Jane's Delicious Garden Blog

A Valie move

Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the March 28th, 2009

I was in Pringle Bay last weekend for Ali’s birthday and launch of her restaurant, Perigators. We picked up a hired car at the airport when we arrived on Saturday. Being cautious Gautengers, we brought our own gorilla bar cos we knew the hire car would likely have no alarm system. Which it didn’t.

On Sunday afternoon I arrived at the party and popped the gorilla bar on the steering wheel. My book had luckily arrived in the warehouse just before we left Jo’burg, so I had a copy to give Ali. It was the first time I have given anyone a copy of my book and I wasn’t prepared for Ali’s tears of pride and joy. Then everyone wanted to look. A little while later I heard someone mention a Yarris. I had heard someone say something about a white Toyota earlier but it didn’t register. The Yarris did. Also the tone of frustration. Apparently this Yarris had been obnoxiously hooting for about half an hour. We couldn’t hear it inside because of the music but everyone outside could – very loudly. I grabbed my keys and of course it was the hired Yarris. The gorilla bar had slipped over the hooter and its horrendous noise had been blasting across gentle Pringle Bay. I didn’t say a thing about any gorilla bar when I went back to the party. I just muttered something about silly hired cars and felt like such a Valie.

Zimbabwe hope

Posted in Travels by Jane Griffiths on the March 28th, 2009

Keith and I were in Zimbabwe last week filming a documentary for a Swedish NGO. They have been implementing a drought mitigation programme aimed at smallholder farmers. We hear so much bad news about Zim that it was very uplifting to meet healthy, self sufficient farmers who are positive about their future. We travelled more than 2,000kms around the country filming the project at all the different levels. Many of the methods these farmers are being taught are the same ones I use in my garden.

Eating sadza and mealies under a cerulean African sky, sitting on the stoep of a sun baked hut, we talked about our gardens. The simple act of growing our own food linked us across culture and country. On our final day, just before driving back to Harare from Masvingo, we were detained by the Central Intelligence Organisation, Bob’s secret police. A bit scary but they let us go after a couple of hours of hassling us. The one guy, who was writing down all the details from our passports asked Keith my father’s full name. Keith, trying to remember, said “Um, Gordon, . . . something? Griffiths” He had to stifle a laugh when the guy diligently wrote down my father’s name as Gordon Something Griffiths. So I am officially (in Zimbabwe at least) the daughter of Something. The delay made us miss our flight and get home a day late. We had the full Zimbabwean experience . . .

Baby boom

Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the March 5th, 2009

Our double storey house is covered from head to toe with Virginia creeper. This living coating provides many delights – and surprises. After a winter of bare skeletal wrapping, translucent green buds unfurl into newborn leaves until the entire house is covered with layers of vivid green.
The slightest breeze lifts the leaves, making the walls ripple and dance in the wind. New growth shoots out, colonising any empty space. If we left it, all our windows would soon be covered with green creeper curtains.

In early summer tiny green seeds are produced , like miniature grapes. These start trickling down the walls until they become a seed avalanche, sounding like a waterfall. The creeper is home to an entire ecosystem. Spiders are frequent visitors and I have gradually calmed my panic about sharing my space with a creature I grew up being terrified of. Every now and then a praying mantis will come inside and lay its foam egg casing on curtains or tucked inside a handbag. We will wake up one morning to a hatching: hundreds of spidery, baby praying mantises (manti? mantids?) scurrying, hopping and floating across the bathroom. We have worked out the most efficient methods of catching these elusive little creatures and carrying them onto their mommy’s creeper. It is quite an interesting excuse for being late – “Sorry, but I was rescuing the praying mantis’ babies . . .’ A Zulu woman once told me that it was very lucky to have them hatch inside. It meant that money was going to come. But to ensure that the money comes, I need to put the empty egg casing into my wallet.

By late summer the leaves are starting to curl on the edges as senescence sets in.
Within weeks the house is alight with a blaze of reds and oranges, each leaf a picture perfect ode to autumn. Sweeping seems endless as the creeper gradually sheds its summer dress and again lays bare its bony fingered winter embrace. These leaves are precious, a gift from the house to the garden, as they rot down into nutritious mould to feed the hungry vegetables.