Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Presents from Percy.

This is not what Percy the Peacock  usually leaves if he has been hovering in the garden or hiding under the trees. It must mean that Summer is drawing on as peacocks start shedding their tail feathers in late Summer. They will grow a new bigger set next Spring before the mating season. They renew the feathers each year as they get tatty and would be a nuisance during Winter. I have noticed him scratching and preening a lot so I guess it must feel itchy while they are dropping out. I found one yesterday and another this morning. Apparently he could drop as many as 5-10 in a day.
       Peacocks are the national bird of India and especially the Punjab province and so Percy is always greeted by the Indian pruners or pickers  who come to the orchard.   It has now been discovered that the colours in the ocellus ( eye ) are caused by nano particles of colour on black.( not pigment ).
       Percy is probably 6 or even 7 now, so in his full glory.Yesterday afternoon he spent  time with me down in block 2b where I was working thinning kiwifruit. He looks at me and thinks, " I know you will have some of that fruit bread I like....I will just sit here by the tractor and wait till smoko time." ( he sat there for 2 hours patiently, listening to the radio.)

This year I have planted 2 capsicum, a yellow and a red right beside the wall of the house at the back of the herb garden.
they have big healthy leaves and are setting fruit quite well.

These lettuce and radish are looking healthy. The radish are ready to eat so that always spoils the display, but I guess I am growing them to eat. I planted this lot deeper and have watered them a lot and it seems to have produced a better result.
 Leanne my strawberries have been abysmal this year but are just having a second crop now so hope it goes on for a while.
   On Sunday I got a little me time while R and J were at the Airshow and V was off shopping. These have grown a bit and all 4 are now 18 inches long. It is a slow process.( they are borders for my selvage quilt also made out of selvages. Some are quite narrow so only an inch or less is added with each piece.

I also did some reading. Molly you may be interested in what I am reading.

 I know I said I wasn't reading any more big fat books, but I have read over 300 pages of the over 900 here and am enjoying it. At the moment it is still  1689 , and ends up after the 1st World War.  As usual with Edward Rutherfurd he tells the history using fictitious families. Imagine what the population of Ireland ( and a lot of other places ) would be if the Catholics and Protestants hadn't been so intent on killing each other. ( haven't got to the famine yet. ) I didn't know the history this far back as at school we only covered English / Irish / Scotish history from 1840.
 We both wish we had read this book before we visited Ireland last July, but at least I can visualize Dublin and other places now .Yes I crossed the Liffey by bridge so can see that quite clearly in my mind.
 ( so Molly by the time I finish this I will be much more informed about your homeland. )

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Do You Eat Avocados?

  Nothing happened with the avocado picking Monday as the hydralada drivers were still finishing the previous orchard. ( we understand that, as picking time is hard to judge. ) Yesterday (Tuesday) was a fabulous hot clear day and our 2 drivers arrived early. They picked to finish the job at 8.20pm last evening. Phew...it was cool by then and  quite a relief from the heat. The bins were taken away to the packhouse in the dark and even later at 11.15pm the truck to take the hydraladas to the next orchard arrived. R had to take light down to them for loading. But they finished the job and the fruit is beatuiful. What price will it bring?  Not very much at the moment I'm afraid. Austalian markets have been flooded by unscrupulous traders who don't understand that the fruit needs to be feed to the market at a sensible pace,  continously so the supply is even. ( they dump huge quantities. )The NZ market has also got lots at the moment.A few spoiling it for everyone. ( we may get paid as little as a third or half what we sometimes get. )( the rep from the packhouse called in and told us the market price had risen yesterday so that is encouraging. )
      We decide not to ground pick like we usually do but to leave those fruit in ready access for our own use later. ( there weren't many low down as we had ground picked in during our first pick which was the last week in September. The fruit being picked at the moment has had all that time since then to size up and it really has.
Early morning the first bins full.

Then later a few more full.

