Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Pond Project - Part One

By our front entrance we have a pond. Below is a photo from 2010, four years ago. There were two palms (nasty spiky ones) at the back on either side. I didn't like them (nasty) but Mike did. There was a waterfall down the back of the rock wall. I put the waterlilies in when we first moved here (and some fish). 

We liked our pond, but over time there were some problems. The palms grew and grew and grew. The Japanese irises took over the pond and I couldn't get them out because they had grown down into the pond liner, and ripping them out would destroy the pond. The rock wall was poorly built and looked like it was about to fall down. The waterfall stopped working years ago. There was no room for waterlilies and fish. 

 This is what it looked like at the beginning of November (view looking out from front door).

 (view from driveway - where you arrive. Big palm! (and this is the short one)) 

So a major re-do was needed. We decided to stay with the same basic design, but aim for more of a subtropical look (just for Mike). 

First step was removal of the palms. 'Tractor John' who can do anything you wish with a tractor, did the deed. There were tears (Melina's - "why are you killing a plant - what has it ever done to you!").

But mostly sighs of relief to see them go.  

Thanks to Tractor John. 

Part Two coming soon. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Benefits of a Food Forest

When you have ignored your garden for 6 months, there's not a lot of annual vegetables still producing. I've had to resort to harvesting from the paths where spinach, corn salad and rocket has self seeded.  However my food forest has come to the rescue, making me appreciate the value of perennial crops which don't mind a little (or a lot) of ignoring every so often.

The two tamarillo trees have produced their first crop and a mighty fine crop it is too. I had almost given up trying to grow tamarillos, this is the third time I have planted some. The previous trees had succumbed to mildew. I thought these would too as they did show signs of it, but they toughed it out under my no spray regime and now look remarkably healthy. I'll have to save some seed from the strongest tree and grow some more. Tamarillos are relatively short lived. 

These are the orange variety, sweeter and less acidic, but also less overall flavour. I can however eat them straight, and I don't remember doing that with the red variety. 

We're not huge chutney eaters, which seems to be the standard use for a glut of tamarillos, but I am keen to make some tamarillo sorbet (from Stephanie Alexander's Cook's Companion - mostly because she suggests freezing the shells and then serving the sorbet in them, which has a certain appeal). 

The lime tree has survived another summer - it always looks like it's going to die at the end of the summer as its leaves start curling up. But it's survived to see another year.

Fig trees still going, and the birds seem to have lost interest now. 

Alex's little persimmon tree has started to produce too. Needs netting though. I've strategically turned them around in the photo to hide the peck marks. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

And I'm back!

There's one benefit of leaving your blog for an entire year before posting again - I don't need to change my seasonal title banner.

Despite being autumn, and having had a couple of ex tropical cyclones make themselves felt recently, it is still quite dry in the garden. It's just moist enough to start digging out the remains of the summer vegetable garden. I'm on a mission this Easter to put some semblance of order in place.  I've been so slack I'm resorting to scavenging what I can for dinners as I hate having to buy supermarket vegetables.

One crop I harvested for the first time recently was my Egyptian Walking Onions, also known as Tree Onions. This is the first year I have grown them. I bought my original plants from Ginnys Herbs. I've been impressed by them particularly as they grew easily in some quite poor soil conditions, so I am going to save my entire crop and plant them throughout the food forest this year.

They grow much like shallots. The bulbs produced varied in size quite a lot, most about a typical shallot size.

The bulbs produced at the end of the growing season from one original bulb planted. You pull these apart and either eat them or replant them.

The reason these onions are called 'walking onions, is that they produce these 'topsets' at the top of the flower stalks. They are bulblets that you can plant also. If you leave them the top sets will eventually bend over and touch the ground where they will take root - hence the 'walking onions' name.

I have loads of these bulblets too so looking forward to increasing my yield substantially next year. Might  even have enough to actually eat some!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Honey Harvest

We took our honey off the hives a couple of weeks ago. Mike helped thankfully. We're technically robbing the bees of most of their hard work, so I always approach it with a little trepidation. Plues I have one hive that is quite a bit stronger than the other and I was a little afraid that they would start going crazy with the scent of honey and start robbing the weaker hive. I've never seen it but apparently it is not a pretty sight.

