Sunday, 21 June 2015

Blueberries, Strawberries, garlic and peas!

Winter.  Aah, a time for reflecting, for cleaning up in the garden and preparing for the Season of Growth and Renewal that's Spring.  I have been making small dents in the HUGE volume of work to be done, after the busy production of food crops in the summer, which left the garden, quite frankly, in a MESS!  And to top it off, massive carpets of weeds, mostly Chickweed and Milkweed covered every bare patch of ground, smothering all but the strongest of plants and trees!!  I tried not feeling overwhelmed, so made copious lists over the last few weeks, and set about systematically cleaning and tidying up.  I think I am getting on top of it.  Slowly.

Garlic Crop
Garlic cloves from last year's crop
Making furrows to plant the garlic
The sign to denote what lies below.....
Time to plant the garlic crop.  Traditionally planted on the shortest day of the year, and harvested on the longest.  Last year I devoted an entire bed to our garlic crop and was inundated with the largest garlic crop ever!  More than enough for 3 year's supply!  So this year, I have only chosen to plant half the veggie bed, allowing for some to not emerge at all.  Note the new layer of compost on top.  

To plant garlic, choose the best looking, healthiest bulbs and break it up into individual cloves.  Dig a trench of about 5-6cm depth and place the cloves pointy-side-up, 5cm apart.  Cover with a blanket of soil for the long 6 month sleep.  It takes about 3 weeks till they emerge, don't lose heart!  Garlic needs a liquid feed every 2-3 weeks (ideally).  Once harvested, they keep very, very well, for about 12 months, which is why we aim to grow all the organic garlic (and then some) to last us a year.

Yellow guavas for daily harvest
I have to confess to feeling guilty about wasting most of the yellow guava crop as I just can't be bothered to go out in the wind and rain most days, collecting fallen fruit.  I had over-extended my guava-enthusiasm with the red guava crop, and although the yellows are sweeter and less tart, I was a bit over guava season by the time they started into full production rate.

Blueberry Alley
Blueberry patch, weeded; before it had a tall green carpet of weeds trailing up the blueberries.
We so look forward to our summer time blueberry feast!  I have two beds, to ensure we have sufficient supply!  I know it's greedy, but it really is a health insurance.  The Ancients taught that blueberries were a vaccination against ills and chills!!  In fact, their Latin name is Vaccinium!  Do I believe in vaccinating children?  You bettcha!  Give them all the blueberries they can eat!! These little blue guys are phyto-nutrient Superstars!  Check it out here:
I covered the blueberry patch with 6 layers of newspaper to suppress further weeds.
The blueberry bushes (which now resemble sticks after leaf fall) have been pruned back.

 We covered the newspaper with fresh untreated cedar sawdust.  Sawdust will help create a slightly acidic soil, which blueberries love.
Now that the bed is prepped, bushes trimmed and soil fed with compost and a drink of sheep poo juice, they can rest till Spring.  Actually, I've noticed teeny tiny little buds already appearing!  Growing our fresh multivitamin supply.  I still have plenty frozen (bought) blueberries in the freezer to keep us going through winter and add them to our smoothies.

Leafy Crops
The store-bought brassicas I bought to boost our winter crop growth, are looking good.  I am trying a new weed-suppressant method; layers of newspaper along the rows, anchored by tree mulch which is well-rested.  Using fresh mulch would only rob nitrogen from the soil as it breaks down.
My first attempt: Building a horizontal pea frame.  

Google taught me this method, so it is pea frame no.2.  Looks sturdier and more beneficial to peas being able to climb vertical hemp twine supports.

Naked Lady.  I have had to resurrect the avo frost shelter twice in the last 2 weeks as
the fierce hurricane winds have all but nearly reduced it to a UFO.  It was good to remember to resurrect it, as after
resurrecting, it was vital at protecting our young 3yr old avo tree from 3 consecutive severe frosts!
Wildflower aftermath is not pretty.  However, this bed was cleared, mulched and some lavenders planted.  Clean lines.  Nice.

No, it's not Spring yet.  Only, in my garden, daffodils have a curious habit of blooming mid-Winter, every year!
It's a nice cheery sight for my indoor vases.
Strawberries planted on a cardboard-covered mound.

X marks the spot for each of the strawberry plants.
Strawberries need to be refreshed every year.  The plants get woody and don't deliver much fruit after a couple of years, so before Spring springs into action, I take them all up, divide all the little baby strawberry plants which multiply via runners, and then replant them and the other plants that still look good after feeding the soil liberally with new compost.  I think I had a light-bulb moment when I reflected on their name - I am sure they get their name from having to put straw underneath them to keep the fruit protected!!  Well, in that case, I am growing cardboard berries!
Come Spring, these babies should spring into production!
Slowly, slowly, I prepare for the Season of Growth up ahead..... this week - pruning remaining trees - apples, pears, olives and feijoas.  A big task.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Of Ducks, Redwoods and Rotorua

We spent 2 nights in Rotorua a couple of weeks ago.  On our second day, we headed to Hamurana Springs Recreation Reserve, beside one of Rotorua's lakes.  What a beautiful Nature Playground, free for visitors to roam around in.  Many local attractions in this Geothermal Wonderland are priced to rake in the dollars for the local businesses operating in the area.  This is perhaps one of the best-kept secrets, and we wouldn't have discovered it unless a local told us about it!    Definitely worth a trip to check it out!  I think I took far too many pictures and it is hard to cull them down to a few favourites.  The first sight that greets one as you cross the foot bridge, is the multi-jewel-coloured river, with the clearest water rolling over sand, reeds, moss and pebbles.  Like a patchwork river.  Quite breath-taking.  Below is a photographic essay:
Of Ducks:
Ducks float on crystal-clear water.

This little duck floats on water that resembles a swimming pool water, kept in pristine condition!

Floating over mosses and water weeds

Clear water reflecting the sandy shale bottom

Ducks as multi-coloured as the patches of river water!

Shades of browns and blues...

Little black ducks sleep atop a weed-matted section of the river
Geese foraging for food in the grass
Of Water:
Patchwork river

Ducks bobbing along with the current...

Hamurana; Ducksville


Water, water everywhere.....

Water painting

No photo-shopping necessary; unbelievable aquas.
Hues of Blues

Green Underwater World

Monet would have loved this scenery!
Cold, icey water wonderland.

Reminiscent of a coral reef.....

The source of the river - an underground spring.  A million gallons pours out from this spring every hour!!
Coins glint in the dark watery Aladdin's cave.  
Of Redwoods:
Of Redwoods; The path well-trodden

Patterns of Nature's Skyscrapers

Cold, clear, crisp.  Feeling small.

NZ bush

The trees that are Papatuanuku's Lungs.

Tall redwoods against the sky

Where sounds are muted by a thick forest floor leaf litter

Spinnery spider web

A moment to capture a reflective portrait
Of Rotorua:
Interesting wooden fence casts wonderful light and shadow shapes. 
A huge log serves as a home for wayward bicycles!

The most innovative bicycle rack!

Cold, blue winter skies and Autumn leaf colours collide to stunning effect!

This little bench in Eat Street doubles as a solar panel to charge the walk-way lights!  
Well done, Rotorua!