My Garden ~ a Kiwi's take on life

Life is a lot like a garden


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Trees for Every Living Creature

Creature

Trees worldwide deserve our utmost care and attention. Planting a tree, be it in our garden or in a forest, is an action that breathes life the environment. Destroying a tree is an action that disrupts the cycle of life. We are part of a dimension of life that is greater than ourselves. 

Ancient trees are our links to life lived before our time. A tree revered by Maori and of national importance  in New Zealand is Tane Mahuta Lord of the Forest, a 2000-year old Kauri tree in the Waipoua Forest. It was a seedling tree well before people arrived in this country. It is a parent tree that has seeded a forest, creating living habitats for countless lifeforms. It is a taonga, so precious that it, and other Kauri trees, now requires protection from human interaction. Imagine if the father of this forest could speak. What might it tell of New Zealand’s extinct flightless birds that once roamed the forest? What secrets lie beneath centuries of tree litter?

Kauri Tree in Waipoua Forest

Trees give protection from the wind and sun. They soak up carbon from polluted air. They provide food and fuel. Their visual amenity softens harsh urban development.

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Magnolia ‘Star Wars’ is about to flower in February! Tree is a visual delight in my garden when in full bloom.

Boundary Shelter Belt Tree

Boundary shelter belt tree Cypress Leylandii being felled because it was overgrown and dying off.

On my lifestyle block, we have had to cull storm felled or old, diseased, overgrown shelter belt trees that crowded our driveway and boundaries. Branches can be hazardous when left as they rot and break off. When we fell such trees, we mulch their branches and make compost for my garden. 

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Tree mulch in the compost bin. Another truckload of mulch was added after this photo was taken. Pure garden gold.

My replanting focus has been to choose low growing trees as food sources for beneficial insects and birds. For my garden, I selected fruit trees grafted onto dwarf root stocks which makes them easier to manage. I am protective of the many native Totara trees on our land, several of which are about 80 to 100 years,. They protect the water in our stream.

Vibrant trees provide safe habitats for every living creature.

 

 

 


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‘appless Tree Stands Forlorn

Forlorn

Short of us sitting in the orchard with a shotgun, the pukeko with their white tail feathers flicking in defiance, each morning, unafraid and undeterred by human presence, stride up from the stream, across the paddock and into the orchard. Their  raucous squawks alert us to their brazen thievery.

Pukeko

Pukeko heading to forbidden fruits

As a home gardener, my hopes are being squashed that in March, there may be no fruit left on the apple tree for us to pick and to enjoy.

Fruit Thief with Apple Clamped in Beak

Pukeko, apple clamped in beak, strides back to the stream after a raid on the apple tree

My heritage Captain Kidd apple tree, mulched and fertilised, swelters in the hot January sunshine. These pesky New Zealand native birds have added to this proud tree’s woes. Devoid of its fruits, it stands ‘appless and forlorn. 

Forlorn in the sun ~ Captain Kidd Apple Tree

Once was a prolific and promising crop of apples

 


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The Chickens are in Deep Disgrace

It was an El Nino stormy start to the 2016 calendar year. The weather radar mapped the heavy rain as it headed our way. The Moon calendar for 01 January recommended a ‘rest day’. So I followed the cat’s example and ‘curled up’ for a day indoors.

This afternoon, the rain eased and the wind died down. I ventured outdoors for some fresh air. It’s great the rainwater has more-or-less re-filled both tanks. I was pleased to see there was no storm damage. I really should have put on wet-weather gear and worked in the garden as the Moon calendar for 02 January recommended and sown beetroot, swede and turnip seeds. But I didn’t. And I wasn’t there to check what the chickens were doing.

I’m not pleased about the carnage caused by sneak avian attacks. It’s official. The chickens are no longer cute! Chickens in Disgrace Jan 2016They are in deep disgrace and have been locked up in their cage. Their crime? They chomped through the kale. A wet day and they were bored! Sigh! That’s one of my green salad items gone to the birds.   Hen-pecked Kale Jan 2016

So much for believing in letting chooks free-range.

What’s more, I spotted blackbirds devour the last of the cherimoyas. This tough green-skinned fruit had been cleanly peeled and the juicy aromatic white flesh exposed for pecking. Cherimoya Jan 2016Our early heritage ‘Strawberry’ apples are being savoured by small native birds. We’re a bit luckier with this fruit tree and have managed to pick the apples as we wanted.

I must think how to protect the pear tree before it begins to ripen in about April. It’s loaded with fruit. Pear Tree Jan 2016 Last year, the pukekos joined in and jumped into the fruit trees in search of juicy fruit. It’s never-ending.  At least we’re enjoying the peaches after we stripped that tree to avoid losing the fruit to the possums and birds.

Ahhh! Himself has just handed me a drink. Forget the angst. Maybe the answer is in the bottom of the glass. Cheers, m’dears!


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Celebrate the New Year with a Peach

Nothing like eating a hand-picked, juicy ripe sweet peach from my orchard. My Red Haven peaches usually start ripening as the New Year approaches. Trouble is that the possums and the birds know this and think the fruit is grown for them! Simple solution. Tonight, we picked the tree clean even though many peaches were not fully ripe or were half-pecked. We love fresh seasonal produce. Enjoy the simple things in life. Happy gardening New Year to you all.

