Much Ado About Nothing

The roses are out and they are bloomin’ marvelous (I had to, I’m sorry) – I’m not sure what we did right, but it’s a good year for them. I’m calling our house Rose Cottage, I’m even going to have a little plaque made up and everything. Every house deserves a name.

I’m writing a novel about a house and a garden right now. I’ve only just started – I’m at that point where you stand at the foot of the mountain and look up, trying to figure out how many steps you’ll have to take, how many hours you’ll have to endure above the death zone, how many fingers and toes you’ll lose to frostbite. But you start, you climb, you keep going, and little by little, it happens. I want this manuscript done and polished by the end of July next year. Wish me luck! Or better, wish me persistence!

I’m also counting down the days until our new living room rug arrives, after the shipment was delayed by months, twice. These darling dogs of mine are going to be the death of me. Every car in the street, every pedestrian, every jangling cat bell, sometimes even the snapping of a twig or the shock of me getting up from the sofa too quickly… all these things send P+R into hysterics roughly 3-4 times per hour, sometimes much more. They leap all over the pappasan chair and bark their little brains out. With floorboards and no rug, the sound bounces around the room and transforms into something piercing and horrific. We are extremely lucky to have neighbours who are either very tolerant or very deaf, as both sides have told me that they barely hear a peep from us.

Aside from that:

I went to see MTC’s The Father with the father (mine) last week, and it was devastatingly good. Emphasis on the devastating bit. John Bell gave the best stage acting I have ever seen, and I cried. Some of the audience reactions were a bit off though – the play was about dementia, and Dad’s theory is that a lot of the audience are in an age category where all this stuff is frighteningly relevant for them, and their laughter might have been a function of their discomfort. Maybe.

I wore new shoes that night and ended up with horrendous blisters on my little toes. Still sore, still glowing red like little old fashioned Christmas lights. I did get to eat xiao long bao at Din Tai Fung before the theatre though – soup-filled dumplings that pop when pierced with your chopstick, which is a very icky thought when juxtaposed with my tales of toe blisters.

I’ve spent the best part of this week convinced that we had a mouse in the house, but now I’m having doubts. I saw a shadow move quickly across the hearth of the fireplace, but apart from that, there has been absolutely no evidence of anything. Now I’m wondering whether it was a mouse at all, or maybe a moth, or maybe it really was just a shadow cast along the floor from the sun shining in the window. We set traps and they haven’t been touched. I still won’t walk barefoot at nighttime or leave my slippers on the floor though.

My tomato plants are going splendidly, my cucumbers have shriveled and returned to the soil from whence they came. I’m not sure whether to try again, but the idea of making jars of my own dill pickles is calling to me. What else should I grow in my summer garden, once I rip all the broad beans out? I could just do an entire garden bed of basil, but how much pesto can one girl humanly eat*?

Nathan and I were meant to have a romantic weekend away in Sydney, which didn’t end up happening (he went by himself on a duty mission to visit a family member who needed some heavy duty cheering up). He is bringing me back a cheesecake from Uncle Tetsu though! I knew there was a reason I married him. Other than his winning smile, devastatingly handsome looks, and worthiness as a Scrabble opponent.

* If we’re talking about this girl, the answer is: probably more than you could imagine. When I was in third grade, we did a science project where we had to list the main foods in our diet and where they fit on the food pyramid. I had an argument with the teacher who told me that pesto was a fat, when I assured him that it was made mostly out of basil, so it counted as a vegetable therefore you should be eating heaps of it. But really, we all know that homemade pesto transcends the food pyramid altogether and should better be considered something like mana of the gods.

Spring

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The ranunculus are blooming! It was a mixed pack, so it’s always fun to guess which colour each individual bud is going to be. The peachy/raspberry ones are my favourite. We’ve also got snowdrops all over the place, yet I never really planted them there. There was a lone snowdrop in our lawn a couple of years ago and I moved it to the garden bed. It grew into a clump then got forgotten about when we turned all the soil over. The tiny bulbs spread everywhere and now they are growing like mad. Not sure if I approve.

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I pruned the roses so hard that I was scared they were going to falter, but they loved it. Every bush is growing back so vigorously with really lush leaves, and no hint of black spot. Once we rip out the horrible old yellow daisy bush this weekend, there will be room for a new rose – Grandma got us a Cécile Brünner (an old fashioned pale pink rose) for our birthday. Apparently it has a gorgeous scent.

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My long suffering wisteria is covered in buds, more than any other year. It’s a surprise because I haven’t given it any special attention. Now I just hope I will be at home when they decide to put on a show. It looks like there is going to be a cascade of purple flowers right outside our front window – I would really like to be home for that.

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I have seed trays going: red cabbage and romanesco broccoli (it’s an heirloom type that is lime green and grows in spirals). Growing garlic will, I’m sure, be super rewarding when we get to harvest it. But it takes forever – literally about eight months. I’m growing these guys in different beds so I have something a bit quicker to look forward to – I think they take about 10 weeks. I don’t think there is anything we will be able to do with a glut of broccoli other than eat it, but with the cabbage, I’m planning on making some sauerkraut and maybe kimchi. Even if I am a bit paranoid about preserving things in jars.

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My Japanese maple is getting so big, and I love seeing it with all this new, fresh green growth. It used to be flanked by a little pond and waterfall that I would love to re-establish, but facing opposition from Nathan and Dad, but I think every garden needs a little fish pond. I would have to research it though. It’s startling how much the climate has changed in the last five years. A 45°C day was a total fluke five years ago, and now we can expect a run of them every summer. It’s shocking that we don’t even consider 30°C particularly hot anymore. I don’t know how fish would go in these kind of conditions.

This weekend, we have new lavender to put in, plus some salvia, euphorbia, some climbing roses for an arch, and some other little random plants. Oh, and our birthday camellia from Dad. Plus neverending weeding. It’s hard and it’s frustrating that Nathan never wants to help, but I hope it will be worth it. A beautiful garden gives such a sense of satisfaction and harmony, I will never be one of those people that can just have a bunch of rocks and a few sprigs of whatever was labelled ‘low maintenance’ at the landscaping center. I need lush, blooming things; plants that smell gorgeous; things that attract bees and butterflies; places for fairies to hide.

patience

On the weekend, Dad helped us (actually he did most of the work) with the mammoth task of hauling wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of soil across my yard to fill up four raised vegetable garden beds. Nathan bemoaned how much space they took up in our yard, I reminded him that it will be less grass to cut. And wouldn’t it be worth sacrificing a few metres of unused turf for the delight of eating home-grown tomatoes all summer?

We planted: yellow tomatoes, green tomatoes, roma tomatoes, grosse lisse tomatoes, apple cucumbers, watermelon, butternut pumpkin, mini eggplants, leeks, capsicum, rainbow chard, snow peas, silverbeet and heirloom radishes. Or… I planted, Nathan supervised. And by supervised, I mean he lay on the grass in the sunshine with the puppies, having long conversations with them about how cute they were. I get the feeling that this is going to be one of those things that he is super enthusiastic about in theory, less so in practice.

Now I keep looking out the window every five minutes, at the little tufts of green in otherwise empty beds, waiting for something to happen.