Growin’ In The Wind

Autumn

Plant growth in the allotment has slowed down considerably and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we weren’t too late getting the winter veggies in. Not only are the days getting shorter but because the sun is lower in the sky, the garden shed tends to block out some of the morning sun. That was a bit of an oversight on our part – we built it in summer. Fortunately it only affects the two beds nearest the shed and I haven’t planted any winter crops in them. We’ve planted the usual stuff: winter cabbage, broccoli (never can remember how to spell that), cauliflower, a couple of brussel sprout seedlings (not many of the seeds germinated and no-one is particularly crazy about them anyway, except for my mum), leek, kale (which I’m growing for the first time) and onion. I forgot to order garlic this year and I think it’s too late now (damn). But I’ve got some garlic cloves and ginger in my veggie rack that are sprouting, so I’m going to plant them and see what happens.

The autumn veggies were hopeless this year. All the pumpkin, butternut and squash rotted on the vines – too much rain, methinks. The brinjal (aubergine) plants are looking healthy but all the fruit has burst open, again too much rain at the wrong time. And the carrot and beetroot were tasteless, not sure why.

So, all I have to do now is sow some broad beans to harvest in spring; get trenches composted for some asparagus crowns that I’m going to transplant in early spring; mulch what is left in the beds with tagetes minuta (khakibos) which grows wild here and is very effective in keeping the nunus away; keep everything watered and basically forget about it until winter is over. This is just as well because I have a wedding reception to plan.

Kiera and James have set a date in December to have a small shindig at the farm to celebrate their wedding which took place in Washington DC in November 2011, without any family or friends present. I’m not sure that, if it were left up to them, they would bother but I confess that I have nagged and finally it is possible for them to take leave and travel to South Africa. And we are so delighted that James’ family will also be making the trip out here. We are very fond of them and I feel so lucky that my daughter has married into such a like-minded family.

I’ve always valued the use of ritual as a means to share life-experiences and build common memories. I think that it creates a sense of belonging which, as you have probably gathered by now, is very important to me. Religion usually plays this role but I grew up in a nonreligious home and we tended to celebrate religious holidays with the emphasis more on being together as a family. When I was a child Sundays were family days, ending with cards games played around the dining room table in the evening; and we always spent Christmas together at home. Christmas lunch was always a big production, the pièce de résistance being the flaming Christmas pudding.

When I became a parent, I tried to introduce our own family rituals. I was very aware that being raised in a nonreligious home can put children at a disadvantage, in as much as when I was a child I often felt that the other kids knew something that I didn’t  So I decided to read to Kiera and Alex every morning before school from Buddha’s Little Instruction Book! Little gems like: “When asked, “Are you a god or a man?” the Buddha replied, “I am awake.” That ritual, as I recall, did not last very long. But there were other rituals that did, like having dinner at a properly laid table most evenings; tea and watching Rugrats every afternoon at 4; family holidays every year at the same time and same place (Umngazi); and Christmas Eve dinner with family and friends (always the same menu, always the best china, always Judy’s mum’s trifle and always opening our presents that evening after everyone had left).

Christmas Eve dinner with Grandpa Bill

Christmas Eve dinner with Grandpa Bill

Alex was there as well

Alex was there too

Alex on the booze cruise at Umngazi in 2005

Alex on the booze cruise at Umngazi in 2005

Kiera's 21st at Umngazi

Kiera’s 21st at Umngazi

And a wedding, of course, is a ritual and once again we have to make this one up since Kiera and James are already married, they are not religious and they are not concerned about tradition. I think we would all agree that Kiera and James’s wedding reception should reflect who they are but there are a couple of problems in executing this. Firstly I’m organising it from a distance and it is very tempting to slant it my way. When I got a bit carried away with ideas about entertainment (I was quite keen on a drumming circle) Alex asked me rather pointedly whose wedding this was, Kiera’s or mine (and I did notice that James didn’t get mentioned). The other problem is that apart from the menu, Kiera and James are not too fussed about the other details. Kiera has never shown any interest in weddings; she was never one of those girls who kept a scrapbook of her perfect wedding and as I mentioned before, if she could get away with not having one that would be the route she would go. But I think she agrees that from the family point of view, it’s important to have one.  And of course it’s very important that I get to be “mother of the bride” after all.

Kiera and James on their wedding day

Kiera and James on their wedding day

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