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The suitability of Central Otago for the production of stone fruits has long been recognised, but perhaps not so many people are aware that early apples can be grown in that locality to perfection. Some splendid samples of ripe apples, which were grown in Mr G. M. Marshall's Matangi orchard at Earnscleugh Flat, near Alexandra, were left at this office last night.
Mr Marshall went to some trouble a few years ago to secure some early varieties of apple trees, and these are now in bearing. When it is mentioned that most varieties will not be ripe for nearly another month, Mr Marshall's enterprise will be appreciated, especially as it has proved so satisfactorily the splendid resources of the interior of the province.
• When the whaling steamer Rakiura was docked at Port Chalmers on Wednesday afternoon it was found that shore labour was very scarce. Messrs John Mill and Co. were entrusted with the work of cleaning and painting the hull of the vessel, and they could have found work for about 60 men to scrub the plates as the water was being pumped out of the dock.
It was found that there were only about 15 men available for the work, and, in order to expedite matters, arrangements were made with the captain of the Rakiura to supplement that number with 45 members of the crew, on the understanding that the latter were to be paid the union rate of wages. When this became known to the shore hands the latter knocked off work in protest, and, for some reason best known to themselves, the crew decided not to work over the side of the vessel as desired.
The result was that the work had to be left entirely to the shore gang who are in the habit of doing such work, and they made a start yesterday morning. Owing to the small number of men available the dock pumps were kept working at less than half their capacity in order to accommodate the water level proportionally to the progress made by those engaged in scrubbing the hull below the water line.
Whilst the big dock was being pumped dry yesterday afternoon thousands of young barracouta could be seen swimming about in it. As the water diminished the fish followed the flow of water into the pumping well, and it is estimated that several hundredweight of them were forced out into the harbour by the pumps.
• A well-known observer states that the crops in the Taieri Plain do not look so well as usual this year. There are two or three good fields of oats beyond Otokia, but generally the grain crops are thin, and in some cases not above 2ft high. Early-sown crops do not participate in this sweeping condemnation, but some of the late crops are hardly high enough to reap with the binder. Another noticeable feature is the manner in which the birds are whitening up some of the grain crops long before the heads are filled. Reports have been received stating that the potato blight has already made its appearance, and it is very evident that the officers of the Agricultural Department will have to take immediate action if they wish to be in time to protect all the plots at the various schools.
• An aviation corps will shortly become part and parcel of the Commonwealth military forces, and arrangements are now being made for the building of a military school of aviation in the Federal capital territory. One of the aviator instructors, engaged at a salary of 400 per annum, has arrived in Melbourne, and the other will arrive in about a fortnight. He will bring with him four aeroplanes, which have been purchased at a cost of about 800 each. - ODT, 24.1.1913.