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Posts tagged ‘gardening’

The dog ate my blog post

I missed a post last week.

(Shh! I don’t think anyone noticed!)

Still, I feel the only polite thing to do under the circumstances is to offer up an excuse. Since I’ve used ‘the dog ate my blog post’ at least once, I’m kind of stuck. All my creativity appears to be channeled into gestating. At this rate, The Asset will be a work of art. Or a real piece of work. Maybe a bit of both? Whatever.

Also, we’re still full-on just over two weeks into our new home. I have been engaged in an orgy of scrubbing. I assure you, the word ‘orgy’ (please see previous sentence) was wittingly applied. My affair with cloth is obsessive, dirty, frenzied, exhausting and slightly lustful; all appropriately packaged in complex emotions like shame and guilt.

So far I’ve cleaned the kitchen.

Really quite thoroughly, you know.

Also, I could do with a shower.

I would have liked to have the entire house scoured by now, but there have been so many other critical items demanding our attention, including but not limited to: extensive rugby analysis; thinking up imaginative insults for Irish and South African referees; distracting our midwife from discussing ‘bonking’ and the more literal aspects of digestion; and spending hours attempting to train Fisher & Paykel’s customer relations representatives. I am also required to provide critical backup and support for Andrew’s stealth ops to Mitre 10.

And then there’s the garden. If you sit and stare at it, you can actually see the vegetation advancing on the house. It is – literally – a jungle out there. We may not be at risk of being attacked by tigers in our back yard, but currently the most efficient way of getting to the garage is swinging Tarzan-style on a vine from the front door.

Which has proved challenging at seven months pregnant.

Yesterday, armed with a trowel and sunhat, it took me five hours to clear an area roughly the size of a manhole cover. At the current rate of progress, the garden might be free of weeds by 2030. Alternatively, I could send Andrew out with a vat of Roundup; or we could just spend the money and tastefully concrete the entire section – which is the option I’m currently favouring.

Weeding canine style

Jed loves gardening. It is one of his favourite activities, almost on the same level as trying to smuggle rancid bones into the house.

Now, he’s no longer allowed into the vegetable garden after he nibbled the top off all my beetroot seedlings. Instead he hovers beyond the perimeter of the fence, alert and quivering. He watches intently until I throw a weed over the fence, whereupon he pounces on it and worries it.

The other morning Husband and I decided to reclaim some land in the small area at the bottom of the drive where, if you sit and watch, you can actually SEE the weeds advancing across the flowerbed in a strategic military formation I like to call Operation Choke.

Naturally Jed was at the front line of defence in the thick of the action. I think this is his idea of ‘helping out’. You can’t say our dog doesn’t pull his weight.

In addition to indiscriminate digging, Jed also functions as a Weed Disposal Unit (WDU)™.

As you can see, Jed takes weeds PERSONALLY. Unfortunately, he has trouble differentiating between flowers/herbiage/vegetables and weeds. (That said, I’m not sure Husband can tell the difference either.)

Jed likes to ensure the weed is extremely dead before moving on.

Application of herbs

“The rosemary’s just taken off in the last couple of weeks!” I enthused to our landlady this morning. “Here, come take a look.”

I was eager to show off my fledgling gardening skills. Since Landlady actually planted it, ‘skills’ in this case refer to a) Not Killing It; b) the thriving of rosemary in my vicinity; and c) the identification/cataloguing thereof.

I need a lot of reassurance when it comes to gardening.

Landlady initially made all the right noises when presented with the burgeoning bush. “Wow!” she said. “It’s . . . very . . . that’s funny . . . I don’t remember . . . is that . . . are you sure that’s rosemary?”

“Oh yes, uh-huh, I believe so,” I asserted confidently. “I used it to make rosemary flatbread last night. Andrew said it was EVEN BETTER than my garlic flatbread.”

Um, so, well, it appears it might in fact have been, er.

Lavender flatbread.

The Day of the Radishes

Living here makes me a better person. I get up earlier. I grow stuff, I fish. I keep the house clean and occasionally mop. I have enhanced capacity for mental calculation. It’s really exceptionally rare that I lock my dog out of the house. I take in homeless people. Well, I would do if I came across any, which I don’t really. But if I did, I would totally put them up in the spare room and feed them nourishing meals three times a day and do their laundry. Although after a while, assuming they didn’t have substance addictions or a mental illness, I would be seriously asking why they weren’t out earning money and finding another place to squat. And what if I didn’t like them? I couldn’t kick them out because everyone would assume I was administering el-booto because they were disadvantaged.

It’s probably better I don’t take in homeless people.

Every week, we go into Blenheim for provisions. I often buy foodstuffs with no idea how I plan to apply them – but to equip myself for combat with any recipe. This is the reason that, at the end of every week, the fridge is bare but for rubbery bulbs of fennel, or a limp head of celery.

Anyway, in the spirit of being a better person with the exception of taking in homeless people, I excavated my juicer yesterday. The juicer hasn’t seen active service since we lived in Dubai, although it did survive The Night Of The Great Plug Swap two years ago.

I juiced the rubbery bulb of fennel and the limp stalk of celery along with a wrinkled apple, and a carrot with black spots. I will go out on a limb by saying it was not as horrid as it sounds. In fact, it was pretty tasty.

Now, I have decided to clear the garden of any plant life that I cannot identify (bear with me; this is going somewhere, I’m almost certain of it.) This morning, after tearing up what might originally have been cauliflower, I started in on a big patch of foliage. And it turned out to be . . . MORE radishes. It’s like The Day of the Triffids out there. Except, I suppose, it’s more The Day of the Radishes. You can’t move for <expletive deleted> radishes.

