From our bubble to yours

Here we are again, in lockdown across the whole country. Where we are in Taranaki, we haven’t been in any form of lockdown since May 12 last year, which must seem pretty astounding to most of the world. I think it is 170 days since we last had a Covid case in the community anywhere in the country, though there have been plenty caught and isolated in mandatory quarantine at the border. Despite the evidence to the contrary, some still persist in describing our Covid status as dumb luck. I am not alone with an uncomfortable feeling that there are people who would be delighted to see us fail. Some of them even live in NZ – an example of political allegiance taking precedence over common sense and humanity, perhaps?

What is disconcerting is to see the spiteful glee from some on social media. Mostly men from the UK, Canada and the USA, they are referred to on Twitter as ‘the northern hemisphere reply guys’ because they will pop into conversations to sneer and jeer, delighting in how our country is now grappling with a Covid incursion. It proves them right, you see. Given how many of them don’t even realise that Australia and NZ are actually different countries separated by an ocean (It is a 3 hour flight between), I think it may be time to dig out all those world maps that leave NZ off entirely. I would be quite happy if they just forgot we existed again.  ***

Currently happy for our country to fall off world maps

It seems New Zealand is going to be splendid test case for whether it is actually possible to contain and then eliminate the Delta strain when it is loose in the community. If it can be done, we will do it over the next few weeks but at this stage, the outcome is unpredictable.

Like everybody else, my real life world has become much smaller again, focused inwards within the boundary of the bubble I share with Mark and Dudley dog.

That airy tree in the centre to the right of the tall tree fern is Camellia tsaii

Sometimes I get a reminder of my ignorance. Camellia tsaii is the one of those. It is a species camellia with tiny white flowers and small leaves with a serrated edge. We used to grow it in our nursery days and I see it is still produced commercially in New Zealand and often commended for its fragrance (more ‘light scent’ than fragrant, in my book) and its arching habit of growth with an estimated height of 2.5m.

Yes, those little blooms which measure about 2.5cm up are lightly scented but as they are a good 7 metres up, it is a bit irrelevant
I gathered a few of the fallen flowers to float in the old stone mill wheel which we use as a bird bath

Somehow, it took me a long time to make the connection between those tidy, bushy little plants about 80cm high and this plant in the garden. Behold Camellia tsaii, admittedly many decades old. It still has masses of tiny flowers – lightly scented – and feeds the tui. So too does it have the typical serrated foliage and graceful, arching growth. It is just that it is about seven metres high. I am sure the customers who bought a plant from us back when we used to retail were never advised that it had the potential to become a graceful, small tree.

Camellia tsaii – a tick for arching, graceful growth

It used to be larger but a chunk was brought down with a large branch falling from a tree above. Mark recalled a totally random piece of information. Most camellias make good firewood but tsaii was different. It was a much lighter wood and it sparked horrendously. Mark is a wood connoisseur, you understand, having been a woodturner back in his younger days and with decades of experience bringing the winter firewood into the house. He can always identify which wood we are burning and will balance the daily winter woodbaskets between quick-burning and slower-burning firewood. Tsaii originated in Vietnam, Burma and southern China, and I wonder whether the lighter wood is an indication of it being a lower canopy forest tree.

It is however a handsome little tree, our Camellia tsaii, is it not?

As viewed from the sunny side with a cloud of tiny white flowers

May you stay safe and well wherever you are. My totally non-scientific observations from social media tell me that cinnamon scrolls and cheese puffs are the dominant baking themes this lockdown. Given it was sourdough bread last time, these quicker options might suggest we are hoping to triumph over Covid sooner rather than later.  All I can offer is the best cheese puff recipe I have tried. It does need tapioca flour which is more widely available now than it used to be. I haven’t been out but if your local Asian supermarket is still open, it seems to be a staple there if Countdown and New World don’t have it.

Kia kaha.


This cheese puff recipe couldn’t be easier and has never failed me

*** Just as an example of how vile the spiteful glee can be, here is somebody called Matthew Lesh who writes for the Telegraph in the UK starting a gloat at NZ’s expense with “Poetic justice is beautiful”. What on earth is wrong with these people?

25 thoughts on “From our bubble to yours

  1. Paddy Tobin

    Hello from the Irish Bubble, not a national bubble but the small two-person bubble that has Mary and I in it! If the doubter in New Zealand could hear of the situation here in Ireland they might change their thinking. Our populations are almost exactly the same but we have had three days in this past week where new Covid case numbers exceeded 2,000 and this is despite a very positive attitude and take up of the vaccination programme. Most infections are in the younger age group – many not yet vaccinated – but it is worrying that even vaccinated people are contracting the virus though the resultant illnesses are relatively mild. There are talks of a need for booster vaccinations.

