Tuesday, October 23, 2007

So, what does democracy mean round here? Really?

Last week raids were made across New Zealand supposedly in the interests of protecting 'us' from terrorism, though the actual threat has not been clarified, or indeed specified in any way.


We had lunch with politically active friends in the weekend who raised the issue with us. I had that 'mother at home out of the loop feeling' and didn't say a lot, assuming I was feeling uninformed because I hadn't been paying attention. Not so, it seems. I received a forwarded email from my sister this morning which showed that the media is being tightly manipulated and they in turn are manipulating what information we have access to. Finding out that 17 people are in prison (i.e. arrested and awaiting trial and not granted bail) galvanised me into more active pursual of information. Favourite Handyman found the wiki link I've pasted above.

We're still on the lookout for more information. After fairly idle comments about the responsibilities democracy bestows on us all earlier in the month when the local body elections were held, we are thinking that this is when democracy can be handed over or fought for. I'm getting prepared to fight for it.

Wherever you live, talk about this. Spread the thinking, no matter what you ultimately decide to think.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Things I learnt on Friday

On Friday I had the pleasure of lunch with my friend Marie who lives an hour south of us and is much more knowledgeable and experienced in the gardening ways of wetville than I. Kids played, did the meat coop, had yummy home made lunch.

Tangible treats:
1. a bulb of florence fennel to eat. There was some in the leek and potato soup we had for lunch and that inspired me to try it. I've never eaten it before.
2. Spinach tree seedlings to plant in my garden. Marie reckons they are the best spinach she's ever grown. I've never heard of them before, but after looking at her garden, if she advised me to turn cartwheels each day in front of the tomatoes to help them grow, then I'd probably try that also.
3. A comfrey plant. I'll plant it in my special invasive plants garden. I loppered some horrible ugly and invasive trees down earlier this year and pulled out some unnammed weeds. Planted mints to compete with the nasturtium and convulvulus and wild lillies and onion weeds. So the comfrey can hang out there as well for the meantime.

I took down some homemade humous (shades of Nigella again do you notice????) and some borlotti bean, epilobium willowherb, elecampane and echinacea seeds for Marie.

Valuable information treats:
1. A few days ago I threw the towel in on the pumpkin project. But Marie's friend has grown them in a nearby valley which is much colder than where Marie or I live successfully. Marie has advised me that here in wetville the season is much later and not to worry about only planting things now. We get a long Autumn. Ha! Now I see she is so right and we won't be paying any attention to those East Coast garden books ever again.

2. She has two glasshouses and one has no roof. It is still well ahead of the fully outside garden because the sides get pretty warm. Thinking about adapting that for here and finding more stakes at the beach to 'fence' one of the gardens with polytunnel plastic.

3. Blueberries. Hers are in the enclosed glasshouse. Yields of that variety are much better under glass she tells me. I asked about a commercial grower inland and north from me. Apparently he grows outside but a different variety (his are prolific and seriosuly yummy). So now I want to find out what variety my commercial grower is using.

4. She has also lost zucchini plants recently. She assures me I should not despair and should try again in a couple of weeks. Will do.

A special day indeed. It was even gorgeous weather.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

fuel emissions

They wre talking about fuel emissions on the radio earlier this week. Apparently New Zealand is fairly unregulated when it comes to fuel emissions and cars compared to the rest of the OECD world. I know each individual car runs differently, depending on whether it has been regularly serviced etc., but still I'd like to see a comparison chart of cars and emissions. We have 1.6 litre 1991 station wagon. Basic model so no air conditioning. It runs beautifully and costs us very little beyond basic maintenance. We plan to run it until it dies. The longer we can do that, the better the chances that we can afford a significantly newer and more efficient replacement car.

I'd like to see a chart where I could look at emissions levels for my size and age of car and compare it to those of other vehicles. So I could consider whether say buying a car five years less old than mine gives me significant emissions reduction or whether it needs to be only two years old (i.e. 2005 model) to get significant improvements.

