My Garden ~ a Kiwi's take on life

Life is a lot like a garden


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Irrational Urge was Hard to Stifle

Stifle

Eleven years ago, Himself arranged for a stock agent to buy four, white-face beef animals at the local cattle sale held each Tuesday. We understand that animals can be nervous when they off-load from the truck. But, they tend to settle once they have explored the paddock, had a drink and start eating grass.

On this occasion, the new cattle stood quietly in the stockyard while Himself checked them over before releasing them into the paddock. Four black bodies charged through the opening gate, just missing Himself flattened against the fence railings. They stampeded across the paddock and hurtled through the live electric fence. They splashed across the stream into our neighbour’s property.

Himself’s language probably offended the animals as there was more cattle mayhem. Neighbours rallied to help herd the runaways home. One animal hurdled a 7-wire fence into another neighbour’s farm. Three fled in a headlong rush up the road before being rounded up. The final gallop was through my vegetable garden. They kicked divots of garden soil into the air and trampled my late summer vegetables. One dived back into the stream and joined the animal still on the neighbouring farm. It took three hours to restore calm and to secure the animals in the back paddock away from the stream and the road. That was on Tuesday after I got home from work. 

That night, Himself was on the phone to the stock agent. “From a forestry block!” Himself was heard to splutter. These four animals had had little contact with humans. Cattle hand-reared as calves are more used to humans and this is what lifestylers want on small blocks of land. On Thursday, all four animals were back on the truck to their new owner.

That weekend, it was drinks and BBQ at our place for the neighbours. Everyone had their similar stories of strife with cattle. In the heat of the moment, we had all felt the irrational urge to shoot the lot on the spot, an urge which was hard to stifle.


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Summer

January is the month when New Zealanders enjoy summer days. It is a time when people leave their real world lives to relax, to holiday at beaches, lakes and rivers and to enjoy outdoor activities. It is a time when we are busy in our gardens and enjoy the fruits of our labours. However, nature is having an impact on our environment.

Puddle

Ripples caused by raindrops ahead of heavy rain forecast

But, I can be forgiven for taking childish delight, for now, in watching raindrops splat and ripple onto puddles. It is the promise of the rain needed to fill our watertanks and to raise the stream level back to its regular level. Rain is forecast to keep falling. Heavily. And with high winds for a couple of days. Water will fall and flow everywhere and not as we would wish it. So we are warned. It has been a very dry and unusually warm December. Did I miss spring? Is this climate change at play? Nature is leaving a trail of evidence.

 

Even though heavily mulched, my garden is wilting. Lettuces have bolted and gone to seed. They were tasty while they lasted. Dahlias are showing their hot colours. Yellow butter and other beans are producing well. Defiant heat loving plants remain true to label. Leaves on the liquidamber trees are displaying signs of early autumn colours.

Pukeko Under the Fruit Trees

Pukeko eat the ripening fruit and damage the branches.

Pukeko and rosellas are unrelenting in their assaults on the ripening Captain Kidd heritage apples that should ripen in March. My early Peach Haven is history. It drives me crazy to see a pukeko, apple clamped in its beak, sprint from under the fruit trees across the paddock to its stream-side habitat The birds jump into the trees and damage the branches. The stream level is very low, the soil is rock hard, the plant habitats are parched and I am sure the birds are desperate for food. Earlier this morning, a family of four fruit thieves raided the orchard undercover of a downpour. No summer holiday in my world. It is garden guerilla-warfare.

Cattle

Grass is greener on the other side of the fence

We have our cattle on a sheltered hill paddock which is prone to dryness. They are grizzling because the grass quality is not as good as that on the other side of the gate. The trouble is that the better grass is in a flat paddock that is prone to flash flooding when our stream spills over. Years ago, in our early experiences of coping with bad storms, the cattle either stood in the shallows or huddled under trees. We gave up trying to move them. Wading in fast-moving, waist-high water that sweeps all manner of debris, including fences from neighbouring properties, in its path is not safe. Those animals all survived. Mindful of forecasts, we are now better prepared.  So, these cattle can stay on the hill for two days until the storm blows over.   

