Tag Archives: garden diary


The south-easterly is howling through the maize in the field adjacent to our land.
The south-easterly is howling through the maize in the field adjacent to our land.


We were away from South Head from Saturday morning until Sunday early evening, and while we were gone, a very strong south-easterly wind developed.  The prevailing wind for our area is supposed to be a southerly, but in actual fact, a straight southerly doesn’t really  affect our property due to the fact that there is a convenient rise in the land that protects us.  We do sometimes get a nor-easterly.  While this is annoying, we’ve put things in place to protect our vulnerable plants – sturdy stakes and protective shelter material… that kind of thing.  But this south-easterly is coming in from an angle we haven’t experienced before.

The wind is doing its best to separate the washing from the line!
The wind is doing its best to separate the washing from the line!

When I hung out the washing earlier I had to use twice as many pegs per garment.  It reminded me of trying to wrestle with cloth nappies in Lyall Bay, Wellington, back in the 70s.


This doesn't really show the extent of the plum loss - they are spread over a wide area of ground
This doesn’t really show the extent of the plum loss – they are scattered over a wide area of ground

I was too exhausted last night to look at the garden, but the first intimation I had that all was not well was when Ben reported that nearly all the fruit had been blown off from my favourite plum tree.  This is the plum tree in what we now term our ‘native’ area – it’s an old tree that has less plums than the one growing closer to the vege garden.  But the plums are larger and have a deep red flesh.

I love them and have been looking forward to eating them.

Fallen plums
Fallen plums

When I went out earlier this morning to take stock, I felt like crying.

And I do still have a heavy heart, but I suppose there is no point in shedding tears over lost fruit.  At least we aren’t dependent on our fruit or our crops for our livelihood.

The second plum tree - mostly unaffected by the wind
The second plum tree – mostly unaffected by the wind

Fortunately, the other plum tree is situated out of the worst of the wind.  It’s still laden with fruit.

Local Birds

The wind has has had an impact on the birds that have chosen to make their homes here, as well.  I’m sure they were just as unprepared for the wind’s unusual direction.

We’ve found quite a few parts of nests on the ground, and the sparrows are busy with recycling; flying down to collect the broken nest parts from the ground and carrying them back up to their respective nesting sites.

A tiny nest lined with hair of some kind.
A tiny nest lined with hair of some kind.

Ben found the above nest below the macadamia tree, although it’s so light that it could have blown from anywhere.

It’s quite a bit smaller than any I’ve seen on the ground before.  The diameter of the inner bowl is approximately 4.5 to 5 cm and it’s lined with silvery grey hair of some kind.  I pulled a couple of strands out and it’s too coarse to be human or from a cat.  And I think too long to be from a dog… I’m wondering if it’s horse hair or something like that.  I really have no idea.

It’s a beautiful little nest, though, with moss and lichen woven in to the outside.

Possibly a blackbird's or a thrush's nest.
Possibly a blackbird’s or a thrush’s nest.

The above nest is much more loosely-woven than the smaller one.  It’s also quite a bit larger – around 9 to 10 cm across the bowl of the nest.  We’re pretty sure it belonged to either a blackbird or a song thrush.  We could only see the tail of the bird sticking up when it was sitting on, it as it was just out of eye sight.

The nest had been built in quite a small, spindly broad-leaf, and right from the start was partly tipping out, so it’s not surprising that it was dislodged by the wind.  This  nest is constructed almost entirely from grasses, with a tiny bit of lichen visible… and it seems to be lined with fine mud.

Three Blackbird eggs
Three Blackbird eggs

Our resident Blackbird couple are raising their third batch of eggs this season.  The female is currently sitting on three eggs – I had first observed her back on the nest on 09 December, which surprised me.  Raising young seemed to be a never-ending process for her and  I wasn’t sure if was because something had happened to her previous babies or whether she would keep on raising new broods if time allowed.

With her second batch I had noted the following: –

  • 19 November: 2 whole eggs, 2 hatched
  • 20 November: 4 hatched
  • 02 December: 4 chicks, well feathered and alert
  • 03 December: Nest empty

It seems amazing to me that it only took 13 days to go from hatching to flight.

