A few years ago, a friend gave us a (please note the singular form) shark’s fin melon. Also known as Cucurbita ficifolia,fig-leaf gourd, Malabar gourd, pie melon and Thai marrow.
We must admit to not eating it. Instead, it sat rather sadly in the laundry until we threw it into the compost. There it lingered for well over a year until earthworks moved the compost pile – and a mound of the surrounding soil – to the top of the paddock closest to the house. Over the summer, that patch of living ground was entirely ignored – we didn’t water it, no food, no attention – but when Autumn 2018 rolled around we discovered a bounty of 40ish melons.
After being harvested, the majority of those 40ish melons sat on the deck on the cottage, where Adam and I spent 8 months while the big house was renovated. One by one, as they began to decompose, I tossed them onto the bank. Side note, I remain faintly concerned that Adam’s Mum and Dad (Pam and Brett), who now live in the cottage, will wake up one day to discover pie melons trying to get into their house.
And so Autumn 2019 rolls around and it would appear that we missed a few of those indomitable melons in last year’s harvest. Wandering down amongst a sea of large cucurbit leaves we literally tripped over them…Easily 120, likely more, to be honest we lost count.
A friend sold a few at the local farmers market but most have been consumed by friends’ very large pet pigs, just up the road. Although, this time, we did eat a few ourselves but somewhat unfortunately the harvest coincided with our experimenting with a very low carb way of eating, and low carb they are not! Still, this land seems determined to grow gloriously abundant free food for us, so we will continue to let them do their in the paddock and hedge rows.
I (Tink) have been meaning to post regularly here for ages. Ages. But I keep getting stuck writing an update, trying to summarise what we’ve been up to for the last few years. I don’t like having our life at Peka Peka shared solely on Instagram and Facebook (as convenient as it is) so I’ve decided to start again here, with a few words, and a few photos each day. And in the the meantime, what have we been up too? Well, we built a cottage (or more accurately our wonderful team of architects and builders did), moved into it while the big house was renovated, moved back into the big house, Adam’s Mum and Dad moved up from Blenheim and into the cottage and gradually, with the earthworks complete, we’ve been chipping away at the garden. We’ve also dipped our feet into the waters of running workshops here and at some stage in the next year or so, we’ll turn our attention to the 10 acres of paddock running across the hill.
The nourishment is yellow at Peka Peka today. The full moon glowed a soft yellow as it set over the water. There are bees, of the honey and bumble kind, rocking their yellow stripes as they stagger out of pumpkin flowers covered in golden pollen. I’m waiting for friends to arrive for lunch, after spending the last hour or so leisurely cooking dhal, delighting in the heady fragrance of freshly toasted and ground coriander seeds.
Last weekend ten people (grown ups and small people) sat around the large table in the kitchen at Peka Peka Hill and shared three whole organic chickens. Andre the black cat, who is neither restrained nor svelte, was intensely interested. He seemed to be trying his very best to communicate that surviving his future entirely depended on getting his paws on some of that chicken.
Speaking of surviving the future you may have noticed on the home page that our dream is to create a small regenerative farm up here on Peka Peka Hill and to that end we continue to accumulate quite the reading pile. Actually, it’s more like a reading table these days and the below is a photo of just one of the piles on said table.
We’ve had our first Airbnb review. It is in German, so thank you to Google Translate for the slightly-clunky-but-you-should-get-the-drift translation.
From the first moment, this beautiful old cottage with its natural herbal and vegetable garden on the hillside fascinated us, and we immediately felt so comfortable that we would have stayed much longer: the smell, the peace and the wonderful wide view The Tasman Lake with Kapiti Island, the sunsets … Tink is here to realize a self-catering space and makes this place already, together with Adam, to something very special! The spacious guest room is cozy and very stylish. You can stay there undisturbed on the beautiful terrace and enjoy the sunset with a glass of wine or join Adam and Tink, where you can cook in the large cozy living room not only delicious but also very interesting and inspiring conversations with them can lead. Tink’s knowledge about a healthy, organic diet also allows her to accompany her guests and spoils her with a healthy and delicious breakfast !! One of our most beautiful Air B’n B stays with wonderful hosts, highly recommended!!
And for those of you who speak German…
Vom ersten Moment an hat uns dieses wunderschöne alte Häuschen mit seinem naturbelassenem Kräuter-und Gemüsegarten am Berghang fasziniert, und wir fühlten uns sofort so wohl, dass wir noch viel länger hätten bleiben wollen: Der Duft, die Ruhe, der herrliche weite Ausblick auf die Tasman See mit Kapiti Island, die Sonnenuntergänge… Tink ist dabei, sich hier einen Selbstversorgertraum zu verwirklichen und macht diesen Ort schon jetzt,gemeinsam mit Adam, zu etwas ganz Besonderem! Der großzügige Gästetrakt ist urgemütlich und sehr stilvoll eingerichtet. Man kann sich dort ungestört auf der schönen Terrasse aufhalten und bei einem Glas Wein den Sonnenuntergang genießen oder aber man gesellt sich zu Adam und Tink, wo man in der großen gemütlichen Wohnküche nicht nur herrlich kochen kann, sondern auch sehr interessante und inspirierende Gespräche mit ihnen führen kann. Tinks Kenntnis rund um eine gesunde, biologische Ernährung lässt sie auch ihren Gästen zukommen und verwöhnt sie mit einem gesunden und sehr leckeren Frühstück!! Einer unserer schönsten Air B’n B Aufenthalte mit ganz wunderbaren Gastgebern, sehr empfehlenswert!!
