Monthly Archives: March 2016

Harvest time

“The thankful receiver bears a plentiful harvest”  – William Blake

Marlborough, as well as all other New Zealand wine regions, is currently alive with the sounds of harvesters, trucks, bird scarers and backpackers accents from all corners of the globe as they pick up casual harvest work.

It’s a magical, frantic, stressful and intense time of year.

Watching harvest from the sidelines – with an occasional opportunity to get amongst it – has been an eye opening experience and has given us both a further massive appreciation for that glass of wine we have for so long taken for granted.

On D day , our grapes were hand picked to ensure minimum impact and were collected in antique prams – ingenious yet perfect for holding the small amounts of grapes in each crate. This protects them and their skins which ultimately gives Pinot Noir its flavour.

Wine making is not for the faint hearted. especially for wine makers whose life’s work is to produce world class wines of the highest quality. We are thrilled that we have one of those individuals looking after our grape babies.

Calculating when to harvest is rocket science ( or almost). Balancing of the sugar levels of the grapes vs the weather forecast of imminent rain or wind is key as both can have a catastrophic effect on the quality of the wine. It’s nail biting stuff and you need to be made of strong stuff to be in this job.

Gently does it 🙂

But the buzz around the winery is palpable. It’s hugely exciting . A new wine is being born.

Our wine has no interference. Nothing is added. Nature is allowed to do her thing with nothing but gentle encouragement ( and a good dose of classical music!).

Within days the wine has already started working its magic – it looks, smells and tastes great . We have been visiting every day like proud parents 🙂

Mum and Dad learning all about it

As this wine is laid to a well deserved rest for 18 months before bottling, we look forward to seeing the next vintage burst into life ( and our glasses) in May. Then it’s time to start all over again and give our next bunch of grape babies the best start in life possible.

So next time we pour that glass, maybe a quiet thanks is in order and a nod to those wine magicians who have toiled so hard for our pleasure.

Cheers !


“They paved Paradise…….

…….and put up a parking lot”.

Well not quite paving and not quite a parking lot but the jist of what Joni Mitchell sang about in 1970 was the same.

Chaining myself to the walnut tree seemed a little too reminiscent of my formative years when there were real causes to fight and demonstrate over. The prospect of me on a one woman crusade with demonstration placards strapped to our enthusiastic Doodles certainly raised a smile.

To be fair, the crusade was against ourselves.

As part of the development of Paradise, we are expanding the vineyard to utilise land that has been forgotten about for too long. Surrounded by vineyards it had only dreamed of being given the love and care of its bountiful neighbours. So plans were made, experts sought and vines ordered. The downside was the imminent removal of the 100 year old walnut grove sitting right between the two vineyards that needed to connect.

Both M & I love trees and don’t like destroying things. We had pledged to replace all trees that were affected but we still didn’t feel good about it.

M spent hours if not days talking to tree enthusiasts about the walnut wood to see if good could come of it.

I hoped and hoped that we would at least be able to have one walnut harvest from the trees.

As time was getting closer to their removal I stood one evening looking at 3 of the oldest and most productive trees and thought it was worth one more discussion. M didn’t need much persuading but rightly needed to ensure it was manageable and viable within the wider plans.

I’m thrilled to say that compromise has been reached and some of the walnut grove will remain. We will still plant more trees but these few who have seen many summers will survive to see many more, and thankfully without need for a crusading woman attached to their trunks….

As Joni said ,  Don’t it always seem to go,  that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone ”

I’m glad we realised what we had before it went.


No chains required


For those who are interested, the full lyrics to Joni Mitchell’s , ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ are below – and seem as relevant now as they did 46 years ago.

“Big Yellow Taxi”

They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique
And a swinging hot SPOT
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
‘Til it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lotThey took all the trees
And put them in a tree museum
Then they charged the people
A dollar and a half just to see ’em
Don’t it always seem to go,
That you don’t know what you’ve got
‘Til it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lotHey farmer, farmer
Put away that DDT now
Give me spots on my apples
But LEAVE me the birds and the bees
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
‘Til its gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot

Late last night
I heard the screen door slam
And a big yellow taxi
Come and took away my old man
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
‘Til it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot

I said
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
‘Til it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot

They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot


From little acorns…..

I hope I never lose the genuine excitement at finding something new when I’m walking around Paradise.

Late afternoon walks with the Doodles is a sheer pleasure. They love their freedom. So do I.

I love the hills – in one direction they are bright and glistening in late afternoon sun ( the Wither Hills) and in the other are dark and brooding  ( the Richmond Ranges).

Today we discovered these. Acorns. But not as we knew them. My knowledge of acorns was really limited to the one in the Ice Age movies that cause such excitement for the accident prone squirrel in the opening sequences.


‘real’ acorns are not a Doodles best friend
Ice Age acorn








These one’s don’t look the same.

Relying yet again on internet searches, today’s lesson is all about these little nuts, who they can poison ( always our first search) and what else we can do with them.

(On that note, I can safely say that in pre internet days we are likely to have not only poisoned ourselves through our trial and error but also the Doodles. N.B grateful thanks to Tim Berners-Lee)

So, to the acorns. Their real purpose is to make more acorns ( and mighty oaks) so not much of a contributor to the pantry.

No matter how hard we have looked I don’t think we will be able to do much with our gatherings – and they’re poisonous to Doodles. And unfortunately, squirrels are not found in New Zealand ( although I have learned that Native Americans and Koreans still use the acorn in food dishes).