I found an excellent page which provided me with the answers on the Tiritiri Matangi site.  It seems that Blackbirds do raise 2 – 3 broods per year, and that the chicks fledge at 13 – 15 days.  The other interesting fact I read is that a Blackbird’s possible lifespan is 15 years.

Garden Diary

It's going to be a bumper season for passionfruit.
It’s going to be a bumper season for passion fruit.

The garden has been flourishing, and as usual, I’ve been struggling to keep on top of things.  There has been more rain in November & December in comparison with the past couple of years, which is a good thing.  We’ve only had to water the vegetable garden once, and that very evening it rained, so …

The tomatoes are coming along nicely.
The tomatoes are coming along nicely.

We’re been well-served by our vegetables and have been eating asparagus, beetroot, silver beet, green beans, peas, lettuces, rocket, new potatoes and Florence fennel.  Probably some other things as well but it’s hard to keep up.

Sweet Peas

My favourite early Summer flower.
My favourite early Summer flower.

I can’t finish today’s entry without putting in a plug for Sweet Peas.  I was very disappointed with the strike rate for the seeds I sowed in winter.  I had used up a whole packet but only a handful of seeds germinated.

Well… the ones that did sprout, combined with a few self-sown plants, have provided a wonderful display once again.   I’m sure the extra rain has helped, too.

I love these flowers and every other day have picked enough to fill two vases.  Even as I sit here writing I can smell their sweet and spicy scent from across the room.

Gardening Chores and The List That Grows

 Garden Diary

Glass of Corbans 2002 Private Bin Hawkes Bay Chardonnay, after a day gardening
A welcome glass of Corbans 2002 Private Bin Hawkes Bay Chardonnay, after a day gardening

After a calm and rainy Saturday, the sun showed its face again today and we spent our time trying to knock some items off our ever-growing gardening ‘To Do’ list.  The trouble is, one thing always leads to another – and the ‘other’ is usually something that wasn’t on the list to begin with.

For example, we had two lovely dahlias growing (or trying to grow) under the Feijoa trees.  This had turned out problematical for two reasons…

  1. it’s extremely dry under the Feijoas and even though they have struggled on bravely, the dahlias have definitely suffered during the height of summer.
  2. The hens.  (Isn’t it always the hens?)  They love to sit in the shade under the Feijoas and scratch around, digging up anything that isn’t solid rock.  Their scratching shreds any new growth trying to push through the dusty soil.

Multiplication and Division

So, the plan this morning was to move both of the dahlias to a new site.  Stage One was accomplished without undue hassles.  This thanks to the fact that a space became available yesterday when Ben removed the Buddleja Globosa growing alongside the banana plant at the front right of the house.  The Buddleja had been a disappointing addition to that part of our garden – it had never done very well, hadn’t even flowered in the three years it had been there, so we’d decided to get rid of it.

Actually getting rid of any plant is always difficult for me, but this decision was made easier by the fact we’ve been able to take two rooted runners from it and plant them elsewhere.

The new site for the dahlias with Campanula persicifolia around the edges.
The new site for the dahlias with Campanula persicifolia around the edges.

It was while Ben was digging up the dahlias that I noticed the clump of Campanula persicifolia growing alongside.  I’d grown this from seed way back in 2011, but it, too, had never flowered.  However, the clump was looking surprisingly healthy this morning.  So we dug this out as well.

It’s really too late into Spring to divide a perennial – and it had quite a bit of new growth – but we managed to split it into about 20 separate plants.  These have now been transplanted into various other flower gardens, and watered copiously.  Fingers crossed, they’ll survive.  I should have done this a couple of months ago when we divided the Geums and the Asters.


Rocket thinnings - these were great in lunchtime sandwiches with avocado and egg.
Rocket thinnings – these were great in lunchtime sandwiches with avocado and egg.

I didn’t get much achieved in the vegetable garden today – in fact I pretty well gave it a wide berth.  But I did manage to thin out the rocket seedlings.  I’m so glad we have rocket again – just the smell of it makes my mouth water.

