Friday, July 30, 2010

Hello Old Friend

Gardening is never boring, tedious sometimes, and usually hard work but so much to see and enjoy. Hello old friend. It's really good to see you again.
The top garden looks relatively dry but the bottom by the access path is so wet that I went home this week with an inch of mud on my boots to squelch and slither on, hopefully lose most of, all the way home.
Cleaning up the asparagus bed was quite rightly a job that belonged to Autumn but it is clear I didn't get that far. Never mind. Clipped back the fronds and even the weeds were lovely. Lots of stinging nettle courtesy of sheep manure last year, and calendula because I let it seed. These are orange and yellow and cheerful and easy to pull out when they become a pest. For once I had the recommended compost mix right there in the wheelbarrow of dry carbon matter and soft green weeds plus a generous serve of soil because it was still wet enough to stick to the roots.

There were a few mossy tinges of green on the soil and I put a sprinkle of wood ash down first. I know it has a limited liming effect and having read a bit more, may do a follow up with lime because asparagus does not like an acid soil. Besides that I had a small stash of by now, very smelly, slimy seaweed. On with you and to cover it all a layer of woody muck from the cow byre.

But wait, there's more. The final layer is going to be compost but the path is too slippery for the minute to get my wheelbarrow up which brings me to mulches. We lose the first asparagus in spring to frosts so the plan is to bury the crowns deeper so that it comes through later. Apart from physical depth, a mulch layer will slow down the warming of the ground so that should also set it back a bit. It will also retain the moisture which this year is already in the soil. It can of course keep the moisture out.
Elsewhere in the garden, I've heard that bare soil around fruit trees can reduce frost damage, something to do with reflected light I think. Mulches around the trees tend to be fairly mobile anyway as the birds, hedgehogs whatever scratch them out.

This is the broad bean/garlic patch, take your pick. I did a composite photo but you couldn't tell the difference so here it/ they is/are. The point of note here is nothing to note. Hmmm. I am considering digging around to see what is below. At this stage it feels a bit like cheating. For some reason it reminded me of finding out what sex your child is at a prenatal scan. Ridiculously over dramatic, nevertheless I resisted and will check when they went in and then consider it again.

I presoaked both the garlic and the beans, normally a sure fire starter to success but the big rains, the rains of 2010 followed and I wonder whether they have rotted in the ground. On an optimistic note there are no new weeds in that soil either meaning that things just aren't growing yet or are they...

The pea-beans are up (they were not pre-soaked). These are an heirloom plant I know nothing about. I was sent the seed so like Jack and his beanstalk I will have to see what develops and keep a look out for giants, singing harps and geese laying golden eggs.
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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

the good, the bad, the ugly

What gardener didn't love 'The Secret Garden' as a child, or more recently, 'Tom's Midnight Garden'? There's something about this idea of a hidden garden that is still open and free within that I really like. I guess that's what 'garden rooms' are all about; not revealing everything at once.
Well my thoughts are above ground, open and free, but it has been a captive, basement existence for the last few weeks in one of the potato rooms. En Hakkore has had five of these windowless, internal rooms in the time we've been here but the sultana room was converted into a kitchen a few years ago. It was a room off the main kitchen, fully lined with tin to keep it rat proof and in the Sanitorium days all the dry goods were kept there. The smell of sultanas had completely permeated it but it has gone now as has the lining.

Go through the open door of the Administration block, turn right and walk along to that set of ground floor windows. Turn

180 degrees, push the door open and imagine alot more sacks, each with an average of 8o potatoes. There are platforms on the floor to keep the potatoes off the floor because if they freeze it's all over.
The other rooms incidentally are a walk-in safe, another potato room, and from the Youth Detention Centre days, a very sad jail trio of three rooms. The jail seems to be still permeated with despair.

My job was to drag the spuds out, brush off the sprouts, dust them with powder and re-bag, lug back into the tiny room and stack. It didn't take me long to realise that if the job had been done a month earlier, then each potato would not have to be handled and buffed. A quick dust would suffice. I've had ample time to consider that this is not a mistake I will be making twice.

Finally the job is finished and on a lighter note I'm preparing to cater for a camp this week-end. It's a FGB group, Full Gospel Businessman, and in NZ that means men only. Hence the man-labels on the jam and the man-size jar of relish to go out with the cooked breakfast.
In the UK they are open to everyone. I used to go along and typically we would meet in a hotel over high tea.
Without making sweeping generalisations I can confidently say that there will be no-one asking for herbal teas, trim milk, or with dietary intolerances. There will be no sandwhiches left-over after supper, only biscuits and the porridge will all go while the muesli is ignored.

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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Back in my Day

Hah! These holidays we are progressively joining the butt-whipped ranks of those who have done the rail trail. Welcome to our world.
Lunchtime at Waipiata on Monday; two degrees all day which beats Alexandra's high today of minus one. Bill is about to dispense the boiled sweeties, today raspberry drops.
We have found a number of benefits in doing the rail trail in Winter. Firstly you have the track all to yourselves. The other children are away ice-skating, luge camp or bonspeiling at the outdoor curling rinks which are beautifully frozen.

The track for the most part is firm. A few muddy patches here and there; cycle through those and you get a stripe of mud running up your back like a badger. 'Daisybank' below. To the right of the photo, just out of shot so you'll have to imagine it sorry, is a very old apple orchard. There are a number of these in this area and it on my list to pursue some of these varieties that fruit well here.
Another advantage of the season is that you don't have to stop to peel off layers. On the contrary you keep cycling to keep warm.

It's been one of those experiences where you suddenly get a whole new insight and revisit old memories accordingly. I now remember how visitors (off the trail) have hobbled into the house, their appreciation of long hot baths, and the seemingly disproportionate gratitude at the sight of Bill and the trailer come to collect them from a Station.
Is it just my age or were bike seats really as large and capacious as I remember? With springs, full support, and nothing to suggest that you might go into your child bearing years in any way compromised.

I have the only gel seat (which promises a lot more than it delivers) and although coveted and complained about, it is my non-negotiable right. I dropped everybody off at Wedderburn today and then set off from Ranfurly to meet them half-way. Parked the trailer: hat, gloves, scarf, jacket, butterscotch shells, gel seat, gel seat, gel seat...forgot to pack the gel seat. Fortunately, as an ex brownie, I was prepared for every emergency and set off wrapped in enough bubble wrap to post me to Samoa intact. (that is the seat wrapped, not me).

We had left home planning to do a down-hill stretch and I was going to drop everybody and then read my book with a nice hot coffee in Hyde-no wheels at all in my day. But we took the opposite direction to get petrol and changed the plan. The mirage faded and I only remembered it later, soldiering bravely and somehow doing an uphill peice anyway, alone, as the others whizzed merrily along even free-wheeling towards me.

Anyway, gardening joys also await me although it may still be some time. I can probably count on one hand what is useful straight out of the garden at the moment: leeks, spring onions, parsely, cabbage, brussel sprouts, carrots. Whoops that's six fingers already and I've still got rosemary and coriander and silverbeet and celery.

The only job this week is to dust the potatoes with anti-sprout powder. I'm not even going to ask what's in it. Just scrub the potatoes properly from now on. Enjoy the holidays!
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