Hail Day

We are now on to the next chapter.

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Permaculture in Rakaia

Welcome to Permaculture in Rakaia! As I sit here today on my makeshift workstation comprising of a camping chair and my laptop rested on the packaging box of my vacuum cleaner, its bucketing down hail out there, with accompanying sound of thunder and the occasional flash of lightning.

The move has taken me all day and more. 3 trips on a hatchback with a trailer. 4 trips on the ute. 1 trip on the sedan. My friend Mitch certainly didn’t sign up for this. The plants itself took us 2 trips each to move, and the stares we got as they zoom through towns and down the highway.


The canvas prints came along, and they brightened up the living room immediately with a Malaysian Sunrise at Broga Hill. That would have been the name of the print in my honest opinion but the printers who converted it to a 3…

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End of the Line

So this is it. This is the end of my chapter in Kaituna Valley. The end of my chapter in The Orchard Cottage. The truck is packed with the final load and ready to leave this place for the last time. The next time I come back will be to stalk the progress of this place, I heard the shepherd doesn’t like gardening, but he will be putting some lamb in, which the forest garden is ready for. Lambs that taste like wildflowers and tree lucerne and an assortment of fruit trees foliage and fruit? Hmmm…IMG_2305

One last panorama of the forest garden. We can see the big dry is settling in slowly. The walnuts and pecans have really grown from their wee whip stage, still a bit more to grow, but I’m proud to have planted these magnificent tree 2 years ago.


These globe artichokes went in last season, and they make an amazing foliage display.


The Giant Cloche didn’t really get its proper run in this year. I’ve removed all the windows and take them with me, they will come in handy. Had a feast of strawberries before I go too!


All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go… It was quite a move, we were doing multiple trips yesterday and still can’t finish the job in one day. It’s mainly all my gardening stuff and plants… 😉


All I need to do now is to finish this blog, and submit the final meter reading to Meridian.

Saying Farewell

It’s been a busy week, packing things up when I’m not at work. And deciding what goes into rubbish bags. I think I have got most things packed now apart from a few bits and pieces here and there which will be packed away over the week. In the end, I took a full truck load of rubbish to the dump today, and it’s the first time I had to pay more than the minimum charge. Almost a quarter of a tonne.

I’ve just been chopping up the firewood, getting them down to kindling size so that I can pack them into banana boxes. Easier to move. It’s probably the first thing that I am going to move onto the property on settlement day as I will be heading over to get the keys after work and drop the firewood off. Easy one person job.


Rainfall this week is mediocre at best, 0.5mm. We have a high of 32.1dC and a low of 5.9dC. It’s been really windy though, persistent gusty drying wind.


I spent quite some time in the forest garden yesterday, visiting every tree, remembering when I planted them in, talk to them, say my farewell to each of them, and bid them good luck. I talked to the Tagasaste Tree Lucernes, I asked them to look after the fruit trees they are guarding and nursing. I said thank you to the roses for their lovely bloom. And glance longingly at all the fruits hanging off the trees, they are having a bumper year.


Beetroot, radish, lavender, and potatoes.


Flowering pak choi, sprouting broccoli, baby broccoli. For the first time after 3 years, I finally got the flowering pak choi to do the right thing. This is the best I have ever seen the brassica grown from seeds.


Broad beans…


I packed the frost cloth away. And the Early Gem Sweetcorns are doing really well. Their foliage shows no sign of nutrient deficiency, which is amazing as the only thing I did with this plot is mow the grass down, top up mulch and compost, then roll the weedmat over. They are fed with laundry grey water though, drip-irrigated below the mulch layer. There’s courgettes too but they are still really young.


Perhaps this is fate. I always believed that everything, or most things happened for a reason, usually a good one. After all those years of experimentation, trial and error, I am finally on to something. The floodwater diversion is in place, the pebbles on the drive and around the vege garden that will not washed away in the event of a flood, the flood gate… The fruit trees and their nurse plants, the Belgian fence, the nurseries… The ducks were about to arrive after I have finished the Permaculture Design Course at Koanga Institute. That’s a wee bit more commitment there, and I guess that level of commitment is not meant for my time at the Orchard Cottage.

