Monday, November 30, 2009

Big Day Out

The Strong Mothers
by Rachel Bush

Where are the mothers who held power and children,
preserved peaches in season, understood about greens and two classes of protein
who drove cars or did not have a licence
who laughed, raged and were there?

They have rested their bicycles inside their garages
let needles lie in the narrow chest between verandah boards.

They have tested the last jam on a saucer by a window
comforted the last crying child they will ever see,
and left. How we miss them and their great strength.
Wait for us, we say, wait for me.
And they will.

Speaking of mothers who raged, I had to go and snuggle the little boys who had had a sound telling off before bed. You can't sit down and write a wholesome blogpost when there is resentment in the air.
Well it was my birthday and Mama sent me a poem in a card. I love this poem. Thanks Mum. One of my presents was this Granny Smith apple tree (it's the stick on the left). Where to plant it? The frost flows down like water and pools at this fence, but in turn it shelters the tree from the wind. The shade from the house, the amount of sun, the heat from the bricks, the downward run of any moisture, so much to consider not to mention can the hose reach? That's one variable that can be easily fixed.
Smith is a traceable theme around here (it being my maiden name). Among other Smith things, a pastel by Bill, 'Family Reunion' . Yep, that's what those apples will look like.

The vege box lost a passenger this week. Asparagus is over for another year so that it can recuperate. Don't be under any illusion that the children eat plates of vegetables, but we had broad bean tops again this week and Louis said, 'This is nice silverbeet'. Still eating the smaller broad beans whole with butter, like asparagus and Jude said 'These are quite nice'. And one more vegetable triumph, they have discovered the fun of wrapping dinner up in lettuce leaves as they eat it. There's that many lettuce coming on I'm keen to plow through them. Day in and day out, apart from the potatoes, the most useful things at the moment, for the least effort are spring onions, parsely, mint, basil and lettuce. So on to the big day out, we took the little red car up to Oamaru and Riverstone Cafe for lunch. Here's Bill in the car park afterwards trying to work out which car is ours. They were both red. It quickly became apparent on the big road trip (about 300kms round trip) that the brakes had finally gone on the car so we travelled in an orderly manner with the occasional judicious use of the hand brake.

As we drove past Moeraki on the coast I thought how nice it would be to paddle in the water. Remembered the sacks in the boot of the car, 'just in case' and look, treasure. Seaweed. Doesn't it pay to be prepared? It's in a well covered drum of water now. Leave for a month and dilute 10:1. Celery and Asparagus particularly like it but I'm sure everything in the garden will be saying, 'choose me'.
I have toyed with idea of a bucket and shovel in the car 'just in case', and a pair of rubber gloves. If you can't guess what they are for let me tell you that roadkill is a marvellous addition to the compost heap...apparently. I'm not sure that I'm ready to go there yet but I won't discount the possibility: 'I get older, ever learning many things.'

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Christmas comes early

'The immediate is often the enemy of the ultimate.'
Indira Ghandi

That quote has nothing to do with new potatoes being early this year, which puts new potatoes as the surprise guest in this week's vege box. They are a month early but they don't know that and I don't care. Delicious.
Runner beans, it would seem, were aptly named and they have bolted away and are sending out tendrils looking for something to climb; however, they are in temporary digs and I can't have them strangling tomatoes. The timing is perfect to dig out new potatoes and
rehome them next door.

The other newcomer to the vegebox this week will only be making one appearance for quite some time. Silverbeet appeared amongst the asparagus and I pulled it out because it was already starting to go to seed. Mystery solved on both counts: can you see from the roots that it has grown from a slice of stem/root that was consigned to the compost bin, and then trucked over unharmed about 6 months later (remember the rule is leave compost for a year) and mulched around the asparagus. Come Spring, and water and away it grows, precariously, it hasn't enough root of its own. Makes a meal and none of the children are grateful.
Should I be surprised?

Good things come in threes and lettuce are on tap. These ones are coming up the rear as the first lot gets eaten. Add them to the box. It's looking up.

Nine years ago when Johnny was born I asked the midwife, Barbara, if she had any advice on parenting. She said she wished she had kept sight of the big picture more when she was dealing with things with her children, to keep them in perspective. She was talking about cherishing 'the ultimate' while coping with 'the immediate'.

