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No More Assignments For Twiglet

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I have been working on my assignment. Obviously, that is why I’m on my blog right now. This was my final assignment for my final paper for this course. So, my last assignment ever, unless I nutheadedly decide to do more study some time in the future. This final paper has seen me procrastinating like nobody’s business. It just doesn’t seem as relevant as looking at plants, holding chickens or watching videos with The Little Fulla of himself being himself. I found myself doing almost anything to avoid doing my assignment. Folding washing. Tidying up random things. Rearranging a kitchen cupboard. Cleaning the chicken coop. ‘Accidentally’ going on Facebook. Doing the dishes. Dishes! Doing the dishes hovers around the bottom of my ‘Things I Ought to do’ list. I would much rather clean the chicken coop. Anyway, I finished my assignment last night so now I am freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!

Now, I am playing the game of What Shall I do First? My options range from catching up on housework to catching up on garden tasks to getting some of my 10 million projects started to sitting around like a blob watching presentations on this week’s 2017 Home Grown Food Summit. The results are inclining towards a crazed combination of all of the above.

We were at the Auckland Botanic Gardens last weekend: a happy place that always gives me inspiration, especially when it comes to native plants.

Auckland Botanic Gardens

I could spend so many hours loitering around Auckland Botanic Gardens, but a small child on foot means everything is now done in fast-forward.

The Chickens

I have whittled my flock down to what seems like a rather small number: 8. It probably still sounds like a lot to some people but I feel like I’ve offloaded a lot of chickens in a short space of time! I sold my second black Orpington pullet last week. Now I’m back to two breeds or part-breeds: Australorps and Wyandottes. And Mr Bingley is still hanging around.

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Hello, Mr Bingley! Yup, he’s still here. Behind him are Lizzie, Georgiana and Kitty. PB is hiding behind the tree.

I celebrated my selling efforts by letting the chickens back into The Orchard Pen, which has grown back some grass and had a nice rest from chickens. Kitty celebrated by going broody and my “Look, it’s a new pen to explore!” plan didn’t prove a good enough distraction to keep her from a stint in the broody breaker. Frodo celebrated by starting to go broody too and ended up in the broody breaker straight after Kitty. I got Frodo in there early before she got too far into the broodiness to stop laying. She hasn’t missed a day of laying yet in 22 days. Wow! This is a new record for her and I don’t know how she’s managing such production in winter! I’m wondering what happens if I manage to break her broodiness before it interrupts her egg-laying hormones. I legitimately asked The Husband, “Will she explode?” I’m happy for her to miss a day of egg laying, I just don’t know how that will fit into her current system of laying every day before having a big broody break. She’s currently in a weird, quiet, trance-like, half broody state but still laid early this evening.

Orchard Pen

The chickens are back in The Orchard Pen: Lizzie (front) and Georgiana. The parts that had hay spread around when the chickens were last in there have grown some nice grass. I think I shall spread some hay in the empty Cedar Pen.

I got a good, sunny day to do a full coop clean and spray this week, which always makes me feel satisfied. Then Georgiana gave me a nice assignment-finishing present today: her first little egg. Yay! On one hand, I wasn’t expecting her to start laying in winter but on the other hand it’s about time! She is 32 weeks old today. Words like ‘slacker’ were starting to come to mind, so I am very pleased that she has joined the layers club.

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Georgiana’s sweet little egg.

PB is getting a proper name. It has been so long that it’s hard to stop calling her PB, but I’m going with something not too much different: Jane B. She is still getting bigger and is currently being super-scared of me when I’m in the pen. Partly, I blame her nutty ‘brother’, Mr Collins, but I think it’s also because I keep taking her friends away, first, Mr Collins, and then the black Orpington. Georgiana was the same when I took some of her buddies away around the same age. Hopefully Jane B will settle down now that I’ll have a bit more time to just hang out with the chickens. She still sits in my arms nicely and eats from my hand when I get her out at night but she’s scared of me during the day.

Jane B

PB shall henceforth be known as Jane B. She is almost 15 weeks now.

