Flanders Poppies

We are in peak Poppy season now with a lovely display of colour throughout the garden. Over the years I have selected only the single petaled variety, removing the doubles as they appear, I let the doubles flower, but remove the seed heads before they ripen.

There are hundreds of poppy varieties, but I really love the single intense red variety. Particularly the one with the black centre. I’m not so keen on the white centred variety of the same flower, so I have slowly removed that one as well. I just love the contrast of the black with the bright red.

These wild flowers just suit themselves where they grow, but they love to come up where the soil has been disturbed, ie, dug over, just like in a garden bed. They will come up in the orchard and sometimes in the lawn too, but all the wild life around here love them just as much as I do and they get eaten off pretty quickly. I doubt that there is any opium in the young leaves of the seedlings, but the locals seem to love them. The don’t stand a chance if they are not fenced. They must seem like junk food or cake to a kangaroo. They seek them out and selectively nibble them down to the ground.

I have selected a few slightly different shades of red over time, from pale orange red to dark claret crimson, but I love the fire engine red the most.

Some yers back I scattered a few poppy seeds around, down in the vineyard among the rows of cabinet sauvignon. I had this romantic idea of there being rows of grapes and an understory of crimson red flowers. Something like you might see in an impressionist painting. Well that was a very nice idyl on my part. Dream on Walter!.

They grew quite well in there as it was a fenced off area to keep all the locals out. The rabbits, wallabies, kangaroos, and wombats. They all like to graze on tender grape vine shoots and tendrils. The fence worked, but there was some thing that I hadn’t counted on. Wood ducks! The wild wood ducks figured out that they could fly in, swooping down low and land length wise in-between the rows of vines, just like a landing strip. They spent the day in there. Grazing on the poppies in the morning, and then lay about chatting amongst them selves for the rest of the day. After that first year, and my cunning plan was discovered by the ducks. I never got another poppy from the vineyard. Such is life!

These days the local wildlife cleans up any attempt to grow poppies out in the open areas of lawn. Poppies only thrive inside the protective surrounds of the aesthetic environment of the garden with its totally netted protective cover. A bit like artists in the larger society!

I enjoy my little hobby of supporting and protecting this delicate and vulnerable species. It’s a bit like being a patron of the arts. We have so many poppy flowers at the moment that Janine picks a few each day and puts them in a vase in the kitchen and bathroom. The only survive for a day and start dropping petals by the evening. They are looking pretty drowsy by the next day and comatose in the evening. Luckily we have a lot of them just now and we can afford to replace them each alternative day.

My own little memento mori! Life is short and can be brutal. Enjoy the beauty while you can.

Last Truffle of the Season

It’s so wonderful to be home again. I love being away somewhere exotic, learning something new and having experiences that lead me to make synaptic connections that I hope will lead to new ideas.

I really like to be back in my own kitchen too. I was very happy eating steamed and stir fried vegetables with offal every meal while in China. I cook a lot of steamed and stir fried veggies my self. I do tend to go a bit light on the intestines though, most, if not all of the time. Actually totally all of the time.

I’m back just in time to get the last truffle of the season. It was harvested while I was in China. My son Geordie kept it for me while I was away. He had it in his fridge for a week, safely stashed in a sealed container with 4 eggs on a bed of rice.

The weather has warmed up a lot this last week. I’m pretty sure that the last frost has gone. We have planted out a lot of summer veggies in the open in the garden. If I had been at home, I would have got some early seedlings planted out under my portable shrink-wrapped closhes a few weeks earlier.

We shared the truffle with Geordie, half each. It is a real beauty, so aromatic! A wonderfull, deep, earthy, sensuous, almost hormonal fragrance.

We decided to make scrambled eggs with shaved truffle and some garden fresh asparagus. Perfect!

I steamed the asparagus for a couple of minutes, quckiy drained and sautéed in a bit of butter with course ground salt and fresh ground pepper. Pretty yummy by itself, but totally excellent in combination with the truffled eggs.

I served it with a few shavings of piquant pecorino for balance.

I’m so glad to be back in the kitchen! The truffle was so big that we were able to get another meal out of it and have a repeat the next day for lunch. This time with a small glass of very fragrant and complex, wooded chardonnay.

It’s a hard life. But someone has to live it. I quite like being retired!

Clean air in Shanghai

I’m recently back from China. It’s my 4th trip there in 15 years. I’m always amazed. Each time for different reasons.This time I was amazed how clean the air was. We had only 3 days of smog during the month. On previous trips in had some days where I found it hard to breath. Maybe their efforts to clean up their environment are working? But I don’t travel regularly enough to know. It just could be good luck?

This is Shanghai where we arrived and spent a day in the museum. We were there at the Museum before the doors opened and stayed inside looking at everything until they asked us to leave when they closed the doors.The Museum was a very popular destination it seems, as there were already a 1000 people in the queue to get in when we arrived early. Everything beautifully organised with people queueing in a very orderly fashion, in the zig,zag, hurdles, just as you get in airports to keep it all neat and orderly. As it was 38oC the Museum had placed water misting fans at various places along the queueing system to help keep us cool. There were also a few industrious folk selling very cold water in bottles from ice filled ‘eskyies’.
The Museum had erected shade covers all along the lines of waiting patrons. It was all most impressive.

The Museum was great. It’s a good collection, of course I was especially interested in the ceramics, which didn’t disappoint. I won’t bore you with too many images, suffice to say that there was too much to see and 7 hours wasn’t enough, but was too long, in the way that we get when we spend a long time in Museums. We get museum blindness, so after 2 or 3 hours we have to find the coffee shop. Which doesn’t exist in China, not even in Shanghai with all its international flavour and influences. So I spent a month without real coffee, or any coffee at all. No big deal. There was a product by that name, but it wasn’t coffee!I got used to weak green tea. Quite different from the Japanese super strong, slightly slippery, alkaline tasting, high caffeine, sen cha. The Chinese green leaf tea is mild by comparison. We got through the day with just 2 art-blindness, sit-down, recovery breaks.

This was a nice pot!

This begonia? bowl looked to me to be every bit like a simple microcline or possibly a plagioclase felspar and water, kind of pink blushed shino glaze. I wouldn’t have called it a celadon, but hey. What would I know? It appeared to be very low in calcium with no hint of green about it.Colour me confused. It was a really gorgeous pot!
This was a very nice opalescent glazed object. Interesting use of both ‘zun’ and ‘jun’ in the English translation of the Chinese?

It had a lovely depth to the milky opalescence. I’d have a guess at there being 1or 2% phosphorous in there somewhere, as bone ash, with the rest being 2/3 , or 3/4 felspar and another 1/3rd , or 1/4 ash? Somewhere between 2:1 and 4:1.


This Guan bowl was also very nice. Pity about the images through smudgy fingerprinted glass.

This is a superb pot. I really like guan ware. No! I love them! They really hit my Ge Spot. I’m an old guy and I have an old guys tastes. As always, I am principally interested in all the oldest pots. I start to loose interest at about the Ming. Maybe that is when my blood sugars start to run low:)

So that’s it. I won’t bore you with any more. That’s 7 hours and 1000 images condensed into a 5 minute read, and 12 images.
I didn’t go to spend too much time in Shanghai. It just happened to be where the airport was on this trip. I haven’t been there before, other than in transit. My real interest was in getting out into the country side to visit the smaller pottery towns and villages. Our next stop was to check out some celadon wares.