I was thinking only of the growing dark as I hurried, a little anxiously, across the Square to a book launch at a quarter to six yesterday evening. But this sight put it out of my mind.

Cathedral Square at dusk

The lights of Te Pae, the light installations, and the buildings along the river beyond, gave the city a glamour not evident during the day. The sky was even more impressive.

After the book launch, with my head full of an inspiring writer’s creativity and imagination, I passed the usually dull concrete wall on the east side of Te Pae. A moving image was projected on it framed by a brass porthole so that in the dark city you were transported to a Jules Verne underwater world.

Whales and fish floated past while pink tentacles waved eerily in the foreground.

The whale seemed to fix you with its eye, before it moved on.

A new life had come to the city with the dark. Restaurants, shop windows, apartments, hotels and bars gave glimpses of diverse, intriguing spaces, lighting my way home.

Who killed the sparrow?

Not I, said Betty, Mabel and Popcorn…Where’s Vera?

The poor little sparrows are hungry on a rainy winter’s day (or any day) and come down to the feeder to forage. ‘Automatic feeders’, which make food available when the treadle is depressed, are supposed to keep the chook food safe from marauding sparrows. But the chooks are messy eaters who throw out the pellets as they search for other treats, and the sparrows come down to eat. So the scene of the crime was set.

A less lethal proposition (Photo from January)

The second feeder is metal. (I glued carpet to the treadle so it was more comfortable for their feet on a cold, or hot, day.) Food is less likely to be scattered from this one, but I have opened it on occasion and been startled by a trapped sparrow making a rapid escape.

All four chooks can feed from this second feeder at the same time – unless Popcorn gets bossy and chases the others away. When she does, the others walk off, the lid clangs shut, and Popcorn, who hasn’t quite got the knack of the treadle, stands bemused. Karma.

Today, we are toasty by the fire while the chooks huddle on the deck. They wander into the garage between showers, or forage in the garden.

In Winter, they prefer frosty mornings which are followed by sunny days. Then they can find a dusty spot under a tree and snuggle in.

The Chicken in Winter (Photo taken in early July)

On rainy days, like today, the dust baths on the lawn have become puddles.

The path to their house is swamped, and covered in cabbage tree leaves which blew down in the southerly storm last night.

It’s a hard life for chickens – and sparrows.

Ever hopeful. Have they noticed one of their number is missing?

Apples in abundance

Spot the silvereyes (top left)

We’ve been eating apples since at least March, and it looks as though it will be the end of this month (July) before they’re finished. The tree is full of silvereyes most of the day, having a jolly good feast. Sparrows and blackbirds join in. I pick a bowl full of the fruit every now and again and we look for ways to eat it.

Is it a bee or a wasp on this apple?

I’m reminded of this poem by Lauris Edmond (not related to the Edmond’s Cookbook as far as I know):

Eden Cultivated

Think of her coming in from the garden,

her hair blowing and the green breath

of summer drifting across the verandah

the long grass, and the smell of apples –

behind her a blazing February sky,

the first thistledowns, and the haze;

see her drag out the old capacious

preserving pan from the darkened pantry

smelling of spices and orange peel,

and notice the small lines around her eyes,

the bones of her bending shoulders…

and wait – for how do you know, this time,

if she will offer you one apple

or many, or possibly none at all?