I started this post over a month ago but recent circumstances got the better of me and I didn’t get it finished. Today I’ve made the commitment to at least get something posted – after all, the whole point of a blog is keeping up with it.
We’ve had a little rain – just enough to prevent it being declared a drought in our area, unlike some other parts of NZ – but it’s getting very dry now. As I write a large truck has come scuttling down the hill and along the gravel road beyond our gate. Huge clouds of dust drift and settle on our property.
I think of the solar panels and how they will most likely need to be cleaned manually if we don’t get a decent rainfall soon. You’d be surprised how much dust settles up there! Or perhaps you wouldn’t.
As I write it’s around 1.30 pm and 27 C outside in the shade. By the time the sun comes around it will get very hot where I’m sitting, even with all the windows open. It’s much too warm and humid for me outside at this time of day. The sun just bears down relentlessly – hence the garden is quite neglected. I’m hanging out for cooler mornings and evenings now that it’s Autumn.
The garden has still been remarkably productive, considering that until last week (when I put in a row of broccoli and rocket) I hadn’t sowed anything new since December. We are still producing enough vegetables not to have to purchase anything other than the occasional bag of potatoes.
The basket above shows some of the vegetables we’ve been harvesting since I last wrote, but the green beans are finished now. As are the peas and we just didn’t eat any of the lettuces I diligently sowed in Spring and early Summer – they kept going to seed as we were eating other vegetables, so I stopped sowing them.
The vegetables we’ve been consuming the most of, lately, have been tomatoes, turnips and zucchinis.
The heirloom golden ball turnip is a delicious little vegetable and easy to prepare.
A simple recipe I use is to peel them, then cut them into cubes and blanch in boiling water. Drain the water off and saute the cubes in a little oil of your choice until they start to brown in patches, add 1 tbsp butter, 1 tsp brown sugar and 2 tsp apple cider vinegar. Stir through to form a light glaze. Season with salt and pepper and they are ready to eat.
The three varieties of tomato that I grew this year are ‘Black Krim’, ‘Mortgage Lifter’ and ‘Bloody Butcher’. Of the three, I definitely prefer Black Krim and Mortgage Lifter.
While Bloody Butcher has a nice flavour, I much prefer the texture and size of the other two. As a matter of interest, I collected one of each and cut them in half to show how different they are from each other, inside. (Hence, the images above.)
We’ve had enough cucumbers to keep us going, but not too many, and of course the usual carrots, rocket, basil… silver beet, beetroot, that we usually have on an ongoing basis.
I’ve lifted our almost all the garlic (yes, I know, it’s very late in the season not to have completed this task) and all the Egyptian Walking Onions. We had amazing crops of each of these. The onions are great and we have strung them up to dry out, and the garlic bulbs are very fat this year.
We do have a large section of our garden devoted to main crop potatoes but I have a bad feeling about them. We didn’t really realise how much water they require and should have been watering the plants as they developed. We poked around beneath the soil of a couple of plants a few weeks back and they really had nothing much under there, just some tiny, tiny potatoes.
Oh well, there’s always next year, I guess. At least we did have a decent amount of ‘earlies’ prior to Christmas.
Passion fruit and Plums
Fruit-wise we’ve had a glut of Passion fruit and are making sure that we each consume several per day so that they don’t go to waste. They are lovely big Passion fruit and are extremely juicy and flavoursome. We still have pulp from last season that we froze a year ago as it was so precious (haha!). I’m definitely not going to freeze any this year.
I did manage to process some of our plums in January. We had so many, all ready at the same time, so we halved and froze some for later, ate a great deal and used the rest for jam and plum wine.
The left-hand image above shows this year’s batch of plum wine directly after the first racking off. Prior to that I’d fast-fermented the must on the skins for the first few days, to bring through a little of the red colour – the plums themselves are yellow-fleshed.
We also opened a bottle of our plum wine from 2010 – we tend to forget that we have bottles of fruit wine in our cellar. It was actually not bad!
Fiery Plum and Habanero Jam
The jam was basically just plums, sugar and habanero pepper. I had to keep tasting the jam as I went along to ensure it was hot enough (but not too hot!); I added more habanero as it cooked. It turned out really well.
