COUNTRY NOTES: SUMMER/AUTUMN GARDEN

Autumn has arrived.  My head has been stoppered up full of bead embroidery creations for an art gallery this summer which means I have paid scant attention to the passing of the season.  Mind you, I have learned in my life to pay scant attention to the calendar too with its rigid dictates of human imposed “seasons” stopping and starting on certain days of the year.  Mere human arrogance.  The smell of the earth, the solistices and equinoxes, the night time temperatures, the subtle changes in light, the insect and bird life and bird behaviours, rats trying to move into the house roof and the behaviour of our household dogs are all more important subtle indicators in determining what the season is and what I need to prepare in the kitchen for the annual preservation game.

Late summer/early autumn in our household means gathering in produce from the abundant vegetable garden we have and dealing with the welcome surplus.  At this time of the year, the rattling of the big Fowler’s Vacola preserving outfit can be heard from the old kitchen as it is placed on the sink and filled up with cold water, ready to receive the latest batch of preserves for long time keeping.  A few times a week I visit the two pumpkin patches in the young orchard and supply each station with liquid seaweed fertiliser.  I also do twice daily checks for any signs of rats.  Here is a gardening tip I will share with you all.  Each pumpkin station has a bamboo stick that has been put in place when I plant the pumpkin seeds in spring.  As the stations grow to an alarming size with green tentacles reaching further and further around the fruit trees, it can become difficult to gauge where the station roots are situated.  The stick method works very well for my style of periodic gardening.  I visit the plants and gently pour two huge buckets of seaweed water around the stick, thus ensuring all the valuable fertiliser water is reaching the root system.

There has been no rain at all since December.  I can’t reach the bamboo stick in the Butternut pumpkin patch so I throw the buckets of nutrient rich water in the general direction instead.  Butternuts fascinate me but they really are garden thugs.  Thrice weekly applications of seaweed water during this extremely dry summer in the usual green dairy country means the pumpkins are swelling in size at an alarming rate, though not as alarming as those zucchini plants which are still throwing out new fruits.  Shall I mention the two varieties of cucumbers?  The Butternut patch in particular throws out tentacles that persist in spreading beyond the generous plot I have provided and into the orchard proper.  An odd year for pumpkins because we had high tropical humidity with barely any rain to deal with in December into January this year and this nearly wiped out both patches with mildew issues.  I have had to do a lot of hand pollinating to increase the yield by 50% this year.  Feast or famine.

BUTTERNUT PUMPKIN PATCH FEB 18

“Inspector Jap”, pronounced with that soft lilt on the “J” on the other hand is a far more civilised annual Cucurbitaceae member of the orchard.  We call the Jap or Kent pumpkin “Inspector Jap” after the character in the wonderful series, Poirot.  I have no problems in looking through “Inspector Jap” to check on the progress of pumpkins and to find flowers to hand pollinate and to reach the watering indicator stick; unlike the rampant thugs in the Butternut patch that respect no human imposed boundaries.

I planted “Inspector Jap” in the middle of two new heritage apple trees, Lady William (the mother of the modern day Pink Lady apple) on the left and Twenty Ounce on the right.  Originating in New York/New Hampshire, the Twenty Ounce apple tree was “the” baking apple for well over 100 years.  A chance seedling from Howlands Orchard in New York, the Twenty Ounce apple tree came into the spotlight around 1843.  Twenty Ounce apple tree is vigorous and extremely healthy and even supplied us with six apples in its first planting season.  I made sure this beauty was grown on dwarf rooting stock so the tree won’t grow more than 2.5 meters in height.  I have been watching the swelling fruit with great anticipation this season

king parrot

and so has the “tomato thief” a large King Parrot in our garden, seen here availing herself of some unripe tomatoes.  Caught in the act by my long range camera lens, gobbling down a nice sour slice of green tomato.  I had to walk right up to this beauty and ask her to kindly consider moving on to the seed station we have on the back verandah instead.  Netting is mandatory in our parrot filled part of the world.  The largest apple grew to 418 grams (14 ounces) in weight and the size of this green monster in my hand validates my decision to acquire this beautiful tree.  Essentially a cooker, Twenty Ounce throws out massive sized fruits that will only grow larger next year as the tree settles down into the orchard corner near the house.  If you have any room for an apple tree, consider Twenty Ounce.  This was considered the premier apple for apple pies.  I can see why.

As for that tiny Elberta Peach tree I planted in July last year?  Our reward was 4 good sized peaches.  One waits in anticipation for the joys of the orchard.  I can already see spiced pickled peaches and bottled peaches in the Vacola next year …..

I await with great anticipation as my “Vacola cupboard” is near completion.  We just need to sand, paint and for Jonathan to make up some shelving at a custom height to suit the Vacola jars I mostly use and to finish off with a custom made door.  Most women in life dream of beautiful clothes, jewellery and holidays here and there.  I only dream of enjoying the visual delight of a well stocked preserves pantry.  Bugger the nice clothes.  Each to their own.

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