Pruning – Long Overdue

Left: Mandarin trimmings - pity about the fruit but we couldn't reach it anyway; Right: Firewood-sized plum tree trimmings.
Left: Mandarin trimmings – pity about the fruit but we couldn’t reach it anyway; Right: Firewood-sized plum tree trimmings.

Another task that hadn’t been tackled yet was the pruning of the old branches off some of our very old fruiting trees – especially the apricot and one of the three plum trees.  We’ve been working away at this judiciously each year to encourage new growth further down the trunks.  It’s a slow process, but of course today I noticed that we still hadn’t done this for this season.  Again, it’s getting too late into Spring for this task – but what is the best solution?  To just leave them as they are?

Left: View of the lichen-encrusted branches on the old pear tree; Right: Pear prunings.
Left: View of the lichen-encrusted branches on the old pear tree; Right: Pear prunings.

I still felt it was better to clean things up a little bit, so we set aside one hour and spent that time cutting back branches on our two mandarins, the pear and that one plum tree.   Mainly to remove the worst of the out-of-reach lichen encrusted limbs and to (hopefully) encourage lower growth to sprout.  Many of the branches we removed had died back, or had only a few straggly leaves.

We didn’t manage to get to the apricot – this will have to wait for another day.

Perhaps we should just give up on these old trees, as they don’t always produce much fruit, but I like the fact that they’ve been here so long and that someone else planted them all those years ago.  I like to feel the links to the past, I guess, the continuity.  And why destroy a tree if it still provides something –  even if it’s just shade, a place for birds to build their nests and the occasional piece of fruit.

Update on Blackbird Chicks

Left: Nest with chicks, 15 October; Right: Empty nest, 17 October.
Left: Nest with chicks, 15 October; Right: Empty nest, 17 October.

We were away from South Head almost all of Friday.  When we arrived home later in the afternoon and I checked the blackbird nest, it was empty.  There was no sign of any damage to the nest, nor were there any signs of anything worse, i.e. feathers or baby chick body parts.  I can only assume that they grew large enough to fly.   I last took a photo of them on Wednesday 15th (see above).

We’ve seen the hen blackbird a few times today and she seems to be taking worms, etc., up to the Lilly Pillies over the fence behind the plum tree.  We’re hoping that this is where the family has moved to.


Vrisea hyeroglyphica.
Vriesea hieroglyphica.

Finally, here is another photo of one of our bromeliads.  Again this is a form of Vriesea hieroglyphica.  A striking green one, this time.

May Update

Harvesting the maize
Harvesting the maize

I haven’t written for a while, but items of note include the harvesting of the maize in the paddock next door, way back at the beginning of April.  The big machines came powering through, collecting the complete plants, discarding the husks and stalks, and feeding out golden maize kernels into the waiting truck.


Left behind is a flattish, spiky field, stretching into the distance.  We’ve had no strong winds from the North or West since then, but when they do come, we’ll miss the shelter that the maize provided for the plants and shrubs we are trying to establish along the fence-line.

a typical crack opening in our lawn
a typical crack opening in our lawn

The months of March and April were incredibly dry, after almost no rain since January.  Patches of bare soil were beginning to crack all across the garden.

There wasn’t much happening in the vege garden – only silver beet, pumpkins, a few lettuces, some jalapeno and habanero chili peppers, basil, beetroot and carrots.  We had switched to lake water to conserve the water in our tanks and were using the latter for drinking, only.

Cherry Guava, Yellow Guava, Pear, Feijoa
Cherry Guava, Yellow Guava, Pear, Feijoa

Surprisingly, our Autumn fruit has been more productive than at the same time in 2013.  We ate the last of the pears, and the feijoa are still dropping, even a month later.  They are very sweet and juicy.  There are also red cherry guava and yellow guava – which attract the Kereru.  Our macadamia nuts are also on the point of being ready.

Red shavers taking a dust bath
Red shavers taking a dust bath (prior to Lottie’s departure)

The hens still spend a great deal of time bathing in the dust, or lying under the shade of the trees.  They continue to make huge basin-shaped hollows all through my gardens.  But they are very cute and I’m still intrigued to watch them taking their dust baths.

