January 07

The proverbial ass (a truffle ass, near Ollogoyen in Spain)

Never believe a writer who says he never reads his reviews. We all do. If they're good, it's vanity - if they're bad, it's a pain in the proverbial ass.

Shortly before I headed off to Europe I bagged up a stack of copies of The Truffle Book and sent them off to the book reviewers of New Zealand. Now the reviews are beginning to trickle in. The Nelson Mail did a very nice write-up (see below), and I've just had a clipping of Charmian Smith's review in the Otago Daily Times. She describes it as "very readable" and "an excellent introduction to the fungus for those who are thinking of growing them, and those who just like to know about highly prized ingredients". Thanks, Charmian. I wonder when the first bad review will arrive?

It seems "our" orca are still hanging around in Tasman Bay. From the Nelson Mail today:

"A pod of orca has turned on a special welcome for walkers heading into Abel Tasman National Park, and for sightseers at Mapua. "

They like eating stingray, apparently, and there are lots in the bay. NZ orca are the only ones in the world known to fancy a snack of ray. I hope they're still around when I get back to the Abel Tasman in late February. I should be able to see stingrays, but the orca will almost certainly have moved on.

Sometimes fate conspires to present the perfect photographic opportunity, and when that happens, fate usually conspires to make me blow it. And sometimes it doesn't...

An orca on my tail...

We were crossing Tasman Bay on Jamarh, a sailing catamaran operating out of Nelson, when three orca passed in the opposite direction. Rush to camera, snap a couple of shots of tall black fins, and then suddenly a young one is steaming up into our wake, and breaches. I would have liked to have got the shot a fraction of a second earlier, but hey - this one's good enough for me. Jamarh's skipper, Martin, has seen plenty of orca, but never had one do that before.

We were on the boat for an overnight trip into the Abel Tasman National Park. This is where we spent the night...

Pukatea Bay, Abel Tasman National Park

We swam, sunbathed, saw penguins and seals, swam some more, ate fresh scallops and fish, swam again, kayaked up a creek to a spectacular freshwater pool (no camera, sorry) and walked a small section of the Abel Tasman path. Perfection. I want to do it again, but it's back to the farm and selling books. The Nelson Mail gave me a good write up... Thanks, Jude.

...and back to the farm. Christmas and New Year festivities done and dusted: now it's time to try and remember what I was doing before I left for Europe in November. I've caught up with the accounts, paid the bills, sent out most of the copies of the book ordered while I was away, and begun to get the lawns back to some semblance of presentability. The rest of the farm is a different matter however. The truffière is not too bad: nice brulées appearing and the grass not too shaggy, but the vineyard's looking in need of a trim. The olives appear to have managed a reasonable fruit set while I was away, but it's too early to speculate about what the crop might be - and if it'll be more than the birds can eat. Now I have to confront irrigation issues (though it is raining as I write), get the mowing under control and do some weed-eating round the bianchetto and Burgundy truffieres. Time to start selling books, too.