    One aspect of the New Zealand approach has amazed me – you have had extraordinary success in keeping the virus out of the country but the government must have realised that it would arrive at some stage uyet they seem not to have moved on to providing vaccination to the population. Closed borders and a widespread vaccination programme would have been a great approach.

    Thank goodness for our gardens!

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      Hello Paddy! It is true that we seemed to be slow on getting vaccinations started, though that is true of most of the world beyond the EC, UK, USA and Canada. Supply has been the issue, especially when NZ made the decision to go 100% Pfizer. The big power blocks took pretty much all that was available. When it became available, the border and quarantine staff and their families were first in line, then older people in care. Now it has ramped up to over 50 000 vaccinations a day to anybody aged 12 and over. Mark and I were fully vaxxed before the end of July. We are on track to have everybody who is willing fully vaxxed by December, at which point I guess we start the round of third doses! I don’t think there is any appetite to make vaccinations compulsory so it remains to be seen how big the anti-vax movement is – not as large as in many other countries by the looks of things at the moment.
      The plan for reopening the border hinges on having a high percentage vaccinated here and then working a traffic light system at the border – travel bubbles with green zones (which is a fair number of our Pacific Islands and other countries with minimal community transmission like Taiwan. This may or may not include Australia, depending on how NSW manage their huge outbreak; the other states look pretty safe.) Then the orange zone which have Covid well managed and there may be shorter quarantine, testing, vaccine passports and monitored self-isolation at home or another approved location. And the red zones with uncontrolled transmission who will have to go through full managed quarantine at the border. So tight border controls are with us for some time yet.
      At the moment we have just over 30 cases but that is expected to climb to over 100 in the next few days. But lockdown means that transmission is largely contained to the personal bubbles as of last Tuesday night. The epidemiologists who advise our government seem confident that we can beat it this time. Judging by the extraordinarily high level of compliance I saw at my local supermarket this morning (in an area not noted for being compliant and patient at other times!) I am cautiously optimistic we will succeed again. The alternative is to resign ourselves to being in the situation you and Mary are in.
      All the best.

      1. Paddy Tobin

        Your vaccination programme is far ahead of reports we have read here. I would think more or less at the same level as here in Ireland, perhaps a month or two behind. Hopefully, all plans will work for you and you will all be safe. Closing the border was politically out of the question here in Ireland unfortunately but it would have been the best option.

      2. Abbie Jury Post author

        We are charting our own course in NZ, no matter what The Telegraph and other such commentators think. Time will tell whether that is a good thing or not but it has been the best option so far.

  2. Eileen O’Sullivan

    After reading your post Abbie, I logged onto the Telegraph and read Matthew Lesh’s article, intending to reply, until I read the diatribe of comments it attracted. For the most part, sarcastic, know-it-all and superior, with alternative views rounded on; it reminds me of reading and National Business Review reader comments. And so I decided not to contribute. It would be a small voice in an echo chamber. Better to focus on cheese puffs instead :-)

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      Sometimes for our mental health, we just have to back away, Eileen. In our own lives we can make sure not to let these really awful. odious people near us. On line, we are very exposed to that underbelly of self-satified, self-justifying, self-absorbed judgementalism. To go to the New World in Waitara this morning was truly reassuring – 100% compliance on masking (which I thought would be difficult in this community) and in physical distancing and good-natured patience. I left optimistic that we could beat this incursion again and that the will of most people is to succeed together.

  3. Tim Dutton

    Seeing those lovely blemish-free blooms floating in a bowl in your first photo brought home to me that this year our Camellias have been putting on a splendid show with, in general, only limited signs of the dreaded Camellia petal blight ruining the display. In the last few years the flowers on our C. x williamsii ‘Donation’ and all the other Spring-flowering varieties have been showing brown blotches almost as soon as they open and I’ve had to pull them off on a regular basis in bulk so that we could enjoy the display of the youngest flowers, but this year I haven’t groomed it even once and there are hundreds of unblemished blooms on there with only a few dozen going brown and falling after they’ve been open for a few days. Most other Camellias in the garden are the same. We’ve been told that this winter has been the warmest on record, but the last few were warm as well and we had really bad blight in them, so I doubt that temperature is the reason. What IS very different for us is that this winter has been incredibly wet and last winter in particular was incredibly dry. Might that be the reason? Whatever the reason, we are very much enjoying the shrubs this year.
    We’ve never seen C. tsaii offered for sale in garden centres. It does make a lovely small evergreen tree.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      I had to search for unblemished blooms! Your observations this season are not backed up by international experience which is that blight is nowhere near as bad in drier climates. We think we probably have some of the worst petal blight in the world because we have mild temperatures and high rainfall. We saw blight in China (dry, cold winters and early spring) but it was not the problem it is here and the same seems true of climates like Portugal, Spain, Itay and France. So enjoy your good season of blooms! It may not last.

