almost there…

Writing this in snowy northern England… snow back home too, and it would be lovely to see the trees on my land covered in white stuff, but that will have to wait. Just heard that the sellers want to close in early January. I won’t quite be ready to join them, but with luck my signature will be added to the mix some time in mid January, and my off grid project will begin for real! I’ve been thinking about what to call the land – well, the cabin really (or earth house or tree house or yurt or whatever it turns out to be once it’s built), and want to have Silver Tree in there somehow. Silver Tree Lodge? If there aren’t already any silvery trees (and I think there are), I’ll plant one.  Festive greetings to all as December draws to a close. How quickly this year has gone!

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avocado plantation

Avocados are one of my favourite foods, so a few months ago I thought I’d have a go at growing them from seed. After a bit of searching online, I found good advice in a post by Baja Boomer. You have to scroll down to find it on the site, so I’m quoting the post here:

“I’ve grown a lot of them over the years, just because they’re fun. Some I gave away, some I kept as (large) potted trees for the patio. Here’s how I do it:

First, I find that generally speaking I have better success if the avocado has not been refrigerated before I harvest its seed.
I insert 3 toothpicks at even intervals about 1/3 of the way from the top of the seed (the fat part is the bottom, where the roots come out). Place it in a glass or jar of room temp water, with the toothpicks supporting it on the sides of the glass, and keep it in a warm place. (note that if you put it in the sun, the seed will try to photosynthesize and start turning green. I always keep it out of the sun until it starts to grow, but don’t know that that really makes any difference.

Sooner or later (depending on the seed), the bottom of the seed will start to split and a root will descend. Sometimes it gets pretty long before additional roots start branching out; that’s OK. Then a shoot will emerge from the top with its 2 little “false” leaves.

I let it keep growing until the glass is pretty full of roots and the shoot is looking strong with several leaves. Then I pot it up in a 6″ clay pot, with the top 1/3 of the seed sticking out of the soil and make sure the soil is watered well. After a few days of letting it get used to being in dirt, I move it to an area that gets morning sun. Too much sun will often burn its leaves at this point; and wind is its enemy. Keep it in a protected spot. Make sure it is well drained, as avocados don’t like wet feet. I water it when the dirt one knuckle down is dry.

Once it is growing strongly and has established a solid root structure (usually close to 2 feet tall), you can put it in a bigger pot or plant it outside. (When I repot, I usually clip the tip of the tap root off to encourage side roots and to keep the tap root from circling round and round the bottom of the pot. You don’t need to do that if you’re planting it in the ground.) I never try to remove the seed until it has shriveled up on its own, which might be a year or more. The plant actually is still using it for food, and if you remove it too soon you can kill the tree.

I haven’t had one die on me yet, so I must be doing something right. 🙂

Thanks Baja Boomer! I just have a couple of comments based on my experience. First of all, it didn’t really matter if the avocado had been refrigerated or not, but what I have found is that if a seed is already split when you cut open the avocado, there is a good chance that you’ll get a seedling from it. As you’ll see from my photos, I ended up using four toothpicks not three – four seemed to provide more stability.

the avocado hatchery

In this photo, you can see my baby plantation. The two seeds that have sprouted had both split already. The seed in the middle – started before the baby on the left –  hadn’t, and I’m still waiting… (Update in February 2011: that middle seed eventually split, and is now pushing out a very healthy-looking root. So hang on in there… These seeds can take three months or more to wake up and start growing.) And don’t worry, I have other champagne flutes, which will be pressed into service when I close on the land (mid January now, we hope!)

avocado seedling checks out its new home

Today I finally got around to potting on the oldest seedling. As per instructions, I waited till it had a few leaves, and a decent root structure. I think the pot I chose for it is about 6″, but it isn’t clay. I’m using what I had to hand, a recycled plastic pot. I also chose to cut off the wooden toothpicks, rather than try to pull them out, and risk breaking apart the seed. It’ll be quite an adjustment for that root system to expand into its new home. Fingers crossed I don’t mess up with the new watering routine; and I should move it as well now from the hatchery, which is a north-facing kitchen window.

small trees standing tall!

And here’s the newly rehoused seedling with a festive companion. Here’s hoping they both make it to a spot on my land!

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one week later…

… and the day job is definitely slowing down. The company I work for had its annual dinner dance, a.k.a. big office holiday party, on Friday. I haven’t been to this in ten years, but a group of colleagues wanted to get a table together this year, so I went along with them. Nice to get dressed up for a change, although note to self: Don’t wear dress with train when you need to walk half a mile from car to venue, unless you want to arrive looking like you’re dragging a forest full of leaves and twigs behind you. And it was also fun to see esteemed colleagues singing along with the band, break-dancing, and busting various other moves on the dance floor. Ah, the office party. (But no, since you ask, the videos don’t appear to be up on YouTube yet…) Also, since my last post, I’ve paid for the land survey – or at least I’ve paid my half of it. We were going to take care of this at closing, but since we now won’t close till January, the surveyor was getting anxious. He has his cash… now when can I have my land??!! Actually it’s a relief that the seller is now happy to close in January (new tax year), because there is still no closing date in sight for my refinancing. I’d be frantic, except that I know I’m not the only one waiting ages for their refinancing to come through. So, to close on a happier, more festive note, here is a picture of my Christmas tree.

only little, but rocking those lights!

I got it yesterday – it’s only little but it has roots, so I’m hoping I can keep it alive until I’m able to plant it out somewhere on the land. The lights are battery powered… Next year I’ll be looking into solar powered tree lights, for sure.

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