A Gordonton legend has passed away. Petrus (Peter) Blank, grower of organic veges and gentleman, died on Monday 18 August, surrounded by family.
Dressed in his bib overalls, the Dutchman was a regular sight, tending his garden in all weather. With wife Shirley, he sold vegetables from his property on Gordonton Rd since 1977.
Signs hand-painted by his daughter encouraged passing motorists to stop for fresh-dug leeks, cabbages, silver beet – whatever was in season. It took a little longer because Peter always enjoyed a chat, and then the produce had to be dug up, wrapped in newspaper and hand delivered. It sure beat going to any supermarket.
In an article for the Waikato Times in 1992, he told Number 8 Network’s Annette Taylor that his philosophy was simple.
“Why use chemicals if you don’t have to?”
For years, his father grew vegetables at home in Holland, no trouble. But ‘all of a sudden people have to spray everything.’
He uses a little snail bait near tender seedlings raised in a glasshouse made from old windows, and in the past resorted to a novel method to keep birds away from ripe strawberries – cat power.
“I had a mother cat, with kittens, so I made a nice nest for her in the middle of the bed – she kept the birds away.”
Weeds are hoed as soon as they appear – while he says it’s ‘bloody hard work’ you can’t imagine him in a three-piece suit, sitting behind a desk.
…as he speaks to me in his dining room, his eyes dart out the window, taking in the newly dug-over quarter acre of garden. By the time I reach the car, Peter Blank is on his knees, hands in the soil.
In 2009 the sign was taken down from the gate, as Peter’s health was failing. It was an end of an era.
Sincere sympathies to Shirley and family. Gordonton will not be the same.