No Chickens in Our Backyard

I lived in London longer than I lived in the Waikato.  More than twice as long with many places in between.  Rising in winter to dull grey skies, it was often wet underfoot.  Squashed together in small spaces, the odd nudge or shove, tenacity rewarded with slow steady progress towards blinding lights.  City or cowshed, at times they both stank.

Quintessential kiwi dream

Longing for open spaces and a section walking distance to the beach, a strong desire to be home was more than a dream. Enough space for outdoor living, a vegetable patch and a real clothesline out back too.  Although, jubilation of no clothes horses inside was short-lived, temperamental Auckland weather intent on retaliation.

Ripping out overgrown palms, an idea sprung to mind. With a family of green-fingered gardeners and farmers, let’s quadruple that vegetable patch.  My mother cautioned daily watering was required, as if sharing a little known fact.

 Ripening chillies, took their time

Ripening chillies, took their time

A growing experiment

Diligent nurturing over summer months grew as did her enthusiasm for home grown fruit and vegetables.  Constant reminders to water from guess who.  Cherry tomatoes grew like triffids. Fancy lettuces bolted for the sky.  Oddly misshapen beetroot, leafy celery, shiny green capsicums, red hot chillies and stacks of fresh herbs, with rhubarb and strawberries crammed in too. 

Bunches of flat leaf parsley injected herbaceous flavour in local café salads. Friends came for coffee and left with fresh produce; if lucky, some leftover cake. Smugness triumphed; tomatoes and lettuce missing from the shopping list since last November.

 Flat leaf parsley, gifted to the local cafe

Flat leaf parsley, gifted to the local cafe

Winter descends

Daylight disappears. A noticeable nip is in the air. Tomato vines start to die. Herbs go to seed. That desire for fresh produce just won’t disappear. Winter’s the time to give that garden a short rest, with local farmers’ markets not far from our door. Week after week, rain or shine, growers and producers’ vans jam-packed, their bountiful goodness brought to share. First stop is for coffee to warm cold hands.  Buttery croissant or bacon butty, it’s hard to decide. An hour later, basket laden with fresh vegetables, crusty baguettes, smoked kawhai, stuffed peppers and a Mediterranean dip or two - perfect for a picnic on a sunny winter’s day.

 Pukeko Bakery breads available at Clevedon Farmers Market and La Cigale

Pukeko Bakery breads available at Clevedon Farmers Market and La Cigale

Take your time to discover your nearby Farmers' Markets NZ Let yourself be tempted by tasty morsels.  Be inspired by passionate producers. Talk, savour and devour for next week the season might be over. Auckland’s top three:

City Girl Country Heart

At heart, I’m a country girl living in the city. Loving fresh produce like when we were growing up. No cows, sheep or pigs; no orchard in the garden. And there’s absolutely no likelihood of finding chickens in our backyard any time soon.  It’s off to a favourite farmers’ market again this weekend but it’s so hard to choose.

 My friend Lisa's Isa Browns - Cora and Sybil

My friend Lisa's Isa Browns - Cora and Sybil

Enjoy your weekend.

Michelle