Daffodil – Regard

Daffodil - regardDay four #100daysnz

Daffodil – Narcissus pseudonarcissus
Meaning – Regard
(Modern meaning:’Sorry about the cancer you had that one time)

Most of us probably see Daffodil as the large showy yellow trumpet shaped fundraising flowers but Daffodil is apparently the official common name for any of the plants that fall into the genus Narcissus which includes jonquils and erlicheer.

From a Victorian Flower Language standpoint this could generate a little confusion. I might give you a daffodil as the sign of my regard, but you might see it as a Narcissus which has traditionally meant egotism, following the Greek myth of the beautiful boy who saw his own reflection in the water and fell in love with it, not realising it was merely an image. Unable to leave the beauty of his reflection, Narcissus lost his will to live. He stared at his reflection until he died. I’m sure that happens to all of us from time to time.

Also, any daffodil you think is a King Alfred probably isn’t, but that’s enough floral disillusionment for one day and this has to stop somewhere.

#100daysnz #dontstopmenowbecauseimhavingagoodtime

NB Since I did actually have cancer that one time (here’s hoping) I feel entitled to be snarky about it – this is not intended to offend.

 

Dandelion – Rustic Oracle

dendelionDay Three #100daysnz

Dandelion: Taraxacum Officinale

Meaning: Rustic Oracle

Apparently the name comes from French Dent-de-lion or lion’s tooth, although that’s a bit of a stretch isn’t it? The meaning Rustic Oracle seems to relate either to its reputed fortune telling characteristics, especially in love, or to weather prediction as the ‘shepherd’s clock’.

 

Back to the future with chooks (or how not to buy a hen house)

IMG_2772 (6)Over the last year I have been focusing on little changes that make our home feel a little more ‘homely’. I wish I could say that this has resulted in a massive decluttering and streamlining of our living areas, surfaces and bookshelves. Alas, this would be a big fat lie. Instead I am preparing the way for chooks.

When I was a very small child our family had two chooks, a large black orpington called Blackstack and Honey a bantam. They were charming and lived in an a-frame hutch at the bottle of our suburban garden. They would allow themselves to be held and to sit on the handlebars of our bikes to be wheeled quietly about. We would feed them warm mash in winter and sprinkle wheat about to their great hopping and darting excitement.

They taught me how to keep a hen quiet when lifting the sweet heavy heft of a fat bottomed chook.  I learned to take responsibility for looking after their food and water.  They were endlessly amusing to watch, and I have always associated the sound of their slow contented clucks and murmurs with a particularly happy time.  They were also productive, a warm, fresh egg in the hand straight from under the chicken was a child sized miracle, especially when one was a tiny banty sized egg.  And as a budding gardener it always seemed to be to complete a satisfying circle to be able to use their bedding and poo to make plants grow better.

Later, as a teen in lifestyle block land we had a flock of brown shavers.  Some of these hens were rescued layers with mutilated beaks who had to be taught to use the perch and to forage. This, more than anything, illustrated for us the great cruelty which is factory farming, and since then I have always paid above the odds for ethically farmed eggs.

While our brown shavers had less in the way of identifiable personalities, they had spirit. They would escape their pretty orchard occasionally and do their best to lay anywhere other than the warm dry, purpose designed shed provided for them. By the time a rogue clutch was discovered ( the biggest contained 22 eggs), it was often too late for the eggs. The smell of a recently broken rotten egg is physical confrontation with the fullest extent of stink.

Now for health, fertiliser and probably sentimental reasons I am looking to reintroduce hens to the back of our section. My mother-in-law and her siblings remember when they had to cart the household scraps up to the chooks in our backyard in central Auckland some seventy years ago. A meal of chicken was a rare treat then, with zero food miles on it.

Local bylaws now permit us to have as many as six hens. For sanity and neighbourly relations, perhaps it is a good thing that roosters are no longer an option.

So, housing was our first priority. A search on TradeMe showed there was very little between cheap and nasty Chinese manufactured hutches in poor thin fir wood and $800 palaces. So my first very idealistic idea was for the boys to build the hen house as a jolly togetherness project (hey, I never pretended to be clearsighted!). I even paid for and downloaded some plans from the net to take to Bunnings for pricing up.   After two weeks’ mucking around I was feeling like I should change my relationship status to ‘in a relationship with the nice but ineffectual guy at Bunnings Trade Desk”.   The eventual outcome was that it would cost me $1500 to build our own house and even Mr Bunnings recommended I head back to TradeMe.

Back at TradeMe I just happened upon a very nice little used plywood house which I bid for and won for $375 (worth about $900). All that remained was to take a trailer out to Karaka to pick it up which my beloved and my Dad very kindly consented to do.

