Thursday, August 30, 2012

My yacon has been posted

(3:09:10 PM) Me: My yacón has been posted. Should be here in a few days.
(4:06:15 PM) The Wife: Your what?
(4:06:28 PM) Me
: My yacón
(4:06:48 PM) The Wife: What is that?
(4:06:54 PM) Me
: A breed of alpaca.
(4:07:20 PM) Me: ... would you be upset if I had some alpaca on their way to our house?

(For the record, yacón is actually a tuberous perennial plant)
Some twenty minutes later: 

(4:27:23 PM) The Wife: Oh, its that ground apple thing  

Life just isn't as fun when she has access to Wikipedia.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Elephants in the Orange Trees

 It wasn't until almost the entire centre of my Seedless Valencia had turned yellow that I woke up an realised something might be wrong. I guess the more you think your ship is unsinkable, the more surprised you are when you hit an iceberg - and maybe more to the point, the less likely you are to be concerned. That would definitely be the story of my orange trees - they just seem so self reliant.

At first I thought this maybe be a recent chicken problem expressing itself in citrus form, or just due to the lack of rainfall recently... but to be so localised in one area of one tree - no, couldn't be. And then I got closer and saw the sooty mold (which always means a sap-sucking insect) and the millions of tiny nodules seeming growing from the leaves and bark. A scale infestation.

How could I possibly miss this, you might ask? It's not like it's a small infestation, so much as a full-scale invasion. But with an average of about fifteen minutes a day to keep my garden in order, hell, you could hide a herd of elephant amongst my orange trees and I wouldn't know about it until the trees weren't there any more. So, I should add, I actually caught this one early.

So I spent my 10 minutes this morning mixing up the concoction of sunflower oil and dish-washing detergent that is white oil, as per described by my mate Jerry. Its basically a mix of 1 part detergent to 4 parts oil, diluted to 2 or so teaspoons per litre of water.

Its not a perfect time of the year to be applying white oil, because ideally you don't want to be covering spring blossom with the stuff - but as the tree is under so much stress at the minute, its a little more worried about the life being sucked from its limbs than producing fruit in a timely manner.

Hopefully over the next week most of the scale will suffocate along with a few other pests, like leaf miner, that will conveniently get caught in the crossfire. Then just to be sure, I'll hit it with oil again. And again.

Also, where I usually leave fruit on the tree until I need it, I'll be lightening the burden completely in the coming week so the tree can focus its full attention on not dying.

Juice, anyone?

Monday, August 27, 2012

A fence post

One might say that a wooden fence is only about as strong as its weakest post. And after that post gives in to gravity's temptation, the weight of all that wood is enough to convince every other post in the row to follow.

Last thursday briefly took a few minutes of its time to throw a couple of 90km/h gusts of wind roughly perpendicular to our 25-year-old hardwood fence. I'm sure it groaned like an old man when it finally decided enough was enough. Discovering I had to squeeze along the chicken run to collect the eggs that evening was a sour ending to an otherwise beautiful winter spring day. Full credit to the chicken coop though - had it not been there, I would have been crying over the loss of my recently flattened orange trees.

So disappointingly, this year I'll again be continuing my habit of missing the start of spring. A new fence means hiring tradesmen -  which, to my garden beds, would be roughly the equivelent of inviting a convoy of M60 Pattons to drive through my yard. In my experience tradies and seedlings just don't mix.

But everything aside, I'm kind of looking forward to the opportunities a new fence will present.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

An eternal cherry tomato patch

Take a look at this garden bed. Do you think there's even a shred of hope that I won't be growing cherry tomatoes in it for the rest of eternity? Long after the collapse of civilization, I suspect nomadic tribes will be stopping here for a quick, sweet snack on the way to the coast. Luckily for me, I don't have a problem with that. I like nomadic tribes. I also don't mind the odd cherry tomato.

What's amazing is that I haven't planted cherry tomatoes in my garden in years - because once I did, they just seemed to take care of planting themselves after that. And here's a perfect example of what happens when one "facilitates" (i.e. does nothing about) such independence. I can't help but let them grow - its the only kind of tomato I've been able to grow that doesn't attract every imaginable kind of pest and disease. And they taste great.

So I'm not even going to bother trying to clean up this piece of contemporary gardening. If whatever I plant here next doesn't work out, I'll have a backup. Best to just let nature run it course. As you can see - it already is, regardless.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Plastic & Predators

I released the chickens again today for round two. Signs are very encouraging - the plastic trellis ground cover halts their rampage around the orange trees, and they go wreak havoc elsewhere.

You might be forgiven for thinking this blue-tongue has a chicken related injury, both from the birds' reputed ferocity, and the context of this post so far. However, the only relation this picture actually has to the chickens - other than it also wanted to bite me - is that it was another predator in the garden today. I'm thrilled - this is the first blue-tongue I've seen in my yard in the five & half years I've been here. Found him slinking under the black plastic I've been using to sheet mulch my garden beds... never thought I'd come to think of plastic as habitat. I hope the smorgasbord of slugs in my yard entices him to stick around & spend less time with the neighbor's yappy-dog. That would be best for both of us.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


There isn't too much more to my garden than chickens and fruit trees these days; and since the former isn't getting enough green, and the latter is being smothered by weeds, I'd be damned if I didn't feel some kind of synergy there waiting to be tapped. So I thought I'd bring them together and see if these two stalwart survivors could mutually benefit each other. Or, you know, fight to the death for the ultimate supremacy. Whichever.

So I spent a little bit of a sunny afternoon creating a collage of stakes, trellis, chicken wire, cable ties, bird netting and whatever else I thought might hold back the contents of Pandora's coop. Life would be so much easier if they made leashes for poultry.

Happy with the resulting monstrosity, I set the beasts free.

In a matter of days the chooks stripped back everything green below knee height, then, unsatiated by the feast, quickly set about digging to china, as it were (or in our case, the middle of the North Atlantic). Citrus hardly deals well with root disturbance, let alone complete root  annihilation - and wouldn't you know it, said tunnel was progressing through the root-ball of an orange tree. It was not an unexpected move by the chickens, and luckily I'd been preparing for it. I didn't want to just shut them out - because while the bed was now effortlessly clean, I wanted it to stay that way.

So for me, it was critical to make these two work together. I've attempted this with a roll of plastic trellis, some scissors and a bottle of beer (the latter has less to do with the chickens, and more to do with being Sunday afternoon - i.e. season to taste). Cutting a split half way into a square of trellis, I've manouvered said trellis to lay over the entire area of the bed. When the chickens scratch this, they'll hopefully be smart enough to figure out they can't go any further, and inevitably failing that, won't be able to go any further. But this also means they can fertilise and weed the bed for me while I consume said beer. Perfect, right?