If this exists, I'd love to know.

Meat coop outing

Tomorrow is our organic beef collection outing. I've been collecting orders and chilly bins from friends this week and we'll drive south for an hour and have lunch with an old school friend and admire her truly fabulous garden and pick up some more tips on growing in wetville and then collect 40kg of beef from her organic beef growing friend when she comes into the village to collect her children from school and then drop it off at each friend when we get back to smalltown.

Just felt like sharing my buying local and organic cooperatively project.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A green thing

In terms of treading lightly on this earth, a sewing machine is a very useful thing to have. It is most especially useful if you have a spot to leave it permanently set up. Mine went to live with friends while we were in the UK and has recently made its way back to our home via the local sewing machine service and repair person.

If you have sufficient eyesight and hand-foot-eye coordination to drive a car, then you will be able to use a sewing machine for basic repairs and making simple things. With practice, you and I will be able to do much more but I'm not at that stage at the moment.

Useful things I have done:
1. Turned a torn nightie into lots of wipes for Brighid's bottom.
2. Cut up a very worn out Thomas t-shirt into patches for mending Fionn's trousers.
3. Mended a pillow which had come apart at the seams and made it instantly reusable.
4. Mended a previously unwearable but much loved dress of my own.

I've got some other projects lined up but already it has helped me reuse items that would otherwise have to be replaced with new things.

Which in terms of dollars and carbons and chemicals is a good thing aye?

Garden roundup

for the first time in a while.
Today it stopped raining for about 3.5 hours. You get grateful for the small things eventually.

I need to update my growing list on the blog sidebar sometime soon. Cos' it's working out a little differently - I also want to redo my garden map just for Tania.

The broad beans grow well here. The only drawback is that I really don't like them that much. Will be doing kale instead for winter growing next year.

I pulled out some struggling garlic today to make more room for the rest to grow large and pungent. The ground is sodden. If things don't dry out soon then it will all rot in the ground.

Potatoes in the raised bed are doing very well. The ones in the tyres are not at all. Though the peastraw in the tyres is full of worms so at least I'm creating a good growing medium for a new crop of something else.

I recently found out that the Austrian Heirloom seed pumpkins (or whatever similar name they are properly called) are really an upper North Island variety. I haven't got any to germinate so I'm going to leave them for this year and plant zucchinis in their place. I've transplanted some zucchinis into pots and two into the ground. Despite the pots sitting right next to the relevant piece of zucchini garden, the ones in the pots are thriving and the ones in the garden are dead or dying. Current hypothesis is that the ground is too wet and the pots drain better.

I've started to harden the tomatoes off in preparation for planting out in the garden. Until now, they've been on window sills inside the house and adjacent shed.

Freesias didn't appear at all this year. I'm going to mass plant all my flower bulbs much more tightly next year.

Things are getting eaten. I need to get out at night with a torch and kill some slugs and snails.

Tobacco seedlings are doing well on the window sill. Not my job to prepare the large area for planting them outside though.

Blackcurrants have buds on them already - they were sticks on the kindy table last month.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Who else is collecting for Plunket then?

Not long ago Rachael was asking for ideas on what makes and creates community. I think about this question frequently but had insufficient operational brain cells at the time I read Rachael's blog post.

Now I can tell you what I think makes community.

We move to a small town. I know no one and neither doe Fionn aged 3. J is heavily involved in the town toy library and is lovely to me. Fionn and I get in the local paper simply for turning up to do our helping at toy library shift on the day the local journalist visits. This year we have a new baby and J has now become the Plunket carseat hire person (as well as doing about 800 unpaid and very useful jobs in our small town) and she is superbly helpful and just lovely to boot.

So I waltz on by past the appeal for Plunket collectors on the supermarket noticeboard with just a twinge of guilt. But when J rings me personally I can't find one single reason whyI should not help such a great woman who is heart and soul behind an organisation which just wants little babies to stay alive and thrive.

So we (I'll be taking Brighid and Fionn for cuteness factor to get people donating generously) will be collecting for Plunket on our street and the neighbouring four small streets this week.

