Wednesday, October 29, 2008

In the garden

It’s raining.
Right into our new water tank, connected in the nick of time yesterday. Not much, granted, but if it does this for a couple of days, as predicted, I’ll be happy.
I had the feeling (and it’s only October) that it was never going to rain again.
So things I have learned this winter and spring:

• There is no such thing as a rabbit-proof plant*, with the possible exception of bearded iris**.
• Slaters like beer, just like snails, and die happy. Sadly, they also like seedlings.
• Very small kittens can take on very large rabbits and win.
• If you buy a bunch of spring onions at the supermarket, even if they’ve been in the fridge for a while, and stick the leftover ones in the garden, they will just keep growing.
• Parsley, even when not moved as seedlings, can go from baby leaves to bolt in about a week. Who wants to molly-coddle their parsley? (On the other hand, I do have a self-sown one flourishing in the driveway gravel – gardening is so random sometimes.) And ringtail possums love it.
• Raspberries will flower in the first year.
• Pear trees will not (and not much in the following year, for that matter, but I do have one centimetre-long Buerre Boscs so far this season). Cross-pollinators don’t always flower at the same time, but it somehow worked anyway.
• Roses are actually tough as old boots.
• Broccoli can be too – but when being eaten, not growing.
• Never think “Those cherries are coming along nicely - I’ll put the bird netting on at the weekend”. Your tree will be stripped by then.
• Sugar cane mulch actually stops water getting through to the soil.

Pleasant surprises• All the alliums seem ridiculously happy in my veggie patch: red onions, garlic, leeks, chives, garlic chives, ornamentals – all booming.
• Broad beans are going nuts, in spite of being badly mauled by slaters.
• Broccolini, as opposed to broccoli, grows like the clappers and tastes sublime, though it can be very hard to find in the first place.
• The rhubarb inherited from my dear late great-uncle (who could grow anything) divided into three crowns and thrives in his honour.
• Waving poppy seed heads around in the air one year creates poppy heaven the next (only I think they might be opium, so too many more and it’ll look like Afghanistan).

And I know it shouldn’t really be a surprise, but you’ve never tasted food as good as food you’ve grown and picked just before you eat it.

* Allegedly rabbit-proof plants include rosemary, grevillea, lavender, correa, borage, comfrey and succulents of all sorts. I’m a witness to the fact that rabbits will eat any or all of these, even when there is plenty of other green stuff around. Correas are simply pudding.
** Irises, however, are not sheep-proof, as I have learned to my cost in my country garden, but that may not concern too many gardeners.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Lately I've been...

I'm not reading anything except media at present.
I've tried - I have about five books on the go but have stopped even bothering carrying them around with me.
In the evenings I do crosswords. I've never done them before, always been hopeless at Scrabble, because my word-searching brain cells seem to operate in the opposite way.
But I'm worried about my memory fading, and apparently having a hard job and reading a lot and writing in patches isn't enough to save you. You have to do groping for facts kind of thinking. SO I do crosswords, although I find I am far too literal for many of the clues.
If I can't work it out, I check the answers the next day, and invariably find that the answer has, in my view, nothing to do with the clue.
Seriously: is "hopeless" another word for "incurable"? Not in my book.
How exactly are you supposed to know when you're supposed to be literal and when you're supposed to be lateral?
It must just be a crossword world kind thing. Takes some getting used to.
But I can't read about Captain Cook or the collection of Aboriginal artefacts post-contact at present because I'm too obsessed with Sarah Palin. In a morbid, car-crash kind of way.
I tear open the paper every morning to read about her latest debacle, saddened as the campaign progresses that she is now so tightly managed that we will never again have the pleasure of seeing her interviewed.
I couldn't tear myself away from the VP debate, hoping for something more dramatic than a refusal to answer any question she didn't understand. Sadly, our hopes were dashed.
Loved Slate's conversion of some of her more mind-numbing statements into poetry, and the attempt to graph her sentences against basic logic, let alone grammar. Laugh? I nearly ...
The whole thing has been hilarious from start to (almost) finish, and yet deeply sobering when I remember, as I often do, that these are the people who elected George W Bush - twice. Hanging chads aside.
All the media comment at the time of her nomination focused on the ways in which she would bring the evangelical vote back to the Republicans. No-one seemed to acknowledge that it was really a play for that slice of voters that both campaigns and media like to pretend isn't really there: the rednecks. When they talk about race, when they talk about class (always the middle class, as if it's not those below middle who are really badly suffering - talking about the poor or the working class, after all, might be construed as socialist), when they talk about the Bible Belt or the South, what they are really after and/or fear are those terrifying trespasser-shooting drill-baby-drill tabaccy-dribblers who don't give a damn about anything that happened since the end of the Civil War and the fight against the Navaho. She portrays that as the real America, is if most people in the country are still out on the frontier. They aren't. They are in Chicago and New York and LA and Houston and all those thousands of huge cities. They are not rednecks. They are urban poor, urban middle-class, urban voters, leading urban lives and working in factories and offices and construction and even - God help 'em - in the finance sector. Even the vast majority of people in rural areas are not rednecks.
Why they all think that a few ignorant losers are somehow more genuinely American than the bulk of the population is beyond me. It's not an elephant in the room, it's a herd of bison - that's what the rest of the world fears, and it's clearly what Obama fears, why McCain chose Palin and why he possibly now regrets it - and that's why Palin is scary.
The more certain it becomes that Palin won't be elected, the more optimistic my view of human nature. But I am not breathing easily yet.
I'm not one of those people who sees Obama as a Messiah. I don't really believe he's any less self-obsessed or cynical than Hillary or McCain, just a little younger so he has a bit more cynicism to learn.
But I have been around politics enough and from a tender age to know that nobody can put themselves forward without a high degree of both political nous that comes with learning the hard and conniving way, and a level of narcissism.
That's a given.
He won't change Washington irrevocably and nor does he even seek to change that US-style God-given world sheriff with a Bible in one hand thing that leaves the rest of the world shaking its collective head. I'm truly amazed that the presidential debate actually accepts that it's somehow evil and "socialist" to talk about spreading the wealth around, or continuing the profoundly unhealthy and deeply weird role of insurance companies in basic health care.
But never mind.
Within that context, he shines.
So Sarah Palin, and the twit who decided she was a good get for VP, will hopefully be little more than a cheap joke in around 20 days' time.
On the flipside, we have all become Tina Fey fans, which has to be a good thing.
Then we can all get back to our crosswords and books.