Fresh honey tastes gorgeous. I never thought of honey as a fresh food before I had my own bees, but tasting it straight out of the hive is fantastic. Above is some 'rogue' comb where the bees have built it vertically from the frame, instead of across it. A good excuse for some hot buttered toast and honeycomb.

A new harvest necessitates  thinking about using up last years harvest, even though honey will last for a lot longer than a year. Fortuitously Alex decided to make some caramel popcorn.

The children have become a little silly about having their photos taken recently. I don't actually do it very often nowadays. Maybe I need to take more so they get used to it again 

  This was the best I got from the girl.

And here they were too absorbed in cleaning up the fresh honey from the drip tray to ham it up for the photo. 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Autumn Digging

The ground is perfectly moist for a little digging. Well actually a lot of digging for me as I have embraced the bio-intensive method for my annual vegetable beds which get the most use. I can take about 40 minutes, then have a little recovery time doing some gentle raking or transplanting.

Here's my nearly completed bed. Aiming to get up early tomorrow morning and finish  this one off before guest responsibilities kick in for the day. 

Here's my digging board so I don't stand on the bed. It's not really substantial enough, a thicker piece of ply would be better. Buying a whole piece of new ply just to stand on it in  muddy boots seems a little extragavant though.

 Here's another bed I've forked over, not double dug as it is at the top of a steep slope and not retained so would start falling down the hill if I disturbed it too much. I used to have my artichokes in here, but after a few years they didn't like it any more, so I've moved them to my food forest.

Grow little peas, grow. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Evening Walk around the Food Forest

I've been spending a bit of time in the last couple of weeks in my food forest. I also, I must confess, have had some help from a couple of German backpackers - weeding and mulching mostly. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the ground is still reasonably moist in most areas, enough that I have even done a little planting.

More areas are starting to look how I always imagined it. 

...pomegranate flower...
 ...and pomegranate fruit! very excited! Hoping they have enough time to mature - 
need 5-7 months, and a hot summer. 

My soapwort plant is growing well. It has pretty flowers as a bonus. If I was really thinking I would have planted it next to the hose. Apparently you can crush the leaves and they will lather slightly, they have high levels of saponins. Will defiintely be collecting the seed to grow more, mainly because this idea has high appeal.  When the plant is bigger the book says you can divide as well.

My two tamarillos are doing well too. This is the first success I have had with these. I must have planted about five previously that all succumbed very quickly to powdery mildew. These have had a bit of mildew, but they have come through it okay. Have mulched them with heaps of horse manure. 

The red yarrow is adding a bright splash of colour - should really be called pink yarrow, rather than red. 

Also enjoying the white yarrow. I must pick some and see if it lasts in a vase. 

Bunching onions thriving, going to grow a lot more of these. 

One moan - surely an unripe persimmon does not taste that nice, even to a pukeko? Need to do some netting even though these are a long way off being ripe. 

The year for figs I think. Everyone is talking about laden trees. Certainly the most fruit my tree has ever had on it. 

My two new figs are establising themselves. They are planted in the toughest area  - mostly solid clay on this bank, at the top of the food forest (behind is a hedge of elderflowers, disguised by weeds). Have constructed a temporary retaining wall (bamboo stakes and manuka twigs), to stop the mulch from heading down the hill onto the path. 


One of my favourite flowers, these are from the 'rainbow valley' pawpaw

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Leaf Plucking

It's been a hot few days in the vineyard. The children have managed about half an hour each day , and have earnt a few dollars for holiday spending money. We pay them the same contract rate, they can work quite quickly, but need to work on their stamina....

Leaf plucking is taking the leaves away from the fruit to improve air circulation. It's necessary in our humid climate to help prevent fungal diseases. Like most jobs on the vineyard it's not hard, but is time consuming. I'm back on the Woman's Hour podcasts.

 From this...

 ...to this. 

Flora and Pinot Gris completed. Syrah next.