did not get to take a shot of the Orchard Cottage this week. Caesar thus makes the backup appearance. I’ve been looking high and low for super firm mattress which incorporates coconut fiber in Christchurch, no luck online. My Boxing Day, thus shall be spent going from furniture shop to furniture shop to hunt it down.

Its drizzling now. I am grateful that I managed to fit my morning run in before the rain. It appears that the weather wasn’t warm enough to ripen up the stonefruits done in Central Otago, hence, lack of supply, high demand, price increased. At the Orchard Cottage however, my Lapin cherry would have been ripe for picking today. However! Some wood pigeon decided to jump the gun and ate it all a day too early! I’ll throw a net over them next year.

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Rainfall this week, 7mm. We have a high of 25.3dC and a low of 3.3dC. On the bright side, this year we are going into a sunny Christmas, albeit a windy one.

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This cauliflower came out of nowhere. All along, its just plenty of green, and then one day, it just puff up like a popcorn! That’s about 2 meals there, and some earwigs for protein. They would make a good Asian stir fry or braised in osyter sauce or whatever, I’ve don’t have all the other ingredients, so I just cut them into smaller pieces and roast it in the oven with eggs. Might add some sliced bacon or ham in and see what happens. I am after all, the guy who cooks everything in the oven.

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If you are wondering what I have done to the tractor tire, here it is. The pumpkins and squash on the side, and the watermelon in the middle, and I used the propagating tray’s cover over them. Next season I am going to plant a group of figs in there.

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The peaceful Peace.


The Spring flowers are about done. The foliage are going through a transition stage, towards the color of Summer, yellow. The poppies will be going to seed now, and the seed heads will shake about in the wind, creating little melodies of their own.


The Orchard Cottage this week. How’s your Christmas shopping going? I’ve just about done mine, just need to buy a few things for myself. I wonder what will I get from my secret santa this 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.



In the blink of an eye, Spring is over, and here we are waltzing into Summer. There’s no late frost, or not frost at all for Spring this year, that’s interesting. Paying more attention to my seed sowing this season helped me to gain a deeper understanding into when to sow. Well, I should only start sowing after Show Day to get the best results when the sowing is done in the open. With plans to modify the greenhouse and build a jumbo cold frame for next season, I might attempt to start some seedlings outdoor under cover.

Just had an eureka moment on a raised bed cover that I can put over a section of the raised beds for sowing direct too. *Quickly sketch it down onto some random piece of paper*

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The weather this week is quite amazing. We had 25mm of accumulated rainfall. Its what we needed as it was quite dry. Had a high of 25.9dC and low of 2.8dC. Some hail and thunder, and more to come later.

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I accidentally broke the fruiting branch of a Cara Cara Orange the other day, and the fruit pretty much needed to be picked. It has really strong color in the flesh, despite not much promises from the outer skin. Though, it has a nice bum typical of sweet eating Navel Oranges. It is definitely not tart, it is sweet!

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Proof that the Bearrs Lime and Yen Ben Lemon is very much alive. The immediate remedial action has been good for the plant, the first shock of a plant that thinks its going to die, is to putting all of its energy into flowering profusely, and I picked off all them before they even resemble any form of a flower bud thus saving the energy, let the plant calm the farm down and put on some foliage buds. They will regrow, and next season go into the modified green house.

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Back to the Subtropical plot, I have double bagged the plants with an extra layer of plastic, salvaged from used compost bags. I’ve started mulching with cabbage leaves, and a colleague at work offered me plenty of spent straw from her chook house. This is sort of a on site composting approach, composting generates heat, and on site composting means that the surface layer will continuously have some sort of hot energy going on. Not only that, composting requires a certain level of moisture, and that means humidity, hot humid energy, just what the subtropical plants need. I am really more into humidity than heat, that’s where my greenfingers instinct is pointing. Humidity, humidity, humidity.

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The proof is in the bacon. This Avocado Bacon has truly come back to life after being hit hard by frost last season thanks to over confident me that did not bother about putting a cover on until, “oh its frosted, let’s put a cover on now”.

