Duffer?

One of these farmlet residents fell into the stream and couldn’t get out, the other one had to jump in and assist.

NIna post rescue

The Forbearing Husband maintains a sanguine countenance in the face of adversity

No prizes for guessing which one is which. Let’s just say that the person who executed the rescue ended up soaked to the waist and sloshing around in gumboots full of water, while the duffer who fell in remains confident that nothing bad will ever happen to her.

Ok, pop quiz… Who amongst The Readership recognises this quote: “BETTER DROWNED THAN DUFFERS IF NOT DUFFERS WONT DROWN”*? Let me know in the comments. Does knowing this quote mark me out as an old fogey? Let me know in the comments!

* Caps lock and lack of punctuation original to the quote.

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An English Garden

During our first summer here I created a Mediterranean Garden from a previously arid wasteland. This year I’ve been working on a companion piece: The English Garden.

English Garden

English Garden

The plot (haha) was hatched early in the year, when Stephen and Favorite Stepson kindly removed a potentially house-lifting fig tree and a giant Yukka which had been elbowing the deck on the west side of the house. A few weeks later my lovely ex- sister-in-law (is that a thing?), now my beloved sis-in-the-garden, came to visit. She arrived with a car full of plants from her Auckland place and together we weeded out swathes of kikuyu, dug in a few barrow-loads of horse poo goodness, and got to planting. Thank you Mrs Williams!

Sweet Pea

Self-sown sweet peas (seeds originally from the aforementioned Mrs Williams).

So far this new border has, in the best tradition of gardens, cost almost nothing. Apart from a couple of punnets from Mitre 10, all the plants have been grown from cuttings, gifted, moved from somewhere else on the property, or are self sown.

These have been my sources (skip this section if you are not a gardener, it’s mainly for my own records):

  • French lavender seedlings from AntiGene and UnklEd’s garden.
  • English lavender grown from cuttings acquired from the grass verge in the local village.
  • Star jasmine, primulas and calla lillies from Mrs Williams.
  • Globe artichoke, a gift from Lisajane.
  • Gardenia donated by Grandma Marie.
  • Freesia bulbs which were here when we arrived, overcrowded and starving to death in a pot.
  • Rose ‘Duchess de Brabant’. A cutting taken from a plant which grew at our old house.
  • Sweet peas, granny bonnets and nasturtiums all self sown.
  • Rose ‘Munstead Wood’ purchased with Christmas money (thanks Grandma Marie).
  • Thrift and stock (plus some delphiniums which were promptly eaten by snails), seedling punnets from Mitre 10.

The English Garden is far from being worthy of Vita, but it is coming along quite nicely.

Vita Sackville West

This is going to be my style when I’m an old lady. Obviously I will have taken up smoking by then. The boots are magnificent.

And, just so you don’t think those pretty pictures of flowers mean I have tamed anything more than a few square metres, here’s a wide shot including what I’m generously calling ‘lawn’.

Weeds around English Garden

The horror! Vita wouldn’t have stood for it. But wait, I bet she had gardeners.

We are going mower-free here and the horses haven’t been on that patch in a while now. There’s a plan at some stage to enlist a couple of kunekune pigs to manage grass control (in conjunction with moveable electrified netting in case roses are also appealing to piggies).

One thing at a time my friends, one thing at a time…

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Paint it Indigo

I’m still muddling through over here, and long overdue to fill you in on the story behind these pictures. Thank you for being patient.

Painting kitchen cupboard doors

There was an inspired guess from Mindy as to what was going on here,

Painting kitchen cupboard doors

but this shot was more of a clue.

What am I up to? Well, I’m painting the cupboards in the kitchen in a Resene colour called ‘Indian Ink’, which is about as close as a blue can get to black. Some see dark cabinets as a risky choice, but after taking the plunge with black cabinets in our last kitchen I’ve been an absolute convert. Not least because I’ve never been able to afford a new kitchen, and a dark colour disguises most of the not so attractive features of old and ugly cupboard doors.

