Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Christmas thoughts

Christmas evening in the garden. The sun has dropped low enough that I don't fear burning. Around me, summer lives in all its glory. The family game of cricket in the distance, hearing the whoops as an uncle or father is caught and bowled. The birds sit and chirp in the rustling trees, tui, kakariki, sparrows and blackbirds, occasionally swooping overhead, flashes of black, brown, green and red filling the air. Our neighbours garden, running the hosepipe over the parched plants, and pruning back the roses. Smells waft over in the breeze; roses, sweet peas, tomato plants and the roast lamb in the oven. The wind is cooling on my skin after the heat of the day.

This is so different to the traditional northern hemisphere Christmas with its dark evenings, frosts and sharp air. Since moving, I have found a different feel to the festival; Christmas is no longer an anticipation of the Earth turning, coming out of the darknes and towards Spring, but a joyful celebration of life around us in all of its glory. It is a reminder that we should not spend all of our time planning and looking forward to the future, but, every so often, take the time to enjoy the here and now.

This is something that I, a pathological planner by nature, am inherently bad at doing. So, my New Year's resolution, made sitting with a glass of wine, and finding the moment, is at least once a day to enjoy the present. What sprang to mind which illustrates this the best are the two verses that I first heard on the Divine Comedy album Promenade:
Happy the man and happy he alone,
Who in all honesty can call today his own;
He who has life and strength enough to say:
“Yesterday’s dead and gone.
I’m gonna live today.”
(from Booklovers)

Happy the man, and happy he alone,
he who can call today his own:
he who, secure within, can say,
"Tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today."
(the end of the album, taken from Horace)

Now, if you'll excuse me, there is a glass of wine and a summer evening to enjoy.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Suddenly... food!

Whilst I was busy, not only did Spring sprung, but Summer a came in (no cuckoos, but plenty of tui, blackbirds, silvereyes and thrushes...). Without a huge amount of effort on my part, the various seeds that I scattered have started to produce food. We've had a couple of meals of spinach, plus enough for me to have in my salad at work every day this last week. We've also had a couple of meals with mangetout in them, and a couple of good size handfuls of strawberries. nothing that would allow us to be self sufficient by a very long way, but incredibly satisfying none the less.

The tomatoes are flowering (though I am using the seedlings that a friend passed over - I only have one surviving heritage seedling left of each of the tomatoes and the capsicum/salad pepper - I wasn't able to get the good balance between too much water and too little. Better luck next year!), the potatoes are growing, and the beans seem to be springing upwards even as I watch. The blackbird loves the amount of weeding that I've been doing - as soon as I'm safely out of the way, he flutters down to see what insects I've overturned this time. He even helps by pecking out the little weed seedlings that I've missed in his haste to find even more bugs. Though he isn't always helpful - he has also eaten a good number of strawberries (bird netting and silver foil didn't deter him, though stringing up old cassette tape looks like it has done the trick), and appears to have attacked some of the potatoes in my planter (they are leaning sideways, with quite a good hole dug down the side of the planter; I don't think it is the neighbourhood cat...).

Our fruit plants, in the main, are doing well - the grape vines have doubled in height since I planted them (though I've now got a book on growing fruit, and realise that I need to do a heck of a lot of pruning with both them and the kiwi when autumn comes), the lemon tree is covered in blossom and baby lemons, and the chilean cranberry has a host of delicate pink flowers all over. Even the olive has joined in, with little white flowers and tiny fruit developing. The feijoa is stubbornly refusing to flower, though it, too, has put on a huge amount of growth since being planted in the soil. I'm hoping the fact that it is planted at the end of the bed that has the peas and beans will help it for next year (and in the meantime, we've been offered plenty from a friend when his tree, currently covered in flowers, fruits)

The flowery areas of the garden are also starting to show their colours; the roses have bloomed, and really loved being dead headed - as soon as I cut the dying blooms, they both put on an extra couple of inches all round, and doubled the number of flower buds! The pansies haven't stopped flowering since I put them in in the winter, the geraniums are just starting to show their pink buds, and, of course, the weeds are all coming out in hosts of different colours; pinks, purples and oranges. It makes it so much harder to pull them up when they are all pretty!

I'm very much looking forward to the Christmas break - it will give me two weeks to relax, and really get into some of the weedier corners of the garden (of particular interest is the point where the compost bin currently is - the weeds have sprung up around it so much that the bin is actually on a tilt from where it is being pushed over!). And maybe even just the chance to sit outside on the lawn and enjoy the fruits of my labours...