    Here is what I spent the day doing. R transported the full bins from the avo blocks back to the house area where they were stored in the shade in the shed ( usually  this is the the tractor shed ) He brought back one partly filled bin so I could move the fruit around. Wearing gloves I pullled out all the leaves and twigs and inspected a lot of the fruit, to take out obvious rejects. ( just like fruit thinning in the kiwifruit really only these have got to picking stage cause I don't climb avo trees to thin them! ) The size the pickers were told to pick to was to weigh 220 grams ( 25 to a packed tray ). We usually pick way smaller than that.
 Here in my bin you can see rejects for colour; marks ;shape; possum bites and blemish caused by thrips; as well as smalls. So we have lots of reject fruit to share with friends and family. We try to have ripe avocados in the house at all times. Sometimes we run out if we have given too many away but we like to eat them  on a daily basis. They are so very good for us.( now recommended as a first food for babies. ) A little fattening if you pig out but so are lots of things.
There are not too many folk we know now who do not like avocados, but there still are some need converting. They are wonderful on vogel bread toast with a smear of vegemite and avo sliced or mashed on top. ( my breakfast most mornings ) They are wonderful in salads, as guacamole dip; nice with shrimp or other cold seafood. They can even be made into ice cream.
 Another good way is cut the avo in half, take a teaspoon and tuck in.

Avocados used to be called poor man's butter in Mexico where they were grown. A Spainish soldier Herando Cortez found them growing in Mexico in 1519. The Aztecs called them Ahuactl.  Today they are grown in many places with a temperate climate. NZ; California: Australia: Israel; Spain.
 The Hass variety ( that we grow and the only variety exported from New Zealand ) was discovered by a postman Rudolph Hass as a good seedling which he patented in 1935. This is  a good Summer variety. Other varieties are ready earlier and later.The avocado tree is related to the laurel tree - the genus persea. In Spainish  they  are called Abogado; in French Avocat.
 Some tips if you are buying avocados. Buy them when they are still firm and green, that way nobody else has squeezed them and bruised them. Take them home and put on your fruit bowl till just slightly soft. If you wish to hasten their ripening place them in a paper bag, with a ripening banana which gives off lots of ethylene, and secure the top to keep the gas in. Craddle them in your hand and if there is slight give they are ready. Once ready keep in the fridge for a couple of days if not eating them straight away. ( If unsure if they are ready rub the stalk out and if a tooth pick or needle will slide into the flesh  easily they are ready. ) Do not squeeze or pummel.
 Back to garden and kiwfruit work today. Everything here is now dry again and watering is necessary for the veges. It is another beautiful clear Summer day so other growers will be getting their avos picked too.
 Leanne has been showing all the lovely veges they are harvesting / growing. I agree it is so rewarding to pick things and be eating them within the hour. Last night our salad was made up entirely with lettuce, radish tomatoes ,chives and avocado we grew. Eaten with our  new potatoes and green beans.( The cold lamb was bought.)

 No sewing but I did tidy my sewing cupboard and iron some finished half square triangles....so a glimmer of hope there.

( Blogger is doing some very strange things at the moment ! )

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Kiwifruit and Answers.

I said I would show what I was doing in the Kiwifruit at the moment.These photos taken last Friday afternoon.This photo shows the size the kiwis have got to by mid January.
This is the mess on the ground where I have thrown down fruit and tangled leaf stalks.

This shows before at the top and after below, where I have removed one fruit.( it was the smallest and there were too many on one stalk)
 I bet you can pick which ones need removing in these 2 photos.

Both have fungal damage ( caused by too much rain ) the top one is also not pollinated evenly. Usually the fungal damage hides on the inside of a bunch where it is touching a leaf or another fruit.( and is much more difficult to spot )

Final test then I will let you come and help. Can you see 3 fruit that are squat and not the correct long shape ?( top right ).

This shows the crop load and why it is taking me ( us ) so long this year.( that's a bit blurry sorry. )( maybe it was making me dizzy)

 My last post got some interesting responses. Thank you Laurie; Deb; Molly; Gina; Jennifer; Janice and Joolzmac.
* Laurie you can purchase the sort of moth trap in the photo at Decor ( the place you didn't like last time you went there  - hehe. ) or I have since got a different cheaper brand from Palmers. ( they also have cockroach traps - I got one to try but it too has caught moths....maybe that is a good sign. )
*Joolz and Jennifer Thanks for your reinforcement of what I said re the moth trap.

