Last Saturday marked the Winter Solstice for us southern hemisphere dwellers and that can only mean one thing.
Well, if you want to be picky, it means a variety of things of which the need for the artful layering of clothing, employing a torch for the final paddock check of the day and answering the conundrum of where the first half of the year went are but a few; however, all that aside, the one thing we are alluding to is garlic; more specifically the planting thereof.
As Homestead dishes tend to be a little heavy on this ingredient and previous plantings have been both successful and quickly exhausted, it was decided to go all out this year. Thus, a substantial number of bulbs were purchased from our friends at Country Trading, gently separated into cloves, and lovingly nestled into their nominated site. When that space was jam-packed another garden bed was turned over to garlic propagation, then another, then parts of another and so on until cloves were being rammed, haphazardly and to the accompaniment of slightly hysterical laughter, into any garden space not already occupied.
Over lunch in which that humble allium did not feature (and once the barrage of predictable vampire jokes had dissipated) it was decided it was indeed fortuitous we were in for a week in which our extended family ties were to be well exercised as, come 21 December aka Harvest Day, the resultant fumes from a fruitful crop would reduce the number of folk willing to be around us to only those with a familial obligation. Thank everything influential for extended whanau (family) of whom we have seen much this last week.
Monday morning saw the beginning of a flying visit from one quarter of the Dover Division, namely the Milk Maid’s big little bro, Uncle Mike. Here on business and, alas, minus his three girls, he arrived on the Homestead doorstep with travel bugged eyes and heap of catching up to be had. With all the amazing technology available to us, it is still heartening to find that no number of texts, facebooks, skypes, phone calls, emails et al can replace the good old, cross the dining table, coffee-in-hand chinwag.
We’d barely seen him off to his lodgings at Westend Manor, than our dinner guests, The Elders, arrived having hitched a ride in the Homestead mobile with The Renovator. These recently established, weekly communions have quickly become a cornerstone of the Homestead diary; occasions guaranteed to provoke great debate, discussion and decibels. Sometimes conversation etiquette is followed and other times not, but it always makes for a thought provoking evening and is the stuff of which families are cemented.
On Tuesday, a Homestead quorum donned their gladrags (well, we put on our best jeans, at least) and were treated to an evening of musical magnificence in the shape of Sing South. If the venue, the colloquially named Cardboard Cathedral, the repertoire and musicality wasn’t exciting enough, we had the head spinning, awe inspiring, pride-imploding, glory of being (affect valley girl accent) like, actually, totes magoats and defo (enough of this silliness…ahem)related to one of the songstresses. Miss Jacq Dee, you sing like an angel; don’t forget the humble Homestead when fame knocks on your door.
We had the day off family affairs on Wednesday in order to stow the mountain of firewood delivered (at the crack of dawn) in our ramshackle garage before the forecast rain arrived. It was all hands on deck and double time, and the exhausted and staturely challenged stackers had barely lobbed the final logs onto the summit a la Valerie Adams before the first humongous raindrops spattered down. It is notable that this is the first time in three years our firewood stacking day has not been interrupted by an earthquake; we can now say with conviction that the stack is there to stay, adding strength to our sagging garage and promising warmth for many future family get togethers.
This activity explains our collective creaks and groans at the following evenings Fish and Chip family do in honour of our UK visitor. More gasbagging, more stories, more in-jokes and historical hysterical reminiscences: are all families this noisy en masse? These sort of gatherings (and there’s still one to go) are always bittersweet as departure is imminent and not everyone is present.
Although technology makes the world a very small place, we’d still welcome the keys to the tardis from time to time. A quick hemisphere hop to stand on the sideline of the Folkstone Race for Life or be part of the audience of a specific performance of Calamity Jane, to cheer on a Spanish littlies football game or clap our very own rollerskating rockette would be wonderful because nothing beats actually being there. But whether they’re down the road or across the globe family is family.
And to our family, far flung though you are, this is a gentle reminder: when our surrounding garlic fug is such that we are officially Norman No-Friends, you are still expected to welcome us with open arms.
Because that’s what families do.