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Family home from above

To share some recent pleasures….

 Cherry picking

We’ve been up the hill behind Mani’s old family home, picking Brother Hans’ cherries.


We shared the orchard paddock with a flock of sheep brought in to keep the grass down.   They were very interested in our progress  – and the ram contemplated a dominance contest with Mani.   The ram backed down first.

I remembered the old ram who, in his off-duty season, roamed our orchard on the farm at Dalefield (NZ).  Once you’d climbed up a tree to gather plums, you couldn’t get down again without throwing enough offerings to distract him.  That was a wonderful orchard – planted by my great grandfather.  To put myself to sleep I sometimes count the varieties of fruit trees there…five types of apples, seven of plums, three pears…. Far better than counting sheep, or old rams!

To the cherry trees  …  last year, it was a brilliant crop.  This year, not.  One tree had no fruit at all, and the other had a very light crop, so we picked what we could.    They blame the bees – or rather the lack of them.  The trees flowered brilliantly, but there was a cold snap which kept the bees in the hive, and anyway the numbers in the hives are seriously diminished.  How can we farm bees?   There’s possibly some hope though, in research they’re doing here on the varroa mite.   For more on the cherries, and Inge’s cherry cake recipe, have a look at my parallel blog on Healthy Hedonism.  Blogging is another pleasure!  And have you noticed the Good Books box left of this blog?  That’s where I’m posting book reviews to now.

The Damnation of Faust

Margrit, Inge and I took our annual pilgrimage to the Kloster at St Gallen. Somehow there’s some theological irony in the operas they stage there: last year was Il Diluvio (Noah’s Flood) – this year Berlioz’s Damnation of Faust.

Devlish dancers heading to their appearance

It was a fascinating production.    I’d always thought that Marguerite was indeed pure,  but in this version she is a seemingly willing pawn of Mephistopheles, chuckling as he schools her in the delivery of her responses to Faust. In the final scene, her headdress looks like angels’ wings, as she sits on a swing. But under her white skirt is a flash of scarlet petticoat – and (for me at least) the swing carries the mixed message of childish innocence and burlesque prop.  I need to go back to Goethe.

Anyway –  marvellous spectacle, and the six male dancers who played the imps were splendidly devilish and clearly had a brilliant time.

Photography was banned during the performance, so some of the ones in the Gallery below are from their website.

Biking into the past

Joseph’s cottage

Out gathering Wiessen Gaissen Bart (Field Goats Beard, or  more familiarly, Meadowsweet) the other day, we stopped at a decaying once-grand house which in Mani’s youth was still inhabited by its owners. The back cottage was home to Joseph, who taught Mani to paint at the table which is still there.   Learning to handle oil points at 9 or 10 years old was a great start  –  though it wasn’t for 40 or so years that he started painting again.

Painting table

The Wiessen Gaissen Bart smells wonderfully of almonds (happily not of goats!), so stripping its flowers into a bag for tincture is a lovely experience. The tincture is good against aches and pains from things like flu, rheumatism,sciatica and Hexenschuss.

Weissen Gaissen Bart (Meadowsweet)

We need a word like Hexenschuss in English!  It translates as “witch’s jab”  – so it’s that sharp stabbing pain that comes out of nowhere.  You can use the tincture as a foot bath for hard skin too.  We’ve planted some round our little lake in Kapiti, to get a New Zealand supply going.

Then we biked back along the lake-side track, and up the Alten Rhein. The lake is full, and the ferry is having no trouble getting up it to Rheineck.   This time last year, only the fishing boats could pass.

Ah!! Final pleasure – home to the deck chairs!

Alten Rhein 2012

Alten Rhein 2011, from the same spot