Of frost and fans

Frost fan against an indigo dawn

On the many visits to Marlborough before making the permanent move , I have always loved seeing the large but elegant fans in the vineyards which make up the stunning landscape of the area.

They were almost reminiscent of days spent in Holland and the beautiful windmills amongst the fields of bulbs .

That’s where the similarity – if indeed there ever was one – ends .

Our baptism of frost came on day 2 in Paradise . Frosts can wipe out your budding vines and destroy your crop for the current vintage year and even beyond . It’s not a vineyard owners friend at this time of year . Fair to say , no one thought to mention this on the sales particulars …..

But , enter the fans . Without getting all technical , they warm the air by helping it circulate around and stops frost from settling . To do this they are big .And tall .                And noisy . Very noisy .

We are surrounded by vineyards so the culmination of all the frost fans jumping into life is loud – and unmissable .

Last year , as first timers , our response system was based on watching the weather forecast from several sources ( in case one was wrong ) , then based on that , me waking up every hour to look out the window to see if the temperature sensitive alarm lights were showing the right colour for us to leap into action . There are 3 colours of alarm  . One says get ready to move , the second says run quickly to your vineyard and the third says find another day job . Suffice to say that after you see the first colour , your chances of sleep after that – until the sun has risen and starting spreading her warmth – is limited at best.

Then there are the frost pots . Or Dante’s Infernos as I fondly(?) renamed them . Fiery scary noisy heaters that warm the areas the fans can’t reach.

And then there are the helicopters . Larger vineyards bring them in at massive cost to fly low and move the air around their vines. A skilled and precise job with no air traffic control and only night sight vision keeping them , and all of us below,  safe. Not for the faint hearted . No surprise then to know that Richie McCaw was piloting over our heads most of the night . ( I can’t say that didn’t add something wonderful to the overall experience !)

I’ll never forget one moment when standing in the middle of all of this , having the thought that it’s the closest ( thankfully) I’m likely to get to a war zone.

M , being the more practical , was thinking of the commercial opportunities of offering overnight frost experiences to Marlboroughs visitor population …!

Our first night was spent walking around making sure everything was on and operating and then waiting in the hands of Mother Nature .
The payback for this disruption to your nights sleep however is more than compensation . Achingly beautiful sunrises – the likes I have never seen before .

Thankfully these frost events, we were assured, were few and far between and there had never been two in a row . That is , until our third night in paradise .

But this time I knew the drill and knew what would make an overnight stay amongst the vines, more palatable .Pillows, blankets , food , hot drinks and extra clothes are now a permanent fixture in the Ute and ( to be really honest )make it a bit of fun and you always have a spectacular sunrise to look forward to in one of the most beautiful settings on earth. Reality kicks back in when you then just have time for a quick shower before travelling somewhere or skyping a client !

As I’m typing this I’m on a flight heading home to Paradise with frost predictions for the next two nights . It’s the weekend so slightly more manageable than a busy travelling work week , but the thing I’m most excited about is seeing the next most amazing dawn .

How fortunate are we .


  Buds worth protecting


It never rains…

Treat your friends well…


Well it does actually. And it should be enough to fill up the multiple water tanks that are an essential part of growing our future wine- drinking pleasure.


And as with many things we have started to learn, there always seems to be a but….

After the heaviest rain of the year, we were smugly congratulating each other on how well set up we were for the forthcoming and expected dry season.

Water becomes a major talking point when you live in the country. I can’t say I gave it much thought as a city dweller. Tap on , water out – simple and uncomplicated. But after a year of living off what you collect, you start to pay more attention.

Or, let’s say,  you should pay more attention. As we now know, it’s not enough to think that heavy rain necessarily equates to full tanks. It’s a fair assumption, but that would only be if there was an actual way for said rain to make it into the tanks……

Which there wasn’t.

After many years, debris collected in our ageing gutters had finally claimed victory and by way of punishment for being neglected, was redirecting our precious water gathering to a flourishing and plentiful weed supply.

Is it just me or is it never a ‘normal ‘situation when you run out of water?

It’s never when you are showered and not going anywhere important or when you have filled the dog bowls or when you have no guests arriving to stay.

It’s always ( in my far too extensive experience) when you are filthy, have no back up water in the fridge and the dogs are ready to leave home in protest ….


