"Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home."
Wai Word had a successful writing competition yesterday. Its theme was winter or Matariki. (Matariki is the Māori name for the constellation of stars also known as the Pleiades. It rises in midwinter and for many Māori, it signals the start of a new year.) Wairarapa has been my home province for only four years. I’m a Mainlander from Canterbury then a Jafa from Auckland where I lived for 30 years virtually without a winter.
A professional florist, a gardener and a writer, I was never cold in Auckland winter and I mostly didn’t need to heat my apartment or wear layers of clothes; almost never thermal underwear, never beanies or gloves - and boots were a fashion statement, not a warmth necessity. I now own all of these in Wairarapa. I wear gummies in all Wai seasons and am accustomed to signs at retailer’s doors asking me to remove my muddy rubber boots. I wore gummies at my Grey Lynn Community Garden and other community gardens where I volunteered but that’s about all.
Deciding to leave my Auckland high-rise for Wairarapa I set my heart on having a small cottage, a garden and a wood burner. I now have all three. I’m hooked on my wood burner and use more firewood than one person could possibly justify. It’s just as much to do with mental wellbeing as cold temperatures. I’d been in an Aucklaqnd high rise apartment for 13 years. I’m now on terra firma and adore my garden. I’ve had a hothouse built and it houses my subtropicals. But whitefly moved in and wrecked a lot of plants.
Once when I was travelling to Bangkok in Thailand in the afternoon, Grey Lynn had a rare frost so I quickly visited my community garden to check on my cherished plants. Many were wilting from the frost overnight and many leaves still had traces of sparkly silver on them. In Wairarapa my broad beans sometimes bend their heads to Jack Frost but by the end of that day they are upright again. This week though, many of my plants are burnt by frost and may be dead; it hailed last week on my Carterton garden for a few minutes too.
I loved that Auckland community garden and its sub-tropical plants as well as the many edibles that we could grow. Bananas and Mountain Paw Paw; Rukman a fellow gardener was Sri Lankan and grew those blistered cucumbers called Bitter Melon, and other Asian edibles. In Wairarapa my broad beans sometimes bend their heads to Jack Frost but by the end of that day they are upright again. This week though, many of my plants are burnt by frost and may be dead; it hailed last week on my Carterton garden for a few minutes too.
I once took Sierra, a city teenager, to the Greytown Menz Shed in winter and lent her my Wai garb - new knitted merino/possum fur hat and gloves. She spent the whole morning jumping onto iced-over puddles in the potholed drive as well as whipping iced puddles with sticks to create shards for an imagined iced chocolate slushy? When we got home Sierra changed into her ‘onesie’ with three layers of clothes underneath.
I bought some frost cloth but left it in the garden shed too long last winter and Jack Frost sampled my salvias, passionfruit and this year I have an expensive grafted avocado to protect. I hear they grow down here and am surprised.
My nephew Mike went on the ‘brass monkey’ motor cycle rally way down south i.e. Otago, almost every year including the recent Queens Birthday one which was sadly the last. The photos are stunning but none of them are without snow too close for comfort. However I’ve seen photos, which don’t make the media, of interior pub shots with roaring fires, super meals, full glasses and glowing bikers.
I love seeing the snow on the Tararuas as I pull out of my drive with my car heater on maximum but I sure as hell do not want to be on those mountains. Next week we have an ice rink coming to Carterton for the festival. Real ice. Are folks mad? Talking about mad, our Carterton Mayor, Greg Lang is having a dip in the Ruamahunga River near Gladstone pub next weekend as a fundraising stunt for the Carterton Festival. He and others taking part in this folly will receive a Gladstone Pub pizza charged at half price and free mulled wine. All are invited.
As a mainlander with a gardening mother as well as working as a florist in London winters, I have many favourite cool season flowering plants and I have been buying some for my garden – lily of the valley, Solomon’s Seal, Auricular, lilac, peonies, irises, berries, winter jasmine and more.
A part of Antarctica had 18.3 degrees last week. Not bad eh for a formerly frozen continent but the price might be high? More to do with climate change than seasons? Yesterday a bucket of water I left on the back doorstep outside was covered in a thick dinner plate sized slab of ice as well as the water level of my various watering cans. My car had a glistening coating of frost too. The carport has more firewood in it than car.