Pandemic Poetry–2021 Edition, #20

daffodils in a vase

A few days of warm wind, and it seems like the plants have all woken up. The pines across the road certainly have—everything is covered in gritty yellow pollen. 

Springtime’s chorus
The magpies’ warble
A chittering of sparrows
The buzz of bees
Among the pansies
The distant drone
Of a lawnmower
The quiet chirp
Of frogs after dark.

Pandemic Poetry–2021 Edition, #19

notebooks and folders
My notebooks and folders for planning a return to in-person schooling.

I’m lucky to have only one, relatively self-sufficient teen at home for lockdown, but I feel for parents of young children. Good weekend weather will have been a help, but homeschool fatigue will make the coming week difficult.

Desperation grows
As the
Days
Tick
By.

Worksheets that
The school sent out
Make
The kids
Sigh.

We long for
Normal routines:
Work,
School,
Kai.

Desperation grows
As the
Days
Tick
By.

Pandemic Poetry–2021 Edition, #17

Grow little plants!

Hard to be upset about lockdown when the weather is beautiful. In fact, I was a bit disappointed I was asked to go into work today. I would have jumped at the opportunity on a rainy lockdown day, but today … well I would rather have been in the garden.

Spring has sprung
It’s time to plant
Your vegetables and flowers.

The birds are busy
In the trees with
Twiggy nests and bowers.

Hoe in hand
I soon forget
The viral threat we’re under.

With bright warm sun
And growing things
The season’s full of wonder.

Pandemic Poetry–2021 Edition, #16

poetry fence
Ah, the days of plentiful building wrap…

After 65 poems, I’ve run out of the building wrap I’ve been writing them on. I’m amazed it’s lasted as long as it did—who would have thought the builders would throw away that much useful material?

In preparation for the exhaustion of my construction waste supply, I’ve been repurposing some magnet boards I made years ago for Bugmobile programmes. I now have a pair of chalkboards that I’ll attach to my makeshift fence out front. Now as long as my chalk holds out …

I’ve finished off the very last scrap
Of discarded building wrap.

You might hope that I am done—
More lousy verse won’t see the sun.

But you know what they always say—
Where there’s will there’s a way.

Tomorrow’s verse won’t look the same
But it’ll be just as lame.

Pandemic Poetry–2021 Edition, #15

quilt
The stalled quilt project.

All of New Zealand south of Auckland is now at alert level 3. To most of the rest of the world, level 3 is simply “lockdown”, but to us it represents an important easing of restrictions. Just like level 4, we have to stay in our bubbles, work from home, and not travel, but in level 3 we’re allowed to sell and purchase items that aren’t food or medicine, provided we can do it online and have contactless delivery or pickup.

I was terribly smug at the start of this lockdown, knowing I had a quilting project underway, for which I had all the supplies I needed. On day 1 of lockdown, I spread out the top, batting and backing, only to discover I was 14 cm short on batting. Horrors!

I’ve spent lockdown making do with other craft projects—things I never particularly intended to make, but had the supplies for. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to finally be able to order that narrow strip of batting I need for my quilt.

We go! We go
To level three—
A lot like level four.
But it’s nice to
Click and collect
From your favourite store.

Cheese sablés

Cheese sables

Move over Cheez-its! Cheese sablés have entered my baking lexicon.

Well over a year ago, I copied a recipe for Cheese and Sun-Dried Tomato Sables from a cookbook I got from the library. Sadly, I don’t know what the cookbook was, or I’d recommend it to you.

I finally got around to making them yesterday. In addition to learning that ‘sables’ are actually ‘sablés’, which is French for sandy (the texture of the mixture before the cheese is added), I discovered that these little savoury biscuits are amazing.

There are so many flavours—all of them distinct and strong—in these glorious things, I can hardly describe them. They’re more work to make than your average cracker, but they are so far beyond the average cracker in flavour, it’s hardly surprising. I made them without the tomatoes, because I had none in the house. Even without tomatoes they were heavenly. Here’s the recipe, sans tomatoes, and with a few modifications based on my experience.

100 g plain flour
75 g wholemeal flour
1/2 tsp salt
good pinch cayenne pepper
good pinch mustard powder
1 tsp caraway seeds
freshly ground black pepper
125 g cold butter, diced
50 g sharp cheddar, finely grated
75 g Parmesan, finely grated
4 tsp sesame seeds
2 tsp nigella (black onion) seeds
1-2 tsp milk

Mix the flours, salt, cayenne, mustard, caraway and a good grind of black pepper in a large bowl. Add the butter and cut with a pastry knife until there are no visible flecks of butter remaining. (The original recipe suggests doing this in a food processor, which would be quicker and easier). Add the grated cheeses and mix until the dough just starts to come together in clumps. Now knead it with your hands until you can bring it together in a smooth ball. This takes some time, as the only ‘liquid’ in the dough is the fat from the butter and cheese. Be patient. It will happen. Shape the dough into a log roughly 5 cm in diameter. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate about 2 hours until firm. 

Preheat the oven to 180ºC (160ºC if using fan bake). Butter two baking sheets.

Mix the sesame seeds and nigella seeds on a tray. Brush the sablé log with the milk and roll in the seeds, pressing them into the dough so they stick. Slice the log into slices 4 mm thick and place 3 cm apart on the baking sheets.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden. Cool on a rack. Fight off the rest of the family who hover around waiting for them to be ready to eat.

Pandemic Poetry–2021 Edition, #13

I’m not fond of acrostics in general, but in my exploration of different poetry forms this lockdown I’ve written one for today—the 13th day in lockdown.

Like aircraft we manoeuvre
Out of the way of oblivious
Children and dogs
Keeping our
Distance, even
Outdoors.
Waving to
Neighbours.

Doing our part to
Avert
Yet another
1. We don’t need a
3rd lockdown.

Field of Dreams

If you mulch it, they will come.

When we first bought our property, we started right in on soil improvements where we knew the vegetable garden was going to be, long before we even had house plans finalised. That work was terribly depressing. The topsoil had been stripped off by the developer, and what was left was compacted clay studded with rocks. It barely grew weeds, and the combined effort of a rotary hoe and hand tilling only managed to penetrate about 5 cm into the soil. There were no worms, no beetles—and we later learned, no nutrients either.

I wondered if we’d made a huge mistake buying the land.

Since then, we’ve poured compost and manure into the soil, mulched heavily, and done our best to avoid compacting the soil so painstakingly loosened.

As I began turning beds this spring, I was stunned by the number of worms in the soil—thousands upon thousands of them. The clay is honeycombed by their tunnels, and you can’t dig a hoe in without bisecting a few (sorry!). It is truly astonishing.

Where did all those worms come from? Were they there all along, but hiding deep below the surface? Did the few worms there when we first moved in simply reproduce like mad when we started adding organic material to the soil? I’ll never know, but I begin to have hope for this garden. 

I feel a little like Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) in Field of Dreams—create the right conditions, and the players will appear.