Tuesday, November 27, 2012

What Are You Eating?

You are what you eat. Are We? I have just finished reading Barbara Kingsolver's book, " Animal, Vegetable Miracle." It was published in 2008 but never appeared in our bookshops so I got our local bookseller to get it in for me. I knew it would be a troubling and controversial read but wanted to all the same.
This non fiction book is the record of  how Barbara's family moved from Arizona back to a family property in the Appalachian region to live  and grow their own food for a whole year eating locally or self grown food only. The book has parts also written by her daughter Camille and husband Stephen Hopp.
 if you are interested there is a website www. animalvegetablemiracle.com
The Farm Tour  slide show of photos is worth looking at.  The shot of the pantry shelves loaded with jars is amazing! Recipes from the book are also available there.
 Barbara says she has always been a scribbler. I wonder if that is similar to a list making, diary keeping, blogger?
 I knew this would challenge my thinking. We grow avocados and kiwifruit for export to other countries. ( NZ apples were mentioned as ones to avoid  because of the miles ) Eating only locally grown ( how far is local? ) It  is much easier if you live somewhere like BOP New Zealand or California but not so good if you live near a desert or in Iceland like Gudrun.
 Personally I think a balance where  a few imported bananas; coffee; cocoa and  spices are acceptable because somewhere else grows them better than here.( and because I like them! ) 
 Growing and eating seasonally makes sense. Farmer's markets make huge sense. Growing as much of your own as you can space/ time wise makes great sense.( We are trying )

Parts of the book that got me upset were about GM crops; the stranglehold a few companies have on the sale of seed and the long term short sighted greed of such companies. Things I learnt - Monsanto; Syngenta; Mitsui; Aventis; Dupont and Dow control 98% of the World's seed sales. I already knew about Monsanto altering crop/plant physiology so it can be sprayed over with Roundup killing the weeds but not the plant and that they Monsanto own both the seeds and the spray.( and ALL rights to both )I did not know they allocate US$10million a year to investigate "Seed Savers". And prosecute them.
 Rather than me relate the story here,  google or look on Wikipedia,   "The Case  of  Percy Schmeiser ( Canadian farmer ) versus Monsanto."
 How ridiculous and appalling has the world got when this sort of greed takes hold?
 Here in New Zealand Kay Baxter started saving heritage seeds in 1986.
 2 other worthwhile seed companies are Kings Seeds and Egmont Seeds.
 I also found out Yates seeds in New Zealand are owned by an Australian chemical company.
 Certainly there is lots of food for thought in this book and if you grow your own you will laugh knowingly at the parts about zucchini turning into marrows over night and similar. The parts I really enjoyed were about little Lily and her hens and egg selling business at a tender age. Also informative was the part about the turkeys' breeding or not as the case may be. I can recall Percy Peacock who lives in our neighbourhood finding both rabbits and coloured  objects attractive and   worthy of his attention and tail display.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


 My coffee table vase of flowers, picked this morning.
 I would give them to you Soooziii and Sally. Thank you for your comments (- sometimes I need to hear from friends it gives me a boost when I am so busy.) The wee flowers smell so good;tiny pink roses and philadelphus ( from my climbing vine not my shrub one )

 Mother Nature heard my plea for fine weather and has given us a whole week of warm lovely days. I am very Thankful but a bit exhausted.Things now need watering so that takes time  - but rewards. I haven't been getting my full range of Vitamins. I have had an overload of Vit V ( vegetables and F ( fruit )) but no P or Q vitamins( patchwork / quilting ).
 Most of this lovely fresh produce from my plantings had to be picked yesterday or it would have been past it's best. The broccoli went into the fridge as we  had a huge salad with BBQ meat last night.