However our neighbour T has just bought two little pigs and apparently ( it says on the internet so it must be true), pigs love them!

So, from little acorns, may come two fat piggies. Who knows, but it feels good to be making use of what grows amongst us.



Pig in acorn heaven !




Getting your hands dirty….

As some wise person once said……”sometimes the only way you ever learn is to get your hands dirty”…..

Having spent yesterday making extraordinary amounts of jam and other fruit products to use up our prolific crops  my hands were dyed a variety of colours . No problem though, after the amount of washing up my efforts produced they were almost back to normal by the end of the day.

Note to self : for many reasons in future, get disposable gloves or as Nigella called them on her show the other night, ” CSI gloves”.


We are about to start harvesting our walnuts for the first time. A beautiful grove of 17, 100-year old walnut trees.

Now we have been told many things about the trees : how special they are , how tasty the walnuts are, how much fun they are to harvest ……you get the picture. It’s very exciting.

What no one ever mentioned was this….

Would you hold this hand?!

Now it has to be said that this hand did look much worse yesterday . It has now been through 3 showers, many many dish washes, hand washes, scrubs including lemon juice, nail polish remover ( I kid you not) and industrial cleaning agents.

Why ? Because there is ( apparently) such a thing as walnut staining. Who knew?

Not me .

As I excitedly and innocently picked up some early walnuts I learned the hard way that mother nature has an interesting way of protecting some ( walnuts) and  damaging others ( me).

My on-line searches show I’m not alone. Walnut novices all over the world are bearing their own personalised stains – sort of a mark of the rite of passage into the world of walnuts.

I’ve read it will be maybe a week before they disappear.

Another lesson learned. CSI gloves are on order.

My old world of manicures seems very far away….



They look so innocent……

Let’s hear it for the damson

The humble damson.  Sort of like someone’s distant relative that doesn’t get too much attention but is there lurking in the back of your mind somewhere…

The damson has been said to be to plums what port is to red wine. I like that analogy and I get it.

As I’ve just found out, they are more challenging to cook with than their larger stoned fruits cousins due to their compactness and desire to hold on tight to their stones, but trust me – the end results will give you taste sensations that more than compensates for the added hassle.


If you’re interested , damsons are a very English fruit having come originally from Damascus courtesy of the romans. They were a staple of British tea times for many years but have sadly fallen out of favour. In New Zealand they are largely the domain of those with lifestyle blocks and I am hugely grateful that we have inherited the most beautiful mature tree.

But, I digress. It may have taken two hours to make my first damson jam ( and only produced 3 jars) but it was worth it. The deep dark ruby gorgeousness that was the end product is just stunning and has inspired me to do more with this wonderful little fruit.

If you have your own or a neighbour with damsons to spare, make the effort – it will be so worth it !

This blog was sent to me by a friend and has some great recipes. I’ll be giving them a go 🙂







Know your nuts!

I grew up on Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut ( “Everyone’s a fruit and nut case ….”)  and graduated to the subtle deliciousness of pralines as my adult taste buds kicked in.

Nuts have always featured somewhere in my life. But, with the exception of the humble peanut and walnut ( sometimes seen at Christmas), if you asked me to identify them from their tree I would be guessing at best.

Last week I saw something on the ground that reminded me of the man-eating plant from Little Shop of Horrors, but smaller.

Audrey lookalikes!

I sent an e mail around those least likely to laugh at me asking for help to identify it.No luck.

Today, we had a visit from the previous custodians of Paradise. I love seeing them as they share such massive amounts of knowledge about everything and we soak it up. I asked about my alien mystery plant and found that it’s a hazelnut and we have a few producing trees. I must admit to being a little embarrassed not to know this, but then how many of us in our pre-packed city lives ever would??

So next task, what to do with them. I’m determined that nothing will fall idle from our gardens.

Hazelnut praline is my first choice so I found this recipe and I’m going to give a try. Have a go too !

You will, I’m sure have a far easier task of identifying them in the supermarket aisle!

Enjoy !


Hazelnuts or little alien things…?

Doves of Peace….

We have wild doves. Beautiful white neck ringed doves. About 8 at last count.

When we moved in, I felt quite privileged to have such beautiful birds call our little bit of paradise home. They greet us when we drive in to the property and are incredibly sociable for wild birds.

Famed for being birds of peace.


They’re bullies. And smart bullies at that. A couple of patches and they could be paid up gang members.

Just ask the our girls – the hens.

Layla – who is top of our hen pecking order ahead of Blanche and Roxanne is ( as I now know from hiding and watching behind the chook house) regularly attacked by one particular dove at each mealtime as the doves take over the feeding regime. We thought the odd feather around the hen compound was moulting at best or ( at worst) a feral cat but no, it’s the local doves of peace.

I’ve tried to shoo the doves away but that makes our timid chooks run a mile. I’ve tried physically moving the doves away but they’re fearless and stand their ground.

M has thoughts of guns. I think that’s a little extreme. I’m still not country enough for such measures.

I’m thinking possibly a chook feeder that has to be stood on to provide feed but I have images of the doves ganging up and forcing our girls to jump on the feeder plate on their behalf.

Visions of chicken being forced to walk plank for food

Peaceful ? No.

But they’re beautiful. And smart. And friendly.

Their loud and tuneful cooing makes me smile. And they’re a joy to watch.

So until I have a better plan, it’s me refereeing mealtimes, doves vs hens,  until further notice…..


Beautiful Bully