It’s very rich in flavour and ideal either just as jam, or added to casseroles or curries to give them an extra zing. It’s also good with cold meats and cheeses. Nice and spicy! I love the taste of habanero.
Well, there’s a sad tale to tell about Molly (it has a happy ending, though). I’ll have to write up what happened in a separate blog or I’ll never get this posted.
I’ll finish with a photo of a couple of my dahlias. They are very pretty… this photo was taken a week or two ago, they don’t look so perky today, due to the lack of rain.
We’ve had so many plums this season, despite the wind that destroyed so many in mid-December. I’ve been making ‘Plum Everything’, including having started a batch of plum wine. But I think there is nothing nicer than a Plum Jam, as it’s so versatile.
This year I decided to invent a spicy version – and it’s turned out extremely well.
For the spicy component I used Habanero that I’d grown last season and had frozen, as our current plant is too small to produce any fruit yet. It’s been a slow season in the garden due to the inclement weather in December.
Habanero is my absolute favourite chili pepper. It has such an amazing flavour – very fragrant and fruity, as well as the excellent kick it provides (it rates as 100,000 to 350,000 on the Scoville Scale).
This jam is not for the faint-hearted, but it’s definitely worth making. It can be added to sauces or used as a condiment just as it is, or (of course) spread on your toast as a rich and spicy jam.
About 5.5 kilos (around 12 lbs) red-skinned plums, stones removed
3 – 4.5 cups white sugar
4 whole Habanero, seeds removed
Chop the plums up roughly and put them in a large preserving pan. Sprinkle the sugar on top and let them sit like this for an hour or so, stirring from time to time to help the sugar dissolve.
Bring this slowly to the boil, stirring at frequent intervals to prevent anything sticking to the base of the pan. Once boiling steadily, maintain the boil for about 10 minutes then turn off the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
Repeat the above process 3 times (or more if you would like a thicker jam). The main thing to remember is that you have to stir frequently, especially while you are waiting for the fruit to come to the boil, to avoid the fruit sticking to the bottom of the pan and scorching.
If this does happen, don’t panic… transfer the jam to another container without scraping any of the ‘caught’ jam from the bottom of the pan. Wash the pan then carry on with the process. You can stop and start with this recipe easily.
This batch produced about 3 litres of wonderfully rich jam. Actually, I could just eat it directly from the spoon, rather than add it to anything else. 🙂
Red Plums versus Yellow Plums
You could use yellow-skinned plums for this recipe, or even greengages, but the red-skinned plums give the jam the most wonderfully rich colour, even using yellow-fleshed plums as I have.
I began with 3.5 cups of sugar and then tested the flavour part way through the cooking. It was then that I decided to add an additional .5 of a cup. It’s a matter of personal taste and also, the sugar level in the plums themselves. Also, I like to cut down added sugar where I can, so I tend to start out with a bit less in a recipe such as this, and then add more if I need to.
The above recipe has been adapted from a recipe I found on the Natasha’s Kitchen site.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Fortunately, the other plum tree is situated out of the worst of the wind. It’s still laden with fruit.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 …
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.
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.
My daughter Immi approaches writing quite differently from me. Apparently I’m a ‘Pantser‘ and this is quite true. When I start a story I really don’t have much of an idea of where it’s going to end up.
I said I’d post a link when my short story, Water Baby, was published, so here it is…
It was incredibly windy on Tuesday, with strong gusts blowing in from the west all day. It was also very sunny.
Today, the wind is still howling and it’s bringing torrents of rain every 30 minutes or so. It’s noticeably cooler, too.
Yesterday was a great day for the garden, despite the wind. I’d decided to dedicate a decent amount of time to tidying up and sowing some more seeds, so started around 9.30 am.
The first thing I had to do was re-tie the young tomato plants to their stakes. They are hardening up nicely and the first two I planted out are flowering, but some of the spindlier ones were definitely being battered by the wind.
I then set to work tidying up a patch of the garden that had some bolting lettuces. After pulling them out and sifting through the soil, I sowed a second row of Edamame and a row of the heirloom carrot, ‘Touchon‘. I was reassured to see that despite the dryness of the surface, there’s still evidence of moist soil about a trowel’s depth in.
The wonderful South Head growing conditions that produce so many vegetables, also produce weeds that grow with alarming vigour and scatter their seeds all year round. And there is never a frost to kill anything off.
