Saturday, June 28, 2014

June Reading


Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
A funny love story about an old Indian-born English Major and an English born Pakistani woman. The reactions of their families, friends and the local villagers make for a bit of thinking about cultural differences, but it is neither too shallow nor too intense. Not quite 'fluff' but an easy winter fireside read that is quite satisfying.

Gith by  Chris Else
An easy but uncomfortable read. Well written but a bit too creepy for me. An NZ author.

Dinner at Rose's by Danielle Hawkins
Another NZ  author. An amusing romance. Definitely winter-time fluff, but reasonably well written.


The Exercise Book - Creative writing exercises from Victoria University's Institute of Modern Letters edited by Bill Manhire, Ken Duncum, Chris Price and Damien Wilkins

The writing group I go to intermittently has been using this book recently and it has lots of good trigger ideas. There are exercises for a range of genre, and some that deal with revision and editing. A worthwhile book of interest to beginner writers and the more experienced. Sadly though, it still hasn't got me doing the most important thing of all: writing EVERY DAY!

One of the exercises we did was based on The Ian Sharp Poem, which Jenny Bornholdt has used with children in schools. Ian describes himself in third person in terms of various things: a parcel, a toy, a landscape and more. We did our own versions, describing ourselves, and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed doing this as I usually hate exercises of any kind, especially the 'you have 10 minutes to do this' kind!

The Cally Brown Poem

Cally Brown is parcel of seedlings
wrapped in wet sports pages
from Monday’s Waikato Times
secured with green rubber bands
saved from last year’s asparagus.

Cally Brown is a sandpit
with buried matchbox cars
a faded yellow bucket
a broken red spade
and a couple of ice block sticks.

Cally Brown is an orchard
with four white Peking ducks
beside a garden with rows
of carrots and beetroot and
broad beans and sweet red onions.

Cally Brown is an old Toyota van
with room for shovels and a scythe,
bags of fallen leaves, new plants,
trees, children and grandchildren,
love, and baskets full of memories

Cally Brown is a home-made book
with crinkly rusted paper
bound with brown hemp twine
embellished with pages from old books
pressed leaves and chook feathers

Cally Brown is a pile of old jerseys
just waiting for transformation
into wild patchwork hoodies
with crazy ribbons, buttons, beads
and totally unsuitable colours.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Light Returns

It's the shortest day plus one. I hurt my back yesterday but although it's still hurting, I can't really complain: I haven't got the flu like my oldest son; my chooks are alive, the sun is shining.
 My neighbour, Otis, arrived over today with his last chook - another neighbour's dog had dug under their fence and killed their second to last chook. Which makes 25 killed chooks in 4 years. He hasn't been able to catch the dog in the act but she's been seen coming and seen going, and the other neighbour has admitted in the past that the dog had killed their own chooks so..... But this time he's back in denial. Otis asked if we'd adopt the last chook, and I agreed but said she'd probably get seriously harassed until the new pecking order was established - best practice is to never introduce fewer than 3 new hens to an established flock. However, Otis felt that would still be better than being killed by the dog! Well, the new lady strutted into the middle of the flock, had a brief fight with my number one and is completely settled in.
 The bees are out and about and bringing in food including bright orange pollen - you can see some on the legs of a bee just going into the hive.
 Grapefruit ripening: it will be marmalade time soon.
 Limes: hard to see, but they need picking and using now.
 Lemons galore.
 When we moved here, my mother-in-law gave me couple of rooted cuttings of a plant which 'is great for covering banks.' Nice to remember her by too.
 The washing's on the line drying in a gentle breeze and warm sun.
And poor me - I'm 'stuck' sitting for most of the day in a chair with a wheat-bag on my back, looking out at my bush and 'my' mountain. Mid-winter can be pretty good.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Solstice Catch Up

Looking back I discover that I haven't written about my garden for five months! I have been out there working our land though.

We had a reasonable summer garden, though we have resolved not to use peat pots any more. The courgettes, pumpkins and cucumbers did not do well, and this was the second year that we'd had problems. The only ones that did well were the cucumbers that sprung up self-seeded from the previous year. As I cleaned up the garden at the end of the season the penny dropped. The peat pots had not disintegrated the way they are supposed to, and thus the plants could not spread and develop their roots.

It was a bumper year for my peas and beans though, and also the capsicum. The tomatoes were sufficient for day to day use, but I wasn't able to store many, just a couple of bottles of sauce.

The big thing was that I cleared all the dead plants in good time, have spread a lot of mulch, and planted winter things for only the second year - though still not from seed, instead buying seedlings. Maybe next year. I had broad beans, onions, leeks, garlic, spring onions, lettuce, a variety of brassica (including pak choi, after Simon told me it was yummy - Simon - vegetables yummy? - have to try them then!)
Last week I went outside to plant some more garlic and a few remaining spring onions which have been bravely fighting to live since I planted out the rest of the punnet a couple of months ago. I went to get my garden bag with my gloves, tools etc. - oh no! I hadn't hung it up on its hook last time and everything was soaked. Including half a paper packet of broad beans and a packet and a half of peas - soaked and sprouting. So I had to spend a whole lot more time hoeing some garden space and planting seed carefully so as not to break off the wee shoots. The bag has been scrubbed and is almost dry again.
 The chook run has become more and more overgrown. The flax bush has grown so much I could hardly get in, and couldn't get the wheelbarrow to the right place to clean out the hen house. It had to go!
 The 60th birthday party bunting that I had transferred to the run to deter the harrier the year I 'grew' my own chicks, had become torn and bedraggled and needed to be untied from the trees and discarded.
 An early winter weekend was perfect- sunny but not too hot.
This summer we bought a moveable fence to extend the run. It could be an electric fence, but we don't bother - the chooks don't get out through it anyway. They do clean up the ground - especially good when the nashis were dropping on the ground and starting to rot. Anyway, the run has had it's winter clean up.
 My bees are a sad story: I put strips in one hive early, as it was showing signs of varroa, but I was late putting them in the other two, and they were too weakened to survive the massive wasp attack we had this year, along with much of the rest of the country. We killed five nests, but hardly made a dent in the numbers attacking the hives.So I lost two of the three hives. It is heartbreaking, especially when I know that it was partly my fault for letting them get weakened like that.

Inside, I have been undoing and re-knitting the jersey I gave up on last winter. I don't feel bad about that since I discovered that my sister Elizabeth, who is an awesome knitter, has also undone hers to reknit - it was obviously a not well written pattern that I got from her. I've been playing with paper and books, and just bought myself an overlocker, so will be having fun with fabrics when the wet weather keeps me inside.

Today is the shortest day and so far, despite a stressful time over the past six months, I have had no hint of depression. Life is good.