June 2010


It’s been an extremely wet few weeks here, and in an attempt to get the wee man out of his mum’s hair we popped outside to finish a job in the garden: boxing the mandarin tree. The other main project recently finished is the front garden, pictured below:

The front garden: flowers due in, 2012

Now we have some very small bamboo plants that might just make it, and this bark garden all laid out for them to grow into. Eventually the bamboo will come up enough for me to place another garden to the left of this one, complete with partial-shade loving flowering shrubs.

The citrus itself was due to be brought up to a similar state, but I wasn’t certain about the utility of using punga. This is because the slope of the site is very high, and I didn’t want to find a punga log rolling off down the lawn after a big rain. Luckily, we have been cleaning out the basement of the house. I found an old window frame that is now next to useless, and decided to use it as boxing. There is the chance that it’s painted with lead paint, and could well be treated timber… but for now it’s providing a useful border!

As you can see, I dropped it down to measure out the site, then dug out enough clay to lay it in. I’ve blocked out the front of the boxing with some more old timber to level the frame as much as possible, and turned over as much of the clay as I could. Remember – citrus hate clay. I’m doing all this to try get a crop off this tree despite the site.

Next, I got my able helper here to put in a whole lot of environmentally unfriendly peat moss (thanks for pointing that one out Andrew – no more buying that…) and some compost provided by the local scouts ($5 a bag – bargain), then turned it all into the soil. But, what I didn’t do was fill the boxing to the top. The trick here is to leave enough space for the second step.

What I figure is that I have a three years of mulching to get the top layer of soil in this boxing as humus-rich as possible. This means I need space to put in bark and other types of detritus and not have it blow away or roll down the hill.

And there it is, my helper is still adding peat moss – he’s a little stubborn like that – but the first layer of bark is in.

Eventually I might knock out the framing and replace it with something a little better, but maybe not. As it is it will be keeping some nearby trees from digging into the mulch (there will also be liberal use of shovel near fence-line…), and should be pretty useful.

Time will tell, I guess.

We took Chef Du Plunge out to Te Papa after the vege markets today, and what a day for it. With Matariki on there was a concert party on and a great many kuia and koro out there, for want of a better description, raising hell. Naturally it was in the genteel manner appropriate to the older among us.

The move to the suburbs has been an interesting one, mostly due to the broadened age range we now find ourselves exposed to. The other week I was in line at the supermarket and an old chap in front of me was trying to pay for his bread and milk with his house-keys. Bewildered, and suffering a form of dementia I couldn’t label, he was gruffly and generously helped by the staff. Poor old bloke… just seeing him reminded me of my old kin, their aging, and the losses they suffer as the years advance.

It’s a strange thing the onion skins of age. Because it was through them I could see the childhood of those old women up on stage, the light of their youth shining outward, the fullness of age shattered and fallen as they played out songs they have sung all their lives, their mischievous smiles and movements reflected in an audience who shared the burden of days, the trail of footsteps fallen, innumerable, each laying another measure of mortality, the fecundity of death, to blossom as the joys of a day long since buried, and remembered in this shaking hand, that nod of the head, a familiar tone, a harmony long sustained.

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