The vegetables are providing us with choices each day – it’s a matter of juggling between them all and trying to work out what we particularly feel like eating for any given meal.
In the past week we’ve enjoyed Silverbeet, Asparagus, Kale, Lettuce (not just the green variety), Rocket, Broad Beans, Red Cabbage and Peas.
I couldn’t say which is my favourite, though I do love to have asparagus spikes every other day of the week at this time of year.
Close behind would be fresh peas, and tender young broad beans are wonderful, mashed up with butter and a little garlic.
And I found a really easy (and yummy) recipe for Red Cabbage – so we’ve cooked this up a couple of times. I think this is on the menu for tonight, actually. Sautéed Red Cabbage.
The Florence Fennel has been putting on a good deal of growth. Fingers crossed they won’t bolt before forming their bulbs. We’ve had good crops for several years now, and one that went straight to seed.
You can see dried Lilly Pilly leaves in all my photos. They seem to fall at all times of the year and I’m always scraping them out of the garden in an attempt to keep it looking tidy. But I guess I’ll never have a tidy garden as the slightest breeze sends them showering back down.
Runner Beans and Lettuces
The runner beans seem a bit slow. Ben put in some ‘King of the Blues Runner’ in between the Scarlet Runners from last year. Scarlet Runners are perennial, although most people tend to pull them out at the end of the season and put in new seeds the following year.
Growing in front of them are a few lettuces and some self-sown Viola Tricolor (Heart’s Ease).
Potatoes and Sweet Corn
I poked around beneath the soil by one of the early potatoes and was pleased to see at least one beautiful new potato. It was quite a good size for an ‘early’ so I’m hopeful that we may have better luck this year with growing spuds.
Ben hasn’t been so lucky with his sweet corn, though. He sowed a whole packet and only two sprouted. It’s hard to know if it’s something in the soil, or our friendly blackbirds have been in and dug them out. It’s disappointing and exasperating, but given that our back paddock has been sowed in a commercial crop of sweet corn and that we always get to help ourselves after the first picking, I’m philosophical about it.
I don’t think we’ll bother to try to grow sweet corn again. (We did have a really good crop the first year we were here.)
I’ll be glad to have these as I’ve had bad luck with trying to grow regular onions. The seeds have struck well enough, but have been dug up by birds before becoming properly established.
Our Silverbeet is amazing. These plants are a couple of years old, but don’t seem to want to go to seed. They have actual trunks now – somewhat like pyramids, with the leaves forming in a circle around the upper edges.
A week or so ago I pulled off all the ratty leaves, thinking that we’d be pulling the plants out soon. They responded by sending out new glossy leaves, immaculate. We had to cook some up last night just to work our way through them. The ribs are so wide and the leaves so large that we can’t eat both.
Strawberries and Bananas
The strawberries have been coming along well. The problem with them (is there a common theme, here?) has been the blackbird hen. And probably a few other birds as well.
Each morning I’d go down to the garden only to find sharp pecks in the strawberries – even before they’d ripened properly. I’m sure the hens were happy, though, as I’d throw them all the half-pecked fruit which they’d eat avidly.
Ben’s built a clever frame with netting to keep the birds off, so the berries are having a chance to ripen and be eaten by humans, rather than birds. We’ve probably picked around a kilogram so far.
The bananas are also looking good. They seem to be forming better than the ones from earlier in the year – perhaps due to the improved growing conditions. It’s warm, and we’ve had a good deal of rain compared to a year ago.
Blackbirds and Feijoa Flowers
Speaking of the blackbird hen, she’s back on the nest again! This is the same nest she used to raise her last batch – built inside a small Sweet Bay tree situated within our fenced-off vegetable garden area.
I took the above photo yesterday and had to poke the camera in quite far as it was so windy that the branches were being rocked and shaken.
As you can see, she stares steadily out at you, but doesn’t budge. Not that I’d want her to – and I tried to be as quick as I could as I’d hate to put her off her task.
Despite the damage the birds do to our garden we do love having them here. They are so tame and so pretty.
We regularly see two or three young birds from her first brood. They have grown from chubby little birds with short tail feathers and speckled breasts, to much sleeker specimens. And where originally they weren’t very skilled at flying, they are now adept.
