Archive for the ‘Cottage Life’ Category

Floral Friday

My oriental lilies, planted in 1998, have opened their buds:

Oriental lilies

The lilies of the field are well-known because they toil not, neither do they spin. In my “field” they also require no maintenance, except the occasional stake to ensure they face the path. They are watered only occasionally, but every year they re-appear with a beautiful scent that assails us as we walk past.

Another newcomer this week is a tiny viola which has appeared between the bricks on the patio.

Volunteer Viola

I regularly weed between the bricks, but if I recognise a volunteer viola I leave it, and am delighted if it produces a flower.

These Friday flowers large and small
give pleasure whether short or tall

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Floral Friday

A clump of pretty pink penstemons is flowering in our garden today.

They are a long-blooming perennial that is drought and heat tolerant – ideal for a climate crisis – and they are attractive to bees and other pollinators. The common name beardtongue comes from the long and hairy stamen which looks like a tongue located in the center of the lip-shaped flowers.

Penstemons have been used for hundreds of years by Native Americans as one of their medicinal plants. They treated toothaches by chewing the root pulp of this plant and then placing it in the cavity. They also used penstemon to prevent inflammation and accelerate healing of the open wounds.

This flower represents courage and spiritual knowledge.

Ideal for drought times is this flower
with toothache-healing secret power

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Magpie Marauder?

The morning of New Year’s Day was marked for us by the appearance of a magpie in the back garden, the first time we’ve seen one there. While we ate breakfast on the patio the magpie lingered, watching us. All the smaller birds flew busily back and forth and warned each other that there was an intruder. Inside Ziggy slept on, oblivious.

Magpie in the back garden

I snapped a photo with my camera, but when I moved closer the magpie flew away. I remembered a rhyme that I thought said One for luck, two for joy, but when I looked it up I found that the traditional nursery rhyme about magpies actually says:

One for sorrow,
Two for joy,
Three for a girl,
Four for a boy,
Five for silver,
Six for Gold,
Seven for a secret
never to be told

The fear that a lone magpie will bring bad luck is common throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland. Victorians were so afraid of magpies that they hunted them nearly to extinction.

However, before the spread of Christianity the magpie was an important symbolic bird often associated with good luck or fortune. The Romans believed that the magpie was highly intelligent with excellent reasoning abilities, and in ancient Greece magpies were sacred to Bacchus the god of wine. According to Wikipedia the magpie is one of the most intelligent birds, and the only one known to pass the mirror test where an animal is proved to perceive the reflected image as an image of itself.

Some tribes of Native Americans believed that wearing a magpie feather was a sign of fearlessness, while others considered the magpie to be a sacred messenger of the creator, or even a guardian with shamanic properties.

Magpies are known for their inquisitive and mischievous nature which meant they earned a reputation as thieves with a particular liking for jewellery and other shiny objects. If a precious ring went missing it was easy to blame it on a magpie.

Rossini wrote a tragicomic opera entitled La Gazza Ladra (The Thieving Magpie) about a French girl accused of theft who is tried, convicted, and executed. Later the true culprit is revealed to be a magpie and in remorse the town organises an annual Mass Of The Magpies to pray for the girl’s soul.

Over time, the notion that magpies were bad birds morphed into the idea that magpies will bring bad luck, however, as the nursery rhyme shows it is generally only seeing a lone magpie that is supposed to bring bad luck.

I personally prefer the pre-Christian idea that the magpie is associated with good fortune, especially now that a lone one has visited our garden.

I shall remain quite undeterred
by defamation of this bird

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Feline Footwear

Socks with cats were a delightful gift from a distant daughter.

I have four pairs, two brown and two grey, all made ethically from bamboo. Sadly you can’t see the cats when I’m wearing shoes, but I know they’re there, and I can see them when I’m doing my exercises before I put shoes on.

By coincidence I sent this daughter NZ made merino socks with a dolphin pattern. Perhaps great minds think alike, or perhaps we were both seeking something light to post.

Socks that I wear tend to eventually develop holes because I have what a podiatrist calls ski jump toes. Many of my current socks are well-darned and I shall now be pleased to discard some of those when holes re-appear.

