Today’s blog is brought to you by the colour brown. Pale brown. As summer wears on the great dry continues here. Paddocks all around the district are brown and some of our plants, even the tough natives, are struggling to cope with severe dryness and our tight water management. This year we have had less than 10mm (0.4in) of rain. (Until two days ago, when the clouds suddenly showed me that they were still capable of producing rain, even if only enough to be a hopeful reminder.) The big dry started earlier than it did last year. I pray it will not continue far into autumn as it did last year. There are some big cracks in the raised beds in the Veggie Garden and in the paths as well. There have been two shrub casualties so far: an akeake (Dodonaea viscosa ‘Purpurea’) and my white kakabeak (Clianthus puniceus ‘Alba’). I brought the kakabeak up from Christchurch. It was planted in one of the driest spots in the garden, under the eaves of the house. Oops! At least I have a bunch of seeds so I can grow some more.
But there are those worse off than we are, those further north. There is a very serious drought in the far north in which some localities are literally running out of water in the rivers. It is a weird scenario in which people in the far south of the South Island have been facing flooding and evacuations from heavy rain, with a further ex-tropical cyclone bearing down, while those in the far north are missing the rain and struggling for water. I’m glad I’m grounded in a hope outside of the confines of this world.
I try to get things done outside on cloudy days or in the small windows of coolness in the morning. After my visit to the great forest I am eager to plant trees and things, but the weather is not conducive to that. So we found ourselves cutting things down, which is a part of forest management I guess. I got The Husband into ‘the forest’ along the east fence with his chainsaw to cut down the branches and the tree marked out by me. Some were too close to the fence and in the way of my chicken wire fencing installation and then there was the Coprosma repens that had just gotten too big and scraggly and multiple-trunked. Now that it is gone we can actually see the elusive tall, narrow camellia that has small, pretty red flowers and the white sasanqua camellia is no longer getting squished. If only I could say it’s no longer getting eaten from behind the neighbours’ side of the fence…
After this hacking and slashing session there were branches strewed the whole way down the side of the house. So I rounded up the troops and we got them sorted into a pile for mulching and a pile for cutting into firewood. I was most impressed with this orderliness at the end of the day.
With the clearing work done I thought I had a pretty smooth run to the finish line of getting the chicken wire installed along the remaining section of paddock fence. Then I ran into the weedmat. There was a layer of black plastic weedmat under a layer of soil and leaves that had to be dug up, at least along the fenceline. As if that wasn’t hard enough to prise out of the roots and soil, the next surprise was worse. There was ANOTHER layer of weedmat underneath it, further down under a layer of soil and pierced by more roots and it was horrible, thick, white plastic stuff. It just about did my head in but I forged ahead and eventually got it all out on the fence side of the trees and completed my fencing. The rest of the weedmat removal can wait until it’s not so hot.
Non-biodegradable weedmat makes me angry and sad. In all this digging and disturbing of soil and leaf litter along about 9m of fenceline, I found a grand total of one worm. Normally when I dig in the soil here the worms are plentiful. The ground was rock hard, I mean harder than all the other dry soil at the moment, and was not receiving any benefits from the nice layer of decomposing leaf litter that was sitting on top of the two layers of weedmat. However, there were weeds growing in this leaf litter layer, above the weedmat. Goodbye weedmat. We’ve started mulching the branch pile and I thought it fitting to put the first lot of mulch onto the ground where the weedmat was pulled out. The mulch is quite green, having lots of leaves and berries in it, so it will decompose more quickly and nourish the poor soil. That’s the way it should be. We took away from the forest and then we gave back.
While we’re on the topic of cutting things down, I forgot to write about the removal of the grapefruit tree late last year. I decided to get The Husband to cut it down because 1) we weren’t using the fruit, 2) it was casting too much shade on the Veggie Garden, 3) it was crowding the peach tree and 4) I would have to keep pruning it a lot to keep it to a small size, which it was not inclined to cooperate with. I am pleased with the decision and the increase of light to the Veggie Garden in that spot.
I had a few carrots that went to seed last year and they’ve been drying out in the garden for months. After a bunch of them had turned brown I picked them and The Little Fulla helped me pull the seeds off the seedheads. Let’s just say if there’s an apocalyptic event tomorrow, it’s ok, because we have enough carrot seeds to get us through. I scattered and left to lie the remaining seeds and seedheads, which was more than what we took off and saved, on the Veggie Garden and I’ve watered those areas a bit in hopes that some will get enough moisture to grow. We are expecting rain tomorrow. We are EXPECTING RAIN. Yes! If we get some good rain, you’ll find me in the Veggie Garden, sowing seeds.