Monthly Archives: May 2013

Tales of snow and other things

Yesterday we had a little taste of winter. The weather was bleak. There was a wild, bitingly cold wind, hail, rain, sleet and snowflakes, and temperatures that barely rose above freezing point. Oh,  and a few moments of sun, as well.  I stayed indoors and tried not to mind the ice and cold whipping around the house.

This morning the storm was gone and the sun was shining again, but not with a lot of warmth. We ventured out to view the world. It hadn’t been cold enough for the snow to stay on the ground, at sea level, (where we are), but the hills of the city were covered with snow.

As we looked at the snow from a distance, we listened on the car radio to the story of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. Sixty years ago, today, they reached the summit of Mt Everest; the first people to succeed in climbing to the top of the highest point on earth. Two humble climbers; one remarkable moment.

It is a great story, that first successful ascent of Everest. One part of the story that I  particularly like  is this; there were two New Zealanders on the expedition, Edmund Hillary and George Lowe. When Hillary descended from the summit, he was greeted by George Lowe and this was their exchange :-

Lowe, waiting at the South Col with a thermos, called, “How did you get on?”

“Well, George, we knocked the bastard off!”

“Thought you probably must have,” replied Lowe. “Here, have a cup of soup.”

For more information on this day, sixty years ago, try the following links.

( (

And, here are some of the photos I took, today, of the first snowfall of the year. The scenery may not be up to Himalayan standards but it has its own charms and is a lot easier to access.

© silkannthreades


What did I do with the medlars?

So, what did I do with the medlars? In my previous post on medlars, I left you with a hint of my intentions. Here is the hint, again, in this photo. Time for the next stepHere’s another hint; it involves a little time, plus pears, medlars, sugar, lemon, water, plate, spoon, pot, stove top, bowls, frying pan, a strainer, and absolutely no autumn leaves. Their purpose in the photo was decorative only.  So, yes, you guessed it. I made medlar pear jelly. Actually, more pear than medlar because I had 3 pears to brew, and only 2 medlars.

I chopped and chunked the fruit, skin and all; placed it in a small pot with a quarter of a lemon, skin and all; barely covered the fruit with water and, then, had a merry boil-up, till the fruit was soft. Next the contents of the pot were sieved through a cheese cloth . More shoved than sieved because I am not patient with jelly making and rarely do the proper thing, which is to let the fruit liquid seep very, very slowly through the cheese cloth into a container.

The end result was a lovely, pale amber extraction which made me think of mead, or honey wine. It didn’t taste like mead;  it did taste like soft, sweet pear juice, flavoured with a drop of medlar  essence and a squeeze of lemon.

The next stage was to take one cup of the juice, a quarter cup of lemon juice and one and a quarter cups of sugar and boil the mixture until it jellied ie until a small splodge of it set freely on a cold plate. I like to make jelly, or jam, in small quantities and in a small frying pan, as I find that I get a quicker set that way.  And here is the result; three small bowls of golden jelly, ever so firm and smooth and subtlely  pear-ish, spiced with the lightest touch of medlar. Would you like some? It is scrumptious on toast.

Don’t mind if I do! Jelly with Mead would be nice, thank you.

Footnote: Mead, like the medlar, has a long history. Mead has ancient origins throughout Africa, Asia and Europe and, most likely, pre-dates culitvation of the soil.  Cats have  an ancient history too 🙂

© silkannthreades

Lighting the way to the winter solstice

Apologies, good people, but I must interrupt my tales of the medlar to update you on my beautiful, blossom-ful,  ornamental cherry tree, the prunus autumnalis.  This lovely tree has the delightful habit of producing blossom twice a year; in spring and in autumn/early winter. About 3 weeks ago, it was just beginning its late autumn blossoming and I showed you these photos of it in my post Two Seasons in One Tree

Since early May we have had many days of rain, and few of sunshine.  I haven’t paid much attention to the cherry tree. I have been fixated on the dreary rain and equally dreary skies. So, imagine, my little bounces of joy, when, this morning, I awoke to bright sunshine, a blue sky and the apparition of my prunus autumnalis shimmering all over with delicate, pale pink blossom.  And it wasn’t simply the shimmering that made me joyful. The tree was a-twitter of tiny wax-eyes. These little birds, freshly arrived, in my garden, herald the time of colder days. Much as I dislike the colder days, I  welcome the winter appearance of  these busy, extroverted conversationalists.