Some things that show promise are 9 wee apples on the Royal gala tree planted in July 2010. I hope they make it throught to eating this year.
Lots of Blueberries on our bushes but unless we keep them covered the birds take more than their share - they are prepared to eat them un ripe.
 When my Kalmia shrub flowers I am immediately drawn to thinking of the gardens of my childhood. Both my Mum and my maternal Nana had paler versions of this shrub that looks as if a cake decorator has been at work making these incredible buds.
 Something else that pleased me this week was seeing this small low growing mauve/ purple Rhododendron daphnoides flowering. It had a ride in the wheelbarrow 3 or 4 years ago and had sulked ever since but with extra rain is happy again out near the front gate. It is a very attractive bush even when not flowering ; it's compact and very green..... not sprawly like some rhodos.( it is more purple than the photo suggests )


 Out in the orchard this is happening.
 The air takes on the distinctive smell of Kiwifruit flowers. Here there are both sexes in the photo, where a male vine is right beside a female. Male on the left a slightly apricot or pale orange colour. Where the flowers are so close together it makes is more likely a bee will visit both sexes and the female will get pollinated.
 We have 63,0000  bees here working for us at the moment. They live in 21 hives grouped in sunny spots around the orchard. ( I am carrying my deodorant with me when working under the vines - it is still the best thing I have tried for stings of any kind. ( I also found it takes the heat out of burns really well-I kid you not! Keep reapplying frequently .) ( there is already 30,000 working in the avocados ) Luckily none of our new neighbours are allergic to bee stings we checked.

The dry warm weather has slowed the spread of psa in the vines.This is what you see at our front gate or the front gate of many other orchards.( the notice not the marigolds. )
 We are continually bombarded with information about the spread of the bacteria causing psa. Growing Kiwifruit in NZ ( or most other places ) will never be the same as it was in the past. It will now always be there lurking waiting for the right cool wet conditions to multiply and destroy. It has at this stage for us personally made the job a bit more challenging and probably less profitable as the costs of dealing with it have been added. At this stage for us we have a lovely flowering and fruit set already so let's hope we manage to get this crop through to picking next May.

Isabelle -  Alstromerias grow very well here. I have red and pink very tall ones and a miniature pale pink and a wine colour one in a pot. They would probably grow for you in a pot if protected during the Winter.. They are renown for long lasting as cut flowers. The red ones are always very useful at Christmas time for that red/ green colour contrast that says Christmas colours.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


 ( Gavin emptying his bag into the bin )
Avocado picking started yesterday, the first pick for this season. Using 3 hydraladas and pickers / drivers ,Gavin, Lisa and Justin. They have all picked here before. R and I did the ground picking - we can reach about 12 foot high using the long handled picker. Some I can reach just standing on the ground.( but I have to carry them in a big picking apron around my neck that's the tiring part ) ( the top avo block is also on a slope so I try and walk downhill with a full bag .) R also moves the bins and takes the full ones back to the shed in the shade till evening when the truck arrives to take them to the packhouse. It was a long very tiring day for us. R likes to use a bin trailer so 3 bins can be transported at once, but when he towed the bin trailer over to the top block where we started picking, (getting ready on Sunday afternoon ); the wheel fell off. He then had to get it back to the loading area again with one wheel  ( whoever made it did a very minimal welding job -  no wonder it broke! )

 Luckily yesterday nothing else went wrong. It was slow picking as we were picking to size the smaller fruit being left on the trees to size up and be picked in a couple of months time.We got 13 bins yesterday. It should pack out well as mostly it was good clean well shaped fruit.
 If the fruit had all been in close clusters like this it would have been quicker.
 When avos are directly exposed to the sun they get sunburnt ( just like us ). First they turn yellow then red. This is the most red one I have ever seen. It is not exportable being this colour.
 It is not easy to get good clear photos of the pickers working as they as often hidden well inside the trees. Here is Lisa showing girls can do anything. She is a really careful, reliable, happy worker.
 The 3 hydralas should be finished by lunch-time today. My picking from the ground finished yesterday. Today I will just check the fruit in the bins before they get sent to the packinghouse where they are graded and packed into trays for export to Australia ( maybe some to Japan or other parts of Asia - haven't been told where they are going yet. )  The rejected or non exportable ones get graded further some going onto the local domestic market the lesser grade get made into avocado oil which is delicious and very good for us. So eat up your avos everyone please we would appreciate a decent price so we actually cover our costs.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Quilt Blocks and Glimpses of Nature.

 Yesterday I posted off my 2 log cabin blocks to Donna in Tennessee to put in the quilt she is making up for  gifting to folk affected by Sandy. I hope they get to her in time. They all had to have that black border around the outside so all the blocks would have a common element.

