Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Granny & The Blackboy Peach Tree

It's the start of the blackboy peach season. 

Our first blackboy peach tree in Southbridge came from Granny's place in Leeston.   These marvellous little peach trees breed true and grow readily from the stone so once you have one there's a good chance more will spring up around it.  So it was that Granny gave us one of her baby trees many years ago before she died in 1980.

Dad planted it at the front of the orchard in Southbridge.  In 1983 when my beloved Collie dog Charn died suddenly when he was only 4 years old I was heartbroken.  I buried him beside what was then still the fairly young blackboy peach tree given to us by Granny and put a fence around the grave.   For a long time that peach tree thrived and produced many peaches and then it too died - but not before it had produced more baby peach trees.  Those baby peach trees and their offspring are the ones we still have today.  So it is the cycle of life continues.

As the writer and poet Robert Frost once wrote, "In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life - it goes on". 

As the years go by time and time again I find myself associating a tree or a plant or produce with a relative or friend, the association often triggering loving memories because it was a tree they gave to us or a flower that was a favourite of theirs or I just remember how much my mother's side of the family loved pickled onions. 

When Granny gave Dad the baby peach tree he didn't want to take it there and then. He said he'd get it another day.  Granny said, "No, no, take it now. Another day might never come".

 And so as we once again begin to gather another bounty of delicious peaches Granny's words and wisdom echo through my mind, down over the years like a river running over stones to the sea - and I remember my wonderful grandmother whom I loved greatly and still miss.  She was the 13th of 13 children.  She was feisty and didn't suffer fools gladly but she was very kind.  And it's because of her kindness we get to enjoy these beautiful peaches, God rest her soul. 

Below : Two of the young blackboy peach trees which are descended from Granny's original tree.

Below : Andrew poses with the latest batch of blackboy peaches we preserved.

Below : My beloved Granny 
Julia Frances Manson nee Brears 
Gone but never forgotten

Born Halkett, Canterbury 20 December 1897
Died Christchurch, Canterbury 16 November 1980. Lived most of her life in Leeston. 

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
2 Timothy 4:7

Now sleeping peacefully at the top of the rise in the Ellesmere Cemetery, below:

In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on. Robert Frost
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/r/robertfros101059.html
In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on. Robert Frost
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/r/robertfros101059.html

Monday, 28 March 2016

Kittens At Dawn

The "wild black kitten" Tabitha is not so wild any more! She is discovering the delights of windowsills and net curtains. 

Monday, 21 March 2016

A Riot Of Beans

I'm a disorderly gardener.  I like creating a riot of plants and I poke things everywhere, anywhere.  If I see an empty container or an old bucket somewhere there's a good chance it will soon be growing a potato or a cucumber.  

Sometimes I carry seeds around with me in my pocket just in case I see a place to poke one. Two of my favourites for this are beans and sunflowers.  They are both biggish seeds and good to poke in all over the place. 

When I walked past this unused concrete water trough (below) I decided it was begging to be filled up and used to grow climbing beans because it had a wire fence beside it.  Climbing beans are also good to poke in at the feet of sunflowers and corn, a marriage made in heaven so to speak.  I guess I'm just a natural born poker.


Friday, 18 March 2016

Autumn Harvest

Autumn is a sumptuous feast.  

It's the beginning of the "dying time" but as if in one last extravaganza Mother Nature puts on some of her most beautiful dresses and scatters far and wide her gifts of fine fruits, berries, nuts and other delightful fare.  Not content to merely trickle to us these treats she positively rains them down in seemingly endless buckets.  It's a wonderful thing and also sometimes a little intimidating to be presented with so much bounty! 

It began with the pickles - cucumber, onion and capsicum.  Andrew poses with the jars we did a few weeks back, our second batch of "pretty pickles".


In March the pears are ready from our old Bon Chretian and Doyenne Du Comice pear trees.  We've dried some and began to bottle others in honey and cinnamon.  

The apples start to trickle in, the Granny Smith, Royal Gala and Golden Delicious. 

We have begun to dehydrate some of the apples and pears:

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Leek Flowers

Leek flowers are one of my favourite flowers.  These great balls are like magnets to bees, butterflies, hover flies and - to a lesser extent - bumblebees. If you ask me it's worth growing leeks just to get the flowers!  

A few photos from our garden of leek flowers at various times:

Monday, 14 March 2016

Life Meets Art

The wallpaper in my room features artwork from the beautiful book The Diary Of An Edwardian Country Lady by Edith Holden. It features delightful sketches of plants, birds, dragonflies, butterflies and other delights of Nature.

Since my room is surrounded by garden and the windows are often open many moths and other insects fly in and out. There are some quite exquisite little moths who grace me with their presence.

This little beauty flew into my room one day and alighted on the wallpaper beside Edith's lovely drawings and one of the poems which also feature on the wallpaper, this one by Robbie Burns.

It was quite charming to see this sweet little moth blend so easily into a work of art!  

Friday, 11 March 2016

Early Days In The Garden

 Not surprisingly some of the first photos of me were taken in the garden.  This is the 1960's at Kewmarnic Cottage in Southbridge.  My maternal grandparents had owned it before my parents and we moved here when I was 5 years old from Sundowner Cottage, half way between Leeston and Southbridge.

I am on the left with my little sister Shirley, now sadly deceased, the little blonde girl on the right.   My Aunty Lill, who lived in Timaru and was visiting as she often did, is the woman by the wheelbarrow.  I had many happy holidays and visits when I stayed with Uncle Jack and Aunty Lill when they lived on the farm near Temuka as a child, even if I was very apprehensive about their flock of geese who seemed to enjoy chasing me the moment they saw me.   There used to be goldfish in their creeks, a huge attraction for me as a child, but running the gauntlet of those geese to get to the edge of the creek to see the beautiful orange fish was always a challenge!

Before she died in April of 2015 my sister observed to me that we'd had a magical childhood and truly in so many ways we had. It wasn't perfect but growing up with so much freedom and a close family and community was a great privilege.  The world seemed a kinder, gentler place back then in our little corner of the world.  We were Kiwi kids through and through, happiest when outside pursuing adventures, working or playing in the garden and in my case - playing sport or helping tend the animals.  We really were young and wild and free.

Below : Dad and Shirley in our back garden

Below : Shirley - famous for grazing on all the raw fruit and vegetables in the garden and orchard. As a child she was forever snacking on raw sweetcorn, berries, beans, grapes, tomatoes or whatever else she could find!  Maybe she was the first real raw food guru? I remember at night Mum used to get frustrated at tea time because Shirley had eaten so much raw produce that she never wanted to eat her tea!

Below : Shirley, in the pursuit of more grapes.