Tom and I live in 23 square metres, indoors. Outdoors, the space is more generous: 14 hectares of forest, paddocks and buildings that make up Makahuri. This fact is an enormous consolation right now.
This is the end of week 2 of lockdown. New Zealanders have to stay at home apart from essential trips such as to the supermarket or pharmacy. We have to stay with those in our “bubble”.
Tom, the other component in my bubble, is working from home, spared his usual long commute and doing all his tasks by way of internet.
I’m based at home, as always, staying busy. Most days, like today, I work on blog tasks and chores, and achieving my lockdown goals: learning how to edit video, and brushing up my German. Tom sits nearby, gazing at his own screen and signing in to a lot of work meetings online.
I’m still here. I haven’t blogged in three months, which means autumn has been and gone. Here is what’s happening at the Mustard Yellow House and the Paddock World it occupies.
The frosts, when they’ve hit, have iced the paddock, stiffened the frost cloth that I drape over the ambitiously chosen plants in our yard (papaya, passionfruit etc), but not yet frozen the pipes as they did once last winter.
But those frosty mornings grow into glorious middays when I can open the french doors on the north side and the dogs can spread out on the warmed-up carpet.
This week, Australia has kindly expelled a continent-size puff of its preposterously hot summer air and sent it floating across the Tasman Sea to settle on New Zealand.
I write to you from inside the sultriness — it’s now 31 deg C (88F), a throwback to last January, which was the hottest month in New Zealand’s history.
Right now, the fan is recharging, all windows and doors are open, Phoebe is hidden in the shady notch between couch and coffee table, and Connor is stretched out on the bathroom floor.
I’ve been putting ice cubes in the dogs’ water bowl and trying wet-towel wipes to help cool them.
Meanwhile, there’s plenty of breeze to cool a man’s singleted torso.
Apart from the heat wave, this summer has been pretty typical in its rhythms.
Grass growth in Paddock World stopped about two weeks ago — which means less mowing but also less mulch for the garden. I’ve taken to gathering cowpats and horse poo from the paddock to make a nutty poo tea to feed my plantings.
Rabbits are every-damn-where. Including, sadly, my Golden Garden, which I made to sit near the Rainbow Garden and colour-coordinate with the Mustard Yellow House. Cute bunnies have striated the flower bed and gnawed almost everything down to a nub. Undaunted, I’ll rethink and replant.
The pea fowl are near the end of their breeding season. There’s much less hooting at all hours of the night, apart from squawks from the remaining unmated desperates. The males lose all their eye-spotted trail feathers and become infertile till spring. Peabody, the semi-tame fellow whose territory includes Paddock World and nearby copses, lost his feathers in a matter of days, and now looks tiny.
Makahuri’s village garden is starting to burst with vegetables, including a ripening ton of tomatoes.
The Mustard Yellow House is in dire need of a spruce-up. Dust, sea salt and spider webs are dimming our beautiful house’s glow — so I’m determined to get out and give the place a scrub.
Frost, frozen pipes, muddy boots, drums at solstice, new life, new growth, new knowledge. Such has been our first winter at Makahuri in the Mustard Yellow House.
The coldest day of the year so far was June 22 — the first morning after the southern hemisphere winter solstice. The supposed “middle of winter” in fact comes early in the season, with two-thirds of it — and probably the coldest part of it — yet to come.
That morning, our paddock showed a new colour. Summer had brought dry brown, autumn bloomed greenly, but last Friday the grass and our outdoor possessions all gained the white of frost for the first time in our nine-and-a-half-months here.
Alexa, Tom asked, what’s the temperature? Minus two, she replied.