Friday, 24 March 2017

Introducing Alexandra

"Studio" shot and outdoor shot!

She is wearing her Sunday apron, and there is a small pie hiding underneath.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Hoggy ministrations

We have really lovely neighbours all around us. We don't see them often, and because most of them are running small farms, we tend only to communicate by phone or email or Facebook. We were recently invited for drinks and nibbles by the couple whose rather decorative Highland coos keep our paddock neat. The couple have a daughter who lives on the same property in a small house which we can see over the fields from our windows. She and her partner rescue all sorts of animals when they aren't working hard at a business in town.

This evening when I went to empty our kitchen bin, I was met by a perplexed tabby escorting a very chubby hedgehog across our front driveway. I'd seen this particular pincushion before and tucked him up under some branches and leaves well out of the way of our cars, but he is a persistent pin cushion and keeps returning to the vicinity of the garage and wheelie bin. I caught him and then realised he was starting with mange, a common hedgehog problem. I felt like I was offering a St John's ambulance service to him. I whisked him up the driveway, flanked by concerned tabby and show off ginger who kept running up trees on our neighbours long avenue.

My neighbours had just come home from work, and were relaxing watching TV with a chicken perched on the sofa behind their heads. They were surprised to see me clutching a ball of anxious prickles, but were quite happy to take him in and treat him. No doubt he will be released soon, sans mange and be trying to dodge the cars again on our driveway. Here he is, in all his spiky splendour.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

A Party Political Broadcast on behalf of all National Health Services

Yesterday I had a prolonged AF incident. Kind of like a pidgeon and a sparrow were playing soccer inside my rib cage. By the time I got to bed I knew it was likely to be long night. I slept for a few hours, woke up to go to the bathroom and almost collapsed in the ensuite. St John's ambulance took me "under lights" to Palmerston North hospital. It's a 50 minute drive. The driver warned it would be a bumpy one. It usually is, because there is a stretch of road, about 5kms, where the potholes and skewed camber make it treacherous. So I was strapped in, and we made it in just under 45 minutes. The road was almost deserted and he told me he drove down the middle on the pothole stretch, to spare me some of the bumps. I got home at 8am, after a series of tests. Turns out I have a UTI which likely triggered the AF. I now have antibiotics and have just managed to swallow my usual medication even though I am really nauseous.

I am not writing this because I want sympathy, it is because I am VERY grateful for a Public Health Service, highly competent paramedics and doctors and access to pharmaceuticals. Whether we live in NZ or the UK or somewhere else with a government health service, we must support it and fight to keep it. It is more precious than gold.

On a lighter note. When you call for an ambulance in NZ one of the things they request, before the ambulance arrives, is that you put away any animals. I am guessing this is a polite way of saying "please put away your angry/bolshy/man-eating dog so that we can access the patient. Boa constrictors and pythons should also be stowed carefully." The first time I called on St John's services, I fretted about finding the cats and making sure they weren't on the driveway when the ambulance arrived. I needn't have worried of course; Ruppin lives permanently under the house/various bushes and Cumin runs when she hears any vehicle on our driveway. But then there is Mango who genuinely believes the world is his friend, his access to tickles under the chin and he believes in generous distribution of Bon Homie. He was the one the ambulance driver nearly fell over when he came into the bedroom and who my husband had to remove before he climbed in their emergency bag.

I got home at 8am and I woke up just before lunchtime. No sign of cats. But as I passed the spare front bedroom, I saw this

It seems the drama of last night passed her by. I called her name, and this is as far as we got

Way too much excitement for one occupant of Coneysthorpe.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Sharing the bounty

I was given a precious gift just before my friend moved to another part of the North Island; a bag of red currants. Not only are these red jewels delicious, but they bring back so many happy memories of my childhood, heading down to the allotment with my dad, fork in my pocket, ready to strip the bushes of their jewellery.

Mum made strawberry and redcurrant jam, as well as rhubarb and redcurrant crumbles; a tart combination foiled by very sweet custard. Definitely childhood heaven in a bowl.

