This was quite a mild week. It passed by in such a blur. Mainly fine weather, with a bit of sunshine here and there, and cold winds.

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Rainfall this week, 0.5mm. We have a high of 15dC and a low of -1dC.

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That’s the main thing that’s been going on this weekend. The Giant Cloche had its greenhouse film put on. I’ve lined the edges with double sided tape, put the film on, and stapler it in as well.

All was well, until the job is done, then I remembered, the so call one-sided anti-condensation coating on the greenhouse film that was supposed to be facing the inside. Which I have completely forgotten about.

So, I checked it this morning, and I think I had all the different sheets installed the same way, by some odd chance. But is the anti-condensation coating facing the inside or outside? I have no idea.

I supposed it doesn’t really matter, but the alternative remedy is to get another greenhouse film installed on the inside of the frame the right way round. And it will be sort of double-glazing as well.

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Lots of bud movement is happening around the stone fruits. The ever elusive Santa Rosa Plum had green tips but no sign of those flowers still. White tips coming through on the swollen Apricot buds, these guys will be well protected from the frost by the surrounding Tree Lucernes.

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The Orchard Cottage this week. Waiting patiently for Spring.

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.

Wow! That’s some sort of weather! And I was just telling someone else that it ain’t gonna snow as the event was downgraded. And the very next morning, I woke up to a foam party.

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That’s 50mm of rainfall, snow, hail, sleet combined! We have a high of 19.8dC and a low of 0dC.

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The good news is that the mikroclima frost cloth roof for the greenhouse is very much uncompromised despite of the snowfall. I am truly grateful that I have covered the grounds and driveway with large grade pebbles. Otherwise, my shoes will get all soggy every time I step out of the house. It is so unmuddy now.

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It continued to snow sleet hail shower on Sunday. It didn’t stop me from unloading the crusher dust from the ute into the greenhouse and the giant cloche. Working in between the deluge, and mixing the crusher dust in with the compost and mulch mix. Top it up with a sprinkling of rolled oats so that the birds will come and eat and shit and get some bio going.

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And the strawberries babies are growing. Its strawberries planting time now, but I am more interested in planting more shallots.

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And the Saturday snowfall split this Tagasaste Tree Lucerne three ways! Will be cutting them back hard, and hope that they recover. Will be sowing some tree lupin seeds though, for replacement.

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A change of view, some droopy looking Tagasaste Tree Lucerne abound. I’ve ordered some interesting tomato seeds from a rare seed company based in US. Will be interesting to find out if it will arrive at all.

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I took this when it is snowing on Sunday. I am looking at Victorian bells to enhance early Spring growing, however, they cost about $13 each, and I am looking at having a couple dozens. That’s just not going to be a financially prudent decision. I’ve figured something else out instead, I’ve managed to amass a huge quantity of yogurt pottles, which will probably do the trick. All they need is some holes to be drilled on the base.

“Seek out the beauty in every imperfection”

We are now in the final month of Winter. However, it felt like Spring after I had a wee banter with one of the shepherd while taking Caesar for a run on the bike. Maybe it is a whiplash from the freeze a few weeks before, and then we will be seeing another deep freeze in perhaps 2 weeks time?

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Rainfall this week, 4mm. A high of 19.8dC and a low of -2.2dC. Its windy though.

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All the pre-ordered bare rooted fruit trees have arrived at just about the same time, and they were all planted out yesterday. I’ve finally got a red leafed Blackboy Peach, I’ve tried grafting for 2 years and had no luck until I noted Grant from Thunder Mountain offered them for sale.

The Belgian Fence is now 99% filled, except for 2 mm106 rootstock which still awaits scionwood of some type. Will see what SCES have to offer when they send out the scionwood list some time this week.

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This is the Three Sisters Project plot. Plenty of lime and gypsum went down last week, and I added a truck load of eco mulch and compost yesterday before putting the weedmat back on. The wee fencing is to keep Caesar away.

In there, I’ll be planting 136 sweetcorn consisting of crosses between Early Gem, Golden Bantam, Rainbow Inca, and Silver Platinum. There will also be 21 pumpkin/squash varieties.

For Cucurbita maxima, I’ll be crossing Pumpkin Australian Butter with Squash Burgess Buttercup. As the species name suggest, these are huge in size, so I’m just trying to cross something great and bring the size down.

For Cucurbita pepo, I’ll be crossing Pumpkin Thelma Sanders Sweet Potato with Pumpkin Wee Be Little with Squash Delicata. Again, I’m trying to bring the size down.

For Cucurbita moschata, it’ll just be Squash Honeynut. This variety is great as it is.

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The bumble bees caught wind of the almond flowering.

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So more bumble bees arrived to hang out with the almond.

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The Orchard Cottage this week.

“first seek to understand.”

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”.

Yep, it snowed, but nothing down to sea level here. The surrounding hills are white again, and it got really cold!