Good chance to see what other people are growing in this climate.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Suburban scream

Some time ago I worked out that in the absence of a tube station down the road to whisk me and the brood to the V & A, we would have to find some home based indoor pursuits to see us through the wet days. and wet weeks. and wet months.

Today though, hit a new low. Net curtains. Did I really go to university, read all those books, flirt with all those blokes, stamp my feet loudly to the feminist drum in order to spend this afternoon sorting out net curtains?

Traditional Pagan and Christian Spring rituals have focused on lambs, new life etc. Well here in smallwettown I think we should all build rain shelters as our Spring ritual. And make beer and spirits for the long pour.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The stench

Fine wine aged well smells beauuutiful. Mature seaweed brew does not. I have poured it all over every one of my edible garden patches on purpose and on much of today's clothing not at all on purpose. Given the whole children juggle thing, I was still wearing those clothes when I returned the DVD to the shop today as I am on a fine reduction mission (the library, the video shop, the toy library). Oh the elegant impression I must create here in small town some days...

Monday, October 8, 2007

Interim broadcast

As the sun broke through the clouds late this afternoon and I am eternally optimistic that this bodes well for tomorrow and indeed for the rest of the week, regular gardening broadcasts may resume in the near future. Today's substitute programme details odd things I have been doing in lieu of gardening.

1. Not cleaning. Didn't think the weather could have that dramatic an effect did you?

2. Sewing. I made myself a skirt out of a curtain yesterday. It is very puffy and shortcut-sewn in every possible way (I threaded the waist elastic through the existing hem of the curtain for example) but it is mine and I made it and I shall begin by wearing it in the garden. Soon enough no doubt it will end up covering my thighs but revealing my calves at kindy one day as I never ever change for kindy pick up. I also made part of an old and very worn Thomas the tank Engine t shirt into a knee patch for Fionn's trousers. We're all very pleased with that project.

3. Sewing attempt no.2. Making bibs using parker nylon, bias binding and various bits of towelling and flannel found around the house. Something else is wrong with the tension. Not so bad that the sewing machine wouldn't work (I was very proud of fixing it to working status yesterday), but bad enough to make the underside very loose. I gave up and came on here to blog. Words are easier than sewing.

4. Baking. Note baking not merely cooking. I made gluten free, egg free corn bread. Very successful I thought. I used the book pictured for the recipe. I have only owned this recipe book since December 2003 and this is the first time I have actually used a recipe from it. I bought it from the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales while on holiday and have spent much time admiring the photos and recipes and until now no time cooking any of it.

5. Reading. "Behind the Scenes at the Museum" by Kate Atkinson. For book group. I like it. Last month at book group I was very budget conscious and didn't have a drink even thoug we meet at a pub. I think that was too extreme and in future shall make the children go without (something, anything) in order to fund my alcoholic desires.
6. Thinking about dead things. I asked at the library recently about how to go about requesting the buy a book I want (as if there is only one though hahaha). The nice lady, who is now nice to me after 20 months of my persistent niceness to her and payment of many library fines, explained what to do and also that sometimes they don't buy on certain topics or certain books, because hardly anyone reads on that topic and then the unread books are 'dead money'. I had a similar experience at the video shop also. How can a book really be 'dead money'? Unless of course it is a recipe book which never gets cooked from. So I have goal of cooking at least one thing from each of my recipe books before I die. It would be helpful if I didn't die soon in order to achieve this, and also if I never purchase or get given another recipe book again.
7. Childcare. Of course. They are still alive and I still love them. That will be more than enough on that topic.
8. And then today when the sun shone I took photos of the garden (not yet available due to my technical assistant being a union man and not working any more odd hours for me). I planted purple sprouting broccolli and Argentata Beet seedlings and observed that the older transplanted beetroots have died but the recent direct sowing has already begun to germinate. I harvested some Rainbow Chard for dinner which is also known as yellow stemmed silverbeet but Rainbow Chard sounds a million times better and separates the current vegetable from the 45 minutes boiled silverbeet of my childhood.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

