Archive for January, 2007


Saturday, January 13th, 2007

Happy New Year! We are happy to say that 2007 is off to a good start here on the Farmlet. We have just been enjoying a much-needed spell of warm summer rain. The garden is producing more beans and zucchinis than we can eat, and the animals all look plump and happy.

Still, there is one piece of bad news on the garden front: Many of our tomatoes have succumbed to a bad case of blight over the Christmas period. I’d noticed the beginnings of it before Christmas, and decided we should probably apply a copper spray. Well, Christmas came and went with no action taken, and the result is rather a sad sight to behold.

Tomato plants covered with blight

Northland’s very humid climate is far from ideal for growing tomatoes, even at the best of times. We should have stayed on high blight alert and acted quickly to take care of our tomatoes — especially knowing that we have copper deficient soil conditions! (The previous owner of our property discovered this when she had the soil tested.) Plants grown on copper deficient soils are known to be more vulnerable to blight.

We have pulled out and disposed of the tomato plants that were too diseased to save. The rest have had infected leaves removed, and will be sprayed with bordeaux mix to slow further spread of the blight. Bordeaux mix is copper suphate and hydrated lime mixed with water. It is an “organically approved” treatment, but needs to be used with caution. Copper can build up to toxic levels in the soil if the preparation is over-used. Since our soil is copper deficient in any case, this will not be an immediate problem. I believe that applying dolomite at the same time helps to mitigate any ill effects of the copper.

The blue-green copper residue from the bordeaux mix can be seen on the plants that survived the outbreak

We hope that in due course our soil will be healthy enough that we will not have to resort to using bordeaux mix to stem the spread of blight. Also, foliar applications of compost tea throughout the growing season are supposed to help prevent the problem arising in the first place. We’d like to give this a go. Good garden hygiene, and careful removal of infected leaves can also help avoid the problem, but it obviously wasn’t enough this year.

The tomato news is not all bad! We succession-planted our tomatoes, and made sure to put them in a couple of different areas. One bed that was planted later is still a lot cleaner than the rest, and looks likely to survive with the right care. We have also just planted out another late set of tomato seedlings. We are hoping to do better with these ones!

The Best Christmas Present… Ever

Monday, January 8th, 2007

Christmas Day presented us with a bit of a challenge. We wanted to spend the day with our family out at the coast. Our young goats, however, have recently learned how to escape from their paddock. They don’t go far. They just want to find us. While the goats are content to stay in their paddock, most of the time, we didn’t want to risk having them get out while we were away.

Rather than tethering them, or locking them up in their shed, we decided to take them out to the coast with us. The goats are growing fast, and I thought that we should secure them in the back of the ute. Becky wouldn’t hear of it! “They’ll be traumatized,” she informed me. So, the goats got to ride up front, mostly on Becky’s lap.

Out at the coast, Bonnie, the family’s fifteen year old Weimaraner came out to greet us.

Faithful Bonster, at the ready

None of us really knew how Bonnie would behave in the presence of the goats. At fifteen, Bonnie is VERY old. She has also suffered some recent health setbacks. With her hunting days long past, we assumed the old girl would check out the goats and quickly lose interest in them.

When we first took the goats out of the ute, we kept a close eye on Bonnie, thinking that maybe she would have a sniff at them and pretty much leave it at that. Indeed, that’s what happened. But, she seemed to want to keep sniffing at them…

I put Bonnie on a leash, just in case.

Bonnie greets Becky and the goatlings

As we all walked to a place where we could tether the goats, Bonnie was pulling hard at the leash, with her head low. This was starting to feel less and less like a friendly interest in the goats… Once Becky got the goats tethered near some tasty shrubs that needed pruning, I thought I’d give Bonster one more chance and let her get near the goats.

Bonnie looked around at us. She was quivering, and whimpering slightly.

She must have thought that these tasty, little goats were the best Christmas gifts that a faithful, old Weimaraner could ever get; rewards from the family for being such a splendid beast and accomplished hunter. She took one more sniff at Daphne, opened her jowels and aimed high for Daphne’s hind, right roast!

Luckily, I never fully relaxed the tension on the leash. Her bared fangs missed the young, succulent goat leg by about six inches.

“Well,” I chuckled, “I think we have our answer to that question.”

I’d had a couple of Black Labs when I was a kid, so I had a pretty good idea about hunting dog instincts. Even though Bonnie was very old, her breeding and instincts were intact. Becky’s dad, Bruce, led Bonster away.

We tied her up, well away from the goats. She was very disappointed. She had this look that seemed to be saying, “Why don’t I get to hunt down those goats? They would be very tasty! Let’s go find those goats. Hmm? Hmm? Come on. Let’s go find them!” Her tail/stump was flicking back and forth wildly.

Of course, none of us could be mad at Bonster for doing what hundreds of years of breeding had hard wired her to do. I knelt down near her and gave her copious pets and praise for being such a good dog.

We’re Still Here

Saturday, January 6th, 2007

Hi Guys,

Bex and I apologize for the lack of posts lately. We’ve been very busy. We’ll be back with some new posts soon.