Up and running again…..

My laptop blew up a few weeks ago and in true Fig Family style it took us ages to get round to replacing it. However, it’s been well worth the wait as we decided to plump for an Apple Mac. It’s all shiny and sleek and light as air. Rather flash in other words and I’m a little bit intimidated by it! However, turns out its full of fab features including iMovie. So, now I’m up and running again I thought I’d try my hand at compiling a little snippet of a movie featuring some of the jobs that I’ve been getting on with this Autumn. It’s not perfect and is quite possibly a bit cheesy and I’ve learnt a lot (video in landscape in particular). It was a lot of fun though and my eldest figlet really enjoyed laughing at me and telling me that I walk like a zombie and to put more energy into it!

So just a short post today but I’ve got lots to write about (especially collecting seeds) and quite possibly video too. So watch this space!

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It’s raining, it’s pouring…..

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Wild and free Sunflower Vanilla Ice

But I’m certainly not snoring! I’m celebrating because it’s been a very dry summer and we need some water on our thirsty gardens. I can almost hear the slurp, slurp as the green and plant like amongst us suck up the moisture. Autumn is probably my favourite time of year (although I know I say that about Spring when she comes flouncing along in all her finery) because I like the Back To School feeling (I grew up in England remember where the school year starts in September) which was a promise of Fresh Starts. Now, in New Zealand it still heralds a start of sorts for me because it’s a time to reflect on the last growing season, learn from it and start planning for the new season. However, before the planning I still have a small matter of 500 fig trees to harvest!

 

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Black Genoa Figs ripening nicely in the sunshine

It’s full swing in the Figgery at the moment. My two ancient Brown Turkey trees are dripping with fruit although they are a whole month late this year due to the cold Spring. I’m finding that the majority of the fruit are classed as seconds or processing grade which means they’ll end up in Te Mata Fig’s chutneys, salamis and pastes. Normally when I begin picking the majority of the fruit will be 1st grade. I think it’s a combination of the fact that the figs have spent an extra month hanging around on the tree and they’re also pretty old and have been quite neglected on the pruning front.

 

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Beautiful Black Genoa figs

The main Fig Orchard is just two years old. I thought we may get a few figs this year but every variety is showing some fig action particularly the Black Genoa which is very exciting! It’s an easy fig to spot because when it’s ripe it’s purple coat glistens. The Black Genoa is a purple skinned, pear shaped fruit that contains a luscious red flesh that is very sweet. Great eaten straight from the tree or for use in jams. Or for a real treat try this Fig Muffin recipe.

200g self raising flour
Pinch of salt
2tsp cinnamon
125g caster sugar
100g brown sugar
1 orange or 2 satsumas
200g fresh Black Genoa figs (or other variety), chopped
250ml Greek Yoghurt
50g softened butter
1 egg, lightly beaten

Add all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Grate the zest of the orange (or satsumas) into another bowl with the yoghurt, butter and egg and beat together gently. Add to dry ingredients and fold together gently. Peel and chop orange (or satsumas) and add to mixture with the figs. You want small pieces of fruit so take your time. You should have a lumpy old mixture to spoon into muffin cases. Bake at 180c for 30-35 mins.

Delish! If only I had a photo to show you but sadly we scoffed the lot….. It’s quite hard to find baking recipes that call for fresh figs (lots using dried figs) so if you know of any please do let me know.

 

The Fig Diaries

It’s been a busy time in the paddock recently. I last wrote about the Figs in May 2013 when they were nearly a year old and now, another year on, they’ve started on the next phase of their growing journey. If you remember we made a make shift nursery for them under some trees. We had a few trials and tribulations to deal with. I had to finish off the last 100 figs in the car port because it was raining so heavily. That week saw me peering out the windows watching the giant puddle/small pond creep nearer and nearer to the little figs and then hot foot it over to them to drag them back from a watery disaster. The frost was also a trying time and a bit comical too. We draped some frost cloth over the branches of the trees which hung in swags and drapes like ghosts rather than a nice flat protective cover. We’re new to all this you understand! However, despite the low strike rate we ended up with 500 figs, 6 varieties (Koanga Black, Brown Turkey, Black Mission, Brunoro Black, Malta, Adriatic) and this is what we did next……

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These were the last few figs left in the nursery…..

