Friday, April 13, 2012

All in Good Time

It’s a little overdue, my recognition of the end of summer and the beginning of autumn. Although I’ve gathered photographic evidence of seasonal change in my backyard over several weeks, I’ve resisted posting it on Egg Venturous. This may be partly because people seem to prefer the chicken posts; another just-as-likely reason is that I didn’t want summer to end.

Some Aucklanders claim we didn’t have a summer this year. It hardly ever got hot, really hot, and according to most accounts it’s been a shocking season for tomatoes — the home-grown ones, anyway. Nevertheless the flora and fauna have produced and reproduced, albeit in a somewhat straggly fashion.

While resisting the changing of the seasons I’ve discovered that in some ways, they are resisters too. Seasons are not cut and dried.* They refuse to stay tucked into discrete boxes, unlike the days of the week on a manmade calendar. The garden shows this: I sampled a juicy strawberry from the backyard just the other day, though the laws of commerce decree that the harvest of this summer fruit ended long ago.

Oh, I know that one strawberry does not a summer extend, and maybe this is an especially late variety (I don’t know what it’s called, but its fruit are long, thin and so glossy you’d think someone had gone around varnishing them). I still contend that seasons will not conform exactly to our expectations year in, year out.

The apple tree mentioned in my first post, more than a month ago, is still appling. Eventually I took a leaf out of the backyard birds’ book and tried some of its fruit. Now, like them, I’m a convert. 

These apples look pale and impoverished next to the berries above and the apples you see in supermarkets — mine are blemished, bruised and in need of a good scrubbing — but they’re a great deal better in crunch and juicy exuberance than their shop-bought cousins. I’ve chomped through some, Carol’s stewed and frozen others, and tonight I’ll juice those shown here in our laundry basket. Still others we’ve given away, and a lot more remain on the tree.

Meanwhile, our feijoa tree has begun lobbing its green grenades. Just one, falling from above, would stun one of my chickens if it weren’t for the predator-proof netting across the top of the run: feijoas, though small, are solid; they pack a punch. But the chooks enjoy any split, spilt or exploded specimen I offer.

Feijoas are less a forbidden fruit than a foreign one. Nobody outside New Zealand or South America knows about them, and I’m told they’re an acquired taste; if that’s the case I acquired it too long ago to remember — and when I try to describe the flesh to newcomers, words fail (or I do): creamy beige that browns easily, slightly gritty in texture, aromatic... does this sound like something you’d like to try? Didn’t think so. Some of us love it. 

The feijoa, native to tropical South America, is named after Brazilian naturalist J. da Silva Feijó, who lived 1760–1824. The tree is from the same family as our native pohutukawa, which explains why its leaves, flowers and bark are similar to those of this iconic New Zealand (North Island) tree. 

Pohutukawa at Waiomu beach, Thames
Coast. Not flowering right now: ’tisn’t
the season. (This was Christmas Day.)
Feijoa trees flourish here. That’s part of the reason Auckland poet Michele Leggott’s ‘Nice Feijoas’ expresses this time of year in our town — when summer and autumn meet, around Eastertide — so well. (Part of the reason. Mangroves, swimming, changing light and a much-loved pet also come into it.) Her poem, like something burnished, reflects the changing light and lingers in the mind. I can’t get enough of it, just as I can’t get enough feijoas.

So what was I trying to say? That seasons overlap. That endings and beginnings aren’t necessarily separate, and they don’t always happen when people think they should. That nature may not be neat and tidy,** but by and large it gets things done. That summer isn’t completely gone; it’ll be back.


* The idiomatic expression “cut and dried”, meaning “completely settled; finally arranged”, relates to human dealings with another natural product. According to Brewers Dictionary of Modern Phrase and Fable, “The term arose in the early 20th century from an earlier literal sense applied to herbs sold in herbalists’ shops, as distinct from fresh, growing herbs.”

** The “tide” in Eastertide and the “tidy” in “neat and tidy” are related: they concern time. The Oxford Dictionary of Word Origins says that in Old English a tide was a period or season; people linked it with the sea only in the later medieval period. Middle English “tidy” meant “timely, seasonable, opportune” until the early eighteenth century.


  1. so a few food/gardening comments, as opposed to chook ones ...

    first: as a recipient of the apples, yum! - i'm someone who prefers eating apples to be eye-wateringly sour, & while these aren't that, they do have both the crunchy texture & the non-sweetness that are great; & having to cut out blemishes & wash off non-edible additions is all part of how we used to eat & enjoy food

    my most successful tomato crop this season i think has been the yellow "cherry" plant that grew all by itself from what was probably a not-completely-composted fruit - had a big handful in a salad last night & they seemed to have a better [firmer] texture & a nicer flavour than the others [also possible i was gifting them a better status]

    oh, & feijoas? - no thank you, "perfumed" not aromatic, & not better for it


  2. Yes, I guess 'perfumey' is the feijoa-hater's word, isn't it. 'Aromatic' makes it sound rather nice. Ah, well: all the more for me!