The rhythm of nature

The weather has cooled here. It finally feels like winter. I’ve had the fire going for the past few days and it’s toasty warm inside.

Aside from the unseasonably warm weather prior to that, this time of year always delights me. Just when you think Mother Nature is shutting up shop for the cold season, she surprises.

Over the past 6 weeks I’ve been picking lemons, oranges and lemonades.

The rhubarb has made a brave and admirable recovery after the dry summer and a couple of beautiful, happy sunflowers have popped up in the garden, underneath the bird feeder.

My chrysanthemums flowered all through May and filled vases inside the house.

And the persimmon tree produced big fat fruit this year – they were so sweet and delicious. Those that weren’t consumed fresh became persimmon chutney, and within the same month, the leaves on the persimmon tree turned red, and burnt orange and then dropped.

Just last week, while weeding a neglected corner of the garden, I unearthed a collection of bright red cherry tomatoes – in June. Who would have thought?

After 5 years of living here, I find these monthly markers comforting: Mother Nature’s gifts (with a bit of hard work from us). In the city, a change of season was marked by a new wardrobe, different weekend activities, flannelette sheets on the bed, but otherwise it was life as normal. Here, I’m really starting to appreciate the cyclical changes in my garden, in the surrounding landscape and in the produce we consume. I’m really beginning to get what it means to eat seasonally.

Speaking of which, my garlic from last year is just starting to sprout – a sure sign that it’s garlic planting time. Next year, my challenge will be to make my garlic supplies last from June to November – preserving, freezing in cubes of oil or butter. Any other ideas?

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Kim, a friend of mine (Bec C introduced us) is my inspiration when it comes to garlic. Kim is an unofficial, part-time, organic garlic farmer. I’ve mentioned her before. Kim creates beautiful garlic plaits, one of which I’ve had hanging in my kitchen since November last year. It was so beautiful I couldn’t bear to cut off the bulbs.

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A number of weeks ago, on a Saturday afternoon, Kim, Bec C and I were sitting in my kitchen eating lemon cake (made by Kim) and drinking champagne (bought by Bec C), celebrating friendship. Kim spied her plait and berated me. “It’s May” Kim said. “You’re going to have to plant that lot now, it’ll be sprouting soon” Kim said.

May came and May went, and the plait continued to hang. Then, on the 3rd day of June (last week), I planted my garlic. “Better late than never”, I said.

I’ve put in 84 cloves this year, some of mine from last year’s crop and some from Kim’s. I’ll see which ones perform best. According to Kim, the cloves need a few years to acclimatise, and since I bought my seed stock from Diggers in Victoria, they’ll take a bit of getting used to the environment up here. I only planted the biggest and best cloves, so here’s hoping.

While May (and early June) is all about planting the garlic, November is about harvesting it. I’m looking forward to celebrating that season again at Kim’s Garlic Harvest Party. At last year’s ‘event’, we sat in Kim’s big airy shed atop a hill, with the late afternoon sunshine streaming in through the hanging bulbs, glasses of red in hand.

For my 84 cloves of garlic, Kim has planted a lazy 3000 this year. Something tells me, I won’t be hosting a Garlic Harvest Party any time soon.

 

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