1 march
 2015 - Dry and hot. It hit 30oC in the shade recently.
2017 - Dry, overcast, hot, stiflingly humid. The morning was dead still, cool, almost cold. Autumn.

2017 - Our small-fruited early peach is over - the crop was pushed to an early oblivium by the combined efforts of sheep and possums. The ram standing on his hind legs to reach delicious peach leaves rested his considerable weight on a main branch laden with peaches - and snapped it off. The possums continued the assault at night. No bait in the Timms traps were more attractive than the peaches. Sigh...

2017 - A few scrappy fruit have fallen.

Black sapote
2017 - A few ripe fruit have fallen.

2017 - Malta has started, plus a few others.

Coffea canephora
          flowers - Robusta coffee2017 - Our little coffee plant planted in between a couple of avocado trees surprised us with its first ever flowers. The flowers are delightfully fragrant, smelling a little like gardenia flowers.  Unsurprising, as both gardenia and coffee are both in the same family (Rubiaceae). We appear to have Coffea canephora (syn. Coffea robusta), whose roasted seeds are sold as 'Robusta' coffee. Apparently Coffea canephora flower buds are 30 mm long (as ours are), whereas Coffea arabica flower buds are shorter, about 18 mm long. Sadly, Wikipedia also tells me that Coffea canephora is self infertile - whereas 'Arabica' coffee, Coffea arabica, is self fertile.

A 2002 study of coffee pollination ('Bee pollination and fruit set of Coffea arabica and C. canephora (Rubiaceae)' by Alexandra-Maria Klein, Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter and Teja Tscharntke) found that the female stigma is receptive when the flowers first open in the morning, and pollen starts to be shed very soon after. I still found some pollen available in mid-afternoon. The pollen is pure white, and showed up well as a white streak on my finger. Self pollinating these 'self infertile' plants may not be as futile as I first thought - the above researchers found that hand self fertilisation of the flowers resulted in around 8%-10% fruit set.

Even although arabica coffee is self fertile, fruit set was increased by about 12% when cross pollinated by bees, rather than by wind pollen dispersal and gravity.


2017 - The Hass are ripening on the tree. There are not a huge number, but still more than we can eat. My partner took a few down to the monthly 'farmers market', and they were 'snapped up'. Maybe because they are a bit bigger and better looking than the ex-coolstorage artificially ripened fruit in the local supermarket. The Reed fruit have been dropping for a while. Most have some form of damage - scars from possums 'taste-testing' then when they are still unripe, or branch rub or similar. And because we don't spray them with copper these damaged areas become  point of entry for rot fungi. And because we have so many damaged avocado fruit falling, we don't pick usually pick sound fruit from the trees (except to give to whanau). So we have multiple damaged and starting-to-rot fruit sitting around, more than we can eat, but you can't give away fruit that a rot on it. So we end up with fruit sitting around far too long, going totally rotten, and being fed to the chooks. Maybe we should fatten a pig...

Hashimoto fruit are ready to pick, and are superior to Reed at this time of year. The Reed fruit have become extremely oily, but have lost some of their flavor. Pinkerton fruit are hanging on the tree well. At this time of year they are good, but unremarkable. Hass and Hashimoto are definitely the best.

2017 - A few days ago a nice group of well-grown young quail came up the drive, led by a female and escorted by two males. Today, the entire troupe came down the deck. I don't know why, there is no food for them there. They were cautious, but not perturbed by the humans within the house. A female stood guard on the deck railing, and after a short time they all moved off as quickly as they had arrived.

2017 - the grass is now growing very strongly, following the rain of a week or so ago. It has been a life saver. I will keep the lambs a bit longer to help deal to the strong pasture growth.

3 march

2012 - Its officially autumn. There has been a southwest change, and with it, strong winds and good rain overnight. Showers today, sun and wind and cloudy periods when the temperature drops. There was surprisingly little damage from the storm.
2013 - It has been 4 weeks without any rain (other than a 4 minute shower 2 days ago). The temperature (in the shade) at noon is 28.5oC. This is the hottest it has been for days, but the days have been hot and sunny, nevertheless. Some days have started cloudy, which is  a great relief. A warm wind often comes off the sea by afternoon, bringing some relief from the heat. The native forest and the shelterbelt trees are still deep green, but the ground under the trees is littered with dry crisp leaves. It is like walking on cornflakes.

Pip fruit
2012 - The nashi are continuing to ripen
2013 - Birds flew up from one of the nashi trees as I passed underneath. There is a light crop this year, and a quick scan of the canopy shows the birds have already got the bulk of it. I tried an undamaged fruit. It was sweet - maybe too sweet - and very juicy.

2012 - We have an abundance of tiny dense peaches on the self-sown peach tree. Brown rot is setting in, but the tree is laden with ripe and ripening fruit. A possum is taking liberties, and so far has not responded to the lure of carrot and nutella in the Timms trap.
2013 - Heaps and heaps of seedling peaches. They are small fruit, fairly dense, maybe slightly bitter around the skin, but are sweet and juicy. Several trees have fruit with brown rot, suprising considering the aridity. The sheep end up with about half a bucket of damaged and diseased peaches a day.

2013 - a few stragglers of Black Prince have ripened. The skin goes very dark black-red when fully ripe. I thought the acidity would drop when fully ripe, but not so. They are still very sweet, sharply acid, very dense and meaty.

2013 - a few raspberries and blackberries come in, but it is desperate days in the berry patch. There is no water nearby, and all they get is enough buckets of washing machine water to keep alive (mostly).

2012 - I picked some little 'black sapote' fruit today. These are a subtropical persimmon with chocolate brown flesh. The fruit are very small indeed, at least, the fruit on our seedling are. They remain green skinned,even when ripe, so its really hard to known when to pick them. One fruit had a bit of damage, and had softened on the tree, so I tried it. The texture is soft, like chocolate mouse, and I thought it had a chocolate taste. The whanau disagreed, and said while moderately sweet, it had no particular taste at all. Well, there ya go...
2012 - The little Chilean Cranberry (Ugni molinae, or Myrtus ugni) are now ripe. These are tasty, resinous little fruit, and are easy to grow. I really like them. Curiously, the birds don't seem to eat them.

2013 - heaps of little 'Malta' figs are being brought in by the figologist. These are very small figs, faintly pinky-brown skinned with a heavy bloom. They ripen sweet and with a pasty flesh, and not a lot of flavor. I like them a lot. The figologist says they are normally 2 weeks earlier than the main fig crop. The fig trees are pretty dry, and leaves are turning yellow and fruit shriveling, so we will see.

2012 - The first feijoas have fallen. They are small fruit from a mammoth 'seedling'. 'Unique' normally starts virtually on the same day, but no fruit yet. Unique fruit are bigger than the seedling, but its good to have 2 early trees. The local possum population also think so.
2013 - There are probably a few early feijoas, but due to the lack of feed, all the small paddocks have been left open open for the sheep to forage on fallen leaves and fruit

2013 - The trees are doing OK, in spite of not receiving any water. They cope by selecting leaves to withdraw all resources from, then toss them overboard. To my surprise, the initial show of color on the fruit hasn't turned to a mass full ripening on the trees. They are holding well, which is good considering really crappy small fruit at the supermarket are around $2.50 each.

6th march
2016 - hot, a slight breeze, hard to stay long in the sun. The weather over the last month or so has been fantastic - heaps of warm rain, humidity, drizzle, hot, hot days. Overall it has been almost subtropical. The grass is growing like stink and all the trees are looking good. Just an amazing growing season.

2016 - A flock of 10 Californian Quail were spotted on the place. Most were at, or near, adult size. Numbers have fallen from around 16-17 or so not that long ago. That's how it goes when everything wants to eat you.

2016 - the flock has been 'downsized', with a couple of unwanted lambs being kept as 'killers'. With the amount of grass needing being 'sheep mown', it looks like they will be safe for quite a long time to come...

2016 - Nashi are ripe, and it is a big crop this year. The birds should have a feast. There are heaps of apples on the tiny apple trees, although many are pretty small.

2016 - Peaches? Brown rot and possums. Not much more to be said.

2016 - the first arguta fruit are ripe. A good number on the vine, too.

2016 - the plants have been fed well, and have had a month of very good rain, so they are looking fantastic. Up till then they looked the opposite of fantastic! Two bunches that were full size but not coloring have suddenly started to ripen in the heat. They are quite nice, a little splitting, but not much. A very good bunch on the Goldfinger banana formed even before the two bunches I picked is still sitting there, totally green. It seems to need a very long time to ripen.

2016 - a whanau member tells me they are ripe.

2016 - heaps of Maltas are coming in. They are nice, maybe not as sweet as normal. Some 'go over' pretty quickly, presumably because they are moisture-pumped. The figologist picked the first Madeline fig. It was sweet, but without much flavor. The trees are a bit shaded by adjacent feijoa trees, plus the wet summer, so the flavor isn't as pronounced.

2016 - the trees are looking fantastic, deep green and healthy (mostly). Leaf drop is all but over, and the normal drop of the smaller new seasonal fruit has started. The current season Hass fruit have turned black, indicating natural maturity. None have fallen off the trees yet, but it can't be that far off. The patchy and overall meagre new season crop are sizing well - a bit better than golf-ball size. The Reed fruit are mature, and the odd one falls from the tree from time to time. Hashimoto fruit now have a blackish wash to the skin and are perfectly ripe. The fruit are like cannon balls, and have a hard shell-like skin. The flesh is quite 'dry', well not 'dry' as such, but dense and not as soft as some. The flesh separates from the 'shell' almost by itself, which is quite odd to see. They are favorsome and very nice, but distinctly different to 'King Hass'. 

2016 - the first few fruit have fallen.

8th march
2014 - true autumnal weather - cool, clear, and still in the morning, often with mist filling the valley below, warm later in the day with an onshore breeze developing. We had a burst of rain 4 or 5 days ago, which gave us a welcome 8 mm. It has stopped the feijoas from wilting, and probably helps the chewed-down skin of kikuyu, but all else is brown and dry. I spend quite a lot of time watering. The dam is pretty low, but there is still a little bit there. Temperatures have been around about 25oC, probably due to the southwest change, but it still feels hot. The lowest night temperature has been 10oC, which is nice. At this point, no rain is forecast for another 8 days. Several days have "a chance of a shower". I'll take anything at all, at this stage.
2015 - the last 2 weeks have been hot and dry. We had maybe 4 days on which there was a good shower or two, enough to keep the kikuyu going, but that's it. The ground will take a lot of rain to re-wet.

2014 - with the cooler and shorter days, several of the ewes have come into season, and the ram seems a little distracted. The ewes are in good condition, in spite of lack of grass. They continue to be fed large numbers of fallen 'scrub' peaches, undersize feijoas, bamboo, and they hoover up every peach leaf that turns color in the drought and falls.

2014 - Kaiteri grown in a tub is dropping heaps of good sized fruit. The fruit are quite pale skinned, and are juicy and nice sweet/acid flavored. While the feijoas get water on the odd occasion, those in the ground don't. So most of the early fruit (apart from one larger fruited seedling) are relatively small. Kaiteri is a bigger fruit than most other early season feijoas anyway. It seems a heavy and reliable producer, even when tub grown.

2014 - heaps of peaches are still falling and ripening. We are seeing quite a bit of brown rot following the little rain burst, but its not too bad. They go to the sheep, anyway, so they aren't wasted.

2014 - the wild blackberries have essentially finished.

2014 - Brown Turkey is ripening in dribs and drabs, a few Madelaine, Lisa and Adriatic is just starting. Malta, the earliest fig, is almost finished. They have been outstanding this year - sweet, sticky, delicious.

2016 - late blueberries come in. They are pretty tasteless, but probably good for you.

10 march
2012 - Sunny, humid, overcast, cool at night.

2012 - Fruit is everywhere. The early feijoas are producing well - enough for both the whanau and the possums. 'Unique', the self-fertile early feijoa, is also now producing. One fruit of 'Anatoki' (from a tree growing in a tub) has fallen. 'Anatoki' is supposed to be earlier than 'Unique'.

2012 - The small, dense, self sown peaches are dropping fruit all over the ground. Lots of brown rot in parts of the tree, but heaps of unaffected fruit in other parts. The possum (s) continue to resist all baits. Some peaches go to the possums, some to us, and the rotting and possum chewed ones to the sheep.

2012 - There are still heaps of nashi (Asian pears) on the two trees.

2012 - The small, sweet 'Malta' figs are finally ripening - two weeks late. Most of the figs will probably fail to ripen this year. The late raspberries are fruiting now, and the blackberries are still going surprisingly well. The blueberries are now very ripe, and have finally developed some genuine blueberry flavor.

Karri flowers -
          a first for New Zealand?Some years ago, I saw an article in 'Growing Today' magazine by Graeme Platt extolling the potential of the West Australian eucalyptus species Karri and Tuart. I imported some seed from the Forest Service in Australia with a view to growing a dozen or so of each species along the edge of the property. The Tuart turned out to be a dead loss, but a number of the Karri trees are OK.  A few years after planting out the best looking seedlings, a teenage member of the whanau planted a couple of the surplus trees that had been languishing (forgotten-about) in pots. He put them in an 'unused' part of the section without asking me. I didn't do anything about them until recently, when I dropped them, as they were casting shade in an area I wanted to fiddle about with avocados in.

I believe these trees are fairly rare in New Zealand, and I have been waiting for the biggest trees to flower and set seed, with the idea of passing it on to farm foresters and the like. Nothing yet, though.

Karri, Eucalyptus diversicolor, flower and unripe seed pods. Bugger!

About 4.5 metres of straight trunk. Firewood for next year.

Anyway, the tree I cut down today has clearly flowered and set heaps of seed pods. I didn't spot it. I would have left it another year if I had known. The tree itself  has about 4.5 metres of good straight trunk, so the seed would have been worthwhile. Oh well, pity about that.....

11 March
2015 - Hot and dry, cooler in the mornings, which is a relief. I have given up expecting the forecast showers or rain to really happen, because, well, they don't. What grass there is still green, so it is still 'ticking along'. I feed the sheep additional rations of mulberry and bamboo leaves. Both these plants provide deep green lush leaves.

2015 - there are at least 2 'mobs' of Californian Quail on the place, one of 2 pairs of adults plus 4 near mature juveniles, another of a dozen mixed adult and near mature juveniles. I also spotted some fuzzy little chicks being hustled out of the way a week or so ago. They seem to like moving along the driveway, maybe getting grit, I don't know, but it puts them fair in the territory of the 2 newly resident cats. Hopefully at least some of these birds will survive and breed.

About a week ago I noticed several wool carder bees have re-appeared. Good to see them.

2015 - a few feijoas are falling, and are quite nice.

2015 - a bumper year for peaches - relatively little disease, considering the trees are unsprayed. Possums are hammering some of them, so, apart from the chief 'bottler' compulsively bottling the damaged fruit, a good number go to the sheep. Miscellaneous birds, hedgehogs and maybe rats also look as if they are making use of the partly eaten possum-falls.

2015 - the Hellen avocados are falling in numbers, partly accelerated by the dry soil. Much of the fruit is 'pinched' and creased at the neck, and the seed is loose in the seed cavity. I guess that is what drought does. I am surprised at how well these un-irrigated, barely mulched trees survive. Their strategy appears to be to progressively throw fruit and some leaves overboard as the dry continues on. Hopefully they won't reach a point of no return.  Very few of the trees here receive any water. Some of the newer planted trees have a smattering of fruit, and the trees and the fruit are looking good. These trees are well mulched, a have received a little water. Lemon tree borer is affecting several of the young Hashimoto trees. I don't recall seeing lemon tree borer in avocado before. Puriri moth, yes, lemon tree borer, no.

