little red jottings

when a little red pen wanders off the page

Tag: plants water soil

Harvest and lists

20170219_122613You probably won’t be startled to learn that I’m a list maker. Some lists bring me joy (condiments, books, Christmas shopping), some give me a sense of order (chores, morning and evening tasks, cheap family meals), others either stem or generate a rising sense of panic depending on how long they are, their timeframe and my general state of mind (things to do, people to get in touch with, jobs to be done in the house or garden, groceries).

20170219_210119I usually list vertically, then scatter extra items around the page as I run out of room, but sometimes I mind map. I did that for parenting tricks, and it’s the list I like best on a fridge covered in the damn things. I used Wunderlist when I was running a business and I keep a task list at work, although it’s out of date within minutes and so long I have no hope of ever completing it. I usually cross things out as I complete them, but the other day I tried a line of Twink (the ribbon sort that runs out in a smooth white line), and that was more satisfying than I expected.

I’ve got a week of leave (well, with a day of work in the middle and an edit that has to be done in the first couple of days) starting tomorrow, and I thought a list might save me from the scurry of things in my head. I thought I could have a short, elegant list of things to do each day — exercise, eat something from the garden, read, write — but then it grew (see people, garden, do chores, prep for dinner) and then I added on random household chores I haven’t done for a year and for some reason thought I would enjoy packing into four short days of leave (wash the windows, organise the pantry) and then it didn’t really feel like a holiday any more.

20170219_210137So, I stuck that list on the fridge and wrote a short one for tomorrow, cleaned out the chook house, did the washing, wrote a grocery list, mended some clothes, lost my nut a few times, watered the glasshouse and drank too much coffee.

But another thread ran through the day, and I’m trying desperately to hang on to it because it felt calmer, more life-giving, better for body and soul. The Cat and I spent a happy hour this morning harvesting. We picked tomatoes, mint and broad beans, kale, zucchini and lettuce, and an armful of sweetpeas and roses — a gorgeous heap of colour and potential. The Cat was enthusiastic and excited, I was quietly smug, the kitchen smelled delicious.

I stuck the flowers in a jar and cooked the vegetables through the day. Lunch was tomato salad with mint and the last crumbs of a taut sheep’s feta, a lettuce salad* softened with pear and apple cider vinegar dressing, broad beans blanched and double-podded, then fried with bacon, some scraps of bread, a little leftover chicken. For dinner, I made a gratin with slices of zucchini in stock and a layer of oiled breadcrumbs on top. In a bowl with rice, it was a garden-storecupboard marriage of surprising grace and charm.

So, the lists did their thing, but the harvest helped more. Spontaneity within bounds, and all that.

  • One of the lettuces was a Venetian heirloom number, curiously strong-leaved, verging on tough, and with a slightly bitter edge. The other was some leafy thing I let go in the glasshouse.

Matariki and midwinter, again

Matariki started last week, the sisters rising, the year turning. It’s been a gathering, quietening time, a waiting time too, with all the tension and patience that demands.

The valley is marking the season with a festival today, and I saw the fire of the hāngi rising into the early morning air as I drove to Barre class this morning. We’re celebrating in our own way this year: the Rabbit is laid low with a cold, the Cat is reading 25 books for the 40 hour famine, Ian and I are planting trees.

On the hill, the hens are splashes of gold, and so are the trees around us. It’s unseasonally warm, and we make nervous jokes about climate change as we scan the sky for the storm clouds that must surely come. The music from the festival drifts up the hill, and I throw a smile down to meet it, send a flicker of greeting from my quiet patch of this earth.

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Following the creek

The reporter and I tracked the Lindsay yesterday. It’s an elusive little creek, disappearing behind houses and slicing under roads. The lower reaches are concreted and, well, kinda grotty, but it gets more open and burbly as you walk up it. We even saw riflemen flitting in the trees at one point! Featuring dorky photos and urban weeds.

