Plums and Pohutukawa ~ it must be Christmas

Nothing says, ‘it must be Christmas’, to me more than the seasonal appearance of red  Christmas plums in my home orchard and of the full glory of New Zealand’s iconic crimson blooms on pohutukawa trees.

In the current high temperatures, green plums reddened overnight. This morning, waxeyes, pukeko and possums all left signs of having tasted-tested the ripest part of the fruit, the side facing the morning sun. Half-eaten plums lay on the grass and broken twigs dangled from branches. Much as I love to pick sun-ripened fruit, the reality is that I must pick the near-ripened fruit if we are to enjoy any of the crop at all. I will put the ripest plums in the fruit bowl, free-flow freeze some for later use and stew some to be served as a dessert.

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Christmas plums picked at half-ripened state

Possums also wreaked destruction on my heritage Strawberry apple tree. It is a delightful small early apple that ripens just before Christmas.  We trapped several possums this week. We expect to trap more in the weeks to come. In other posts, I have described how possums are pests in New Zealand. They roam at night and also ravage native foliage,  such as pohutukawa trees, and eat native bird eggs and chicks.

Putting possums and plums behind us for a while, Himself and I enjoyed coffee at a waterfront cafe overlooking the local marina. It is a happy place where people walk or socialise.

Crimson pohutukawa blooms feature in New Zealand Christmas images. With Christmas on my mind, I wish for peace and harmony, happiness and joy, and good health in your lives everywhere.

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Pohutukawa trees in full bloom at the Town Basin Marina

 

 

 

 

Drat! Rats!!!!

“We must”, I proclaimed to Himself as I handed him a mug of coffee, “reset the rat bait stations”, hoping in vain the Man of the House would leave off watching the replay of New Zealand’s Cricket XI Captain Brendon McCullum’s record-breaking fastest test century while batting against the Australians, and do the honours. You get the picture. Weekend sport, replays and all, is a sacred couch cow.

I mentioned in my previous post about a couple dead rats being an unpleasant fact of life and I couldn’t bring myself to take a photograph. Irrational, illogical, I know, I know. Indeed, and if you really must view pictures of Norway ‘black’ and Ship ‘brown’ rats, then google or click on the ‘pest’ link. It’s an ongoing battle against these pests that want the yummy food we put out for the chooks. We have predator proof netting the chook house, but there is the giveaway sign, the tunnel. I shudder.

What am I scared of? It’s only a rodent. Or is it a family of rats? I hate looking at them. What am I going to do if it jumps out at me? I’m such a wimp. I grit my teeth and shudder. You can do this. “If I have to I can do anything … I am invincible I am woman”, Helen Reddy sings in my mind as I don plastic gloves and collect the rat bait. I grab a heavy spade, for just in case.

I can’t think of a single redeeming ratty feature to commend this verminous creature.

  • Rats eat plants and fruits, destroying food sources of native wildlife
  • Rats plunder nests and eat chicks and eggs
  • Rats gnaw, damaging buildings, power cables and water pipes
  • Rats predate small native ground creatures
  • Rats contaminate fresh water
  • Rats transmit disease to humans
  • Rats scavenge on human waste
  • Rats tunnel, climb and hide
  • Rats cost me time and money
  • Rats are not nice to look at
  • Rats exist

I put the poison in the bait station. As I move forward to position the bait station under the chook house, my foot sinks against a tunnel concealed by grass. Horrified, I step back and stand in another tunnel. Geez!! Is there no end to this! I pull a clump of weeds and see the trail disappears under the overgrowth smothering the disused chicken cage. No rats jump out. Now, I feel stronger. I am doing this. ‘No’ to rats!

Himself has left the couch and ventured forth to give a helping hand. Together,  we each take a corner and lift and tip the cage up and out of the long grass.

With perfect theatrical timing, Rattus rattus leaps out of the cage. Seconds of confusion prevailed as Himself, spade in hand, and the rat play a deadly game of chase, while I, weakly in stereotypical female fashion, beat a hasty retreat.

Life’s not always a bowl of peaches in my garden.

Garden gate is open ~ come for a stroll

Garden Gate
Garden gate and fencepost

Come for a stroll with me. I won’t be long. I need to check a few things. It’s quite dry underfoot and there’s a cool breeze blowing.

Mind, be careful, don’t touch the electric fence wire and gate tapes are switched on. We won’t go into that paddock. The animals are friendly but they can get frisky when people are about as they expect to be hand fed goodies. They don’t realise they’re not pet calves anymore.

Gosh, the grass has grown fast even though the cattle ate the paddock out a week ago. The growing conditions are good. The paddock gets topped with the tractor and mower after the cattle are shifted.

Mmm! Just noticed that the cattle troughs  need cleaning out. Leaf litter and twigs fell into the water when we had that last lot of windy weather. I’ll have to do that soon. The liquid amber is showing its colours. Leaf  fall later during autumn means work.

Woops!  Didn’t mean for us to disturb the mother Pukeko on her nest. The native swamp hens hide their nests well in the grass so we don’t always see them.

