The Midsummer Garden, by Kirsty Manning

It was an odd engagement present. Heirloom or not, such gifts were not usually covered in grime and dust. Pip sneezed as she started unpacking four boxes of antique French pots: copper boilers, streaked and mottled with watermarks, so when the soft morning light reflected off the pots and hit the white walls of the tiny worker’s cottage, they rippled with rainbows. Some of the pots were so large Pip had to brace herself to lift them out of the boxes. When she pulled off the lids, their blackened insides were etched and lined with age.

When she moves in to a tiny workers cottage with her fiance, Jack, Pip really doesn’t have room for the set of large copper pots her parents send as an engagement gift, but she is determined to have them on display. They bear memories of her childhood and a deeper connection Pip doesn’t completely understand. but the warmth of the copper pots might not be enough to keep Pip’s plans on track. She wants to get her PhD project finished before she and Jack get married and travel, but Jack is impatient, and wants everything to happen now.

In 1427, Artemisia, the cook at the Chateau de Boschaud also has copper pots. she is busy preparing the dishes, the settings, even the special bathing waters for the Lord and his bride. It is tough work, but it is made easier by Artemisia’s secret. this will be her last day at the chateau: soon she will be free and ready to build a new life.

The stories of Pip and Artemisia are separate, yet there are connections across the many centuries between their lives, and Artemisia’s vast knowledge of herbs cooking are not only reflected in Pip’s interests, but are even shared through treasured finds. Readers will want to trace the adventures of each, o find out whether happiness is possible for either, or for both.

The Midsummer Garden is a satisfying blend of contemporary and historical fiction, with each story compelling and well wrought, and the links between the two intriguing. Themes of happiness, of family lore, relationships and self fulfillment are explored and food lovers will enjoy the culinary detail.

The Midsummer Garden, by Kirsty Manning
Allen & Unwin, 2017
ISBN 9781760294748

Outdoor Kids, by Jamie Durie

Most parents can remember the fun they had playing outdoors when they were children–climbing trees, building cubbies, getting dirty. Unfortunately, the computer age and our ever-increasing busyness mean that today many children are missing out on the fun and adventure of backyard play. In Outdoor Kidshorticulturalist and television personality Jamie Durie presents a practical guide to getting kids outside and having fun.

This colourful offering is packed with commonsense, achievable activities for kids to do on their own or with parents. There is practical information about gardening, covering subjects such as soil, compost, mulch, weeding and pruning, and an exploration of the seasons and what happens in the garden during each. The majority of the book is devoted to presenting simple activities aimed at kids (and their parents) having fun in the garden – from building a cubby house from a cardboard box, to growing vegetables and observing insects and other wildlife.

The text is accessible, with down to earth language and the use of lists, and is complemented by hundreds of gorgeous photographs, illustrating projects and, more importantly, showing kids and adults enjoying being outdoors. There is a strong message of conservation and caring for the environment, giving the book an educational element which is realistic rather than didactic.

This is a superb guide.

Outdoor Kids, by Jamie Durie
Jamie Durie Publishing, 2005