Next week, we are off to my own place! A new chapter in life on suburban Permaculture design and implementation.

Machete Madness

I was planning to take the weed eater brush cutter whatever to deal with the forest garden yesterday but the damn thing will start, but it will pass out after a while and just won’t idle. I sent it in for a service a while back for the same issue and the shop said they replaced the clutch because it was worn… well, I’ve not used it ever since I got it back, don’t tell me the clutch worn while in storage. I am really tempted to biff it because not all shop will service it, and the one that does is not in a convenient location. However, I happened to have drop some cash and bought a pole pruner attachment for it last Boxing Day, so, there’s the dilemma there. Anyway, McCulloch is the brand, and the only place that service it in Christchurch is in St Albans.


Anyway, the forest garden still need dealing with before the hedge mustard goes to seed completely, dries up, and becomes a fire hazard. I turned to my trusted Fiskars X3 Brush Hook. It took me much longer than the brush cutter, but I got it done in the end. I stepped down the cleavers in the process, and that seem to work well as they just crunched up and cling on to each other and form a mat on the ground. From the photo above, you can see that the spaces are more open now.


Rainfall last week, 3mm. We have a high of 26.8dC and a low of 0.2dC. Bumped into the eCan guy doing the river flow reading and he said that we are closed to water restriction level. This dryness to come made me put serious thought into the design on the new property. Water will be a key priority. In fact, there’s already a restriction on now that you can do alternate days hosing.

The main water concern is the Biointensive vegetable garden, there’s going to be about 60m2 of it, and each m2 needs about 5mm of water a day, that’s 300mm, or 300L of water a day. Put it this way, that 3mm of rainfall last week ain’t going to make a dent at all.


The sweetcorn are just popping their head through.


Germinating weeds from seeds. Nitrogen fixing weeds. I got to remind myself to collect some seeds from that broom by the road later.


The Lady flowering.


And my favorite Austin Rose.


The Orchard Cottage this week. Clearly noticeably spaciousness in the Forest Garden. Bluebells, daffodils, and saffron have all been dug out and stored in compost in mushroom boxes. Ideally I should have used sawdust, but I have an abundance of pretty dry compost, so it will do.

Exciting things, I’m going to get a trio of flat peaches and nectarine for the new place. Just thinking, with 9 peaches and nectarines, it will be a pretty ugly sight if they are all covered in leaf curl. The wildflowers craze is coming along, but this time I am restricting to just the low growing blend. I’m going to be growing figs and olives in pots. And some of the olive cuttings are still green, which probably means that they are rooting! Yays!

Free To Go To A Good Home

Without realizing it, I gave away almost $350 worth of plants to my neighbor. He is a happy chap loading a dozen young plants onto his truck. If he were to buy them from the nursery, larger grade though, it would have cost him $350, or more. The plants were spares, and he is one of the friendlier farm staff around, so why not make someone’s day.


Rainfall this week, about 11mm. We have a high of 23.2dC and a low of 1.4dC. Thank you for the rain!


Things are getting a bit out of control here in the forest garden. I am going to bring in the brush cutter next week and hit those hedge mustard and cleavers. In permaculture terms, I don’t have a weed problem, just an absence of weed eating animals like chooks and goats.


This is a huge calendula seed head! I’m saving calendula, white borage, and blue borage seeds at the moment. Should be able to save seeds on the cornflower and blue lupin later.


Red roses.


And one that is very peaceful.


The new tenant is going to have a feast of potatoes for Christmas.


Flowering Pak Choi at the front. My best looking specimen ever. I’ve tried to grow them in the past and they just go to seed from the seedling stage. Again, I don’t think I’ll be eating these guys.


I’ll be eating these guys instead. I sourced these propagating trays with tall dome from the States. They use this tall dome design to propagate marijuana plants over there. I’ve got spinach, mesclun mixes, brassica, aerial potato seeds, asparagus, sweetcorn, pumpkins, watermelons, and tomatoes waiting to move in to our new home.


