Tag Archives: autumn

Praise Be

The  swan plant I ordered to replenish my monarch caterpillars’ food supply came yesterday, just in the nick of time. It has been planted,

Praise be for more food

Praise be for more food

and my remaining caterpillars are now busily chomping on their fresh greens. Hopefully, the caterpillars will  have enough food to take them through their fifth  instar and into their chrysalis stage.  Most of them look big enough to be close to their final and complete metamorphosis.

Is this the 5th instar?

Is this the 5th instar?

Whilst the caterpillars are nourishing their bodies in preparation for change, I thought we might do the same. Would you care to indulge?…..

in a taste of the last of summer in this delicious, spicy rhubarb cake

Spicy Rhubarb Cake

Spicy Rhubarb Cake

or, perhaps, in a little something that speaks of cooler mornings and the colder days to come; a gingerbread cake.

Joy of Baking; Gingerbread Cake

Joy of Baking; Gingerbread Cake

But, if you are wanting a lighter indulgence, may I suggest a serving of the apple, instead of the cake.  Again there are two choices; Cherry Gala apples lightly cooked with a squeeze of lemon, a pinch of sugar and a handful of rose petals;

or Royal Gala and Eve  apples , sautéed gently in a sliver of butter and a sprinkle of sugar.

Mmmmm…How was that? Delectable? Are you feeling suitably indulged and ever so glad that we are not limited to one food type like the monarch caterpillar; that we are able to experience so many taste sensations; that we have such variety in our menus.

Praise be to the  butterflies  and bees that make that possible.

~

At 12.51pm today we marked the  third anniversary of the  February 22nd earthquake. At the memorial service in the Botanic Gardens, the Mayor said “Let us unite as we did after the earthquakes. For those of us who have been able to move on, let us reach out to those who are still struggling. .. For those who cannot move on, please do not be afraid to ask for our help… We can get through this together.”

In caterpillar terms, ( because I have this essential life form so much on my mind 😉 ) most of us have made it through the first instar; some of us are almost ready to be butterflies; indeed, may already be  flying freely. Some of us, such as myself, are still  ambling along in the third instar. But there’s no rush. With nourishment and nurture, we will, eventually, be transformed.

( I think I will make a good  butterfly, don’t you?  🙂   Better keep my feet clean, though. Butterflies taste through their ‘feet’! )

© silkannthreades

Survival of the fittest… ?

Since the beginning of the week I have been watching the monarch caterpillars, outside my bedroom window, slugging it out over the few remaining swan plant leaves. They have been pushing and shoving and head butting in their fight to secure their place at the food table.

Everyone temporarily in harmony.

Everyone temporarily minding their manners.

I tried to help by providing some delicate cucumber slices, as suggested by those in the know .

Tasty?

Tasty? Cucumber minus the sandwich.

Some of the larger caterpillars tested the new menu but were not enthusiastic. They preferred to continue in their old familiar ways and went back to munching every last shred of the swan plants; some of which must have been seasoned by the eggs of what was supposed to be the next generation.

Inevitably, as the food supply has dwindled, so, too, have the caterpillar numbers. One by one the caterpillars have disappeared. Some may have gone to pupate in the dense foliage of the adjacent oregano; others have simply gone.  Where, I don’t know.  Have they moved to new feeding grounds, strengthened only by their will to survive? Or have they gone off to die? The ground is not littered with caterpillar corpses. If they have disappeared to meet their death elsewhere, it is in a manner reminiscent of that noble adventurer Captain Oates; a story beautifully retold by Valerie Davies in her latest post Very gallant gentlemen.

If they have died, I am glad I have been spared the sight of their demise. Watching the caterpillars squabbling over food was hard enough, not to mention the feeling of helplessness over being unable to supply them with more swan plants. ( New plants on order but not available till tomorrow 😦 )

Last year the first of my monarch butterflies emerged on March 1st, the official first day of autumn. (What a lot of firsts 🙂 ) Maybe, come March, this year, I will be surprised and delighted all over again by the birth of  new Royal Beauties but, so far, I have not seen a single chrysalis.

To be continued……

© silkannthreades

“How do I love thee…apples….”

When the first blush of autumn tints the oak,

First tint of autumn

First tint of autumn

and one can feel that quintessential, autumnal air in the breeze,

the apple harvest comes to market.

It's a Breeze

It’s a Breeze

” Dull Russet, glossy  Quarrenden,

Green Wellington,  and scarlet-peeled  Pearmain

You apple-trees,  give up your sum-

Your time is come, your time is come.” (*Apple-time by Eleanor Farjeon)

I am Smitten

Smitten by apples

Smitten by apples

by apples. I adore them. Should I blame my love affair with the apple

I *heart* apples

I *heart* apples

on Eve,

Was it Adam or Eve?

