Chickens are everywhere

My Great Southern Adventure is underway. An invitation to a wedding gave it impetus.

On the way, I visited a favourite shop: Annie’s Country Quilt Store.

Chickens dancing in the moonlight (most unlikely in reality) in the top right corner.

In my view, interesting shoes say a lot about how well matched people are.

Flowers and lacy sneakers

The table centrepieces had been carefully created by a friend.

And who is that sporting chicken tattoos?

At the art gallery I was attracted to this painting.

When I arrived at my next destination I was greeted by three chooks. Here is one of them.

There’s nothing like a chicken to make you feel right at home. And, today, two fresh eggs were delivered to my door.

Adorable Dora

It is sad to farewell lovely Dora today.

Named for Dora the Explorer, she was the curious, sociable one who would sit next to you or peer through the window from the back of an outdoor chair.

She is the only chook I have ever taken to the vet. In November I saw she had observable symptoms of ill-health which an internet search seemed to show could be cured with antibiotics. I found a local vet who was knowledgeable about poultry. Dora was given an injection and antibiotic pills – which she would eat ground up in lasagne!

Recently, however, her symptoms returned and then she became lethargic and uncoordinated, but was still eating and drinking. Her comb became pale and floppy. I had no idea how old this rescued chicken was, but she had long since stopped laying eggs. These brown shavers are bred to lay eggs constantly and die an early death, worn out by the effort.

I bathed her rear end on Monday, when I feared she might get fly-strike due to some scouring. Then I settled her in a “chicken hospital” for a couple of days (carrying her to her house each night) after powdering her feathers with diatomaceous earth powder to keep insects away.

Yesterday was cooler, and I left her in her house. By the end of the day she had passed away.

Now she rests next to Betty (the first Betty, not the current one). They each have their own rock.

Dora’s rock is on the left

I wondered if Popcorn would miss her mate, but she seems unconcerned, still bossing the others around – although Betty No 2 gives her a run for her money. Animals are far more accepting of life’s inevitabilities than we are.

Here are some happy memories:

Berry time of year

The blackcurrants have been ripening over the last few weeks. Now they are ready to pick. Blackcurrants may be an acquired taste for some as they are quite tart. Blueberries are much sweeter and I’ve harvested two large bowls from one bush.

We had our first lot in a shortcake, and I added blueberries for interest.

Before the top layer of pastry was put on.

Then I looked for a more interesting recipe and found one for Blackcurrant and vanilla cream tart. This has a pastry base and a filling of egg yolk, caster sugar, vanilla, and double cream. I used half yoghurt and half cream which probably added to the tartness of the fruit. Delicious.

Because the recipe used three separated eggs, I used the whites to make meringues which I’ve never made before. They turned out well and are nice to eat on the side of the tart with a spoonful of cream and a sprinkling of fresh berries.

There’s still one more blackcurrant bush to harvest. I picked a few of the currants this evening. They are large, juicy, tart and bursting with goodness.

Letterbox legend

This was my letterbox in the early 2000s. It was not new when this photo was taken, as the brass lip of the letter slot is tarnished. I bought it from the Mitre 10 store which used to be just around the corner until the earthquakes. I painted the letterbox to match the house.

There was a space at the back for milk bottles. We still had glass bottle deliveries of milk, although only three days a week when this photo was taken, until they finally stopped in 2009.

After my new fence was built in 2018, my nephew sank a sturdy post into the ground and secured the letterbox to it.

It has served me well in that spot, with a self-seeded bay tree sheltering it and shasta daisies flowering around it in summer.

This year, in October, a neighbour from the social housing complex nearby, took exception to it for some reason perhaps not even known to himself, kicking the letterbox off its post and smashing it beyond repair.

My nephew took it away and put an ordinary metal letterbox in its place.

On Christmas Day I received a new letterbox my nephew had modelled on the old one. Instead of the milk bottle compartment it has a larger space for letters, with a new handle and a firm latch at the back.

The original brass lip and brass numbers have been polished and it looks (and otherwise is) brand spanking new. My nephew assures me it is very strong. “Good luck with kicking this in,” he said.


The met service issued a strong wind warning yesterday. All gardeners dread the damaging effect of this on new growth. My tall globe artichoke seemed to be hanging on to its companion.