So, would you like to see? Thought you might. Just bear with me while we do a little recap for anyone who might be new to the blog.

This was how the kitchen looked in the real estate photos from when we bought the property.

BEFORE: at purchase

A bit over a year ago I installed a dishwasher, and since then things have looked like this.

PROGRESS: post dishwasher install.

And here’s where we are now, with freshly painted cabinets.

dark cupboards pink bench

NOW: The colour looks even a little closer to black in real life.

Kitchen1

Can you see the potential? Imagine those bench-tops as wood slabs, or maybe white composite.

There’s a long way to go yet, and as with most renovation projects the middle doesn’t make much sense. To my eye things actually look worse rather than better just now. Those indigo cabinets aren’t playing at all well with the salmon pink counter-tops, and there is still rather too much orange pine waving at me from the shelving and window surrounds. It’s okay, much to the Forbearing Husband’s terror, I’m not done yet!

What’s your take on going to the dark side with kitchen cabinets? Love them or loathe them? Would you go for wooden bench-tops, or something else? Let me know in the comments.

Kitchen expenditure so far:

  • Secondhand Smeg stove (Trade Me): $350.00
  • F&P dishwasher (Harvey Norman): $1678.00 (ouch)
  • Plumbing parts for d/w installation: $31.00
  • 1 litre of Resene paint ‘Indian Ink’ (used about 2/3 can for 2 coats): $54.00
  • Sylvan cabinet handles ‘Gatwick’ in brushed aluminium 14@$7.08ea: $99.12
    • Subtotal spent so far = $2212.12
  • Income from selling the stove that came with the house on Trade Me: -$246.00
  • Total spent to date = $1966.12

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How to hug a Puppy

Around here we are reeling from an overload of sad events. If you’ve been following along for a while you’ll know what I mean. If you’re new to these scribblings and want to catch up — I’m sorry, can’t bear to link to all the sad posts — read forward from my 21st May entry, up to today and you’ll see how it’s been.

The problem we’ve faced recently is how to honour sadness without drowning? Well, there are as many answers to that question as there are people who ask it, but for those of us camped out at the farmlet over the last couple of weeks it’s been obvious. Go and hug a puppy.

Specifically, this puppy. She’s named after Miss Simone.

Black and white puppy

Nina — a labrador / cattle dog / border collie cross. Ex- Whangarei SPCA.

She’s the little tyke who has re-imagined our carpet, instigating the nature-inspired forest-floor theme I showed you here. She’s also contributed a few damp patches from time to time (fortunately our living room carpet was already well past its prime when we moved in, and I’ve pulled up all the nice rugs until puppy achieves reliable continence).

Floor with twigs

I hear natural materials are very in this year (makes me wonder why we spent all that money on a chipper).

Puppy

At least while she’s chewing sticks she’s not munching Forbearing Husband’s socks / my bra / chair legs.

When you have a warm wriggling puppy in your arms, it’s almost impossible not to re-engage with the joy and life still to be found in the universe. Go on pick her up — she’ll want to lick you — avoid her tongue if you are squeamish about puppy spit (we mostly are not). Notice how she relaxes into your arms. She’s so trusting; nothing bad has ever happened to her, and we hope nothing ever will. Put your head on her chest, listen to her heartbeat and breathe in the intoxicating scent of baby animal. There now, don’t you feel better? I know I do.

Nothing fixes this kind of sadness, but puppies sure as heck help.

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I was wrong

 

 

Things got worse. So much worse.

Bruce Edwin Hall: 4 April 1964 – 12 August 2017

DIY Guy we miss you very, very much.

…..

Scattered by the wind
washed by the rain
and transformed by the sun,
all doubts are swept away
and all restraints cast down.

Fly free spirit, fly
to the clouds in the heavens,
transformed by the sun,
with all doubts swept away
and all restraints cast down.
All restraints cast down.