We don’t see the male (father) blackbird very often, but the hen and young ones are often in the Feijoa, eating the crimson flowers. I was worried about this until I read that birds eating the petals help pollinate the flowers. However, it seems to me that the birds not only eat the petals but destroy the whole flower. Often the complete flower drops to the ground and the bird will fly down and finish it off there. I guess time will tell.
The other thing I read with interest is that the fleshy petals of the Feijoa flower are edible and can be sprinkled in salads, etc. I decided to check this out this morning (even though I didn’t want to remove a potential Feijoa) and can confirm that they have a pleasant taste. They are more fleshy than they look, so have a bit of texture to them, and have a delicate sweet and spicy flavour. No wonder the birds like them!
Here’s another member of the Bromeliad family that is currently looking good in the garden. I love the way water collects in the centre of the leaves.
Neoregelia are native to the South American rain forests. I’m pretty sure that this particular specimen is Neoregelia ‘Everlasting’.
For the first time in several weeks, there is no wind. (Hooray!!!) It’s a beautiful, partly overcast day with a very light breeze. Every time the sun comes out from behind a cloud I’m reminded of how hot it will soon become – it’s currently sitting at about 21C in the shade.
I was in the vege garden on Friday when quite by accident I came across something especially evocative of Spring.
We have a small (but very bushy) Bay tree situated within the fenced off (that is, hen-free) section of our garden. I had gone there to collect a few good-sized bay leaves for a batch of fagioli I was preparing.
I parted the top leaves looking for some decent leaves and was surprised to discover a nest complete with four tiny chicks.
We’ve been watching the black bird pair all year. We think they are most likely the same two that built a nest in the right-hand section of the barn last spring. The hen, in particular, is very plucky and will fly down beside me when I’m weeding in the vegetable garden – usually to pull out worms or scratch around where I’ve been weeding. For some time we’ve been wondering where their nest might be. It seems so obvious now!
The parents don’t seem to mind us peering in – earlier today when I checked to see if the babies were okay, I saw four bright-eyed little faces peering back at me. Mum and Dad were watching from the branches of the plum tree, above. The chicks are very quiet, which is just as well, as our cat Molly could easily knock the nest out of the tree. I’m sure she’d love to munch on some tender young chicks!
On Saturday, Ben found another nest on a shelf in the ‘man cave’ section of the barn; but all that was inside were broken blue pieces of shell. It’s hard to know if any chicks ever hatched, or (and this seems more likely) a rat got them. The amusing thing about the second nest is that the parents had woven some red and black plastic-coated leads (still attached to a small battery charger) into the base. It was very well-constructed – they’d put down a base of mud, then built up the sides with twigs and stalks. The inside was a perfectly formed circle, made with delicate pieces of dried grass. I’m always impressed at how beautifully these nest are made.
The new flower spike on our Banana (Banana Mons Mari) is already developing fruit. Earlier today, I spent twenty minutes or so cutting away some of the old and battered growth from the plant. The howling winds I’ve been complaining about really wreak damage on the leaves, but the plant itself is surprisingly resilient.
The vege garden is coming along nicely. The broad beans survived the wind – thanks to some stakes and string.
The peas are forming pods.
And I’ve had a good strike rate with the edamame, rocket and lettuce I sowed a couple of weeks ago. Thank goodness!!
The early potatoes (Cliff’s Kidney) have needed earthing up a couple of times and are looking very vigorous. The asparagus patch is producing fat shoots each day, so we are eating them as they appear.
The passion fruit is in good shape after my fairly brutal pruning. It’s started to flower and their are many, many unopened buds on the vines.
To finish, I just had to include a photo of this spectacular bromeliad, Vriesea hieroglyphica, as it’s flourishing at the moment. It’s growing in the sunnier of the two gardens we have devoted to plants from the family Bromeliaceae.
This time of the year all our bromeliads are putting on new growth and developing ‘pups’. We’re hoping to establish some of the varieties more suited to the purpose, in some of our larger trees – many grow as epiphytes in their natural environment.
