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!!
Last weekend marked our one year anniversary of moving to Marlborough.
On 2nd July 2015, two very bemused Doodles joined us on their first ( and likely last) flight. They shivered their way across islands and sulked only momentarily as they were released from their crates into their new South Island life.
Our first stop from the airport was to the local pet store to get the essentials – happy dogs, happy life….
I still remember the drive along Middle Renwick Road on a brilliant Marlborough day – pristine piercing blue sky and clean , lung bursting pure air. It was home. It was always meant to be home.
So Marlborough in salute of you and for the best of years, here are my 51 favourite things… ( part one).
The air – as mentioned – it’s perfect. So much so that we are selling it in cans to Asia. I kid you not.
The wine. Oh the wine. I have learned more than I ever thought possible and it’s barely a drop in the barrel I am now the proud owner of !
The mornings. Walking with the Doodles on a crisp morning with air that almost hurts to breathe in deeply, is magical.
The wood burner. Only meaningful when it’s really cold – and we’ve had a few of those days!
Burleigh pies. Just yum!
The Wither Hills and The Richmond Ranges – now I know who you are , you stun me almost every day with your respective golden and moody beauty.
Omega plums. I have never tasted anything like it. Picking a warm sun kissed plum on an evening walk in summer was perfect.
Walnuts. The most wonderful and satisfying harvest of the year. All tucked away in the freezer to keep us going until next time.
Traffic. Or lack of it. Still makes me smile everyday.
Parking meters in Blenheim that can still take 10 cents ( 3 minutes ) – perfect!
After a busy day, it was time for the fire to be lit, wine to be poured and feet to be lifted.
My favourite time of day.
I’ve gotten very used to the incredible peace and quiet of Paradise, even though we have assorted animals sharing the space.
However, you know that feeling when something just doesn’t quite stack up? I can never usually hear our three Belties ( Oreo, Tollhouse and Anzac) from their paddock, but this time it felt like they were just outside. Funny that – as that’s exactly where they were.
Now until you have eye balled a one tonne Beltie outside your front door, you just haven’t passed your ‘ I survived the country’ test…. I can also now say I’ve played ( and lost) a game of ‘who’ll blink first’ with Tollhouse.
As I feared, three one tonne cows can cause quite a lot of damage to a garden however my positive side welcomes the natural fertiliser I now have in abundance.
An urgent call to M (who conveniently was on another island) advised me not to panic them ( them??!!) and then added that at least it gave me more material for my next blog…..( thoughtful !)
While waiting for a helping hand from neighbour T ( who helped last time I thought I had lost all 3 cows : see previous blog ), I decided to take action and well and truly earned my cattle wrangling 101 badge.
Single handedly, over a period of an hour ‘steering’ them through gardens, cars, vineyard, paddocks, stream and bonfire ( which, incidentally is still going 10 days on ! – see other previous blog), I managed to coerce them back to their own corner of Paradise – none the worse for their adventure.
What I’ve learned:
cows can run – really fast.
cows dont respond like dogs. Actually our dogs don’t respond at all so no help there.
gates are usually shut for good reason.
Belties are REALLY big when you’re standing a metre away from them.
Belties have beautiful eyelashes.
you really can do things you never thought you would ever have to, if you have to.
For many years I have hankered after long lazy lunches amongst the olive trees , feasting with friends on local produce, washed down with the local tipple . Olive trees always featured .
I was a late adopter of olives. Somehow my taste buds didn’t quite want to acquire them but I’ve been a firm fan of olive oil ( pure extra virgin, of course) since I started to cook – it always felt like a nod to good health, whatever I was making !
An unfulfilled dream for M & I since moving to NZ was to grow our own olives and press them into our own oil .Our last attempt produced zero results for us, but the local bird population still thanks us. However, last week it happened .
Now we don’t quite boast the plentiful olive groves of Tuscany – or even as many as almost everyone in Marlborough who all seem to have a grove tucked away or at least access to one .
We have 7 trees.
And only 4 have fruit .
And they’re not even hugely productive. By calculations based on a complex equation shared over a recent dinner with friendly local experts , they were expected to provide me with a whopping 2 litres of olive oil .
So , not enough to retire on really….
Undeterred I looked to other means to supplement our meagre crop . Having been dissuaded from procuring more from laden roadside trees ( ” that’s stealing you know “), I sent a message to new friends and neighbours to ask if any crops were going unharvested. It’s at this time I start to realise that not everyone was quite as excited as me and most saw their olives as little more than a windbreak at best . “Yeah we did all that once , said a very over-it neighbour “.
So the offers flooded in ! With the much welcome help of M and my wunder sibling D , we managed to pick a mighty 42.5kgs over a few hours .
It’s not easy work but it’s not as hard as grape picking that’s for sure !
I really enjoyed every second of it .
