My Garden ~ a Kiwi's take on life

Life is a lot like a garden


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Broken Branch a Shock to the Tree

Shock

Whenever a tree breaks or falls, I feel a sense of pain. I think about the loss of the ecological habitats and homes to generations of birds and insects. Trees are part of nature’s cycle of life. Cattle rest in the cool shade. The animals stretch their necks to munch the edible foliage and nutritious autumn seed pods.  The tree roots stabilise the soil. Leaves colour with the seasons before falling to be raked into my garden mulch and compost. Ornamental, mature ‘Sunburst’ Gleditsia Triacanthos – Golden Honey Locust and ‘Sweet Gum’ Liquidambar Styraciflua trees, planted before our time here, line the eastern side of our long driveway. 

This week, a humid weather front with north-easterly winds gusting strongly at times, caused a big Liquidambar branch to snap but not sever its attachment to the tree trunk. There it rests, beyond our reach, in a precarious position, weighing heavily across the lacy foliage of a Gleditsia branch now hanging low over our entrance. Our driveway gate is shut for now and a sign, ‘Beware Broken Branch’, hangs on the gatepost.

When a tree is damaged, Himself nips into his workshop to check and fuel his chainsaw in readiness to deliver the cruel and final cut. There is firewood to saw and stack ahead of winter. There is pruning to be done to remove potential hazards. There are some jobs he can do and there are jobs beyond the scope of his chainsaw. The wisdom is to know the difference. Safety is paramount.

Shelterbelt trees

Some of the felled Leyland Cypress shelter belt trees. Lots of firewood.

Leyland Cypress trees once lined the other side of our driveway. Planted close together as a shelter belt before our time here, they were never pruned. They grow fast to a height of thirty metres and become wide-branching. Bark had grown over the fence wires and signs of dieback and wood rot meant the trees were at risk of being felled by high winds. We had professionals do the dangerous work of felling this row of 120 trees. For days, chainsaws, screeched and snarled in loud protest above the low base undertones of the heavy rumblings of the industrial grinding and mulching machine.

Thirteen years later, the tree stumps are rotting into the ground. We had firewood forever it seemed.  Truckloads of  shredded foliage and small branches were dumped to form a large mound of organic matter near my garden area. The resulting compost has since been added to my raised vegetable beds. 

Every tree matters to the world. Their limbs reach to the sun and bring goodness back to the earth for our health. Trees are a litmus test of the state of the health of the earth. I am protective of my trees. I know the trees will have to be pruned. An arborist is coming to inspect the tree damage and other work to be done. I will put my trust in the arborist to prune the overhanging branches with skill and care.

Lorax

I want healthy trees. I want the trees to heal well after their limbs are amputated. I do not want the trees to succumb to post-surgical shock.   

 

I am the Lorax, I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.  

Dr. Suess. The Lorax.


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A Loophole is for a Shoelace

Loophole

I love to read. Anytime. Anywhere. I can get distracted when exercising in the gym which is not my comfort zone. The gardening (a comfort zone) I do can be hard, heavy physical work. I also like to tell people who will listen that I just go to keep Himself company during his post-cardiac programme. However, I digress.

I read the inspirations that urge those of us working out in the gym to strive harder towards a healthier and stronger physical self. I enjoy the wit and subtlety of the memes. Words feature on posters on the gym walls and flash across the screens mounted above the treadmills and  cross-trainer machines.

  • Get started. 
  • Can’t is not a word.
  • Sweat is fat crying.
  • Just do it anyway.
  • Can you kick it? Yes you can.
  • Ora up. You’re alive, but are you living?
  • Fit is not a destination, it is a way of life.
  • The difference between try and triumph is a little umph.
  • There are seven days in the week, someday isn’t one of them. 
  • We do not stop exercising because we grow old, we grow old because we stop exercising.

The nation’s health statistics make for alarming reading. We, the public, are all in this lifeboat together. No matter our age, our (dis)-ability, our health status, our weight, our family and work schedules. Doctors are writing green prescriptions for their patients for a more active lifestyle. 

“What fits your busy schedule better, exercising one hour a day, or being dead 24 hours a day?” Randy Glasbergen.

Gym Shoes

Loopholes are for shoe laces

I get the message.

Get to the gym. Get into that gym gear. Lace up those gym shoes. 

No excuse. No escape.

There is no loophole in my workout for life programme.


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Summer Heat and the Insects are at Work

A certain languor is essential to cool living in this summer heat. We stay indoors away from the midday sun. The cats lie comatosed. We check our 18-year old cat is even alive. He is fading and infirm and sadly, his days are numbered.

The most energetic lifeforms at work are the insects. Dragonflies dip and dive over water. They have a useful purpose. According to Himself, more dragonflies means that more mosquitoes are chomped.

Mozzies have a personal vendetta against Himself, so he says, slapping on insect repellent and squirting aerosol spray in the direction of yet another whining black dot.  I seem to be immune from these night-invaders. My good fortune neither helps nor amuses Himself under siege. Chemical warfare against the mozzies continues.

