A big day in the garden, doing things that needed to be done three weeks ago. Dead beans pulled up and trashed, chicken coop cleaned, the bed for the broad beans prepped and horse manure collected from our source on the edge of town. At the stables Lu wandered around stroking the horses and stating she would ride one home. Her interest has shown no signs of abating, which is disappointing as we were hoping for a less expense hobby - reading cheap books from thrift stores or perhaps mending. I fear Lu will have to be content with pony rides at the local market for quite some time to come.
It's always such a relief to get to 7.30 when both girls are (usually) down for the night. Tonight, it'll be an old Hitchcock movie, as much Stone's green ginger wine as I can swallow and comfort food made from sugar and lard. It'll be an empty kind of a time, however, with West Wing now gone from the telly. Still, with the beginning of cold nights we've started to light the fire and it's a calming thing, to stare into the flames and fiddle with the wood.
This is the first time in years we've had a fire. Previously we've relied on the hydro but it's an expensive way of heating and wood's working out cheaper. Environmentally, wood fires are a problem where we live. Walking out in the morning, the smell of wood smoke is welcoming but it's accompanied by an inversion layer which looks romantic but causes a lot of asthma around here. Indeed, houses are sold as being 'above the smog line', and cost extra for it; we can't afford such a luxury.
As a rule we try to minimise our ecological footprint and make a difference in all the usual mild mannered ways. The fires do prick our conscience. But aside from the cost factor there's also the thrill. Both Al and I have spent most of our lives in Queensland, where a little fan heater is all that's required, and that only rarely. So wood heating is quite exotic and just a little romantic (admittedly in a very cliched way). It is one of a suite of things that still make me smile after five years in this part of the world: daffodils, snowdrops and tulips; raspberries in the gardens and blackberries down the street; fabulous scarves and funky knitted hats. These weren't part of my life until recently; as an avid reader of mid-century British children's literature, I have felt their absence bitterly.
In this spirit I'm revisiting the question of roses in my garden. I planted some a few years back but the aphids, black spot and general ugliness of the plants lead me to give them away. Al and I keep dancing around the possibility of one day moving back north where roses just don't do well, and I wonder if I will regret not taking the chance when I had it. Like my friend Tambo, I like roses best in the house, not on the bush. But to have them in the house, or more specifically to have the ones I like in the house, I'm going to have to make room and time for some bushes. Space has opened up now that we have regretfully removed some old trees that were causing cracks in our walls. We can't face the extra work of more annuals or veggies and so roses it may well be. Al's not a fan of flowers but he rather fancies the idea of an ironic "Aussie" bed of Mary McKillops, Ian Thorpes, Sir Dons and the like. I worry this might be ironic in the way a tyre swan out the front is ironic - i.e. it may well be, but that doesn't make it right. But if we go ahead, the roses will be gaudy and vulgar. I'm aware of the value placed on the form and subtlety by those who claim some taste in these matters but I have realised I like my roses big and bright and smelling like lollies. If the flowers are not as big as my head and smelling like musk sticks, I can't really see the point.
Eating from the garden: greens in yet another stir fry (this time with beef, tofu, shitaake mushrooms and carrots); walnuts, pelted into our courtyard by the naughty boy over the back fence, in carrot and apple muffins - thanks, naughty boy!