The large Reed tree is dropping the odd fruit, and a pesky possum is helping it along. So far, the possum finds the avocados more attractive than the peanut butter and carrot bait in the trap. Looks like there are only half a dozen (at best) young fruit on the tree for next year. It's not surprising, as it is carrying a very good crop right now.

The good smattering of fruit on the oldest Hass tree  are now beginning to turn black, so we will have to start picking them. They can hang on the tree into may, but the flesh tends to become too ripe and almost too highly flavored at that time.

2015 - Malta is ripening its fruit, but the fruit are not sizing, and the birds are hammering them (as usual). A few Petrovicha and a few Brun d'oro are also ripe. Brown Turkey won't be far away, according to the figologist.

13 March
2013 - Every day is a new day of heat, blue skies, and never ending drought. Temperatures at midday are 28oC in the shade. A few days ago, they hit a touch over 31oC - in the shade! Selective watering is a constant chore. It is a boring and time-consuming job. At least the dam hasn't run out - yet.
2016 - Hot and sunny, no wind in the morning, then the gentlest of breezes. It is 25oC in the shade at midday, and the overnight low in the last few days has been 11oC. The ground is moist, and we could do with more. Grass is out of control. The dam is full, as it has been almost all summer.

2013 - Our seedling peaches continue to ripen and drop. The 'fruitologist' just keeps bottling them. A fiddly job, given many are pretty small. If it were me, I wouldn't bother.

2013 - One of the 2 very tall varieties we have has ripened its bunch. I didn't notice it, probably because it is fairly high up. Tall bananas don't seem that good an idea to me. When I chainsawed the stem in order to 'bring the bunch down', it fell and crushed a good number of yellow bananas. Pity. I have no idea what the variety is, but a notable feature is that it has 14 fruit per hand, which is several more than all the other varieties here. And the bunch was large and heavy, as well. Many of the fruit have split, but not too badly. Ants have made a nest in one hand. The fruit are very sweet, quite dense,with a good flavor, with only the slightest trace of astringency at the end.
I see another bunch on a different variety has a ripe fruit. The bunch should be picked, but we have ripe and over-ripe bananas in abundance, so it can stay on the plant a bit longer.

2013 - the first fruit are now ripe. The cultivars are Petrovicha (a variety selected in Northland by Russell Fransham from a home garden), Brown Turkey, and Adriatic. Madeline is also ripe, but the birds have virtually harvested each fruit as it ripened. Malta continues to produce - as it has done for weeks.
2016 - occasional Adriatic, bulk Maltas, the birds have eaten most of the Petrovichas and some of the Madeleine (which are now too high up the tree to deal with properly).

Pine nuts
2013 - the 'maxipinon' (Pinus maximartinezii) trees are now shedding lots of needles. I recently located some old trees down-country, and had graftwood shipped up. I grafted the precious wood into our trees 3 or 4 weeks ago. What with the drought, the timing couldn't have been worse.

2013 - The usual autumn ramp-up in rats hasn't really started. The macadamia nuts are untouched. I will lay poison bait today just in case. A family of mice have taken up residence in the garage. Luckily, that is where the possum bait is stored...Ants are thriving in the dry weather, and more and more are coming in the house. We expect ant 'incursions' in very wet weather, but not when it is dry.

2013 - The sheep remain in very good condition. They eat every peach and plum leaf that falls. They even eat the very tough and wiry 'rats-tail' grass. This species was introduced to New Zealand as a drought hardy species, which it is, but sheep won't usually eat it. I feed the sheep so much bamboo that I swear they are slowly morphing into pandas...Several of the ewes have come into season already, so there could be lambs in late august. There are still 4 of this seasons lambs to sell or kill. I doubt the pasture will have recovered by the time of the new lamb crop. No doubt this will be the same for sheep farmers across New Zealand. If the autumn is cool or dry, a few hard decisions will have to be made.

14th march
2013 - Its around 10 days since we have had precipitation of any description. It has been cooler, around 25oC  most days, and with quite a lot of cloud. The remnants of cyclone Lusi are expected to arrive early tomorrow morning. Heavy rain is expected in Coromandel and Hawkes Bay. We on the western side will get something out of this, the question is, how much? It seemed to disintegrate a bit as it began to reach New Zealand. By about 3 pm the front was just making landfall in Northland. 


2013 - the wool carder bee is back. But with company. There are at least 6 bees on the oregano and lavender flowers this year. There are several big ones, which I assume are male, and most are small, so probably females. They are very active in the heat, and so are hard to get a photo of. This is what I got:
woolcarder bee, april 2013   woolcarder bee,
          Helensville, march 2013
2014 - the wool carders are back again this year, in similar numbers to last year. It looks like they are going to be a feature.

2014 - I am always surprised at the bananas tolerance to drought. The plants are deep green, wind tattered, admittedly (from earlier in the year), and with some yellow leaves, but basically they seem fine. One or two even have some flowers open, although I notice the number of individual flowers in the flower head are much fewer than normal.

2014 - most of the seedling golden queen types are now over, and the odd later cropping one is ripening its fruit.

2014 - the only Hass tree with fruit on it is looking pretty stressed. but it is still hanging onto the remaining fruit crop with an iron grip. The fruit are not fully black, but far off it. Most of the young avocado trees have fully matured their flushes, are deep green, and looking good. Plants I have hand watered to keep my grafts alive are attempting a modest flush - rather, the rootstocks underneath the grafts are. One of the freedoms enjoyed by the home gardener is the freedom to experiment a little, in the full knowledge it will likely come to nothing. Normally, once a graft has 'taken', any growth from the rootstock below the graft is quickly removed. This puts all the plants energy into growing the graft into a fine example of whatever cultivar you put on the stock. But I like to leave a few side branches from the rootstock in place. I tie them down, or chuck a small log on top to keep them horizontal so they don't grow up and compete with the grafted variety. The rootstocks I have used recently are mainly seedlings of the 'Reed' variety. If I was very lucky, the odd one might flower within the next 3 years. If I was even luckier, one or more might set and hold a fruit. If I was luckier still, the fruit would be worth eating.

last year, a seedling tree produced a few fruit . This after I can't remember how many years - probably 20. For quite a few years it has flowered without setting fruit. Today I noticed it had around 30 new season fruit on it, sizing up nicely. They are way at the top of the tall spindly tree, reflecting the trees informal name - 'Too Tall'; so called on the basis that if it ever had fruit the tree is 'too tall' to be able to be pickable.

2014 - the fig main crop is under way. Brown Turkey and Brun d'oro are ripe. After the rain (if we get it) many will split and go sour. The Brunswick type fig we call the 'Doug White' fig is ripe.

2014 - the green grapes climbing up the deck are now over. We had the best year ever. No splits, no bird pecks, no rots, and a good crop. The drought has been good for them (and the figs).

2014 - the main season is under way. Most fruit are pretty small, unsuprisingly, but they are the sweetest and most flavorful I have ever had. Once again, the drought is good for something.

15 march
2015 - We received the outer edge of tropical cyclone Pam. We had continuous light rain overnight and all day. Most welcome, but the heavy rainfall I had hoped for just didn't appear. At a guess I would say we received about 25mm or so. We need probably another 110 mm for the soil to arrive at field capacity. It was windy for a while, but nothing special.

16th March
2014 - Cyclone Lusi brought a day of very strong winds, then a night and day of strong winds with somewhat light and modest rain, but the rain was continuous. Sunday morning was calm, just a light southerly, cloudy, humid and warm. The rainfall contributed by the cyclonic system, as at Sunday morning, was a very useful 38 mm. However, coincidentally, a local farming newspaper reported out that while there has been good rain to the east of the Auckland province, the northwest has experienced drought conditions (again!). They reported that NIWA (National Institute for Water and Atmospherics) recorded a soil moisture deficit in our area that would require 130 mm of rain to restore to field capacity. So, ideally, another 100 mm is needed to reach the ideal. But the 38 mm we have will do.
Temperatures were moderate, 25oC max.

2014 - 12 new season Hass were blown off the most exposed avocado tree. That's a shame, because it has a pretty small crop for this coming spring. A mature fruit also blew off. It is amazing how the mature fruit are hanging on, in spite of the fierce winds it was exposed to.

Fig Brunswick type, Brunoro, Malta
2014  -A dozen Brunswick type ('Doug White') figs were picked today by the figologist. The birds had just started to destroy one fruit, and there were the beginnings of splits on the neck of others. This is quite a soft fruit when ripe, and the thin skin is prone to splitting. The figologist also picked the tail end of the Maltas, which are particularly nice following the dry - sweet, stick, nice flavor. Heaps of big Brown Turkey came in, big, soft, rather moist and juicy as opposed to pasty fleshed, sweet, pleasant, but without a great deal of flavor. Adriatic, a green fig with moist, deep black-purple and pink red flesh, is just starting. This fig is sufficiently sweet, but not packed with sugars like some others. It has a taste that I can best describe as the taste of the smell of fig leaves! There is also a very subtle bitter note to it, as well. What's the bet this variety is full of protective plant compounds. We also had a dozen or so Brunoro come in. These last figs are probably correctly called something like 'brun d'oro', but the name has been anglicised. The trees are readily available from nurseries under this name, so the name will stick
Brunoro fruit are not very big, and have deep black, tough skin, the flesh is pasty, sticky, and very flavorful (well, at least this year they were). This is the first time we have had more than one or two, and in spite of the tough skin, I rate them highly.

In the photo above, the Brunswick type is the green fruit at the top of the photo, Brunoro is bottom left on the plate, and the Malta fruit are bottom right.

Correctly identifying fig varieties has always been difficult, both overseas and in New Zealand. The master fig identifier was Ira Condit (USA), and he identified an astonishing number of regional synonyms and mis-identifications of many fig varieties. Some figs varieties have had as many as 17 synonyms over recorded history! His 1955 monograph is available on a number of websites (try 

Actinidia arguta fruitActinidia chinensis Sally overbearing in the drought

2014 - The little Actinidia arguta fruit on the deck are continuing to fall as they ripen. The fruit are hidden under the foliage, so they escape attention. I picked a small bowl fall, and made a mental note to pick more. The fruit have a little thrip scarring, but his year the passionvine hoppers which normally plague them simply haven't been around. Don't know why.

Some of the leaves on the vine have turned yellow, and others are following. Probably partly the drought and partly the natural cycle of the plant.

This is in strong contrast to Actinidia deliciosa 'Hayward', and, to a degree, to my Actinidia chinensis seedlings. The arguta leaves may be turning color, but the plant itself is 'laughing at the drought'. There is no sunburn or leaf scorching, no sign of nutritional deficiency. The chinensis seedlings seem much less resilient. While its true they are under great water and crowding stress, taken as a group, the leaves of the chinensis plants have been scorched by the sun, the leaf margins burnt by water stress, ripped by the wind, and some plants show quite marked nutrient deficiency symptoms.

Hayward and Skelton, the green fruited kiwifruit, are just astonishingly deep green and vigorous. They are planted in the same row as the chinensis (although they are older, and have more space) and are subject to at least as much water stress as the chinensis (and the adjacent bamboo makes the soil even drier). To be fair, seedlings of anything always show variability, and the varieties we select tend to be the strongest. Indeed, the Sally chinensis is one of the deepest green of the chinensis, and probably the most drought resilient. It is carrying an absurdly large crop, in spite of the drought (see photo left)

2014 - the cyclone blew heaps of leaves and twigs and fruit off the line of feijoas. Virtually all the fruit are small due to the drought, and most aren't worth picking up, but the ground under the trees was a carpet of fruit. The chief fruit-picker compulsively went through and picked up ones she thought big enough to bother with. She then turned the sheep into the area, and they fed on feijoa fruit and fallen fig leaves until they could eat no more, and lay resting in the shade, the picture of satisfaction. When they were turned out of the area in the late afternoon, they left a good number of uneaten fruit behind. I guess they couldn't face another fruit. I know how they feel...

17 march
2013 - the remnants of a tropical cyclone have brought relief from the drought. 20mm of rain fell here. Fan-bloody-tastic!
2014 - sunny, humid, hot, a light breeze. Ideal growing temperatures.
2015 - the day started sunny and still. Showers are promised from the southwest. I can only hope,

2014 - most trees either in advanced flower bud, or are flowering

Black sapote
2014 - now flowering and setting fruit. Around 8 small fruit of this seasons crop (for what these fruit are worth) are still on the tree.

Nishimurawase persimmon fruitPersinnom
2014 - The Nishimurawase tree is laden with orange and yellow-orange fruit. For some inexplicable reason the waxeyes (just forming their autumn flocks of destruction at the moment) haven't touched them yet. This variety has to have a full load of seeds for it to be eaten as a firm-ripe fruit. If part of the fruit is seedless, that part will be full of mouth-puckering tannins. Technically, it is a 'pollination variant non-astringent' variety.  In the picture, the fruit on the left is soft ripe, slightly transluscent, and a reddish orange. The one on the right is firm ripe, crisp and with orange skin. If it doesn't have enough seeds in the fruit, the one on the right will be astringent. The soft-ripe redder fruit will have no astringency regardless of how many or how few seeds it has. This is because it is fully ripe, and the tannins that cause astringency have reacted with the soft-ripe flesh and been, in effect, neutralized.

2014 - the Kaiteri in the tub is about finished. The Anatoki in a tub is dropping its first few fruit. The main row in the ground continue their rain of small fruit, as usual.

19th march

2013 - a further 10mm of rain fell last night. The day broke feeling very cool and autumnal, but soon improved. It is windy - quite gusty, in fact - but warm. The wind itself is warm. We have had a mixture of warm/sunshine and cloud through the day. The cicadas have fallen silent, and their taken over by crickets.

2013 - rats and mice have suddenly appeared. The round of placing mouse and rat traps and laying bait around buildings, in sheds and by compost heaps has begun.

2013 - wood and buds for the spring flowering have matured nicely. The biggest Hass tree is dropping fruit, including small next seasons fruit. But a good crop remains on the tree, much of it showing some color change.

2013 - the start of the main crop is still gearing up. The fruit are good quality, so far, although they have to be picked a little under mature to beat the birds.

2013 - the sheep have now been locked out of the area where the feijoas are, so we are getting a few fruit. They are the smallest fruit ever, not really worth picking up. Not surprising. Still, they are juicy enough, and the flavor and sweetness is there. It's just that there is not much to them.

2013 - Small numbers of various apples continue to fall, some are early season varieties, some are drought-dropped fruit. Not much attention is paid to the apples as a fruit, and quite a number end up as sheep food.

2013 - the kikuyu will almost certainly rebound now that we have had good rain. But kikuyu is a warm weather grass, so its growth will stall in a few months. The fine grasses - ryegrass and Poa annua, primarily, seem to be dead and gone. Is there life hanging on at the base of the dried up culm? We'll see. Even if there is, it will be hard to get past hungry sheep and grow enough to re-establish. Looks like I will be feeding out bamboo for a while. Ironically, the bamboo is in great shape, deep green and healthy. It is even starting to grown its late summer spears. Quite some years ago I planted a 2 or 3 trees of a couple of kinds of shelterbelt poplar, just to try out, to see how straight they grew and whether they would be hit by poplar rust. One type grew straight and tall, with lots of healthy foliage. Looks like sheep food to me. So I dropped a couple of trees, and the sheep were on them like vultures on a carcass.

