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by Monica
Monarch butterfly
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Winter Solstice

We've just had the winter solstice. In my mind, we are now climbing up the other side of the valley of winter, heading for the warmth and sunlight on higher ground. The hardest part is over and it gets easier from here on in. Of course, in reality, some of the coldest days lie ahead. It's more likely to snow from now on. But never-the-less, it's a psychological barrier passed. Not that I don't love aspects of the winter. I really am a hot weather person, comfortable in the Tropics, but I do love winter for it's freshness, beauty and frosty austerity. Speaking of frost, it's 4pm and 7 degrees celcius outside. Bound to be a good frost tonight. As I went out to feed the chooks this morning I thought about all the pesky bugs which had been frozen to death - a horrible way to die, but at the same time, good news for the garden next summer.

The garden too is looking plain and austere, but very tidy with its woolly blanket of peastraw. Timothy came home with a truckload - it took about a dozen bales.

Design Change

Francis, Patrick and I are about to leave Tapanui Downs so Timothy can now do what he wants in the garden. The first thing he did was get rid of the little grass paths Lucy and I put in the vege garden. We put them in to make all parts of it easy to get to without standing on the soil, and also to make the design more interesting. Timothy always favoured the idea of having one big long rectangular vege garden in the traditional Kiwi style, because he said it was more efficient, in terms of crop size. He is also a row planter, whereas Lucy and I are companion planters.

We out-voted him when we put the gardens in three years ago, but as always in these matters, we paid a price, which is now evident. Having the garden all to himself to do it his own way has meant he's a lot more interested, and I can see it will be more productive than ever next year. Not so much because it's going to be rectangular with rows, but because he's putting alot of enthusiasm into it.

Seaside Garden

Having learnt the basics of gardening in a good soil, with hot dry summers and snowy winters, both droughts and heavy rainfall, the rest of us, ie Francis, Patrick and I, are now to inherit a seaside garden, which also sits on the edge of a lake. When I say garden, it's just about all nature's work, and we will be starting virtually from scratch.

In my lasting impression of the place, which we have seen once for 15 minutes just on dark, there are funny cacti-type plants the size of roosters scattered around the back garden, which slopes down to the lakeside. In my mind's eye these cacti-thingies are big and prickly, but more like an aloe vera than a classic Mexican pole shape. Really not much like an aloe either. Surreal in a Doctor Seuss kind of way. Also, I was thrilled to see gazanias dotting the landscape, and next to them alyssum. The rest of the long sloping back lawn was scrubby, but left me with a sense of being handed a lovely malleable piece of unformed clay.

What is clear is that we will have a few new challenges, not least of them learning how to grow things in such an idiosyncratic environment. While I am looking forward to discovering all the little plants that thrive in such a place, I am also anticipating we will have to come by a large amount of soil (as opposed to the sand that is there) for the vege garden. Unlike spacious Tapanui Downs, where the thing we need can always be found lying around somewhere, this garden is in a small village consisting of seaside baches and fishermen's digs, and is relatively populated, even though not much. And at first glance, it seems this little town is surrounded by pea gravel. Quaint but also rather barren.

Monica's discoveries are the musings of an amateur gardener and should not be taken as serious gardening advice.

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