‘A bit on the side’ a.k.a. ‘The answer’s a lemon’
Graham R. Cooper
We’ve a bountiful year round supply of fruit, vegetables and meat. Omnivores of a ‘grow your own’ complexion, who also like to shop now and then for ‘a bit on the side’.
June grows a truly diverse profusion of vegetables. And goats and cows in the paddocks mean beef and goat on the plate. Also there’s fruit through the seasons: berries, pip and stone fruit. If not fresh, then frozen or bottled.
But what about when we succumb to temptation and fancy ‘a bit on the side’? Well, we’ll buy bananas, lemons, mushrooms, fresh fish, bacon and sausages.
Global warming’s hotting up, but there’s still a ways to go before we can go out the back door and lop off a bunch of bananas with a machete. Like most people, we’re not exempt from banana cravings. In fact, I heard on the radio a while back that more bananas are consumed worldwide than any other fruit. They’re high in potassium too, a trace element our soils are deficient in.
Bacon adds bursts of intense flavour to so many dishes, and for a slap-up lunch you can’t beat bacon, eggs, tomato, fried potato, mushrooms and homemade wholemeal bread. Bacon’s the pig meat we miss most now that we no longer fatten up a couple of pigs.
The butcher makes beef sausages for us after the mobile abattoir’s been to our place and slaughtered one of our cattle beasts. Without our pork ones to add to the supply, we run out of sausages before the next lot of beef is in the freezer. That’s when we buy free range sausages to tide us over.
On Saturday nights we like to make our own ‘takeaway’ – fried sausages and oven baked chips with added salt, vinegar, homemade tomato sauce, and buttered bread on the side, all served up on luncheon paper. After a hot bath, you’re pretty chilled out as you swill it down with black tea while watching an episode of ‘Country Calendar’.
We’re a couple of months away from having our next cattle beast done and we ran out of sausages a while back. So at the moment we’ll eat bought sausages one Saturday and fish the next.
The fish is either hoki or red cod. They’re the cheapest fillets we can get at the supermarket, and they’ve not been overfished as much as most species. Once we’re back to eating our own sausages, fish will come in tins or be relegated for the most part to fish ‘n’ chips bought in Pleasant Point on our way home from a day in Timaru.
We stock up on kilogram blocks of cheddar and Colby cheese, canned sardines, fish flakes, salmon, and baked beans on our monthly trip to Timaru. Sardines, baked beans, or cheese on toast are quick lunches we enjoy. Fish flakes make for a quick and economical dinner of fish pie, and tinned salmon is great in sandwiches for picnics.
Come autumn and we’re on the hunt for field mushrooms. They’ve been disappointingly few and far between of recent years. Like bacon, they give so many dishes a lift that, occasionally, we resort to buying them in.
Lemons are the bought-in fresh food item always to hand. And we like to eat a couple of Brazil nuts every day to supplement the selenium that’s in short supply in our soils.
There’s nothing ‘Brazil nut’ tropical about our climate, but we did have visions of a tree heavy laden with lemons in the backyard. We only ever planted the hardiest lemon of them all down here: the Meyer can tolerate several minus six Celsius nights in a row.
We’d choose a sheltered, sunny site before spending a small fortune on the healthiest looking planter bag potted Meyer lemon bush we could find. Everything was done ‘by the book’, including covering it on frosty winter nights.
Three down and one to go? Cynic! As the poet said, “hope springs eternal”. There are limits though.
Around ten years ago, we lost all hope, eternal or otherwise, of plucking lemons from OUR bush – number four having succumbed to a string of frosts in the minus ten range. That was despite being covered, in a greenhouse (admittedly unheated), and looking established after experiencing few setbacks in its first four years. So yes, in our case it’s as the saying goes, “the answer’s a lemon”.
One of our answers has been to keep the fridge’s fresher draw well-stocked with bought lemons, rationing ourselves only when prices are ridiculously high. Another has been to quickly avert our eyes whenever we see, at the front of someone’s house, bushes groaning under their lemon burden.
But the best answer of all has been to heap praise on son Joseph, a two and a bit hour drive away in milder climes. He’s doing a brilliant job of nurturing a young lemon bush he planted three years ago. We look forward to bountiful harvests. I’m sure we’ll thank him profusely for his contribution to our ‘bit on the side’.
That’s all on modern-day homesteading at Little Owl Gully till next Monday. Thanks for your company. Bye for now.