Cat faces hidden in my shoes
may be displayed when I so choose

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Floral Friday

These tall blue flowers are larkspur. They suddenly appeared in our garden many years ago. Friends had previously delivered us a load of horseshit, and I presume that’s where the larkspur originated. I didn’t know what they were until an English visitor identified them. Apparently all parts of the plant are toxic to humans and animals. Larkspur is an annual member of the buttercup family Ranunculaceae. Butterflies and bees love it, but the fact it’s toxic puts off most other creatures.

In medieval Italy, it was said that larkspur came about when three warriors slew a fierce dragon and wiped their swords in the grass. The dragon’s blue blood and venom mingled to create a beautiful, poisonous blue flower.

According to Native American legend, larkspur got its name from an angel who descended from the heavens. The angel parted the skies, sending down a spike crafted from pieces of the sky for him to use to climb down from heaven. But the sun’s rays dried the spike causing it to shatter, the tiny fragments scattering in the wind. When these tiny pieces of sky touch the earth, larkspur flowers burst from the ground. 

Larkspur symbolizes carefree summer days, feeling lighthearted, and having fun, so it seems an appropriate plant to have, despite being poisonous.

For bees blue flowers are de rigueur
and they are fond of our larkspur

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sitting here
alone at 4 a.m.
others sound asleep
no traffic now
sky is black

across the road
a light shows
someone else
is awake
or rising early

the clock ticks
time by myself
to ponder mysteries
or write a poem
that has no rhyme

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Water Woes

Our hot water became cooler just a few days before the Christmas holidays. Thinking there might be a problem with the thermostat we called an electrician who came promptly. He declared that the problem was that the element wasn’t working, but also pointed out that there was a bigger issue, in that there was a leak coming from the bottom of the cylinder casing, and it was quite damp underneath.

So, we then needed a plumber, and amazingly he also came promptly despite the Christmas rush. He confirmed that the leak was inside the cylinder and that a replacement was necessary.

Old cylinder corroded

This copper cylinder was only ten years old (and the previous reconditioned one had lasted twenty-five years!), but the plumber suggested the deterioration was probably due to chlorine which has been added to Christchurch water in recent years, unappreciated by many.

Luckily a replacement cylinder of similar capacity was available and with the kitchen in chaos we went and had dinner at the Richmond Club. Next morning the plumbers brought the new cylinder and carried out the necessary dismantling of our pot cupboard so the old one could be drained and removed.

Sparkling new cylinder, enamel, and made in Aotearoa

The whole process took six hours and we were greatly relieved to have the new cylinder safely installed.

New cylinder installed

The pot cupboard was restored, and we waited patiently for the water to heat. Oh the relief to again be able to have warm showers and not need to boil the kettle to do dishes. Now we just need to get the invoice for all this.

Good service at this time of year
but charges likely to be dear

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Adventurous Alyssums

This little clump of alyssums appeared joyfully in a depression in the footpath outside our cottage. I couldn’t resist honouring them with a pink frill.

They colonised the footpath and
deserve a pretty pink frilled band

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Monday is my routine cleaning day, but this morning when I turned on the vacuum cleaner it made ominous dying noises. We’ve had it for forty years and had recently noticed that it was sounding sick. It was time for a replacement. Since reading about them in the Guardian I had fancied getting a Henry, a bagless cleaner

While I finished other chores Stephen searched to see where Henry might be available, and we went to Godfrey’s who specialise in vacuum cleaners. The salesman, Sam, was very helpful, but they had no Henrys in stock. When we discussed the merits of bagged and bagless cleaners I decided I’d rather have a bagged one because with bagless versions you have to clean the filter regularly. There were no other customers in the shop and Sam demonstrated various models for us. Eventually we chose a Sauber Pro Pets with a turbo head which we were assured would be good for removing Ziggy’s long fine hairs.

After making our purchase and loading it in the car we decided to lunch at nearby Urban Espresso.

I chose a chicken and veggie filo, but was disappointed. The filling was so richly creamy that I couldn’t really taste the chicken or veggies, and I didn’t finish it.

We got home and unpacked the new cleaner. It takes a little more effort to use than the old one, but certainly does a good job. Sam had warned me that the bag might be filled with our first clean because old deep dirt would be picked up, but that didn’t happen. Maybe the old one didn’t do too bad a job.

New cleaner stowed away

From now on we’ll be extra clean
with cat hairs banished from the scene

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Clever number plates often catch my eye. Yesterday this truck was parked near my home, outside where new units are being built.

It was there to empty the portaloo which provides a necessary facility for the construction workers.

Their number plate diverted me
it shows they deal in poo and pee

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