The above photo was taken of the edge of the lawn where it comes up to the flower garden below the Feijoa trees.  I use the word ‘garden’ very loosely, thanks to the hens and the lack of rain.


The Orpingtons don’t tend to take their baths in the same place or at the same time as the Red Shavers.  They’ll often wait until the older girls are finished, then hop in after them.

The good news is that the Orpingtons are now laying, but the bad news is that Lottie (one of our red shavers) has gone.  She had a bad habit of disappearing across the road to  – goodness knows where – on a daily basis, and one day she just didn’t come back.  I fear the worst – run over by a milk truck or caught by a hawk or dog, but perhaps she has merely found a better place to live.

Freshly laid eggs
Freshly laid eggs

As far as the eggs are concerned, the small eggs weigh about 50 grams, whereas the eggs from Lulu and Leila weigh around 75 grams.  I have been very disappointed that the White Orpingtons don’t lay pure white eggs – I was so sure that they would.

Pine Nut (family Pinaceae, genus Pinus)
Pine Nut (family Pinaceae, genus Pinus)

Our small Pine Nut tree is finally producing some cones.  We’ve had this small tree since we lived in Titirangi.  It was purchased in a pot for a Christmas Tree, and fared very badly under all the kauri trees due to the paucity of sunlight.  Pine Nuts take about 8 years to produce cones – which would be about right.   Apparently the cones take two full seasons to mature.  It’s very exciting!

Lake Rototoa, May 2014
Lake Rototoa, May 2014

There has been scattered rain in May, and the days tend to start out sunny, before fat cumulus clouds build up in the afternoon.  The temperature in May has ranged from around 13 C overnight, to low 20s during the day.

We have swum in the lake as recently as a week ago – which is quite unexpected for this time of year.

Garden Diary

My current daily garden tasks involve tidying up all the vegetable garden beds in preparation for planting garlic and sowing more seeds.  I’ve recently sown lettuces, leeks, spinach, carrots, beetroot, rocket, radishes, parsnips and celery.  I raised seedlings of broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower and have since planted these out.  It was too hot and dry to sow the seeds directly during March / April.

I’ve also planted a dozen Egyptian Walking Onions.  I was delighted to see bulbs for sale recently as I used to grow them years ago in Dunedin.  Perhaps I’ll have more luck with these than I have with trying to grow regular onions from seed.

Caterpillars, Leaves and Seeds


Today started out clear, sunny and calm, but it clouded over as the day progressed.  It’s clearer now, but there is a storm traveling up from the South Island, and although it’s unlikely to travel this far north, we have been experiencing very strong South-Westerly winds, as can be seen by the cloud patterns to the west.

Our planned excursion to Helensville this morning was aborted half way there, as the road was closed due to a truck having rolled on one of the corners.  Rather than wait around for an hour or more for the tow truck to arrive and sort things out, we decided to head back home.

I spent some time this afternoon cutting back the ratty leaves on my tomatoes.  I spotted a couple of cabbage looper caterpillars, Trichoplusia ni, and picked them off.  I’ve posted images of these on the Nature Watch NZ site.  I love this site as it’s helped me to identify many of the unfamiliar bugs and plants I’ve come across since we’ve lived at South Head.

But I digress.  Last summer these caterpillars wrought havoc on my tomatoes – not only did they eat the leaves, which isn’t too much of a problem in itself, but they also like to tunnel into the actual tomatoes and many were spoiled.  From what I’ve read, I suspect that my tomato plants are becoming vulnerable due to there not having been any rainfall since Christmas.  It’s supposed to rain tomorrow, but if not, we’ll have to give our garden a decent watering.

Our hens like to eat the caterpillars, so it is with some satisfaction that I feed them any that I find.



The photo above shows how little garlic we have left!  But the garlic we harvested around this time in 2013 has lasted all year so we haven’t had to purchase any.


Our garlic plants aren’t looking that amazing …  again, the soil has become very dry.  We did dig in a decent amount of compost during the year, but with our light soil, it just seems to become absorbed really quickly.  And of course, I’ve been lazy about weeding. The garlic bulbs will be ready to lift and dry when the foliage dries off and turns brown.

