I’m taking Fifi over to Auckland as I write this blog.
It’s my first time taking the Waiheke car ferry. You have to reverse onto the ferry. One woman seemed to be going a bit off course so an official drove her car on board for her. I saw where she went wrong and that gave me a few good tips on how not to do it. Still, I reversed carefully because I didn’t want to end up in the drink! Once we were all on board, off we floated to the city. I texted Remo to say I had got on the car ferry without incident and he replied well done but did I get any letterboxes? That’s quite cryptic isn’t it? Unless you read About us. Mmmm.
I’ve been busy in the garden during the week. Tessa told me I’d need to mulch everything in the garden or it might not survive the summer. Pea straw is good, she told me. So off I went and got pea straw. I like the smell of pea straw, like a late summer’s day, dry and sweet. It was just about as hard to break up as a tightly bound pack of vermicelli noodles, and it went everywhere, just like noodles do. But what was trickier was getting dry stalky stuff to nestle around delicate little plants of sugar snaps and beans. It took half a day to mulch the garden. My friend Molly came around for a visit and admired my handiwork but said, um, you need much more mulch than that, like three times that amount. Oh. When I bumped into Tessa next she said, don’t forget the damp newspaper. What? Wet newspaper is used for mulching, too. Who would have guessed? It’s free, unlike pea straw, and is a home for the local weekly rags Marketplace and Weekender. They ran a story on me in Marketplace a week back, so now I suppose I am being mulched all over Waiheke. That’s too bad. I’ve been wrapped around fish and chips many times in the past so no hard feelings. What you do is put wet newspaper wherever you can around tree roots and plants and cover it with mulch. It gives you double the protection. Then, like the pea straw, it eventually just breaks down into the soil.
Come Sunday I started lifting off all the pea straw and began mulching with wet newspaper. It’s a dirty job because of the printing ink, though not difficult. Then I reapplied the pea straw more generously. That should do it. Tessa and Roger called while I was up to my elbows mulching. I wanted to ask them about planting a tree. Tessa saw the dry pea straw and told me that it was the pea straw that needs soaking in water, not the paper, the newspaper just needs to be damp. Oh no, holy cow, what dumb thing have I gone and done? That’s why I couldn’t get the pea straw to nestle around the plants because it was dry and wouldn’t bend easily. OH. So I stopped soaking the newspaper and started soaking the pea straw. What a difference that made. It could be coaxed gently around the tiniest tenderest little plant stem. Finally, after all the kerfuffle my plants are perfectly mulched and looking nice and perky poking through the pea straw. It’s a thing of beauty really, though I suppose it will be the wettest summer on record and all the mulching will be for nothing.
… and baby zucchini plants can have their first flower (chopped it up and sprinkled on top of a salad) …
It was a big week in the garden because I also planted my first tree. Another lemon tree. I love lemon trees and one would never be enough. This one’s a prolific fruit bearer, a Meyer. It’s a little beauty and already full of tiny lemons. Not enough for a G&T just yet though. Planting a tree in Rocky Bay is a real accomplishment, as any resident will tell you. That’s because you have to dig out rock to plant anything. But I had an idea. There was a motley lily thing growing and while I was wondering if it could be brought back to life, or if it was even worth the effort, I had an epiphany. I ripped it out because I realise it would leave a hole! Goodbye lily. Hello ready-dug hole! I felt really pleased with myself but thought I better run the whole tree-planting procedure past Tessa. ‘Well,’ she said, ‘the hole needs to be twice as wide and twice as deep as the root ball of the tree.’ Drat. The hole wasn’t big enough. It was half a hole. But I got it dug with my $14.95 lime green Chinese spade from Placemakers, soaked the tree in a bucket of water – and you need enough water to come over the top of the soil otherwise it will never soak all the way through – then you put loads of compost in the hole and stick in the tree. Then you mulch it. Wet newspaper first then mounds of damp pea straw. It looks a picture. I think I’m in love with it.
I wrote the blog above a few days ago and now Fifi and I are on our way back to the island. It’s a magnificent sailing. As Auckland fades into a sunny haze, the ferry parts the water in its path like a hot knife slipping through butter, and we make our way home leaving a frothy-capped choppy sea in our wake.
Fifi is stuffed to the gunnels with Australian prawns, New Zealand lamb, a side of brisket, Il Casaro mozzarella and ‘pizza’ mozzarella, Zany Zeus mascarpone and ricotta, Paneton frozen mini croissants, Italian panettone, NZ-grown frozen cranberries, and Pic’s new peanut oil and a jar of their almond butter. And there’s Rose and Prosecco and Villa Maria’s organic Sauvignon Blanc, and a big bag of green beans from Remo’s garden, and sugar snaps and 99c eggplants from Farro’s, and a box of bird’s eye chillies and a box of mace. There are flowers, too, and candles for Christmas eve. Between the seats there are long canes to form into teepees to put in the garden around the beans to support them as they grow, and pot plant saucers to hold water, and a new soft bathmat, but way, way, way more important than all of this, there are two fig trees. Oh yes: TWO FIG TREES!!