Lemon tree not so pretty

NZ Gardener Citrus Booklet

It is distressing to find that my beautiful lemon tree is beset with a nasty disease – in fact, it is afflicted with both the diseases shown on the page above. I have been occasionally dealing with the sooty mould, but the verrucosis discovery is a shock.

The fully laden tree was so weighted down with fruit that it was dragging on the ground. I was keeping an eye on the lower lemons to make sure they didn’t rot and had begun to pick them over the last couple of weeks. Yesterday, a sharp smell alerted me that all was not well and closer inspection revealed many lemons with what I thought was brown rot. I set about removing the affected lemons and pruned the tree.

Popcorn supervises the untimely harvest

What a relief to read in the NZ Gardener booklet that you can still use the juice – just not the zest. It was a busy day in the kitchen today.

The discarded skins cannot go in the compost. There are so many of them that the compost would be overwhelmed anyway.

The lemons are lovely and juicy inside.

There’ll be lemon ice cube making over the next few days until all the lemons are used.

Sweet little things

Rose hips in a mustard jar (featuring an illustration from the Grimms’ tale of the town musicians of Bremen)

The last two days have been dry enough to prune the roses at last. We’ve had the wettest July on record with a third of our annual rain falling in the one month. Now it’s August and almost past pruning time.

The rose hips were worth saving, as were a couple of dear little buds which have survived the rain and the frosts but are unlikely to open.

Rosehips, buds and violets…and a tiny 2.5cm egg.

Violets are flowering prolifically, scenting the garden now the wintersweet is fading.

The tiny egg was in the nesting box this morning. A sweet little fairy egg.


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?

The small comfort of chocolate

Chocolate can be the gift we choose to give to say sorry or to offer comfort or thanks.

I chose it today for the staff on the checkout at the supermarket as – albeit small – compensation for the racist abuse they suffer from customers. Usually it is sneaky abuse, bullying in effect, as they know the staff member must remain polite or risk losing their job. ‘The customer is always right’. Except when they are not right.

Yesterday, as I packed my groceries, I was saddened to overhear a checkout operator quietly telling a supervisor that a customer had said to her, “You are not welcome here”. She seemed embarrassed to have to report the incident; her face was flushed above her mask.

How much worse it must feel not to be able to stand up for yourself when a deliberately hurtful lie is directed at you. Does reporting it make you feel better, or worse? What could the supervisor do anyway, after the event?

I wrote a letter to the management and staff of the supermarket to express my dismay and sympathy. I suggested a standard response to such attacks by customers could be used such as, “We are sorry you feel that way. We hope you will be kinder to our staff in the future.” This could be a polite way of showing that the whole work place is united in not tolerating racism (by using ‘we’) and would call out the customer for their bad behaviour (they had not been kind). It could help the staff member to feel that they had stood up to the bully without risking their job – and by being the better person.

If I had overheard the hurtful remark, I would have been less restrained, I imagine – but that would not change anything or be helpful. However, I bet the customer spoke for only the checkout operator to hear. (I picture the offending customer going home to listen to more of the talk-back radio which ‘justifies’ their cruelty, and never pausing to consider whether or not they are making a useful contribution to society.)

In the multi-cultural school where I worked (54 different countries of origin in one count), we valued cultural – and other – diversity and were as vigilant as we could be to ensure the work place was safe for staff and students. It was a somewhat more closed environment than a supermarket, however. It shocked me how our students regularly suffered racist abuse on the street.

There’s no amount of chocolate to comfort for that.

Cheeky visitor

We don’t have a cat anymore, but this one often visits as if he is staking out his territory. He makes the chooks nervous. They have chased off dogs much bigger than he is, but the cat has a tendency to sneak up on them in a teasing sort of way. They don’t much like being taken by surprise. In the photo he is sitting on the table they like to shelter under in wet weather. Psychological point-scoring, I’d say.

I used to shoo him away until I found he could be useful. We had another visitor.

This little chap darted out from under the deck to get the last of the chooks’ breakfast. This explained why I had often seen the cat sitting on the deck, peering over the side. So now, I’m quite happy to let the cat cruise through, past the compost bins and wood pile which are favourite haunts of rats, skirt around the garden and leave via the garage roof.

Today, the cat left traces of a detour into the house. I found muddy cat-prints in the bath, with a trail of paw prints going across the window sill where he seems to have departed through the open window.

