Catching a Break

Well, I promised myself that I’d get pictures of the pohutukawa starting to bloom, and all signs are that they will not disappoint us this Christmas. Here’s that early flush of red that I was writing about last week.

Naturally, my single day off (before the brief Christmas break) was spent in the garden. There were vegetable seedlings that were well overdue for transplanting, and yet more weeding to do. Moving the plants now will mean that we should have some decent rocket, lettuce and kale for salads later this week. Husband and I even got some time to sit on the deck with a drink and enjoy the sunshine.

A quick check on the new section proved that it’s ticking along happily now that we’ve had a bit of rain, and it even offered up a few strawberries and boysenberries. Something (possibly a rabbit?) has dug up and tried eating my tulip bulbs, but they obviously didn’t prove too palatable and I got all but one of them replanted again.

And lastly, I have another job interview on Friday… So not a bad day overall…

 

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Rebound

So I’m a little late posting this. After six very long days at work (the last three of them fighting a horrible gastro-bug) I came home last night and just collapsed. I slept for roughly 12 hours, minus the bit at around 4:30am when the kitties decided to dance on my face because they were bored. I really needed that sleep though – I have woken up feeling much better and actually hungry for the first time in a couple of days.

The bouts of rain over the last few days have also left my garden with the explosion of growth (and explosion of weeds) I’ve already described. Just a couple weeks after I weeded all of the large beds, it’s in need of another attack. So of course, today, the sun is shining and it’s once again oppressively hot.

I think I’ll start with the shade garden around the back.

The new growth has heartened me though. Especially when I saw the hydrangea in the photograph above. This is my favorite hydrangea – Sabrina. It’s also the result of what happens when my husband gets a little overzealous with the line trimmer. But it’s clearly bouncing back… Provided that he doesn’t go mad with mowing again.

Perhaps I’ll have to find another way to keep him occupied…

 

The Long March

It’s been a slow climb into the last event of this looong week. On top of everything, I’ve been feeling sick as a dog – feverish, nauseous, achy. It’s all just reinforcing my desire to find a new job with more reasonable hours and some flexibility to take time off when sick.

However, I did find time to repot my seedlings (so that I have a few more days to get the beds prepared for them). My husband thinks I’m crazy – working outside on the garden in the middle of the night, in a freezing rainstorm, while running a fever. But the work needed doing and summer waits for no one.

My last event this week is a doozy – a big wedding with a demanding and unreasonable young bride. I’m a firm believer that the whole wedding industry (eg. Pinterest, bridal magazines, “It’s all about you!”) has a lot to answer for. You do your best to offer professional advice to people who have never organized an event before in their lives, but if they choose not to listen to you then it’s hard to convince them that they won’t get the result they want from the path they’ve chosen. And of course, that will be your fault.

Sigh.

 

Snail Holocaust 2

When I got home from work (in the middle of the damn night) it was surprisingly crunchy underfoot. As I walked from the driveway I set off the security light, and it revealed the reason for the new sound effects.

The rain has awakened the snails. Hundreds of snails migrating from one part of the garden to another. Doing their devious work. Munching my mizuna. Destroying my dahlias. Liquidating the lily of the valley.

Ladies and gentlemen… a tapdance.

 

The Cobwebs Say Everything

It’s still raining on and off, but it’s moved into that muggy, hot, tropical rain that doesn’t actually seem to cool anything down. The difference between November and December couldn’t be more striking- it’s like we moved from winter to summer in a week.

One of my biggest frustrations now is that this has made everything grow like mad. To the point where lots of things are out-growing their allocated space. And I need to fix that. I need to plant out my seedlings, and prune back a bunch of trees and shrubs, and repot tons of things. When I get time… I’m working 6 days this week, and every shift is around 12 hours…

By the time I get back to my gardening (Tuesday? If I’m not asleep and if it’s not cripplingly hot?) I’m a bit worried that some things will be beyond help. It also doesn’t help that I have blithely spent winter giving myself two gardens to take care of.

This wasn’t the intention. If the mortgage had held together, we would have had our new house by now and already moved to the new section. Everything would be in one garden. But instead I have scattered myself and my responsibilities across the landscape.

And summer marches on.

Big Dry

See, I wasn’t kidding about the fact that the new section is pretty parched. This isn’t actually part of the pasture – it’s the bit that’s been scraped off to put the house foundations in – but you can see how the clay is already starting to flake and crack in the heat.

On days like this the sun is just unbearable. As with yesterday, my husband and I did some work in the morning, and then came home at lunchtime and laid about having a siesta. After just an hour and a half up at the section, working without any shade, we’d both sweated gallons and ended up with pounding headaches. He was laying down weed-mat, and had an allergic reaction to some of the weeds. He gets bad hayfever anyway, and this time his arms broke out in a mass of red welts. The combination of these factors was enough to drive us back home (and to the pharmacy) with very little done.