I went out to the garden to take some photos and, of course, the birds flew away, but, in the absence of their chatter, I was able to hear the dense, humming chorus of the bees and bumblebees. On closer inspection, it seemed to me that the shimmering of the flowers was not so much from the light, dancing  on the petals, but the movement of the bees amongst the blossom. How glorious.

And, how lucky am I to have this loveliness on my doorstep. It’s a sweet gift from Nature to lift my spirits as we head rapidly to the darkest day of the year; the winter solstice.Prunus Autumnalis © silkannthreades

Medlars; the moment of truth?

The medlars had begun their bletting; remember this?Bletting MedlarsThe two medlars on the left of the photo appeared to be fully bletted (rotted), so I cut one of them in half and discovered this;Are you ready?Gulp……am I really going to eat this?…. why, yes, but not in one gulp!  I take my most elegant teaspoon (so I can convince myself I am tasting something gorgeous and unrotten) and scrape out a small amount of the soft, thick, apple sauce textured flesh. I  gingerly place the morsel  in my mouth……to search for  the moment of  truth; to understand the essence of medlar.    Mmmmmm……Mmmmmm?  Doesn’t smell bad; doesn’t smell anything. Doesn’t taste bad, but how does it taste?  Like a floury, very ripe crab apple, minus any of the sharpness of apple, and steeped with the spices of mulled wine?  Possibly……but there’s another taste that is tickling my tongue; a taste that has been lost with time. Another delicate scrape licked from the spoon and, suddenly, my senses are whiplashed back through five decades, to a place and time about as far removed from my present placing as one can get.  I am in the warm tropics, in the tiny town of my birth. I am with my friend Julie, under the tamarind tree by her garden gate. It is tamarind season and we are sampling the tamarinds. We open the dry pods and suck on the sour, sticky, date-brown pulp, delighting in its acidity. We delight, too, in spitting the big seeds once we have sucked all the flesh from them.  We feel free, and adventurous, gathering sustenance from the ‘wild’. Sometimes, we find a tamarind that is riper than the others. It has a faint mustiness, an otherness to it; not unpleasant, not sweet, not sour, but we toss it aside because it is the sour fruit we crave.

So, a medlar tastes like a tamarind? In a way, yes. A little bit; like one of the musty, over ripe tamarinds, devoid of any hint of sourness.  That is where my taste bud inventory took me; back to the tamarind tree. But, whether or not  it is more like a floury crab apple or a musty tamarind, or a combination of both, it is assuredly an ancient flavour; in the same way as the flavours of the crab apple and the tamarind belong to the ancient realms.  The medlar’s taste belongs to the ages, and, like the best of fine whisky, or aged cheese, needs to be savoured gently to appreciate its uniqueness. That I can vouch for.

Now that I have thoroughly confused you about the flavour of medlars, here’s a photo with a hint of what I am going to do with them next………

Time for the next stepTree notes: If you would like to know more about the tamarind tree, this link to Kew Gardens provides excellent information

© silkannthreades

The Bletting has Begun

Remember the medlars?  A few days ago they looked like this: strange, mostly firm, ugly fruit resembling a cross between an apple and an enormous rosehip.

Medlar, medlar

Medlar, medlar

I wrapped the fruit in brown paper and left it in the cool garage to blett (decompose, rot). Yesterday, I discovered that two of the medlars were  thoroughly bletted and another two were starting to blett. Today, I attempted to photograph the bletting process but with limited success.Time passes If you look closely and carefully, you may be able to see that the fruit on the left is bletted (looking shriveled and dark in colour), and so is the second fruit from the left. The third medlar is starting to blett (on its far surface) and the last medlar (that is the one to the right of the photo) is still unbletted.

Now, isn’t that a lot of blither blather about bletting and bletted and not bletted and unbletting?

For this post, which is as much about  the passage of time as decomposing medlars, I  unwrapped my  grandmother’s aged clock. Since the first big earthquake in 2010, which it miraculously survived, the clock has been tucked away amongst protective clothing in my dresser drawer. Today, I turned the key,  and set the clock  to tick- tick, tick- tick, tick- tick, happily, happily, for the first time in over 2 years. I am enjoying its company again, but I will probably put it away, come evening time.  It is nearly a hundred years old and needs rest and care as much as anyone else of that vintage. It is too fragile now to be left exposed to the rigours of daily life on a table top.

© silkannthreades

A little bit of history

Yesterday, I received some real mail in my real mail box. So rare is real mail these days, I feel I should declare real mail days as red-letter days  (  The mail,  from my maternal aunt,  included a  home-made card, a handwritten note and an article cut out from the Mid Canterbury Herald. The article gave me the greatest delight because it featured a photograph of my grandfather that I hadn’t seen before.P1020506My grandfather is seated with his ‘cobbers’ (friends)  outside the Ashburton Soldiers Club. I don’t know when the photo was taken but it was  probably either towards the end, or shortly after the end, of World War One.

