Happy new year everyone!
I spent the days between Christmas and New Year's at mum and dad's. The days fell into an easy rhythm: a walk before breakfast, some garden work, morning tea of christmas tarts or spicy shortbreads, and back outside for more garden work.
Mostly this was picking berries - one day, mum and I picked over 10 kilos of loganberries, though I would eat lots as we went along the vines - greedy delight disguised as quality control. Long sleeves are essential for this task, as the vines have many sharp thorns ready to scratch you. The insides of your wrists suffer the most, as your reach thru the tangles for an enticing fat berry.
Dad was doing the cherries, which frustratingly this year are under attack from both slimy little cherry slugs and thick black aphids. All the fruit needed to be washed thoroughly to remove the ghastly buggers; no cheeerful eating straight from the tree here.
When we weren't in the fruit orchard, we were in the vegie garden. I love green beans, and scarlet runners, with their flaming orange flowers, are one of my favourites, especially if they are picked when young and slim and tender. Mine aren't on yet, so I happily ate my parents' beans.
Last time I wrote about dad's garden I described the blinged-out zucchini with the silver-speckled leaves. Here they are:
Everytime I walked past them, I marvelled at these beautifully marked leaves. There is much beauty in a vegetable garden, even one that, at first, appears to be only green leafy things.
Finally, we also spent time in the vegie garden pulling off silverbeet leaves and digging for worms for two lots of baby chickens. One mother hatched six about a week before Christmas - sneaky thing, she had her nest hidden out of the chicken yard, away under an old sheet of corrugated iron that had been discarded near dad's stockpile of horse manure! Sneaky, but clever. Only once all her brood had hatched did she march them back to the chook yard where they would get bread, grain and water.
The other hen hatched two caramel-coloured chicks a day or two before Christmas. They had dark brown stripes and markings, almost like a tabby cat. These were more timid than the other six, which were feisty and fast.
I could watch baby chicks for hours; I could sit in the field with the adult chickens and watch their scracthings and wanderings and cluckings quite happily, too, but chicks are just so darn cute and fluffy. Peeping incessantly, tottering along on their little legs, pulling at silverbeet or elegantly siping at their water; watching chicks and chickens is calming and sweet and serene. It was lovely to watch them jump on their mother's back or scramble to get under her wings; it was downright hilarious to watch them ping about in a frenzy when we gave them worms, running off with their precious catch, not daring to stop lest a sibling came and snatched it - but how do you eat your prize if you don't stop?
If you are stressed, worn out from end-of-year chaos, or just need a good laugh, sit still and watch a chicken.