Mahanga / Melbourne

…..

 

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Things Can Only Get Better

It’s been a sad few weeks at the farmlet and I haven’t felt like putting pen to paper [fingers to keyboard?]. Thank you to everyone who sent support in the form of blog comments, emails, cards and chocolate. We really appreciate your thoughts. Each time I’m in the Seven Acre Wood now I remember Nurse Jenny’s comment and imagine that old dog panting alongside me.

There have been a few recent developments that you haven’t heard about, and I promise I’ll fill you in over the next little while. While you wait, here are some teaser shots.

Painting kitchen cupboard doors

.

Painting kitchen cupboard doors

..

Floor with twigs

…!

Intrigued? Don’t worry, I’ll be back soon with the low down.

 

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In the Clearing

We buried the old dog today.

Ella - starlet portrait

Ella, a mongrel from the Henderson Pound. Our mongrel. 2003-20017

We’ve been dreading her death for years. Since April we’ve known it was imminent, and two weeks ago she had another stroke-like event. The last ten days have been a series of discussions about whether she’s enjoying life or looks like she’s suffering. About how and when. And where to dig her grave.

We settled on a spot on the edge of the Seven Acre Wood which we call The Clearing. It’s an open glade surrounded by totara and matai. In the summer it is a magical space, sunlight filters through branches and the encircling tree trunks give a sense of protection. Today there were grey skies overhead with random heavy showers scudding through, but we hope we’ve picked a spot that will be warm on a sunny day. That old dog did like to lie in the sun.

Goodbye Ella. For fourteen years you’ve loved us, entertained us, and staunchly alerted us to all incoming visitors except the Hell Pizza delivery people. You never lost your keen nose for food (especially chocolate), or your skill at extracting liver treats from a kong. You caught more than one rat under the chicken house, and clocked up many, many miles with the Forbearing Husband on his various jogging routes. You proved yourself over and over to be a not-so-big dog with a huge heart.

Ella. Lie down. Stay. Good dog. x

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Bucketing Down

Over the last few days we’ve seen an awful lot of this.

Rain on palm trees

It’s surprisingly hard to photograph rain. We pulled the kayaks right up the stream bank to keep them safe.

Kitty-pop has been mighty displeased. After her gifts of mice (one dead, two still kicking) on three consecutive days, she thought the very least we could do was to stop that wet stuff falling from the sky. She came to tell me so rather loudly while I was painting window sills.

Resene paint

Resene Lustacryl ‘Barely There’, in case you were wondering.

She sat on the arm of the settee in the study for a full 15 minutes, during which time she alternated between glaring meaningfully out of the window at the wet stuff, meowing loudly, and giving me the evil eye. It reminded me of the weekend we moved here.

It was another July and it was raining. Kitty-pop, according to Google wisdom about moving with cats, was supposed to be kept inside for at least 48 hours. She had spent the last 24 pacing and yodeling, complaining bitterly about the relocation of her food bowl — the washing machine it usually sat on was part of the furniture left behind as staging while we sold the old house.

Laingholm kitchen

The old house showing the correct placement of Kitty-pop’s washing machine.

Darling Daughter and I conferred, and decided that the grumpy kitty should be let outside before she started shredding paper, the furniture and, by the sound of her, quite likely our legs. The front door was opened, and Kitty-pop ran outside. She got as far as the end of the verandah before she saw the rain.

As she sped straight back into the house she shot us a look we had very little trouble interpreting. It meant something like this: ‘Unbelievable! First you imbeciles took me on a very uncomfortable car ride, during which you changed the whole interior of my house’, ‘Now I find you’ve messed with the outside too, and to top it all off you’ve made the sky leak. What in the name of Bastet are you thinking?’