Meanwhile, weather forecasters continue to track the sub-tropical storm as it unleashes over New Zealand, to warn of the dangers of heavy rain, king tides, large waves and strong winds and to advise holidaymakers to evacuate.  No doubt the raindrops and the ripples will cease to be delightful as the puddles  flood and reform to flow as a small stream down my driveway.   


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Herbal Offerings from My Garden

Comfrey

Comfrey flowering under our Captain Kidd New Zealand heritage apple tree

Comfrey, sage, chives, wormwood and borage are flourishing companions under my fruit trees. The daffodils have died down in readiness for their next spring show. Kitchen herbs are also grown in raised beds in my vegetable garden. 

Wormwood under Heritage Red Delicious Apple Tree
Wormwood about to flower under our heritage Red Delicious apple tree. Borage is also establishing.

Shakespeare enriched expressions of feelings in his writings with the language of herbs adding depth of meaning to garden lore that has passed on through the ages. I like that sense of Shakesperian connection when we say the perfume and colours of the flowers are a joy.

At my fingertips are the natural healthy ingredients for well-being. For years, I have not added salt to my cooking, relying instead on freshly picked herbs to add flavour to meals. Growing plants for the benefit of people and now, small animal life, is a positive gardening outcome.

It particularly pleases me to see the bees busy at work among the different herbal flowers. This is another reason I like to grow as many herbs a s possible. Every morning, the hens peck at the oregano and comfrey that grows near their hen-house run. Silverbeet is their big treat. To keep the chooks out, I erected a fence to enclose the vegetable garden beds. Fortunately they prefer to forage freely in the paddocks and the among the herbal growth under the fruit trees. They have their foraging routine which by the end of the day now finishes in the orchard near the rabbit hutches. The hens stand and squawk noisily, protesting as I give yummy green feed to these furry intruders to their world. They will not be bribed by an early feed of night grain in their cage. They prefer to cluck and line up by the hutch. They are such bird-brains.

Rabbits are herbivores and wild rabbits self-select from a variety of pasture plants. I do not want any rabbits eating directly out of my garden. I put together a herbal bouquet for the domestic mother rabbit and her two kits. A woody twig with leaves from one of my heritage apple trees, a leafy stem of borage with bright blue flowers, long-stemmed large strawberry leaves, parsley, sprigs of oregano, a small stalk of young comfrey leaves and flowers. The addition of herbs to their green feed makes for variety in their diet. So far, they seem to like my garden herb offerings.

Foraging

Brown Shaver hen and Paws forage near the comfrey plant under the Captain Kidd apple tree.


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Bunnies’ first nibble of vegetables

Each day has a new happening in the rabbit hutch. Day 21 and two little bunnies hopped towards the cage door, reared on their hind paws, reached and sniffed the fresh grass and leaf matter in my hand I was about to feed to their mother. This evening, the kits took baby nibbles of their first vegetable, the silverbeet leaf and stalk, organically grown in my garden, was intended for their mother. Meanwhile. Mama Oreo was absorbed eating freshly picked puha and young thistles. Nothing but the best freshly picked home grown produce for these small creatures.

Kit tastes silverbeet for the first time.

Kits sniffing and tasting vegetables. Very curious and friendly.

Bunnies are Groomed by Mum

After tasting the vegetable feed, mini-lop bunnies are groomed by Mum.


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Easter Monday evening and “The day is done,”

My mother had a good memory and flair for reciting poetry and as a child it was common to hear excerpts inspired by a moment as she went about her household tasks. How could I not hear Mum’s voice as I shut the hens in their coop tonight and enjoyed the cloud formation lit by the rays of Easter Monday’s setting sun.

When cats run home and light is come,
And dew is cold upon the ground,
And the far-off stream is dumb,

excerpt from: Song – The Owl by Alfred Lord Tennyson

The cattle, sated after a long day of grazing grass, languidly bovine and disinclined to poetic gestures, were settling for the night under the Totara trees by the stream.

The day is done, and the darkness
 Falls from the wings of Night,
excerpt from: The Day is Done by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

No Tennyson’s white owl lives in my world. Gertrude clucked her defiance at my attempts to corral her with the other hens in the hen house. Always there is one last worm or one last slater to find. Tastier still would be my Kale seedlings that now must be grown under bird netting in the new raised garden beds.