I (Tink) have been a bit slack about posting here, having been (she says sighing) distracted by Facebook, but one of my resolutions for 2017 is to spend more time on this blog. With some regularity we have people tell us how much they love seeing what we’re doing at Peka Peka so my intention is to post here more often. Warts and all.
January 7 ~ We’ve just waved farewell to our second Airbnb guests and so far, opening our house on Peka Peka hill to strangers, has been a lovely experience. We put the room up on Airbnb the weekend before the Kaikoura earthquake and had been feeling a bit glum because of the total lack of response over the last couple of months. Then last week, in the middle of celebrating our first wedding anniversary with friends, we received two booking requests – the first, from a lovely young couple from Brussels who stayed with us for just one night on their way to the South Island and the second from a German mum and her 16 year old (NZ exchange student) daughter who stayed with us for three nights. Adam and I shared meals and good conversations with both sets of guests and while this might sound a little bit Hallmark, I honestly feel that my life is richer for both meetings. I’m well aware that we’ve only hosted four people and that luck might have a great deal to do with the people we’ve hosted, but so far so good.
We’re growing Mountain Pawpaw (Vasconcellea pubescens) at Peka Peka and while the fruit are still little, the fragrance of the many tiny green flowers is glorious. We have our fingers crossed that these gems will ripen into 10-12cm fruit laden with papain (digestive enzymes) and tasting of pineapple and pawpaw.
Speaking of glorious fragrance, the mighty San Pedro is still flowering. While blooming for just a few days, they smell of feijoa and frangipani. One of my enduring memories of Peka Peka is being tucked up inside during a howling February southerly and the dissonance of San Pedro’s tropical fragrance pervading a cold house. I’d picked all the flowers as they don’t do well in the rain.
So, now I know why it pays to wait until figs are properly ripe. If you imagine the taste of dried fig but with more caramel and utterly succulent, then you’re getting close. I’m not doing it justice. D.H. Lawrence does an infinitely better job with this poem.
The proper way to eat a fig, in society,
Is to split it in four, holding it by the stump,
And open it, so that it is a glittering, rosy, moist, honied, heavy-petalled four-petalled flower.
Then you throw away the skin
Which is just like a four-sepalled calyx,
After you have taken off the blossom, with your lips.
But the vulgar way
Is just to put your mouth to the crack, and take out the flesh in one bite.
A breakfast not so much of champions, but growers. At least we’re learning to grow.
The fig possibly could have been even MORE delicious if I’d left it on the tree for a few more days… But I just. Couldn’t. Wait. I rationalised my decision to pick it on the basis that the birds might get it (although fortunately, touch wood, they’ve shown no sign of getting at this particular tree) or that it might fall of the tree and get smushed. So, in all it’s luscious sweetness, we ate it.
Postscript. Lunch. A single ugly strawberry, foraged by Adam. First one we’ve managed to get before the birds (who are most definitely enjoying the strawberries), he says it tastes like his grandfathers strawberries in California.
Yesterday we found a baby Blackbird which had fallen out of it’s nest onto the driveway. Sadly there was no sign of a nest or parents anxiously waiting nearby. Poor little fella. We have no idea how old it is or if this is a male or female bird so for now we’ve called it Old Friend Bird (OFB), because that’s what we hope he or she turns out to be. A wise old bird in the garden that survived a bit of a rough start and evaded our resident feline family members Claude and Andre.
After initially seeming very frail, but without obvious injury, OFB is chirpily in residence in a box on the piano. OFB requires feeding every half an hour from dawn to dusk and it seems there is a routine emerging. As soon as l appear overhead, it clambers up from a seated position and starts frantically opening its little mouth. However before I’ve had a chance to give any food, it rolls over and poops. I clean things up, continue feeding, stop feeding when the hungry-mouth closes and wait half an hour. Repeat. Repeat again. Repeat some more. Watch this space.
Then tomorrow, we have five little guinea fowl (keets) arriving from the wonderful Adrienne at Ammara Lodge. We’ve chosen guinea fowl because apparently they’re excellent at dealing with pests like cattle ticks and fleas. I’m hoping they’re not loud… much of the information online says they are LOUD, but Adam visited Adrienne’s guineas and chased them (by invitation) around the paddock without loud and frantic squawking resulting. So I have my fingers crossed. Again, watch this space.