Friday, October 8, 2010

Chooks & books

Ross at Tawharanui
My birthday was almost two weeks ago now and I still haven't shared the lovely time we had in Tawharanui -  a peninsula not far from Ross' parents.  Actually it wasn't lovely.  My birthday is preceded by two of Ross' brothers' birthdays, and I'm the kind of girl who doesn't like to share the limelight on her birthday.  Bad planning on somebody's part...  Apart from that it was rather nice.  Tawharanui (ta-fa-ra-nooey) is a native bush and marine regional park (you can see it at the top right of the map to the left).  It has big spiral fences keeping mammals out, and posters explaining why even cunning cats can't get past 'em.  It has electric gates that make you feel like you're entering Jurassic Park.  It has lovely beaches where the most cunning mammal of all goes surfing.

But the best part of my weekend was getting back to the veggie garden, which is starting to sprout.  I had some beetroot seedlings to "companion plant" beside my onions - which are showing a few green spikes above the clay-ey soil.  I planted out some strawberry plants (10 for $10 - bargain!) and am waiting to see which tastes better out of "Elsanta" and "Camarosa".  Camarosa is what I've put in the hanging baskets in Auckland, so here's hoping they're good.  I put them in my raised bed, which despite the name has sunk considerably, so I topped up part of it with bought compost.  None of the compost bins Hugh put in at the start of winter are finished yet.  I'm going to get him some compost activator to speed things up.  When buying the strawberries and compost, I also spotted some raspberry plants in the clearance area, which pleased me no end.  I have planted them against the fence in Auckland, and I'm hoping they hold their own against the palms and kiwi vine on the other side.
Enterprising chook
Also delightful are the chickens ("chooks"!? as they call them here) now installed at Ross' parents.  Very tame and friendly, and I can't wait to try the eggs.  The two ewes and two lambs are slightly less exciting, but do keep the grass under control in the olive grove.  Only one of them - a little black-faced lamb - has a bit of personality about him and has won the hearts of the carnivores around me.  I hear he'll probably live to a ripe old age...
But the moment of my birthday which will be hardest to forget, mainly because I haven't recovered yet, was a quintessentially kiwi experience.  I'd heard quite a lot about the annoyance of sandflies.  Foolishly, I assumed (a) that they couldn't be as bad as the evil mosquitoes who'd already sucked me dry, and (b) that I could avoid them by avoiding sand.  Of course, Ross had already set my boundaries for complaining by opining, once again, that people who suffer only have themselves to blame because they don't itch unless you scratch them.  Why anyone would scratch something that didn't itch I'm not sure.  Anyways, I didn't.  Yet I got the full-on rash and swelling experience.  In no time at all, they'd got me five times on the arms and three on one leg (which might seem slack on their parts, but give them credit, I was wearing trousers).  I now own repellent, anti-histamines, hydrocortisone cream...
In the absence of nephews, cats or other achievements, I share with you my pride and joy - my seedlings:

I'm off to Oz twice this month.  To Brisneyland (where I plan to visit cousin Owen) and then back to Melbourne at the end of the month.  I'll see the place in a whole new light now that I've read "The True History of the Kelly Gang" (a much-vaunted biography of Ned Kelly).  To be honest, I didn't get as much out of this book immediately as an Australian probably does.  I think it'll stick with me though, and bits will take on meaning as I learn more about the place.  Gradually I'll instill in myself an interest in this antipodean culture.  But just now I miss Italy.
Tawharanui estuary

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