Sunday, February 21, 2010

Autumn clean up

I've already told Marg and Jen my great dramas of the week but as they are less than half of my readership, just, and because Mama is probably wondering what the fire engine sticker was doing on her letter this week...I'll boil my cabbages twice and mention the chimney fire. We were going away for the week-end and leaving all the boys home alone. Marg's words where still ringing in my ears 'so long as they don't burn the house down' when I noticed a stray spark and the chimney glowing red hot. I shut the fire right down and yelled and rang for help and then had time for that terrible moment of panic the house is burning down, what do I grab? In hindsight I thought of lots of things, paintings and photos probably but at the time, nothing. There was nothing I cared about more than being alive.

By this stage David had whacked the chimney with the rolling pin and seemed cheerful enough so my natural pragmatism won out and I decided to wait and see how things went before carting anything outside. Bill swept the chimney that afternoon.
Boys astounded us by having the house tidy when we got home and managing extremely well. I had a first glimpse of all that parenting donkey work paying off; the relentless coaching on dishes and washing and so on that never seems to really permeate as long as you are around, but it has. Hey ho.

Carrots are ready for thinning. Ground needs to be kept moist enough to wiggle them out without pulling off the tops, whoops, or leaving half the carrot in the ground. The triumph of these carrots is no carrot fly. It was David's idea, plant them right at the bottom of the property while the carrot flies weren't looking, and put them amongst the emergent peas. Apparently carrot flies fly close to the ground and won't hop over a barrier. It has certainly worked so far.
Anyway, I discovered the cure for gardening inertia in the form of a visiting Swiss student Tabeah who is eager to help and comes genetically equipped with a Swiss work ethic. Buoyed by the prospect of someone else to toil alongside I've leapt the first hurdle and begun the Autumn clean-up.

First beneficiary the yams. Discovered belatedly that they need earthing up like potatoes. Well there's nothing down under there yet and somehow the yams are supposed to miraculously appear after the frosts take out their tops. Here's hoping.

Still harping on about the cucumbers. Green shorts squarepants has taken fright and set fruit and earned a repreive. I'll grow this one again. It's very good eating and big enough for two.

I did say Autumn back there. It's suddenly dark in the mornings and colder at night. Rose, a farmer near here, who looks at the sky and knows where the clouds have come from, and what that means, says that the rats are gathering bones and the birds are already eating the Rowan berries. Translated that means it's going to be a long winter. Even I have noticed the first mouse strolling about the house and another rummaging in the compost bin, while Katie (the cat) seems oblivious to it.

Ate the first yellow tomato this week. I planted the seed at the very end of October last year, so that's 3 months 3 weeks, about 110 days till first fruit. Pinched out the growing tip early to get the crop home and hosed before the frosts begin in earnest, about a month away. Look at all that fruit yet to ripen; most seem to have a double truss on the second layer. It's hard to tell whether they have quite the same bite as a red tomato. Will have to make a pasta sauce and see if I can get past the colour.

On the occasion of a year since Dad died I'll give the last word to Shakespeare:

Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,

So do our minutes hasten to their end;

Each changing place with that which goes before,

In sequent toil all forwards do contend.

Or perhaps on a more macabre note:

No longer mourn for me when I am dead

Than you shall hear the surly sullen bell

Give warning to the world that I am fled

From this vile world, with vilest worms to dwell;

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Sunday, February 7, 2010


It surprises me sometimes, the small threads that far bigger decisions hang on. It was when I was particularly brassed off with the hose that always kinked and leaked that I decided to get a new one. You might think that the cords of logic and economy and knowledge would twine together to hang a prudent purchase on. But I went out and bought a magnificent Italian garden hose, 4 times the price of everything else. Ahh the joys of retail therapy and it wasn't my money so I got a few other things besides. Actually the thread that fueled it was that I felt unappreciated, and purchasing a good peice of equipment gave value to my work and my time. Is it L'Oreal that has that insightful marketing angle 'Because I'm worth it' and who can argue with that?

Of course I'm still procrastinating on THE BIG GARDEN which has proved to be a fruitful time for attending to smaller details. A bit like when you're sitting exams and suddenly the room is spotlessly clean and you're doing any number of things out of character to avoid the necessary evil of study.
Well the aforementioned hose has a fixed site, glasshouse one, and could argueably be cut to perfect size so there is never any excess to trip over or get entangled in. Except that occasionally it is required in its full capacity so I neatly coiled up the excess by the tap and although the rest is left out it looks loved and cared for; in the style of this one above. Jane's garden in Dunedin.
I came back from Nelson admiring the rough and tumble of their gardens, the mix of flowers, weeds and vegetables rumbled together and thinking I should loosen up. Looks like the garden has done that for me while I was away.

That's the broccolli in the foreground; the lot that got the extra water last week. The first night we had some for tea Jude flicked a large yellow thing out on to the table. 'What's that? (horrified voice) It looks like a spine.' Any number of things went through my mind, mostly along the lines of concealment. But no, a positive caterpillar identification quickly followed and another green vegetable fell off the menu.
How many people know that I grew a watermelon last year? The plants were mysteriously fruitless and by about now, early February I was ready to pull them out in disgust. As I came in close to grasp one particular plant by the neck my foot kicked something hidden by the describing it later I made the mistake of saying the first thing that came into my head. 'It was as big as, as big as...(looking around) Louis' head.' Louis did not appreciate the comparison.
I only bring it up because of the lacklustre performance from the cucumbers. Last year we had gherkins by the bucketful so this year I tentatively planted 2 of each cucumber thinking we would be swamped.

Reached in today to execute one specimen. No, you can relax now, 'green shorts' has had a reprieve; one fruit has been sighted amongst a sea of foliage. The telegraph has proved to be the only reliable performer with restrained foliage and regular fruit. The others might need hand pollination. Can't think why.

Amongst a week of solid fruit preserving the tomatoes are finally ripening like billy oh and it's serious harvesting. My Mouli (one of them) is sitting on top of the pot poised for action. Funny how I've never noticed quite how much the handle looks like a tomato too.

Did anybody else read this weeks Poet's Corner in the ODT? Martha Morseth, Then Luck Will Come. I've had two letters this week so my luck has arrived with a trumpet blast. I think thats why I like it.

There must be a moment
when wind stops,
trees hang limp and sleep comes easy,
when postmen slip hope
into hungry letter boxes.

Each time I pluck the petals
the daisies come out wrong.
Most things I know:
how glass shatters against hard surfaces;
teeth ache when cold;
spring often comes late.

Better to watch clouds
nudge their way across the harbour,
notice webs shudder with light,
see fantails careen, hear tuis cackle.
Then luck can arrive unnoticed.

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