Peaches

Peachhaven

 


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My Garden ~ the bees aren’t buzzing like they did last year

The bee is more honored than other animals, not because she labors, but because she labors for others. St. John Chrysostom

Bees seem to have vanished from my garden. I’m not getting much of a buzz. My orchard is a feast for the senses. The plum, apple and quince trees are smothered with sweet nectar-filled white blossoms. The calendula, broad beans, borage and lavender and other companion plantings under my fruit trees are gaudy in their their orange, yellow, purple and blue scented array. Spring has well and truly arrived here. In my blog (September 2007), I couldn’t ignore the buzzing in my garden. But now, one year later, I see and hear only a handful of bees working among the blossoms. Where is the rest of the horde? It has been the wettest of winters. And I know the varroa mite has wreaked havoc on the nation’s hives. The silence in my garden scares me.

 

Transfixed as we are by the seriousness of  economic woes and global credit crunch fallout, there’s a serious ecological problem that has just as far-reaching and potentially devastating consequences for people everywhere. We must pay attenion to the chain of events happening in our food producing habitats. Prescient words echo down the decades in a quote (15 April 1964) from Rachel Carson’s obituary published in The New York Times.

 

“Now, I truly believe, that we in this generation, must come to terms with nature, and I think we’re challenged as mankind has never been challenged before to prove our maturity and our mastery, not of nature, but of ourselves.” 

www.rachelcarson.org/RachelCarson.ASPX

 

Earlier this year when Mum was dying of cancer, my brothers, sister and I recalled how when we were kids, DDT was mixed into the fertilizer that was spread by agricultural top-dressing trucks and planes in white billowing dust clouds over the local farms. I can still ‘smell’ the DDT as I write this. There was the economic imperative to develop farms in those days. I’m not exactly sure what made Dad change his farming practice, but he did so by the 1960s. Others in Mum’s age group in the district have succumbed to the same cancer. We haven’t been able to get conclusive answers that may link the cancer to DDT. There seems to be a wall of silence. I have digressed somewhat from the vanished bees. One consequence of the application of this insecticide is that DDT remains in the soil. It may be residual DDT is part of the explanation for the silence of the bees.

 

The health of honey bees is critical to the well-being of humans. In my blog (September 2007), I mentioned how Mum was buoyed by a book The Keeper of the Bees by Gene Stratton Porter. So I was interested during my web search to read Joe Brewer, (25 August, 2007), Rockridge Institute, Berkeley, CA. Bee Keeper’s Wisdom for Human Flourishing.  www.celsias.com/article/bee-keepers-wisdom-for-human-flourishing.

 

Back to bringing a buzz back into my garden. I’m not alone in my concerns about vanishing bees. An article (October 8, 2008) gives pointers and describes Californian farmers work in re-developing native bee habitats.

 

“With honeybee populations weakened by disease and the mysterious malady known as Colony Collapse Disorder, farmers place new focus on work to benefit native pollinators. Decisions by farmers and ranchers to replace bare ground along irrigation ditches and roadways with native plants, trees and grasses, in order to encourage beneficial insects and eliminate weeds, have evolved into a movement to bring native bees back to the farming landscape.”

www.cfbf.com/agalert/AgAlertStory.cfm?ID=1147&ck=A1D50185E7426CBB0ACAD1E6CA74B9AA

 

I trawled the net for advice and insights to the nature of my gardening problem with the thought there must be something further I can do in my backyard. There’s any number of websites and blogs about colony collapse disorder and bees.

 

NZ newspaper item (6 October 2008) Fears that bee colony disease is here.

www.times-age.co.nz/localnews/storydisplay.cfm?storyid=3786935&thesection=localnews

 

National Beekeepers’ Association of New Zealand (25 September 2008) posted a Radio NZ report on the declining bee numbers. www.nba.org.nz

 

Linda Moulton Howe (31 August 2008) wrote about the poor health of honey bees. www.earthfiles.com/news.php?ID=1466&category=Environment

 


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My Garden ~ what a difference two days can make

What a difference two days can make in the garden in 90% humidity, sticky nor’-easterly wind and rainy weather. We went away for the weekend and returned to find beans, plums, mini-cabbages, spring onions, zucchini and strawberries all demanding to be picked.

1st-of-the-xmas-plums.jpg Wilson’s Early – “Christmas Plum” ripens early in December. A small fruit with yellow-red skin. The flesh is yellow and juicy. It’s partly self-fertile but I planted it near the Omega plum tree just to be sure about cross-pollination. This tree doesn’t grow too large so is ideal for my orchard situation.

freshly-picked-from-the-garden.jpg Freshly picked bush beans, spring onion, cabbage, zucchini and a variety of chinese cabbage are the basis of stir fried vegetables for tea tonight. I’ll toss freshly grated ginger through.

We’ll have the stir-fry with Pork Spare Ribs which are grilling as I write. They have been marinaded (no particular recipe – I just used ingredients at hand) made from freshly made plum puree, garlic, pepper and olive oil and tossed in sesame seeds.


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My Garden ~ Flaxes and Cabbage Trees are in Flower

a-corner-of-my-garden.jpg Some years ago, I planted these native plants to act as a windbreak to protect our fruit trees from the prevailing westerlies. The big bonus is that our New Zealand native birds love the food source. The native flax and cabbage trees nectars particularly excite the tuis and waxeyes (some people call these birds Silvereye) at this time of the year. The birds were coy about posing for the camera – so another time. Mind you, there was a deterrent. Mayhem – the Ginger cat, so wanted to be in the photo. He just doesn’t understand that the birds don’t want to be his friends. I love watching the tiny waxeyes – they look so cute after they’ve dipped their heads into the flax flowers and emerge covered with orange pollen. 

collage2.jpg My potato plants have made rapid progress and I’m still applying mulch rather than earthing up. The spring temperatures are warming up considerable and the other vegies are growing well.