 Yesterday I also had a close encounters with  this fellow an NZ weta ; a large headed weta or (  hemideina megacephala - neat name ! ). ( no I didn't know that I just looked it up ) It was in the porch on my old outside broom  At first he appeared to be asleep and  I took him out side in the light to photograph. He just looked up & stretched. Later he had wandered off. 
 Yesterday afternoon while working with the kiwifruit I looked up to notice this nest amongst the leaves and kiwifruit flower buds
 It was above my head so difficult to photograph. I held the camera up there where I thought it could view inside the nest.
 The outside of the tiny, tiny nest appears to be plant roots. The inside feathers and something shiny and silky and soft.
 Only one very pale blue egg ( so far ). Now I want to know which bird this belongs to. I have looked in my ( old now )Fiat Common Book of Birds, and nothing seems totally correct. It  has to be a tiny bird. Maybe a Chaffinch or a Goldfinch but more likely by the size a Silver eye ( wax eye ). The egg colour is wrong for a grey warbler. Maybe I just have to keep visiting and watch.
Today is dull with odd skiffs of drizzle. R is off mowing the avocado blocks as we are supposed to be picking avocados for export on Monday. The forklift and bins are here ready...it will be weather dependant. I wanted to work in the garden. I have weeding to do and plants and seeds to plant. I think with a rain jacket on I'll be okay.
 We are now on the list of  kiwifruit orchards with some early symptoms of psa. Many orchards in our area found symptoms at the same time as we did. the weather today is just what is NOT needed. We need warmth and sunshine.Come on Mother nature help us here please. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Staring At the Sun.

It's cloudy today; luckily not so yesterday when we both spent some time staring at the sun through welder's glass. Here are my strange photos of the solar eclipse.
 Taken through welder's glass. 
 A strange aura created by my camera.
 One of my star rays. You can just make out the dark shape of the trees.
 This is R's best shot taken just near the end of the eclipse.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Garden Pleasure.

We had 23 mls of rain over night. Thank you.
 Charles Austin ( my favourite if I have to pick one ) rose is flowering. Of the many roses I have if it had to be just one, this would be it. It has lovely buds, good full out blooms and full rich rose perfume.It is  sturdy & and easy to grow. ( I must do a count up out of curiosity to see how many roses I am growing .)
 This deciduous Azalea is making a big splash of colour in the front border. It's smell nearly knocks one sideways .
Also in the orange, yellow lime spectrum is this end of the border.
 Further along the lupins planted last year are now doing well , here in front of Sally Holmes rose.
 Unfortunately Sally has a problem. Luckily it is a large hardy rose so it only makes her look unsightly.
 Bronze beetles are eating her and a few other things. They are cunning little blighters and drop to the ground when disturbed. I have to have one hand underneath to catch them then squash them...but I never get them all and each season they re emerge from the soil below and start chewing again.
 Look closely to see one crawling along on the right hand petal. I cannot spray or use insecticide on them as there are too many bees around and bees are our essential friends in the garden and the orchard.

In my small triangular vege patch down from the house my peas and beans are doing well.

 We have been working hard in the orchard, the first few flowers are out so bee hives in shortly. I am now helping with zero pruning as my flower thinning is completed. There is plenty to do and this just stops tendrils from tangling and climbing ( which makes next winters pruning difficult ) and wastes the plants resources.
 Yesterday Bay Drilling came and put in a new deep hole for us . The old one was almost full and we want somewhere deep to dispose of the leaves and canes with signs of psa.( We are still finding odd canes or leaves with early signs )

Last night I sat up late and sewed blocks for the quilts for "Sandy, " suffers. ( see Bumble Beans site ).
 I have also made 2/3 of a wee Ella bag, I'll show it when it's finished. It has been put together in 10 minutes snatched sewing times.
 This morning I have made the first stage of my Christmas cakes.( I make a double mixture and divide it between tins and loaf tins ) Why so early?  My recipe has fresh orange zest and juice in it and our lovely oranges are nearly all gone; so now was best.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Thursday Already.

 Having been sent a photo of a Passionfruit flower from my Son's garden I thought I should show this little wall hanging by Sonya Prchal. It won first in the professional wall hanging category at the Festival of Quilts.
 I also liked this quilt by Jane Bennett - Moontide.
 It used beautiful Japanese themed fabrics.