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…..before being transported 100m to their new home.

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This is the very clever bit of machinery that planted the figs. Basically we loaded up the platforms with figs then as it moved forward it made a furrow, the figlet was taken out of it’s pot, dropped into the furrow and the two small wheels at the back pushed the soil around the fig. Planted!

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Just like that.

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Here they are a few weeks later surrounded by lots of weeds…. It was fab to see the figgery take shape! We still had another mammoth job to do though. Baby figlets need water – especially during  the Hawke’s Bay summers so we got in some fancy irrigation. Actually, it’s not fancy at all but wow has it made a difference. Before installing it Mr Fig and I were watering by hand with a leaky hose. It took a looooong time and we were getting a bit cross by the end of it I can tell you. There was much dark muttering to be heard in the Fig House.

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When this little machine turned up we were Very Happy and watched as it dug the long straight trenches to hold the water pipes.

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Littlest Fig was instrumental in this part of the operation.

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And very soon, before our very eyes we had a water source for the figs and the paddock.

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We could then start rolling out the black irrigation pipes.

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We had to lay it out in the sun to warm up and become more flexible before attaching the sprinklers.

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These are the sprinklers that I had to assemble (all 250 of them – I had blisters by the end of it!). We put them one between two figs.

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In the weeks following the irrigation we noticed the figlets double in size with lots of new growth and the odd fig here and there.

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See how the fig grows next to a leaf? The leaf supplies the fig with nutrients and water. When you pick a fig always take off the leaf first so you can remove the fig without ripping the stem. That’s a Top Fig Tip and you’re very welcome! It also prevents what I call Fig Picker’s Thumb. This is an ailment brought about by the repeated pushing back of the skin on the tip of the thumb that meets the thumbnail as it eases the fig off the tree and It Hurts!!! Otherwise figs are a pretty friendly fruit and fig picking a relatively peaceful and safe activity! We still have quite a bit more to do before the figgery is complete; ploughing up then grassing the paths inbetween the rows and netting from the birds but I can see it’s shape now and I can imagine what kind of space it’s going to be. Phase two concerns the rest of the paddock which will be ploughed and grassed at the same time as the fig rows. Yep, it’s all taking shape bit by bit…..

In the beginning…..there was a fig tree

I came to figs rather late in life; I was in my late thirties when I first tasted a fresh, sun-riped fig. The figs of my childhood were consumed at Christmastime; soft and sticky from a cardboard box with a camel on it. So exotic and foreign. Now I find myself living in New Zealand with my very own figs trees simply dripping with this most luscious of fruits. I am the proud curator of two Brown Turkeys and one Adriatic and some 600 figlets. I say figlets; I’m not sure if it’s a technical term for a fig under one year old! I have nurtured these little babies from dead looking stick to healthy, sprouting figlet and I’m very proud of that fact!

I never planned to become a fig orchardist but life has a funny way of sending curve balls. I was looking to replace part of our apple orchard closest to our house. A local business featured an article in the local paper looking for people to grow figs co-operatively with them. What I knew about figs then could be written on the back of a postage stamp but I read on… Figs grow anywhere – the poorer the soil the better; I certainly had plenty of soil poor or otherwise….figs only need pruning once a year; I can manage a bit of light pruning…..figs do not need to be sprayed with chemicals; bingo that’s just what I wanted to hear! I was sold and phoned my husband then and there. I must have sounded like I’d been at the gin because his response was a bit stilted to say the least. But then some of my ideas have been a bit “out there” now I look back. Like the time I thought we should invest in some buffaloes and go into the buffalo mozzarella business; “But there’s a market in New Zealand for it! I can’t find it in the shops!” “Will you do the milking every morning?” my husband replied. Good Point Well Made. Anyway, later that night we talked again and decided to go and talk to the Figgery….the rest is history. One year of history to be precise.

Our delivery of fig sticks

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Here are the fig sticks ready to be put into root hormone and some potting compost

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Job done. 1,000 fig sticks underneath the walnut tree.

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And a very exciting moment…the first bud!

First Fig Bud

This is the year when we will plant the figlets in the orchard. Next year (2014) we should get a crop but they won’t be fully productive until 2015. There’s still a long way to go but I’m excited about this journey I really am!