Saturday, 30 June 2012

How does the garden grow?

 We have just had the most devastating week a week or 2 ago, with 4 heavy frosts, one morning after the other!  And another one this morning!  Eeek!  Bring on Fiji, Rarotonga or Seychelles!  I looked out of the window, and watched how the garden turned white each frosty morning.  The damage was vast and quick!  In one week, we watched the garden turn from white to a burnt shade of black!  The tamarillos, the hibiscus, the bananas, the echinaceas, everything sub-tropical took a snow-dive into slow and painful death.  But I have gardened long enough not to dwell too long on the devastation and instead, plan ahead for future Spring plantings.
Anyone for Ice Berg lettuce??
Crispy grass that crunches underfoot.

Sugar-frosted carrot tips.

Arctic Parsley 
Despite this setback, we still managed to harvest carrots, radishes, lemons, limes, red and yellow cherry guavas, mandarins and leeks this week.  All the yellow/orangey foods full of beta-carotene and Vit C.  Lemon juice is antiseptic and a good home remedy for colds, sore throats, laryngitis, rheumatism, allergies and diarrhoea (going around at the moment) as it destroys hostile germs, cleans the blood, promotes weight loss (common in winter), strengthens weak blood vessels and aids digestion if taken just before a meal.  If you don't have any other fruit trees, make a lemon tree your one exception!  We use it to make salad dressings, to drizzle over baked veggies, in stir-fries and then some!  A warming drink of lemon and honey in hot water is a great winter treat.  We also, surprisingly, harvested a bunch of bananas this week, which we will ripen in the shed, away from further frosts.  

Winter pickings

Ripening sweet bananas... can't wait!
After an initial delay, the arborist came and chopped our 2 big trees down.  It is surprising how quickly one gets used to a new vista!  The beneficial effect on the garden is profound!  The 2 garden beds to the right of the picture below, were very much in shade for a good part of the day.  Now they are bathed in full day sunlight!   The cost of tree chopping came to $300.   2 cubic metres of firewood costs $220.   A win/win situation for us.  I am glad I was not home to witness the actual felling of the trees, less traumatic that way.   We have about 2 cubic metres of firewood for next winter, or closer to 3m3 courtesy of our latest helpxers, Luca and Chantal, who chopped and stacked it all for us.

Frost-burned grass

The tree that once was........

Next winter's wood supply
Our garlic crop seems to be surviving, tiny green shoots raising their heads and reaching for the sun.  We planted fat organic cloves which Mike bought at a local organic outlet.  We decided against using our own garlic seed as the last crop was pitiful.  It was struck by a fungal blight during the middle stage of growing, with way too much unseasonal summer rainfall.  Our little persimmon tree has produced just 15 persimmons - I hope next year there will be double that!  This has been a beautiful Autumn/Winter so far......... lots of sunshine which we missed out on during Summer.  It was a bit like the English Summers people joke about, 3 days of sunshine!  Blink and you miss it!  The chooks have been working over-time, I think it might be the sunshine!  We are collecting an egg a day again, after a 3 month egg-drought!

Tree-ripened persimmons for the picking.....

Frost damage to our young macadamia tree

Again, orange/yellow fruit from the garden to boost the immune
system for winter

Cute little bantam chook eggs

The stump of the Maple tree.  No more.
I removed all the paraphernalia that hung in our oak tree in the middle of the garden; several pumice and driftwood sculptures, a bird feeder, a bird house and a nesting box.  Removing the nesting box, I lifted the hinged roof to check inside and found this handsome lad!  Actually, it was a lass - note the ovipositor on her butt.  She was non-aggressive and quite happy to pose for a photo, before I replaced her in her rather large apartment.  Wetas are New Zealand's ancient insect which was around at the time of Gondwanaland. They are nocturnal and flightless.  DOC lists 16 of the 70 weta species as at risk.  They look like something out of a science fiction movie!  Fascinating!

Weta Apartment
I wanted to showcase these amazing little eco-lunch wraps below.  For litter-less lunches, a young entrepeneural 10yr old girl made sets of these to sell at our Enviro-kindergarten.  No more nasty cling wrap plastic.  The bigger one opens out to wrap a sandwich in, while the smaller one holds a biscuit or two or some crackers.  Very, very clever and I could not help but instantly buy one for the grand sum of $12.  I think she could be a millionaire by 20 if she pushed this idea on the Web.

We went for a little drive to Omokoroa beach on Saturday, such a picturesque little seaside spot!  To my delight, the tide was out and the harbour beach was littered with clumps of green.  Tons of it, so I filled up Mike's Eveready Box with the stuff and brought it home to gift to the compost bin.  Yay!  All those wonderful nutrients from the sea.
The planting window is just opening and I am delighting in all the possibilities I am going to plant, from the King's Seeds catalogue.  And with the middle bed having recently been weeded by our wonderful helpxers, I can begin to plan..............  Day dreams.  Spring is not too far away....... there's light at the end of this dark tunnel!

Sea lettuce and sea grass - a gift from Tangaroa,
the God of the Seas.

Weed-free middle bed, ready for planting up with spring and summer plants.
Onwards and upwards............. we have been thinking of generating some of our own energy for a long time.  In the last 5 years, solar generating power systems have become more and more affordable.  2 years ago we had a quote to install a system, at a mere $30 000.  This year, it has reduced by half!  The same system will cost $16 000 approximately!  A huge difference.  And no, if we wait another year, I don't think it will be $8000.  It may reduce in cost but only incrementally.  Mike has calculated that this system at it's current price, will pay for itself over 5 years!  Why wouldn't we do it????  With the current rising cost of power, we would be silly not to!  Power cost in New Zealand has increased by nearly 80% in just 8 years!  So we are looking at building a solarium in front of the house, which will support enough solar panels to generate half of our energy needs.  It's quite exciting!  Of course, the next step in that evolution, will be to try to reduce our energy consumption!!   

Ooops, better go and turn off this overhead light which I no longer need, as the day has brightened my vision somewhat..............

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