I pulled up four of them. They were the size of kumara. Some of them had more than one tuber.

Neither Husband nor myself are fans of radishes – although, in my case, I’ve never fully figured out why. They’re peppery, they’re crunchy, they pack – if not a punch – then a vigorous goosing. But here’s the thing: I can’t abide crunchy stuff in salads. Carrots in a salad? Instant panic attack. And where else do radishes go but in salads? They are the quintessential salad ingredient, according to pretty much every crossword clue concerning salad vegetables six letters.

As the radishes annexed my kitchen, I stared at them trying to decide how to eradicate them. Then, as the radishes performed practice manoeuvres across the bench, my eye fell on the juicer.

There are a surprising number of juice recipes on the internet which include radishes. Apparently, radishes are rich in vitamin C and helpful in cases of jaundice and tuberculosis, which is always useful to know.

I peeled the radish and juiced it with an apple and two carrots. The piquancy of the radish complemented the sweet apple and carrot perfectly. I am aware that saying it was a TASTE SENSATION is the equivalent of hanging myself off the limb with a big bullseye painted on my torso.

Go ahead: take your best shot.

Green thumb

Me, brandishing a huge lettuce in Andrew’s face:-

Me: Look! From the garden.

Husband: Wow! Did you grow it yourself?

Me; Well, no. It’s one of Landlady’s. But my contribution was INVALUABLE.

Husband: Really? What was that?

Me: I didn’t kill it.

Husband: Well done.

Lettuces vs radishes

Out the front of the house is a small vegetable garden, surrounded by an electric fence to keep the wild goats out. My landlady was kind enough to plant tomatoes, broccoli, lettuce, what I have tentatively identified as cabbage, and beans.

Not so keen on the beans.

They creep me out.

Always have.

Not sure why.

Undaunted by my mother’s living legacy (she inadvertently terrorises all chlorophyll based life forms leaving a trail of rotting destruction and wiltedness in her wake), I have embraced gardening with gusto. My composting has taken on a new enthusiasm now that I can apply it. Every morning I get up at 7am and feel a glow of worthiness which is only compounded by pulling on my orange gardening gloves. I spend at least half an hour weeding, watering tomatoes, and teaching bugs how to fly. Sometimes more.

Landlady advised that the lettuce she planted for us needed to be separated out. Late one evening, I chose two of the sturdier lettuces for a trial separation. I chatted to them reassuringly while I eased them out of the ground, transplanted them to their new home and plied them with beverage.

I felt a real connection, like I had BONDED with my lettuces. So you can imagine my grief when I came out the following morning to find them flopped all over the show.

“It’s the best way to learn,” suggested Landlady supportively. “You win some, you lose some. You’re going to have a few casualties along the way.”

“Not in my garden,” I responded grimly.

Over the next couple of days I coddled my lettuces. This involved massaging them, taking them for walks, watering them twice a day, and dissuading Jed from trampling them.

It was a moment of exquisite triumph when I came out one morning and found my lettuces propped up like little green flowers, perkier than a barrel of nipples in a chill breeze.

That same day, I was vigorously attacking some weeds. I did note the roots were a pretty fuchsia colour, but it wasn’t until I had pulled about a dozen of them that I realised . . . I was ripping up radishes.

I plunged the plants back into the ground and so far they appear to have survived my rampage.

I don’t care what it takes: they’re all coming out alive.

Carnivorous weeds

We’ve had a relaxing weekend and Andrew spent most of yesterday out in the garden. He likes to kick off a weekend morning with some high-volume motorbike revving, followed by lawn mowing and hammering. Occasionally when he really feels the urge to express himself, he’ll fire up the nail gun or circular saw.

After he’s woken up the neighbourhood, he’ll stand around our six foot patch of grass sweating manfully, scratching his stubble and displaying the most spectacular case of builder’s bum I have ever seen short of an Irish construction site. And that’s saying something: we Irish know all about the craic.

If he keeps practising, he should be able to store a pair of hedge clippers down there before long.

[Do I go in for the bottom jokes too much? Sorry – they’re my FAVOURITE although I draw the line at farting humour, which is altogether peurile. I can’t understand these people who go in for lewd jokes, Michael Jackson jokes (which probably fall under the same category) and animal jokes at the expense of the humble backside – I’m thinking of lobbying for more arse jokes as a possible route into politics or the diplomatic corp. But for your sake I’ll try to keep them in check.]

I’m not sure what Andrew finds out in the garden to hold his attention for so long. We were both originally agreed that we wanted a low-maintenance affair out back. To me, that implied paving the entire area, maybe with a border of gravel and a decorative flourish of boulders surrounded by more gravel. You have to admit it’s the ultimate in low-maintenance as gardens go – and very zen. I had visions of Andrew sitting in the lotus position on a large rock, meditating and chanting: “Ooohmmm”.

Visions were about the extent of it: sadly, Andrew vetoed my plan – man could not grasp the ecologically friendly essence of my Gravel Garden.

Yet still there is not that much to maintain – half our plants died while we were in NZ, and the ones that didn’t are the equivalent of weeds. Let’s face it, to thrive through the desert summer and Andrew’s erratic sprinkler system, they’d need to be pretty hardy. The ones left are so hardy you could raze them at the roots and they’d spring back to twice their original size within 24 hours. We’re afraid to get too close to them in case the things eat us

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