My grandfather left New Zealand for the war in Europe on 5 February 1916. He was a Rifleman in the New Zealand Rifle Brigade, 3rd Battalion.  We know very little about his war service and experiences but he was in Egypt and then France . At some stage,in France, he was a batman for an officer. We don’t know what action he saw in France but he was there through the last half of 1916 and some of 1917. But by March 1917 he was an invalid in Codford, England. By July 1917 he was on his way home to New Zealand. Here is an account of what my grandfather may have experienced along with thousands of other New Zealand soldiers in the First World War

Whatever scars my grandfather brought home with him, they didn’t deter him from becoming a member of a gun club and a prize-winning member at that. He won many prizes but his greatest achievement was in 1922 when he won the Miniature Rifle Championship of New Zealand.

As a child, I had no idea that my grandfather was an excellent shot, or knew anything at all about guns. They were never mentioned in my hearing. He was kind and gentle mannered and couldn’t bear to watch even the mildest of gun battles on television. It amazed me that even the mere sight of a gun in a Western was enough to make him leave the room.

Reading my mail and looking at the photo of my grandfather in his young days, reminded me of another red-letter day. In 1969, my grandfather and I went to our city’s main bookstore, Whitcombe and Tombs so that I could choose, and my grandfather could buy me, a Bible.  It was my first year at high school and boarding school and I think we were required to have a Bible as part of our school kit.  I remember my grandfather patiently waiting, whilst I looked through the large selection of Bibles, and finally chose this oneThe Gift I don’t believe I chose the most expensive Bible in the shop but I am sure my good, dear grandfather had to stop himself from blanching at my choice. He was not a wealthy man and led a very frugal lifestyle.   However, I think I made a good choice and I count this small Bible as one of my greatest treasures. To this day, I love the India paper, the Crystal print, the gold edges, the Morocco binding and the words within.  Always near to me, it is a constant reminder of a champion grandfather.

© silkannthreades

Make your comments count!

I dislike clutter, INTENSELY. I create it inadvertently, I put up with it sullenly, and I do try to reduce it, but its advance is relentless. It  INVADES, stealthily, despite my best efforts at prevention.

Here’s my kitchen on a clutter day. Some will laugh at my concept of clutter but I have a very low clutter- tolerance; my children will attest to that.Help! I need Clutter ControlBecause of my distaste for my own clutter, I try to keep my blog page as simple as possible. This is mostly why you won’t find stats on my page, with one exception. I have a spam counter. I include the spam counter because a)  I want to see how bad the spam problem is and b) I want to make a little, daily protest (however feeble and futile) about the scourge of spam.

So, how bad is the spam problem on my blog? Pretty bad, I’d say, but unlikely to be much worse than that experienced by other bloggers.  Am I right or am I right? (Please tell me I am right. It would be too embarrassing to find out that I am the only one subjected to spam! ) Since I began blogging last year I have had 2455   real comments and  4098 blocked spam comments. I think that’s not only bad but sad, too. Sad, that spammers, with their illiterate nonsensical blither, out number all the wonderful, genuine people who do comment and communicate on my  blog.

But, with spam being cheerily filtered by numerous spam filters, and out of sight most of the time, is there any point in stressing about it, or grizzling about it, or even making a faint little protest about it? Why, yes, I believe there is a point; just a tiny one.

Here’s why: how would you feel if every day, hour after hour, persons unknown, went along your street throwing pamphlets and paper onto the ground and every which way. You could sweep up a few and maybe city street cleaners would sweep up a few more. But, in a very short time, your street would be impassable, unusable, ugly, unbearable and eventually unlivable. And none of those scenarios includes the tremendous waste of resources, natural and human, that would be  involved in such an inconsiderate and random pamphlet distribution. Although we can’t see spam in this literal way, this, as I understand it,  is what spam does to the internet. It fills up a lovely open internet highway with rubbish; it wastes space and time and deprives us of speed and our ability to use the internet to its full potential.  Put another way, spam on the internet is something like dirty oil in your car engine ,or contaminated fuel in your gas tank. It mucks up the works.

How much it can muck up the works was evident earlier this year when a cyber war, related to spam, nearly brought the internet to its knees. Remember this?

So, what can we do to mitigate the consequences of spam. Not a lot, l would suggest, but, at the very least, we folk on WordPress can activate our spam counters and out comment, those scummy scammers till they have to hide fearfully on the fringes of the WordPress world.  LOL, as if! But, surely, worth a try?

