No matter how hard I’ve tried not to, I’ve learned a lot about New Zealand since moving here.
Take gardening, for example. I didn’t know until recently what a popular hobby it is in New Zealand.
Everyone’s doing it. Buying shovels, coming home late at night, digging holes in dark corners and putting something I couldn’t quite make out (but looked quite bulky) in said hole.
Plus, there’s composting. I bet most Kiwis get into gardening just for the compost heaps.
Now, if you grew up in the Bronx, as I did, you’d think gardening was strictly reserved for that guy down the block with his shirt tucked into pleated suit pants pulled up to just under his man-breasts, the guy who always bragged that his was the best homemade wine in the neighborhood and he’d let you try some if you went down into his basement.
But you’d be wrong: gardening isn’t just for creepy loners who produce consistently bold, complex Cabernet Sauvignons year after year after year despite whatever else the police might say.
Gardening is for everyone.
And as the weather in Auckland plods tepidly into summer, I find the thumbs I’ve been sitting on all year have turned green for whatever reason.
It was Jacquie that turned me on to “the scene.” She’d already bought a bunch of flora for the deck, including a young olive tree (pictured).
One day we were reading in the lounge.
“Do you mind if I read some of my gardening magazine out loud?” she said.
“––,” I said.
She started in on an article about mulch. After she finished, she took her watering-can (pictured) and poured it over my face to wake me up. Then she started in on the next article and when she was done with that she took her watering-can and poured it over my face. This must have gone on for two or three hours before she got to a feature that caught my interest. It was about the joys of pulling potatoes out of the earth.
“Wow,” I said.
“I know,” Jacquie said. “Have you ever watched potatoes being dug out of the ground?”
“Once, but unfortunately they had to re-buried right away.”
That’s only partly true.
There was a small courtyard behind the house I grew up in, a cobbled area for us and the neighbors to park our cars.
And there was a narrow plot of dirt back there, hemmed in by thorny roses and an apple tree that produced very sour fruit.
And once in a while, my parents tried to plant vegetables.
And one morning we got a rooster instead. We don’t know where it came from, but it mysteriously vanished a few days later, on what turned out to be what my mother called “Stuffed Capon Night.”
So as far as my experience with gardens is concerned, sometimes it was famine, sometimes it was Meat Week, but I never saw potatoes being dug out of the ground.
Well, that’s all in the past now. And if there’s anything I’ve learned recently it’s that the past is better off in the past.
These days, I’m all about helping around our nascent garden, in sort of a hands-off, supervisory role, with a concentration in quality control.