      1. Tim Dutton

        Oh well, never mind, at least we can delight in a better than usual Camellia season. Signs of Spring are everywhere in the garden today and COVID and lockdowns are pushed to the backs of our minds as we cart barrow loads of mulch onto freshly weeded beds.

  4. tonytomeo

    Again, I should not have read, or should have stopped reading before getting so angry about it. The situation is bad here, but to me, it seems ridiculous. This is what we get for exercising our rights to not wear masks. It was predictable. I do not know what to believe, and I do not care. It is not so difficult to wear a mask, even if only to make others feel more comfortable. I have been lectured about the evils of wearing a mask by people who should mind their own business. (I also get lectured about holding a door open for a feminist, but will continue to be polite.) There are people in our Community who are disappointed that the disease is not killing off more of the homeless of our Community. So many of the homeless, including some who lost their homes the CZU Fire last year, live in very crowded and very unsanitary conditions within homeless encampments where the virus should be expected to proliferate. I really can not explain why the homeless have been less susceptible to the disease, but it seems to be the same in other Communities as well. Regardless, it is disturbing to know that there are a few deranged people within our Community who take delight in the misery of others, and are disappointed by unsatisfactory misery.
    Anyway, Camellia tsaii really is a delightful small tree. I am unfamiliar with it, but I do like the small white flowers. I think I will go out to the garden now. No camellias of any species are blooming here, but there are plenty of other flowers and foliage and people about who are not mean.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      Oh Tony! So many issues all colliding at once in your part of the world. Maybe this pandemic is sorting out the decent, kind people from the truly unpleasant, vile ones and there are more of the latter than we ever thought. It is a bit like Pandora’s box – once the lid is lifted and all the unpleasantness is allowed to thrive, it can not be pushed back into the box again. All we can do is try and ensure that the people we choose to surround ourselves with are the ones with humanity and compassion.

      1. tonytomeo

        Fortunately, the VAST Majority of people in our Community are totally awesome. They are ridiculously gracious with those of our Community who are homeless. There are only a few bad ones. Unfortunately, they are SO intent on being bad. (I really could elaborate on that.) Some people blame former President Trump for popularizing bad behavior and nastiness such as racism, but we can not blame it all on him. People ‘should’ take responsibility for their behavior.

      2. tonytomeo

        Exactly. I do not intend to blame him, but like you say, he empowered haters. My colleague down south commented that it turned our culture back a few decades.

      3. tonytomeo

        Gee, I should not prolong such unpleasant discussion. Camellia tsaii really is a much more appealing topic, even though I know nothing about it. It has been a long time since I grew camellias, and even then, I grew only japonica, sasanqua, reticulata and their hybrids. Camellia reticulata is rare here, so we grew only a few. A few more obscure species of Camellia were strewn about within the collection for those who wanted copies, but did not get the attention the are worthy of.

      4. Abbie Jury Post author

        We have a reasonable collection of species and find them pretty interesting, even if most lack commercial appeal. There is a greater variety in growth habits and foliage, even if the flowers are less showy.

      5. tonytomeo

        Camellia reticulata could have been more popular if it had not been so rare decades ago, when horticulture was respected more. By the time it became available, I did not feel right about promoting it. I know that the majority of the common Camellia japonica that we grew went into landscapes where they were shorn like privets by mow, blow and go ‘gardeners’. At least they provide nice ‘greenery’, even without bloom. Camellia reticulata just gets mutilated. I would prefer to not see it in landscapes at all than to see it mutilated. I believe that some of the more common tea camellias could have been marketable, but we had enough to be concerned with.

  5. montanagoose

    For what it is worth, I do hope COVID passes you on by again. Who would wish that on anyone? And please do not take the trolls to heart; they do not speak for anyone.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      Thank you. That is very kind of you. If the Delta strain can be beaten, we will! If we fail, it won’t be for lack of trying. While other countries talk about ‘learning to live with Covid’, we much prefer living without it.

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