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…
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.
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
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
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 !
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.
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….
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.
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.
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.
Make friends and enjoy your own slice of paradise.
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 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.
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!