Tag Archives: shortest day

Matariki and quintessence

Matariki, the Maori New Year celebrates the return of the Pleiades star constellation to our southern night sky. This occurs at the time of the shortest day.

My Camellia Quintessence (more here about this lovely plant) near my door bloomed on the shortest day this year.

This quote I found seemed appropriate.

Man is a microcosm, or a little world, because he is an extract from all the stars and planets of the whole firmament, from the earth and the elements; and so he is their quintessence.

Philipus Aureolus Paracelsus

For readers in the southern hemisphere happy Matariki, new beginnings, as the light returns and for northern hemisphere readers enjoy the fullness of the light.

Short day, big hunger

Tomorrow is the shortest day which means today was almost as short. I headed out to the garden in the dimming daylight to pick some silver beet.

I was surprised to find this hedgehog snuffling about. I offered it some of Jazz’s leftover cat food and it was very pleased to eat a portion, once I had backed a distance away.

I know why they are known as hedge-hogs now as it was a very snuffly, snorty eater with a loud chew.

There was evidence it had been rustling about in some of the heaps of dead leaves but it was no where to be seen some minutes later.

Making the bed

With a storm full of rain predicted to hit our area tomorrow I decided to get out and make the bed in preparation for this year’s garlic crop.

Garlic crop 2011

I had forked the soil over a day or so ago while the sun shone on my back. Today I dug through a generous quantity of sheep pellets and added this sweet smelling, no cost maple leaf hummus and some stinky half rotted sea weed out of my seaweed tea bucket.

Once it has rained and soaked all these goodies deep into the soil I have some lime to add plus a sprinkling of bulb food. I will plant the garlic at the time of the shortest day.

Perhaps it will be consistently cold by then which assists in the growth of garlic cloves. Many of our spring bulbs are leaping out of the ground as the mix of warm days and some chillier ones continues.

While out in the garden before the storm force winds hit we gathered up a large plastic bag full of maple tree leaves to begin the slow break down process to provide us with even more leafy hummus next year. This year I added a good quantity of sheep pellets to ensure better decomposition.

Nature has provided well for the garlic bed this year.

Garlic and Gumboots

Saturday dawned sunny, mild and windfree so with the shortest day just behind us I decided to plant my garlic. I had prepared the tubs a few weeks earlier to allow the sheep pellets, lime, compost, bulb food and dry all purpose plant food to simmer away in the weather in order for the soil to be ready for the bulbs.

I have two tubs for garlic this year. One is planted with elephant garlic and the other with ordinary garlic. The beauty of elephant garlic is that small bulblets form off the head which can be planted next season to produce more large, tasty heads. My two elephant garlic heads this summer yielded 13 bulblets…..a kind of elephant family herd size I reckon. I have planted all 13 bulblets so I expect to have masses of elephant herds next summer

I prefer the cloves of elephant garlic. They are large and their papery skin is easily pealed. One clove is often enough for the dish I am cooking. The taste is somewhat milder and nuttier than ordinary garlic. The stalks and flowers are pretty impressive in height and size too.

“Garlic used as it should be used is the soul, the divine essence, of cookery. The cook who can employ it successfully will be found to possess the delicacy of perception, the accuracy of judgment, and the dexterity of hand which go to the formation of a great artist.” – Mrs. W. G. Waters
I’m not sure that my cooking with garlic reaches the heights of great artistry as Mrs Waters says it will but it is really satisfying to know that growing garlic to cook can contribute to the soul and divine essence of cookery. That has to be good for us.

While the weather was fine and dry on Saturday we have had plenty of rain and the grass is sodden. So later in the day it was gumboots time while we trimmed trees and did some general tidying up in the garden. Thank goodness for gumboots as they keep your feet warm and dry but there is also something very satisfying in sloshing about in gumboots. It is probably a memory from childhood when gumboots allowed you the freedom to jump in puddles, wade through shallow streams, mess about in mud and enjoy different sensory experiences on the ground.

We even have a quirky, comic song about Gumboots here in New Zealand, written by John Clarke. Here is the chorus and a verse:

“If it weren’t for your gumboots, where would ya be?
You’d be in the hospital or infirmary
‘coz you would have a dose of the ‘flu, or even pleurisy
If ya didn’t have yer feet in yer gumboots.

Now there’s rugby boots and racing boots, and boots for drinkin’ rum.
But the only boots I’m never without, are the ones that start with “gum”.
I’ve got short ones and long ones, and some up to me belt.
I’m never dressed ’till I’ve got on me gumboots.

If it weren’t for your gumboots, where would ya be?
You’d be in the hospital or infirmary
‘coz you would have a dose of the ‘flu, or even pleurisy
If ya didn’t have yer feet in yer gumboots.”

The Shortest Day

Today is the shortest day and many people have been celebrating this winter solstice, acknowledging the importance of the dark but anticipating the return of the light.

It continues to be a very testing year here in New Zealand, especially for the residents of Christchurch and surrounding areas.

While nature has been showing her hand dramatically in many ways, nature has also been kind to us here in “windy” Wellington. We have had an exceptionally long period of calm weather with temperatures being unseasonably warm and none of us have any complaints about those two features.

We have had a good many days of cloud this week and the daylight is very low. However from my living room window there is a flowering cherry tree which still has an abundance of leaves which have all turned into their autumn finery after some clear, chilly nights last week.

Set against the low light it is a beacon of colour and vibrancy to relish and to remind us that sun, light and heat will return in time.

My photos do not necessarily do it justice as it seems to glow to the naked eye.