Living in the countryside is learning how to dance with chaos. Where our life in the city was a tightly choreographed ballet of appointments and plans, our other life in the countryside is improvised, loose, freeform.
You never know what the day has planned for you when you wake up.
A tree blown down in the middle of the night. The sudden arrival of snowy cherry blossoms. The death of a beloved chicken (RIP Explorer Biscuit) or the smallest peeps and flurry of activity in the coop signalling the arrival of a new duckling.
Walk into your kitchen and there could well be your plumber who’s popped in for a cup of tea and to collect a cheque. Or you could find your eldest son missing, having been taken to the movies by a neighbour since they were passing by your house on the way there.
I’ve learned to make it up as I go along. And also to always wear a nightie around the house (although the plumber did give me a generous discount that one time…).
Now I “plan” my dinner by surveying the vegetable patch and what’s left in the fridge. This week we had an abundance of zucchini in the garden. Masses of papery lantern like blossoms on shiny car-enamel yellow stalks. When you have zucchini, you really have zucchini. It’s like that old country joke that you know you have no friends if you’ve got to buy your own zucchini. I’ve been known to push eggs and veg on my friends until one of them shrieked “Stop! You’ve become a produce-pusher!”
So I made a feathery light tempura batter spiked with curry powder and sea salt and fried these gorgeous flowers up. The secret is cold cold sparkling water and mixing it in a lumpy fashion.
The kids loved it, I’ve never seen them fight over zucchini before!
Another improv memory – we came back from an overseas trip and realised we had nothing to eat. Then my friend Imogen texted me to say that she had seen a huge smoked eel at the fishmongers and bought it for me and dropped it off in my fridge as I was the only person she knew who would appreciate such a cadeau. I was overjoyed! That night I made smoked eel cakes, mashing the eel with potatoes and onions and then fried up some silver beet from the the garden with tomato passata, red wine and simmered lentils. The Irishman declared it one of his favourite meals ever. (That’s Imogen below saying “The eel was THIS big!”)
And one of my favourite unplanned memories of 2013 was our pop-up lunch party. We were supposed to go to our neighbours house for a long lunch, when their water tank broke. “What shall we do?” said Anne. Well the answer was obvious. So we ended up hosting a party for 20 or so adults and children on a magical sunny afternoon.
The kids borrowed swimsuits and played in the sprinklers, rowed in the dam, chased the chickens about and picked sugar plums in the orchard for dessert.
There was a race and a talent show.
And of course there was much rolling down the hill in billy carts, bikes, ride ons, skateboards and tractors.
“This is magic!” one of the kids shouted. Dylan stood in the wind, arms outstretched as if trying to harness the wind.
Can there be anything better than unplanned perfection? Cheers to 2014 and to all the surprises it holds, I can’t wait.