Spring is Sprung

Macadamia trees in flower.
Macadamia trees in flower.

Nuts and Fruit

2014 crop of Macadamia nuts.
2014 crop of Macadamia nuts.

Now that the Macadamias are fully in flower, the nuts have all fallen from the trees.  We’ve had a good crop this year.  We have about 11 kilos of the nuts with shell – a decent-sized carton full, although still not as many as we harvested in 2012.

After being away for a week, I can really notice the changes in the garden.  The mass of white flowers that adorned our most prolific plum tree is now mostly replaced with the bright green of new leaves.  We are still eating the plums we froze from this tree last November and I’m reminded of the fact that everything is just an ongoing cycle.  This is one of the things I really take pleasure in with having a garden.

Avocados

Avocado 'Fuerte' in flower.
Avocado ‘Fuerte’ in flower.

Both of our small avocado trees are flowering prolifically.  We’ve had terrible trouble with these – right from when we first planted them they were afflicted with Root Rot (Phytophthora cinnamomi).  We probably should have destroyed the trees then and there, but we’ve been spraying them until they grow big enough for us to inject the cure directly into their trunks in the hope that they will overcome this scourge.

I’ve also been reading about some alternative remedies involving compost – obviously I’d much prefer not to spray but for now we are just trying to prevent the trees from becoming more badly afflicted.

We have a both a Fuerte and a Hass variety and also a small tree that Ben grew from a stone.  The latter has grown quite tall now, although isn’t yet old enough to flower.  It seems not to be afflicted with the same problem as the other two.  Avocados do well in this area, so we are hopeful.

Eggs and More Eggs

The unexpected 'egg' discovery.
The unexpected ‘egg’ discovery – the white egg is a plastic one.

For some time we’ve not had a full quota of eggs each day.  Always 5 or 6 but never 7.  We’d put this down to the fact that every hen doesn’t necessarily lay an egg every day of the week.  However, when Ben went into the barn yesterday morning he found 10 eggs in one of the old nesting boxes that we thought the hens didn’t use.  This was unexpected.

I checked them all by placing them in a deep pan of water, and they are all good – they all lie flat on the bottom of the pan. (See ‘Kitchen Tips – checking eggs for freshness.)

I suppose this means that one or more of the hens started laying there while we were away in Finland.  This would make sense as we do tend to look at that nesting box from time to time, ‘just in case’, and up until we left, we certainly hadn’t seen any eggs there.  But it was quite a surprise as neither Ben nor I have seen a hen go into that part of the barn, and we frequently observe them as they go about their daily tasks.

Passion Fruit

Passion Fruit showing signs of xxx
Passion Fruit showing signs of Brown Spot (Alternaria passiflorae)

Our Passion Fruit vine is afflicted with Brown Spot.  Yesterday I made a priority of cutting off all the diseased leaves.  We’ll burn these later on today.

The Passion Fruit vine, after hard pruning.
The Passion Fruit vine, after hard pruning.

There is a great deal of new growth and a good many flower buds, so I’m optimistic for a good crop this year.  If I cut off and destroy all infected parts early on in the season, and we then apply a copper spray to the vine, we seem to be able to control this disease sufficiently.

Early Birds

I heard my first ‘definite’ Pīpīwharauroa call for this Spring, yesterday.  I’d heard what I thought could be them last week, but only the first part of their notes, without the final downward sound, so wasn’t sure.

The Long-tailed Cuckoo and the Shining Cuckoo are New Zealand’s only forest birds that migrate out of the country. They both breed in New Zealand, parasitising endemic species, using them to raise their offspring for them

I posted yesterday’s ‘sighting’ on the Birds of New Zealand Cuckoo Study page.  If you hear the call of either the Shining Cuckoo or the Long-tailed cuckoo, you can submit this information via a form on this page.  I’d love to actually sight the Shining Cuckoos we hear at South Head, but I’ve not been that lucky so far.  Sometimes they seem so close, up in the Lilly Pillies or in one or other of our tall trees, but they are well-camouflaged.  I do feel sorry for the poor Riroriro, though, knowing full well that the cuckoos will lay their huge eggs in their tiny nests.

The partially-built Welcome Swallow nest.
The partially-built Welcome Swallow nest.

A few weeks back, some Warou, or Welcome Swallows started building a nest in the barn.

Sadly, they’ve given up this endeavour.   Probably due to the human ‘comings and goings’.  The first year we were here a whole family was raised in the barn and we loved seeing the parent birds flitting to and fro, and later, the chicks learning to fly.

Bananas

Many people think that bananas are palms, but in fact they are members of the Musa family of plants.  Our plant is Banana Mons Mari (Musa acuminata), which is a quick-growing dwarf variety.

Two of our sweet little bananas.
Two of our sweet little bananas, (Banana ‘Mons Mari’)

The large bunch of bananas was taking too long to ripen on the plant, so in August we cut the branch down and hung it in the porch with a very large brown paper bag over it.  Because of this they all ripened very quickly and at the same time so we’ve had to eat several each day to avoid wasting them.  They are starting to get a bit ‘past it’ now, but the small fruit are delicious – very sweet.

After removing the fruiting bunch, Ben cut down the whole growing ‘stalk’ and put it through our mulcher.  We then returned this mulch to the base of the plant.  What started out as a huge, fat stalk, was reduced to a remarkably small mush of mulch.

Glimpse of the new flower bud, taken through a bedroom window.
Glimpse of the new flower bud, taken through a bedroom window.

I was wondering yesterday if the plant would produce another flower in the new year… Gazing up at the plant I noticed… a new flower shoot.

It still seems amazing to me that we can actually grow bananas here.  We have three additional baby plants growing in a sheltered corner of the garden – these are suckers that we removed from the plant earlier in the year.

Vegetable Garden

Early potatoes after first 'earthing-up'.
Early potatoes after first ‘earthing-up’.

I’ve spent a couple of days putting work into weeding the remainder of the vegetable garden.  There’s always so much to do here.  The early potatoes we put in a couple of weeks ago are looking really good, so we earthed them up yesterday.

The bad news is that, all but one of the Edamame (Soy Bean, Glycine Max) I sowed on 26 August have been eaten by snails.  The same applies to the Rocket I sowed on 24 August.  Although in the case of the rocket, not a single plant has survived.  I’m not even sure if any sprouted, or if the blackbird hen we see in the garden dug them out, or if they were eaten by some bug in the soil before they had a chance to grow.  Very disappointing, but it’s due to the fact that (again) I try to avoid applying slug and snail bait around the garden.  But yesterday I relented and resowed both the edamame and the rocket.

The newly tidied-up patch of the vegetable garden.
The newly tidied-up patch of the vegetable garden.

I also sowed a row of Lettuce Mesclun Mix and Sugar Snap Peas, and threw in some seeds that are past their ‘sow by’ date.  These were Rock Melon and Sweet Basil.  If they don’t come up I won’t be too disappointed.  I have so many seeds that are past their ‘sow by’ dates – I’ll have to try to be more efficient at using up all the seeds while they are still fresh.

In the above photo you can see a rogue Dill plant flourishing.  These come up all over the garden, but I leave them there (if they aren’t too much in the way) as Ben likes to have fresh dill on hand for Gravad Lax.

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