The Missing Link

My arm is really sore now. Or should I say, feeling the pain in the muscles. Somehow hammered in 36 stakes in an hour while making sure they are perfectly leveled. That will hold the sides of the inner pathway of the Mandala Garden.


I didn’t take any photos this week due to the wet weather. So, I’ll just pull out an old photo of this Squash Burgess Buttercup. It’s tiny, its smaller than my Asian fist. I ate it yesterday. All of it, including the skin. I saved the seeds too, they were well pollinated, seeds were nice and plump. This buttercup squash is amazingly delicious.

There’s still a few pumpkins on the front porch, aging beautifully through the Winter.

The missing link between our heritage fruit trees and our future is evolution. We are doing good work in preserving our heritage fruit tree varieties. But what next? Some of these varieties are more than 200 years old.

What if we bring these varieties together, get them back to high health, let them cross pollinate naturally, save the seeds of the fruit, and grow new plants out of those seeds? Environment determines genetic expression. Lets see what these seeds express.

That’s one of my plans, discover landrace varieties that arises out of ancient genetics collection. Hopefully something that will nourish the modern soul.

The rest of my plant orders are arriving next week. So next weekend will be full on planting. I’ve already written out all the tags to be tied onto the fruit trees.

Om Mani Padme Hum

Did I say I need to get hold of some pea straw last week? Well, being the very efficient me. They were delivered and stacked off nicely right next to the garage the very next day. I got them cheap too, that’s a bonus. And probably plenty of free pea plants popping out in Spring.


All the bales lined up nicely shaping the outer edge of the Mandala Garden. Tempted to throw a rug over it and have a nap in the Winter sun.

The pea straw might be turned into a straw bale garden. Not this season though, they need to be conditioned first. I might cover them with a layer of compost to help with the conditioning. Or soil.

A lot of things used to build the Mandala Garden already existed on site. Recycled, repurposed, whatever you call it.

2015-12-09 17.36.17

That 2 big Birch tree that used to line the front of the property. One of them posing a hazard to the power and phone lines. Well, one of my first act upon moving in was to remove all the non food bearing trees and shrubs and anything overgrown. Everything was taken out, except for the roses. I am a hopeless romantic.


Here’s those Birch. More like Birch logs. Used to form the inner circle of the Mandala Garden. And very comfortable to sit on and ponder upon things. White Birch don’t make good firewood. So, there’s pretty much most of the Birch logs I have sitting behind the garage, now finding good purpose in the Mandala Garden.


Here’s a start to edging the inside paths of the Mandala Garden. The old peeler post that used to make up the raised beds for the front of the property and the old vege garden at the back. They too, were stacked up behind the garage waiting for their new calling.

These, cut into 15cm lengths, line up the inside edges of the outer circles. To fix them into the ground, I plan to drill 2 holes on the bottom, cut some bamboo stakes to length and use them as dowel, and pin them into the ground. Then link the tops with nails.


Everything then gets back filled with compost. It will form a bowl with the soil level raising to the top of the straw bales from the lower inner edge.

Right in the center, a little Bay Tree is planted. Shallots around the edges. And planning to grow other alliums in the center for now.

In the traditional Mandala Garden, the area where the outer circles intersect, fruit trees were planted. In my case, I’m probably going to plant something Nitrogen fixing instead. Alder perhaps. I’ll start off with Sulla (Hedysarum coronarium), then with Siberian Pea Shrub (Caragana arborescens). Sulla, I got the seeds from Koanga. as for the Siberian Pea Shrub, well, the Leprechauns are flying the seeds in.

There’s also plans to plant sunflowers around the edges of the straw bales to further define the edges of the Mandala Garden.


We shall see. Until then, Spring is knocking on Winter’s door. 11 more days of Winter. What will Spring bring? More work. It just reminds me that I have yet to build the new seedling nursery, and the materials are still sitting in the garage since Boxing Day shopping.

At least, I’ve got a long trestle table to start seedlings in the sun room.