Water is your best friend. Treat it well. Respect it. Don’t take it for granted or it may well, one -day, decide to seek pastures new…



Choosing the good life….

Adorable photo courtesy of   Kaikoura Cheese


In the absence of rampaging sheep this week and with precious little time to create anything new and delicious in the kitchen of late, I have been thinking a lot about what it takes to go in search of the good life.

I watched a wonderful TV programme the other evening about a fairly new business run by a young couple, near where I live. They made a conscious choice to look for the good life for themselves and their young family. Their business idea was good – growing a goat herd and making the milk into artisan cheeses – and I am delighted that they are being very successful.

But what really struck me as their absolute defining factor was their unwavering commitment to each other and their family.

That underpinned everything and drove all of their decisions. Both of them had their own responsibilities and had full trust in each other. Both respected ( and admired)  their particular differences and what that brought to their lives and knew it was the bedrock of their success. You got the feeling that as a result of this, they put a lot of love into their products and had fun together doing it.

For them the good life is creating a livelihood that allows them to balance looking after their family and each other. You just know that that was the most important thing for them.

It was uplifting.

It was inspiring.

Have a look by clicking on this link  :


This is what I believe is the good life and I wish them every success in the world.




For more information :


The taste of Paradise…in a cake

A taste of Paradise.Thank you to the wonderful people at Delicious for this amazing photo.


If I could sum up my first year in Paradise in cake, this would be it.

I had fully intended to blog are about food and less about drama but drama beat food hands down in the ‘keeping me busy ‘ stakes !

But this gem of deliciousness is worth sharing . And making.

I tasted it – or something like it- at the Marlborough Farmers Market where the lovely Lee works through the previous night in someone else’s kitchen to make some amazing ‘as they used to taste ‘ baking. Then I searched for something similar to allow me to make at home and played around with it until it tasted like heaven on a  plate.

You know how wine tasting can sometimes come up with very poncy descriptions for wines, well this is my equivalent for this marvellous and yummy cake. This cake transports you to a farmhouse kitchen groaning with nature’s bounty. Fresh from the country range. Sitting around grandma’s table. It’s squishy but firm enough to wrap in some greaseproof paper for an al fresco morning tea. it’s a cake to make friends with. Good friends. Long term friends.

But don’t take my word for it. Be good to yourself and have a go. I dare you not to have a Betty Crocker ( or equivalent) moment !



  • 50g each sultanas and raisins
  • 6 tbsp medium-sweet cider ( who am I kidding – be generous here – and one for the cook!)
  • 215g plain flour
  • 15g cornflour
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 300g golden caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 175g butter, softened
  • 2 medium free-range eggs
  • 750g eating apples (about 6-8), peeled, cored and cut into 1cm pieces
  • 100g lightly toasted walnuts, broken into small pieces – from your own trees if you’re really lucky!


How to make Paradise cake

  1. Put the sultanas and raisins into a small bowl, cover with a few tbsp of the cider and set aside for at least 2 hours or overnight.Be generous. And enjoy a glass yourself !
  2. Heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/ gas 4. Grease and line a 23cm round, loose-bottomed cake tin. Tie a thick band of folded newspaper around the outside of the tin, so it projects about 8cm above the edge of the tin, and secure it in place with string (this will stop any over-browning). It’s a bit of a phaff but keeps cake nice.
  3. Sift the flour, cornflour, baking powder, salt and ground/grated spices into the bowl of a stand mixer or a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar and butter and beat on a medium speed for 1 minute, stopping and scraping the mixture down the sides of the bowl, if necessary, until well mixed. Try not to eat all of this before baking….
  4. Add the eggs and mix on low speed for a few seconds, then increase the speed and beat for 1 minute until light and fluffy. Beat in the remaining 3 tbsp cider.And pour yourself another glass.
  5. Fold in the prepared apples, sultanas/raisins and walnuts. The mixture will look too thick and too appley, but don’t worry. Trust me ! Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and gently level the surface.
  6. Bake for 1 hour 25 minutes ish, covering loosely with foil or a double sheet of baking paper once it’s richly browned on top, until it is firm to the touch and a skewer pushed into the centre comes away clean. Leave to cool in the tin on a wire rack. Remove from the tin to a plate, sprinkle with caster sugar and serve.
  7. Make friends and enjoy your own slice of paradise.