Stream reflectionMy favourite place anytime along the stream. We see eels and freshwater mussels in the stream.

It’s always tranquil and cool under the totara trees. I’m proud of the way native ferns are regenerating along the stream bank. It’s taken lots of hard work over the years to clear inorganic rubbish and pest plants from this area.

Stream protection in New Zealand means “if you have water supplied by a stream, you have an obligation to safeguard the quality of the water leaving your property – for downstream users and for other stream life.” 

There’s a couple dead rats over there. An unpleasant fact of life. I can’t bring myself to photograph these creatures. These pests seem to live well off creatures in the stream. We need to reset the poison bait traps. It’s an ongoing battle against these pests that also want the yummy food we put out for the chooks. We have predator proof netting on the chook house.

The dwarf heritage Captain Kidd and Golden Delicious apple trees look healthy and happy in the sun. I’m hoping the branches don’t break under the load of the fruit. The pears and quinces are looking good.

Himself made this footbridge across the drain as a shortcut to and from the back paddock. Trouble is that the grapevine is claiming the garden gate. I keep meaning to prune the vine back. Meanwhile, it’s hard to shut the gate after us.

 

 

 

 

Plums ~ under threat from possum pests

It is that time of the year again when the branches of the Luisa plum tree hang low, heavily loaded with large, luscious, blushing yellow-fleshed fruit, best eaten fresh from the tree. Kids love to pick and snack on the juicy sweet fruit. And so do possums. These pest animals are picky eaters of the ripest part of the fruit.

In previous posts I mentioned how possums are a pest animal in New Zealand. They roam  and forage during the night ravage a range of native forest species as well as bird eggs and chicks. Home gardens and orchards are not immune.

Possum control is ongoing. For safety reasons, we neither lay poison nor night shoot with a spotlight. We set Timms traps which kill a single possum at a time. Before I bait a trap with cinnamon-dusted apple, I put the cats inside and shut the hens in their coop while the traps are set. Doggy neighbours have an friendly woofy role in our life. Dog ownership has expenses and responsibilities that we choose not to take up even though we know the presence of a dog acts as a pest deterrent.

Our older son had a flourishing orchard until his dog Rosy became ill early in 2015. She hated possums and took her guard duty seriously at night and was quite the goofy family pet by day. Unimpeded after Rosy’s death, possums stripped many mature fruit trees bare of leaves and fruit buds. A heritage peach tree later died. Since late last year, son’s new two-year old dog, Chief, has been  quick to pick up Rosy’s mantle of Pest Control Officer and is guarding ‘his’ orchard with success. Most of the fruit trees are showing signs of recovery. 

Picking and preserving under-ripe plums is at the top of my To Do list.

 

My Garden ~ winter months

Since I returned home, I’ve been busy in the garden – with some manual help from number two son and his sons. Two-year-old pea-picking, ‘tato inspector who featured in some of my posts last year is a ‘big boy’ now aged three and his baby brother is now 18 months old with a another sibling expected in August – how time flies. I’ll just have to get more garden trowels and forks for these budding gardeners. At least Daddy gets fit giving wheel-barrow rides. And I got to re-plant the spring onions and red cabbages that three-year-old triumphantly declared to be ‘weeds’.

Vegetables and fruit are quite expensive to buy at present. And the stuff fresh-picked from the garden seems so much tastier. I’m pushing my luck and trying to get some vegetables growing for our winter months. I’ve never started this late in the season before. I can’t believe it’s almost a year ago I wrote about Matariki  (Pleiades) re-appearing in our southern skies to herald a new growing season. It’s time to celebrate the Maori New Year again. As I mentioned in my last post, weedy growth was rampant in my absence. See my before and after photos.

In the interest of getting a head start, I cheated this time and bought the mini-variety seedlings of cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower. I read they mature quicker – so I’m crossing my fingers that is so.  The temperatures are not too bad – the coldest we experienced the other night was about 4 degrees C. The garden beds are reasonbly sheltered from prevailing winds and have a north-south alignment so get full sun. I have raised beds and and compost so here’s hoping we don’t get an early frost.

Friend at work has put in a very early crop of potatoes. I’ve got some seed Cliff Kidney potatoes chitted and will plant them and see how we go. I’ll put frost cloth over at nights as needed.

We’re enjoying the last of our tamarillo fruits. It’s a rewarding fruit – raw or cooked. Loaded with Vitamin C and makes a wonderful fruit crumble for dessert or sauce to accompany pork. Such an easy plant to grow – never know whether to call it a tree or not. Bigger problem is the rats and possums that also love the fruit. Must the be the healthiest pests around!

Next on the action list is to sow Broad Beans or a green crop for over-winter. Then the strawberry beds need attention and feeding. Then there’s the roses to prune. And I really should deal seriously to the pests. On reflection, think I’ll add a To Do – snuggle up in front of the fire, glass of wine in hand and read the new season’s gardening catalogues.