Was it Adam or Eve?

or  Adam?

“Like Adam, I was born

To go  and seek the apple-trees…

the green, the yellow, and the red,

The streaky  pippin-stripe,

The windfall and the still unshed,

The ripe and the unripe-” (* The Favourite Fruit by Eleanor Farjeon)

Or, perhaps,  I should leave that scenario alone, clouded as it is with doubt, and attribute my love of apples to the irresistible  Beauty of  its feng shui,

A Beauty

A Beauty

which brings harmony and peace  to  hearth and home

and rosy good health, too; according to the ancient wisdom of Dae Jang Geum

The wisdom of Dae Jang Geumhttp://www.koreandrama.org/wp-content/uploads/2006/06/daejanggeum3.jpg

The wisdom of Dae Jang Geum

who, in  Episode 52    of  The Jewel in the Palace, insists that apples be placed next to the King, because the aroma of apples will improve his well-being.

And, though I am no King,  I can attest to the loveliness of falling asleep with the sweet scent of apples next to one’s pillow.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away.

So, when the hint of a flush colours the leaf,

Autumn in the air

Autumn in the air

feast on *”the ruddy apple of the sun” in all its variety, complexity

"Ruddy apple of the Sun" http://echodale.co.nz/apples

“Ruddy apple of the Sun”Suncrisp

and deliciousness.

Apple and raisin crepes with apricot fool, adapted from A Girl called Jackhttp://agirlcalledjack.com/2013/11/20/apple-sultana-pancakes-22p/

Apple and sultana crepes with apricot fool, adapted from  A Girl called Jack

© silkannthreades

Excuse me, what time do you have?

In years gone by, many people, in my part of the world, didn’t have access to a portable timepiece. This meant that, from time to time, one passer-by would ask another, most politely, “Excuse me, what time do you have?” ( As if time were like a bird in a cage that you could hold and tame :).) Usually, the response was polite, too, but, occasionally, it would be a gruff, “Get your own watch!” or “Can’t you read the clock over there in the park?” Which was very rude because, perhaps, the person couldn’t read or tell the time.

But, back to the question; “What time do you have?” As I write it is 11.22am on Saturday, 14 September, 2013, here in Christchurch, New Zealand.  In Los Angeles, it is 4.22pm on Friday 13 September, 2013. In Addis Ababa, it is 2.22 am on 14 September, 2013 or, in local terms, it is 8.22 on the 4th day of the first month of 2006 . In Kathmandu, it is the 29th of Bhadra 2070.  In Israel, the New Year of 5774 has begun.  Come November, it will be 1435 AH in Egypt, yet the Coptic Church in Egypt celebrated their New Year on 11 September, 2013. Confused. We should be, because, in the time it has taken me to write that passage, the times have changed and changed again. It’s hard to keep up.

What time do you have?

What time do you have?

A few weeks back, I finished reading “A Fugue in Time” by Rumer Godden.  Check here  In the US, its title is Take Three Tenses, which it does.  It is the story of a house, a place, and the people who are gathered to the house over  generations. The past, the present and the future are tightly woven through the narrative, in much the same confusing way that we, in our daily lives, will, in one moment, be thinking of what we are eating and, in the next,  be remembering a special Christmas meal 50 years ago. And, at the same time, planning for tonight’s supper or this coming Christmas Day.  Rumer Godden plays with time; how it floats in and out and around us and constantly changes our reality.

One day, this past August, I was confined to my house and realised that, on my dressing table, I had inadvertently created a timepiece, unique to my place and my day.  In a small space, I had a brief hold on the present, the past and the future. And, with the help of my camera, I could rearrange and play with them to my heart’s content.

Spring or summer time?

Spring or summer time?

So, excuse me, what time do you have?

For me, it is lunch time 🙂

© silkannthreades

Magnolia Poetry

What wondrous life is this I lead?

What wondrous life is this I lead?

Today, Friday, 16th August, is our National Poetry Day. We are encouraged to write poems, read poems and spend our day enjoying and promoting poetry. Writing poetry is difficult for me. And I find poetry difficult to read and understand, as well.

