I have a bit of a habit of writing about things when they are new. That’s nice and all, but all these new things keep growing and living (or – in some cases – dying).
So this week I thought I’d ‘follow up’ on some of the blogs from the last couple of years and let you know how things are going.
On the house front
A little over a year ago, I wrote about the house I want to some day build. It’s still pretty aspirational, but the idea of not having to go out into the weather when I want to wee at night is very enticing.
We’ve started making steps towards the goal. One thing I didn’t mention in the blog is the house site currently floods when we get a big deluge of rain (which happens maybe 8-10 times a year).
So the first step to getting a house is to solve that problem. We’ve had an engineer visit who gave us a simple solution, and we’re now working towards having the work quoted. We’re hoping to have a digger in by the end of the year to sort it out.
The engineer saw no obvious geotechnical issues with my building site, so once the flooding has been mitigated, we can move onto seeing what we might be able to build.
Soil testing and amendments
In June, I went through the process of having my soil tested, and making amendments to it. We have seen better results in the garden since then. We still suffer pest and drought issues, but the garden is producing more reliably now.
One thing I did as a result of the soil tests was run a wee experiment on “paramagnetism”. I did this using strawberries. There has absolutely been a difference, but I haven’t quite worked out if it’s good or not.
The paramagnetic bed absolutely boomed at first. It has produced a higher yield of tastier fruit for a longer period of time. It’s still flowering and fruiting right now! But at some point, the non-paramagnetic bed took over.
Non-paramagnetic bed on the left. Paramagnetic bed on the right. This pic taken in October 2020, but the paramagnetic bed consistently performed throughout the season.
Now, the paramagnetic bed looks pretty sick. The leaves have spots. It has fewer runners and is less energetic overall. However, it is still producing wonderfully juicy fruit.
The non-paramagnetic bed is green and healthy, and literally overflowing with runners. I’m planning on lifting and selling bunches of them over the next few weeks.
Strawberry beds now. Hine is looking for strawberries in the paramagnetic bed, while the non-paramagnetic bed is dripping with runners.
This is not a scientific experiment – though it is loosely based on the scientific method. No measuring was done, and there may be other factors such as drainage that could be slightly different between the two beds that makes a difference I’m unaware of.
But the observations I have made indicate that adding BAS-50 to a bed did make some kind of difference to my harvest. Of course, it depends on what you are harvesting. If you want strawberries, it seems to help plants produce higher yields of tastier fruit for a longer period of time. If you want runners, it’s not entirely helpful.
Still a banana farmer
In late December 2019, we made one of our first big plantings and installed some bananas and tagasaste. In that blog, I said the tagasaste “should grow fast” and goodness gracious me – they really, really have.
We’ve since added a 7th banana to the patch – it randomly popped up in the middle of our lawn so we transplanted it. It took a while, but once the tagasaste started getting bigger, the wind protection must have really kicked in, and now the bananas are starting to thrive.
A couple have started sending up daughters this year, which is pretty exciting. And now that everything is looking good and happy, we’ve added in 4 inga bean plants as well.
The tagasaste needs regular trimming to shape, but the prunings make great mulch. I’ve been saving the seed to plant more. I’m really impressed with it, it’s the best kind of gorse.
The Lazurus lemons, many limes, and the mandarin I bought when we were finally released from lockdown are thriving!
We’re eating mandarins and lemons now. I think we can probably start harvesting the limes, but I’m not quite sure.
I also need to confess that I purchased another lime tree – my sixth for anyone keeping track. I couldn’t help it. A couple of weeks ago, I noticed we had “key lime” in stock at work. That’s one I don’t have. I really truly was going to resist temptation. But as I was fetching some natives I’d decided to buy for our native planting this year, it was sitting right in my face: in entirely the wrong part of the store. It was like the universe was saying ‘buy me’. So… it came home.
I dunno, I guess I really love limes? Anyway, I still haven’t decided where to put the citrus permanently, so everything will need repotting again this winter.