Cat on computer keyboard

Kitty-pop undertakes a solitary protest sit-in on a computer keyboard

Fast forward to today. Eventually, vacating the settee, Kitty-pop moved herself to a laptop and used her backside to enter a single question mark into the Google search field. Was she questioning why humans are so dense as regards her perfectly clear meteorological requests, or wondering how many mice it takes to bribe an oppressor? Or perhaps she was asking that universal question, to which the answer is 42.

I played it safe and assumed that sitting on a keyboard meant some petting of the kitty would be appreciated. She graciously accepted this olive branch and begrudgingly graded my efforts as a ‘C’.

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In Another City

Goodness, another city jaunt so soon. We must surely have maxed out our metropolis quota for 2017.

This trip was closer to home, and happily there were no further episodes of inadvertent public nakedness involved. We spent a few days in The Windy City while the Forbearing Husband networked with influential bohemians of his acquaintance. Meanwhile I soaked up a bit of culture at the City Art Gallery, enjoyed the architectural and literary charms of the Wellington Central Library, and investigated a few op shops.

Forbearing Husband loves his hometown, and I love him, so I endured the roughly five-degree temperature drop between the winterless north and the all-too-wintry capital with only a fair to middling amount of grumbling. I was much comforted by my puffer jacket, a jaunty wool beret, and regular swigs of hot chocolate.

Trolley bus lines against a winter sky. Average daytime temperature: 12 degrees.

Time was short, so we didn’t get a chance to hug as many of our Welly-Rellies as we would have liked. We did, however, take a ride on Wellington’s ever-efficient public transport system to visit Mama and Papa, and we caught up with some much loved friends and their two small children. During dinner I coached the kids to nag mercilessly for a visit to see the farmlet ponies. If my plan works we’ll be hosting that family up in Northland quite soon (sorry, not sorry).

Wellington Central Railway Station NZ

Wellington Central Railway Station

The Forbearing Husband and I also got to a production of Riverside Kings (highly recommended), and ate at what has become our favorite Wellington restaurant since the closure of Maria Pia’s Trattoria almost a decade ago. I know, I really should be over that by now. But I’m not. Thankfully I still have Maria Pia’s cookbook Mangiare Italiano: Real Italian Food to remember her scrumptious menu by.

Righty-ho, I must fly. Lots to catch up on now we’re back at the land. Just before we wrap this up though let’s take quick stroll around town and past a few favorite places. I know at least one member of The Readership who will appreciate some extra photos of the capital.

Slowboat Records, Cuba Street, Wellington NZ

Slowboat Records, Cuba Street

Slowboat Records Wellington

Slowboat Records Rap selection

Plimmer Steps, Lambton Quay, Wellington, NZ

Plimmer Steps, Lambton Quay

Wellington Public Library, NZ

Wellington Public Library

Wellington Public Library, NZ

Athfield Plaque, Wellington Public Library

Train, Wellington NZ

Back at the station

Burger Fuel, Cuba Street, Wellington, NZ

Burger Fuel, Cuba Street. Anything to do with the Forbearing Husband’s desire to visit Wellington?

Laters Wellywood!

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Pesto Presto

Ah well, here I am picking the last of the basil. The plants might stagger on for another few weeks yet, but as the nights get cooler their leaves are dropping and turning brown. It’s only a matter of time before we have a frost that turns them all to mush.

No matter though, because I’m about to make pesto.

Basil, fooled into continued growth by warm sunny winter days.

I felt very Italian-Mama as I sat in the sun picking leaves to fill this bowl.

Just add walnuts, olive oil and a fast blade and you are on your way to yum.

It will be good to have this flavour burst to add to our winter meals.

Next on my ‘savour the summer goodness’ list is going to be basil infused gin. I had a cocktail called a ‘Thai Basil’ while out and about in the big city, and it was all kinds of GOOD. I photographed the ingredient list (gin, Thai basil, lemon, chartreuse, pepper syrup) so now all I have to do is figure out proportions.* Will report back once I sober up.

* You’re right, I probably should be using actual Thai basil for the infusion but I don’t have any. On my list for plant shopping next spring.

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