My Garden ~ a Kiwi's take on life

Life is a lot like a garden


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A Screen to Entertain Us

Entertain

Going to the pictures at the local theatre was an exciting part of our childhood. We were mesmerised by film on the large screen. Musicals, epic sagas, drama and action filled our imaginations with glimpses into other worlds brought to us from Hollywood and England. In the 1950s,  audiences stood as the then national anthem of New Zealand, God Save the Queen, was played. We viewed cartoons and newsreels before making a mad dash to buy ice-cream during the interval and were resettled in our seats to view the feature film.  

After the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, it was a big undertaking for our rural primary school to arrange to take us as a school group to the theatre in town to view a special newsreel showing of this event for pupils of local schools. Still images in print media kept could not compete with filmed sound and action. 

The first time I viewed the small screen was in 1960. A black and white television set had pride of place in my great-grandmother’s home in Auckland. My siblings and I remember we sat riveted by Robin Hood‘s adventures, stories we knew well from reading. We loved the novelty of small screen entertainment in the home. It was to be several years before Mum and Dad thought about buying a television set for our household. The costs of paying cash for a television licence and for a television set were considerable when there was a family to support. The viewing hours and broadcasting coverage in New Zealand were limited in the early 1960s. My brother and I had left school and home by the time my parents acquired their first television set. Probably a wise move on their part. No disputes to settle over which programme to watch.

In February 1966 the average price of a 23-inch black and white television ‘consolette’ was £131, equivalent to nearly $5000 today. 

Time moves on. Retailers display a range of monitors and screens of different sizes that are deemed essential to help us to enjoy our lives to the fullest. Real time viewing happens. Data plans and viewing options are available to suit our needs and wants and we can pay by credit card. I no longer entertain the thought of not having a smart screen in my home and in my hand.  


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Apples ~ a crisp and crunchy heritage

When we were kids and if we were hungry, my brothers, sister and I would venture down the paddock and into a large old orchard at the site of the original farm homestead, planted by the settler-owner at about the start of the 20th century, more than fifty years before our family lived on the farm. People grew and preserved their own food back then. What was remarkable about this old overgrown orchard was the range of varieties. Local old folk spoke of the deep interest by the original owners, who had had no children, had in gardening.

Large untended trees still produced some fruit in season of a variety of plums, white fleshed, crimson-skinned nectarines, large golden peaches (we referred to them as the ‘million dollar peach’ – I’ve not seen this variety since. Mum said it was easy to preserve because it was freestone), black grapes, Chinese Gooseberries (now called Kiwi fruit), Yellow Banana Passionfruit, lemons,  navel oranges, Granny Smith and Golden Delicious apples. We climbed high into those old trees to pick the fruit.

No, I’m not imaging or idealising the unique qualities of those fruits.  I have it straight from the horse’s mouth about the deliciousness of apples. Once when eating a Golden delicious apple, I turned to see Queenie our horse trot up behind me on the other side of the fence, reach over and snatch the apple out of my hand. We didn’t know it then how spoiled we were to have access to these organically grown heirloom fruits.

Post-WWII pastoral farming practices commanded the efficient use of arable land. Grass was king. Cows grazed grass that converted into income earning creamy milk to make what New Zealand became so good at doing, churning out butter, cheese and milk powder.  Dad cleared the old orchard and a newly grassed paddock meant extra grazing for more cows. A new orchard was planted next to our house. Queenie could no longer reach over the fence from the horse paddock to munch an apple.

In 2001, I ordered and planted heirloom fruit trees, grafted onto rootstock from parent trees certified as being true to label. I selected Northern Spy apple tree rootstock which meant I could expect a vigorous tree that would tolerate our poor clay soil. We transformed a disused commercial nursery site into the sheltered orchard we have today. I pick-axed through a deep layer of scoria down to the clay base. Dolomite was applied to help break down the clay. Compost was used to build up each planting area. A windbreak border of medium height flaxes continues to protect the fruit trees from prevailing westerly wind. Comfrey was under-planted to act as a living mulch. Pelletised sheep manure gave the trees a good start.  Chickens now scratch away at the weeds and apply  the fertiliser.

Fifteen years later, our apple trees have grown true to description. Again, our family is snacking on heritage fruit picked from our own trees, preserving  and popping apples into the grandkids’ school lunchboxes.

Red Delicious which is a good pollen donor and crops more heavily when grown with other apples, ripens in March, has dark red apples with deep striping on the skin and is juicy and aromatic. We prefer to eat this apple fresh. it holds its shape when cooked. Golden Delicious crops best when grown with Red Delicious, ripens in mid-March has a golden colour, is thin skinned, and is a crisp, juicy, sweet, taste treat when left to ripen on the tree. This apple cooks well without sugar. Another disease resistant apple we grow and just love is Captain Kidd. It ripens earlier, is very crisp, juicy, sweet and is a good all-round keeping, eating and cooking fruit.