We are very lucky to have a olive press cooperative in the area so I threw the olives in the Ute and went in search of good oil .
“So how many containers in total” he said . “3- they’re all there ” I replied, pointing to the Ute.
“How much have you got” he said . “About 40kg ” I said beaming with pride .
“It’s minimum 250kgs” he said ( with a look I’m beginning to recognise in people now ).
Ok so I’m getting that ‘newby from another planet ‘feeling again .
It doesn’t get any better when a nice old guy comes up behind us and says to him , “where do you want my first tonne ? “.
Whether it was pity or kindness or perhaps a Marlborough blend of both , my ( now not so) impressive crop was accepted and overnight magically transformed into 7 litres of deliciousness .
I couldn’t have been happier collecting it in my new , shiny and very expensive olive oil container complete with tap ! (M didn’t fail to notice – or comment – that everyone else made do with plastic buckets…..!)
It was a truly joyful process from start to finish .
So, future plans :
We’re going to plant more olives ( they’re also apparently good wind breaks!)
I’m going to stay enthusiastic for more than the first year.
We’re going to aim for 250kgs next year but if not I will hope for another benevolent and sympathetic sort to turn a blind eye at the Press ….
And I’m definitely going to have my long lazy lunch amongst the olive trees with my very own good oil but, Under Marlborough Sun🙂
One of my earliest memories was of a Scottish winter night at the local bonfire celebrating the burning of the Guy on 5th November. It was cold, very cold. The smoke was strong and I didn’t feel safe, although I absolutely was. The only redeeming factor was the sparklers – which again I have to say I wasn’t a huge fan of, for fear of sparks causing me to catch fire and become the sacrificial offering. No shortage of drama queen moments in my childhood……
However, fast forward a few bonfire-less years and we now have more grown up demands being made of us on the fire front. We inherited a bonfire waiting to happen when we bought Paradise. It had started after the “great flood of 2008” when several large trees came sailing down the local stream and landed with us. No one had ever got around to burning them and we, through new developments in the vineyard, started adding to it. When the pile started resembling a medium sized house, we knew we had to take action.
After much procrastinating about what potential damage we could do to neighbouring vineyards should we mis-manage the event, I called our (very) friendly rural fire officer explaining the magnitude of the bonfire facing us and he offered to come and take a look. Setting fire to New Zealand’s premiere wine region was not something we were keen to be remembered for. On reflection, I couldn’t have sounded more ‘ towny’ if I’d tried , but still there’s a time for trying to act knowledgeable and this was not one.
When he arrived at the door, he had a oddly huge and sympathetic smile – which was nice , but confusing. You see , on his way into the property he had seen our pile of recently cut plane tree ( not in itself small , but nothing like our bigger issue to hand) and took to understand that this was what I was talking about. As he started reassuring me that this pile couldn’t in any way cause any concerns and would probably burn out within minutes, I twigged ( pun intended ) what he was on about and beckoned him around the corner where our bonfire behemoth was looming in the distance.
“Ah’, he said. “Indeed “, I said.
We tramped across fields to see it close up and thankfully ( for my pride anyway) he agreed that it was good to have called and that this was indeed a very large pile.
After offering many tips and tricks of the trade he wished us luck and told me to put his number on speed dial….”just in case”.
As a parting thought he said , ” Just be mindful of small animals running alit from the pile as they can act like mini fireballs ” and he was gone, with that thought indelibly etched in my mind forever.
So D day came, a still day with wind unlikely to pick up, blanket neighbours and set fire to many hectares of prime Sauvignon. Off we went, Lucifers and matches in hand.
I have to be honest. It was quite thrilling setting fire to it. No fear. Hours passed quickly just watching the destruction it caused weaving its own powerful way through the pile. It was intense and fierce. There were (thankfully) no animals affected.
We only had one minor ‘moment’ , when we tried to assist the fire get to an area that stubbornly refused to burn. Let’s just say, even the smallest amount of fuel can cause very big flames and a very loud explosion that can be heard from very far away….but that’s another story…
It took 3 days to go out.
Mission accomplished and yet more lessons learned.
Maybe it was my early years reading ‘Little House on the Prairie‘ that did it, but I have always had a hankering for a stove in the kitchen.
In previous lives, I have been lucky enough to have owned a temperamental baby blue coal fired Aga in my first house – a 300 year old ‘Weavers Cottage’ in the North Yorkshire Moors.Then came a second hand cream coloured oil fired Rayburn – inherited from my stove loving then Mother in Law. However my ‘I’ve finally made it ‘moment was the purchase of a gleaming British racing car green gas Aga in my first house build. It was perfect. The house hugged around it and dogs, children, visitors all gravitated towards this new heart of a new home. It was also almost impossible to set fire to anything. The chicken I once left in overnight, when found, was simply dust🙂
How I missed her when we moved.