24 march
2012 - Some rain, some sun over the last few weeks.

2014 - I spotted a juvenile Californian Quail lounging under an avocado tree, and managed to snap a picture. I'm a big fan of these birds, and I am very pleased to see at least some get through to near adulthood.
Californian Quail juvenile


2012 - The hazels have all but finished their pathetic 'crop'.

2012 - We have a few scungy little walnut trees here, and while one has quite a few nuts for its size, the nuts all usually get walnut blight (a bacterial disease, Xanthomonas juglans). To our amazement, in spite of the rain, no disease this year. The nuts on the Californian variety ('Serr' from memory) are splitting, and the local selections will be a week or two after.

2012 - Feijoas are in usual over-abundance.

Asian pear
2012 - Asian pears are still abundant.

2012 - The late summer to autumn avocados (Hellen and Reed) are dropping mature fruit from time to time. Assorted birds, rats, mice and hedgehogs get into them straight away.

25th march

2012 - The nights are pretty cool, but we have had some very welcome sunny days - even if there is a southerly breeze. The grass is growing like crazy. This has to be one of the best seasons for grass growth in many years.
2014 - As yet, the nights recently have never dropped below 14oC, so are pretty warm. It is very autumnal, mist filling the valley in the morning, nice and cool in the mornings. Daytime maxima in the last few days have been 28oC. We have had only one brief shower since the 16th of march. It is drying out again, and it is dry for the next 8 days, according to the Met Service...sigh.

2012 - Yesterday evening we picked up a total of 3 Hellen fruit that had dropped naturally. This morning I kicked the tree and a further 9 dropped off!  Looks like late march might be Hellen's natural season of full maturity.
2014 - the larger of our 2 Reed trees now only has 2 fruit left on it. The flesh is very oily, and if left to soften too long, is rank and bacony tasty. Some seed in some fruit is starting to grow a tap root, a sure sign of excessive maturity. There are still a handful of Hass fruit hanging on the tree. Still they are not falling. Hass is a truly remarkable variety. The fruit we pick become ripe very quickly, but the skin remains pretty non-pliable. They quickly develop rots if the fruit is left to feel soft. Fully colored fruit with a little 'give' is excellent. Just stunningly good. The new season crop of Reed fruit are about golf ball size, or a little bigger. The new season Pinkerton fruit are variable in size, from better than golf ball to Hass sized or bigger.

2014 - Egremont Russet and the little Dandeap are now falling, so I assume this is their season. The Lobo is at peak perfection - crisp, juicy, sugar sweet.

2014 - The Doug White fig is producing lots of intensely colored. sweet, flavorsome, jammy fleshed fruit. They are outstanding. The Brown Turkey tree is losing its leaves to fig rust, and the large crop on the tree is not receiving nutrients, so while the fruit are big, they taste fairly insipid, and are only moderately sweet. Sheep food, really.

2014 - heaps of fruit continue to fall, most are small. The very mediocre fruit in the local supermarket are $8.99 a kilo still. Quite a number of the fruit in the display are small, ones we wouldn't even bother picking up, except to feed to the sheep.

Myrtus ugni
2014 - just ripening. Love these things.

2014 - I picked a bunch that had a couple of fruit ripening on it. The fruit are really skinny. I probably should have left it. There are heaps of green bunches yet to come.

2014 - the 2 red varieties have been throwing both fruit and leaves overboard for several weeks. The ground is littered with pinky-red semi mature fruit. The trees have very few leaves on them. A couple of seedlings are doing better.

26th March
2016 - Hot, a nice breeze, and quite a bit of cloud cover. The nights are warm. Torrential rain a few days ago is keeping everything extra lush, including the kikuyu. The new spears of the bamboo are growing before our eyes.

2016 - Malta is about over, 'Dough White' is ripe, but the delicious jammy fruit are being hammered by birds. We get very few, and are forced to pick at a much more immature stage than we would prefer. Brun d'oro is also fruiting well, and Brown Turkey is now under way.

Chilean cranberry
2016 - probably at about the peak of their season, fiddly but resinously delicious. We found by accident they dry quite well. When dry they are chewy, crunchy, sweet and tangy all at the same time.

2016 - The Hass are mostly fully black. As usual some new season fruit were blown off in the storm of a few days ago. A late Hashimoto ripened up in the fruit bowl and was absolutely delicious - amazing deep yellow flesh, oil, and with richness of flavor that was almost tipping into the 'bacony' and overripe. Another day in the bowl and it would have been 'too far gone'. There are still a few Reed fruit hanging on the trees.

27th March
2016 - Hot, sunny, 25oC at 1200 hours. Lowest overnight low over the last few weeks was 10oC.

30th March
2013 - true autumnal weather yesterday - refreshingly cool in the morning, warm later in the day - has given way to a totally overcast, warm day. We had a tiny burst of rain - 2 mm - in the late morning, then hot, humid overcast conditions for the rest of the day. Temperatures over the last 3 or 4 days have maxed at about 25oC, so its definitely not as hot at last.
2017 - Hot, muggy, sometimes sunny, sometimes overcast. Humid and oppressive, presumably due to tropical air from Cyclone Debbie which hit Queensland yesterday. The nights are warm. Good rain a few days ago means the grass is very lush, including the kikuyu. More and more new spears of bamboo, are appearing.

2013 - The main crop is well under way. The 'Doug White' figs are quite extraordinary - sticky, jammy, very sweet. Some fruit split at the neck when very ripe, which is a shame. But it has been so dry they haven't spoiled. The sweet, soft Madeline fruit has all gone to the birds, and the crop has been pretty poor anyway. The birds seem to prefer this fig. We pruned the trees heavily, which resulted in lots of weak new growth, which may have had a bearing. The Brown Turkey are producing well, but I think they are pretty mediocre this year. The Adriatic is particularly reliable, and this year is no exception. The fruit are sweet, with a slight bitter note, and a pronounced flavor.
2017 - Heaps of Doug White figs, but the Drosophila 'fruit flies' target them because they have a relatively open 'eye' or pore. Once the 'fruit flies' get in, the fruit start to ferment. What a waste.

2013 - the Cattley guavas have set little green fruit, and the tropical guavas have just finished flowering. We have a seedling of a salmon-fleshed fruit which has set one fruit while still in the pot, so I am hoping for a  preview of its quality (or lack of quality).

2013  - A bunch from a very nice variety has a few yellow fruit on it, and I harvested it today.

2013 - our Fernie variety has a nice little crop on it for the first time. We have had the tree for 20 odd years, and it has never had more than dribs and drabs. The skin is already a faded lemon color, and I an wondering if it is mature enough to pick. Seems a bit early, really.

2017 - Hass are turning full color on the trees, and the possums are hammering them. So we picked them all, just to spite them. Hashimoto and Pinkerton fruit continue to fall steadily. Once they hit the ground, the birds get into them at the point the fruit detached from the stem. Left overnight, hedgehogs etc help finish them off.

2017 - It has been a poor year for feijoas. Other people have reported the same, but yet others have normal crops. We are still getting a lot of  damage from what I suspect is some juice-sucking insect or other. There is a very small amount of guava moth damage, but this is usually easy to 'diagnose', and the mystery damage is not from guava moth. I still have no idea what the insect (assumed) causing it might be. Others also experience this kind of damage on their feijoas.

31st March
2014 - maximum today was 24oC. Hot and dry.

1st April
2014 - The dry grinds on. The day started cool and dead still, mist filling the valley. Then the sun came up, and it was another hot day, with a cooling gentle sea breeze. Maximum temperature today was 21oC, although it felt a lot warmer.

2014  -Figs are still coming in. Apart from the jammy 'Doug White' and the tough skinned pasty Brun d'oro, I'm sick of them.

2014  - Buckets of feijoas come in. I'm sort of sick of them.

Apples are starting to crank up, in variety, and I find them completely unappealing. The tiny little Dandeap are OK, because although they are rather sweet, they also have good acid, and the fruit are crisp and are small enough that you don't feel bloated after eating one.

2014 - the main 2 garden centre trees are almost devoid of leaves, but have lots of fruit, most of which are on the ground. They are partly colored, and continue to color on the ground, but they are immature and not worth picking up. I'll leaves them there to rot.

2014 - The kiwifruit plants are surviving the drought, but they are under a lot of stress. The odd plant - especially the older ones - are carrying a heavy crop load. I picked a couple of cartons of 'Sally' gold kiwifruit on the 16th of march, and ripened them with some dinged apples and overripe feijoas (for the ethylene gas damaged fruit emit). They were ripe 9 days later. We ate a few, but not all whanau members like kiwifruit, and ended up giving a carton away. The other carton is getting over-ripe, and will have to be ditched. In my opinion, you can only eat one or two kiwifruit before you get sick of them. Most people seem the same in this respect. Feijoas, in contrast, are easy to 'pig out' on. I'm not sure what the difference is.

The early green, the rather large and long 'Skelton' variety, is dropping a few fruit. It is 'technically' pickable in mid march, but needs ethylene to ripen. Sweetness is a bit low at that date. Their 'natural season is about now, as this is when they start to fall, and when the birds start to attack them. Unlike 'Sally', firm fruit will ripen with an apple or banana etc in about 4 days or less.

2nd April
Gwen avocado off
          season flower panicleAvocado
2012 - The odd Hellen and Reed fruit continue to drop. The avocado trees have matured their late summer flush, and many are starting to flush again - it is that warm and wet.

The 'out of season' flowers on the Hass are still going, but only just. I haven't noticed any insects visiting them (beyond ants and the odd German wasp), but then I haven't paid them much attention. Nothing looks set, at the moment. Apparently there is quite a bit of 'out of season' flowering in commercial Hass this year, so the fruit should turn up in the supermarkets next winter.

Interestingly, a tiny 'Gwen' tree I have been nursing along has developed an 'out-of-season' panicle, but it is still in bud. Gwen is a Hass seedling, and is said to start its fruit ripening season roughly a month after Hass, so this later flowering fits with that.

2012  - Chilean cranberries continue to produce, but only the 'dag end' of berryfruit remain.

2013  - The main crop of feijoas has sort of started, but the early tree set this year has been poor. The commercial growers must be having the same problem, as I am told they are selling for $9 a kilo in the supermarket. The 'Anatoki' feijoas are still ripening and falling from time to time. Unique's crop is very light.

2012 - The apple crop this year is very heavy. Most of the trees are on Malling 9 rootstocks, which forms a very small tree indeed. Some trees are only knee high. Malling 9 is best suited to heavier, moist soils, rather than the shallow, sandy soil where they are planted. But the wet summer has meant the apples have developed well, in spite of the usual total lack of care. Apples overlap and follow on from peaches, but, to be honest, the nashi, feijoas and figs  are so abundant I'm not that fussed about them, except, maybe, Rhode Island Greening, which microwaves up in 5 minutes to perfect 'baked apple'. The hard, dense, acid-sweet spicy Egremont Russet is also nice as an early apple. And both Freyberg, and its parent 'Golden Delicious' are quite exceptional.

Rhode Island
          Greening Egremont Russet Golden

Rhode Island Greening - a large cooker.               Egremont Russet, dense, spicy-acid, prolific       30 year old Golden Delicious on Malling 9

2012  - This was supposed to be a bad year for figs, or so I thought. And its true, there has been precious little heat and sun, but it seems the combination of ample water and some sun has been enough to set and hold a very good crop. Astonishingly, there is no evidence of rots and fermentation of the fruit (normally associated with periods of rain). Doubtless that will come later.

Brunswick fig
          aka Doug White
For the first time, we have a good crop on the 'Doug White fig'. We named it after the workmate who gave us the cutting many years ago. It is a good fit for the description of the variety 'Brunswick', so that may be its true cultivar name. It is a big fig, quite long, with dense red flesh. It is sweeter than our other red fleshed figs ('Brown Turkey' and 'Adriatic'), but doesn't have quite as much 'fig' flavor.

'Adriatic', in contrast, is smaller (although quite variable in size) and intensely fig flavored, but not as sweet.

'Brown Turkey' is usually delicious, but this year is only 'good', presumably because it hasn't had enough heat and sunshine.

 The early (and usually prolific), rather soft white skinned 'Madelaine' has been a disappointment, with fruit failing to ripen properly after picking.

Doug White's fig - probably Brunswick

 fig Malta,
          aka Celeste'Malta', also known as 'Celeste', had a poor crop last year, and a very good crop this year. It starts early, and has a fairly long season, tailing off about the beginning of April. The resident figologist tells me she has picked around 800 fruit from one not particularly big tree. This is not as impressive as it sounds, because Malta is a small fig. Malta is a pinky-amber, slightly sticky fleshed fig. It is moderately sweet, and has a pleasant but unremarkable flavor. I like it because it is reliably OK, and highly 'snackable'. I can easily eat 10 or so a day, with no discernible acceleration in food transit time (!).

Overall, Adriatic takes the prize for reliability in the face of poor sunshine hours. As long as it hasn't split, or been bruised, Adriatic keeps reasonably well after picking. On the downside, not everyone likes the strong 'fig' flavor, and, because it is thin skinned, if it is left too long on the tree it can quickly spoil after picking. Malta is probably the best 'keeper' after picking.

Malta, small and prolific

fig Brown
  Brown Turkey                                                                           Brown Turkey         possibly Brunswick         Adriatic

          maximartinezii veneer graft
2012 - We have planted several 'pairs' of pine nut trees over the years, and today I noticed that 1 of the 2 'umbrella pines' (Pinus pinea) looks like it might be just starting to form a cone. This species is said to start to have seed bearing cones in "6 to 10 years". The tag under the tree says we planted it in 1991, so it is a bit late.

One of the challenges of looking ahead to a post-retirement downsizing in property (maybe 5 years off, all else equal) is propagating plants to take with you. Once you reach 65, you don't want to start from scratch with a seedling Pine nut that takes 10 years plus to have its first cone. So I am experimenting with grafting some of the older pine nuts. Pinus maximartinezii is the rarest, so I thought I would start with that. I read on the internet that it is possible to graft it onto Pinus pinea. I also read elsewhere that there can be delayed incompatibility, where the graft fails 2 years after an initial apparent success. Still, nothing ventured, nothing gained, so, after studying information on various websites devoted to grafting conifers to make bonsai trees, I decided to have a go.

The graft is a 'side veneer graft'. It seems to be the one favoured by the Bonsai hobbiest community. Its not a graft I have tried before, but it seems fairly easy to do, and has the advantage that the piece you are grafting on (the scion) doesn't have to be exactly the same width at the tree receiving the graft (the stock).

The scion is a piece of terminal twig from a branch that was clearly in active growth. It had a clear terminal bud (sometimes the bud at the tip dies for various reasons). I removed most of the needles from the scion, except for those near the tip. After grafting, I wrapped the scion in 'Gladwrap' to keep it from drying out.

[Note from May 20th 2012: A bit over 6 weeks later, and 7 of the 10 grafted pieces of scion-wood are well and truly dead. There remain 3 grafts with the needles of the scions still as green as the day they were grafted into the stock; but I won't count them as successful until I see some growth.]
[ Note from April 2013: 2 scions survived and are doing well.]

4th April
2013 - Today was distinctly cooler. A front brought 5 mm of most welcome rain this morning.
2016 - Sunny, warm, but it cooled fast as the sun went down. Grass is still growing like stink.

