Sunday, February 04, 2007

On a Mission

It New Zealand had a yuppie Woodstock, it would be the Mission. The annual Mission concert, held on a hillside next to the Mission Estate Winery (btw, the country's oldest winery and still owned by the church) attracts thousands from across NZ and even Oz. It's the one weekend of the year when all the hotels, motels, campgrounds, spare bedrooms and even basements are booked months in advance.

They come for the vibe, the weather and the wine, oh and maybe some music to drink by. The live act who actually plays seems to make little difference, judging by the fact that people buy tickets months in advance before the artist is even announced, and the artists have varied from Rod Stewart to Dion Warwick and Olivia Newton John to Eric Clapton, this year's guest. People queue up for hours before the gates open at 3pm (drinking as they wait as BYO chilly bins are de rigueur) and then make the mad dash for the best "pozzie" on the hill. Then they sit and wait and drink some more as the main attraction doesn't even step on the stage until 8:30pm. I say main attraction because people watching is a lively distraction with groups dressed up in different theme outfits, pink hatted ladies and orange jumpsuit clad Tui Beer Men to name a few.

This year's concert stirred up a bit of controversy as the drunken crowd was a bit upset that Eric failed to greet them with a "Hello Hawkes Bay" or "it's great to be here in New Zealand." He also didn't play his most famous song "Tears in Heaven" but I hear he never does for personal reasons. But perhaps he was a bit pissed himself for other reasons before he went on stage. It seems the lovely Mission Winery folk failed to tell him that every year they bottle a special wine with the concert artist's image. Clapton, himself a recovering alcoholic and staunch supporter of addiction support groups, was flabergasted to find some Clapton Chardonnay waiting for him in the green room and threatened to get back on his helicopter and skip the show. After a few lawyerly phone calls were exchanged, the Mission pulled the cork on the contraband and persuaded their guest to stay and sing a few songs. Like I said, the music is almost an after thought at this thing. But any excuse for a picnic is fine by me.

Gift from the garden

Just when I think I have a handle on what's in my inherited garden here, it presents me with another surprise. This time one of the tasty kind. As I was weeding my little front tropical garden I spotted something surprisingly familiar...a strawberry! In the oddest of surroundings (in a raised flower bed filled with palms and agapanthus grasses and blooms) are at least three tiny strawberry plants, with one offering it's first fruit of the season, which just goes to show that even if you do absolutely nothing and are in fact completely oblivious, you can still grow some great stuff! Now I'm motivated to attempt my first propagation and make those berries multiply!

Monday, January 15, 2007


anyone who knows me, know what my favorite flowers are. And now I have my own! In several colors.

In Bloom

Along with veggies, we've also got some local color. These big blue, pom-pom like flowers are called Agapanthas and grow nearly like weeds here. I have, as they say, heaps of them in blue and white. They are pretty but can get a bit big and the stems are nearly as tall as I am. Some of these may be coming out of the garden next year.

After the rain this week, I made another floral discovery in the garden. A pink cyclamen. This one may be a keeper.

How does your garden grow?

Pretty well, I'd say for a first timer. my first batch of lettuces and arugula are nearly done and the Roma tomatoes are just about to turn red. Soon we'll have more radishes, spring onions, peppers and eggplant. I have learned that summer squashes take up a bit more space than I anticipated and have to be tamed.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Old traditions in a new place

Paul licking the spoon while making Pepparkakar (Swedish ginger thin cookies) and digging into Swedish meatballs before a Christmas Eve feast.

Signs of a Kiwi Christmas

first bloom in the garden...

a silly hat worn for Christmas dinner at the beach...

and a shell-decorated tree with a view of the sea

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Te Muna

Te Muna means special or secret place in Maori, and our Te Muna vineyard in Martinborough lives up to that name. Pictures don't do it justice.

The party after the party

What do you drink after pouring wine all day to drunk festival goers? Beer, and better wine than they got of course. We keep some of the best stuff aside for staff and the bigger the bottle the better!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

A Taste of Toast

Toast Martinborough, that is. New Zealand's oldest and appropiately named wine festival is a one-day salute to the region's best Pinot Noir, Riesling, Sav Blanc and Port-a-Loos. Tickets to the festival are limited to a few thousand and sell out in a matter of minutes each year. Wine glass-toting ticket holders travel from winery to winery on shuttle buses or by foot to pay anywhere from $3 for a taste to $15 a glass to drink the local juice.

Although Craggy's winery and cellar door are located in Hawkes Bay, where we live, our largest company vineyard is in Martinborough so every year a motley crew of employees, friends of employees and significant others make the 3 hour drive down to Martinborough to work the festival. This year Paul and I were among them. Since we don't have a vistor center or winery in Martinborough, we rent out a rugby pitch (field), marquees (big tents) and hire (rent) a host of props, cooking equipment and assorted odds and ends from the locals. (ironically enough located at the corner of New York and Broadway Streets)

But it just wouldn't be the Craggy way to put up a tent and table and call it a day. No, every year the vineyard crew literally plants a minivineyard with 4 rows of sav blanc vines along the entrance pathway. Then we bring in a truckload of trees, lavender, potted flowers, and linens to bring our temporary home up to snuff. The empty truck then becomes a stage for NZ faves the Tropical Downbeat Orchestra and DJ Mikey from Wellington who had the drunken masses cavorting until the last glass was emptied.

By the end of the day, we had sold over $60,000 worth of wine, wood-fired flatbreads and house-made ice creams. But once you factor in the hireage fees, lodging for 20 employees and other costs, we barely broke even. But we didn't care because we were headed for our own notorious after party...

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Paul's new toy

Yep, it's a lawn mower. But not just any lawn mower, this one runs on Paul power. No petrol. Also doubles as a good cardio+strength workout since our lawn is one big hill. Now if we just had some real grass. As we learned on the innagural run of the Masport 2000, we have more weeds than actual grass. And to make matters worse, they grow sideways. So when you mow it, it looks fine until you try to rake. Then, as Paul says, it looks like the lawn has a bad comb over.

Guess we'll have to wait til fall to plant some lawn seed. Til then our lawn is a bit like Donald Trump.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Mucking in

Mucking in, getting stuck in, whatever you call it, we spent the weekend getting into the garden. It really defies description, so I'm going to rely heavily on pictures. Much of it is native trees, palms, ferns and other tropical-looking things that neither of us have any idea what to do with. We figured a good place to start would be getting rid of the dead looking stuff though, and that was more than a weekend's worth of work pulling out and raking up the dead fronds, leaves and branches, revealing lots of new and also unidentifiable stuff. Obviously, that must be the good stuff, so we watered and put down compost on the most promising looking specimens and will sit back and wait and see what develops. Please excuse our oh-so-fashionable gardening attire. We've both designated a couple "gardening only" outfits in order to keep all the dirt and allergy causing nasties outside. Paul also thought gardening would be a good time to counteract his everlasting golfer's tan by cutting off his tee-shirt. No worries, rest assured the garden is well fenced and private so he's not showing off his muscles to anyone but me and the bees.

Meanwhile, what I thought were just tropical grasses in the front garden have now started sprouting lillies! I could hardly contain my excitment long enough to snap a picture.