I have been asking members of a Wyandotte group about my SLW pullet, Lorelai, aka Slow Feather Butt, and opinions are still divided as to whether she is a boy or girl, so I will have to wait some more…

The Garden

The garden has been getting scarce attention lately owing to sickness, winter weather and that assignment. It is due for so many things and I’m looking forward to getting some quality time in my garden. The Little Fulla and I did a little bit of weeding today and the other day we had a family leaf raking session out the front, as the walnut tree has suddenly decided to dump copious amounts of leaves on the drive and thereabouts. So far, some of the leaves have been put on the compost heap and some have been dumped on top of the weeds in front of the compost heap. More raking will be needed to keep the leaves clear of the gate. I am hoping to plant my garlic tomorrow and am finalising my Vege Plan, which is a lot less orange than I thought it might be. I have been eyeing up the space out the front in front of my corokia and flax hedge as a place to plant Atlantic Giant pumpkins as well as another variety or two. I just need to deal with the weeds.

I have so many plans for things I want to do outside. I have been giving a lot of thought to shelter plant options, as we are getting a lot of wind through the backyard since a) we cleared out some shrubs/trees that were giving shelter on the west side and b) the neighbours cut down some good shelter shrubs. I am also thinking about trellis ideas along the paddock fence on the east side of the vege garden. The Great Vege Garden Expansion Plan still has stages that need to be done and I have a lot of plants that need to be planted in various places. I need to hack away at stumpy in The Herb Garden.

The Husband keeps throwing a rope up into the doomed plum tree and I keep telling him that we need to cut more off the top before any felling attempts. It doesn’t look like there’s much of it left but it is actually quite tall. The Husband has also been working on tidying up the ‘firewood storage area’ at the side of the deck. In a bid to dry out the wood that keeps getting pounded by the rain, he knocked up a quick shelter with lengths of timber and some black plastic. I am trying to bite my tongue because I know that the wood needs to dry out, but a) the black plastic is cutting out some light from the lounge, b) it doesn’t look very good, c) it keeps falling apart and d) I have longer term plans of paving the area and putting clear or white corrugated roofing above it to turn it into a BBQ and tidy firewood shelf area. We have almost used all the firewood in one bay of the woodshed in the chicken pen, so we could just move all the wet firewood there…

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Stumpy needs to be evicted from The Herb Garden. He just keeps getting wet feet.

The doomed plum tree

The rest of the yellow-fleshed plum tree still needs to be removed. Just not in one foul, misaligned swoop.

Firewood area

The Husband’s firewood area at the side of the deck. In the high winds yesterday one of the wooden supports between the black fence and the deck roof fell down and the black plastic that was covering them blew off. It’s a work in progress. Of sorts.

Good Crop, Bad Crop

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Don’t worry, this isn’t another post about a chicken with sour crop, it is about the vege crops. The garden didn’t get much attention over the nutty season but I’ve managed to tidy things up a bit since then. One moment it looks good, then the next wave of weeds tries to take over in this hot weather. The veges have gone super nuts too, which is a good thing. Generally. The pumpkins and potatoes think they’re living in the wilds and I have to keep taming them into some semblance of order, at least so I can get down the paths. It’s a good thing I made the main paths wide. And guess what? I actually mounded my potatoes this time. I had to sternly remind myself that last year I didn’t get around to mounding the potatoes and I had told Future Twiglet to MOUND THE POTATOES, no matter what. Future Twiglet listened. Except Future Twiglet is now Past Twiglet. The Little Fulla helped me harvest the potatoes from the two potato barrels, some of which we ate at Christmas, and he was most upset when I took his potatoes away for storing. I had to prise some of the little potatoes out of his hands, after which he sat down in a fit of tears by the compost pile and wouldn’t move. Potatoes are very exciting.

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The vege garden is full of green stuff. The potatoes are the largest green mass on the left.