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That Rabbit

The Rabbit knows what the Rabbit wants, and the Rabbit will quietly and persistently work to achieve the Rabbit’s aims, so quietly, in fact, that you will scarcely notice as he bends and shapes and softly pummels the world to his will. Until it’s done.

Case in point …

Ian vacuumed the car this afternoon after transporting the guinea pigs home from my sister’s house, where they have been on a wee holiday while we were away. He asked Rabbit twice if he would like to help with the vacuuming, but Rabbit was busy.

Rabbit realised that Ian had vacuumed the car without him, and got a bit cross. Then he calmed down and asked for the keys.

Being of a curious and light-hearted nature, Ian gave him the keys — Rabbit disappeared for a while, then came back and returned the keys. We weren’t really paying attention anymore, too much to do to get ready for the next bit of travel. The afternoon wore on a little more, and Ian got ready to take the boys to the library and the bookshop.

After more hassle than one would think strictly necessary for a straightforward outing of direct benefit to them, the boys were ready and they all trooped out to the car.

The back seat was covered with dirt.

“Well,” said the Rabbit. “Looks like we’ll have to vacuum it again before we go out, won’t we?”

And he did. He got the vacuum cleaner, vacuumed the car, put the vacuum cleaner away, and set off on his errands.

A scruffy, happy spring garden

Pink tulips, baby vegetables, a repaired buddha and an old lady cat who has lived in six houses with us and always manages to find a patch of sun. And coffee.P1090737 P1090740 P1090741 P1090742 P1090743 P1090744 P1090745 P1090746


Falling through the cracks

P1070372Okay, so I have a weakness for pottery. Also, coffee, dairy products, bacon, flowers, books, lemons, French desserts and vegetables.

P1070375I did classes once and loved it, but I couldn’t master the wheel or anything involving the addition of water, so all my creations were small, misshapen and bottom-heavy. I love them anyway, and one day I’ll try another course.

The Dunedin Pottery Collective has a shop in town, and I should never go in, really, because the prices are reasonable enough to make it always seem like a good idea to buy something, and there’s always something pretty enough to tempt me, and if I take a child, they’ll find something too — a little clay animal or a cup or a bowl. I don’t usually do much impulse shopping or retail therapy, but I do in there.

Anyway, a little while ago I went in because I have poor self-discipline and I secretly believe in indulging my weaknesses, and I came out with two cups, a jug, and a little cat for each of the boys. I knew as soon as I walked out that I had just set myself up for that awful mix of joy and guilt and shame and happiness that comes with unauthorised, beautiful and impractical purchases, but then I really compounded it by cracking a cup and the jug on the way home. I don’t know how it happened; I carried the Rabbit, caught the bus, walked up the steps, dropped my bag, and somewhere in there disaster struck. Quite amazing, actually, that anything survived.

So, there I was, all guilty and sad and bereft until Ian couldn’t stand it any longer and told me to ring the shop and let them know what had happened. The negotiations that followed were fraught and protracted, not because the potter and I we were trying to get a good deal out of each other, but because both of us wanted to be fair and generous, while also both being a bit useless with numbers and the arithmetics of the situation. And out of the awkwardness, I emerged with a new cup and jug and less money. ALL GOOD.

P1070377I also decided that I could make myself feel better by putting plants in the cracked vessels, so I bought a succulent that I divided and tucked in with soil and a little fresh water, sort of a new life from old, growing things in a broken world, converting beauty to a new form kind of a deal.

This cup is actually another cup I had, which cracked in the course of a revolting two-day, Skype-based hui for an organisation I’m part of — something had to break in that meeting, and in my rational mind I’m glad it was a cup, even though it had been my perfect elevenses coffee cup and it was the need to replace it that took me into the Collective shop in the first place.

P1070380So, now that we’ve come all full circle on this story, I have to tell you that when I looked at the jug plant the other day, it had tiny green weeds growing in it. This seems very metaphorical and really quite adorable to me. I am, essentially, a total dag.

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