Time for Thyme

2016-10-10-09-15-06Thyme is one of my favourite herbs. In spring, its lush new growth encourages me to put it in almost everything. Nearly everything is better with thyme, but it is especially good with braised carrots, eggs, pumpkin, and mushrooms. Mixed with good olive oil, also makes an excellent marinade for bocconcini—little mozzarella balls.

It’s one of those herbs that we plant more of than we need for culinary use, because it’s so pretty in the garden. There are around 400 varieties of thyme. Some are more culinary, others are more ornamental. Some grow into 30 cm tall shrubs, others creep low to the ground.

Thyme is a tough little plant. It puts up with hot dry conditions, and recovers from even the most aggressive pruning. The low-growing varieties can even be used as a fragrant lawn (though at our house, there’s no stopping the couch grass coming up through it).

Its white, pink or purple flowers are attractive to a wide range of insects. On ours, we regularly have honey bees bumble bees, flower flies, and butterflies—and the preying mantids that eat them.

Truly, you can never have too much thyme.

Cheeky Parrots

2016-10-10-13-11-37-smIt’s not every day you’re bitten on the bottom by an endangered species.

Yesterday was one of those auspicious days, however. I was travelling through Arthurs Pass, headed to Haast with two colleagues to do a programme at the school there. We stopped to pick up lunch at the Arthurs Pass store, and three kea descended on us.

For those who don’t know, kea are large alpine parrots. Though there are only 2,000 of them left, they are bold and curious animals, unafraid of people. And they’re smart. They understand tourists—how they get so absorbed in taking photos of the parrots that they forget to shut their car doors, or leave a sandwich lying beside them.

They work in gangs—one bird coming in close to pose for pictures, while the others circle in from behind to ransack the vehicle.

We knew this, and had taken appropriate precautions. There were three of us and three of them. We should have been safe.

But, of course, we wanted pictures—you simply can’t not take pictures of them, no matter how many times you’ve seen them. We all crouched down beside the van to snap our photos. That’s when it happened. I was focused on one kea, and another came up behind me and bit me on the bottom. Cheeky bastard!

But I got a photo.