Now Present Twiglet has a new message for Future Twiglet: if the garlic gets rust, deal with it ASAP! This season is the first time my garlic has had an issue with rust. I was unaware of how big an issue it could be. And my garlic crop got walloped. Last season it got some rust but it was at the end of the season when it needed to be harvested, so it didn’t matter. We had a very wet patch this winter and spring, which is why many people ended up with rust on their garlic. The rust arrived on the spring onions and they shared it around. I trimmed back the worst-affected leaves but it was too little too late. My garlic crop was munted. The rust stunts its growth and I was left with weeny bulbs barely worthy of even being called bulbs. Next time I see rust on my garlic I will immediately cut back the affected plants and spray all the garlic and onions with a copper fungicide. At least I am not alone in in my garlic woes. The tomatoes have been slow to get growing since I was slow to get them in, but are starting to get somewhere now. Except for the ones that have early blight and/or a virus or some other unknown thing. Argh! This is not going to be a particularly good tomato season either.

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All that excessive seed garlic has gone to waste on rust-infected plants with puny ‘bulbs’. I think this is the most dismal vege crop failure I’ve ever had. T’was a sad day when I pulled this forsaken crop out of the garden.

Sadly, the cucumbers are a lost cause this season. A certain rooster named Mr Bingley got into the vege garden one day (I think he was punishing me for having sick Jane in Chicken Hospital) and dug big holes by the little cucumber plants, damaging the stems of both of them. One is still in there clinging to life but it’s not doing anything so I need to pull it out. When I went to buy some replacements from Bunnings they didn’t have any so the cucumber spot on the netting remains empty. I suppose it’s not too late to plant a cucumber now if I can source a seedling.

Things are chugging along in the salad greens department. My sorrel is doing very well in a bigger pot by the door and, being perennial, it is an ever-present, helpful, lemony addition to salads. I am very pleased with my wild rocket (Diplotaxis tenuifolia). It is a little more spicy than it’s annual cousin, but it just keeps going and going and the leaves don’t get horribly bitter when it flowers. This means that a) I don’t have to worry about deadheading it and b) it provides some food for the pollinator insects at the same time as providing a continuous addition to salads for us. Perennial salad greens for the win! I won’t bother growing annual rocket again as it just bolts to seed and goes bitter in the heat. The lettuces are growing well despite the heat and dry, with some shade from the pumpkins. Planting them on the south side of some of the pumpkins was a good idea. I just have to keep remembering to stop the pumpkins from smothering them. The kale is doing staunchly well, as usual.

The carrots seem to be doing well and I am even managing to succession plant them, although the latest lot of seed went in just before Christmas and I haven’t exactly been able to keep them moist. I tried to delegate watering to the rain, but it didn’t listen to my instructions. The beans have been slow to get going, partially thanks to some pesky intruders. A flock of California quail has been hanging out in the area and while they haven’t been in the vege garden as much lately, they wreaked a lot of damage in the early planting stages by digging holes everywhere, particularly along the edges of the raised beds. This caused the loss of a few seedlings and disturbed others. They look so innocent bobbing along but they are fast and fly quite high, so I have not been able to get close to them. The havoc they wreaked on my garden, plus their consumption of my snail pellets, plus their susceptibility to diseases and pests shared by chickens, including Mareks, put them on my death list. Operation Nail the Quail has been a bit delayed over the busy season, but I am going to make a wire trap. The Husband’s grand alternative is shooting them with his homemade bow, which he doesn’t yet have proper arrows for. The day he spends hours hiding in the bushes in order to get close enough to shoot them I’ll fall off my chair. Another possibility is chicken pellets laced with alcohol to make them drunk enough to catch by some means or another. I think we’ll just stick with the trap.

The Atlantic Giant pumpkin plants are starting to take over the compost area. I am supposed to be letting just one pumpkin grow per plant and cutting off laterals and things but the plants have taken advantage of my distraction. The first pumpkin on the main plant was discovered by The Little Fulla and got squished and damaged, so I had to leave the plant to grow another fruit. Now it has more than one and I’ll have to get in there and sort it out. The weeds are trying to take over in this area too, so dealing with them is on my to-do list.

