I am enjoying my social media-free month. My other half tells me anything I need to know from Facebook. I am able to focus on the more important things and I definitely feel less stressed. I have a feeling I would have even more time to do meaningful work if I switched off the Internet. But then I wouldn't be able to send my work, so I guess there are limits to how much you can go offline.
I love a lot of contemporary New Zealand art (Colin MacCahon, Rita Angus and Lyttelton’s Bill Hammond) to name some off the top of my head), but this week was the first time I’ve been able to see Gordon Walters’ work en masse and it was really inspiring. The way he processed the Maori culture that surrounded him and the modern art he was seeing into his own, distinctive style was reminiscent of Bridget Riley’s monochrome geometric work, but I think it predates it.
I wish I had more time to go to Christchurch’s Art Gallery, as it has fantastic exhibitions and I always come away with something new in my head.
I read a few books, watched some YouTube videos and drew up some rough plans. Then I started to make my own shed. So far, I have put in a floor and framed three of the four walls. It is already a little wonky because, well, I’ve never built anything before and also I didn’t want to put in concrete. But that’s okay. It’s a shed, not a house.
This is a challenging year to grow cucumbers outdoors in Lyttelton. Not because of the shorter growing season (Lyttelton is inside an ancient volcanic crater and when the days get shorter we lose the sun before Christchurch does), but because we've had so little rain. I have planted Cuthbert in an area that I can soak with the hose. There is also a lot of mulch there. I prepared the ground by digging in masses of manure and compost well before I planted the cucumber. Last year, I got 15 cucumbers from Cecil. I've had one so far from Cuthbert, but he's got some time to catch up.
Canterbury is one of the driest areas in New Zealand but even by Canterbury standards this summer has been exceptionally dry and there is a worry that we may have forest fires of the like that the Nelson area has been experiencing. My folks are visiting in March, so I'm sure it will rain then, but I'm hoping that it rains tonight, as forecast, as we need it.
I am having to water the garden every day. Unlike other parts of the world and even other parts of the country, Christchurch doesn't charge for water being used, which means that people often let their sprinklers run for a long time, at all times of the day (when a water main broke under our house when we were away, it gushed for months without anyone noticing). I usually water early morning, or evening, but it has been scorching in the middle of the day.
It is noticeable in the garden which areas I'm able to reach with the sprinkler or hose. Most of the rest of the garden is looking very crispy. I have to hike up to the top with a can to water my precious Bramley (precious because most Kiwis think a good cooking apple is something like a Granny Smith or a Golden Delicious - tsk.), but it's worth it.
This is an extract of my Illustrated Epistle, which goes out in the middle of the month. It is a behind-the-scenes look at the life of a cartoonist (specifically, mine). I'd love it if you signed up at the bottom of this page, or here:
Or head to the archive to read more here.
I’m very concerned that the possums we see and hear around our house are going to lay into my fruit, veggies and young trees (they often ring bark them, which kills them).
But then I found out that the Summit Road Society lends out possum traps in the Lyttelton area. You can borrow one for 3 months and buy them at a subsidised rate.
So I installed one on Waitangi Day (see earlier post), which seemed appropriate, since possums are not native to New Zealand, having been introduced here from Australia for the fur trade. By the 1980s, they had spread the length and breadth of the country, devastating local flora and fauna in the process.
It should have been fairly easy to install the trap. I selected a pear tree at the top of our section, far away from the house (though they are not shy about coming right up to our front steps).
I grew this kale from seeds I planted out last autumn, once the last of the cabbage whites (which can make any leaves of the cabbage family look like lacework) had disappeared. It provides leaves for stir fries and stews and Diana Henry’s great pasta dish with hazelnuts. So I’m delighted it has kept growing and I’m wondering whether the new lot I’ve planted will grow by the time this bunch has gone to seed.