2013 - the main crop is producing well. The fruit are small, but the recent rain is helping, as some trees are now producing slightly bigger fruit. There is a good crop on some of the mid to late season trees. Guava moth continues to affect a number of fruit, but we are not as badly affected as some in Northland. A visitor from the winterless north popped in today, and observed that guava moth affects a lot of feijoas quite badly - as well as peaches, plums, apples, and oranges. Maybe we are less affected because the sheep eat all windfalls.

2013  - Our northern visitor has had many decades of experience with various fruits, including figs. After tasting 'Doug White', our best fig (which we think outstanding) is not as good as Brunswick in our northern figologists view.  At least he cleared up the question of whether or not it was Brunswick. It isn't. In his view, the best tasting fig is 'Mrs Williams'.

5th April
2015  - showery and cloudy at first, then sun broke through late in the day. Humid and warm. We have had some intermittent rain over the last week or so, as well as stonkingly hot days. More rain is needed, as it is still quite dry 100mm or so below the surface. Even so, the grass is growing rapidly, the sheep are happy, bamboo is rocketing up its new spears, and the drought is over. Rain is predicted later in the week.

2015 - Reed fruit are hanging on, but a persistent possum is half-eating one fruit a night and damaging one or two others. Some of the foliage on one of the Hashimoto trees has blackened twigs and little piles of white exudate/frass. The frass and apparent dead tissue of the twigs is typical of lemon tree borer damage. The puzzling thing was that the leaves remained perfectly healthy, and the affected branchlet didn't die. I split the branch to look for the larva. There was none. The damage seems to be caused by something puncturing the bark, why I am not sure. It is not the easily recognizable cicada egg-laying damage. Only one tree had the damage, and it was very localized. It remains a mystery.

2015 - We have a few plants of Ananas bracteatus, a pineapple with long, narrow, very spiky leaves. Apparently this has now been stripped of its species rank, and is now regarded as a variety of the 'common' pineapple - Ananas comosus var. bracteatus. This plant is more cold hardy than the 'tropical' pineapple in commerce, but it has taken years to fruit, and although we may have picked it too early, its dry and not sweet. And it takes up a lot of space and is savagely spiny.

Ugni molinae
2015 - This little berry was previously known in New Zealand as Myrtus ugni, but this is a synonom, not the currently accepted botanical name. In Auckland, at least, for years it has been known by the common name of 'Chilean cranberry', athough it is completely unrelated to the American cranberry, Vaccinium macrocarpon. This year has been a bumper year for these sweet and 'resinous' little fruit.

2015 - The Doug White figs are tailing off. The figs are about a week later than last year, and as it has been so dry it was looking like it might be a poor season. But the leaves have held on, and the fruit didn't fall after all, so we are swamped in fig fruit all of a sudden.  I quite like Brun d'oro, a productive black fig with a quite tough skin and red flesh. It is quite sticky, reasonably sweet, and has a good flavor. Lisa is productive, reliable, but it is soft, and doesn't keep at all well once picked.
2016 - Adriatic is now in full swing. They are losing leaves 'big time', so it is race to ripen before the leaves stop photosynthesizing. The brown turkeys are also ripening. This is a reliable tree, but the main season crop are not flas, just OK. Like Adriatic the leaves have fig rust and are falling, so many will not fully ripen. The birds are also into them. The last of the brun d'oro are coming in. They are an excellent fig, sticky, jammy, flavorsome. The become very very ripe. The Petrovicha fruit are also ripe, but have to be picked early to beat the birds. They are one of the few figs of all the fig varieties in New Zealand that will continue to ripen off the tree.

2015 - For some inexplicable reason, we have had almost no bronze beetles this year. Passion vine hoppers are also all but non-existent. And while there are reasonable numbers of wasps around, they are not in as big numbers as usual. In fact, now I think of it, I haven't even found one nest, where most years I would find and destroy two or three.

2015 - As usual far too many apples. I have 'gone off' apples of recent years. I do like Jonathon, it is a wonderfully flavored apple, but it is ridiculously large. Freyburg is, as always, exquisite.
2016 - Millions of apples. Who cares. Let them rot on the ground I say (others have different opinions).

2015 - the fruit are ripening on our early tree.

6th April
2012 - It was hot last night, well at first, anyway. Then it became really quite cold.

2012 - I don't know if night temperature has anything to do with it, but this morning I found 2 fully mature Reed fruit, 1 new season fruit about tennis ball size, and a small late set fruit - all fallen overnight. The tennis ball size fruit drop is unexpected, but not the smaller one.

The Hass trees are also dropping small (golf ball size) late set fruit. Funny thing is, the oldest, largest Hass tree (only 20 metres away) is still holding mature fruit on the tree without any fruit drop at all, well into the tail end of the natural Hass season (admittedly, the tree is shaded, and therefore later in fruiting than the younger trees).

A further fruit fell off around midday. Reed is a big fruit, and it is not really convenient to have 3 fruit drop on the same day. Not as bad as the 9 Hellen fruit that fell off on the same day (25th march). We never did quite manage to get through all the fruit before the last 3 went 'off'.

It has been a spectacular hot, calm cloudless Good Friday. Just a picture. I took a moment to admire the sheep lazing in the morning sun in our small grove of eucalyptus saplings.

Persimmon Nishimura wase,
                  bird damage
There is an abandoned persimmon plantation here, comprising both 'non-astringent' (eaten as a firm fruit, such as the 'Fuyu' fruit you buy at the supermarket), and 'astringent' persimmons, which can't be eaten firm ripe,but have to be left to become very soft.

This is a fruit of a variety called Nishimura wase that isn't astringent when seeds are present (and is astringent when no seeds form).

The birds have decided the fruit is ripe enough to eat. Personally, I would have left it to become a dark orange-red before eating it...

9th April 2012
The amazing run of fine - even hot - Easter weather continues.

endive flowersToday, I was working in a small area where I want to try out various avocado varieties. Up till recently it was grazed by sheep, but I 'locked them out' when the avocado seedlings went in. This meant I had to resort to mowing the grass by hand. The pasture had some endive sown into it, as its tap root supposedly brings mineral up from deeper in the sub soil. I like endive flowers, so I mowed around any plant I noticed. They are now flowering, and they provide little glimpses of colour in the kikuyu-clover 'greenscape'.

Wool Carder Bee - photo Landcare Research LtdMy eye was drawn to an odd looking bee working the flowers furiously. It was typical bee size, but it looked like a cross between a German wasp and a bee! It had distinctive black stripes on a yellow background all along its abdomen. Its thorax was dark, much like the 'Italian' strain of bees you see around here. It sounded just like a buzzy bee, collected pollen like a bee, but it kept its abdomen curved under, like a wasp stinging its prey. I was really startled.

There have always been several species of native bee here, although their numbers have declined over the years. The natives are solitary bees, usually nesting in a hole in the ground, and in years past some areas of exposed sandy subsoil have had countless bee holes in them. Bare areas have decreased with improving soil fertility, and the population has fallen back as a result. I thought this must be a native bee species I hadn't come across before, so I googled NZ native bees, but no images I saw resembled this one.
Finally, I struck gold on a page from Landcare. The bee is clearly a 'wool carder' bee Anthidium manicatum .
Landcare say it was first found in Napier and Nelson in 2006, and is from Southern Europe. One website notes it as having traveled "as far north as Albany". We can now make that "as far north as Helensville" (at least).
photo Landcare Research New Zealand Ltd

According to a UK page of this bee, (Wool_Carder_Bee ), it is a hole nesting species, but unlike the New Zealand natives, it makes its nest in holes in wood, wall cavities and the like. The female scrapes fine hairs off the stems of plants, rolls it into a ball of 'wool', and takes it to her nest (thus the name 'wool carder' bee). The 'wool' lines the nest where she will lay her eggs. Once she has 'laid up' lots of protein rich pollen for her grub(?s) I assume she dies. The new generation emerges in spring. Given it nests in holes and cavities on wood, and 'lays dormant' over winter, it is no wonder it has spread around the world, presumably in holes and gaps in imported crated goods.

All the walnuts are now maturing their nuts. The macadamias won't be far off, and the rats are being controlled fairly well,so the whanau should get its share this year.

The time has come to 'rationalise' various aspects of this place, and a fair amount of rationalisation involves a chainsaw. One of the first trees we planted on this place when we came here was a 'fuerte' variety avocado tree. As it happens, the neighbors planted some tall gFuerte tree trimmedrowing shelter trees on their side of the boundary, which cast a cool shadow over the tree, especially when the sun is low in winter. Fuerte needs more heat at flowering time than most avocados. And it flowers in winter. The nett effect is that the pollen doesn't work correctly and we get lots of tiny fruit with no seed. These are called 'cukes', because they are the same shape as a Fuerte 'cukes'cucumber. Pity they aren't the same size.

So I cut the tree down by about half. This lets a bit more light into the tree, and leaves me plenty of space to graft over to a more cool tolerant avocado variety.

AlHass 'cuke'
          fruitl avocado varieties will have some cukes, but usually only in small numbers. The photo shows two Hass fruit of identical age on the same panicle. One has a seed and the other, the 'cuke' hasn't. Sometimes the Fuerte 'cukes' will ripen adequately, but often they end up either ripening very unevenly (with the centre remaining hard and unripe), or they don't ripen at all.

Asimina triloba,
          'Pawpaw' or 'Asimoya' fruitMany years ago I imported seeds of a fruit the Americans call 'Pawpaw', or 'Papaw'. This is the fruit of a small deciduous tree in the cherimoya family, and unrelated to the tropical fruit that New Zealanders call 'Pawpaw' (although we are increasingly calling it by its internationally traded name, 'Papaya'). The latin name of the tropical papya of commerce is Carica papaya. The latin name of this native American woodland fruit is Asimina triloba. The two plants are completely unrelated. Indeed, in an effort to avoid confusion, someone suggested that in New Zealand, at least, the American 'Pawpaw'. Asimina triloba, should be called 'Asemoya' ( a combination of the genus name, Asimina, and the common name of the cherimoya tree, genus Annona).

The American seeds were from recognised varieties Davis, Overleese, and Sunshine. They have been growing here for at least 25 years, and in that time only one tree has ever had a fruit. They are not self fertile, and while all the trees flower, we do not have the specialist pollinating insect needed to transfer pollen between plants. A few varieties are known to be self fertile. 'Sunshine' is one. Not one of the 'Sunshine' seedlings here is self fertile, unfortunately. I gave away and traded spare plants,and, as sods law would have it, I learnt years later that a plant I gave to (the late) Peter Kent in Tauranga fruited so heavily that he was at a loss to know what to do with all the fruit! (He ended up making wine from it, I am told...).

Anyway, today, for the second time in 25 years, I harvested a solitary fruit. Maybe the plants can read my mind. They are due for 'rationalisation' out of existence next year.

10 April
2014 - it is still dry. Promised rain keep disappearing over the horizon. Not even a shower. Still, some rain is forecast for the 14th and 15th, so here's hoping. The temperatures are still very warm. It was 25oC here at midday, and the overnight low in the last few days has been 15oC.

2014 - vast numbers of German and/or or common wasps are in the air. They travel up and down each row of trees constantly, luckily more or less near the tops. I cannot understand what they are doing, as the shear numbers means there can't really be any food there. Maybe its a mating thing. I don't know. I have 2 more nests to destroy at some stage, a slightly risky job. I don't know if it makes much difference, nests are probably all over the place in the native forest and in neighbouring farmland. Its a pity that the parasite introduced into Marlborough to control wasps (Sphecophaga vesparum, an Ichneumonid wasp) was unsuccessful. It only established in a limited number of nests, and it is not thriving. Apparently a single female was released, and it may be that the genetic base is too narrow, or that the 'strain' of parasite is not suited to New Zealand conditions. Sadly, no other strains of this parasite have been tried. New approaches are being tried. Apparently there is some work being done to identify the female Queen wasp pheromone so that it can be used as a lure in wasp traps.

2014 - the sheep are in very good condition, as the dew on the grass seems to keep it alive and growing slightly. Kikuyu is key, of course. The bamboo is deep green and lush, and I feed it out every day, but they are not really that hungry. They continue to get damaged apples and feijoas every day. The ram is getting a little stroppy, and has 'had go' at a whanau member and at myself. He's easy enough to dodge at intimidate, but you have to know he's aggressive. The whanau member was unaware he was feeling 'peppy' and got an unexpected wack on the thigh, which has the potential to be quite damaging. Due to this experience, I was aware the ram might 'turn', and after feeding up close to me on the bamboo I was cutting, I saw him decide to line me up, so its easy to move aside and give him a kick and shout at him while chasing him a short way. This works well as long as it works. The day he decides it's an invitation to a scrap is the day he signs his own death warrant. Once the girls are no longer cycling his hormone levels will drop, and he will be fine again. Until next year. As the old saying goes, never turn your back on a ram.

2014 - foliage is deep green on all plants. Only the odd plants has any flush going. One of the Pinkerton plants has a raceme of flowers open on one side of the tree, while the rest of that tree is also in very fat flower bud. It is a young tree, not carrying a crop, so it is primed and ready to go. I will be interested to see if a fruit sets on the off-season flowers, because the warm day and night temperatures are ideal for set, and the raceme is physically touching a lavender hedge that is just swarming with bees and bumblebees, so say nothing of wool carder bees.

2014 - the big garden centre trees, although near leafless, are dropping semi-ripe full sized fruit. A couple of branch tips even have a few flowers. What troupers!

2014 - the apple season is winding down. We will have to have an earnest discussion on just how many apple trees we 'need'.

2014 - still producing like mad. We will have to have an earnest discussion on just how many feijoa trees we 'need'.

2014 - the 'Skelton' green kiwifruit are falling at an increasing pace. I brought in a few fruit and ripened them with an apple. They are very nice this year, good sweetness and flavor. No one is interested in eating with, and I how found that that if you more than 2 or 3 decent sized kiwifruit a day it tends to 'shoot you through'. Might be time to reduce the Skelton kiwi and use it to graft seedlings onto. Or something. There are heaps of gold 'Sally' kiwis on the vines, but I am just leaving them there in 'living storage'. There is no point picking them, we can't eat more than the tiniest fraction, other whanau members are not fans of any kiwifruit anyway, and this variety doesn't store well (probably because I don't spray with fungicides). So I will leave then as long as possible, and give a way as many as I can in the interim.

Edible Oak
2014 - for the first time ever, a few acorns have appeared on 2 of the Quercus ilex subsp rotundifolia (syn. subsp. bellota) trees. There are about 10 acorns in all. The trees are both in our little chook run, and just why these set acorns and the others didn't, I don't know. In spite of the fertiliser, the trees are no bigger than the others. Just one of those random things, I suppose.

12 April
2012  -Feijoa 'Opal Star' fruit are now dropping. The few remaining nashi have been left to the birds (and bees).

13 April
2013  -The high has been 24oC today. The overnight low last night was 12oC. Still autumn days, cloud and sun, hot by midday. We have still have only have a couple of millimeters of rain since 4th of april (when we had 5 mm), and the soil is dry under the immediate surface. Its going to take some sustained moderate to heavy rain to re-charge the soil moisture levels.
2015 - A cold airmass has been moving over New Zealand, dropping snow on the volcanic plateau and causing temperatures here to plummett. Up to now it has been an extended summer, balmy, warm and dry. It became winter virtually at the flick of a switch - icy winds, cold, and "where's the jersey". On the positive side, we had had probably around 50 mm or 60 mm of rain.