Leaf Mulch

The tawny leaves that can be seen lying on the the soil amongst the plants are from the huge Lilly Pilly trees that line our back fence.  There doesn’t seem to be one time of the year that they don’t shed their leaves.  At first this used to drive me mad, but I’m accustomed to them now.  Every so often I make the effort to sweep them all up and add them to our compost heap.


We’d also started a bag of leaves for leaf mulch – but I must admit that although I started out really keen to keep the leaves separate, I lost interest within a few days of starting the bag.


Lemon Grass

Another garden task we tackled today was the removal of an overgrown lemon grass plant.  I must admit that when we purchased it as a precious, tiny plant three years ago, I thought that a spot in the vegetable garden would be just fine, but it’s grown out of proportion to what I’d expected.  And I worry when it’s seeding (as it has been for the last several weeks).

I use lemon grass from time to time when marinating prawns or cooking up something Asian, but I don’t tend to use it often enough to allow it free reign in my garden.


So, Ben had the task of digging up this unfortunate plant and we’ll buy a new one at some point and decide on a more appropriate place somewhere else on the property.


Other than that, I’ve had a pretty lazy day.  Ben had pulled out a row of bolting celery a couple of days ago, so we’ve sowed the following seeds in the space freed up by its removal: –

Carrot ‘Touchon’ (Daucus carota var sativa) , Mesclun Lettuce Mix (Lactuca sativa), Radish ‘Easter Egg’ (Raphanus sativus), Pea ‘Easy Peasy’ (Pisum sativum) and Organic Rocket (Eruca sativa).

For those not familiar with botanical names, you’ll notice the use of the word ‘sativa’ or versions of this in the names of all the seeds.  Sativum, Sativus, and Sativa are Latin botanical adjectives meaning ‘cultivated’, applied to certain seed-grown domestic crops.

Rum, plums, corn and squash

ImageRum Pots and Cherries

What a hot day it’s been!  One of my plans for today was to find a use for the remaining plums along with some of the strawberries, now that latter are ripening up nicely.

I had been reading about rum pots, also known as rumtopf and romkrukke.  This seemed like a really cool way to preserve some of our fruits as they come to fruition on our trees.  I’ve mostly missed the boat re the plums, but starting now, I should be able to use our strawberries, pears, tamarillo and feijoa.  I also collected a few Cape gooseberries, as these grow like weeds around our property.


The ideal container for a rum pot is a ceramic container or a dark jar, as the fruit should be protected from bright light.  I was also looking for something that would hold a decent amount of fruit.  In the end, the best containers I could find were some tall, glass spaghetti jars, enclosed in a metal sleeve, with a wee window on one side.  Into these I layered the fruit with 1/2 their weight in white sugar, then topped them up with dark rum until the fruit was just covered.

Sad Cherry Tale

Some years ago, my daughter Amiria had brought me back a small bucket of export quality lapin cherries from Summerfruit Orchards in Central Otago, where she had been employed fruit-picking.  I saved a few of the finest specimens, added them to a sturdy glass jar and covered them with brandy.  I kept this jar of cherries for 3 to 4 months, having placed it in a shady place at the corner of my kitchen bench – I’d rotate the jar regularly to keep the alcohol circulated through the fruit.

Ben was washing dishes one day and thought the jar of cherries something old to be discarded, so he tipped them into my compost bucket.  I didn’t notice that they were missing until it was too late.  I’m sure I’d have scooped them out of the compost bucket if I’d known straight away!

I still wonder about those cherries – what they would have tasted like…  But it’s a lesson on letting people know about the strange concoctions we have in our kitchens.



It’s time to allow our asparagus plants to produce their ferny foliage so that they can grow strong and healthy for our Spring 2014 crop.  These plants have been in place for 4 years now, and this year we were eating spears continually from the end of September through to the end of December.  We had put in some plants of the regular green variety as well as having sown seeds of the purple, Asparagus Sweet Purple.

Freshly-picked asparagus, lightly steamed and served with melted butter is one of the special flavours of a spring garden.