It was so hot that when we got home we found our (black) cats all snoozing on the back porch in the shade. Eva had even curled up in a planter pot, which was still damp from where I’d watered it that morning. I think if we had a fountain or pool outside they would all have been puddling about in the water to cool off.

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I returned to the section later in the evening to finish the weedmat and water what plants I could. One of the neighbors stopped by to tell me to mow the grass… Yeah, we tend to mind our own business with our neighbors and we appreciate it when they do the same. But I was polite. Politer than I should have been.

Perhaps it was the heat.

Shade

Of course, when I finally stirred at 7am, all of the kitties attacked me. It is Breakfast Time with a capital B. Gomez did his unnatural smoochy thing with a big stripe of kitty litter dust right down his nose. I don’t really understand what he does in the litter box, but somehow he often comes out with warpaint on his face. It’s like he’s rolling around in the friggin’ stuff.

It is another summer day, full of the promise of sunburn and prickly heat. After rushing to water most of our trees before work yesterday, there is still more watering to do. There are still more vegetable seedlings to get into the ground. There are still new seeds to sow. And there is endless weeding ahead.

Unfortunately there is also no shade at the new section. I mean none. At least we now have our little shed, but it will be only minimal respite from the sun. Eventually, if we can keep these trees alive long enough, they will give us a bit of shelter from the wild heat of an Auckland summer.

And then I will be able to move my shade garden, above. I will be able to relocate my hostas and heucheras and liriope. I will take the hydrangeas, and astelias, and acanthus, and liguarias. The Mexican orange blossom. The Canterbury bells. All the ferns.

But for today… well, maybe I will just come home at around lunch time and find some shade.

Blight

Part of my stress this week hasn’t just come from work being a huge pain (which it is), but the way that the sudden onslaught of summer has already hit our new plantings very hard. My beautiful, lush potato beds have all been knocked over with early blight, and died within a few days. I’ve never faced potato blight before, but it is a monstrous disease in how fast it works. There will be no potatoes for us this year.

On top of this, after a spring season that seemed to be nothing but cold and rain, this week has been beaming sunshine. The ground has dried out, and then some. Cracks have already opened up all over the place. All of the trees that we planted up at the new section are showing signs of heat stress.

The biggest problem we face is water. There is no water there. There never will be a “town supply” water connection on that property, so when we live there our drinking water will all have to come from a tank connected to the roof gutters. Setting up a rainwater tank for potable water isn’t even legal in some countries, but it’s actually pretty common around here.

Our tank is already in place. The problem is that our house is not, so the tank has sat empty and forlorn since July. If I want water for the garden, I literally have to fill up lots of water bottles and drive them up there… Or get the tank filled and connected to a gravity-fed faucet. There’s no power for a pump yet either.

I think, in the long run, the option of filling the tank and just putting on a tap will be what we do. Judging by the shape of the soil already, in this first week of December, we will have no option if we hope to keep our little trees alive for the next three months. In the short term though, I have bought a lot of water bottles which I will be dutifully emptying and refilling over the coming few days. There is no rain on the forecast for the week ahead.

 

 

Snail Holocaust

As expected, I got up on Thursday morning to the first day of summer and a full-on Snail Holocaust. I count 20 dead snails just in this one picture. I lost one leaf on one seedling, so clearly the bait is doing its job.

I also got up on Thursday morning after about 2 hours of sleep, feeling miserable and on edge. Even a rolling mass of purring, hungry kitties could not lift my mood. Having to go to work and be nice to people was pretty tortuous… but we all have those days.

Probably thanks to the lack of sleep, I also have no idea what else to write about. My brain is in a halt. All I want to do is stay home and play in my garden, but for now it is work work work…

Planting Out

So just two weeks after crossing my fingers and planting a few dry black beans that I got from the grocery store, here’s how those beans look today:

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I’m rather unnaturally excited about this.

It was warm but overcast – a good day to be outside – but the cloud burned off at about 2:30 and I had to come inside by 3pm as it was just too hot. My shoulders are a little pink for my trouble, but not painful.

I actually spent most of the day prepping the bed and building a frame to support them. I went over the bed and weeded it again (it was done last week), then dug a bit deeper to break up the soil, added compost and fertilizer (not too much, beans don’t need much), and finished my planting with a scatter of snail bait. Snails are a constant problem at this time of year, so if I didn’t protect my seedlings then I’d come back tomorrow to find nothing but bean stumps.

For the frame I used some old trellis panels, which I zip-tied together and then zip-tied to the fence. I need a very tall structure that’s strong enough to withstand the wind, but temporary enough that I can easily remove it when we leave this property. I wove some old clothesline wire back and forth across between the panels, and I will add stakes or cut branches to give the beans something vertical to climb. I’m still debating whether I go for the ordinary bamboo stake look, or whether I do a more rustic/Blair Witch frame like I’ve done for my tomatoes:

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I’m sure that the property manager doesn’t like the Blair-Witch frames, but they can’t really point to that and complain that I’m not pruning…