I’ve got you, Artie!

The sweet peas weren’t so lucky. When one container was blown over, the other stayed upright, but the plant went down, connected by the tendrils of the first plant.

Fortunately, I was able to right both plants once the wind had died down.

A very tall tomato plant was blown sideways and wilted at the top.

It was revived later by a generous helping of water.

Dora sheltered under the feverfew.

I carried on stacking wood. I had hoped to have it done before the wind arrived, but the delivery was late. It’s nice to achieve some order when the weather is in chaos.

It took three and a half hot, sweaty hours, with a barrow load taking five minutes to fill, wheel to the woodshed and stack.

A hiking companion used to cheer us up when the going got tough with you-think-you’ve-got-it -bad stories. The terrible effects of the tornado in the Philippines put our nor’wester into perspective. The ominous feeling that such events will be increasingly common everywhere remains.

Post Script:

We’re saved!

Good weather for ducks, not chooks

Awkwardly holding umbrella and camera, I took a photo of the rising water in the Avon from the Gloucester Street bridge. The ducks on the far bank – or side, rather, as the bank was underwater – seemed unperturbed. The Gormley sculpture in the river looked as if it might disappear, and a half-submerged bucket floated past as if redundant and useless against the flood.

The Met Service heavy rain warning reports heavy rain from 10 am today until 6 am tomorrow. With more than 12 hours still to go, I will need gumboots to get to my local shops where I had to pick a careful course through the already flooded streets after getting off the bus from town this morning. It’s the first time since I retired two years ago that I have had to take the bus to and from a WEA course due to rain, rather than walking. As I was leaving the WEA, I met a friend who had walked. She was soaked through, but cheerful. She prefers not to use an umbrella, and I imagine that the two hours she had ahead, sitting in class, would be uncomfortable.

Inside the house looks good, thinks Betty.

At home, the chooks are sheltering on the deck – along with numerous sodden sparrows. Rain doesn’t run off them as it does from a duck’s back. Settling in for a long snooze seems the best way to pass a rainy day.

A symphony of colour

The title of this post alludes to Lyn of Tawa‘s chaotic colour schemes. My gardening is similarly chaotic: there is no planned colour scheme here. In fact, I took a step backwards on opening the blind on Sunday morning. I’ve been away for six days and the growth in the garden is overwhelming.

It’s a joy to muck about in the garden since I’ve been back. I’ve heard of people who have ripped out all of their roses because they are ‘too messy’. Messy could pretty much describe my garden and that is how I like it (with limits!) particularly after reading about how our efforts to control nature aren’t the best for the environment. Nature seems to have its own ideas, anyway.

I pruned the Cecile Brunner rose extensively, and it has carried on regardless.

Just as I enjoy “book bathing” in bookshops, I feel as if I’m “garden bathing” at home, surrounded by the green of waist-high Japanese anemones (they flower later in summer) while fox gloves and roses tower above me.

I can pick flowers with no impact on the visual explosion. Some of these flowers were rescued from branches broken by the wind. The sweet peas are a summer favourite. The red roses in the vase are Precious Platinum from a plant transplanted from my mother’s former house.

This morning I found the strawberries ripening in the little greenhouse. A feast for the eyes – and for the taste buds before long.

Wind blown

The weather can change quickly up here beside this glacial lake 278 metres above sea level.

There’s been rain and sun simultaneously as in this sunrise on Tuesday.

Yesterday was sunny and still but with enough breeze for the weekly yacht race which I caught glimpses of between the poplars beside the lake.

This morning I walked a little nervously under these trees as a nor’wester gained strength.

The wind was against me heading out and behind me coming back, so that I was reminded of this cartoon in the Listener I had been reading.


A bellbird as an alarm clock is a pretty fine prospect. Deborah Levy often writes of her bird song clock in her memoir. A bellbird was singing outside the window early this morning.

Bellbird in kowhai tree

Later, as I sat reading in the sun, I looked up to discover two ducks about to walk in the door.

This sign by the door tells me they’re frequent visitors.

Other visitors have been a thrush, chaffinches and, of course, sparrows. A sparrow popped out of the hedge where it’s probably nesting.

I don’t miss my chooks too much, but it’s nice to watch the bird life here.