Sweet Corn


It’s been a busy time for Ben, collecting as much sweet corn as he can, before he runs out of energy.  Over the past 2 days, he’s harvested around 150 ears and has spent a good proportion of the day scraping off the kernels and freezing them free-flow for winter use.  It’s a time-consuming task and not much fun when it’s so hot outside, but well worth it.  He’s also frozen some of our runner beans.

I mixed up a batch of corn fritters for lunch – couldn’t resist it!  They were yummy!

Other Garden Tasks


Other garden tasks undertaken today included cutting back the spent sweet peas from the back fence of our main vegetable garden.


Around February last year I collected seeds from a patch of sweet peas I had sown the previous Winter.   We sowed these this year to see how they would turn out.  The blooms haven’t been as strong, nor as fragrant, and are in a very narrow range of colours: scarlet, vermillion and shades of pink, none of them particularly vivid.

This was disappointing on a couple of levels as (1) I’m not a pink or a red kind of a girl, and (2) I prefer my flowers to have a fragrance.


The same can’t be said for our gardenia which has been flowering very well this year compared with last year.  We saved this shrub from our previous property in Titirangi, where it struggled with the paucity of sunlight.  I do love the beautiful waxy flowers with their creamy, honeysuckle fragrance.


Another plant currently providing brilliant colour to the garden is the bougainvillea, Scarlet O’Hara.  This is another plant we saved from Titirangi.  There, it barely produced a single new shoot, and failed utterly to produce the beautiful crimson bracts.

Hibiscus Golden Oriel
Hibiscus Golden Oriel

We also recently planted a very garish looking hibiscus, Hibiscus Golden Oriel, a Hawaiian hybrid.  I couldn’t resist it, but usually don’t like flowers that combine the colour yellow with red!

Other tasks for today have involved checking on how the vegetables are progressing.  I have a habit of walking around my garden at least once a day, but often go back again in the late afternoon, mainly to check on what needs pruning or cutting back, or which vegetables are ready for harvest, which need to be pulled out, etc.  To be honest, there is not enough hours in the day, so I tend to just do the things that interest me at the time.

Buttercup & Butternut Squash
Buttercup & Butternut Squash

Today I was especially pleased with the progress of my squashes, Burgess Buttercup and Butternut Chieftain.  I’ve grown these two as I particularly like the taste of their flesh.  Also,  they are extremely prolific, which means we’ll be provided with many individual squashes of a perfect size for two people.

Thelma Saunders Sweet Potato
Thelma Saunders Sweet Potato

I’ve also grown a new pumpkin this year, Thelma Saunders Sweet Potato.  According to information I have read, this is the sweetest of the heirloom acorn squashes and is named after Thelma Sanders of Adair County, Missouri.  It is renowned for its cooking qualities and has won many a harvest bake-off competition in the USA.

It doesn’t seem to be producing as many pumpkins as I’d hoped, but there is still plenty of time until the end of the season.

I obtained seed for both the pumpkin and the squashes from Kings Seeds.


The passion fruit, macadamia nuts and pears are developing as expected.   I really need to somehow get to the top of the pear tree to thin the pears… ideally there should only be 2 – 3 fruit per bunch to allow them to grow properly.

The passion fruit are very fat and healthy looking, and the macadamia nuts look to be producing a good crop this year.


The tomatoes are fine, although they seem to be a bit slower to ripen than at the same time  last year.  I have grown several varieties from seed: Mortgage Lifter, Cherokee Purple, Bloody Butcher, Black from Tula, Black Krim and Sun Cherry.  I especially like the ‘black’ tomatoes, but am always interested in trying new varieties.

The lettuces are bolting and I’ll have to compost them soon.  The basil is slow to grow, too.  I’m thinking this is to do with the lack of rain prior to Christmas, but they should put on good growth now that the weather has settled.


When the sun set today, we had generated a very respectable 14.59 KWh.  Not bad for our 11 panel / 2 KW system.  There is something so very satisfying about generating our own power from the sun.  I’ll never take this for granted!