* Jennifer I think trying different coffee at different cafes  is a good idea and if one that is really good and too your liking turns up ask what brand they are using and can it be purchased from them. 
* Molly....making coffee for one is even MORE important. You look after yourself and treat yourself as the  important person, that you are.
* Deb. Thank you for your offer. Yes, I can get Hummingbird brand but have only tried Crave, not Oomph. I gave Crave 3 out of 5. Will try the Oomph next. When I was last in the supermarket I got into discussion with another customer who was uming and arring( Spelling? ) in front of the coffee. Quite by chance a rep from a coffee firm came by and heard us.( or does he lurk behind the display stand waiting to pounce? ) He was a very very pleasant person ( or was it the smell of the coffee? ) We talked for 5 minutes about our likes and dislikes and he told me the current NZ trend was for coffee with the burnt edge to it ( which I don't care for ) and guided me towards his brand Gravity for beans and Jed's for plunger in a mild roast. Both are roasted at the same firm. They sell to a large number of NZ cafes.( he said )
 So far on my list no brand has earned more than 3 out of 5. Maybe I am too fussy....but I am enjoying the journey. Will keep you posted from time to time.
* Janice I guess the type of work your Mum did in an orchard was similar. At least with the kiwifruit it can be reached standing on the ground.
If the weather stays fine ( it is currently very still and overcast  - very pleasant) tomorrow and Tuesday we are having our 2nd  (for the season ) avocado pick. The bins are here, the forklift is here. R has taken bins to the avo blocks ready. All we need tomorrow is a fine cool day some hydraladas and careful drivers .
  Yesterday the committee for my P and Q group had it's first planning meeting for the year. ( 7 out of 9 turned up )We are all trying to job share where possible to spread the load. We hope for an interesting, learning  fun year. If you belong to a Guild or P and Q group and found a new idea or did a project that was particularly successful please let me know. I have already gleaned some good ideas from your blogs but just in case I missed anything please tell me ( us ) about it.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Coffee and Pests.

This morning I am making sure I make time to have my mid morning coffee and write a blog post. It is Summer, the rain has gone, it is warm and there is SO much to do that some days I don't give myself any me time. Having a cup of coffee made in my machine is one of my treats. I usually only have one a day...just sometimes 2 - never late in the day unless I need to stay awake most of the night. I know exactly how I like my coffee, black but not too strong or should I say MADE with too well ( over ) roasted beans. I like a mellow roast full of flavour without that almost burnt taste many beans now have. Deciding which brand and strength to buy has become a real challenge. I have now started a list which I am rating out of 5 stars , so I can actually remember which to buy. When I pick one that's not so good it is a lot of cups to use it up. How do you decide?  Price ?  Fair trade grown? Taste?   I have decide all are important but taste is what it is really all about for me. ( and smell ) Having seen an in depth TV programme on the making  of instant coffee and also decaffeinated instant coffee I vowed never to drink another cup - that just can't be good for us. So if I can't have the real thing I will just drink water.( hot or cold, which I like. ) Any recommendations gratefully listened to.
This morning my car is at the garage having a new lock fitted. Just before Christmas someone tried to pick the lock ( I think while in a carpark ) and so the only entry has been by automatic opener which is a bit risky if the battery fails, so a new lock unit had to be made to fit the keys. ( same key does the boot as well. )
 Just one of life's little inconveniences and extra expenses. I am very glad that either I disturbed the would be thief or he / she was foiled and didn't get in.
 That was one pest. Another sort are these moths that have been getting into the unshelled walnuts stored in the shed. I got one of these  pantry moth traps. It has sticky surfaces and a strip of male moth pheromone. Wow is it effective!
In this photo I have laid it on it's side so you can see all the bodies inside. It is just a triangular cardboard shape. Below shows the outside.

It is good as it doesn't have any nasty chemicals, just sticky.( Not good for the male moths obviously )

 Today the kiwifruit orchard is being inspected by staff from the pack house working as a pest monitoring team. ( we could try and do it ourselves but haven't time. )They collected leaves ( so many per row etc ) and take them back to the pack house where they are inspected under a microscope for tiny first instar scale pests. They also while walking the rows in the orchard inspect clusters of fruit for leaf rollers or other pests, using a 10 Xs hand lens. ( very useful things 10 times lenses - I have one for doing close inspections of all sorts of things. )
 If the pest monitoring team find any scale or other pest in sufficient numbers they will inform us that we need to spray for that pest. It is a good system as you only use sprays if you really need them.
 Also this morning TD was here with a quad bike spreading a small round of fertilizer.

