This website is an odd mix of my interests as a writer, entomologist, naturalist, gardener, and educator. You’ll find blog posts about rural New Zealand life, links to my books, and some of my favourite recipes. Feel free to explore, drop me a line, and sign up for my e-mail list.
On Sunday, we were all busy with various projects in the yard and shop. At some point I glanced at the clock and realised no one had thought about dinner, and it was getting late.
In the fridge was a small quantity of baked pumpkin—not enough to pair with the pie crust in the fridge for a galette, which would have been easy and quick.
Then I noticed a package of tofu in the back of the fridge.
And a wedge of blue cheese.
Before long, I had concocted pumpkin tofu burgers with blue cheese melted on top. Oh my! They were delicious!
Tragically, I have no idea what I put in them. I didn’t measure, didn’t write anything down.
Aside from the pumpkin and tofu, I remember a shallot, parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, ground coriander, paprika, salt, soy sauce, black pepper, cumin, bread crumbs, egg…but how much of each?
Nope. I couldn’t recreate these things. I might have been more careful had I known they would turn out so well. But I was rushing, using whatever I could find in the fridge and cupboard, going by the seat of my pants.
I didn’t even take a photo of them.
I suppose I’ll just have to make them again, more carefully. Mmm! I like that idea.
Nathan, Ella and Oliver have saved Nathan’s dad. Now they need to save the dragons. Can they convince dragons and humans to work together? Not everyone is happy with their plans, and some are willing to kill to prevent them from succeeding.
The nursery web spider (Dolomedes minor) is one of New Zealand’s larger spiders, in spite of it’s species name. At this time of the year, it’s also one of the more visible spiders, or at least its webs are.
Nursery web spiders don’t use webs to catch food. Instead, they use their silk to create shelters for their eggs and newly-hatched young. These shelters are visible in late summer and autumn on the tips of shrubby plants, especially gorse.
The female spider can sometimes be seen hanging around the web during the day. In fact, if she’s nearby, its hard to miss her, with a body nearly two centimetres long, and a leg span reaching six centimetres.
The nursery web isn’t the only care the nursery web spider gives her young. Until the spiderlings are near to hatching, she carries the egg sac with her to protect it. The young hatch out inside the nursery web, staying within the web’s protection for about a week.
The spiderlings disperse by ballooning—they let out a strand of silk until the force of the wind blowing on it is greater than their own weight, and then they float away on the end of the thread to a new home.
Like other members of the genus Dolomedes, the nursery web spider is an ambush hunter, chasing down its prey on foot. But most other Dolomedes do this exclusively on or in water, whereas the nursery web spider hunts on land as well as water, eating a wide range of invertebrates.
I woke yesterday morning shivering under the summer quilt on the bed after a restless night listening to icy rain on the roof.
Time to switch to winter mode, I suppose.
I lit the first fire of the season.
It wasn’t long before the cat joined me by the fire. Then my daughter, then my husband, then my son…Nothing like a hearth to draw everyone together.
I think about the angst over today’s youth, separated from face-to-face interactions by their devices, and I think that perhaps what we all need are small, poorly insulated houses heated by inefficient wood burners. In a big, centrally heated house, it’s easy for everyone to retreat to their own rooms—shut the door, pull out the phone and troll the internet. But in our house, the only comfortable room in the winter is the 3×4 m living room. A teen who retreats to their room and shuts the door pretty quickly returns to warm up by the fire.
Yes, we may all sit here doing our own thing, but by gathering around the fire together, we share what we’re doing with each other. Someone might share a good line from the book they’re reading, or show a dumb cat video they thought was funny, or ask for help on a maths problem. Simply by virtue of proximity, we connect in other ways.
I will admit that on winter mornings, crawling out of a warm bed into the freezing air to light the fire, I dream of luxuries like heat pumps. And sometimes it would be really nice to have some space to myself, rather than do my knitting cheek-by-jowl with a teenager practicing a new juggling trick. But on the whole, I suspect the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. We humans are hardwired to sit around the fire talking to one another. Our ways of relating to one another, passing on wisdom and culture, and finding our place in a community evolved around the fire.
So, again this winter, I will keep the home fires burning.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups barley flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
125 g (1/2 cup) butter
2/4 cup unsweetened yogurt
1/4 cup orange juice
grated rind of 1 orange
3/4 cup dried cranberries
Combine the flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry knife until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Whisk together the egg, yogurt, juice and orange rind in another bowl. Toss the cranberries with the flour mixture, then mix in the wet ingredients. Once all the flour is incorporated, gently knead the dough in the bowl (just 2 or 3 turns). Divide the dough in half. On a floured board, pat each half into a round about 2 cm (3/4 inch) thick. Cut each round into 8 wedges, and arrange the wedges on an ungreased baking sheet.
Bake at 190ºC (375ºF) for 15 to 20 minutes, until nicely browned.
Eat them quickly, before someone else gets to them!
My daughter picked about three-quarters of the pumpkins over the weekend—the total came to exactly 100, some of which are 15 kg behemoths. That’s a lot of pumpkin. That’s eating pumpkin every three days for a year. That’s only three-quarters of the pumpkins from this year’s garden!
The kids think I should start dropping pumpkins off on random people’s doorsteps—a sort of Pumpkin Fairy. It would certainly get rid of the excess pumpkins, but I wonder what people would think to find a pumpkin on their doorstep …
Would you like to be visited by the Pumpkin Fairy?