 Otamuri Memories by Wendy Ballard , portrayed a typical NZ Summer scene with pohutukawa tree.
 There were other quilts and wall hangings I liked but that will do for now.
 Life in the orchard becomes more difficult daily. I am too good at detecting early signs of psa disease. Everywhere we find a small patch of either half browned fruit buds or tiny square spots on leaves. It has to be cut out, bagged and disposed of. Secateurs into a bucket of meths paint on cut. We are getting quite proficient at it. ( it's rather repetitive ) So far we have not got a huge problem but it is scattered across a larger area than we have hoped. Every place we find some, gets a long red ribbon hung from the wire so we can find the exact spot and recheck it. Block 1 is starting to take on a Christmas tree appearance -  streamers everywhere, Bugger!  R is finding some suspect sites in block 2 b as well which are also marked. Luckily Block 4 over by the avocados seems to be clear. 2a and 3 need rechecking.
 It is bad to be cutting off fruit buds just about to flower but it is the time factor which is alarming us. It is adding to our daily work load. So far today I have not been down the orchard ( putting my head in the sand for a little while and doing other tasks. )
 It's strange really cause everything else in the garden has thrived with the high rainfall and cool Spring temps.( cool temps and lots of rain increase the risks of getting psa bacterial disease in Kiwifruit We think it is spread by wind and birds and insects and on vehicles and people's clothing and machinery and who knows what else ! )
 The roses are looking lovely, some that in past years had struggled.  I sure it was the extra rain.that helped them.
 This rose is Pink Sparrieshoop. It has beautiful stamens and a delicate perfume.I have them in a vase on the sideboard with a yellow wall behind and they look so good.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

A Quilter's Day Out. Part 2

Wall hangings that took my eye were:-
Framed Fronds by Mary Rose Scott. This is part of a triptych. Each flower was different but the leaves the same. They were mounted on board ,(so not technically a 3 layered quilt ). I hope I got the maker right as there was another set of 3 elsewhere in the exhibition.
 Let's Party, by Rosemary Rush was the entry I liked best of the 22 in the Challenge. "Celebration," where a selected piece of fabric had to be used.
 There was also a display of  last year's Hoffman Challenge. The entry I liked best was Beyond the Garden Gate, by Susan Worthington.  For my eye it would have worked even better if it had been set slightly to one side . It was also disappointing to notice one entry was almost a copy from a previous year. Entries are to be original.
 Anne Joule 's entry in the mixed media section called Forest Floor was well done.

 It was the detail of the water and on the leaves that I admired in Rosemary Rush's, Feathered Friend.
 Lynne O'Donell had started this in a class with Chris Kenna. It so said Chris Kenna I didn't need to read the label. It is called Across the Sea to Hill and Sky.( Well done both pupil and teacher - I love it! )
 I will perhaps put up one more lot of photos from the exhibition,  - next post.
 Up till now I had not mentioned what was happening in the orchard. Unfortunately we have detected the first symptoms of PSA vine disease in our kiwifruit. Late yesterday I came across the 2nd patch( in the same block )  showing early symptoms, so this morning we have both been down in block 1 carefully cutting out the patch of canes showing signs. Every scrap of it goes into a large plastic sack to be burnt or buried. Each final cut is done with secateurs disinfected with meths and the wounds / cuts sealed with protective paint. It takes ages to do and has to be done trying not to touch any other uninfected plant.
 I wonder how bad this is going to be for us ? ( the flower buds will be opening in about a week, a few already are )
 There are very few orchards in our area now that have not got some vines showing symptoms. We are hoping with careful scrupulously clean methods we can contain it.

Monday, November 05, 2012

A Quilter's Day Out.

Again this year our group took a bus to Auckland to the Auckland Festival of Quilts. ( known in previous years as Calico Christmas )
 Here are a few of the bigger quilts I liked.

 Moon Shadows by Anne Joule ( detail in top photo ). It was English paper piecing at it's best and hand quilted; made from  men's ties.

For Lisa with love by Anne Robertson.

"Gaia," by Maria van Buel.

 Mike and Becca's quilt by Christina Jones.

 Anna Breytenbach had several quilts again this year that won prizes . She has used a technique called rouleaux inserts and borders.seen here in the detail
There are some other photos of her quilts ( one which won Best of Show ) on this site and still more photos of this show on this site.( on her Saturday's post )
 I will have more on my next post -  wall hangings I liked.

 PS. We had a great day out as usual!