An orchard tour, and you don’t even have to pay.

Everything’s growing away beautifully here on the foothills of Mt Pirongia (except the pasture, but sheep don’t need much).  So behold:

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Starting with vegetables, just because here we are, my buddies the chickens and I. I provide the food and therefore I am worth following AT ALL TIMES. Chickens are about the dumbest things in all of creation. These are red onions although, like last year, I am seeing plenty of showy top bits and very little onion going on underneath. You think that just because I can’t see, I don’t know. But you are wrong, onions, you are so wrong. I have a big packet of sunflower seeds waiting for some space so just give me a reason, onions, just give me a reason.

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This is a giant pumpkin vine.  We have three of them and yes, I know they will take over the whole lawn and probably the neighbour’s too.  Only pigs eat the pumpkins, but it’s fun anyway. And I do like the expression on the chicken’s face.  It’s got an attitude because I took the photo before it could get in there to block the whole shot.  The nerve of me.

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Here is the bud which, in the fullness of time, will become a pumpkin big enough for several of the children to sit on at once.

And of course, part of a chicken.

We don’t plant person-edible pumpkins because they grow all by themselves each year from the compost pile.  Come to think of it, they cover the whole lawn and part of the neighbour’s, and head for the road, without even being giant.  Possibly I’m underestimating the other vine and by the time we come back from our Christmas holiday we’ll have a ‘Day of the Triffids’ situation on our hands.
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Cucumbers.  And a chicken.

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One of the corn rows.  And a chicken.


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One of the watermelon vines.  People will tell you that watermelons are hard to grow and need a lot of water.  Well, last year there was a drought, again, and we were on the kind of water-rationing where we count a daily chlorinated swim for the kids as top-notch personal hygiene.  And yet, we had awesome watermelons.  Big enough to be afternoon tea for the whole twenty-five kids who seem to file through at food time each summer day.  And NO CHICKEN!



Tomatoes.  Clearly the chickens have lost interest and gone to play in the compost or something.  I should perhaps give credit where credit’s due here.  It was tomatoes that started this whole gardening thing years back.  I was walking somewhere with the children when we lived in Hamilton, and I caught a whiff of a scent that took me way back to my grandfather’s garden and my childhood.  It was the smell of tomatoes on the vine warming in the sun.  I’d forgotten such a smell existed but I knew exactly what it was and I wanted it.  I thought, if Papa could grow a vege garden on a small urban section, then I could too.  And I did, and I am here to tell you, there is nothing like the smell of tomatoes on the vine warming in the sun.  Unless it’s the tomato sandwich that follows.  Yes ma’am.

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A lettuce with its own watch-cat.  Gotta be careful of those pesky lettuce-thieves.

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This is part of the herb garden.  We have, right here, three-quarters of a Simon and Garfunkel song.  Maybe thyme too, come to think of it, only I’m not really sure what it looks like.

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The other end of the garden has the weed matting tastefully covered by river stones.  I took the kids after school one day to help me relocate them, and a great time was had by all, and Amy’s cast didn’t get wet, and all four needed a towel and change of clothes before they could sit in the car to go home, which is the mark of success for a river trip.  But dang, those stones are heavy!  Next time I’ll leave the kids at home and take a small front-loader.

The Genetically-Modified-Berry vine.  And we catch up with the chickens again.2013-12-19 18.12.44

Now we get to the orchard proper.  Are these some promising-looking peaches or what!

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Nectarines.  It’s been an epic Lord of the Rings-type battle with leaf-curl but I think we might be beginning to see some good straight leaves right there.

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This here is a fancy-pants double-grafted apple tree.  You’re looking at Braeburn on one side and…um…something else on the other.  Dude, I just work here.

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Granny Smith, maybe?  It would be good if it was because Daniel is an addict.  I have been buying three of four bags a week of Granny Smiths, and he’s been eating, like, 7 or 8 of those bad boys a day.  I am not even exaggerating.


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I just hope we don’t need to use the gate much by the end of summer, ‘cos it’s not gonna happen.


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Maroon pears.  You saw it here first, folks.


Fig tree.  No fruit at the mo, so very boring.  Healthy-looking though.  You take what you can get with trees.

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They are very nice too.  They are mulched, as you can see there, with wool.  This is one of the very satisfying things about this way of life – the circularity.  I just made that word up, you can applaud at the end.  We shear the sheep and put some of the wool on the little trees which grow and give us food.  We put the rest in the compost which goes on the vege garden which also grows and gives us food.  The fruit and vege scraps go to the chickens, which give us eggs, and back in the compost.  The sheep (unless the shearing job was really, really bad) provide fertiliser for the fruit and veges too.  And meat, but that’s not quite in the loop.  We just eat that and then it’s gone, just a happy memory of roast lamb and mint jelly.  The sheep do, in between the shearing and the roasting, provide other sheep – so I guess that fits the pattern.

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Black currants.  What do you do with black currants? Make cordial, I suppose.





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Pruning is for wusses.

Last year we didn’t prune the passionfruit vine and we had so many fruit that even the neighbour’s kids were getting sick of them.  Which just goes to show.




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Sheep.  They love feijoas, and they don’t even wait for the fruit.  Despite my best fencing work with many fencing standards and much chicken wire, both feijoa bushes (you need a mummy and a daddy to make baby feijoas) (totally scientific explanation there, okay) were munched down to more or less nothing this spring.  Again.  But, they have shown commendable resilience and seem to be at least thinking about feijoaing in autumn.  Go little feijoa bushes!


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Behold the cute little baby lime!  The lime tree has a fighting spirit, unlike its close neighbour the mandarin.  I didn’t even take a photo of it because all you can see is long grass.  Loser.




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A plum and another type of pear, both enjoying their first fruiting season.  In every other photo the fruit pictured is representative of lots more.  In the plum tree photo, what you see is what you get.  There are three plums on the whole tree.  They’d better be good , is all I’m saying.


I was  mistaken before. I did take a photo of the mandarin tree. The magic sheep’s wool mulch has its work cut out for it here.  You might need a magnifying glass.  Or a telescope.2013-12-19 17.58.13


Last, and certainly least (although with that there mandarin tree competing it was a tough call):

The strawberry patch.2013-12-19 18.00.36

I know, I know.

I might just start a new one somewhere else.


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And for the grand finale, some pretty bright flowers to attract bees and butterflies. Every year my father-in-law digs them up, and every year I explain again the concept of companion plants and make him put them back.  So, all things considered, they’re doing as well as can be expected.  Maybe this is where I should be concentrating my efforts with the fencing standards and chicken wire.



And there you have it, people.  The fruits (and vegetables) of our labour over the last few years.  The fresh produce that we are thankful to be able to feed our children.  And the chickens that get under my feet every step of the way.


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