Dawn to Dusk

There’s no stopping me. I’ll keep going from sunrise to sunset as long as there’s the sun and the soil between my fingers. I only take a break for lunch or for that cup of tea and read a book. That’s how I rest in my weekends.


We had a series of hard frost at the start of the week. Then I noticed the corner where the Worcesterberry is, has become boggy. Water has crept up to the surface. It’s no good. I thought the toby box might be leaking after the contractors have worked on it, so I turned it off. And the surface water is gone.

Its not a good feeling, a busted pipe underground, a busted pipe that I have no idea where it is, underground. So, I dug a trench perpendicular to the way the pipe is suppose to flow. Still can’t find the pipe. So, I turned the water back on, and observe. Noted where the water start seeping through the trench first. And dug a bit more. till I get that L-shape trench.


That’s where the water is coming up through the ground. Now, I just got to turn the water off and let it drain.

Am I thankful for the Rakaia free draining soil?


The water drained off very quickly, and I dug in until I find the pipe. Some old school barb joiner. What are they thinking when they hook it up in 1970? Yes I know the year because I tried to find out the location of the pipe from my LIM report. A barb joiner for a town supply connection? The constant work of the water pressure and the recent hard frost might have cause it to pop out.


Off I go, cycled to RD1 and bought the proper joiner for pennies. The whole process is not as hard as it is, thanks to the free draining soil. Plus my experience back at the Orchard Cottage where the pipe is on the surface, running all the way from the farm bore, exposed to the elements and trampling of the farm animals. I’m usually left soaking wet patching up busted pipes because there’s no way to turn the water off without cutting everyone else out.

The only damage here is the soil. Waterlogged, dug up, churned by my gumboots. They are not happy soil, and they will take some time to recover from that traumatic event. Hopefully none of my plants succumbed to the water-logging.


Back to some plantings. The young Manuka saplings have been planted.


And the Rhubarbs, Cardoons, and Globe Artichokes planted up front as well. Since they are such small plants to start with, all of them have sleeves on. For their own good, and so that I know where they are.


Work is progressing well on the Mandala Garden. I have planted Dwarf Comfreys beside the grapes. And mark out the outer edges of the Mandala Garden.


Why waste good compost? Rake them away from the pathways onto the garden beds.


The pathways have got weedmat on now. Next week, I’ll start on doing the edges. There’s a few way around it and I just need more thinking time. Then, I’ll also need to get some bales of pea straw to put around the edges. Shortcut way of doing the outer edges.


It snowed during my first Winter at the Orchard Cottage. And now it snowed during my first Winter in Rakaia. I didn’t grow up with snow, therefore I always love it when it snow. I grew up with thunderstorms, so it weird me out when the news are counting the number of lightnings.


I had a feeling that this morning will be white when I go to bed last night. The heavy snowfall started last night.

I was out and about yesterday in between the wet spells. I have got a truckload of compost to unload. I filled up the empty pots ready to plant whatever into them. And I planted a pot with 2 figs, Mcleod Homestead and Totara House, both NZ heritage from Koanga Institute. The rest of the compost goes up to the Olive & Guava patch to mulch the plantings.

Something new. I’ve planted 2 each Crab Apple Wrights Scarlet and Quince rootstock along the front fence where I have removed the bamboo fence. These I am going to espalier them as a horizontal step. It don’t step there. I am going to graft multiple different varieties of apples and pears on each of them. If we look at a side branch every 10cm, we’ll be looking at a 100 different varieties of apples and pears.


A few more thoughts on the Mandala Garden. I’m going to use straw bales for the outer edges to ring it all in.

My weather forecast is telling me I am going to have a low of -7dC on Sunday night and Tuesday night. I am not sure if my other bananas apart from Basjoo is going to survive if planted out into the Mandala Garden. I’ll have to look at the mix again and find some hardier subtropical fruit trees. Bit more research. My bet might be on Asimina triloba (hardy to -25dC) and Musa sikkimensis (highest altitude banana species).


The snow is slowly thawing out now. I’ll probably have a window of opportunity to go out and do some design work on the Mandala Garden after lunch.