Noticed some missing verticals? I’ve decided to take most of the pears with me. And the almonds and hazelnuts. And one each of the olives. And the grapes. The medlar, mulberry, and worcestorberry. I broke a shovel in the process.

After all this lifting of plants, I’ve come to conclusion that anything that is more than 5cm diameter is pretty marginal to transplant by hand. Also, some good nurseries will mark the North on the plant, don’t take this for granted, always check the roots and align them N-S.

Walnut and Friends

“Take it from an old spectator. Life’s not a spectator sport. If watchin’ is all you’re gonna do, then you’re gonna watch your life go by without ya.” – The Hunchback of Notre Dame


7.5mm of rainfall last week! We have a high of 27.1dC and a low of -0.1dC. That’s a late frost there. The growth tips of the walnuts and grapes in the forest garden were burnt.


When I’m not dismantling some of the stuff that is no longer needed here to be taken away with me, I’m getting stuck into Permaculture designing the new place. With all the plants that I am taking with me, I’m thinking about where they could be going. And of course, 40m2 of Biointensive vegetables garden. Then, there’s Caesar, and the ducks, and fencing them all in.

There’s also the cardinal rule, observe. So before too much damage is to be done on the new place. I have got plenty of time till Winter to decide on the final layout. In the mean time, most of the existing trees are coming down, and important fencing will be done up.


The Seckel pear is finally giving some fruit this year! Woohoo! I had a feeling I have to take Pear Jargonelle with me. This 1629 pear is no longer available to be purchased from nurseries in the country, unfortunately. And unfortunately, I don’t think the graft I did was successful. The other guys, Seckel, Louise bon Jersey, William bon Chretian are still widely available.


The Orchard Cottage this week. Meddling with a design that will limit the juglones effect of Walnuts, and also limit the size of the tree. A compact Walnuts guild. I love design thinking!

The White Borage

At one point of house hunting, I did contemplate about buying a bare block, and park a RV on it and live in it. Into the bush, glamping. It may be a bit of a financial stretch, and to think of, how am I going to keep 4 hectare of grass under control without turning it into a fire hazard in Summer. I have since decided that I am adventurous but not enough to undertake that quest. I might work that into my retirement plan…

IMG_2240This week is much better in terms of rainfall. There’s 8.5mm there and its pouring steadily out there. I have the Giant Cloche windows opened to breath in some fresh water. We have a high of 27.1dC and a low of 1dC.


I might have left it a bit late to mark out the positions of the bluebell bulbs. I managed to locate half of them after a while, will be lifting them and bringing them with me to our new home. The forest garden is in regenerative forest mode at the moment, a lot of species that thrives in the edges are making headway here. All it needs now is some free range foraging poultry.


And here we have the rare White Borage. Sown a whole packet of seeds to get one plant about 3 years ago, and it self-seeded ever since. I’ve got 2 plants this season.


Sheila’s Perfume in bloom again.


The Early Gem Sweetcorn are coming through now. These will be a treat for the new tenants along with all the stonefruits and pipfruits. Can’t be more thoughtful, left them a welcome gift of homegrown potatoes, brassicas, carrots, etc etc.


I’ve started sowing seeds into trays and small pots to take with me to our new home. I don’t think I am all too ready to miss out on a seed saving season. Here we have the pumpkin and squash.

C. moschata – Squash Honeynut (seed saved 2014/15)

C. maxima – Pumpkin Australia Butter (seed saved 2014/15) and Squash Burgess Buttercup

C. pepo – Pumpkin Thelma Sanders Sweet Potato (seed saved 2014/15), Pumpkin Wee Be Little and Squash Delicata

These will be planted in the existing vege beds, along with sweetcorn and climbing beans direct sown.

I’ve also sown potato aerial seeds by Koanga, and Asparagus Sweet Purple. More mesclun mixes, spring onions, a variety of brassica, and spinach. All into trays.


The Orchard Cottage this week. Finally gave everything a good mow down after the mower ran out of petrol few weeks ago. Mowing knee height grass with a small lawn mower… possible but not ideal.