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Remember the strawberries twin? Well, they have made good progress, and ready to eat in a couple days time. The strawberries bed have been my after work indulgence. Ripe strawberries, and peas so sweet, yummo! Caesar gets to share in the occasional snack too, he loves them peas, eat them shellout pea whole.


I’ve attacked the hedge mustard with the bill hook last week. They have started to lignify, makes them harder to cut down, and they don’t break down that quickly anymore.


The Orchard Cottage this week.

This week has been nice and warm. Gusty and windy at times, one of the apple trees almost blew over but I managed to stake it in time. Seems like pip fruits are not as wind hardy as stone fruits.

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Rainfall this week 9.5mm. High of 30dC and low of 1.4dC. The temperature at the Subtropical plot has read a degree or so higher than the primary station, likely due to it being sheltered from the wind of the North, and more baking heat.

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The subtropicals have all been planted, mulched, and mister setup for each plant.

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Australian Ladyfinger Banana. Very sweet small fruit. Tall, hardy. Productive in Northern NZ. 5m height.

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Goldfinger Banana. New Honduran hybrid. Very sweet, tangy, curved fruit. Hardy and robust. Best flavour of all. Black stem, broad leaves. 3m height.

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Rainbow Valley Paw Paw. Outstanding female mountain pawpaw selection by Joe Polaischer of Rainbow Valley Farm, Matakana. Sweet small fruit, few seeds; uncharacteristically delicious for a mountain pawpaw. Eat raw (skin too) or stewed, in jams, sauces or pies. 4m height.

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Cherimoya Perla. Bred by the Austin brothers of Kaitaia, and the flavour is dominated by a definite pineapple tang. 4m height.

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Yellow Tamarillo. Pure-bred, original mild flavoured yellow tamarillo. White seed. 2.5m height.

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Wild Tamarillo. The original species from Ecuador. Stripey yellow spindle-shaped fruit. Beautiful flavour, less acid than the red form and more complex and rich than the yellow. More disease-resistant species. 2.5m height.

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Passionfruit Sweet Granadilla. Large, gold, sweet fruit. Blue flowers. Handsome vine. Long-lived.

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While we were here at the subtropical plot, which also happens to be in the duck area. All the foraging crops have gone to seed and they are so much taller than me! Plenty of food for the ducks when next season comes around.

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As for me, some broccoli shoots have started to show up. I’ve also been harvesting snow peas for lunch, and ate half of them before they entered the kitchen.

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And I ate my first delicious homegrown strawberry.

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And another off the watering can.

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Now you see it.

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Now you don’t!

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These are Lapin cherries. Will I get to eat them before the birds do?

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Roses have started to flower. This is the Glamis Castle.

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Leander will be my favorite David Austin rose.

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Amazing bloom by Sheila’s Perfume. It’s partner, Red Piccadilly has sadly died, and I am looking forward to replant Perception in its spot.

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I bought this Mammy Blue on impulse purchase. The original intention was to plant it in place of the Red Picadilly, but changed my mind after that. Then, I saw this old tree stump with a hole in it, and chiseled away, hacked a larger hole and plant the rose in it.

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Down to more serious business. My apple grafting project has showed good success. Both grafting in the nursery and in situ at the Belgian Fence has yielded 70% success rate. However, I must note that they are growing stronger and more advanced in the nursery due to a more controlled environment.

Some utter failure, Crabapple Golden Hornet, Crabapple Jelly King and Apple Golden Pippin which is 100% fail. Luckily, all the bought in scionwood have taken.

Now, what do I do with those extras?


It gets more and more colourful week after week. I’m still waging war with the hedge mustard, I’ve attacked half of them yesterday, and will do the remaining later.


The Orchard Cottage this week. I dropped the lawnmower at Mario’s yesterday, it has a very bad cracked on the chassis, and he has managed to a a patch up welding job on it, picking it up later. I’m thinking of changing the wheels on the lawnmower, not sure how it works, but I had a feeling that they need larger wheels for the rough work I am making it do. Its the same concept as driving through a pothole in a compact car (small wheel) as compared to a larger car (larger wheel). I have sped through potholes in a rental Camry a long time ago and I can’t feel a bump. Come again next week, maybe supersized wheels.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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


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