Fast forward 15 years.
We moved to Paradise in late ( southern hemisphere) Spring so we are now knowledgeable about the heat and Marlborough summer winds and how the house / we cope with those, but the winter cold is a new one. ( Apologies to those living in real cold – I’m only talking currently of lows at 0/1c or 32F !). Yesterday however felt so cold that it was time to attempt to light the stove we have inherited which has been somewhat neglected so far in the kitchen.
She’s a beauty but she’s very old – a brown Shacklock Orion . So it was with a little trepidation that we set about lighting.
It’s fair to say the first few times entailed more smoke than fire, but after a little practice we’ve got it sussed and I’m so thrilled with the result. She’s actually a really easy starter – a few minutes and a little maintenance and we have a warm toasty addition to the kitchen. And what a difference it has made. Visitors have started gravitating to her and there is much warming of hands and bums as well as being a great conversation piece ! The Doodles spend a lot of time just lingering and are thrilled with the new heat source in their ‘bedroom’🙂. And I now have another oven to use which gives far better results than a gas or electric equivalent and I must admit I do get a thrill from knowing that there is no cost to us except a quick trudge to the wood stack ( which M has valiantly produced from fallen branches and surplus trees around the patch).
It’s definitely my current happy place . Roll on winter🙂
M and I share many passions but a biggie for us is Bees.
On a recent significant birthday, I gifted M a beehive (and someone to look after it!)
We were thrilled with our annual crop of honey with hints of pohutakawa and manuka , and loved sharing it with friends and family.
I actually don’t like honey, but that’s not the point🙂 For me, it’s the fact that these highly industrious little things do magic. They are the true super heroes. Not only are they a crucial part of our overall food chain, they make an almost universally liked product that has uses far and wide.
When we moved, one of the first things to be put in place was the bee hives – three of them this time. They have been furiously active through the summer. Bearing in mind that a honey bee will collect about a tea-spoon of honey in its whole lifetime, ponder that when you next spread it over your toast!
Yesterday we saw the result of their hard work.In the middle of a blustery afternoon that Winnie the Pooh would have been proud of, a sticky bucket arrived of 15 kilos of pure molten gold. With hints of citrus and a nod towards the vines on their doorstep, the honey has a uniquely delicious aroma and taste ( according to those who know these things !).
There is something so satisfying about filling the multitude of sterilised jars gathered from family over the year and stocking the pantry. And knowing this was all created within metres of the house is just thrilling.
Honey is also really good for you – see the nutritional facts below.
1 packet (0.5 oz) (14 g)
1 tbsp (21 g)
1 cup (339 g) 100 grams
% Daily Value*
Total Fat0 g
Saturated fat 0 g
Polyunsaturated fat 0 g
Monounsaturated fat 0 g
Total Carbohydrate82 g
Dietary fiber 0.2 g
Sugar 82 g
*Per cent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
It has also associated itself with some great brand ambassadors – Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Monster to name but two ( for those that remember the Honey Monster from the TV adverts – “Tell them about the Honey, Mummy“, have a look at this link. You’re welcome !!
Taking everything into account, honey has a thoroughly well deserved and enviable reputation and I’m loving it.
April was a month of travel and new experiences, predominantly in the USA.
Taking a look at your life from the other side of the world gives a unique perspective.
I love travel and I love new experiences and am eternally grateful for the opportunity to do so, but this time travel seemed different. I missed paradise.
Amongst many things, I felt slightly cheated out of seeing nature move swiftly from summer to autumn and change the palette and mood of home.
The first thing we did on our return was grab the Doodles and reacquaint ourselves with the vines, the orchard and all other things that stand still for no man ( or woman). It was a good time to think about the things that we missed ( in addition to family and the Doodles of course!) :
The air. We underestimate the clean beautiful air that most of us enjoy in New Zealand but in particular in Marlborough. The purity on a cool clear day is a reminder of good health and the benefits of deep breathing. Not something often found in the more populated parts of the globe.
The simplicity. Of food, of drink and of choices in general. While I love the expansive variety of ‘stuff’ in the USA, it was frequently overwhelming.
The bounty of home grown. Picking a plum, harvesting a walnut.The quick journey from farm to table.
The coffee. Now I’m not a coffee drinker but I heard enough about poor coffee to ensure this made it to the list. NZ is coffee paradise, apparently.
The beauty of Marlborough . Stunning views in every direction. Productive land carefully nurtured to produce outstanding bounty…which leads to #6…
The wine. We are blessed to have the most wonderful wines available to us in New Zealand.
We can all benefit from time away – ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ and all that. But perspectives can give us the push we need to make changes – I know distance has helped me make some of the big decisions in my life. But this time I get a deep sense of satisfaction knowing that the things we really missed were all parts of the decision we made to search for the good life.