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From the frozen rain gauge, we can tell there’s 28mm of rainfall accumulation. A low of -4dC and a high of 9dC. It’s quite wet, and frosty, and cold. I have started uploading my weather data onto Weather Underground again, just the temperature and humidity of the Subtropical station.

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The frozen forest garden. Had a walk around Sunday morning to find out what are the areas that don’t get frost bitten.

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The subtropical area, clearly, didn’t made it this season, the tree lucerne will grow more dense and they will be able to do a better job next season, hopefully. Will see what made it into Spring.

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Frosted pattern. Pittosporum?

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Frosted hazelnut catkins.

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Frosted almond buds, will be interesting to see if those buds will be alright?

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The sign of a really harsh frost.

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Caesar’s paw, frosted.

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The rainwater catchment tank is frozen, the ice about 1cm thick.

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The raised beds are all frosted, the saffrons are enjoying the cold.

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Luckily I had the lemon and lime covered. And the waxeyes are enjoying a feast on the bird feeder.

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Without further ado, I have built the new door for the greenhouse, and put the old mikroclima frost cloth back on. Should last for another year or two.

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If you have too many old newspapers and magazines and boxes that you want to get rid of. Build a raised bed.

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The Orchard Cottage this week. Totally frozen. I’m running out of space on this site too, am considering if I should pay for an upgrade or start another chapter on a new site?

The weather has been mild this week. Mother Nature is considerate in allowing things to dry up a wee bit before she pours again.

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Only 0.75mm of rain this week. We have a high of 16dC and a low of 1dC. The weatherman says there’s a chance of snow this week. That will be nice if the snow settles.

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Be cool if we get something like this again. That was 16 August 2011.

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The roses are blooming in Winter over here. And the bumble bees have a cozy spot to rest. And get drunk on pollen and nectar.

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I’ve done some upgrading on the rainwater catchment tank. This little thing here is an automatic siphoning thingy. Similiar to how you siphon water out of an aquarium, except this works on its own. When water goes above the top of the pipe, it will start the siphoning process until the water drops below the green thing.

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This is an old float valve which I have reversed the float ball position. When the water fills up and lifts the float ball up above a certain point, water will start to exist through the float valve.

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The saffrons are making good progress. This week of drying out is good for the raised beds. I’ve aerate the soil a wee bit as well to fluff it up.

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Giant Cloche is now structurally complete. The hinges have all been installed. Now, I just need to fill it up, and add the greenhouse film. I’m planning to grow watermelon, okra, eggplant, and chillies in it.

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The greenhouse too, just need a door, and mikroclima frost cloth. I’ve filled the beds with equal mix mulch and compost. Transplanted the lemon and lime in the center. Hung a bird feeder on the rafters so that the birds will eat and drop some shit, get some good old biology going. I’ll do the same with the Giant Cloche too.

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Nothing much happening in the forest garden, just the lime doing its job. Come spring, will be spreading NH4. NH4 also has the benefits of stabilizing soil temperature. Stops it from going too hot nor cold.

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The first four leaf clover was discovered at the Orchard Cottage today!

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The Orchard Cottage this week. The day is getting longer, the sun is rising higher.

Earlier this week we were reminded how treacherous winter driving can be.

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Rainfall this week, 12mm. We have a high of 14dC and a low of -3dC.

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It’s a really cold one this winter with plenty of frosty morning. The frost busted one of the irrigation timers, I have swapped a spare one in, and will check if the other one will still work. The frost bite the coffee plant hard, but did not killed it. All of the citrus plants does not seem to be fazed at all. And we will have to wait till Spring to see if the damage done to the Subtropicals are recoverable.

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On the projects, the greenhouse got the pebbles. I’ve got enough pebbles now for the Orchard Cottage. I’ll be getting in truck loads of eco mulch from now on. I think I’ll do some sanding on the greenhouse to smooth the surface down and reduce the friction damage to the mikroclima frost cloth.

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The windows for the giant cloche has been built today. There’s only 4 pieces of wood to each window with no other reinforcing needed. This is because I have the 2 shorter wood at a 45d slant to the other 2 pieces, and everything just locked into place rigidly. I’ll put the hinges on next week and all it needs is a wrap up with greenhouse film, some insulation tape, and filled with eco mulch. By Spring time, we’ll be in business.

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Hazelnut catkins. Is this the right time of the year for them to be doing this?

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One of the almond can’t wait for Spring.

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Again, I can’t say more about how much I appreciate how cold this Winter is. Finally, the big almond tree that has not gone dormant for a few Winters, has finally decided to shed its leaves and go to sleep! The Peachcot and some Apricots finally decided to call it a season after a few hard frosts. Some plants are just too hard basket. However, some of the apples along the Belgian Fence has decided to keep going and shows no sign of going into dormancy.

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The Orchard Cottage this week. Caesar made a few appearance here and there. I must say I am quite used to the cold nowadays having consciously conditioning my body to be able to withstand colder temperature without needing extra layers.

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.

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