Well about this time of year, I just want to clear out the house of everything (everybody else's things) and prepare for the influx of stuff at Christmas. Suddenly I can't find anything, nothing is where it belongs, every surface is cluttered and the driveway is lined with wetsuits, socks galore, balls and boogie boards, miscellaneous clothing, as if they've fallen out of the car and stayed there (probably have). Except that this year it occurs to me that I've spent the years picking up and putting away after the boys (or not) because it's quicker and easier (!) and now I've come a cropper because there is this huge discrepancy between the image I have of them capably running a home (the ultimate) and what I've done in the immediate to teach them or direct them to it. Let's not start on role modelling.

I'll troll through flylady and look in the archives for tips. Beyond that, any suggestions?

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Sunday, November 15, 2009


'She feels they need a dessert. She feels they need it because somewhere, in the
inner recesses where mothers look from time to time to see how they are doing,
something tells her she has been negligent in some way. And dessert is an easy
way of making this up.'
-Norma Jean Harris (Sheila Ballantyne)

Rhubarb Caramel Crust Pie
4 C diced rhubarb,3/4 C flour, 1/2 C rolled oats, 100g butter, 1t baking powder, 3/4 C sugar
3/4 C brown sugar, 1T cornflour, 1/2 C boiling water
You cut the rhurbarb up and put it in the dish. put the dry ingredients into the food processor with the butter in cubes. Chop in the butter. Spread this over the rhubarb. Mix the brown sugar and cornflour together in the food processor and sprinkle this on as a third layer. Finally pur over the boiling water evenly and bake 1/2 hour at about 180.

Yep we've been having a lot of puddings lately, for no particular reason. Rhubarb has a season even though in more temperate climates it may seem to be there all year round. In the Spring when the first shoots come up through to about December is best, and it needs to be kept well watered. Otherwise it gets dry and woody. Like other garden perennials the new growth goes to the outside circle and the inner part becomes old and spent . Every few years it's best to dig out some edge peices to start off new plants. I've made two beds, one each year so that there is always one lot to pick. First year you let it build up strength and don't pick any. This one has thin stems and is reluctant to come out cleanly when you pull it which can cause problems of its own. It's very frost sensitive and disappears all winter; but it is nice and red and stays red when it's cooked so it'll do in the meantime. Rhubarb thrives on grass clipping mulches and anything else. Mostly lots of water.

If there was such a thing as a guest trophy it would have been given out again this week. Jonothon and Morven came to stay enroute back to the U.K so although they brought goodies to get rid of, a bike for Louis and kitchen toys for me of course, what really was the best thing, J noticed that Jude's bike had a puncture so he fixed it in the morning and tonged up the brakes and left it parked by the front door ready to go for when Jude got home from school.
To give the trophy out, if there was one, I would have had to retrieve it from Jen who doesn't know she would have had it. When she came to stay she finished off Giles' craft project from school that had become becalmed for a year and we are now enjoying the footstool. Thanks Jen.
Jonothon and Morven used to get an organic veggie box delivered each week and he asked me a great question that has sort of set me on a better gardening course.
'What are you eating from the garden at the moment?' I know how easy it is to have a garden full of things, but week by week not much alot of the time for tea.
The most difficult time is Spring. Now really. All the winter stuff is cleared for new things, or gone to seed. New season stuff is weeks away. I thought it would be a really useful exercise to catalogue each week what could go in my veggie box if I built it. Well, rhubarb, and asparagus, but that depends on the weather, when it's warm it romps away and when it's cold it grows slowly so enough for a stirfry or a quiche but don't bother making hollandaise this week. There would be a head of garlic, and spring onions and mint and parsely and broad bean tops which I'm pinching out and they need plenty of butter and salt, and potatoes. There's still peas and french beans in the freezer and parsnips, above, dug in early Spring when they begin to go hairy and blanched for the freezer. And at this time of year we chow through the last of the jars of tomato and jars of beetroot. I can see a new sub heading on my blog (with apologies to Marg): a veggie box a week
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Monday, November 9, 2009

Hurry hurry hurry

Phew, what a week. The garden has gone wild, and it's birthday month and then it's Christmas and then it's New Year...tommorrow I'm
going to stay home, slow down and do chores. I read this Spanish proverb last week:
'How beautiful it is to do nothing, and then rest afterward.'

