Sunday, 7 August 2011

The Half-Gallon Jar Project: Introduction and Did you ever see a Maori with green fingers?

The Half-Gallon Jar” is poured by request.

The Hori articles which fill it first appeared in N.Z. Home Line and Home Companion and are published here in book form in response to pleadings of readers of those journals in many parts of the country.

If you know your Hori you will be in step with the title; if you don't you won't read far before stumbling over his first half-Gallon jar.

Hori's world is not big, but it's full of fun. In addition to Hori himself, its principal characters are his wife, his mother in law, his brother in law and “the pakeha joker from up the street,” though other lesser characters make their brief appearances.

If at times Hori appears unreasonably hard on such people as car salesmen, traffic cops and politicians, he's only having his bit of fun. He's a well-fed, happily married, easy going Maori who gets on well with everyone and asks only to be allowed to tinker with his old V8, to sit and meditate while watching the oxalis grow, to eat his favorite crayfish claws, pigs' trotters and mussels and to drain his half gallon jar at the weekends.

A fair question would be whether Hori is really a Maori. He is not. In real life he is W. Norman McCallum of Waiatarua Road, Remuera, Auckland, a New Zealander of Scottish Descent. As a commercial traveler in the North Auckland and Waikato districts for many years he made countless fir

friends among the Maori people, and his admiration of “the first New Zealanders” is unbounded.


How come that every time I pull the cork out of the new half-gallon jar of beer somebody comes along to make the interrupt?

  If it's not the the pakeha coot from up the road, it's the wife's brother, or the mother in law or the missus.

Last Sunday I'm sitting on the upturned dinghy and have just settled down to enjoy a quiet pot, and to think about this and that, and one thing and another, when the mother in laws shows up and says like this:

“”Hori,” she says, “time you got the garden ready for the spring season and prepared the ground for the tomatoes and the lettuce and all that.”

Py korry, my mind goes back to last year when I have a go at this gardening business. Spare me days this is a great game for garage proprietors and panel-beaters, or anybody else with plenty of money.

First I plant the cabbage and the lettuce but the slugs and snails have a fair go and eat them all up.

The bloke at the seed shop tells me to buy the slug killer, which is like the rolled oats or breakfast food. I put in more plants and this stuff all round them. While I'm doing this I see a mother and a father slug looking at me from behind a stone.

I say to myself, “O.K. You plurry slugs. Have a pop at this stuff and you'll have a bellyache in the morning.”

Next morning I go out to have a look at the plants and py korry, they've all gone, and this slug killer goo is eaten up too. I take a look behind the stone and, spare me days, I see the mother and father slug as full as a butchers dog, and a lot of little slugs playing about fit as the plurry fiddle. The mother slug, it seems, has had the korero to the nippers this way:

“You kids eat up your roughage 'cause it's a nice change from the green stuff. Your dad and I will finish up the lettuce, with a bit of oxalis for afters.”

So I go back to the see shop bloke and tell him that the slug killer is about as useful as a glass eye in a keyhole.

He says, “well, brother, greens are hard to grow this year, so you had better have a go at the tomatoes instead.”

I buy about two dozen tomato plants from this coot and some blood and bone and other manure.

I'm just leaving the shop when he says, “Of course you must spray the plants for the blight. You got a spray pump and the spraying goo?”

I tell him I have not got all this hardware and stuff.

“Come with me,” he says and he shows me all sorts of spray pumps, some are about ten bob, others a quid and he's got another line at £2 10s.

O.K.,” I say, “ give me the ten bob one.”

But he say, “Those no plurry good. You better take the £2 10s job 'cause it is the double action.”

I say, “Well, whats good about that?”

Well,” he says, “it squirts when you push it and squirts when you pull it, and it also still squirts when you stop. In fact it saves a lot of work and effort.”

I never did like work, so I buy this double action gadget.

After a while the plants grow up plurry good, so it's time to start this spraying business.

All the kids have a go, and the missus and the mother in law, too, till you can't see the plants for the spray stuff all over the leaves. Py korry, these plants have no show of getting the blight 'cause they are covered up like the second mortgage with spray. When the tomatoes are nearly ripe I notice that they all have a round hole bored through them, and the pakeha joker from up the road tells me that they have got the borer and need a different kind of spray.

I go back to the salesman bloke and he says I have to use arsenate of lead, but I will have to sign for it 'cause it is poison. I ask him why I have to sign for this goo, and he tells me that I might give some to my mother in law.

Stiffen the crows” I say “that is good stuff. What about letting me have some without signing for it?”

This coot won't do this, so I sign the book. Well I spray all the plants again with this poison the the borer seem to like this stuff.

Py korry, then I think perhaps they don't eat it but take it home to Mrs Borer's mother. We don't get any good tomatoes 'cause they're all full of these little holes, with little green bugs peeping out of them. I get a pencil and start to reckon up how much money I have spent on these plants and things. When I add up the spray, the poison, the plants and the cost of the spray pump, I find I have spent about the fiver-and all for nothing.

When I tell the coot in the seed shop all about it, he says, “Hori, I don't think you got the green fingers.”

I say to him, “The only time I see the green fingers they were on my old uncle Lou, and he'd been dead about a fortnight.”

So I'm feeling plurry unhappy about all this dough gone west and then the mother in law comes up to me and says “Look, Hori, at the lovely tomatoes I've just bough. Aren't they beaut and only 8d the pound!”

I think I will just keep on growing the oxalis. It doesn't need much attention and will even grow in concrete.