29 August 2009

Through the kitchen...

...and out the back door.

Stopping, of course, for a bite to eat. There is not much for me to say about the kitchen, really. The time I spent there was devoted to eating, washing dishes (when made to), and mixing syrup.

Mixing syrup was - what? - the last two or three years I was at home? My father had a vending machine business and you probably don't want to know the gory details of what happens inside a soft-drink machine (the kind that dispenses little cups, with syrup and soda water that comes down into them, not the kind that dispenses bottles or cans. I have never seen the cup+syrup+water sort in New Zealand, actually). Some other time.

Dishes, by the way, are worth a comment. Since there were three of us children, there were three jobs: washing, drying, and putting away. I suspect washing was always the most distasteful, but can't recall very clearly.

But the kitchen leads to the back hall (toilet down the end of the little hall. We had two bathrooms upstairs and a toilet downstairs), and the back hall to the back porch, the laundry (off to the side), and the back yard.

We had a camphor tree in the back yard, which I thought was really cool. This tree:

is, according to Wikipedia, more than 1,000 years old - but then it is in Japan and everyone knows that makes it special :-) Ours was surely not 1,000 years old (unless some early Indians brought it from Asia, where it is native), but it was pretty cool. The gum from it smelt camphorish, and it was just generally a neat thing to have.

We also had two monstrous Pampas Grass plants - the same genus as New Zealand toetoe - and I hated them.

We had many chickens around the place. Chickens?! My mother was nuts on birds. We had chickens, bantam chickens, , ducks, geese, and probably other poultry that I have forgotten.

But we had chickens. And we had a nice big chicken house. And some of the hens actually laid their eggs in the chicken house.

And sometimes they laid them in tunnels they had made into the Pampas Grass.

The leaves of Pampas Grass are like tiny hacksaws. Run your finger along the edge of the leaf in one direction - from base to end - and they are smooth enough. Draw your finger in the opposite direction - and then find some tissue or something to stanch the blood.

It never seems to have occurred to me at the time to wonder why I was the one asked to crawl into those tunnels to get eggs out that had been laid. Perhaps I was not the only one. Peter may have done it. I was asked to do so, anyway, and I always did it - but was not happy at it. I put long-sleeved shirts on. I got cut anyhow. When I would find a nest, unless the hen was not there, I also generally got pecked. But I did get the eggs.

We had a fountain in the backyard that left its mark on me. I wonder whether the builder of the house - was it Mr Higginbotham, who sold it to us, or someone before him? - had rather romantic Mediterranean ideas. The crops - olives, oranges, and almonds - were, after all, quite Mediterranean. There were those classical columns at the front (albeit wooden rather than marble). And there was this fountain affair. It was a circular mortared stone pond with a central mini-tower which had a pipe in the middle of it. I don't recall there ever being any water in it.

I used to like holding on to the central tower, and walk around the edge, leaning into it. One day I slipped. I suppose the muscle in the place where my thigh hit the edge of the fountain was fairly deeply torn, and subsequently repaired with scar tissue. I still have the indentation, more than 50 years later.

I think I recall my father's telling me that Mr Higginbotham's wife was Tahitian - met during the Second World War, I suppose. Whether because of this or not, we had a swimming pool!


Unitman said...

Couple notes from Unitman. "Other Poultry:: Remember "Peg", the turkey that lost the lower half of its right leg in the mowing machine. Jeremiah and Mom made wooden leg sections, which Jerry somehow fastened to the stub, and peg made it for several more years, raising at least one batch of baby turkeys (one of which, incidentally, I blasted with my bow and arrow, but with no lasting harm!).

"Horrble" (the pig) isn't poultry, but pretty much lived on the back porch, was constantly fed life savers by Mom (and whomever else), had a noticeable palsy if you touched him on the back caused by falling off the porch when he was baby and damaging the nerves back there or something. Anyway, Horrble was a nice pig, but was eventually consumed.

Lastly, the rock pond and swimming pool (that Dad would have converted to a bomb shelter had not first the Alaska trip and then the Hawaii land purchased intervened. Both were built at the time the house was built, not by Higgenbotham but by a guy named Tyler, who according to Higgenbotham had the house constructed, with all the fancy pond, pool, landscape vegetation, etc., as a wedding gift for his daughter. All in 1911.

John Thayer Jensen said...

I hadn't mentioned other beasts - including the pet sheep 'whelp' that mom fed Lifesaver candies to.

1911 - well, one thing I didn't mention about the kitchen was that it had a 'kitchen safe' - a little screened-from-outside cupboard with a door on the inside - for storing things in outside temperature, presumably pre-refrigeration.

Unitman said...

Forgot about whelp! Flower -- born in Bakersfield, but partially raised and escaped to the wild in Oroville. Caught by Jeremiah one day in the concrete reservoir at the uphill side of the big olive orchard - or so he thought, 'till he got blasted. Can't remember them all. Your rabbits, which you used to murder with the hatchet handle! Hey, you'll be able to get a job with Obamer -- selecting contributors to the Soylent baking line. Not in Oroville, but back in Bakersfield, were the geese in the back yard, the three legged black terrior that still was alive in our earliest life, and the spider monkey mom brought home one day, until after about a week of that thing flying around all the rooms and splattering everything and everyone one with monkey poop (including jumping on Terry's head, wrapping its tail around her neck, and then blasting her to smitherines), mom took it back!