We live in a zoo…

Those close to me have heard me say this many times over the last year.

What was once a relatively spic and span home life is still adjusting to a life slightly less pristine and more accomodating of the boots and overalls of life on a farm.

In addition, the various animals and birds that have become part of this bright tapestry of life in the country grows almost by the day – notwithstanding the Doodles best efforts to keep our chicken numbers down…. ( but that’s another story..)

A casual aside from the previous owners when they left was to keep an eye on the geese and make sure we went on an egg hunt at the appropriate time to ensure we weren’t overcome with their offspring. Our 5 handsome geese are relatively self sufficient and magnificent beasts. Apart from one of the Doodles latching on to the tail of the largest gander while being walked by City daughter and hubby and being rescued by said hubby as the gander sought to wreak revenge, they have been quite free from hassle ( the geese that is, not City daughter and hubby…!)

However ( and isn’t there always a however…), the year has flown by and we forgot to go looking for eggs.

“I think we have babies” said M as he headed off to rescue the Ute that had starting sinking in mud ( …I don’t even ask anymore).  He was right, five fluffy bundles were paddling around the dam in the creek. But although my animal husbandry is limited, I do know that geese don’t dive under water and hold their breath.  Ducklings. 5 very cute ducklings and two very protective and squawking Paradise Ducks just daring me to go any further . Nice.

And then we saw them. The goose parade. 2 pairs of grown ups and six babies all happily parading around the paddock. Too late for any family planning assistance there then. So, resigned to having doubled our geese family , we started to head back when we were lunged at by the remaining highly agitated and hissing female goose. Why? From a safe distance we could count 7 large eggs that she was protecting and just waiting to burst into more life.

So we were 5 and now we are ( or soon will be )  18.

What to do now is the interesting dilemma. I’m secretly thrilled that we have cute babies from healthy birds living well and causing us minimal problems, but 18 ( not including the neighbouring ducks) may be a tad excessive. As I’m not quite at the ‘land to plate’ stage of my immersion to country life ( i.e. can’t eat them), good homes are now being sought and I’m determined to do a better job of planning our ever expanding menagerie next year.


“I’m sure those aren’t geese”
“Yep, those are….”










51 things I love about you Marlborough ……the final 11…

Canadian poppies 

I don’t know why I picked 51 – well actually I do – it was at our front gate when I had another ‘ that view is stunning’ moments. It stuck with me. But it could be so many more.

This is my final 11 and again, in no particular order. Every day brings more to add to the list.

41. Escalators. Yes really. The only two in Marlborough – based in the wonderful Clubs of Marlborough. A novelty that attracts visitors.

42. Clubs of Marlborough. If you’re not a member , you should be. And not just because of #41 above….

43. Conversations. We have them. Lots of them. With strangers. In the street. In the shops.All over the place.

44. Daffodil Day. The town turned up. It was a mass town event that only small towns can do and do well.

45. Our hospital. Wairau hospital is small but very efficient . It is peaceful. It has more time than bigger city hospitals. Its good to know it’s there if you needed it.

46. Wild flowers. At this time of year the Canadian poppy populates the still dry river beds and turns them into a sea of glorious orange. And Verve – the flower farm, makes it easy to spread the wildflower love at home too.

47. Bubbles. Although Marlborough is world famous for its Sauvignon Blanc and increasingly its fabulous Southern Valley Pinot Noir , we also have bubbles. And good bubbles at that. World class, french beating bubbles at No 1 Family Estate.

48. Pollard Park An oasis of outstanding beauty and tranquility in an area of beauty and tranquility.

49. Seasons. We have them. But each is underpinned by being the sunniest place in New Zealand. Official !

50. Picton. A beautiful spot and much more than the “place to catch the ferry”.

51. Beauty. we have it in abundance. Whether for the perfect wedding ( an unashamed plug here for my Celebrant work!) or for those lucky enough to call it home. Natural beauty makes things better and enriches lives.

Thanks Marlborough.


51 things I love about you …..Marlborough ( part 4)

Continuing my cheerleading for this beautiful region … ( following part 3)

Marlborough cherries – best in the world…!