© silkannthreades

Medlar, medlar, how does your bletting go?

Until a few days ago, this was as close as I had ever been to a medlar, outside of literature and history;

then, as I mentioned in my previous post, my friend brought me some medlars which she had bought on Mother’s Day, at a country store, in a small farming community about 30 minutes south of our city.  Medlars are a fruit  with an ancient history in Europe but are not widely grown, or known, in my part of the world. I was delighted to see them in the flesh for the first time. They look rather different from the stylised ones on my wallpaper.

To me, the medlars look like a cross between a small russet coloured apple and a gigantic rosehip. The fruit I have is  hard and, in this state, it is inedible. Medlars must be left to blett before they can be eaten or cooked. Blett is a polite way to say decompose which is a polite way to say rot. Blett comes from the French world blettir which means to become over-ripe, or so the dictionary tells me.

So, here is my basket of medlars, beginning their bletting journey; hopefully!

I don’t know how long it will take.   I am keeping them covered in a paper bag and stored in the coolest part of my house, which is the garage. Supposedly, this will encourage their bletting. And when they have bletted, or if they blett, I will decide what to do next.  Maybe medlar jelly, or cheese, or pie, or maybe skinned and straight into my mouth….or the compost! Who knows if I will like rotten fruit 🙂

© silkannthreades

Parting is such sweet sorrow…….

Here, in Christchurch, it is the day after Mother’s Day. And, in a way, I am glad it is the day after. Mother’s Day is always a  bittersweet day for me and, I would say, for one reason or another, it is for most mothers.

This morning, a friend, and fellow mother, came by to bring me some medlars and a jar of feijoa and vanilla jam.  I had provided her with the feijoas (pineapple guavas) from my tree and she had produced her culinary wand and turned them into an utterly delicious spread for my toast and bread, scone and bun (penny one).

Over the garden gate, we discussed our Mother’s Day celebrations. My friend started her Mother’s Day with a farewell to her son at the airport. He is off to work in Australia, our big neighbouring country across the Ditch, aka the Tasman Sea. Her Day was bittersweet. She was proud to have a son making his own way in the world, but sad to see him moving abroad.

This is how it is for many of us in New Zealand. Our generation, generations before and those of today, at some time or another, have moved, and continue to move, away from New Zealand. Some call it their OE (overseas experience), some just go. Some return and some don’t.   I think, if one lives on an island nation, always facing the sea, it is inevitable, that many  of us will, eventually,  feel the pull to see what lies over the horizon; to set upon a journey. Recent estimates of the New Zealand diaspora suggest that about 650,000 of us live outside New Zealand, with about half a million of that number living in Australia.  Amongst my friends and relations and acquaintances, there is scarcely a single one that is  without at least one family member living away from New Zealand.  Our families are, as they were from the very beginning of human settlement in New Zealand, often incomplete; separated by oceans and our vast geographic distance from much of the rest of the world. In my own case, my daughter, my parents and my siblings all live in Australia. And, for years, I lived away from New Zealand too.

On Mother’s Day, I spent some of the day, delighting in the Birth Notices in our local paper. Not something I usually do, but I had a little time to twiddle my thumbs, and the notices caught my eye whilst I was twiddling. They caught my eye mostly because of the names; Sophie, Max, Rose, Lily, Emily, Grace ; some of the short, sweet names reminiscent of names of my grandparents’  and great grandparents’ generations.  As I read the names,  I thought of all these new little ones enjoying their first ever Mother’s Day with their own special Mum. And I wondered, also, where they will all be on Mother’s Day a few decades hence; metaphorically still in their mother’s embrace but, in reality, they may well be far from home. But that is how life goes, with its comings and  goings, its arrivals and departures, interspersed with jam and friends and beauty and randomness. Thus it ever was in families and ever will be. At least in this corner of the world. And maybe in yours too.

‘Parting is such sweet sorrow that I shall say goodnight till it be morrow’  Romeo and Juliet ; this is entirely out of context but the words seem right for my post today.

© silkannthreades

Mothers, near and far…

To Mothers, near and far,
May you be loved and blessed, remembered and embraced,
And comforted, always.Mother's Day OfferingIn my posy ring, for you, I have placed lavender, heuchera, Mexican orange blossom and feijoa leaves, all freshly picked from my garden on this chilly autumn morning. The fruit baskets contain Taylor’s Gold Pears and Satsuma Mandarins ( not from my garden 🙂 )Posy Ring