...and then laughed maniacly. That's not something I have to aim for; I've noticed it arrives with old age; whenever that is. Here's a beautiful Romanesco Broccolli that I picked for tea tonight and made everybody eat because it's been such a long time growing. I planted them vaguely in Autumn in the glasshouse before I had learnt the value of the garden diary so let's just say it was about 6 months ago.

The snow is gone from the mountains so I've been putting in the garden: yams, carrots, parsnips, beetroot, globe artichokes, leeks and potting up all the tropicals: pumpkin, beans, cucumbers, corn and flowers, sunflowers, dill. I've got photos of it all but I haven't learnt how to put up more than four at a time so I've got plenty of material to go right through winter with. Here's the leeks down below. 180 went in and I probably threw out the smallest 25. This is way too early for leeks even here but I must have planted the seed way too soon (didn't have that trusty garden diary going) because suddenly they were ready and had to be planted. The board is a handy measure and something to stand on.
In the background you can just see some broad beans and a bit of straw mulch that hasn't blown away. Half the bed has short plants and half the bed has tall. I had formed an elaborate theory about wind and shade and soil condition and why they had had this effect before remembering that the first packet of seed were dwarf beans and the 2nd packet talls. There is often a simple explanation if you only knew it.

When you live amongst pine trees you discover that there is more than one sort. We have about 12 different types on the property and they all have different pine cones. This is how these ones begin. How amazing.

And seeing as how I couldn't fit photos for a blow by blow tutorial on planting beetroot here's the chives flowering instead. Don't be disappointed, I will master the technology. Now for any of my five readers who are still reading (four family and one friend - Chris Tea that's you) I got to thinking this week about where do blogs go when they die? There was one gardening blog I found where the last entry said something like 'sorry I haven't posted for awhile, I've been unwell'. And then it just ended and the date was months ago. A bit like boarding the Marie Celeste and finding no one there. Another gardening one had half a dozen cheerful posts before it came to an abrupt end and no comments. Ever. No family? No friend?

On a lighter note Giles found a poem scrawled inside his Latin Primer.
'Latin is a language
as old as old can be
first it killed the
and now it's killing me'

It's been a great week for laughs.
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Sunday, November 1, 2009

How The World Gets Bigger

Reading your post Marg, 'Things never as they seem' reminded me of this beautiful poem
by Alison Hallett
How The World Gets Bigger
This morning there's a note pinned to your door
explaining why you've had to rush out
and cancel our meeting. I turn back into
the rain, watch it falling on tarmac, rivering
in gutters, little bullets exploding. I unbutton
my jacket, lift my face up to the sky. This is better
than crying: nowhere to be and nothing to do.
I walk the christened pavement, cherry tree
humg like a chandelier, the corner on the end
of the road suddenly appealing, the way it
turns without revealing what lies beyond.
When I mentioned to Mama in a letter that Bill was gathering up his boats from boat sheds and garages and (alas) outside places she replied 'What on earth are you going to do with boats up there? (In the middle of nowhere hours from sailing water)' Here they are under the trees resting.
Well the pool is deep enough and when they're all mended we can go up the road and sail on the neighbours dam.

But I was telling Bill about the Brighton boats 'the corner on the end of the road suddenly appealing, the way it turns without revealing what lies beyond.' There was something about going to Brighton that was such an adventure. Running home from church to pack lunch, maybe tea also, and run back down the hill to catch the bus (will everybody make it?) And then the long bus trip out to Brighton Beach and somewhere in the course of the day we'd take a walk down to the boat house-just a few of us kids by ourselves. We had to negotiate with the grumpy old men for a boat and then head off up the river rowing, around the corner and away into the countryside and looking in to peoples backyards as we went. Once or twice we went up as far as we could go until the river ran out. I don't ever remember looking at a watch but we all seemed to make it back to the bus stop in time for the ride back and then a 40 min walk up the hill home. Rivers and boats still contain that adventure.

Took the kids down to the Taeiri River today. The snow on the hills is melting so the water level is running high. They assured me it was warm. From the perspective of a wetsuit it probably was.

The garden goes wild at this time of year and here's my special helper: it's a 'PLANET JNR', a seed sower for anybody who didn't instantly recognise it and it will be sowing 6 packets of carrot seed and 3 packets of parsnips-with a bit of assistance from me.

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