IMG_2780 (2)A piece of advice to anybody looking to import a large structure for their back yard? Um, measure it. It had looked about right. Unfortunately the space through which it had to travel was approximately 10cm too narrow when you took the nesting boxes into account. My very kind and capable Dad then took it apart. Showers of ants, slaters and white tailed spiders jumped ship as he worked. We carried the pieces through, and then he nailed it back together. This was some distance above and beyond the call of duty. To his very great credit, not a single word of reproach was uttered. I think I owe him one for that alone.

Next:  Decorating the decile 10 chook house.

 

 

 

Of roses and turkish delight

FullSizeRender (3)The first thing anyone does on receiving a bouquet of roses is to bury their face in them to breathe in the scent.  Beautiful roses with minimal scent are pure anticlimax. Pierre de Ronsard, I’m taking to you!

Nahema might well be accused of showing off at this time of year. But what might be quite an ordinary pale pink prettiness is lifted into the stratosphere of rose-y adoration by its strong scent, swooningly redolent of turkish delight.

Of all the roses available, Parfumier Guerlain created a perfume in 1979 named after this one which is still available today.  Guerlain records that the floral oriental fragrance was “inspired by the legend of a sultan who had twin daughters, the gentle and obedient Mahane and the fiery and passionate Nahéma. Built predominantly around rose notes, Nahéma was an early fragrance to feature damascones, a set of newly discovered aromachemicals with a profound fruity-rose character.”

This is Nahema’s first year in my garden.  Often roses flower well in the first year and then decline left unsprayed in Auckland’s humid climate.  Time will tell whether Nahema is up up to an organic mulch, water, squash aphids routine to earn a permanent place.  So far I am in thrall to its pretty and scented delights.

November is the most beautiful month

November may be a capricious month, but be still my beating heart when the lengthening days conspire with the abundant rain and the garden begins to pulse and glow. Step on to the wet grass in the early morning to a verdant backdrop which soothes the eye in quivering emeralds and viridians. The roses come forth slowly at first, then tumble over each other in their enthusiasm. Sweetpeas twine around the foxglove spires and their fragrance thickens. The garden beds starred with bright borage blue. Each day throws forth a fresh excuse for a bouquet. Soon, as all the vases overflow, humbler containers are pressed into service in a riot of colour and life, grace and glory.

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A wet and windy walk on Waiheke

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This gallery contains 24 photos.

Waiheke locals often refer smugly to their microclimate which means that even when Auckland is cloaked in damp clouds, just a short ferry ride away, the Waihetians are often basking in warm sunlight. But sometimes even Waiheke succumbs to a fit of the dismals, and once you’ve been to the Cinema, Solar Cafe and the video shop you’ve exhausted most of the possibilities, especially those which won’t cost a bomb with three kids in tow. When tempers start to fray, the only answer is to man up, rug up and get out into the wet and windy weather. Fortunately although the weather may be rough, it generally isn’t very cold.  And … Continue reading

The family bach

15 April 14 HekeruaOften in New Zealand we hear people referring fondly to their family bach, a little house near the sea to which they would return each summer, building up a pleasant store of memories and shared deprivations, year after year as they grew up.  And while we had a fairly privileged childhood which featured plenty of love and fun, a bach wasn’t part of my family culture until recently.

Then a few years ago, my parents found a steep, bushclad and inaccessible section at Hekerua Bay on Waiheke Island, a cleansing forty five minute ferry ride from Auckland. Never ones to back down on a challenge, the only answer was to build a house on it, a saga which deserves its own book.  The result was a very comfortable tree house, nestled in the bush above a small rocky cove.

tartan pipiFor lucky us it makes a very welcoming retreat not too far from where we live.  Still inaccessible by road, it requires a walk in down a long steep zig zag and a breath defying slog up wooden steps dragging your volumes of planned reading and bottles of wine.  As you can imagine, it was with great joy that we moved beyond the stage of bulky nappies and baby paraphernalia.

The advantage of a walk in, is that once there, we don’t want to leave.  We settle in.  We read, we walk, we swim, we kayak around the headland for a samosa from the Four Square at Little Oneroa.

Dried flax flower

It has to be admitted that the inter-generational holiday will require some flexibility and tolerance on all sides, especially when your family features three lively, and loud boys, with not a lot of space around the house to run around.    Full credit to my parents for 1. continuing to invite us, and, 2. putting up with the sheer force of energy, volume and confrontation that is our offspring.  But sometimes things will spiral upwards and that’s when we know that, rain or shine, it’s time to get outside.

For my children, Hekerua Bay has become their happy place.  It’s where they have spent endless hours on the pebbly beach, collected treasures, and walked miles (ok, sometimes against their will). They’ve developed strength, observation and independence while kayaking around the coastline and sea channels around us. Surrounded by native bush and water wildlife they have learned to confidently spot and identify native birds and trees and occasionally large marine mammals such as seals and orca.

In Maori ‘Hekerua’ means Double Bay.  For us it means double happy.