We’ve had two sets of new chickens in the last 12 months. The first were three Hyline pullets named Souxsie, Hilary, and Chlöe.
They took longer to come onto the lay than we expected, but they’re laying some pretty nice eggs now. Unfortunately, given Roxy’s penchant for getting into the chicken house and generally making mischief, we had to get even more chickens to keep things ticking over.
Cue our newest chickedees. We’re keeping them separate to the others for the moment. Partially because chickens at this stage of life need a different food, and so it’s easier to keep them separate. Also because I’d like them to be big enough to sick up for themselves when they go in with the other girls.
So for now we’ve set the new chickens up in the garden in a “chicken tractor”-type run. We’ve used bird netting and cloche hoops to give them space over a finished garden bed. Then we added a bag of horse manure and let them go for it. They turned over the manure in no time and are now mixing it into the garden bed.
As of this week I can confirm we have at least one rooster. A soft ‘cock-a-doodle-doo’ has been heard around 5.30am. More like a dove doing a rooster impression for now, but I’m sure Latrice Royale will find their voice soon.
A year ago, we had no dogs. Now we have two dogs.
Roxy joined us in October and has grown into a very good girl. She’s a snuggly thing who loves taking up half the bed at any opportunity. We’ve almost fully concreted around her wee house as she has continued to follow her passion for digging holes. The Trades guys at our local Mitre 10 think it’s very funny when I march in for more concrete, I’ve been doing it for months now.
And Hinetoa showed up just after Easter this year. While the cats are still wary of her, Hine and Roxy got along marvelously. So we made the call to let Hine stay permanently. She’s now registered to us, and lives here too.
Back in October last year, 6 new angus heifers showed up to take care of our grass problem. They have since been hard at work eating lots of grass and it’s amazing looking at the photos from when they arrived. They’re almost twice the size!
Mostly we let the cows do their thing and don’t interact with them a whole lot, but one of the girls has a habit that makes her stand out. We call her ‘Licker’. She’s one of the more dominant cows, and is always interested in licking your hand. Quite honestly, she’s keen to eat your hand and will try pulling it into her mouth with her tongue if you give her the opportunity.
Licker is the friendliest of the bunch – the others are still pretty timid, but will follow Licker. They’ve become easier to move and control over time.
6 cows is still understocking this place. I’m planning to move us up to 8 cows this year and hopefully gain more control of our paddocks. It’s weird balance to get right, but so far we’re not too shabby at producing steaks.
2020 native plantings
Last year, we managed to get about 100 trees in the ground. We started with amenity plantings nearest to our current living set up and our future house.
Over that year, we’ve lost 3 or 4 to energetic dogs, line trimmers, and drought, but overall they’re doing quite nicely. Every visitor in the last 3 months has said “it’s starting to really look good”, and I think what they mean is “oh yes, your trees are growing”.
Ake ake when we planted it in 2020.
Ake ake today.
Mixed native planting near bananas when we planted it in 2020.
The planting today. The trees at the lower end are much bigger – the result of planting on an old compost heap.
Planting in front of the cabin/behind the house when it was planted in 2020.
The planting today.
Overall I’m quite happy with where our plantings are right now. We’re gearing up for this year’s planting and I’m working on sourcing trees for future years as well. It’ll be slow-going getting the whole place planted up, but it is definitely starting to come together.
Looking forward, looking back
It’s pretty amazing looking around now. I can see things really beginning to grow and take shape. Garden beds have form, animals are growing, trees are getting bigger.
Time’s pretty amazing that way. Take the time to plant something, give it time to grow, and then… it’s there! It’s really easy for me to keep thinking about the next task on my ‘to do’ list. It’s much harder (and yet, more satisfying and motivational) to stop for a second and acknowledge our achievements.
Looking back at some of these blogs really brings into focus the difference time makes. And it’s really the entire purpose of why I blog: to keep track of things as they mature and change, to record things while they are happening. It’s good to see the progress.