2013 - fruit are dropping in large numbers, but the size is way down, and the sheep are having a feast on the 'smalls'. Guava moth is the worst we have ever seen, with maybe 30% - 50% being affected. The initial feeding by the newly hatched tiny caterpillar  causes the flesh to turn brown in the immediate area. The larvae presumably drill their way out of the fruit in order to pupate into the adult moth. I have never spotted them in the flesh, and certainly can't taste them if they are there!
2015 - We still have a lot of insect damage in the feijoas, characterized by two or three puncture marks on the skin and browning in the flesh. The puzzle is that often the extensive pulp browning is unrelated to the area where the skin was punctured. In contrast, very few fruit have guava moth damage, and the damage is very different - the brown tunnels in the fruit wall and pulp are very clear, and, initially, at least, there is no diffuse browning beyond the tunnel. The cause remains a mystery.


2015 - Our only remaining mature garden centre tree, a red-fruited  although near leafless, are dropping semi-ripe full sized fruit. A couple of branch tips even have a few flowers.

2013 - several bunches are showing a ripe fruit and will need to be picked soon. There are lots of newly flowering bunches setting, but they won't be ripe until november/december.

2013 - our two youngest Hass trees have some out of season flowers on them. This is the second year in a row these two trees have had out-of-season flowers. The two oldest trees do not have winter flowers. One tree, in  particular, has set a good crop at the very top of the tree, and almost nothing lower down (except, curiously, for an in-grafted branch of another variety). The foliage lower down is dark green and with full sized leaves, but at the top of the tree the leaves are much smaller, light green, and 'tatty' looking. They are being drained by the current season crop and next season crop, both hanging intermingled in the branches. We have a relatively newly planted tree of 'Carmen Hass', a Hass selection that always has an out of season flowering. It has only just commenced opening its few panicles of flower, which puts it well over a week later than the earliest flowering of the two out-of-season flowering trees here. It will be interesting to see if Carmen Hass starts to flower earlier as it becomes better established. Having some of its rather sparse foliage eaten by a lamb when the gate was accidentally left open doesn't help it to flower on time...

2013 - fruit I test-picked from the gold seedling 'Sally' has ripened beautifully after 4 days or so in a bag with a damaged apple and a banana. It is not as yellow-fleshed as it perhaps can be, but it is the sweetest I have ever had it, and its melony flavor well developed. Several people have tried this seasons fruit, and agree it is very nice. I have found it is best eaten when still pretty firm to hand pressure. In past years I have waited until it is appreciably soft, and the flesh texture then tends to be a bit 'pasty'. The Sally fruit are the biggest I have ever seen, in spite of the lack of water. And the crop load is very good, as in the crop on the green 'Skelton' variety. Curiously, the green 'Hayward' vine has only 11 fruit on it in total...

15 April
2013 - Cloudy, blustery, showery all day. Rain is forecast for tomorrow. I hope so, because I have put fertiliser on the avocados, bananas and citrus in anticipation of it raining.
2014 - The last few days has seen a little pathetic drizzle, maybe we got a few millimetres at best. There was a tiny bit of rain early this morning, but not significant. It is warm, 19oC, cloudy, overcast, a tiny amount of drizzle, windy. Rain is forecast for the day after tomorrow. Here's hoping.

2013 - I was wrong about the guava moth infestation in the feijoas. The fact that I could not find any larvae or frass inside the affected fruit had me puzzled. So I looked up the lifecycle of the moth (see the links page). It turns out that the guava moth lays its eggs on the surface of the fruit, rather than under the skin of the fruit. After checking 10 or so freshly fallen fruit with tiny 'sting' marks on the surface and brown discoloring in the fruit wall beneath the 'sting', things became a bit clearer. The 'sting' is tiny, not much more than a pin-prick. There is a small patch of degraded fruit wall tissue directly under the sting, but this damage is isolated to the thick fruit wall. Where there are a series of 'stings', the browning can coalesce and penetrate to the pulp cavity. Once there, the damage seems to trigger browning in the adjacent pulp, and over time, the entirety of the pulp can be affected. There are no eggs present in the fruit, or in the fruit wall. The most likely explanation is that some insect with piercing-sucking mouthparts is feeding on the tissues of the fruit wall. The browning might possibly be caused by an enzyme secreted by the insect to break down the tissue and make it easier to suck up, but this is speculation. Which insect might be responsible? The green vegetable bug seems the obvious choice, or perhaps the passion vine hopper. But I have seen neither insect on the feijoa trees. Mind you - I also haven't paid a lot of attention. But we tend to notice when there are bugs 'out of place'. And green vegetable bugs (for example) would be out of place in feijoa trees, as we have never spotted them in feijoas. I can find no reference to green vegetable bugs damaging feijoa fruit. So while the lack of larvae and frass in the fruit is explained, the mystery remains.

2014 - still going.

2014 - The species guavas fruit are falling, they are very small again this year, due, presumably, to the dry. They are less acid than usual, quite sweet when fully mature. An adjacent cattley guava is also dropping fruit, and although this is supposed to be a large fruitited selection, the fruit are usually small, and even smaller this year. They have concentrated flavor, very nice, very sweet. The dry is good for something, I guess. I self sown species guava seedling is fruiting for the first time, and it has really big fruit that are quite sweet, much less acid than others of its species, but it also has a lot of small fruit, presumably due to the drought. The flavor and sweetness is probably a drought effect, and in a normal year this may well be an acid tasting tree, as is usual for the species.

The two big species guava trees are covered in small ripe fruit where they should be big ripe fruit, but that I understand. What I can't understand is that the trees are totally devoid of native pigeons. Every year. these two trees are a seething mass of native pigeons fattening up on the guavas. This year, there are none. I don't know what's going on, but I don't like it....

2014 - one walnut cultivar is shedding its few nuts.

2014 - the trees are still mostly green, certainly Mahan is, but no nuts are mature yet.

2014 - a self sown seedling, probably a Nelmak seedling, is dropping nuts the only one yet, but this is pretty early.

Pine Nut
2014 - the top-most new shoot buds are extending. These are the ones that will have the female strobuli.

2014 - the last Reed fruit have fallen. While initially firm, they ripen very quickly, and are so ripe they taste 'bacony' and not good. The figologist has long argued that they should be picked on size in january, and the last fruit should all be picked by the end of march, no later. I have always argued the last set fruit will hold on the tree until june, and probably july. Perhaps we are both right. Perhaps in a cooler wetter year the trees will flower and set a little later than they did in spring 2013. Perhaps the fruit in a cool year will hold with good quality into july. But in a hot year, such as the last 2 years, perhaps flowering is a little earlier and the fruit maturity a lot earlier. I just don't know. The Californians had a similar problem with the avocado cultivar Esther, which in very hot years quickly became overmature and rancid by late autumn/early winter. Except that the Esther variety was too bland to compete with Hass in late spring and autumn, unlike Reed.

17th April
2014 - The promised rain from the northeast arrived, along with very, very, strong winds. Apparently this is the remnant of a tropical cyclone. We got 22mm, and it is warm and 'growthy'. Temperature at 4 pm was 24oC. The lowest night temperature over the last few days was 16oC.

2014 - 12 new season Hass fruit have blown off in the wind. Not very many remain on the Hass trees, so next spring and summer we will have to rely largely on the Pinkertons, the main Reed tree, and the Hellen tree. No new season fruit blew off these trees. Pinkerton has a reputation in California for holding onto it's fruit in windy conditions far better than Hass. The Pinkerton trees here are only a bit better than head high, whereas the Hass tree that had fruit blown off is way taller than that. When our two 'sized-controlled' Hass trees finally bear a crop I will be interested to see how well they hang onto the fruit in a storm.

20th April
2013 - A humid northerly airflow covers Auckland. There was some lightening on the horizon last night, out to sea on the west coast, but it came to nothing. Today it is blue skies, warm, humid and sunny up to midday. Midday on was patchy cloud and sun, then brief bursts of showery rain, several millimeters, in fact.. Midday temperature was 23oC, a little less than the previous weeks high, which was 24oC. The coldest night in the last week was 12oC. We have had a total of 20mm of rain over the last 5 days, so we are now in very 'growthy' conditions as long as it remains warm. Showers are predicted by the Met office for the next 8 days, with the front end warmer northerly quarter and the back end cooler southerly quarter.
2014 - A welcome brief burst of rain in the night, followed by sun and cloud in the morning. A light northwest wind brought heavy showers and sudden short bursts of torrential rain with it. Thanks to the downpour we ended up with 30 mm by the end of the day. The soil moisture deficit will be reduced well, but more will be needed to get to field capacity. At least the dam is full again.

2013 - In the orchard areas where there is grass, it it now growing away under the sheep's feet. Both fine grasses and kikuyu. The sheep are in very good condition, and spend extended lengths of time chewing their cud in the shade.

There would be a sheep dung pellet present on virtually every square centimeter of the sward surface. Most are hard and dry, but these will soften and rot down fairly quickly from now on - especially if we get enough rain to 'wake up' the earthworms aestivating deep in the subsoil. The warm, moist conditions should also bring a 'storm' of blood sucking Barber's pole worm (Haemonchus sp.). I will dose the remaining lambs wither this week or next.

2013 - The foliage of our older Reed tree has 'perked up' with the rain. It has shed four or five fruit, mainly the very last fruit to set. This is a shame, as the late set fruit have the most potential to hang into late autumn and early winter. The rain has also helped 'size up' the Hass fruit. Most 'old season' fruit now has at least some color, and at least one fruit will detach itself every day. Its a matter of getting to the fallen fruit before birds do. The area where the fruit has fallen off the stalk is soft and easy for birds to get into, so most bird damage tends to be from the tip of the neck downward.

2014 - There are still some Brown Turkey fruit on the tree, but the figologist is leaving them to the wasps and waxeyes, because there are no leaves left on the tree. Not due to autumns insistent gravity, but due to persistent aridity. Now a little rain has come, the Brown Turkey is starting to sprout new leaves - when it comes, autumn's cold will have them before they are fully formed, I suspect.
The last of the Doug White figs are coming in. They are not as good as they were, but when the starting quality is so high, even an inferior fruit still eats well.

22nd April
2013 - Yesterday we had some patches of rain late in the day, complete with a very brief fall of quite large hail. It rained last night. A total of 30mm fell over this period, and at mid morning it looks like we will have more rain. Under the feijoa hedge, the soil 50 mm under the surface was still dust dry on the 21st. So the 30mm of rain will help dampen the soil to greater depths, but a great deal more will be needed to reach field capacity under the fine-rooted trees. The temperatures are still warm (18.5oC at 10.00am), with the night low over the last few days of 14oC and the highest daytime temperature reaching 24oC.

Hass avocado tree pruned to a central leader - beforeAvocado  Hass avocado tree pruned to a central leader - after
2013 - The younger trees started to flush in a small way some weeks ago, but the pace has picked up dramatically ever since the first little bit of drought-breaking rain. Big, spreading trees don't seem that good an idea to me, so I am trying to see just how amenable avocados are to the idea of being a single leader, narrow tree. The fat flower buds are evident on parts of these trees, which is earlier than would be expected. Normal spring flowering buds aren't obvious until about mid winter, or later. I can leave the obvious flower buds, but when matured foliage (as distinct from new flushes of foliage) is cut off, some spring flowering wood is being cut off. Most of the pruning is removal of soft 'watershoots' that tend to spring up whenever older limbs are cut back hard.

The tree on the left has some 'out of season' early flowers on a few of the mature branches on the lowest part of the tree. Several fruit have 'apparently' set. We'll see if they hold.

Before pruning (2013)                                                      After pruning


Figs are still coming in. The Adriatic are the best quality, but the main producers are Brown Turkey. They have good color, but they are a bit watery and lack sufficient flavor and sweetness, in my opinion. A few 'Doug White' figs are still coming, and they are stunning, jammy, sickly sweet.

A bunch I picked 3 or 4 days ago has ripened from top to bottom. Another bunch, from a different cultivar, has also started to ripen quite suddenly, and had to be picked. The first bunch had 8  hands of bananas, with 14 fruit per hand in the topmost 4 hands, then 3 hands of 8 fruit, and a small hand at the very bottom with 3 fruit. That's what, 80 odd fruit.... Gratifyingly, none of the fruit had split. Some hands have quite a lot of healed scarring on the upper surface, and while it looks horrible, it makes no difference to the integrity and quality of the fruit inside. Scarring will have been caused by insects, or possibly snails. I guess the commercial bananas remain scar free and attractive because they are sprayed with insecticides regularly.

The second bunch is from a very tall variety. The fruit are somewhat angular and squat looking. The skin is quite thick, and the flesh very white. Like all the New Zealand bananas I have ever tasted, the very white flesh was dense. It was also a bit, well 'slimy' textured. The taste was moderately sweet, little acidity, and with a vaguely 'floral' flavor. It had only the suggestion of residual astringency (a common fault in cultivars of bananas grown in New Zealand. It was OK, but that's about it. There were 9 good hands, with 12 bananas in each hand, except for the last, which had 11 fruit.

24th April

2014 - Showery but warm and humid. Last night was quite cold. The weather is finally becoming autumnal. Now we have had some rain, the autumn flush of grass growth has started. Fungi are starting to appear.

2014 - fruit are down to a minimum.

2014 - the Nishimurawase fruit are now all but destroyed by the birds. The Fuyus have started to color, and waxeyes and tuis are giving them a hammering.

26th April
2014 - We have had some more good rain showers over the last few days, we have had sun, cloud. The high of the last few days was 24oC; today's high was 21oC. It was sunny and warm today; a few cicadas started up in the middle of the day, swamping the chirrup of the crickets. The lowest temperature over the last few days was 10oC. The late afternoon is calm, clear, and cool. Autumn is here. Mushrooms of all kinds are appearing after the rains.

2014 - Wood pigeons re-appeared suddenly today, but after faffing around in the sky over the native forest for a short time they headed off in the direction of the coast, and didn't come back. It's a nice day, so maybe the wanted some sea air. The rat poisoning I did about a week ago has paid off - I found 2 nice sized young rats dead on the path near the avocado trees.I will put more bait out in a few days time - the price of undamaged fruit is constant vigilance.

2014 - a few of the swelling Reed fruit have fallen, which is not unexpected at this time of year. More will likely fall over the next month or so. The healthier and more vigorous of the young Carmen Hass trees are flowering well, and there are a lot of new panicles (and even flower buds) yet to develop. Looks like Carmen Hass will flower over a long period. Daytime temperatures are good, but nights are cooling; there are very few pollenizer insects around - not even flies. I am interested to see if any fruit set.

Myrtus ugni
2014 - in full fruit.

2014 - I found a ripe bunch on a stem that had blown over in one of the recent windy episodes. I hadn't noticed it, so the fruit are all perfectly ripe, so ripe that many tore off the bunch as I picked the bunch up off the ground. A lot of the fruit are bird pecked, so while they are nice, most will end up as chook food or sheep food.

2014 - pretty much no leaves left on the trees. A few fruit came in, but this is about it.

2014 - Granny Smith and a few Rhode Island Greening remain on the trees; Horei would still be hanging on, but a combination of bird attack and some fruit rot meant they had to be picked. The Braeburns were all picked today, bar a few green ones. Monty's Surprise - a big red apple said to be full of beneficial phytochemicals - is still hanging on. The few golden delicious are now golden and perfectly ripe, and were also picked to thwart the birds.

2014 - The rather large kiwifruit crop is still being stored on the vines, and apart from the Skelton green, seems undamaged by birds - not that I have paid much attention to then. The Actinidia arguta vine on the deck is well and truly turning an attractive autumnal yellow - in complete contract to the greens and golds, which, while wind and drought savaged, are still green.

