30 December 2006

Garden Update

"Fruit, Pansy, I must have Fruit!"

This is the first year we are getting significant quantities of fruit off the trees we've planted over the years.

We're doing best with Apples and Plums.

We've learned that Plum varieties that don't turn red are best, since red fruits of all kinds (including Chillis) attract vast hordes of thieving Mousebirds.

The Anna Apples pictured here are our best performer, despite the tree in the picture having been severely damaged by a Baboon last year; he took out the main leader brach and left a very large tear in the bark of the main stem.  We painted it with tree-seal compound, and the tree has recovered quite well, though it remains a bit misshaped.


For the first time I have had enough inventiveness, energy and bed-space for reasonable Cucumbers.  I am trying a variety I sneaked in from elsewhere called "Telegraph Improved", and they're doing really well.I also have Lemon Cukes and Chinese Yellow elsewhere in the garden, though they're lagging quite a bit behind the Telegraph Cukes. I'm hoping to save seed from all three varieties, so they're well separated from one another.

It remains to be seen whether all these Cukes fruit early enough before Fruit-Fly season sets-in. If not, I have managed to acquire some 12% shade-net which I will use to make cages for the plants. Its an experiment to see whether the mesh is small enough to keep Fruit Flies out, and whether the cloth will serve well enough to construct isolation cages when it comes to saving seed from insect-pollinated varieties.


All nine varieties of Tomatoes are doing really well, and the earliest -- a strain of Red Khaki I have been selectively saving seed for about 15 years now -- are starting to change colour.  Hooray!  Real Tomatoes again in a couple of weeks!  I just hope that we do not suffer too much humidity come February, otherwise we shall surely be struck by Blight again, and I really need to save lots of seed from some of the old heirlooms -- Brandywine and Cherokee Purple -- which are, of course, the most blight-prone of the lot.  I am being particularly religious about keeping other plants clear from around the Tomatoes so that the air movement hopefully keeps the humidity down.

In one sense, now is truly the best time of year in the garden.  The first fruits of our Spring labour is starting to come in, but we're not yet inundated with harvesting and processing, and the Hungry Gap is past.  All the plants are growing vigorously and look healthy, no diseases or pests have taken their toll yet.  The only serious pressure is to cull weeds, mulch and the ever-present water worries.

18 December 2006

Restore Your Faith

I don't even remember the context.  A (now defunct) Permaculture mailing list...  I must have lusted after a particular book that I could not then afford (nor can I yet).

One of the list participants struck me with a very great kindness:  out of the blue, a copy of David Holmgren's "Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability".

Thank You, Ian!

Your kindness and generosity restores my frequently-battered faith in us humans.

14 December 2006

Pigs to Fly by 2030

A WorldChanging article caught my eye, about New York City's endeavours to become a "sustainable city" by 2030. My immediate thought was
"Pigs To Fly By Flapping Their Pink Little Ears By 2030".
I think their efforts are admirable, but doomed.  I saw no mention of "Where's the food going to come from?" and "How is the food going to get here in the absence of cheap oil?"

So I'll stick to my piggie little guns: "sustainable city" is an oxymoron. Besides which, NYC, along with Cape Town and lots of other cities may by then already be faced with Seriously Rising Tides.

10 December 2006


Once there was a well known philosopher and scholar who devoted himself to the study of Zen for many years. On the day that he finally attained enlightenment, he took all of his books out into the yard, and burned them all.
I am often asked by people, "What do you do?".  As if the job defines the person, somehow made more mysterious by my living in the countryside, trying to be slightly self-sufficient.

A few weeks ago, on a whim, I answered, "I am a Research Gardener."

The look of confusion and perplexity on peoples' faces is worth it, since mostly they know me as a computer geek.

Last week I was in Cape Town, visiting friends, among them a Master of organic market gardening.  He was describing how he constantly questions the conventional wisdoms of the organic movement.  Applying simple logic, experimentation and observation to achieve astonishing results.  I said to him, "Ah! So you are a Research Gardener, too!"

Perhaps one day soon I shall burn my gardening books.

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