Saturday, January 9, 2010


One of the great things growing up was that we always went out on Sunday afternoons walking, and took afternoon tea in a backpack: thermos or thermette and a packet of biscuits very carefully counted and measured out. When it really rained we might get as far as the Claremont St playground (only a few blocks away but trees to huddle under) or for lesser rain, a walk to town to go window shopping. Of course now the shops are open 7 days a week so you wouldn't have the street to yourselves or be locked out.
And here they are, noses pressed against the glass to see what lies in the world outside, thistles window shopping. It's all out of reach.
Thistles have a long taproot which can't help but bring up nutrients so in my home garden I dig them up and chuck them around the fruit trees to mulch and feed the ground, covering with other things as they come along. They have a beautiful purple flower and our En Hakkore honey has significant thistle notes. However, these are already on the compost heap. Their prickles seem to be the last thing to break down. Ouch.

The flowers are not unlike the globe artichokes if they too are allowed to fully flower. How merrily I said the first artichoke was ready to eat '... and don't worry, there are plenty more.' There will always be plenty more. I can see already that no-one else on the property is going to bother with them. For a medium/small size you boil them about 12 mins and pull off leaf by leaf to eat, dip in butter. Small ones can be trimmed and eaten whole. It probably didn't help that at the same meal we had pork bones and corn cobs. Yes it was all finger food but I had to get in a box for the debris. (corn husks, cobs, bones, artichoke everything) You only eat the little nut of each artichoke leaf and then scrape out the choke and eat up the heart. Giles said it was like eating a potato in very small slices, without it being a bag of crisps.

I can't remember whether I mentioned that from 2 pkts of seed I got 204 corn plants plus a little bundle of scrappy ones. I felt a bit like Mme Makutsi (No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, Alexander McCall Smith) with her unheard of 97 % from the Botswana Secretarial School. I know it's a very grand comparison but in my mind, I considered emailing Kings seeds to let them know, or perhaps send a photo; not that I would expect a certificate, but if it came I suppose it would have to hang down in the glasshouse. The corn had never been potted up after germination and was too big to transplant without being shocked. In those first few days of post planting trauma I must have been considering all this out loud because my friend Ruth, who was there at the time, commented that I should see how many plants made it through before totting up my record results. They look a bit shabby but are pulling through.
Here's Louis, and Phillip on the right picking blackcurrants down by the Nurses Home (in the background). My difficult lesson of the week about a stitch in time and all that.
The pruning window for blackcurrants is a large one running from Summer while picking through to early next Spring; nevertheless for various reasons I missed it. The result is masses of small blackcurrants instead of large dessert ones. What that means is that you can multiply the time it takes to pick them by about 5 and for the record, note words like tedious, frustrating and poor results. Add to that the final insult, you spend your available time for the week picking them instead of doing the other things that need to be done. Some roads you only need to go down once. I've been there, time to move on.

Runner beans are in the vege box incidentally, probably crushed under the weight of courgettes for which I am fast running out of recipes. Am digging a little garlic as needs go, which isn't really ready yet and starting to use the onions because too much water at this stage rots them. I use a big sprinkler at this time of year to water everything but it falls not only on the things that need it but also on the things that should be drying out. Careful thought and planning could help if they get the opportunity. The year is full of possibilities.
After all that today it really did rain. What better way to finish than with Hone Tuwhare's Rain. It's probably old hat to anyone younger than me but when I was at school, and University we didn't study NZ poets (!).
I can hear you
making small holes
in the silence
If I were deaf
the pores of my skin
would open to you
and shut
And I
should know you
by the lick of you
if I were blind
the something
special smell of you
when the sun cakes
the ground
the steady
drum-roll sound
you make
when the wind drops
But if I
should not hear
smell or feel or see
you would still
define me disperse me
wash over me
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  1. oh yes I'm with the "I don't understand the hype over artichokes" lot - once a friend cooked them up for us and served us them with a bowl of dipping butter and I couldn't believe that we were just sucking on the end of a dry leaf for a scraping of something moist and not even that tasty. I figure they hark back to cavemen days when people were grateful just to eat anything..

  2. Well, when I was in France we were served artichokes regularly for lunch at work, and everyone was so excited that they clapped their hands and said Ooooh la la! and I guess it was infectious because I loved them and thought they were very very special.
    And do you know, I think the seeds people would love to have some feedback about the strike rate on the corn, because they probably only have people contact them to complain about bad strikes, and it would probably make their day to have a nice email out of the blue and a photo if you were so inclined.
    I got nowhere cleaning the house today, which I'm sure won't surprise you. Happy travels, enjoy the trip! Adios!

  3. April Rain Song

    "Let the rain kiss you
    Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops
    Let the rain sing you a lullaby
    The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk
    The rain makes running pools in the gutter
    The rain plays a little sleep song on our roof at night
    And I love the rain."

    -Langston Hughes

  4. The first line of that poem is etched on my brain. The poem is written on the wall in the entrance to the Hocken building and over the years my brain must have memorised the entire thing without me knowing. There was something about passing it and walking out into a cold, grey Dunedin drizzle that was quite uplifting (in a funny sort of way).

    Lovely to se you all last week - we had a great day. Llouis took a while to come down from the high of seeing you all. Still getting nightmares though from that "when pet snakes go bad" story - well told, Jude.

    Enjoy your holiday - look forward to the camping story - which there inevitably will be, I'm sure...
    Love Mary

  5. Hi Miri - congrats to giles who gained a mention in the ODT today for his latin prize.

    Would you be able to ask Bill if next time he is down if he could hang Christy's painting for me. Tell him that He can decide the best location for it. I trust his judgement. Hope you had a great holiday.