27th April
2013 - An additional 35 mm have fallen since april 22nd. So around 85 mm have fallen since mid april.Today is a mix of sun, wind, and the odd shower. It is humid and warm. The soil moisture levels will be building by the day. It is 20oC in mid afternoon, and most days have been around 20oC to 22oC. The high over the last few days was 23.5oC. The nightime low over the last 4 days was 14oC. So conditions remain very 'growthy'. Fungi are appearing everywhere, notably puffballs. There are also 'cotton wooly' white hyphal mats on the ground in some places. I suspected this was the growing 'basket fungus' prior to forming its distinctive basket-ejecting 'puffballs', but it urned out not to be the case. It remains a mystery to me. Another fun fungus is a tiny red species (almost certainly Cruentomyces viscidocruenta, syn. Mycena viscidocruenta - 'tip of the hat' to Clive at 'hidden forest'), found in numbers on litter under a banksia shelterbelt.

  possibly basket fungus hyphal
          mat  red gill fungus on banksia

Edible fungi

slippery jack mushroom Suillus luteus
Slippery jack picked at the 'button' stage

2013 - There is a massive fruiting of 'slippery jack' fungi (Suillus luteus) under the pine trees and hazels. The youngest 'buttons' have an extremely slimy cap and pale yellow flesh. This is the ideal stage to pick them at, but there are not many that are 'just right'. Most have grown on a bit, and the flesh has turned a more sulfur yellow color. I haven't tried them at that stage, but I am told they are not as good. They are normally cooked gently in butter (the sticky brown cap peels off relatively easily), when they are 'meaty' and pretty much flavorless, except for the flavor of butter. I guess that's why they're called butter fungi. A bit of fun, but nothing to get excited about.
2013 - the trees have dropped large numbers of leaves. The remaining leaves are now affected with fig rust, and are yellowing. Figs remain on the trees, but they have 'missed the boat' as the season is about over. They won't ripen satisfactorily.

2013 - the 2 'Opal Star' fruit have both dropped. They are large, one has a nice pinkish blush on one side, and I think they are very good. They are sweet, with some acidity to add flavor, white fleshed, juicy pulp but with a firm fruit wall. I detected no bitterness in them, altho' a whanau member claimed to.

2013 - Our 'Burtons Favorite' and an adjacent self-sown seedling tree have fruit set sizing well from the late december 2012 flowering, but for some reason these two trees have continued to flower and set right up to today. Some mature seedlings of this cultivar some distance away have a single discrete december-set crop and no recently set fruit, and I assume the 'Bronceada' cultivar cherimoyas at the bottom of the property are also behaving 'normally'. The normal fruiting season for cherimoyas here is about october, and in some years going a bit later. This set of fruit, assuming they hold on the tree, will ripen from the start of the season in october, and keep going perhaps as long as january. In theory.

pomegranate fruit april 27th 2013
2013 - The pomegranate shrub - you can't call it a tree - has 3 fruit, one of which has split open (they seem to do this when ripe). The fleshy and juicy arils around the seed were from bright to deep red. The fruit was clearly nearly mature, but not quite. The arils were very pleasant, somewhat acid, good flavor, but low in sugar. There was some astringency, and the ratio of pulp to seed was low. The seeds were a little soft, and surprisingly edible. It will be interesting to see how the biggest (and presumably most mature) fruit turns out. The leaves on the shrub are starting to turn yellow, so it must split soon, I guess.


Hass out of season fruit set, april 2013    weta in
          the avocado tree 

2013 - the Hass tree with the early 'out of season' flowers is holding a few tiny newly set fruit - so far. A weta was seen lurking suspiciously close to the raceme, and as these animals eat leaves, I wouldn't trust them with succulent flowering racemes, let alone delicious little avocado fruitlets  So it has been transferred to some trees some distance away.

The second Hass tree to have some early flowers is in flower now. No insects on them except the odd ant.

28th April
2012 - It has been warm, dry and sunny for days and days - "the summer we never had" as someone remarked.
2013 - sunny, cloudy, warm, sticky, humid, breezy. It was 21oC at midday.
2014 - lots of welcome rain (20 mm) from the south over the last few days (Canterbury was hit hard by torrential rain - not welcome there!), and a drop in temperatures, but some sun in-between. Still relatively mild.

2013  - the 'fernie' casimiroas remain faded lemon yellow. Another tree has either dropped a couple of fruit, or they have been knocked off. They are pretty squishy. The fruit on the tree remain green and hard. I find casimiroas hard to time for picking - pick them too soon and they don't ripen, they just go leathery and shrivelled. Too late and they fall off the tree and splat on the ground...

2012 - Feijoa 'Opal Star' fruit continue to drop. There are some very late set fruitlets on the tree, but I doubt they will come to anything. I like this fruit. It is acid, sweet, and has a definite flavour. The fruit isn't soft, but has a nice firm skin. It seems to have a faint purplish blush on the sunny side. A very good late fruit.

Myrtus ugni
2012  - The Chilean cranberries have finished, but not before I discovered that they are absolutely delicious when added to micro-waved baking apples. The Rhode Island Greening 'bakes' into beautiful 'baked apple' in 3 - 5 minutes (depending on fruit size) in a microwave. I added the Chilean cranberries to the cooked soft flesh as soon as the dish was taken from the microwave. Their resinous perfumed flavor changed created a new flavor sensation! Yum!

2012  - In another unexpected turn, I found that Egremont Russet is outstanding as a microwaved 'baked' apple - even better than Rhode Island Greening. The cooked flesh is naturally very sweet (almost too sweet), and with a slight yellow tinge absent in RIG. The skin, where the protective phytochemicals are largely concentrated, is not obtrusive when you eat it (which I do). RIG has a somewhat tougher, sort of 'greasy' skin, and it is more of a duty to eat (albeit it has a slight bitter edge, which likely means it is packed with healthful phytochemicals).
2013 - The birds know what they like. They have hammered 'dandeeap' fruit into extinction. Dandeeap is a Zaiger genetic dwarf apple, but appears not to be available any more. They also like 'Horei', which is a very nice crisp gala-ish but more acid apple in its own right. It is really valuable because it hangs on the tree to very, very, late in the season. We ended up having to throw a net over it. Good thing it is on dwarfing Malling 9 rootstock.

2012  - Hellen avocado dropped a fruit yesterday, and I found another today. This last fruit had been almost completely devoured overnight by a connoisseur possum. There is a poison bait station 10 metres away, and it has recently been emptied. I hope it is my avocado loving friend.

The late flowering Hass has a second 'tranche' of flowers coming on, much to my surprise/annoyance. So called 'winter Hass' avocados are ripe in about may-june-july, and are OK, but not very flash. They are a funny shape - they don't look like Hass at all.

Winter Hass
Winter Hass fruit

2012  - The last walnuts have fallen. They are 'Roadside6', a 'Wilson's wonder' type, selected and  sold by Cheddar Valley Nurseries (no longer in operation). This tree is always late, and also holds its leaves longest before falling. The tree, like our other grafted walnut trees, is subject to branchlet die-back. Our grafted trees are all small, around 2.2 metres, and spindly. This tree is now 14 years old. (On a side note, the little wooden bowl was turned by a whanau member from some olive tree trimmings that have sat around the place for the last 5 years or so. I'm amazed at its durability.)

Walnut roadside

2012  - My golden Kiwifruit are now sufficiently mature to pick, but they might as well hang on the vine while the leaves are still healthy and the sun shining. We are not short of fruit, as the feijoas continue to fall and the apples are in full flight.

2012  - The Asimina fruit ripening in a bag with an apple in about 5 days, and was delicious, but packed with large, flat, black seeds. Smooth, sweet, custardy flesh.

2012  - The resident figologist is still collecting figs

30 april
2012 - 3 more Hellen avocado have fallen; and one Reed fruit. I'm not sure if a change in temperatures triggers fruit drop, or whether it is just random as fruit age. The 3 fallen fruit had been set upon by possums. The adjacent Timms trap had gone off, and was pulled over, but the intended victim escaped. Perhaps it had a big enough fright to stay way. We'll see.

1st may
2013 - warm, sunny, cloudy. The midday temperature is 21oC. The maximum temperature in the last few days has been 23oC, and the minimum has been no lower than 13oC.
2014 - warm, then hot after a cold night. It was totally still until after midday, when we had odd wafts of light breeze come up from time to time. The sky was totally clear until midday, not a cloud. At 1100 it was 22oC. The overnight low was 7.5oC, so the nights are suddenly colder.

2013 - the Fuyu persimmon are mostly well colored now, and are being hammered by waxeyes and blackbirds.
2014  - nishimurawase leaves have fully colored and many fallen. The remaining fruit on the tree have been almost totally consumed by birds. They must love this place...The fuyu leaves are still green, altho' some of that green might actually be the little green waxeyes which are currently heavily infesting the fruit...

2013 - at last the fruit production is slowing down.

2013 - Carmen Hass flowering may 4th 2014our best Hass tree continues to drop fruit at a partially colored stage. We have been a bit slow, and the birds have consumed 5 fallen fruit.
2014 - One tree has the tail end of this years crop still hanging on. In the past, I have found that fruit will hang into may, with the flesh becoming oilier and oilier to the point of 'off flavors' developing. The seed will often sprout roots inside the fruit. I'll be interested to see what happens with these last few fruit.
Bumblebee Bombus terrestris on Chia flowers early may
          2014 NZThe 2 little Carmen Hass flowering at the moment (photo far left) still have a distinct lack of insect visitors, except for the odd German wasp, which barely stay on the flowers more than a few seconds. I thought, well what can you expect, it's getting a bit late in the season for bees and other pollinators. But when I wandered 20 metres or so away, on the other side of a row of bananas, I found bees, bumblebees, Asian wasps and wool carder bees aplenty on a self -sown row of chia plants that are just at full bloom.

So there are, in fact, lots of pollinating insects around on a sunny calm day, you just have to offer them something a bit more rewarding thing the odd panicle of avocado flowers. As the flowering of chia seems to exactly overlap the flowering of Carmen Hass, I am going to try to remember to sow some chia (Salvia hispanica) seeds around the Carmen Hass trees next year.

The bumblebees on the chia are all Bombus terrestris, the short-tongued bumblebee. Apparently, 4 species were introduced very early in the twenthieth century, but only the short tongued species have really spread around - Bombus terrestris being by far the most common.

Three species (Bombus ruderatus, B. hortorum, and B. subterraneus)are successful in parts of the South Island because they have a specialized tongue that can reach the nectar in legume plants that have a long corolla. And it happens that the South Island is ideal for growing seed of the long-corolla'ed red clover (Trifolium pratense) and the equally long corolla'ed weed Echium thrives on poorer hilly sheep sites  of the Southern Alps.

Red clover doesn't take grazing pressure hugely well , so it is not sown as much these days. As a result, "B. subterraneus which is now very localised and scarce" according to researchers. While Bombus ruderatus, and B. subterraneus (in particular) may be in decline in New Zealand, in their homeland, in Europe, they are in critical decline - because "species rich meadows" are in decline in Europe, and, in a curious twist, because working horses have been largely replaced by tractors. Apparently, long corolla'ed legumes such as 'horse beans', which we call 'broad beans' (Vicia faba) were grown as an important component of horse feed for working horses in Europe. These legumes were an important  food source for native long-tongued bumblebee species, which are native to Europe. In New Zealand (and elsewhere) the short tongued Bombus terrestris bites a hole in the base of long corolla'ed flowers so that it can reach the nectaries! So New Zealand has, by accident, become something of a tenuous survival outpost for several of these European native species..


2013 - the biggest of the pomegranate fruit has now split open. I didn't pick it, which was a mistake, as the birds have been helping themselves, and there is not much left.

2nd May

2014 - cold and bleak in the morning, the temperature slowly climbed to 19oC by midday. The overnight low was 10oC. Totally overcast and still in the morning, later patches of sun came through and it felt relatively warm.

3 May
2014 - the morning dawns dead calm and sunny. There is almost no wind. The early morning still echoes to the distant sound of shotguns, interspersed with duck calls. It is the first day of the duck hunting season. A male and female duck appeared on our tiny dam a few days ago. We were surprised that they didn't seem perturbed by people walking past the dam. They didn't even fly off when we were using garden machinery only 6 or 7 meters from them. Now I know why. The days high is 23oC.

2014 - the rain has helped bring on some late ripening feijoas. Only a couple of trees are producing any number of fruit, but they are still producing.

2014 - we decided to pick the better part of the Sally crop. We picked 2 cardboard cartons and a supermarket bag of the reasonable sized fruit. There is probably still around about half a carton left. There are lots of very small fruit, around golf ball size and smaller, but we have left these for the birds and possums (which have just started on them anyway).
One seedling kiwifruit plant has a smattering of flowers open, which is pretty crazy. I notice one of the plums also has a couple of open flowers...

2014 - Red tamarillo fruit have suddenly turned color on our two trees. Could be the cold nights recently. Heaps have dropped. They won't be much good, because the trees dropped almost all their leaves in the drought. One tree has big red fruit, and  I think we bought it as 'Ted's Red'. It has only about 2 leaves left on it, and looks more like 'Ted's dead'.

4th May
2012 - It has been sunny and calm, but suddenly very cold at night. A solitary cicada briefly brought back the sounds of summer.
2014  - warm - hot even - by mid morning. Everyone was moaning about the heat and humidity. By midday it was a touch over 24oC. The overnight low was 10oC (again).

2014  - Living dangerously, yesterday afternoon the ducks flew off  to who knows where. Perhaps they thought the duck shooters were gone. I thought that would be the last time I would see them. But this morning they both touched down on the little pond. They seem unscathed.

2012 - The Hass trees which flowered and set fruit earliest now have some fruit that are about full sized. Another two Hellen fruit have fallen, and as before, they have been eaten by possums. A Reed has also fallen. The bait station was shifted to under the Hellen last night, and it is now half empty...

Nysius feeding on avocado flowers2014 - One (only) branch of a young Pinkerton tree is flowering. I don't expect it to set fruit, as I suspect Pinkerton needs a pollenizer tree, and none is available. I noticed several small Nysius bugs on a flower, perhaps feeding on the flowers juices with their hypodermic-like mouthparts (see the photo left). Actually, my impression was that they were feeding at the nectaries, and wondered if they were nectar feeding as adults. But a google search found no reference to any species of Nysius feeding on nectar, so I must assume they are sucking the juices out of the flower - and are therefore a pest.

We have a self sown seedling by the deck which is covered in panicle of out-of-season bloom. I don't expect much it will set fruit - it has flowered (always 'out of season' for 4 years now, and in that time only set half a dozen fruit. The fruit fall very readily when ripe, so we have only managed to taste 2 fruit - one we picked, one from the ground. The one we picked was a little bitter, somewhat sweetish, and clearly immature. One fell in mid august, and it had dry, oily flesh, with excellent flavor. The trouble (apart from not setting) is that the fruit have a massive seed, and the flesh adheres strongly to the skin, which is quite annoying in an avocado. Given that very early set Hass is picakable in mid August in warm years, then the tree is without much merit. I want to chop it out, but I am told that it gives valuable summer shade to the house...

Possums are becoming increasingly problematic, and, as usual, spurn our kill traps. Today we found one of the precious final half dozen current season Hass fruit on the ground with possum teeth marks in it. So we picked all 5 remaining fruit. There are still the handful of 'off season' fruit on another tree which would probably be OK if picked now, but I'd like to leave them until they show a little skin color change - possums allowing.