I hope he won’t become so bold and familiar that he brings inside a rat he has caught. My sister’s family has two cats. Yesterday, she found a rat in their living room, alive and hiding under the curtains. Heroically, they did a ‘catch and release’.

My, how you’ve grown!

McLaren was a tiny puppy when my brother first met him.

Before long, McLaren had his first day at work – that is, as a companion dog in my brother’s office – and came to visit us in the evening.

He was playful, exploratory, and full of personality.

And very small.

Six weeks later, his ears are standing up, and he almost takes up the whole of the dog bed!

It looks as if he may turn out to be a dog who likes to watch tv.

Take the plunge

The Terraces, Central Christchurch – not a spot for swimming, unless you are an eel!

Today I read a blog post about ‘wild swimming’, which is swimming in the sea (or lake or river, I guess) at all times of the year. It is reportedly very good for well being, which reminded me of feeling an energetic glow after cold-water swimming when I was younger (much). Nowadays, I loll about in the hot pools at New Brighton, if anything.

I had a somewhat similar energetic glow after successfully biking to and from Addington on Tuesday. I have nominated Tuesday as my ‘adventure-exploration’ day. A day when I discover new parts of the city while getting lots of exercise.

My first Tuesday exploration (last week) was along the South Frame greenway from Montreal Street to High Street, passing through Kahikitea Common, Matai Common and Evolution Square. There were gardens, street art and interesting work and leisure places including, next to a car dealers, a tiny, hole-in-the-wall cafe called Parts and Labour: “From flat tyres to flat whites, we now have all of your needs covered.” I had delicious minestrone soup at the Bohemian Bakery, then walked homeward via Welles Street where I stopped in at GoodFor, Sustainable Pantry.

This Tuesday a friend suggested we explore Addington. There was a cafe filled with house plants which she was keen to visit. I hesitated because it is further away; would I have to take the car? But a map search showed I could get there on the new cycle lanes. My friend and I, approaching from different parts of town, each made it to our meeting place in 20 minutes.

We explored the historic Addington Cemetery (eventually finding Kate Sheppard’s grave), had lunch at the house-plant cafe, were kindly admitted (!) to Addington Jail (now a backpackers), and found the barely recognisable, restored, Wood’s Mill building.

The success of both adventure Tuesdays will give me the courage to dive in for more!

Morning meditations

Morning is my favourite time for browsing about the garden.

I get out of bed when the chooks are asking for breakfast at sunrise (just after 7 am at the moment). With a jersey zipped up over my pyjamas, and gumboots on my feet, I put out their mash and sprinkle some wheat before cleaning out their houses. Then I get the newspaper from the gate, and wander about the garden. It’s a lovely gentle way to start the day.

It’s autumn, but there’s plenty of new life despite that. The roses are clearly not done yet.

The New Zealand myrtle,rōhutu, is covered in berries.

Lophomyrtus obcordata

The blueberry is simultaneously fruiting – for a second time – and losing its leaves.

The autumn raspberries just keep on going.

I look at work I have done to tidy up the tired late-summer growth – bulbs and winter colour in pots – and note new growth on the tomatoes, a fox glove stubbornly emerging from the side of a barrel, and buds on the camellia (it is flowering on the other side).

The tomato plants in a hanging basket (another of the many strategies to protect plants from the chooks) are still producing flowers and fruit.

Chrysanthemums and broad beans among the rainbow chard are flowering. The bean plants popped up all by themselves when I followed advice to ‘chop and drop’ the old, finished plants. Another of many examples of plants in the garden with the will to flourish.

I hope for winter harvest of spinach, kale, pak choi, and salad greens from the plants in the green house and the vertical garden.

My morning meditations on the energy and beauty of living things helps get the day off to a good start. I have become tolerant of the ‘chaos’ of nature too, because we now know it’s meant to be. Even chooks’ dust baths in the ‘lawn’, giving more of a farmyard look than a manicured one, make me happy.

To top off this morning’s garden browsing, a bellbird, korimako, burst into song above me as I reached into the nesting box to retrieve a warm brown egg.

Thank you, bellbird. Thank you, Betty.


POST SCRIPT: Since we’re on the subject of new growth despite the time of year, here’s another example. This is my brother’s new little puppy visiting us last week.