Archive for the ‘Cottage Life’ Category

Wandering Willies

Yesterday a friend told me of a visit she’d made to the London Garden Museum, where she’d been surprised to see carvings of the father and son, John Tradescant, after whom our plant Tradescantia was named. Later that day a book I was reading referred to people travelling widely to seek new plants as Tradescants, which inspired me to seek further information.

Wandering Willie/Tradescantia

I have tradescantia growing in a corner of my garden, where it hides under winter irises and a climbing rose. Originally from South America it was once grown as an ornamental garden plant, but sale in garden centres in Aotearoa is now banned, because of its invasive nature.

The London Garden Museum is housed in the medieval church of St Mary at Lambeth, and was set up to save this abandoned church and knot garden where the two John Trandescants were buried. The elder was gardener to Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I, later succeeded in this role by his son, and in the seventeenth century they each travelled widely, visiting three of the four known continents, to seek new plants. Trandescantia, named in their honour by Swedish botanist Linnaeus, was introduced to England in 1629 from the American colonies, and the blue and white flowered versions were grown in the Oxford Botanic Garden from at least 1648.

I presume the carvings my friend saw at the museum may have been part of the family tomb erected by Hester, the widow of the younger John.

The English climate may be chilly
not so benign for Wandering Willie

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Concern for Cat

Ziggy always requests his breakfast at an early hour. If I get up at 5am to go to the loo, as I did this morning, he invariably hears and comes calling for his food. But not today.

When we finally got up just after 7am he was still nowhere to be seen. I went out to the shed where he often spends time these days, and sure enough there he was, curled up on a sack on an old office chair.

Ziggy in the shed

When I spoke to and stroked him he hardly moved, and this behaviour is most unusual. The previous evening he’d climbed on my lap to watch the news, just as he always does.

At midday when I returned from my beach walk he was still sleeping in the shed. Stephen had been out and offered him a drink of water, but he wasn’t interested. We were beginning to think a visit to the vet might be required.

Mid afternoon he finally strolled in, had some food, and a good wash, then settled on a dining chair.

Ziggy back inside

Maybe he just wanted a day in bed. We all need one of those occasionally.

Our cat was out of his routine
we wonder what this change could mean

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Seed Snafflers

I wondered why the seeds of my sunflowers were slowly disappearing and realised it had to be birds. Apparently sunflower seeds are a top choice for seed-eating birds, which include sparrows and finches.

Depleted sunflower head

These clever creatures close their beak over the seed, then a slight back and forth action slices open the hull, and a small sideways movement husks the seed while the tongue may help extract the kernel. Who even knew that birds have tongues to help chew or swallow their food?

Sunflower seeds are high energy – 24% protein and 50% oil. The oil helps to keep the bird’s feathers shiny and the extra calories help to build them up for the winter. They are very welcome to my sunflower seeds.

I’m glad to know these sunflower seeds
help give each bird just what she needs.

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Floral Friday

This chilli plant started in a pot on the kitchen windowsill but soon grew too tall to be inside. Stephen transplanted it into a larger pot, placed it in a sunny spot on the front verandah, and has been watering it regularly. Now it has flowers, and maybe eventually there will be chillies.

Auntie Google has some conflicting advice about pollination of chillies. Some say they are self-pollinating, others suggest they need help from insects or people.

Chillies originated in South America, and their fossilised remains have been dated to around 6,000 years ago. In Aztec and Mayan traditions they were used to fumigate houses and help cure illness, as well as to flavour food. Stephen likes food hotter than I do, but he kindly goes easy on the chilli when he’s cooking, out of consideration for my milder tastes.

A Peruvian myth says that the chilli once had a sweet flavour which changed when a young girl was murdered by her own mother for having eaten several peppers against her mother’s wishes. Years later a beautiful pepper plant grew above the child’s grave, and brought the bitter and spicy flavour it now has as a punishment for her murder.

You may have wondered, as I did, the correct way to spell chilli. In U.K. English two lls are correct. In the U.S. it is spelt chili or sometimes chile.

