Mark has been much preoccupied by the olive crop this week. In the past I have tried with less than stellar success to pickle olives. Alas, the big imported olives I buy at the delicatessen counter are more delicious than my home grown efforts. We only have one olive tree which we keep primarily because it gives us some shade and privacy in the spot where we often have our winter workday morning coffee. But the olive crop this year was so bountiful that Mark felt compelled to gather it. I have taken a passive role on the attempts to extract some olive oil from this ripe crop but there may be good reasons why Google does not yield up a multitude of sites which give instructions on low tech olive oil extraction. His expectations were modest – a spoonful of pure, super extra virgin, zero carbon footprint oil would keep him happy but at this stage it looks as if pomace may be the winner, not oil. I do not think self sufficiency in the olive oil stakes is close.
Having completed the once in decade (or longer) makeover of the Avenue Gardens, I have moved in to what we loosely call the kitchen garden or driveway garden. Over the years, this area which was traditionally the main vegetable garden has changed in character and use. The original Magnolia Iolanthe, heeled in temporarily in the very early 1960s, is now of such generous proportions and iconic status, that Mark has gradually been relocating most of the veg growing to other sites. These days it is a mix of quick maturing vegetables, herbs, butterfly garden, nurse area for holding plants which are destined for relocation, existing citrus trees (lime, lemon, tangelo, three mandarins and three orange trees) and the omnipresent Iolanthe. At least Mark came up with a splendid purpose for this area as we plan our new garden developments. A citrus grove, he suggested. We could designate it the citrus grove and underplant with some of the many, very beautiful Camellia yuhsienensis we have looking for a forever home, as well as the annuals for butterfly food. Sounds good to me – low maintenance, purposeful, attractive and an undeniably romantic designation. So I will do a holding pattern maintenance round while we plan the next stage of development.
On a practical level, we are chipping away at hydrangea pruning and rose pruning as each area gets a winter clean-up. The rose prunings go out in the rubbish. Burning is the only other option. They can not be composted or mulched.
Having finished cleaning up after me, (oh but I am blessed to have such a competent person following behind with the mulcher, chainsaw, leaf rake and tractor) and relocating a huge clump of self sown king ferns which had established in the wrong place, our multi-skilled Lloyd has started work on restoring a stone wall which had long ago collapsed beneath a falling pine tree. Stonework is incredibly labour intensive and it is best to measure it in terms of end result, not labour costs.
On a non gardening note, I have been spending hours working through proofing a biography of my brother. He died in an avalanche in the Himalayas in 1983. At the time, communications being pre mobile phones, it took two weeks for us to learn of his death. Around that time our second daughter was born and soon after a postcard arrived saying how much he was looking forward to seeing us and meeting our new baby on his imminent return. By then, we knew he was already dead. To me, he was a beloved brother who died too young. To the wider world, he was one of this country’s foremost mountaineers and it is quite an extraordinary experience to read the story of his achievements, much of which I never really grasped. The working title is Bold Beyond Belief and the biography of Bill Denz, written by Paul Maxim, is scheduled for publication towards the end of the year.