Meanwhile we are still fruit thinning. Progress is extremely slow and I am throwing 1000 fruit on the ground in some bays. That is still leaving more than a 1000 good fruit.I might take some photos today to show you how that looks.

Not one stitch of patchwork sewing has happened in the last week. That is so bad but most nights I am just too tired to be able to do that and either read or watch TV.( or fall asleep, doing so ). Never mind I am sure it will rain again and keep me inside.
 Thank you all for your comments...they give me a lift...and another human contact.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Garden Jobs.

2 little bowls of sunshine. The first blueberries and a pick from my little yellow drop tomato. We have now picked and eaten the first 2 big red tomatoes.
Brandy Wine on the left and Kakanui Choice on the right.( they both had marks on the other side. ) The brandy wine was recommended in the NZ Gardener magazine by one of their writers. We remain unconvinced. It is an  ugly huge plant and the tomatoes are very wrinkly. Fine for eating raw skin and all but not for cooking if you want them skinless. It tasted quite nice BUT certainly isn't the best tomato I have every eaten - which was it's claim to fame in the NZ G. 
   Today I have weeded 2 patches of garden and mowed all the lawns. The temperature is just pleasant for working. NO RAIN!.( did I mention Dec 2011 was the wettest month we have ever recorded in 31 years! )
 Here is one of my rewards - discovering this flowering. It is an Echinacea called Tomato Soup. I bought 2 quite expensive plants last year - they both flowered a little then one died. So I am quite excited that this last plant is doing well and is going to have quite a few flowers.The colour really is brilliant.
 Further to the previous post mentioning hedgehogs.....I did a little research and yes Isabelle hedgehogs can cough and snore and sniffle and squeal.( and fart and hiss )They are referred to as insectivores. See here. Or goggle hedgehogs.There is lots to read and lots of photos.
I haven't seen or heard anything more from our resident hedgehog.
 *  I read on someone's blog ( can't find it again now ) that from March this year following blogs list is going to disappear. Is that true? If it is I better transfer lots blogs I follow onto my list on my sidebar.
 I hope you all got things done this weekend where ever you are. Did South Otago or Westland get any rain?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Who Lives Here?

   Early yesterday morning  I was here by the window in the bedroom when some loud coughing startled me as I thought no body was around. Looking out the window there was nobody there. Strange as the coughing was quite loud. There had to be something hiding in the leafy growth below.
 Sure enough right beside the wall of the house under a lot of litter and leaves is a hedgehog's nest.( once before many years ago quite near this spot there was another similar nest that babies emerged from eventually. ) So I will be keeping a close eye ( and ear ) on activities below my bedroom window.( hedgehogs are very vocal creatures who make incredible noises if fighting or mating )
 Yesterday the weather began to improve - I got a full afternoons work done thinning kiwifruit. In the morning despite a few brief showers, I picked veges that were ready in the garden.
Yummy beans courgettes and broccoli. The broccoli is all small florets as I left the plants in the ground after I picked their first main big head and since then have kept picking the side shoots that keep growing. It makes a broccoli plant really good value.
 At last the tomatoes are ripening and today we have sun. Yes sun, that Summer stuff. I'm outside now for the rest of the day.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

One Fine day Does NOT a Summer Make.

Yes, I know it was a swallow.( not a fine day. )
 New Zealand has not had a good weekend. The Rena on Astrolabe reef has finally broken into 2 pieces and containers are lost into the sea. More debris and oil is expected to wash up along the BOP beaches in the next few hours.
 Equally as bad 11 people have died in a hot air balloon crash in Carterton.( making it one of our worst recent air crashes. )This happened in fine weather yesterday morning so I won't complain too loudly about our wet yukky weather.
The mist hung over us all day when not actually raining.
I went for a walk late this afternoon and saw the funniest thing.

Now you might not be able to make this out very easily but here in the damp a Wedding party is having photos taken standing in the long wet grass beside our neighbours' old shed.

 It is much photo graphed because it is old and rustic , but hardly the ideal place today.
 SO, How have I spent my weekend?