These peppers can be mighty hot
don’t put too many in the pot.

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Pesky Poli

With my car registration due for renewal I planned to do this online. It’s convenient and even saves a few dollars.

I logged in and chose to pay by internet banking, through the site called Poli. I’ve used this before without any problem, but not this time! Once I’d logged in to my bank account and made the payment I got a screen message that said: Confirming transaction – Leaving or reloading this page may cause the transaction to fail. I waited, but nothing else happened. I went away and did something else, but when I came back the screen was the same. Eventually I left it overnight, and when I returned next morning the same message was still there. I exited out of it and went to check my bank account. Sure enough the debit had gone through. Thinking there may have been an e-mail confirmation I checked my inbox but nothing there. I guess I’ll just wait patiently and hope the new label turns up in the promised seven days.

I’ve since read a 2019 article suggesting there have been some security concerns about Poli, and I don’t intend to use it again. Next year I will pay my registration by Visa. Have you had any problems with Poli?

I think it may perhaps be folly
to use the internet site Poli

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Floral Friday

These Canterbury Bells or Campanula were planted beside our pool many years ago. They have been almost smothered by ivy, but I was pleased to see their flowers again this week.

There are several legends about these flowers. One says that three evil men were transformed by a priest into swans and cursed to fly without rest for over a thousand years. Then, when flying over Canterbury (U.K.), the men heard the ringing of church bells and felt so remorseful about their past deeds that the curse was broken. With the spell lifted, the men fell to earth at Canterbury where they were discovered by North African scholar Saint Augustine, who led them into a church. Where the men trod, tiny campanulas grew, and the flower was subsequently dedicated to Saint Augustine and later to England’s Saint Thomas a Becket who was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral.

Another legend tells that campanulas were so named because of their resemblance to the bells carried by pilgrims to Canterbury.

The flower is also known as Venus’s looking glass. According to myth, Venus’s mirror bestowed beauty upon anyone reflected in it. However, one day the goddess lost her mirror, and it was found by a shepherd who proceeded to gazed at himself in the mirror. It so angered Cupid that his mother’s mirror had been used by a mortal that Cupid knocked the glass from the shepherd’s hand, and where it landed sprang forth a campanula.

So, there are several suggestions as to where the flowers got their name. They certainly seem appropriate for gardens in our Canterbury.

Just where they came from who can tell?
But in this province they’re our bell.

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Courgette Cropping

The first of our courgettes/zucchini were ready to pick, and serendipitously a recipe for Zucchini with feta, walnuts, and sage, from Emma Boyd of The Spinoff turned up in my Facebook feed.

Stephen liked the look of it and offered to make it for lunch. We have walnuts, and sage growing in the garden, so the only extra required was feta, which we had in the frig. If only we had a goat we might have had homegrown feta too.

Courgette lunch

My chef produced this courgette dish
which I found to be quite delish

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Mint is a useful herb with properties that aid digestion and relieve headaches. It is a perennial with tiny flowers.

Mint flowers

All the information suggests it should be confined to a container, and we first planted it in a concrete tub, but have since allowed it to grow in other places as well.

Greek mythology traces mint to the story of Pluto/Hades, god of the underworld, who fell in love with a nymph named Mintha. This enraged Pluto’s wife Persephone, who stomped on Mintha. Pluto rescued her by turning her into a plant, one that has a fresh appealing scent when crushed. This story is mentioned in Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

Mint was used in ancient Greek funeral rites, along with rosemary and myrtle, presumably to mask the smell of the dead, and that may be why it came to be associated with Pluto/Hades.

It’s been around since ancient times
and features in some Latin rhymes

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Covid restrictions may mean we go out less frequently, especially until we’ve had our booster shots which are scheduled for February 15th. This is the date which is now expected to be the Omicron peak. When we booked our boosters I asked if the date could be brought forward if the time between 2nd and 3rd doses was reduced to three months, but was told my date was only three weeks away and they wouldn’t have capacity to re-schedule. While cafés are still open it may be best to avoid anywhere with people except places we absolutely need to go.