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Bumblebees pollinate pumpkin plants

Greater numbers of bumblebees are visiting and working in the garden. I like to think this is because plantings of different herbs and plants have provided sources of nectar and pollen for much of the year. Overtime, I have tried to plant for diversity to attract beneficial insects. It seems to be happening.

Years ago, Himself and I cleared an overgrown Buddleia B.davidii from our boundary fenceline. It an invasive weed and a noxious pest plant. We disturbed a colony of hundreds of bumblebees nesting hidden deep in a large hole below ground level inside the rotting trunk.  Obviously the buddleia flowers were a great source of food.

The bumblebees did not seek to sting us – unlike wasps we have encountered. Since that time, I have learned more about these beneficial insects. Bumblebees are great garden pollinators.


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Pean ~ a heritage vegetable

In October, a friend gave me six vegetable seedlings. She described them as a cross between a Pea and a Bean, a heritage vegetable brought to New Zealand by Dalmatian people who settled in this country more than 100 years ago.

The seedlings have flourished and are growing skywards on the bean frame next to my scarlet runner beans. We pick young Peans and enjoy eating them raw. It is hard to say whether the Pean is a cross or whether it is a distinctive vegetable in its own right. I’ll let some pods grow large and see what eventuates.

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Young Pean, pod and seed, is nice to eat raw

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Pean: leafy plant, young pods and delicate white flowers

As is the way in summer, we now have a proliferation of beans. Tired and hot at the end of a busy week, I had no idea what dish I might create as I picked the green, butter and runner beans, Peans and green chilli for dinner tonight.

However, a recipe evolved and Friday night dinner happened for three adults, and three grandkids who must have sausages and sauce. Kids and vegetables – that is another story.

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Colourful medley of vegetables including Peans

  1. Slice 1 onion and saute in olive oil until soft
  2. Add 2 crushed cloves of garlic and 1 green chilli finely chopped
  3. Slice 1 red pepper (normally I would char-grill beforehand and peel) and saute with the onion
  4. Add 1 450g tin of chopped tomatoes. Stir and simmer.
  5. Top and tail and cut the beans and Peans.  Add to tomato mixture.
  6. Simmer gently until the vegetables are cooked to your liking.
  7. Season to taste.

I added some leftover black Kalamata olives that had been marinated in a chilli and red capsicum dressing and then served  this dish with crusty ciabatta bread.

As an after thought – I could have added some crumbled feta cheese. But – next time.

The Pean has earned its place in my vegetable garden and kitchen.


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Losing the plot in the veggie garden

 

Gardening 101. Do not, do not turn your back on the summer garden plot. Himself and I took a five-day break and the veggies threw a party.

Cos lettuces bolted to seed. Cucumber had a marrow growing competition with the zucchini.  Pineapple sage bush transformed into a monster. Runner beans did a vertical sprint. Vine ripened tomatoes got saucy. Yellow quinces just wanted to carpet the grass. And the chooks fell in love with the red juicy tomatoes and grubbing among the green herbs.

This cook has the last say. Olive oil, oregano, black pepper and roast slowly in the  oven for about one hour. Slip the skins off when cooled. Use as required. I freeze the pulp in meal lots to use with pasta dishes at a later time.

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The trees yawn and stretch their limbs to the sun

Early this morning I went for a walk. The cat stopped following me once I left the sanctuary of the garden and sat  down to sun himself by the gate until my return. The chickens gave up following me in disgust because I had no food bucket. A rabbit crouching in the long grass and I startled each other.  A white tail bobbed off at speed under the trees. A bird, hidden high in the branches, made its presence heard. Further along the path, a loud squawk was accompanied by a flapping of wings as a beautifully coloured cock pheasant took flight (or fright) from under the ferns.

No animal life stirred in the stream as the sun gave life to the day and as its fingers of light reached through the trees. Eels have retreated deep into their watery stream bed to dream of their long swim through the rivers to the coast and of their arduous journey to the spawning grounds in the warmer waters of the Pacific Ocean. The trees yawn and stretch their limbs and preen themselves in nature’s mirror, readying for another day.

My humble stream moment makes me think of poems by two esteemed and eloquent New Zealand poets

“The sea, to the mountains, to the river” by Hone Tuwhare

“The river in you” by Brian Turner


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Saturday night ~ it’s humid

Word Press Daily Prompt Saturday Night

Coping with the heat and humidity. That is what I am doing.

Earlier this evening, cold drink in hand, I kept company with Dr. Kay Scarpetta as I turned the pages of crime author Patricia Cornwell’s latest novel, Depraved Heart. At page 256, I stop reading. There is no more ice in my freezer and no more chilled drink in my fridge. That puts an end to that.

Time to venture outside to say goodnight to my garden, to give the plants a cool drink. It is pleasant during the stillness of the twilight hours. The first star makes its appearance, there is the occasional bird twitter as they settle in the trees and the shadows deepen as the dark cloak of the night descends over the land. After shutting the hens in their coop, I set the possum traps. These creatures of the night will soon stir from their daytime slumbers intent on foraging and ravaging my fruit.

Still the humidity persists. Feeling listless, I check out the online International Scrabble Club and play a couple of games, check out Facebook and am now writing this daily prompt. It may be a late night.

Hardly Saturday night fever.