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!

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

 

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

 

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.

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.

My Garden ~ it’s spring

I flew back after four days in Wellington having enjoyed picture postcard spring weather, immaculate botannical gardens, a fashion festival of wearable arts and the NZ symphony orchestra. I came to earth with thud – the climatic difference while I was away.  Himself at home endured heavy weather, flooding – the stormy works and sodden ground in Northland. Today, I ventured into the garden and got busy with the camera to show we might be a bit battered but the garden manages a smile and bursts with promise. The bees were a bit shy but a few hung around for the photo opportunity.

 Stormy spring weather that I missed while away.

 Luisa Plum blossom

 1st of the Captain Kidd Apple blossom

 1st of the Feijoa blossom

 Lavender underplanted near the fruit trees as a companion plant

  Calendula as a companion plant

 Radish going to seed

 Borage, Comfrey and Curry plants interplanted anong the fruit trees

 Broadbeans

 My first white carrot

 Arctotis

 Freesia smell heavenly

 Day lily

 Miniature cyclamen among the weeds

 Clivia

 Neighbour’s lambs remind us to put a spring in our steps

 Finally – a patch of blue sky glimpsed through the flowering peach blossom.

My Garden ~ Plum Blossom and Bees

Hibernation is over – I can’t ignore the buzzing in my garden anymore.  The plum trees are smothered with blossom and bees each determined to get its quota of pollen. It’s a wonderful sight and this spring I’m looking with fresh eyes. Recently I was able to locate The Keeper of the Bees by Gene Stratton-Porter for my mother whose health is declining. It is a book she’d read long ago in her youth and one she wanted to read again. A soldier wounded during WWI looks outwards as he finds inner strength and peacefulness after he undertakes to care for the Bee Master’s bees.  As the garden is fruitful because of the bees so life becomes meaningful. I shouldn’t be surprised that spring is well and truly arrived here.  The harbinger daffodils have finished, but the calendula, broad beans, borage and lavender also planted as companion plants under my fruit trees are showing off their colours and too are exciting the bees. The buds on the apple, quince and peach trees are bursting – quite the visual feast. Which reminds me – I must get busy with camera.  

Planting an orchard is potentially one of the best investments you could ever make. It’s an investment in your health (keeping in mind that our current western shop diets contain only 3 of the 8 polysaccharides essential for a strong immune system and that they’re actually only present in tree ripened fruit!) and the health of your family, … it’s an investment in your mental, emotional and spiritual health, it’s an investment in the health and future of the planet.” Kay Baxter, 2002