The Herb Garden is slowly chugging along and currently looking very pleasant, despite a mass resurgence of weeds. I have just weeded it so it probably won’t look this good for long. All the soil movement from removing stumps and leveling things out has disturbed the seed bed. The weed seeds of many long-gone weeds are awake and raring to go. My eagerness to get the herbs planted before dealing with all these incoming weed children means I am going to be battling them for a while, but that is the price I’m paying for setting my herbs free from their pots and having them grow lush in the garden.

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The Herb Garden looks pretty tidy after a long weeding effort. I need to trim the herbs into nice ball shapes again, something that has to be done frequently.

There is a lot more work going on in the rest of the garden, but we’ll save that for another day. I am enjoying busting out my my new garden tools, courtesy of having a wishlist for Christmas: a big, shiny shovel, to replace the one which The Husband broke, and ‘fixed’, which was actually his work one anyway, and a telescopic pruning saw. The pruning saw is a thing of wonder. It extends extremely far and also has a removable head and short handle for use as a regular pruning saw. Now I can tackle all those pruning jobs without having to borrow The Father’s telescopic pruning saw for unexplained amounts of time. Next time I use my saw though, I will check for birds nests. There was a highly disturbing incident in which I discovered, as I hauled away branches from the yellow-fleshed plum tree, that I had not only felled the high-up branches, but also a nest full of helpless-looking baby birds. I put them back in the nest and placed it in the tree, not even knowing what type of birds they were or if they had been damaged, but feeling terrible all the same. Later on, the fur child turned up on the doorstep with a dead baby bird. Then, as I looked out the window while giving The Little Fulla his afternoon tea, she played with her ‘Christmas present’ under the plum tree: the nest of doomed baby birds. As if I didn’t already feel bad enough! Needless to say, the fur child wasn’t very hungry that night…

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The ‘Tobasco’ chilli plants on the deck are doing well.

Irises of Red

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The Maple Garden is currently being graced by irises of red. Iris nelsonii, which is a Louisianna iris known as Abbeville Red, has grown like nuts in my garden. It isn’t red red, but a wine red, fading to pinky red as the flowers age.

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Iris nelsonii

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These spiders seem to have found their happy place.

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When the Iris nelsonii had just started flowering. There are a lot more flowers out now.

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This photo was taken 11 months ago after the great planting. The irises are at the back on the left.

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Yup, things grow like nuts here! I haven’t fed them or done anything to the soil in this bed. The soil is very good.

I will have to take a photo of the whole Maple Garden, but in the mean time, here are some plants from the other end of the bed.

 

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Festuca actae, Festuca glauca, Heuchera ‘Amethyst Myst’, Heuchera americana ‘Green Spice’ and Farfugium japonicum ‘Crispata’.

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A Little Blossom to Celebrate Spring

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What is spring without a little blossom? I almost forget about the fruit tree blossom until the flowers burst out of nowhere. Aside from being pretty, the flowers on the fruit trees signal the coming of an even greater future event: fruit. They also signal that I’ve run out of time to finish my apple and pear tree pruning before the plants put their energy into producing fruit and leaves. Ah well, I can have another crack at it in summer. The flowers don’t last for very long so we must enjoy them while we can.

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The potted ‘Billington’ Plum tree. Two weeks later the flowers are on the way out and being overtaken by leaves. I was going to sell this since we have one in the garden but since I pruned the mature one rather hard I think I’ll keep this fulla around for this season in hopes that it might lend a hand in the plum department.

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The yellow-fleshed plum that gave me all of three fruit last season. I have my eye on it. It has numerous flowers coming out now so it ought to be fruitful. If it doesn’t fruit well this season I’ll be even more inclined to think it’s a pollination issue.

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The pretty-shaped flowers of the potted ‘Golden Queen’ peach tree. I really need to plant it but I’m still unsure where to put it.

The apricots haven’t started flowering yet so there’s more blossom to come. I really must get on with my herb garden so there are more flowers to encourage the bees. It’s hard to focus on things outside of the vege garden right now as there is so much going on!

