Making the Most of It

August adventure day at Rakaia Gorge

August is always a month of frustration for me. On the one hand, I’m excited, because spring planting starts, and though the weather might not be the best, there is the promise of spring on its way.

But with the promise of spring on its way is the threat of winter being over. I look at the gardening tasks ahead, feeling overwhelmed and wanting to get cracking on them. But I look back at winter and feel I haven’t accomplished nearly enough while the cold weather lasted. All those sewing projects that I meant to get to, that extra writing I had hoped to do in the long dark evenings, the photographs I meant to print and put into the family photo album…August reminds me that the time for finishing indoor projects is running short.

It’s not that I didn’t do anything over winter. I was busy sewing, knitting, and writing. But there simply aren’t enough winter days for me to accomplish everything on the to-do list. When August comes round, I have to resign myself to not getting things done. I have to prioritise. That photo album? It’s been three years since I’ve put a picture in it. Looks like it’ll have to wait one more year. The jacket I wanted to make for myself will take backseat to the one my son has asked for–he needs it more. The pair of socks I started knitting last winter…well, I still have hope I’ll finish that project.

Half of me is ready for spring. Eager for warm sunny days to whip the garden into shape. The other half of me wants a succession of rainy weekends so I can finish all those winter projects.

The only reasonable thing I can do is make the most of whatever the weather gives me in August. If it rains, I’ll dive into the sewing with gusto. And as soon as the sun comes out, I’ll don gardening gloves and head outside. And if the weather is so fine, it begs for an adventure, I’ll leave everything on the to-do lists for another day.

Hoar Frost

My daughter needed to visit a few native forests today to work on a science project for school. Darn. I hate it when we’re forced to do that. 😉 One of the places we went to was Woolshed Creek. Though it was a sunny day, places in the shade were quite frozen. In some of those places, the frost was spectacular.

We ran across a patch of ferns with 5 mm ice crystals sprouting off the fronds in such profusion that they looked like they’d been snowed on. A truly spectacular display.

The show only lasted as long as the shade did. As soon as the sun hit, the ice melted. The plants returned to their normal, unadorned state, and the tracks turned to mud. More pleasant, perhaps for us, but not nearly so beautiful. As usual, you’ve got to put up with some hardship to experience the best life has to offer.

Mango Memories

I have bought mangoes here in New Zealand only a few times in the twelve-plus years we’ve lived here. As you’d expect, they’re incredibly expensive and usually disappointing. Add to that the fact they couldn’t have more food miles on them unless you grew them on the moon, and it’s hard to justify buying them. There’s so much lovely fruit grown here, it seems silly to buy imported fruit that is little more than a shadow of what it should be.

But once in a while I can’t help myself. Last week, when I saw them for sale at four for $5, I simply had to buy some.

And for once, I wasn’t disappointed. It took a week and a half before they were ripe, and by then one of them was beginning to rot. But from the first cut of the knife, I knew they were going to be good.

From the first whiff of that pine-sap-and-peaches aroma, I was transported. Transported to Panama: to the tree-stump that served as a chair on our porch; to the bustling, smoky comfort of our friend Francisca’s kitchen; to a hot hillside knee-high in corn or beans; to the crowded dance hall wherever Sammy and Sandra Sandoval were playing, to evenings spent laughing with unexpected visitors who always showed up at dinnertime and stayed the night.

I cut up three mangoes and put them out with dinner. Each bite was a memory. A memory of warmth and light, of ant bites and muddy shoes, of hummingbirds and viudas, laughter and tears. I wanted to gobble it all down in an instant, and savour it for forever.

They were not the best mangoes I’ve ever eaten. Not by a long shot. But the memories were delicious.

Pre-planting Chore

The potting bench in better times…

I suddenly realised today that tomorrow is the first of August. That means just two weeks until I start planting seeds for the vegetable garden!

Two weeks! Woo hoo!

That unalloyed excitement lasted a whole ten minutes, until I stepped into the garden shed.

It’s a scene of utter destruction. All through the autumn and winter, I’ve been walking in, tossing something on (or in front of) the potting bench, and then walking out.

Yeah, yeah…I’ll deal with that later…

Well, later has come.

Later is now.

I have two weeks to whip the shed into shape, or I won’t be doing any planting on the 15th of the month.

I know what’s on next weekend’s to-do list.

Eggsplaining the Difference

A standard egg at the supermarket weighs 53 grams, large eggs are 62 grams and jumbo eggs are a massive 68 grams.

My new chickens just started laying yesterday, and I smiled at the tiny eggs they laid.

Then I weighed them—far from being tiny, they weigh as much as a standard egg.

Turns out the ‘normal’ egg from my chickens weighs 80 grams or more (I had a 92 gram one last week—I know because it looked big, even to me, so I weighed it).

I’ve known this for some time. My eggs are bigger than the eggs called for in your average recipe. I can usually skimp on the number of eggs I use, with no repercussions. It comes in handy in wintertime, when egg production is down, and I’m often rationing eggs.

But I hadn’t really quantified it before. So, doing the maths, if a recipe calls for four large eggs, that’s 248 grams of egg. Just three of my 80+ gram eggs will do, in that case. That matches my experience with skimping on eggs in a 4-egg cake. In recipes that call for three eggs, I can probably get away with two. Start looking at a genoise cake that may call for 7 eggs, and I should really be using closer to 5.

I can’t tell you why my chickens lay such enormous eggs. I assume it’s a combination of genetics and diet. Coming from the same breeder, I expect my new ones to eventually lay 80 gram eggs, like the older ones do. But if they don’t, that’s just fine. Truth is, those super jumbo eggs don’t fit very well in the egg holder on the fridge door. Sometimes, when I open the fridge, an egg flies out to splat on the kitchen floor. I wouldn’t mind non-ballistic eggs.