Perhaps a new year’s bud burst is reason to get back to blogging progress on the block.  Today we noticed that the meyric trees are just about all showing bud burst on terminal shoots.  Some of the rex are beginning to burst.  The alders are beginning to leaf out and some of the prunus are in leaf.

This weekend has been largely preparing for the spring growth by mowing and herbicide spraying.

The bud burst seems early, but I need to check.  After two years of late high frosts it is hard not to be nervous.

Well it is almost two months since we got back from the great “OE” [overseas experience] and we’ve been fairly busy.  The time away in UK and France was great.  It seems a while ago now, but still provides a kind of reference point.  It was important to get some perspective on every day life, and having enough time and distance did achieve that.

When we got back the orchard was well overdue for a mow with the spring flush already in full control.  I was pleased with the effect of the winter herbicide spraying on the walnut lines and the shelter lines.  It all needed doing again, but only just.  The mowing has been more of task.  The first round would have made good silage, but we needed to move immediately and we don’t think that it is worth risking the crop trees and fertility by taking silage off.  So it was a matter of topping with the rotary slasher and coping with the mounds of mulch that accumulated under the mower and deposited around the blocks.  It has taken three mows to get it back to standard.  Actually I am on the third mow round at the moment.

The garden is now looking good after a bit of catchup when we got back.  Barbara moved fast to get seeds germinating in the conservatory and with the help of a new motorised tiller we have it all planted out.  Root crops are just coming through, beans and peas well through, lettices and courgettes already producing.  The broard beans that wintered over are producing well too.   The tomatoes are growing well in the greenhouse and the first tomato has set.

November 9th was a devastating frost in Canterbury, killing many fresh shoots on trees and in gardens.  All our walnuts were affected, most severely.  It is pretty sad to see all the trees that only the day before were looking perky and bright in their spring plumage turn black and withered.  Some new shoots are coming away now, but for the second year in a row we don’t expect much crop from our orchard or from most orchards in Canterbury.

The weekend was the Canterbury Show holiday on the Friday, so gave us a chance to get quite a bit done.  Built a structure for the runner beans, more mowing in the orchard, moved the worm farms ready for building the new woodshed where they were, tested and fixed the walnut irrigation system for the new season, started irrigating the walnuts, set up all the garden irrigation.

Today the tree specialists are back.   We have had a lot of wind damage on the north boundary euchalyptus trees due to bark inclusion in some forks.  Today they remove any forks that are at risk.  The long term plan now is to get some poplars established between the existing trees and eventually remove the euchs.

Well, we could do with a break in the rain.  Last weekend was beautiful weather which gave us a great chance to get planting done and collect the logs, but the ground is saturated after a very wet June, so more rain last night and this morning is not really welcome.  With several trees already lost to root rot, exacerbated by too much soil moisture, I have left a couple of spaces without planting new walnuts.

Today was too wet to work outside at first, but later I managed to get some more shelter trees planted, planted the last of the walnuts, removed stakes and boxes no longer needed on walnuts, and found half a block that seemed to have missed the pruning round, so dealt to that.

It is so good to have the new little trailer behind the farm bike, it has already saved many trips up and down the farm and sped up the tasks.


Well the offending trees have been felled, the stumps ground and the logs collected! Photo shows Graeme and his brother Ian recovering after time out from their desk jobs lifting logs; and one of Jack who helped by shooting at hares and helped his mum Kerry-anne plant some of the replacement trees.
Click the photos to see them better.

We have been in denial for long enough.  Our shelter design has not worked the way it was meant to so we need to get tough. The design was based on alternating Italian Alders with various species of eucalyptus, oaks, wattles and cherries.  The problem is that the Alder’s did not get off to a good enough start in some cases to compete effectively with the very vigorous eucalyptus.  It seems that the only way to deal with this is to remove both the big eucs and the stunted or dead alders.  This is painful, but putting it off seems the worse option, so we have started felling trees that are thriving – to a fault. Best do it before the walnuts get much taller.


The weekend has been productive, even if each of us was a little under par. B did major clean up in the garden clearing corn and pumpkin growth to make way for new plantings.  I got a much awaited large bin built to take invasive or diseased plant material not suitable for the compost, sprayed out the remaining walnut lines, mowed a couple of the walnut blocks and sawed up fallen shelter trees with brother-in-law for firewood. Barbara has done a full audit of the shelter trees so we can order and replant where trees have failed or are not thriving.

Our shelter planting is mainly eucalyptus species alternating with Italian Alders, and the Alders are not competing well with the euchs, so decisions need to be made.   Issues include how long to tolerate eucalyptus trees that are so vigorous that they out compete their neighbours and will eventually compete with the walnut crop.   Time for advice.

Wonderful Easter break in the Mackenzie basin. Time enjoying the great hospitality of our friends Ray and Barbara, and some doing some walking. We discovered the Clay Cliffs and did a day hike up the North Branch of the Temple River at the head of Lake Ohau.

Lake Ohau

Other photos for a while – here.