Pumpkins and cherry slugs

We’ve had a few sunny days in a row and this has been reflected in the growth in the pumpkin & squash patch.  This year, I raised three varieties from seed and they are all doing really well (‘Thelma Saunders Sweet Potato’, ‘Burgess Buttercup’ and ‘Butternut Chieftain’).  There are quite a few pumpkins set already, some growing quite round and fat.  We planted and sowed most of our cucurbits in the native garden this year, and already I can see that it was a very sensible choice.  In previous years we’ve tried the back paddock (too dry and windy), in the main vegetable garden (too invasive) and on the grass in front of the barn (became overgrown with grass).  The native garden is sheltered and sunny, with very rich loamy soil.  The worst two weeds are convolvulus and madeira vine.  But I feel that I can control these two by digging them out when they come up and either leaving in the sun to shrivel up (convolvulus) or putting out in the rubbish collection (madeira vine).

Our zucchini ‘Costasta Romanesco‘ is huge, the fat yellow and green fruit remind me of smooth alien guinea pigs.  The hens have stirred up the wood chips around them and the zucchinis are difficult to find until they have grown too big for my liking.  Costasta Romanesco is a variety grown especially for their huge male flowers, which can be stuffed, coated in batter and deep fried.  But the zucchinis themselves also taste really good sliced thickly and fried in olive oil with sage leaves – they are much starchier than the commonly-grown zucchinis, with a lovely nutty flavour, and the sage leaves turn all crispy.

Ben has been collecting plums by the tray load, halving them and freezing them free flow.  This particular old prunus was here when we moved in and is quite gnarly and covered in lichen.  There wasn’t much fruit last year in comparison with 2011, but this year it is completely laden with beautiful red-skinned, golden-fleshed plums.  They taste the best if you can pick them when they turn purple but before they drop to the ground.  Each morning when we let the hens out, they hurry over to feast on the plums that have fallen over night.  There are more than we can keep up with.  I eat them whenever I walk past the tree but it barely makes a difference.  In the past we’ve made plum wine and plum sauce.  At least if we manage to freeze a good deal of them, I’ll still have the option to do this when life isn’t so busy.

Cherry slugs on my cherry Stella
Cherry slugs on my cherry Stella

The big shock yesterday was when I discovered that the leaves of our tiny dwarf cherry tree ‘Stella’ were covered in slimy little slugs.  We picked them all off and offered them to the hens, but they weren’t interested.  I later identified them as larvae of the sawfly (caliroa cerasi).  Many of the leaves had been converted over night from healthy green to lacy brown.  Thank goodness I do tend to walk around the complete garden on a daily basis.  When I checked again this morning there was only a solitary slug, so it seems that the crisis has been averted.

White-tailed Spider
White-tailed Spider

I also saw my very first ‘white-tailed’ spider, (Lampona spp.)  I’m always looking for different and interesting bugs and plants so when I saw this particular spider sitting near the ceiling of our porch, I rushed to fetch my camera and a stool.  I had to get really close up to take the photo and was surprised when I saw the white tip on its abdomen when I looked at the image later on.  There is quite a bit of negative hype about these spiders, but from what I have read, they are somewhat maligned.

It’s been a good day for power generation.  At the time of writing (7.30 pm), our 2KW system has generated just under 14KWh.  It has been a very hot and calm day, with the temperature ranging from 18C when I arose at 7.30 am and reaching over 30C in the sheltered patch by the bromeliad garden at around 3.00 pm this afternoon.  The sweet corn is ripening in the paddock behind the barn and the maize that stretches away to the north is very tall and lush.

Sitting here I can see across the Kaipara to the East.  The distant hills are a hazy blue grey, sandwiched between the palest blue sky and the silvery forget-me-not blue of the water.  In the foreground are our harakeke, which have flowered for the first time, sending straight spurs of rusty red flowers towards the sky.

Tomorrow I have to head to Wellington for an overnight meeting.  A major garden task for when I return will be to attempt to sort out part of our vegetable garden that is filled with scattered sweet-corn plants (a blackbird hen dug up most of them), self-sown Cleome (I want to plant these around the climbing beans), a few pumpkins and squashes, and other self-sown vegetables.  We are going to try to move all the corn to one end before they get too tall, rescue the Cleome and make some sense of the array of other vegetables that are growing there.