The secret to super easy flower arrangements – five ways

131116 glass bottles and PierreHow to make perfect flower arrangements with whatever you have in your garden, using one simple tool

Happily we don’t have to be florists, or have a Sissinghurst style picking garden. The prettiest arrangements are perfectly within reach.  All you really need are need are some simple little glass bottles.

You can buy bottles like this cheaply from homeware stores or Trademe. However, there are plenty of small bottles which can be recycled into new life.  It still makes me laugh that mine started life as IV paracetamol bottles.  Well cleaned, and with labels scraped away, they have been pressed into a new and more decorative life

Right now in our part of the world the burgeoning, budding spring loveliness is all around us.  Even if you don’t have a garden it isn’t hard to find a few buds or blooms.  This type or arrangement is marvellously non-discerning.  Here are five ways you can use bottles like this to satisfying effect:

131116 Pierre bud vase1. One perfect bloom in a bud vase

Meet Pierre (de Ronsard).  I get ridiculously excited when M. de Ronsard decides to pop out a few fat, heavy buds, the petals of which open gradually into this lovely old fashioned quatrefoil arrangement.  It speaks for itself and doesn’t need any further embellishment.

 

131116 burgundy sweet peas

2. The tiny, fragrant bouquet

I wish I could link you through to the amazing old fashioned scent of these purple sweet peas.  If anything will take you back to your grandmother’s garden, it will be these.  The stems are not always as long as you might like, which is why these little bottles are just perfect.

 

131115 Purple Opium poppy

131116 poppy flower heads close3. the ‘personality’ seed pod arrangement

These glorious purple opium poppies bloom and then give way to these plump upraised seed pod faces.  They seem to have their own comical characters and I like to see them in chatty little groups. My children sometimes draw fierce little faces on them when I am not looking.  It can be quite disconcerting to have a flower arrangement stare back at you!

131116 dinner party flowers

4. The easiest dinner party arrangement ever

I used eleven small glass bottles and whatever I could find in the garden to create this centrepiece for a dinner with friends last night. This is an extremely simple arrangement to create but it brought lovely colour and sparkle to the table creating and a real sense of occasion.  On a practical note, the cakestand makes it easier to remove the arrangement from the table when it came time to put the main dishes on the table.

131116 centrepiece deconstructed

131116 fresh flower ringTo make the arrangement simply, cut the stems to roughly the same height and place them in their bottles on the base of a glass cake stand or plate. This brings them together and give them some height.. Add simple tealights in decorative glasses for a bit of glimmer.

131116 House elf 5.  The birthday party

I had no time, and not many flowers.  But a surprising number of the few blooms went with the froot-loop inspired bunting. Keeping the arrangement on the windowsill took advantage of the sunlight and kept them out of the way of serial small party-hyped elbows.  (You will have to supply your own house-elf though.  This one is ours ;-) ).

There you have it, five ways with everyday flowers, glass bottles and no time.  Do you have any favourite tricks with flowers?

Made from scratch: Gorgeous lemon sugar handscrub for gardeners

limeI can’t tell you how excited I am by this discovery.  Cheap, effective and smells delicious!

The siren call of Spring and the warmer weather have lured me out into the garden. I’m spending many happy hours out there, redesigning on the hoof and trying out different kinds of garden bed construction (more on that later).  It’s bliss for most of me, but not my hands which have become scratchy and rough with ingrained dirt in skin and nail.  I don’t know about you, but I always forget my gloves, and on the odd occasion I do remember them, they don’t seem to stay on for very long!

The results?  The garden looks pretty but my hands look awful.  Worse, the really rough skin catches constantly and most unpleasantly on delicate and synthetic fabrics such as microfibre cleaning cloths and lingerie (I know, first world problems right, but still).

So it was with great pleasure that I discovered this super quick, super easy and very economical handscrub.  Major bonus?  It works to slough off dry skin and leave your hands smooth and supple and your nails looking great. Even better, you can make this with ingredients you probably already have to hand.

handscrubGardener’s lemon handscrub

  1. Put a cup of sugar into any old jar with a lid, choose a pretty jar if you have one
  2. Pour on sufficient olive oil to moisten the sugar
  3. Mix well, add more olive oil to your preference (I like it slightly on the wet side)
  4. Add a few drops of your favourite essential oil.  I’m a lemonophile so I go for lemon.  Lavender would also be lovely
  5. Keep it by your sink and next time you come in from the garden scoop a generous spoonful, rub between your soil encrusted hands and simply rinse off with warm water
  6. Enjoy your newly smooth and supple paws!

To my delight, this handscrub works every bit as well as the L’Occitane salt version (Lordy that’s pricy!) which my beloved once kindly bought for me.  So if you’re working out where to invest your hard earned cash I’d make this scrub and put the money towards a good shea butter hand moisturiser.  And, maybe come to think of it, I may just need one of these scrubs in the shower for exfoliation as well…