photo - only one though

Just cos I finally can, the big photo holding computer having been occupied continually for about the last millenium until now.
This is my quite new slow compost area. On the other side of the fence (and more favourable sunwise) is my fast compost with chicken shed poo/bark mix, grass clippings and pea straw with some seaweed. This side is for the horse poo and has some grass clippings to help it along. The idea is that the extra time will deal to the weed seeds. We'll see. I'm very pleased with my re-use of the neighbour's old roofing iron fence. I plan to create another compost bay for leaf mulch in Autumn. More truthfully, I plan for Favourite Handyman to create it.

heirloom gardening

I've just found a fantastic blog with a great title: bifurcated carrots. I've only read two pages so far, but Pat and Steph are living in Holland and are seriously into growing heirloom fruit and vegetables. Especially worth a look for garlic growing enthusiasts. I liked his post on the community gardens (like UK allotments) in Holland.

On the subject of seed saving, an essential skill if we don't want the big seed companies (many of which are enthusiastic about GM seeds) to dictate what we can grow, it turns out there is a South Island seed savers network. I have the email address (they post) if anyone is interested. I'm quite keen to get into seed saving and swapping for next year. The people at Koanga gardens in Northland are doing great things but their growing conditions are so very different to here in smallwettown.

Saturday, October 6, 2007


It's two weeks until Labour Weekend, which is traditionally the time in New Zealand to plant out tomatoes and all other plants which are frost tender. We've just had a week of bad weather, including a storm which brought down another part of our ageing fence. So I've mostly walked around in tiny gaps in the rain looking at what is and isn't growing. I've harvested some more broad beans which was an acceptable excuse to eat garlic fried in butter under the guise of eating some greens. Fionn and I killed TWO HUNDRED slugs who were sullying our sandpit before the rain set in. We had a variety of killing methods in simultaneous operation in order to keep up with the high volume of slimey bodies. Several potato plants have sprouted - others seem to have either rotted in the ground or given themselves up to hungry ravenous greedy and unwelcome in my garden blackbirds.

The council has cut lots of very long grass at the end of our street. I have designs on moving the clippings up to our place to mulch the garlic.

Not Buying It

I've just finished "Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping" by Judith Levine. Most appropriately, I got it out of the local library.

I think it's a very good book. In addition to her basic premise of buying only essential items for one calendar year, she also researches the ideas around consumption and non-consumption exhaustively and had the effect on me of wanting to write down quotes frequently as I read.

So here are some of the aspects which I found thought-provoking...

She writes about the ideas around those perennial sort of friends of all of us: 'the Joneses'. She observes of herself: "I'm not keeping up with the Joneses who drive the big trucks, but the Joneses who grow organic carrots and drive beaters like ours."

Levine gets involved (for research purposes) in a movement called Voluntary Simplicity. She and her partner attend meetings where a leader guides a small group towards a life of frugal consumption, ecological awareness and personal growth. She notes that the movement has in fact got a lot of appeal to those who have no choice economically but to become more frugal - one third of her group is unemployed against their wishes by the second meeting.

Another quote which I recognised my own illusions in: "Research shows that just about everyone thinks she needs the things she buys and considers almost everything she buys a necessity."

I found much to ponder in her book. I particularly liked the way in which she unravelled the aims and delusions of the non-consumerites as well as pulling apart the way in which US society (and by extension UK and NZ society) defines itself through its consumption.

At a personal level, I feel like I've been considering issues around consumerism for a while but I have some more thinking to do. I could define myself by my consumption and/or what I do not consume, but how to escape these terms in defining my place in our society is a slithery question.

