Tuesday, September 29, 2009

On rumination

The weather was wild on the weekend which provided a brilliant opportunity to lie on the couch in front of the fire to read and ruminate on all of the things that I should be doing. Such as clearing a whole bank of blackberry. (More on the role that blackberry now plays in my life in a later post).

While lying there I spared a thought for my friend Andrew who also owns a country house and whose weekend would apparently involve planting 800 agapanthus plants. Andrew is the type of person who orders 1200 lavender and 800 agapanthus plants then gets them all planted in a couple of weeks. He is also the type of person who will quite possibly be found several years later digging up 800 agapanthus for some reason that wasn't apparent when he hatched the planting plan. I am the type of person who plants 15 plants in her kitchen herb garden bed and considers this a laudable achievement. Given this, it is unsurprising that Andrew has made substantial progress in developing his garden and I have not.

I'm sticking to the argument that good doses of lying on the couch are a necessary part of creativity. When I was a freelance journalist one of my preferred forms of procrastination was researching the creative cycle (good stuff here if you are interested). Bathed in the warmth of the fire I reassured myself that my brain was getting necessary processing time, while simulaneously trying to subdue the tiny worry that 20 years will pass and I'll be gazing out at the knee-high trees I have only just got around to planting.

I distracted myself by making the arrangement above with some of the old weights I bought from the antique store last week. They are totally impractical but there is something quite beautiful about them. Outside in the rain the blackberry continued its march.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Staining my fingers with their aroma

I have a thing about fresh herbs. I love the thought of big bunches of them stuffed into a jug, strewn on the kitchen bench, thrown into cooking by a generous handful or staining my fingers with their aroma while still in the soil. The extortionately-priced and meanly proportioned cellophane-wrapped packets you can buy from the supermarket have never done it for me, nor have my attempts at growing herbs in pots. One of the great appeals of having a big garden for me has always been the desire to have my own herb garden.

While almost three years have passed since I bought the country house and I still find myself clearing and planning and procrastinating, on the weekend something momentous happened: I completed a small project: I planted my kitchen garden.

Well...it's not quite as impressive as that sounds. I almost finished planting one small garden bed, which is predominately devoted to herbs for cooking.


The herbs I have chosen for this area are the perennial cooking herbs, I'm going to put the annuals like parsley, coriander and basil in tubs. I have planted: Italian thyme, lemon thyme, Greek oregano, sweet marjoram, rosemary, garlic chives, sage and winter savoury. French tarragon won't be around for another couple of weeks so I have left a space for that. I have also planted a bay tree and a fig tree, both of which I've surrounded by Italian lavender and which I'll keep pruned so they stay small. I'm going to fill the gaps with those tiny, wild alpine strawberries. The next stage is to drain a small pond, which borders the bed and is permanently filled with some sort of annoying weed. The plan is to fill that with peppermint.

I'll post some photos soon.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Falling prey to a Spring cliche

The newspaper in the town in New Zealand where I grew up marked spring every year with a photo of children frolicking amongst daffodils. It was our city's spring cliche. Now I'm in danger of instituting my very own spring cliche. A crab apple, my favourite tree in my garden is in full bloom. A cliche becomes a cliche for a reason, right?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Mushrooms plucked by my own fair hand

After living in small apartments for so many years, one of the things that excites me most about having land, is the thought of growing my own food. My attempts to date have yielded mixed results. Food growing that involves nothing more than me wandering up to a tree to pick it, has had quite good results. I am modestly downplaying here my involvement in my peach harvest of last summer, which did involve me slinging a net over the peach tree to protect it from birds. Other attempts, such as the 'I wonder what happens if I just let the tomato vines just go wild?' experiment, or the great non-irrigated strawberry trial, have not fared so well.

I am sure that the tide of food-growing success is about to change with the arrival this week of my mushroom box. I have a vision of mushrooms plucked by my own fair hand and tossed into a pan with olive oil and lashings of fresh thyme from the herb patch.

The mushroom box comes with two bags of ingredients, a bag of casing material that is dark brown and very damp and the compost, which is a bit like bark but furred with white fungus.

According to the instructions, you just add some water to the casing, put it on top of the mushroom compost, keep it somewhere out of the wind and light and mist it regularly with water. In three to four weeks...voila!

I ordered my box online and it cost $36.70 including postage. This will quite possibly work out to about $1 per mushroom, but I think that sometimes you can't put a price on taste.