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.

2011-08-16 08.49.06

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Meet Fanny the fantail.

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And Porky the morepork.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Silver Platinum specimen 2.

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

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Silver Platinum specimen 4. Skinny.

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

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Golden Bantam specimen 1.

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Golden Bantam specimen 2. A pretty well crossed specimen.

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Golden Bantam specimen 3. Not a lot of crossing.

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Rainbow Inca specimen 1. Bendy.

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

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Rainbow Inca specimen 3. Good shape.

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

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Rainbow Inca specimen 5. Blue corn chips?

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

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

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

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

It was 5am in the morning and I was at work getting things ready. It was bloody cold. A checked on the web shows that its -4dC at the airport. No wonder the fingers are freezing. Luckily the work grounds are dry, so there’s no icing on the grounds. Its -1dC at home, in the Subtropical area, that’s a cause for concern. We shall see how the plants fare.

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9mm of rainfall accumulated this week. High of 17dC and cold of -1dC.

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Quite obviously, the bananas are quite frost hammered. It will take a few more days to assess the extend of the damage.

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The paw paws are affected too.

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Yet, this paw paw showed that some of its leaves are not affected.

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The tamarillos are partially affected. The leaves at the top are goners, but the ones in the middle are unaffected.

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The previous photo was on the more exposed side of the plant, but on the part well covered under the tree lucerne is quite unaffected.

So, I can deduce that the tree lucerne canopy concept is working, and the reason the bananas are quite significantly affected because they are still quite out in the open as the other tree lucernes are still young and have not grown densely enough to provide sufficient protection. Also to keep in mind that bananas are the more cold hardy of the collection.

The passionfruits that I have planted underneath a tree lucerne are completely unaffected. And so is the cherimoya.

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Another interesting discovery, these two quite exposed lemon and lime is unaffected. Perhaps, another good frost free spot behind the house to explore. Thinking of a banana circle with a tree lucerne smack in the center to boot. That’s thought for a late Spring project.

  • Banana – Basjoo – 5m – Japanese fibre banana
  • Banana – Pineapple ladyfinger – 5m – Small tangy fruit
  • Banana – Basjoo – 5m – Japanese fibre banana
  • Banana – Misi Luki – 4m – Creamy & sweet
  • Banana – Basjoo – 5m – Japanese fibre banana
  • Banana – Goldfinger – 3m – Very sweet, tangy, curved fruit

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The tree lucernes are doing a good job of sheltering the Southern side of the house against the southerlies.

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The Orchard Cottage this week. Crazy ideas borne out of thin air. Keep calm. Keep warm. I am thinking of making one of those Keep Calm posters, mine would say “Keep Calm & Jog On”.

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