My friend's garden was a picture, neat and bountiful. She taught me how to grow beans (hardly a difficult task, but for me, a complete disaster in the garden, quite an achievement).

So here are half of the currants, about to head into a plum crumble. I cooked all my plums, and divided the fruit between two oven proof dishes, sprinkling with the red currants and covering with an oat and seeds crumble.

So the fruity blessing gets passed along, multiplying its juicy self. I have just posted one bowl in the neighbouring farm's mailbox. One of their boys will no doubt head down on his mountain bike and ride precariously up the hill with it. At least it is too difficult to sample en route and is likely to arrive intact!

Sunday, 5 February 2017


My husband doesn't often find things to tease me about, but he has a favourite topic - pots and ceramics. This is because I love ceramics from Scandinavian countries. Since we married I have managed to find second hand Figgjo Flint, Inge Laage, Ulla Procope, Finnish Arabia and Royal Copenhagen. I have a particular fondness for items from my childhood years of the 1960s and 1970s. Even better if they are coloured blue or brown. He even bought a piece for me himself, a Royal Copenhagen plate. These lovely plates were produced annually close to Christmas. My much loved Aunt had an entire wall displaying them - a Christmas gift each year from her family. They looked so beautiful, cobalt blue against a stark wall in her York home.

Today we welcomed some Danish guests. We had a lovely time together chatting about so many things. I was presented a gift by the wife, and really could not believe my eyes when I was given two Royal Copenhagen plates, from 1972 and 1977. She could not have given me a greater treasure. I was delighted to hear that these plates, which I have always considered decorative only, are used in every day life in kitchens and dining rooms all around the Danish Kingdom, as will mine now!

Here they are, the desert picture on the darker plate having even greater significance wafting memories back from my life in Arabia.

Friday, 3 February 2017

What the little bird didn't tell me

I was disappointed with our plums this year. I have blamed the appalling weather. However, this afternoon, en route to the paddock to pull out thistles, I wandered under one of our more far flung fruit trees. It was LADEN with plums and around a dozen blackbirds jumping from branch to branch, turning the plumbs into missiles. The cheeky birds had been gorging themselves - the hundreds of bone dry pips on the ground were evidence. This is a tree that has done nothing for 3 years and as if to spite me quietly produced enough plums to sink a boat. Sadly most of them are completely out of reach except for the birds, and they aren't planning to help me harvest them.

So, more plum puree for the freezer methinks.

The mush left over from the last plum culinary experiment was today donated to the Post Office Pig. I mixed it with some left over quince pulp from last year that I had preserved. Mr Post Office grinned when I gave it to him "That will go into his bucket for afternoon tea". As we drove away from the Post Office, I could see a large mound of flesh snoozing in the long grass of the meadow, the only evidence that it was a pig was the large hairy ear flicking away the bees. Oh to be a snoozing pig with quince for tea.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

The Pie Man and the leaning tower of Pizza

Today I had a "Day Rover" ticket on the local trains, so headed to the capital for the day. One the way home, I decided to hop off at a small seaside town. On its one street resides a butcher who makes the BEST chicken pies in the S. Hemisphere. He was surprised to see me, as he knows I live at least an hour's drive north of his shop. "I dropped in to get some pies." He looked over my shoulder expecting my better half to come strolling in too. "Oh I'm on my own, took the train to the big smoke today. I had a brainwave on the way back. I'm allowed to hop on and off the train, so here I am for pies." He started to laugh "Well you know you are always very welcome, lovely to see you, and you're lucky, there are two left".

Half an hour later, I am sat in an almost deserted railway carriage, when two young men got on, one with a pushchair and a sleeping baby, the other a security guy balancing a tower of pizza pieces cut into slices. Goodness knows where they had come from. He helped the young lad with the baby, then proceeded to offer pizza around the carriage. "It's good bro" as he leaned over to Daddy with the pushchair. We all politely declined, but it was such a nice gesture. Kiwis love their pies and love their pizza, but no so much as they aren't willing to share.

Nice, real nice.