Don’t play play, I can speak four languages in one sentence, scare a not? It’s been a long wait, 9 months, having put all my eggs in one basket, waking up one day knowing that a decision would be made that would decide if my adventure in NZ is going to continue or come to an end. Well, thank God that my PR has been approved, woohoo! That means that I can continue on more crazy projects around the Orchard Cottage. I’m truly grateful.

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Rainfall this week is pretty good, 8mm. It’s a good start. We have a high of 29.7dC and a low of 4.9dC. I have already kicked into the Autumn irrigation mode for the forest garden so that the trees can start preparing for dormancy.

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It’s greening up slightly now.

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The climbing beans have started flowering, finally. They were sort of stunted as I have sown them too early, and it took away for them to grow out of the shock.

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The banana plant is finally looking like a banana tree.

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The Orchard Cottage this week. A week of joy and gratefulness!

I was out at the Christchurch Botanical Garden yesterday and finally stepped foot into the Curator’s House for lunch, and that’s a really nice place to be.

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The conservatory is one of my favorite place at the Christchurch Botanical Garden, that’s where most of the plants that are marginal for existing bio region is grown. I was looking at this huge cactus and noticed the very detailed layout of the spines, these are staggered form, as OCD as I can be. Perhaps, nature is trying to teach us the proper way to plant things if we are to do it in a mono-culture way.

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Back here at the Orchard Cottage, it was really dry. We have got 0.3mm of rain at best, 28.5dC high and a low of 5.1dC. Drought has officially been declared.

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In the greenhouse, the tomatoes got another hair cut to let more light in. I have save some seeds for next season.

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More light in helps to ripened up the peppers.

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And some tiny peppers. I will save the seeds of the good size one and plant them next season.

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The garlic is back!

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Very well formed rose. My favorite Austin rose.

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It is the Lunar New Year today. How many new year do we get to celebrate in a year?

I just watched the first three episode of Little House on The Prairie. The first episode was so touching towards the end it almost put me to tears. Totally didn’t know the show existed until mum mentioned it a while back. It was sort of, too old for me. The library classify it into the Children’s category. 204 episodes of drama dedicated to children. Wow!

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We have 7.1mm of rain this week. A high of 29.7dC and a low of 5.3dC. We are looking at another really dry week ahead, and windy.

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The black raspberry is going to start flowering again in preparation for the Autumn crop.

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Every year growing sweetcorn, something seems to be devouring the corn silks. Earwigs?

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Just thought of sharing this latest yogurt collection from the supermarket. They are made from buffalo milk and sheep milk. They are not cheap, that’s for sure. But I wonder how they would taste in my morning breakfast shake.

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This was taken a few months ago.

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I was helping out with the lambs.

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There was a goat in the yard and we decided to catch it.

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And I was dispatched to catch it.

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And I caught it. It didn’t have anywhere to run really, the mob of lamb restricted his movement.

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The Orchard Cottage this week. Another beautiful sunny day. Started seed saving for the tomatoes. Am now contemplating what tomatoes to continue growing next season, and what to stop. I had a grafted Sungold, and it wasn’t doing much, should I save the seeds and see what they do next season? Or just stick to Small Sweet Orange?

The weather gods are trying to help us out here with some brief nightly drizzle. I doubt it does much of a difference when it comes to wetting the ground, but it does give hope that a good downpour is just around the corner. And at the moment, I think that hope will be fulfilled tomorrow.

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3.5mm of rain has accumulated this week. We have a high of 32.4dC and low of 8.7dC. There were some gusty wind warning for Banks Peninsula yesterday but we were lucky to be spared the brunt of it here.

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Somehow, the clovers are coping slightly better than the grasses in this dryness. Certain trees are starting to show some signs of stress but that’s fine, I will prune the almonds back when they are dormant and they will rebound with vigour next season. Plenty of mulch definitely.

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I bought one of those Aquasolo microporous ceramic cone for automatic irrigation. What would be really nice is an un-glazed pot. Anyway, you are suppose to just fit the cone onto a water bottle and poke it into the ground, I have bring it a step further, and retrofit it to a 20L container, irrigation fittings and all. That should keep the wee watermelon vine happy.

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Another pumpkin.

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The flowers of Globe Artichokes are truly spectacular, a giant thistle flower.

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The Nikau Palm got an upgrade to a larger pot.

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This season’s top crop goes to the tomatoes!

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The Orchard Cottage this week. The wee nightly sprinkles has definitely helped to put a green tinge on the hills. I’m also considering getting a second vehicle as insurance in case the existing one breaks down and I will be stranded. A single cab ute with a lot of space at the back to truck mulch and compost and what not will be absolutely awesome.

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.

It rained. And it wasn’t enough.

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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.

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

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More watermelon flowers.

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Pumpkin flowers, these are the guys.

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And I think this is a lady.

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Fruit set.

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And a different variety.

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Captivating patterns looking down the corn stalk.

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This is the Painted Mountain corn.

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Spring onions flowering.

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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.

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Last chance to spray those grapes.

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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.

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

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

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Chicory flower up close.

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Cherimoya is coming along nicely.

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Tamarillos have grown.

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Paw Paws showing just as much growth.

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Bananas in pyjamas.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Checking on the Tomaccio.

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

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Grafted Goldnugget I bought from Oderings.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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Prickly chestnuts.

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Obviously, I forgot to thin this Devonshire Quarrendon.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The pumpkins are flowering!

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This is actually a walnut!

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And a hazelnut!

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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