2012 - The seedling persimmons we planted on the drive are now looking at their best. In warmer years they barely have any color at all, but this year they are lovely.

2014 - Rhode Island Greening continue to fall, the Granny Smiths are hanging on, and one of the very later varieties, Horei, has a good crop. One other apple has finally started to ripen. This is a seedling I grew from a late ripening apple called Kempton. We like Kempton because it is really crisp, white fleshed, and quite a hard apple for the late season. A local orchard sells the apple, but I have never seen the tree available in nurseries. So I put in a few Kempton seeds, three trees grew, and now, around 15 years later, 2 trees have a few fruit for the first time. One is a hard, acid greeny yellow apple (to be fair, it is a late apple, and it might sweeten in a few weeks time). The other is a red-striped apple, looking a bit like a flattened Gala. It is sharply acid; sweet enough, but not too sweet, but still flavorsome. Like its maternal parent, the flesh is white, hard and crisp. If it keeps well, I'll be very pleased, as it will be an acceptable substitute for Kempton.

2012 - I haven't noticed a huge number of fungi around the place this year. Maybe it is a bit cold now. But there was one basket fungus (Ileodictyon cibarium) near one of the young avos. Some years we have quite large numbers of these odd fungi. But not this year.

Autumn colors in
          select persimmon seedlings   expanded basket
          fungus, Ileodictyon cibarium
Seedling persimmon selected for its autumn foliage                                    Basket fungus - a New Zealand native

5th May
2014  - A little gentle rain fell  in  the night, and there were a few brief warm showers this morning. There is a steady warm northwesterly blowing, and the skies are totally overcast. The ground is moist, and worms are really ramping up in the pasture -  their casts are everywhere. They will soon bury the vast amounts of sheep marbles scattered heavily over the pasture.

Sheep eating young bamboo leaves2014 - We are trying to spell parts of the orchard so that the new shoots of the fine summer grasses have a chance to grow a little. So the sheep continue to be fed on windfall apples and feijoas, and, from time to time, lashings of bamboo foliage. The sheep like bamboo, and seek it out. I wondered how much nutritional value there is in bamboo leaves as a forage, and eventually found a US department of Agriculture paper investigating the forage value of various cold hardy bamboo species in the Appalachian region (bearing in mind it snows in winter in the study region). [link]

In the study, the youngest leaves were carried in mid summer, and the crude protein content averaged across all seasons and all species was around 14% - 16%. One species hit nearly 20% crude protein in mid summer, but was around the 14% level in mid winter when snow was on the ground. They made the point that older leaves were more fibrous, but even so the quality of the forage was enough to act as a maintenance feed in winter for goats (the subject of the trials). Several species had very good spring, summer and autumn values of around 17% protein. While our bamboo, Bambusa oldhamii, wasn't tested, it is likely to have similar feed value. I am slowly bringing the hedge down to about chest level and cut some of it every year. As a consequence, the leaves on the hedged sections are never more than a year old, and tend to remain deep green and much less coarse than older leaves. I am willing to bet the forage value is at least 15% from late spring to late may.

6th May

2012 - Success at last! Hopefully the end of this possum (and its joey) will give us a lull in the damage to the avocado.

I wonder if Peter Jackson got his inspiration for how Gollum should look by looking at a possum joey...

"my preciousss...."

7th may
2013 - sunny, almost still, not a cloud in the sky, warm. A contrast to the last 3 days of rain and wind. We had about 50mm, mainly from the north and northwest. It has been cooler at night, with the minimum dropping to 11oC. The maximum since the last reading on the 1st of may was 24oC. At 1230 today it was 20oC. Quite a number of 'horse mushrooms' have popped up. These are a large and rank-tasting species closely related to the normal field mushroom. I have eaten them once or twice, but they are far too strong-tasting for me.

2013 - late feijoas continue to fall.

2013 - Fruit continue to fall. I notice distortion of new growth on a couple of orange tamarillo seedlings, so it looks like we have had a chemical trespass spray-drift incident from a neighbours autumn thistle spraying.

2013 - the recent storm has snapped several stems carrying a fruit bunch. Stems that were properly supported with a couple of bamboo poles survived intact.

8th may
2013- rain all day. The soil is now saturated. Worms casts are everywhere, and the sheep droppings that littered the pasture have all but gone. Perhaps the bountiful manure will cause an earthworm explosion, increase mineral availability, boost grass growth, and so and counterbalance the effect of the drought. An interesting idea...Conditions are ideal for giving avocado and citrus some NPK compound fertiliser pellets, so on with the coat, and out into the rain.

2013 - A few immature Reed fruit have fallen - annoying, but inevitable, I suppose. Fruit continue to fall off the 'intermediate age' Hass tree here. Blackbirds and thrushes have been in full song over the last few days, claiming their spring nesting territory. I saw a fat male blackbird feeding on a fallen Hass fruit today. Must be in his territory. The proprietor of a prime piece of blackbird real estate, I would say.

9th may
2014 - mostly cloudy, a few torrential (gutters overflowing) but very brief cloudbursts, a little sun,mild. The high was 21oC.
2016 - overcast and cloudy, then sunny and warm. It has been still and either overcast or combo sunny and overcast for the last 4 or 5 days. It has been ridiculously warm - shorts and T shirt weather. The lowest overnight temperature was 12oC, daily temperatures are in the 22 - 24oC (in the shade) range. We need rain, albeit the ground is still somewhat moist. The bamboo spears are growing strongly.

2016 - A few Adriatic figs are left, but it is the very end of the season. It has been an excellent season this year - enough rain, tons of heat.

2016 - The main Reed tree is over, the small tree has about 10 or so fruit left. They fall from time to time, and it is a matter of getting to them before the birds. Another Reed tree from a graft done a couple of years ago has about 8 mature fruit - but a possum ate 2 of those and half ate another all in one night....The Timms trap also got it, it went off, the bait was nibbled, but no possum. Judging by the fur left at the entrance, I would say it was 'foul caught', maybe by an arm, and managed to pull free. Another 'Timms trap shy' possum. Sigh...

There are fat flower buds on the Pinkerton trees, and one tree has a panicle developing in the early stage. I can see one Hass tree is also working up to some 'off-season' bloom. Carmen Hass is still going, but the only attendants are the Australian paper wasps (Polistes humilis).

The (self sown) chia plants are flowering, and full of bees. I wish I had remembered to plant some near the off-season avocado bloomers.

2016 - Our trees are all turning color. Some have even dropped all their leaves. The Fuyu is also turning, although some leaves are green. The Fuyu fruit are ripening, but are not fully colored. The persimmon orchard down the road is still in full deep green leaf, even although it is lower altitude (and possibly cooler as a result) than us. Their Fuyu fruit are at about the same stage. Bit odd.

2016 - More grass than they can ever eat. The fine grasses of autumn and winter are coming through strongly, but even the kikuyu is still green and growing. It has been a fantastic summer for grass growth, just exceptional.

2016 - Cynthia and 'Bold Gold' are dropping, and a possum is taking full advantage. Two Timms traps and a bait station, under the trees, but no luck so far.

2016 - The plants look fantastic - there has been enough rain, and there hasn't been enough wind to shred the leaves. They are lush and green. No bunches left to pick, but some have set, and will be ready in spring or summer.

Musa velutina fruitMusa velutina plantThe ornamental banana, Musa velutina, has had its handsome tiny red fruit bunches fat and ripe-looking for some time. Today, the first fruit 'self peeled', looking like bizarre little stars. They are absolutely packed with hard rock-like black seeds. There is a thin veneer of flesh there, and it does taste like a banana, but it is only a millimeter or so thick, at best.

The plants are quite dwarf, only about a meter or so high. In difference to the edible banana, the bunch stands up vertically and erect, and the male flower, the 'bell', is therefore at the top of the bunch, rather than at the bottom. I suppose you could say the bunch is 'upside down'.

10th may

2014 - sunny, mild, a little cloud from time to time. Last nights low was 10oC. The rain and warmth has put a rocket engine under the new bamboo spears. The speed with which they grow surprises me.

pecan nuts eaten by
            varmintspecan cultivar Terry2014 - the first few nuts are ripe. The nuts are encased in a green outer fruit that splits open when the nuts are mature. But when I checked them today, I found some varmint had been biting the end off the fruit, exposing the nut meat to its greedy attention. This happened last year as well. We blame the Kakas, but, in fairness, the marks on the fruit might well be possum. The end result is that we try to pick some nuts from the tree just as soon as pressure on the point caused the fruit to split open. If it is willing to split, the nut inside is ripe enough to collect. The nuts usually have the normal grey-brown color of a ripe pecan, but often one end is still pale cream. Sometimes the entire nut is still cream. Interestingly, the shelled nuts in the basket usually 'color up' overnight.

This year the nuts are pickable earlier than many past years. Most of the Giles will 'pop when pressed', many of the Gratex, and some of the Grabohls and Terry. As usual, Grabohls has by far the largest crop, followed by Gratex, Giles and Terry. Terry (photo right)  is a local seedling selection, and it is shaping up to be a good bearer, but while the fruits are very large, the nuts inside are rather small. Pity about that.

A 'Southern pecan' variety whose name has been lost (called RH9 by Paul Dodgshun) had a few nuts for the first time this year. The tree has almost finished dropping its leaves, and while a few of the nuts were ripe, most still tightly adhered to the wall of the enclosing fruit husk. I suspect this variety will not mature its nuts quickly enough to fully ripen under our conditions.

2014 - one of the self-sown seedling macadamias is dropping a useful number of nuts, making it quite an early variety.

2014 - One of the young Maluma trees is starting a little off-season flower. The Carmen Hass has apparently 'set' some pin-head sized fruit. I expect most to fall off. I spotted an early-set fruit on the tree, and it is about pea size. Looks promising. Some new season fruit were blown off a Hass tree a few weeks ago. A whanau member collected them, which seemed like a wasted effort to me. I didn't expect them to ripen - they are far too small, and months off any semblance of maturity. But ripen they did. They were pretty tasteless, but didn't have any 'soapiness' or sweetness so typical of grossly immature avocado fruit. The flesh was a little firmer than normal, but soft enough. They made an uninspiring but perfectly edible guacamole.

14th May
2012 - Heavy rain 3 or 4 days ago, but still warm in-between. It has been cool at night, but fairly mild some nights. The grass is growing like stink, continuing the outstanding season for northern farmers.
2013 - The last few days have been sunny and clear, but with a cool southerly breeze. Nights have been cold. The overnight low for the week gone was 7oC. The high was only 21oC. Today, the morning was warm and sunny, without a cloud in the sky. It was still and calm. Mist completely filled the lower half of the river valley. Above the mist, the sun shone brilliantly. As the day heated, the mist rose and thinned, obscuring the sun and turning the afternoon hazy, but it was still warm. It was 16oC at 5 pm.

2012 - Several more Hellen and Reed fruit have fallen over the last few days. There are still 5 fruit remaining in the Hellen, and 2 on the Reed. The 'old' Hass tree here still has a useful number of last seasons fruit on it. Many of the new seasons fruit are about the same size as the mature fruit. It can be a bit hard to tell them apart, but the new season fruit are totally green, and somewhat shiny, whereas the mature fruit usually have a slight purplish blush, and the skin is dull.

15th May
2013 - Warm, mostly sunny. At 2 pm it was 20oC. The maximum for the day was 21oc. The overnight minimum was 10oC.

feijoa fruit damaged by possums2013 - Fruiting is almost at end. Only a few late seedlings (a few are worth eating, but most aren't) are still going. Possums have hammered the feijoas for the last week. The feijoa-gatherer reports that well over half the daily pick-up are damaged. Some are eaten on the trees, some are eaten on the ground. Initially I thought kaka from the adjacent patch of native forest were responsible. The pattern of a lower crescent-shaped bill mark and an upper narrow 'bite' reflects the shape of the kaka beak. But on examining the mouth of one of the two possums (technically 3 - one was a female with a joey in her pouch) I caught last night in a Timms kill-trap, it is clear that the circle of small upper teeth will make the crescent, and the long projecting rat-like lower front incisors would make the narrow 'bite'. Today's fallen fruit are undamaged - so the kakas are off the hook.


2013 - The fuyu fruit are about as ripe as they are going to get. There were 5 tuis in the tree the other day, feeding on damaged fruit. Today there were several tuis, a mynah, and a small group of waxeyes.

Red species guavas
There are very few fruit left. In fact, a family member who is very fond of these acid fruit complained there were only 3 fruit on the ground under the trees. The reason is clear - up to 5 native pigeons have been feasting on the fruit every day. Normally they do minimal damage because most of the fruit of this species are too big for them to swallow. But this year the fruit are relatively small, probably due to the drought.

16th May

2012 - A southerly came through yesterday, and we had cold winds and driving cold rain. The plums are bare of leaves, and the peach trees are well on the way, and their yellow leaves litter the grass. The kiwifruit are just starting to shows signs of turning colour, and lose a few leaves. Most of the figs are bare, or their foliage is yellow and falling. Only the Asian Pear is still in green leaf. Yesterday, it felt like winter was almost here. Today, the wind has turned to the west, and between showers it is warm and sunny. Suddenly, the prospect of winters cold is gone again...
2013  - sunny for most of the day, cloudy in the afternoon, but still warm. Not much wind. The air chills quickly as night comes on.

2012 - Late feijoas continue to fall, as do apples.

Red species guavas
2012 - Falling in good numbers

2012 - Tamarillos are nearly fully ripe, they will not be far off.
2013 - the red tamarillos have been falling for about a week now. There are the usual splits, rots, and immature fruit, but the two trees produce more fruit than we want. Not because they fruit heavily - they don't. They are straggly trees, full of powdery mildew, and not very productive, but we eat very few of these fruit, so that works for us. I find the big reds a bit acid and very much lacking in sweetness. We have planted a couple of seedlings grown from a very nice genuinely sweet small orange tamarillo we have had for many years. The parent plant died last year, so I hope the seedlings produce similar quality fruit.

2012 - Early mandarin varieties are ready now (in the shops!).

2012 - The figs are fully sized, but are reluctant to ripen. When they do, they lack flavor and sweetness.

18th May
2014 - nights have been cool for days now, but the lowest has still been no less than 8.5oC. Days are cool to mild, overcast or sometimes sunny, the odd shower or burst of rain. The high over the last week or so was 21oC.

2014 - in heavy flower bud, fruiting. The fruit are green when unripe, and a duller green when ripe. The fruit on the tree can go from hard as a rock to slightly yielding to fallen on the ground in a very short time. Fruit picked from the tree too early simply wrinkle, but remain firm and never soften to the stage of edibility. A few varieties go light yellow when they are ripe. Fernie is one such variety. Even then, if they are picked yellow but very firm, they don't ripen properly.

2014 - our odd 'out of season flower' still produces a panicle of flower from time to time. The tree also has quite a lot of fat flower bud - as does Pinkerton. But Pinkerton (along with Fuerte) is the earliest to start flowering, so you would expect that.

Kempton seedling2014 - our Kempton seedling is proving to be a late apple. A fruit I picked today has better 'ground color' than the fruit I picked earlier in the month, and the red has developed more. It is still pretty much an acid and sufficiently sweet apple.

20th May

2012 - Its a beautiful warm day today - at least, out of the wind. In fact a cicada again sounded briefly in the middle of the day. The last few days have had their sunny moments, but the wind has been from the southwest, there has been frequent rain and showers, and its been pretty windy and cool.