I’m lucky because I eat extremely well at home. Planning and preparing meals is something Stephen enjoys doing, and I haven’t cooked dinner for some years. When we were both employed I worked full time while he had a part time role, so it made sense for him to cook the evening meal. When I left paid work I offered to share the cooking and did it a few times, but I’m not a keen cook and Stephen soon said he would prefer to take over, which I happily accepted. I do usually prepare my own breakfast and lunch, although yesterday’s lunch was leftover soup from the evening before.

I hasten to point out that I do the baking, cleaning, and gardening, so I’m not totally a lady of leisure. I do wonder how we would fare if Stephen became ill with Covid, but there are some pre-prepared meals in the freezer, and I am capable of following a recipe if I have to. He has a birthday next week and has expressed a desire for a new cookbook, so we will need to go and browse at Scorpio – socially distanced of course.

There’s an interesting article in the Guardian from an Australian woman warning New Zealanders what we can expect when Omicron surges. She suggests that our social life will change and we may see less of family and friends. Our contact with family is all by Zoom these days anyway, and I expect I’ll still see a few close friends. If the weather is good we can sit outside. It will be interesting to see what happens with the groups I usually go to regularly. Experience has shown me I’m not interested in meeting by Zoom for any group of more than four.

The Red traffic light system is different to the lockdowns we had for previous variants, leaving decisions about socialising more up to the individual. Freedom to go out may also mean freedom for the virus to travel. Apparently it hasn’t got to Christchurch yet, but can’t be far away.

The news this morning says modellers are suggesting there could be 50,000 daily cases within 10 days, and possibly 400 deaths by 1 May. I’ve been repeating the mantra Whatever happens is perfect, and I vacillate between thinking I won’t go out at all, and thinking that if it lasts for the expected three months I will need some outings for my mental health.

Our social life will have to change
and we won’t be so free to range

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As the Omicron variant of Covid 19 edges ever closer to our community we are making preparations for when we move into the red traffic light system and/or we need to isolate.

In past lock-downs we were pleased to have supplies delivered by Countdown. Last year they were the only central city supermarket offering this online service, but New World now also provides deliveries. We prefer to deal with New World as they are Aotearoa-owned and this week we decided to test their online order and delivery service, in case we may need it. The procedure was similar to Countdown’s but it might have been wise to read all the online info first. I ended up contacting their digital assistant, and didn’t manage to order the two apples I wanted (not 1 kg), but that’s a minor quibble and possibly my fault for not reading the instructions beforehand. I’ve had a look since and didn’t see how to order smaller amounts of fruit. I also forgot to order my weekend mushrooms, so had poached eggs for breakfast today instead.

We ordered delivery for the 9am-12noon slot, and it arrived at 9.40am. A pleasant young masked man even offered to take the bags through to the kitchen which I declined. Obviously that wouldn’t happen if deliveries needed to be contactless. We’d been warned that because we ordered wine we’d need to show i.d., but when I offered this he said it wasn’t necessary. He could obviously see that I am over 18. The delivery came complete with the usual vouchers and stickers that you get instore.

New World delivery

My one tiny complaint is that I got an email to say “Your delivery from New World Durham Street is on it’s way. ETA 4 minutes”. Their system needs a proof reader who understands apostrophes!

Yesterday’s Press gave a list of what we need to have in stock in preparation for Covid. As well as enough food and medication for 14 days they suggest to cope with Covid symptoms we should have paracetamol, ibuprofen, throat lozenges, ice blocks, electrolytes, and vapour rub. I presume the ice blocks are to soothe a sore throat, and hope the ones we have in our freezer for cool drinks would be suitable. I’ve never sucked an ice block when I’ve had a sore throat, but there’s always a first time. We have paracetamol, throat lozenges, and ice blocks, and think we’ll leave the rest for an online order when we actually need them. I wonder how many people are stocking up on all these things, and whether supplies of electrolytes and vapour rub will run out.

There’s lots for us to think upon
as we prepare for Omicron

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