31.  Black garlic . Covered in chocolate ( optional – but delicious !)

32. Cherries . In abundance from November through January . My pick is in Jacksons Road . Heaven .

33. Top Town Cinema -like cinemas used to be .

34. The pretty wind fans decorating the Labdscape – and turning into a Dantesque scene during frost season !

35. Arbour restaurant . Great people . Great values . Great food .

36. Olives . Everywhere . No excuses for not having your own healthy olive oil .

37. Blue cross . Great to donate to and also to find bargains .10 cent jam jars – say no more !

38. The Vines Village . Idyllic spot to visit , work ,hangout or just grab a taco (on Tuesday’s )  and beer !

39. The people . Even if you’re not a 4th generation Malburnian !

40. Blue skies . Summer and winter .


11 to go and hundreds to choose from !


Sheep may (not) safely graze….

Who’ll blink first….

This used to be one of my favourite pieces of music.

No more.

Sheep are my friends no longer and I care not whether they graze safely or otherwise.

I have started a blog 3 times today and each time I have suffered ‘ovis interruptus’ or put another way, rampaging sheep through every part of the property they shouldn’t be.

Whoever said sheep were stupid? Well they’re not, and they’re quite athletic – managing to hurdle fences at will.

After all these years watching Country Calendar, you would think I would have picked up something about mustering. But no, nothing , not at all.

However I may not be able to tell you what to do , but I can certainly share a few pointers on what not to do.

  1. Having a bad cough is not conducive to mustering sheep. It makes them crazy and also makes them run. Fast.
  2. Waving your arms does little – except amuse neighbouring vineyard workers
  3. Swearing only benefits yourself. Temporarily.

3 times they have been returned and 4 times they have escaped.

They have won.

I, have temporarily admitted defeat.

The farmer, who owns these athletic and smart sheep has now been summoned and he can take it from here. In fact he can take them from here.

I for one am both sheeped and shagged out.

Lamb for dinner anyone……..?!


No you may not safely graze in my garden……








51 Things I love about you….Marlborough ( part 3)


Beautiful wild Rarangi

On days like today making a list is easy……

21. Winter days . -1c to start and a calm 16c in the afternoon – brilliantly sunshiney days.

22. The river through town. Great walks and sculptures.

23. Rocco’s. Step back in time to this unintentional retro classic restaurant. Think chianti bottles in rafia and huge portions of 70’s classics and you’re in heaven!

24. Pinecones. Massive ones. On sale at the roadside. Perfect for Christmas or lighting the fire.

25. Rarangi Beach . Underrated by locals but a fabulous walk on the wild side🙂

26. Marlborough Airport . Has to be the best in New Zealand if not the world! Tiny, personal and $10 a day parking.Bliss.

27. Meater’s Butchery. Mike (the owner) who I met on my first day in Marborough. He slipped some sausages and bacon into my bag and said to enjoy breakfast on him. I hear this is a common act of kindness from Mike. Awesome service and even better meat.

28. Bikes. Lots of flat roads lend themselves to lots of bikes. Lovely to see visitors with their baskets full of wine as they tour the local wineries.

29. Makana chocolates. Willy Wonka eat your heart out. Watch chocolates being made and taste samples. Marlborough sea salt caramels. Yum.

30. ASB Theatre. We have a fabulous theatre here – way more than you expect for a small town. Go Blenheim!!

51 Things I love about you ….Marlborough (part 2)

Continuing my love affair with this perfect patch of Paradise….

Perfect Kaikoura Cheeses

11. Our Farmers Market . The best in produce from the area. Especially love Leah’s freshly made cakes and bread from Mississippi Herbs , Cheese from Dan at Kaikoura Cheese and the best organic blueberries in the world from Windsong Orchard

12. The number of roundabouts ( or lack of them) !

13. Staying with the traffic theme. No traffic lights ! It took me a while to see what I was missing while driving through town!

14. The Wairau River. Icy glacial blue and fiercely beautiful. A wonderful walking companion.

15. Muffins at Saint Clair vineyard. In fact all the food and wine is great, as is the location, but the muffins are spectacular and worth a morning coffee visit !

16. The ’10 minute’ Blenheim travel mystery. Everywhere is within 10 minutes. How is that even possible….

17. Shops that still shut on Saturday afternoons.

18. The abundance of roadside olives – an untapped industry in itself.

19. Our local ( free) papers. Everything you need to know!

20. The abundance of cafe’s and baking on site. From scratch. Not mixes. Heaven🙂

….to be continued….


51 things I love about you ….. Marlborough  (part 1)