A shift in seasons

MEAL MAKER: Humus is a great starting block for building a simple meal out of tapas.
MEAL MAKER: Humus is a great starting block for building a simple meal out of tapas.

As the end of summer looms, talk is all about the weather.

It's been a strange, topsy-turvy season, leading me to wish for a mild, settled autumn. Too soon, I feel the nights turn chilly and catch my eye wandering to my enamelware roasters and casseroles.

Unusual for this time of year, we are already eating warming stews of chunky, late-summer vegetables scattered generously with basil and folded through with zingy tomatoes. Served with barbecued chops or fish caught by friends, in my heart I know the season is changing.

There is a dullness in the air, steel-gray afternoons. It's no longer salad weather.

But with every seasonal change, there are still the high-weather spots. The days or weeks that seem a return to the idyllic long summers of childhood, set me longing for icecream and to climb, eight months' pregnant, into my daughter's blow-up paddling pool.

How to prepare for these mood-swinging appetites and fickle weather patterns is a constant drag. Today, I am on a planned picnic arranged near a local cafe so we can take refuge if it rains.

We will be that unwelcome "bunch with brats", the table you desperately don't want to sit next to. I have prayed all week for good weather. This week I even learned that there is a word for the smell of rain - petrichor. I hope today I haven't the need for it.

We are moving house in the next few weeks and I have autumn planting on my mind - as well as meadows, and beehives, and double-grafted fruit trees, chamomile driveways, watering systems and bunny rabbits.

Clearly my dreams are bigger than my next little urban section, but a garage rooftop is taunting me and the berm has become a constant muse.

These spaces, which can be turned into something magical, make me grateful to Auckland City Council for stopping mowing. If only they would stop spraying my street gutters with "organic" weedkiller, I might even be happy.

Seeing the little specialised spray truck regularly on my street puts me to wondering; surely for the cost of chemicals, the specialised vehicle, its maintenance and insurance, fuel and driver, my rates could pay for a couple of people to wander about weeding in the fresh air and sunshine?

For a honey-bee friendly city with beehives on the town hall rooftop, using chemical sprays - "organic" or not - interrupts delicate buggy ecosystems and must be a contradiction. I would rather see locals in jobs.

But if we have to mow our berms, then perhaps we could weed our own gutters. In the spirit of good community, we could be assigned a neighbour's gutter to weed, using our manners in the same way as we might pour water for a fellow tablemate at dinner.

It's a crazy idea that could see us city-slickers torn momentarily from the screens of our smartphones and tablets, the sort of ideological philosophies that leads to better communities, conversation and lower local crime rates.

If that kind of community thinking is really too much, perhaps sharing a meal is more to your style. Think versatile tapas to eat with humus and drinks. Or throw together a roast vegetable salad to eat alongside.

Sunday Star Times