Nevertheless, I am warming to poetry thanks to reading poetry blogs and a wonderful book which I read every day called  “Poem for the Day” ,edited by Nicholas Albery. Today’s poem is from “Thoughts in a Garden” by Andrew Marvell (1621-1678).  Here is the beginning of the excerpt:

What wondrous life in this I lead!
Ripe apples drop about my head;
The luscious clusters of the vine
Upon my mouth do crush their wine;
Here, it is not the season for apples and grapes. Not harvest time, but the time for budding and blossoming, as Spring prepares for its official arrival next month.
A poet who wrote of the coming Spring is our own Christchurch poet, Ursula Bethell. Listen to this extract from her poem The Soothsayer, from From a Garden in the Antipodes (Sidgwick & Jackson, 1929)

I walked back down the pathway,
The evening light lay gently on the orchard;
Then I saw a redness on the peach boughs,
And bulb-spears pushing upwards,
And heard the old blackbird whistle
‘Get ready. Get ready. Get ready.
Quick. Quick. Spring.’

I cannot find words to equal either poet but, if I take a very broad interpretation of the origins of the word poem, that is something composed or created, I can pretend that these photos of my magnolia tree are a poem…. a sweetly scented, floral, poetical arrangement  from my garden to honour National Poetry Day.

For those of you who would like to know more about Ursula Bethell and her poetry follow these links

http://www.nzepc.auckland.ac.nz/authors/bethell/  and http://christchurchcitylibraries.com/Literature/People/B/Bethell_Mary_Ursula/. 

Her poetry is of my land, my knowing, and it speaks to me more easily than Marvell’s words do. Yet, like, me she was not born here, and other places pull on her heartstrings. Her garden gives her a sense of  belonging but does not dispel the longing for other times and places.

© silkannthreades

Back to the box, for the record…

Back to the box;  not the tissue box, which is permanently attached to my nose at the moment,  but the one in the living room. Back to the box, to take a look at what other ‘treasures’ it has for me to record, to envisage as my own  personal palimpsest.  TreasuresToday, on top of the box, there is Royal Doulton ware that once belonged to my grandmother. I am the current custodian but I know little about the items other than they date from the 1920s.

The book is a recent purchase of mine from a second-hand store.CopybookIt is a copybook. I love that it is a copybook; that we are being invited to copy the illustrations. It makes me feel like a child again, industriously copying pictures or using tracing paper to copy pictures.  I want to take up my brush and copy this illustration from the book,Copycatsalthough the artist, Shutei ( whose name has the lovely meaning of ‘small teahouse in an autumn garden’), says that cats are a difficult subject to paint. She suggests we  begin with the much simpler white plum blossoms.

I wish Shutei were here to guide my hand, as she did with her own students, but, since she was born in 1894, I think I will have to manage with only her guiding spirit via the book.

Shutei’s book probably had a print run of thousands. Or maybe not. It is still available on Amazon but, then, what isn’t! I have a another type of copybook , that is one out of the box;  literally. I found this account book  in the box in my living room. It was used in my grandparents’ bakery and butchery. It is a record of accounts, paid and unpaid, in 1948 and 1949.

One summer, I think the summer of 1970/71, my sister, and others, used the book for writing and drawing and copying and rough drafts and games, and general amusement. Although it is not a treasure as valuable in monetary terms as the Royal Doulton, it is priceless, as a layered, multi-dimensional record of a short period in our family’s history. It’s also very funny and provides as much entertainment now as it did back in that summer of the seventies.An original, one of a kindTake a look, it’s all in the book…

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Our history, personal and otherwise, is recorded in many different formats. Each has its own value and worth.

This week in New Zealand, we are asked to record the birds in our garden, for the annual Garden Bird Survey.  Last year the top bird in New Zealand gardens was the commonplace sparrow. Other years, the brilliant little silver eye has taken top honours.  If you live in New Zealand, and are reading this post, take a little time  to participate in the  survey. http://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/science/plants-animals-fungi/animals/birds/garden-bird-surveys/instructions.  And, then, let’s see which bird tops the charts in 2013. If you want to get more fun out of the survey, as well as recording your answers online, write them down on a piece of scrap paper or a docket and tuck it away somewhere, like a box; it will be a lovely find for you, or someone else, one day.

© 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. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mead  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 https://silkannthreades.wordpress.com/2013/05/06/2010/

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

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

Two seasons in one tree

It looks like autumn. It feels like autumn. It smells like autumn.Looks like Autumn

The evidence seems clear; autumn is here.

Or is it? Take a closer look at this photo of my ornamental cherry tree.Two seasons in One.

Do you see the blossoms?

I used to think that my cherry tree was as confused as I was about changing weather patterns but, a few years ago, I realised that the previous owner of my house had gifted my garden with a Prunus Autumnalis. A Prunus  Autumnalis blooms twice a year; once in autumn/early winter and, again, in spring. The bees and the birds delight in this tree and its blossom. This year, I may ask my little ‘wildlife’ guests if they will let me share their feasting.  Apparently, the cherry leaves and blossoms are as delectable to the human palate as they are to the human eye.

© silkannthreades