So I sit in my garden. And I wait for the white hen to go about her routine. After a busy weekend, it is a quiet reflective moment, a chance to enjoy nature’s celebration of Easter Monday evening.

Five visitors stayed overnight so we have had a full house. There were six kids and five adults in all with one extra person who came to dinner on Saturday. The garden hosted the kids’ Easter egg hunt. Kitted out with torches, the sugar-rushed children ventured into the moonlight to explore the night world in their treehut, in the paddocks, under the trees and along the stream.

Eels transformed into alligators, pukeko assumed vulture-like proportions, deep shadows morphed into monsters and grunting possums grrrrd. Oh! How I just love The Berenstain Bears and the Spooky Old Tree written by Dr Seuss.

 

 


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Jemima duck waddled into my garden

Jemima seemed most fitting to name our latest feathered friend. She waddled into our lives one morning about three weeks ago. Shy, yet trusting and friendly like Beatrix Potter’s Jemima Puddle Duck, she has let us hand feed her and even give her a cuddle, and she stops, holds her head in a way looking at us that suggests she is listening to us chat to her.

We think she is an escapee, that being from our neighbour’s duck pond across our stream where hundreds of ducks of different breeds live. Bruce happens to like ducks and geese. What child has not loved listening to Beatrix Potter’s stories about garden and farmyard animals being read to them? When they were little, I used to take my grandsons to scatter grain at feeding time. It is fun to stand in the middle of the noisy rush of quacking and honking birds, like a big city rush  hour which I no longer  miss..

In the  relaxed way things happen here, one day, we will wander over to Bruce and ask if he is missing a duck. His answer will be laconic and he will not know or even worry that Jemima has herself a new home. Bruce took on six ducks recently because their owner could no longer care for her pets. Jemima is probably from that small flock. She is earning her keep and is doing a great job scooping up the bugs and slugs in my garden. For now, Jemima can sleepover at our place and be one of the poultry girls.


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‘Teach the People’ ~ quote challenge

If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed; if in terms of ten years, plant trees; if in terms of 100 years, teach the people. – Confucius

Some years ago when I began blogging on WordPress, I was in awe of the creative, the witty, the informative, the insightful posts by writers the world over. I was challenged by my son to extend my writing, to set up a blog, to expand my garden diary scribblings. Never did I think scratching and grubbing in my garden dirt would germinate words of reflection, thoughts about life lived as I know it. My garden is where I lose myself, or as Himself likes to tell others, where I lose either my coffee mug or wine glass. Well at least I do put them on a gate or fence post so they are easily found. It is not as if I drop them in the long grass. Truth is, I need two hands to attend to a garden task. There is always a weed to pull, an insect to watch, a tree to hug, a tomato to taste, beans to pick, a flower to enjoy.

At least it is my words that are being posted these days. Since writing those earlier posts, I feel a certain sense of amazement how my blogging horizon is expanding.  Writing is an art and like my garden plants that grow in happy companionships,  choices of words craft ideas that grow the writer’s voice.  WordPress bloggers are wonderful writers, inspiring to read, witty, sharing, encouraging, causing pause for thought. Learning is ongoing.

And, there is much to learn. My grandsons feature in some posts. As we work and talk, generational garden lore and cooking knowledge is passed on. In a previous life, my framed qualifications show the world I was a secondary school English teacher. A four-walled classroom and a whiteboard is an artificial construct. When thirty or so teenagers with diverse learning needs filled the space, the more I listened, the more I observed my students, the more I learned. They had stories to tell, to write of things that interested them. Shakespeare and poetry had to be made relevant to their lives. Luckily for me we embarked on journeys of discovery and learned together. By the time I left education nearly thirty years later, I felt I might just know a few things about effective teaching practice. From experience comes the lesson.

Thank you Carol  for nominating me for a three-day quote challenge. Please check out Carol’s Food For Thought post at  https://cookingforthetimechallenged.wordpress.com

In the fun spirit of voluntary participation of the challenge, nominees may choose to

  • Post for three consecutive days
  • Posts can be one or three quotes per day
  • Nominate three different blogs per day

 Please check out my nominees’ wonderful blogs:

Ruth’s Reflections 

NavasolaNature

Chef in Disguise