The value of things. Today I went shopping. $8.50 at the video rental shop for two children's DVDs and an overdue fine from the last time. Irritating lack of brain cell service to go with the experience. Spent far too bloody much at the supermarket as per usual. I do the ethical torture game, just because treating shopping as a simple experience is just too sensible. I allow myself about three very ethical shopping choices until I remember that I don't want the bank to repossess our house and pull my head in. Then at the Sallies I bought: two navy blue sensible skirts in very good condition for when I go back to work next year, one curtain in very appealing fabric which will become two skirts for me, a pillowcase in also very appealing retro print fabric (no we don't NEED another pillowcase), and a coffee table sized table cloth in very appealing Irish shamrock print. The salesperson made cheerful and interested conversation with my boy and asked if $5 for the lot sounded reasonable to me. I'm thinking about the value of these things and the monetary values assigned to them and I'm a long way from a lucid explanation.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

It's NOT a dinner party

We're having people around for tea this week. Actually there is a level of social intercourse booked for this week which is making me slightly dizzy. I suppose you've got to find something to do when it is raining so long and so hard as to render gardening impossible.

So let's deal with tomorrow evening's people round for tea event. Green party members, which means ethical eating. Gone are the days when I served my hippy-ish friends fish for dinner. Fish eating is not the worst thing since Rwanda, but it is nevertheless risky since we'll probably witter about ethics half the night. The good news is they are also socialists, proper working class ones, which will make it all easier cos that gives you a bit more room for mucking in and enjoying yourself. I don't invite precious people round. I only invite people I adore.

I'm only inviting two people for tomorrow night. More is just asking for the d-p phrase and that makes me shake. Last school holidays we had two different lots of people staying with us and then invited another couple for dinner as well. I was doing just fine, cooking up a storm (I got brought up farm-style properly in this respect and can feed the five thousand when called for). Then my sister in law mentioned that she'd been on the telephone to her husband and told him we were having a dinner party. I choked, gulped and stopped stirring. I hadn't thought of it as a dinner party. Dinner parties are scary things involving etiquette and glamour. My chief skills in relation to etiquette and glamour are in spelling the two words. There is a steep drop in skill level after spelling. Just as well the meal was nearly cooked so we could go in and have a good time.

I think I have tomorrow night ready for sorting. That leaves tomorrow day, when I should be taking food for shared lunch to a friend on her farm. Where they eat lots of meat and use eggs for any vegetarian meals coughed up for visitors of that strange persuasion. I need to take something that all will eat that has no gluten and no eggs cos of my boy. Popcorn at this rate. Don't talk to me about baby food. The baby should go back in my tummy for the day for ease of food headspace.

And then. Then I will have to get up on Thursday morning and divide up and price avocadoes cos we have another coop due and do a coffee group playdate at the park (guess whose idea that non-house based one was?) Then make more blasted popcorn for a kiddie birthday party so my boy doesn't have to face the unvarnished truth of his randomly sometimes competent mother and to avert him telling the hostess that all the other mothers have made special gluten free food for him at parties. I'm coming home and going to bed at 2.38pm on Thursday.

The only thing I have dared think about Friday is wine. Cos Friday night we have been invited to friends and I think that one really is a d-p. Better wash all my purple clashing things in time I guess.

When will it stop raining so I can forget all this and garden?

Monday, October 1, 2007

grown up paid work

I'm going to do some grown up paid work next year. The kind where you need qualifications and have to dress up. My idea of dressing up, in case you were wondering where the hell in small town New Zealand ball dresses or business suits were required, is when I have to forfeit gumboots, jeans and/or fleece jerseys.

So I had a meeting with the big boss with regard to all this (not the dressing up, the work) this morning at 9am, which given daylight savings only just came in, was really 8am and given the mother of small children thing, was really quite challenging. I left the house at 8.53am in the one outfit (outfit! combination of top, trousers and jacket) which fitted and didn't require ironing. Perhaps you can iron clothes between 8.53 and 8.54am in the morning but I cannot. The 'outfit' was two different shades of purple and also combined a fussy pattern with stripes. It was, nevertheless, not accompanied by gumboots and it didn't bulge.

The meeting went well and later I realised I had talked to another adult for 90 minutes without mentioning gardening once. Quite strange.