2012 - The Fuyu persimmon has suddenly started to substantially change color and increase the rate of leaf drop. We still managed to harvest a whole supermarket bag of undamaged fruit. We left the yellow and faint orange ones on the tree, because they tend to retain some astringency, even when they soften. We find that even orange fruit have residual astringency unless one or more seeds are present. This makes eating them a bit of a gamble.

'Fuyu' is a 'pollination constant non astringent' type in areas where the climate suits it. This means that the tannins in the flesh effectively 'disappear' as the fruit matures and turns orange on the tree. The fruit are usually seedless. Seeds in persimmon fruit speed up the natural reduction in tannins. In the case of Fuyu, the fruit should be non-astringent when they are orange, whether there are seeds present or not. But our climate is not quite warm enough for them (at least, where we are, anyway), and so the fruit look mature, but retain some residual astringency. That's where pollination saves the day for us - if the flower has been pollinated, seeds will form, and the seeds will have precipitated the 'removal' of the unpleasant tannins.

Yellow kiwifruit
          cultivar SallyKiwifruit
2012  - The waxeyes have just started to get into the yellow kiwifruit, so I guess they must be mature enough to pick. We have a seedling I grew from the commercial yellow kiwifruit cultivar Hort16A. It is much smaller, and while it is nice, it isn't as flavorsome as Hort16A. The flesh isn't as 'smooth' in mouth feel as Hort16A, it tends to a slight 'pastiness', which becomes more pronounced as the fruit age.

We named the fruit 'Sally' after a friend of one of the whanau - the first non-whanau member to taste it.

'Gold' kiwifruit are Actinidia chinensis, a different species to the green (A. deliciosa). I grafted a piece of Sally onto a green kiwifruit variety called 'Skelton', and this branch has fruited very heavily. Whether this is the influence of the 'Skelton' plant (a very vigorous kiwifruit), or because it is grafted near ground level and gets better winter chill and thus flower bud formation, I don't know.

Skelton green
          kiwifruit varietyThe 'Skelton' kiwifruit was bred by Don Skelton quite some years ago. It was tried as a commercial variety, and exported for a few years, but the then Kiwifruit powers that be decided it would be 'too confusing' for the consumer to have a large long kiwifruit on the market as well as the more oval 'Hayward' variety.

The plant is 'polyploid', which means it has extra chromosomes, resulting in larger leaves and a lot more vigor than Hayward.

Skelton flowers and matures a month or so earlier than the main Hayward variety (it needs its own early flowering male plant, a variety selected by Don which he called 'Merv',). I can pick Skelton in mid - late march and ripen it with an apple; when it is moderately sweet and quite good. However the best flavor and sweetness is from fruit picked in may. This is still at least a couple of weeks before Hayward is pickable. I am talking here about fully vine-matured fruit - Hayward could be picked earlier - and is commercially - but the full flavor and sweetness wouldn't be there. They would taste 'good - but not 'best'.

22nd May

2012 - It is a beautiful warm and sunny late autumn day, almost still.


2012 - Rats are eating the macadamias. I must have left it a little too long to replenish the poison bait. However, they prefer one particular variety - whose name I have long forgotten - so they other adjacent trees are untouched. That gives me time to 'feed them up' on poison bait - after all its a lot easier to sit in a bait station and eat bait than spend time chewing through a macadamias hard shell.

Waxeyes are gorging themselves on the unpicked late figs. These figs are fully sized, but are dry and lack much sweetness. And while they are eating the easy-to-access-figs they are leaving the kiwifruit alone. Everyone wins.

wool carder bee wool carder bee in flight
The wool carder bee I saw in early april (if it is the same one) seems to have taken up residence in a dentata lavender border. I like this colorful little animal, its territorial behaviour and busyness (interspersed with periods of languid sunbathing) adds interest to the garden.

black sapote
Black sapote fruit2015 - A larger than normal black sapote fruit we picked a week ago ripened up. We thought maybe it was larger because it might have been pollinated, and have seeds in it. But this was not the case, There were a few aborted seeds, but nothing else. This particular fruit lived up to the better side of its reputation - tastes like chocolate mousse, sweet and pleasant. It really caught our attention. There is a small sheep-munged black sapote a few metres away from this tree, so I am determined to rescue it and hopefully grow it to flowering stage so it can cross pollinate the main tree. Then we will see if fruit  with seed are much bigger than these little seedless fruit.

25th May

2014 - The overnight low was 12oC. Today's high was 20oC. The last week or so has brought some good rain, and cool southerlies interspersed with sunshine.The weather is now from the west, so its is warm and humid, mixed sunny and cloudy. Last night we had heavy rain and wind. The last week or so have brought 50mm of rain. The grass is growing well again, and worm casts are everywhere. Fungi are everywhere. The forecast is a sudden change to the south tonight, and low overnight temperatures.

2014 - most of the trees are still green, with some just starting to show a color change. The remaining nuts on the Grahbols - and there were quite a lot - have been totally cleaned out by some varmints. The only possible culprits are possums or kakas. It may well be an attack on two fronts. The ground is littered with pecan shell shards.

2014 - The little Carmen Hass trees continue to flower and set initial pin head size fruitlets. A few small-pea sized fruitlets look promising. There is a lot more flower to come.

2014 - our seedling tree is now maturing and dropping its fruit. There are 12 fruit splattered on the ground under the tree. I picked another 7. Some go distinctly pale yellow when ripe, others have a light yellow blush, and others remain green even when very soft and near over-ripe.

2014- one of the whanau spotted a small bunch of bananas I had missed. About half the fruit had already been eaten, many have split after the rain, and rat droppings on top of one hand tells me that I need to lay poison yet again.

2014 - our 'june' feijoa continues to drop fruit, as do several seedlings. The possums continue to give them a solid working-over. So far we have only caught one in the Timms traps.

2014 - the  leaves on most vines are still green. There are zillions of fruit. I may have to find a food bank to give them to.

26th May
2014 - a mix of sun and overcast weather. A cold snap has been sweeping the South Island, and the cold air has moved to Central North Island, dumping snow on the volcanic plateau and bring cold wind to Helensville. The temperature only reached 16oC today, although the previous night was warm at 12oC.

Hass loco winter fruit2014 - we picked a couple of autumn-set 'loco' Hass fruit about 8 days ago, and these have now turned dull dark green with a light overlay of purple-black. One had a little 'give', so we decided to try it. It was little firm when I cut it (photo left), but the eating quality was very good. It was somewhat 'dry' in texture, oil, very good flavor, and peeled like a dream. The seed was enormous. Still, it should probably have been left another few days to soften the flesh more.

Later, I cut down a dozen or so tall avocado seedlings I had planted tightly packed in several rows by the veggie garden. They were shading the veggie garden, and although at least half have flowered for 3 or 4 years now, none have set fruit. After cutting down the first seedling, I found 2 new season fruit amongst the foliage. In spite of staring at length into the foliage of the other trees before dropping them, I found a fruit in the foliage of another fallen tree. I spotted several fruit high up amongst the leaves of another tree I was about to cut, so it still stands. So does another tree that always flowers very heavily - one more chance! The only other tree I left was a tree that has quite a lot of autumn flower.

The autumn flower on the seedling by the deck appears to be setting fruit. I hold low expectations of them holding on, but, naturally, I hope they do.

27th May

2014 - It was cold last night. The Antarctic air from the Central Plateau dropped the overnight air temperature to 2oC. Ground temperature was clearly lower, as we had frost on the lower and flatter parts of the property. The mid-day high was a meagre 14oC, although it was sunny and cloudless. The air was cold out of the sun.

2015 - I wondered where the native fruit pigeons had gone this autumn, because I hadn't seen more than the odd one of recent days. However, today my attention was caught by the appearance of a squadron of 5 kaka flying up from the patch of native forest, screeching and scrapping with each other in flight as they went. A group of 4 large birds flying due north of them caught my eye, and it turns out they were the missing pigeons.

Its the guava fruiting season, and the guava trees are laden with fruit; which is a bit odd, because the trees would normally be infested with two to four pigeons every day gorging until there is no more fruit left. Why they spurn the copious ripe offering, I don't know.

2014 - The flowering Pinkerton and the Carmen Hass were both in full-on female phase early this morning. Pinkerton needs a male-phase pollinizer when it is in female mode, but Carmen clearly won't work. It is so cold early on that no insects are about anyway. Even bumblebees take some time sun bathing before they can fly.

28th May
2012 - Its been foggy and cold, then heavily overcast, grey and brooding, then rainy and mild. The pace of leaf fall is accelerating, and even the Fuyu persimmon is on the way to being bare.
2013 - An icy southerly blast covers the country. It is very cold - the overnight minimum fell to just 4oC. It feels like winter.
2014 - The overnight low was 2oC again, and the  ground frost was a little more extensive. The day never really warmed up, only reaching 16oC. Apparently this was the coldest may night in the Auckland region in 40 years.
2015 - It was cold last night, at 5oC air temperature - probably as cold as it has been up to this date - but while a real winter morning, there is no ground frost. The day dawns still and sunny. The temperature tops out at 18oC. It has been a warm May - the first half in particular. Grass growth has been luxuriant, and the weather very 'growthy'. The last few weeks have been rainy, drizzly, and overcast, interspersed with sunny patches, but the weather has been from the north west or west, so it has been very mild. The last week has seen first, torrential thunderous 'tropical' rain, then a swing to the southerly quarter.  A cold snap in the South Island has extended its way to the north, bringing icy winds a sudden break-out of the winter woolies.

2012 - There has been a sudden surge in possums - we caught 3 in the last few days, two of which were females (and one had a joey, so technically we caught four). But one of them took a big chunks out of almost all the few remaining fruit on the Hellen avocado tree - including out of a very immature new season fruit. Very annoying.
2015 - In spite of our efforts, the possum population seems to have ramped up. Sometimes it feels like we are the only ones attempting to control them, but I know that is not true, as at least one neighbour goes after them. Rats are starting to appear from time to time, but since baiting regularly their autumn population boom has been effectively nipped in the bud.

2015 - The quail are back in evidence, and have 'mobbed up' into a group of 10 magnificent fully grown birds. Mounds of brushy cover is constantly increasing as I drop  some trees and severely prune others. The rate of increase in piles of branches far exceeds the rate of dealing with them!

Kaka Nestor meridionalis in Pohutakawa treeA kaka was feeding in a pohutakawa tree I planted many years ago at the edge of the native forest. Neither I nor my off-sider could decide whether it was hunting out little insects in the bark and lichen, or feeding on the lichen itself (my favored explanation). The sun was behind it, and the tree in shade, so it was hard to pick out what it was up to even although it was only about 5 or 6 meters away. In any case, it was using its tongue constantly, and favoring dead branches of around 30mm + diameter.

These birds seem to feed silently, and you can be right under the tree where they are feeding and never even notice them until they move. Their colors blend in very well with the shadows and bark of the trees.


2012 - Red guava, both the Cattley guava and another much larger species (one of the then 'Department of Scientific and Industrial Research' introductions from South America at the time of the 'hort' boom' of the 1980's) are fruiting heavily. The wet summer and autumn has meant some of the species guavas have grown really big. This particular guava is has very little sweetness, and is quite acid. Oddly, at least one member of the whanua prefers the acid guava over the sweet and mild Cattley guava.

Red Guava species
          ex DSIR  Red guava sp
          litter the ground
These acid Psidium sp. have been very large this year, due to the rain over summer. Fallen fruit rot on the ground.

2015 - The Reed fruit are still falling. Possums 'taste' unripe fruit, damaging it, or pull and partly eat several fruit off at a time. Two Timms traps have proved unsuccessful, but poison bait has finally done it in, as the damage has stopped. For the moment. Waxeyes capitalize on the 'opened' fruit, and they can completely eat out a half eaten avocado in the course of a day. They find them so attractive that it is possible to get closer than a meter from some feeding birds. They feed with one eye constantly fixed on you, which is a little unnerving. The few new season fruit are sizing rapidly, and it won't be long before they will be a similar size to the current season crop. Only their shiny skin will give them away.

Carmen Hass continues to produce flowers and new racemes. The few 'loco' fruit are really big now - nearly Reed size. They should be ripe about June.

2015 - We have had several small bunches of bananas over the last month. The fruit is OK, but not spectacular.

2015 - Some of the lucuma trees are flowering heavily, the spent flowers litter the ground below the trees. The flowers have a spicy smell, strengthening as night falls.

2015 - The figs are now officially over. The leaves have mostly fallen.

2015 - a few scrappy end of season feijoas continue to fall. They have thick, hard shells. Even the feijoaologists can't be bothered picking them up. The feijoaologist claims the end of season fruit seem to have more guava moth in them. The main crop didn't have guava moth worth mentioning, but the mystery of the areas of flesh browning continues unresolved for another year.

2015 - the Actinidia chinensis plants are yet to turn color, although the leaves are starting to look scrappy. Hayward and Skelton, both A. deliciosa, are resolutely dark green. The Actinidia arguta, in contrast, is fully autumn yellow and dropping leaves rapidly.

30th may
2014 - cold overnight, low of 5oC, and the day only reached about 15oC. The weather is from the southerly quarter.

31st may

2013 - totally overcast, no rain (at last), mild.
2016 - the last week or so has been mild, but with lots of rain, torrential at times. It has been astonishingly mild all may. Apparently this has been the warmest May on record.

possum under an avocado may 2032013 - we caught another 2 possums last night. Possums give birth in autumn and spring, apparently, but whether this has anything to do with the sharp uptick in numbers, I don't know.


2013 - this is definitely the peak of casimiroa ripening. The fruit are becoming fully ripe on the trees, pull loose from their stalk, and fall splat on the ground. The waxeyes are feasting on them.

2013 - We had netted Horei, a very nice late apple. It holds on the tree until june. Sadly, there was a tear in the net we hadn't noticed and the waxeyes have hollowed them out. Sigh...

2013 - almost over.
2016 - all but over.

2013 - we are still picking Hass fruit stored on the tree. They don't seem to become fully black in color, and the skin is thicker, so once picked, some are ripe but still feel hard and unripe to the touch. As a result, we have left some fruit we picked for too long, and lost them to internal rots. The fruit continue to fall off the tree, neatly detaching where the stem enters the fruit. Birds continue to get up earlier than we do and capitalise on the breach in the fruits defences.
2016 - the Hass fruit are finally all gone, and so have most of the Reeds. There are still useful numbers left on the Reed trees, and the small tree, in particular, is holding the remnants well.

2013 - the last little fruit on the bush has split. Birds have helped them selves. The frit are a soft red-carmine, and streaked with browny-gold russeting. I think they are really attractive. They seem to have a rich antiquity about them. The leaves on the tree are now pale yellow and some have started to fall.

2013 - continue to fall. Quite a number have split, presumably due to the rain after the drought.

Hort16A granddaughter2013 - the birds haven't yet attacked the fruit, so they can be left stored on the vine a bit longer. Another seedling in a row of Sally seedlings I grew has fruited for the first time. The few seedlings that have fruited so far have all had very small fruit with little or no sweetness and flavor. So I didn't expect much from this new one. But the birds thought it was pretty good, and did a thorough job of cleaning every last fruit out. I'll have to wait until next year to try it.

2016 - we have boat loads of kiwifruit. We don't bother picking the small yellow Sally fruit, or the green Skelton fruit. That probably tells the story in itself. The green Hayward fruit are full size, and the vines are still in pretty good leaf, where the leaves on the yellow seedlings are very tatty and falling. The Hayward are very definitely worth waiting for. The only better fruit, in my view, is Hort16A - now decimated by Psa disease.