Not All My Camellias are Bad

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I am forever harping on about the camellias in my garden as an enemy force of stumps needing to be destroyed. But there are actually a couple of camellias that I like and am keeping. Part of their appeal is being in a good position and the other part is their colour. Pink camellias are so common and are one of my pet hates. Thankfully, there are other colour options.

From our dining room window we can see the white camellia. It has a cascading (or semi-cascading) form and white flowers throughout winter; an extra bonus as it’s nice to have something pretty to look at in the cold, gloomy months. Not that it has been overly cold and gloomy this winter. I’m actually quite enjoying winter this year.

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The white cascading camellia.

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It is smothered in soft, white flowers.

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Further down the same fenceline we have a red-flowered camellia. In spring its fat red buds burst forth into large, single red blooms. I am more of a single flower person than a double flower person. Double flowers often look too poofy for me, while single flowers look more natural, whispering quietly of their wild origins. This camellia is a nice blue-red, not a gaudy hot red, and it attracts native tui, which feed on its nectar and chortle in the trees.

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The red camellia has big, sumptuous buds.

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Sometimes the buds look like hearts as they begin to unfurl.

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The large, red, single flowers.

My favourite camellia of all is Night Rider, with its small, waxy, dark red-black flowers, but I haven’t got one at the moment. I’ve been meaning to get one or two, or 20, but I still have a lot of ground work to do in the garden; weeding and pruning, bushwhacking if you like, before I get too carried away with plants.

I don’t know what cultivar either of my two aforementioned camellias are, but I intend to find out. I hate having plants I don’t know the name of in my garden! This post just about got sidetracked by my Googling fingers. I didn’t know there were so many red camellias around. Anyway, my Googling fingers are themselves going to get sidetracked now because I have something very important to do. I need to watch Alaskan Bush People. It’s more than likely you’ve never heard of this TV show, but I discovered it and I really love it. It is about a family doing life in the remote bush on an Alaskan island. Hard work, different and entertaining personalities, creativity, innovation,  wilderness, bears: what’s not to love? And now that The Little Fulla is actually going to sleep in the evenings, I have a little bit of time for a luxury like watching TV. Hellooo Alaska…

Flowers of Red

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Over the last few weeks I have been enjoying a few flowers of red and burgundy in the garden. In addition to the red asiatic lillies (Lilium ‘Detroit’) used in my Christmas flower arrangement, here are a few of the usual favourites I’ve been enjoying.

Hemerocallis ‘Red Volunteer’ (daylily) in the Maple Garden

Hemerocallis ‘Kolan Dee Jay’ (daylily) in the Maple Garden

Zantedeschia ‘Black Panther’ (calla lily) in the Maple Garden

Zantedeschia ‘Black Panther’ (calla lily)

Verbena ‘Merci’

Verbena ‘Merci’

Merry Christmas and Such

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Christmas is almost upon us! I can’t wait for tomorrow. And not just because of the usual reasons. In a fit of chaos I am trying to finish knitting The Little Lion’s Christmas present, which is not how I should be spending Christmas Eve, but, well, you all know I’m nuts. I am OFFICIALLY nuts.

Things got busy: getting ready for Christmas and for having The Little Sister and The Little Brother-in-law to stay, the chickens have been needy (more on that later) and The Little Fulla had to go to the doctor yesterday. Thus, the crazy knitting spree. Anyway, I am determined to get this knitted ‘thing’ done tonight. And then I will never have to knit it again! It is part of the reason we are having a quiet evening at home, The Husband and I, which is actually quite relaxing for me. Here I sit, drinking Christmas tea, listening to Christmas music and knitting a butt belonging to the ‘thing’. Rather than decorating this post with a butt, here is my somewhat pleasing attempt at a flower arrangement made with pretty things from the garden. Merry Christmas to one and all! I hope no-one else is knitting butts on Christmas Eve… 

Flower arrangement

My Christmas flower arrangement. I don’t have any flower arranging skills so I just kept fiddling with it until I was somewhere between satisfied and poked too many times by the totara leaves.

 

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