warm autumn

Here is how the big vegetable bed looks right now….because it has been such a warm autumn, everything has grown quickly and lushly, which you might think is a good thing, but it isn’t really. It means that everything will be read to eat soon, and then when the really cold weather hits, the garden will be empty. Aah, well. Not much I can do about the weather!


I’m growing lots of Kale, green and purple, now that I’ve learned the best ways to cook it – it’s a great crop that grows throughout winter, much like silverbeet does.

My olive tree, which was about one foot high when I bought it, is now about six feet high and after seven years, has finally fruited! Maybe moving it from from the old garden to the new garden was ‘motivating’ for it?

There are lots of these dandelion-clocks about in the garden – I used to see them as a weed-enemy before I learned all the wonderful properties of the dandelion plant. Now I can blow them with abandon, like I used to when I was a kid.

Make a wish!


rest is contained in mattresses

More mattress print goodness from the Hospice Op-Shop:

My friend Melissa took some photographs of mattress textiles, too, hers in Wellington – see her post HERE.

(I think taking photographs in op shops is beginning to help me NOT buy so much, I can keep the interesting item in my life via a photograph.)

What is it with mattresses? I guess they are more likely than clothing or curtains to have survived the rigours of the last four to five decades – in use in bedrooms, kept unfaded under blankets until they wind up in op-shops…

I’ve started a set of mattress photos on my flickr HERE.


Yesterday I quit some online stuff – I quit twitter, goodreads and pinterest. Twitter because it always left me feeling hollow inside and less connected with people I love, not more. Goodreads because I realised I was feeling like updating it was a chore and wasn’t feeling inspired by it. Pinterest because after extensive reading of critical and analytical articles about it – I decided that its business model is not headed anywhere good and that it is basically a parasite interface, stealing the work of artists, crafters and creatives for profit, none of which trickles down to the original sources of the images.

(Also, I am working on two book projects and need fewer distractions!)

I’m still on Facebook (which I feel hugely conflicted about…but will stay on for now), flickr (have always loved it, still love it) and here.

The thing with ‘social’ media is that so often it is the opposite – it’s solo media – hours which could be spent face to face or on the phone or writing letters to friends are spend mutely staring into a screen, clicking ‘like’ or ‘repin’ or ‘retweet’ instead of hugging, making, talking and genuinely connecting…


Today marks the final day of my two weeks holiday. On the first day I wrote a frightening to-do list which went down two columns on a piece of line-refill – there are about 100 things on that list.

I think I did about four of them and they were boring things like, doctor, dentist, go to post-office…I did have a nice bush walk, a seaside walk and did some great visiting, though – none of which was on my ‘very important’ list.

I think I needed a big old rest. I don’t find it easy to rest – there is always so much I want to do! So much to cook, plant, make, write, experience…with this one ‘wild and precious life’ to quote Mary Oliver. My friend Emma is great at resting – she is my resting mentor, lol. See a recent ‘blob’-post where she talks about resting HERE. Every time I see a photograph of myself lately, I look so tired! I’d like that to change…

…and resting IS doing something….right?

I’m a human-merely-being doing resting.



the last

I write about the seasons a lot, don’t I? I can’t help it. I grew up in a small town in the middle of farmland – my Dad was (still is) a hunter and fisherman and so we ate with the seasons and the seasons were meaningful in a way they may not be for city-folks. Most of my friends lived on farms, so the drying off of cows marked the start of winter, new lambs heralded spring. Because I do write about the seasons so much, the editor of The Comforter, Helen Rickerby, organised the book into seasonal parts. I still can’t believe it didn’t occur to me to do that – but that’s why you need a good editor, right? To show you things which are right under your nose but you can’t see because you are over-exposed to your own work.

Anyhow, of all the seasons, autumn is my favourite. The harvest, the golden days with cold edges, the sense of melancholy. Garden fires, washing the woolens which have been in storage since September, quinces, feijoas, walnuts…picking apples – we have two apple trees at our place:

In my book, there is a poem about the beginning of autumn, the final day of daylight saving. There is a point at the end of summer/early autumn, if you are a gardener and eat seasonally, like we do, where you know it is likely to be the ‘last’ time you taste that particular thing for some time. That final meal has autumnal melancholy all over it – it’s a farewell to summer. In the poem, ‘the last’ has a deeper resonance – because of my beliefs about the environment, I feel that anything could be our ‘last’ time, because our existence on this ailing earth is so precarious right now, and growing more so.

