No one has been more surprised than me, that over the last few weekends, I have been uncharacteristically industrious. I have been fixing gates, sanding back wood, trimming trees and bushes, weeding and (my favourite ), putting my new water blaster through its paces. I’ve never really been a particularly handy person; this has been largely due to lacking any motivation, but also having no real confidence in myself as a DIY-er.
So these past couple of weeks have been something of a revelation to me. I have discovered that I can do DIY (and that I am more of a man than I previously suspected), and that it is also immensely satisfying. Who would have thought that it would take me almost 40 years to make such a discovery?
By far the best project I’ve undertaken has been the vegetable patch. Since we moved into our house around five years ago, the vegetable patch has existed, almost exclusively as a concept alone. We did have one year when we had some pretty good strawberries, but the combined efforts of a two year old Fraboo, and the various creatures living in our garden, saw to it that none of the fruit reached our dessert bowls.
This year I have recruited an assistant, and a very enthusiastic one too. As Fraboo loves spending time with me, I thought that the two of us could spend some quality time together, nurturing some plants in the garden. The two of us began our preparations, about three weeks ago, with the unenviable task of clearing the weeds out. It became apparent pretty quickly, that Fraboo was less interested in extracting the weeds than she was in making friends with the worms and other wildlife we came across as we (I) did the weeding. Never the less we persevered. We managed to do about two thirds of the garden before being thwarted by Auckland’s incredibly changeable weather.
About a week later, a friend and I finished preparing the beds. I’d asked the rest of the family what plants they wanted us to get. Curiously, Fraboo decided that in addition to strawberries (understandable), she wanted us to grow some broccoli. The reason that I found this so odd is that she, like many other six year olds the world over, can’t stand the sight of her greens. You can all but guarantee that at the end of dinner, a sizable number of her vegetables will remain on her plate, and she is suddenly full up and couldn’t eat another morsel. Until she hears that pudding is about to be served, and then all of a sudden she is ravenous again.
I decided that no self respecting vege patch would be complete without rhubarb, and Mrs L. instructed us that tomatoes and basil were necessities, and so after a trip to the local garden centre, we returned, heavily laden with seedlings. With a little encouragement, Fraboo was persuaded to help us to transfer the plants to our newly cleared patch. During the process she added another word to her vocabulary, or at least gained a better grasp of the meaning of the word “gently”. Once again, the worms were eagerly greeted, and if prised from the soil, were treated to a grand tour of our home in search of Mrs L. or younger siblings. As I’m sure you can imagine this led to much screaming and raised voices (usually shouting “ROSS!” or “DAD!”). I too was having a great time, as happy as a pig (or Dad) in mud. I’m not sure quite how the soil worked its way into the various nooks and crannies, it did but I can assure you that my evening shower that night, was a very bemusing experience!
It seems that our plant selections were very good, as they were clearly some of the most robust seedlings in existence. They were subjected to a series of humiliations; first being pulled free of the soil in their pots, then, having been returned, were unceremoniously dumped upside down on the grass. And that was just the treatment they received from me.
For her part, Fraboo mainly directed operations dictating where each plant would look best, and welcoming them to our garden, by singing to them and performing impromptu dances. She also christened them with a deluge from the hose pipe, of almost Biblical proportions (in fact I have named one of the rhubarb plants Noah). Even though I warned her that this may drown them, they have proven to be incredibly resilient to my, and her efforts to kill them, and are currently thriving.
In the not too distant future I hope to bring you updates, of delicious salads, desserts, jams and cakes made with the products of our little slice of Eden, but for now I am happy that there are already a few green strawberries getting ready for our puddings.