I am working on 4 border strips at once making piano keys using selvages.It is essential to press after each piece is added and to lay it flat against a line on the cutting mat to ensure that it is staying level. ( that's why 4 at once makes more sense - sew 4; press 4 )I also found holding it up to the light as I put in 2 pins per piece to make sure it was not too close to the raw edge of the previous piece.It is a long quite tedious process.
 I have cooked cheeses scones, fruit and nut cookies; leek and potato soup. I have talked on the phone to family in NZ and UK. I have read a great book. A very easy enjoyable read. "A Home-grown Cook," by Dame Alison Holst with Barbara Larsen.( her 100th book )( I own at least 5 of her 100 books )I have done the odd bit of house work as one must, played scrabble; watched TV and read lots of blogs.I have picked vege tables in the rain. ( we are currently eating cabbage, silverbeet, beans and courgettes. The yellow and red veg not quite ready. )
 ( the orchard work and garden work is becoming rather urgent but should be done in the fine. )unfortunately the weather forecast is not for fine tomorrow or the next day.......

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Meet My New Working Companion.

Firstly Thank you Miche'le; Meg; Isabelle; Jennifer and Joolzmac for your comments. I can see that a phone that rings to remind one of appointments could be very reliable. ( providing you haven't left your phone somewhere ). Meg I think writing down your thoughts could be quite therapeutic. Everyone that blogs is keeping a diary of sorts aren't they? It is a good record of quilting progress for me.I think you have to be a record keeping kind of person to wish to do it. I am. I love lists and knowing where to find info.
 Sorry Miche'le and Farm Girl ( Nicky )that we are getting your share of the rain ...( Mother Nature please take note ). The wet has been hampering our fruit thinning and pruning progress.
I said I would introduce you to my new working companion. Cute isn't it?( the speakers make it look like it had a face, so maybe I shall name it ?)  What?  Tachi? ( as in Hitachi )( it has roll bars! )

This is a photo of the old ( very ) and the new . When I work in the kiwifruit fruit thinning or what ever we are currently doing, it is quite repetitive ( boring ) work so to  have a distraction ( companion ) is good. My poor old radio has had a "connection problem," for some time now and it wastes my time fiddling with it trying to coax it to go. Having complained frequently about this R picked up on the fact that to keep me working happily maybe a new radio for Christmas would be a good idea.So not mucking around he bought an extremely sturdy model. It runs on a BIG power tools battery ( that we already had ) and has 3 small back up batteries to keep the time and memory ( stations ) when it is turned off. It's much, much flasher and more multipurpose than the (15 plus ? ) year old  predecessor. It however not supposed to get wet so yesterday during the rain ( that sent me home after only 2 hours ) I had to devise a rain coat for it - made from the plastic bag it came in with a hole for the aerial.
 So far we are getting along very amicably....although it doesn't have within it's powers to improve the programmes I can receive.
 Why don't I just use an ipod like R ? Well, I prefer the radio and I don't like not being able to hear if vehicles ( tractors etc ) approach without me hearing them. I can also hear if somone calls out across the orchard looking for us.
Quilting; I have completed the selvage blocks and decided since I had lots of smaller strips of selvage left I would increase the size of the quilt by making piano key type borders for it. I am working all 4 strips at once and ironing as I go. I haven't yet sewn the blocks together - just in case I have a change of mind when I put it all together (size wise )

Thanks for your offer Molly but it isn't worth the postage it would cost - besides you may find a use for yours.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Do You Keep a Diary?

Welcome 2012.

2012 has arrived and the rain is gradually leaving after 7.5 inches in the last 2 days. Nothing much else seems to have changed except the date and the fact that I just spent some time filling in all the details in a new diary. The diary itself is the same make as last year but with quite a different cover.( it has lots of pull out spare pages )
      Last year my "Diary," got used to the maximum. Never before have I used one so fully.( there is writing in margins; along page tops and 2 rows to a line. )
 Along with the usual planning and appointments I used it as my one stop place for information when we went overseas on holiday. It had maps and information printed out and stuck in before we left home. It had hidden passwords and emergency #s. It had instructions of which trains to take  to various destinations.It had flight #s, travel times and times in other date lines. It had information about ancestors' birth places and good things to see and places to visit. It had prices and lists of money spent.Of course it is a record of where we went and what I thought.
 This year my diary is likely to be boring by comparison....but we shall see. Do you use / keep a diary? What for?