Late summer this year, we ate corn for a good eight weeks, thanks to the 60 corn plants I grew – & no, I didn’t tire of it, like I do with some gluts. With the last of our fresh corn, I made a bean succotash which also contained the last of our tomatoes:

Also, ‘last’ for the season – I made a ‘pistou’ or paste with the last of our bush basil, some pine-nuts, garlic, olive oil and salt. It’s always a sad day when the last of the basil goes. We ate it on pasta.  I like to grind such things up in my big mortar and pestle, rather than blitzing with an electronic device. It’s calming and meditative to hand-grind.

I know, I know – I was born in the wrong century.

(A Wellington friend who has never visited me at home was surprised to learn that I don’t live on a farm – he thought I did from reading my blog. I don’t know if it was just him, or if others have that impression as well – but just to be clear, I live on a very average not-quite quarter-acre section right in the heart of Palmerston North. You can take a girl out of the country, but she’ll bring her small-town/country ways to the city!)

Anyway, here’s that poem I mentioned, from The Comforter:


Insects everywhere – dead bees in the garden, moths

stud the bathroom ceiling like dusty ornaments, praying

mantises crawl out of the compost bucket. The flies.

The last day of daylight saving. Everyone

tired and wistful on Sunday. That feeling

like you lost something all day.

The last-day-of-summer pasta sauce – made with the last aubergines,

last cherry tomatoes, the last zucchini. The garden now

full of fledgling winter vegetables: spindles of cabbage, arrowheads of spinach.

Manawatu gothic. Even these bright days are tinged

with a kind of violence. There is a black velvet ribbon

threaded through your head, collecting debris.

The last dinner on the dehydrated lawn.


In the garden…

The tomatoes are ripening by the bowlful every day and we are eating lovely pasta sauces and soups which taste of the sun and make me realise how insipid tinned tomatoes are! The chillies are starting to fruit – just in time for the cold of autumn, which will stunt their growth in no time. Every year I try to grow chillies – every year I get about two weeks worth of fruit before the autumn shrivel. You’d think I’d learn, right? Hope springs eternal. One day I’ll build a little glasshouse for year-round chillies.

I love these lush little gem lettuces, so much nicer than ice-berg and I eat one a day. They grow very quickly – from seedling to edible head in about three/four weeks.

The corn is nearly there – it seems like only yesterday I was pushing corn seeds into the warm earth…there are lots of pumpkins growing around the corn’s ‘feet’ too – we are going to have an abundant autumn!

This is going to sound like such a cliche – but I swear, when I started growing my own vegetables, aged around 28 when I had my first baby, time seemed a lot slower and I was aware of my plants growing and can remember waiting patiently for crops to appear.

Twelve years on, time seems to go a lot faster -I’m not sure if it is because of getting older, or because life is busier – and the seasons romp around. I feel like I turn my back for a second and the garden changes, vegetables appear, or plants die before I realised they were ailing.

Can it be true that time speeds up as you get older?

Outside, the first day of autumn – it is blustery and chilly and I feel like summer passed in a blink. I’m not ready to head back into winter!

Thank goodness for the sun-soaked flavour of homegrown tomatoes so that I can cling to that summer feeling for another couple of weeks.




This is not a gratuitous cute kitten photograph…

it’s a cute chicken photo, instead.

This is Cockatrice – one of our hens. She is the leader of the pack, top of the pecking order and frankly, the brains of the bunch. She was also a quick developer – the first to grow her full comb and to start laying eggs.

Cockatrice is intelligent, adventurous, nosey and demanding. She seems to be much more aware of us and interested in interacting with us than the other three chickens. She’s one of those animals who verges on being creepy, because you feel like she is way more sentient than she should be.

(A Cockatrice is a mythological creature which is half-chicken, half-dragon. Willoughby, our resident dragon-lover, named her. She is his chicken.)

My hen, Harriet, and Fraser’s hen, Hildegaard are bog-standard chickens. They are cute and charming, but don’t have the personality and boundary-pushing behaviour of Cockatrice.

Magnus’s hen, Syndrome (named after the baddie in the movie The Incredibles) is a silly chook. She’s not very bright. She gets stuck, gets lost and gets easily confused.

I swear Cockatrice knew what I was doing when I did this photoshoot with her – she stood patiently, stock-still in various poses, like a chicken supermodel.

I’m absolutely loving the chickens – they are funny, charming and hanging out with the chooks is a great way to de-stress.

(Now that I’ve done one of those blog posts about the personalities of my pets – have I gained crazy chicken-lady status?)