The nuts are starting to drop from our macadamia trees. I’ve collected over 100 in the past week, with more falling when it’s been breezy overnight. Even our smallest tree is producing a few this year. We still have a decent amount of nuts from 2012, which we’ll have to get through. It just takes time to crack them but it’s something that can be done in the evening while watching TV. Once they are shelled, I’ll be toasting them and then grinding them; mixed with a little sugar and coconut oil, they make a really yummy gluten-free, vegan crust for a dessert pie.
I’ve finally managed to identify a weed we have on our property. Helminthotheca ecioides, or Bristly Ox-tongue. It was apparently naturalised in NZ in 1869. It’s a horrible weed as it grows up with nasty hairy spikes on its stalk and leaves, and these can really hurt if you try to pull one out with bare hands. We’ve mostly eradicated these from our property, but they still come up here and there. This is one ugly weed.
The Prodigal Hen
Strangely, Lottie came back last Friday. It was a rainy, squally day and I hadn’t been outside much, but when we checked the hen house after dark before closing the gate of their enclosure for the night, Lottie was sitting on the very top perch (having evicted Lulu and Leila) as if she had never been away. The poor Orpingtons had had to vacate the bottom perch and were sleeping together on the floor. We were away overnight Saturday / Sunday and weren’t sure what we’d find when we came back on Sunday afternoon – I was very curious to see if Lottie was still at home, and if she was, what shape she was in.
When we arrived, Lottie, the two White Orpingtons (Francesca and Pearl), and one of the Black Orpingtons (Fatima) were nowhere to be seen. Lulu, Leila and Hannah (the youngest Black Orpington) were pecking around the property in their usual fashion. We called and called, at first to no avail. Then the four wanderers appeared, casually walking back from across the road. My heart sank at the thought that Lottie might start luring the other hens away during the day. That night when we shut them into their enclosure, we wondered what would happen the following day.
As it turned out, as soon as I let them out on the Monday morning, Lottie strutted off at great speed, across the grass, past the garage, down the driveway and across the road. She hadn’t even had the decency to lay an egg before leaving! Fortunately the other hens didn’t notice her departure, so not one followed her. She didn’t return on Monday evening, but to be honest, I wasn’t worried as my thoughts were that she was likely to cause more problems if she did come back permanently.
Then surprisingly, later on this afternoon, who should we see but Lottie making her way back home across the road. Tonight she has been shut in a separate area of our enclosure, and I won’t be letting her out tomorrow. We’re going to see if she copes with being kept shut in for a few days… it will be interesting to see if she lays an egg while she’s here. When we checked her tonight, she was sleeping on the top perch of her house – all alone (of course). At least she won’t be pecking and bossing the other hens around, and nor will she be leading them astray (tomorrow, at least).
We are still eating feijoas (although surely they will have all finished ripening, soon) and are starting on tamarillos. There is a farm up the road that sells bags of the latter for $2. These are so much nicer than any I have ever purchased from a store, and our own orange variety, ‘Tamarillo Bold Gold’ is also producing fruit for the first time. The fruit is smaller than the reds, but very juicy and sweet.
The bananas look like they are starting to ripen. They are certainly getting fatter and the top rows are definitely turning a lighter colour. As these are the first bananas I’ve ever grown, I have no idea what to expect as far as time to maturity is concerned.
Our two young lime trees are a mass of flowers and small fruit. Typically, a strong wind started blowing in today from the North West. I’m hoping that it doesn’t inflict too much damage on the new growth. The lemon trees also look to be producing buds, but not as energetically as the limes.
It’s been wet off and on for over a week now. We do get a degree of sunshine during most days, but then the clouds build up and it’s gloomy again. I think this June our solar generation will be the lowest ever. Thank goodness it’s not long until the shortest day.
In the vegetable garden, broad beans have come up, as has curly kale. The Egyptian Walking Onions are looking good, as are our mixed lettuces, beetroot, rocket and radishes.
I don’t know why I grow radishes – probably because the variety I have sown, ‘Easter Egg’, is so pretty when they are small – white, pink, purple and red – but I tend not to eat them myself as they are too peppery for me. And this from someone whose favourite chili is the Habanero. 🙂
Speaking of which, I am still picking habaneros, and our basil still hasn’t died off, although it’s getting a little straggly as I have omitted to keep up with removing the flower spikes. I have had absolutely no luck with parsnip seeds this season – nor with leeks. I’ve sown a couple of rows of each of these, but none have germinated. Very annoying.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.