Showing posts from July, 2009

Gladioli Belinda

Would these bring joy to your heart? Would they make you happy? Would it matter that they don't directly contribute to the saving of the world through digging for victory? Fionn and I planted five bulbs of Gladioli Belinda this afternoon. We weeded out onion weed and other uninvited squatters. I surveyed the rise of my garlic shoots with satisfaction and Fionn and I discussed plans for his garden some more. Planting the seed for such beautiful red and white glory made today special. The children made today special because I'm glad they are with me, healthy and alive. The picture on the bulb packet, which looks like the image above, gave me a sense of beauty and poetry and good things to shine above dishes and laundry and cooking and cleaning and dishes and laundry and cooking and cleaning and insurance companies and fire nurturing and fireplace cleaning and fire maintenance and and and. It's going to be a spring and summer of flowering beauty here. I've been buyi…

Sunday organisation

This morning we went to our new aquatic centre and had a wonderful time. What a perfect way to pretend it isn't winter. The design of our aquatic centre, which local people have fundraised for for longer than we have lived on the Coast, is excellent. I think we will be spending most Sunday mornings in the pool.

As is the case for working mummies everywhere, Sunday is also about organisation. The idea of it all got too much and I went to bed with the Sunday paper for part of the afternoon. Upon rising from my slumber, I admired progress in the tree hut. Fionn fancies having running water and a basin in it! At the moment, he observed to Favourite Handyman, it is like a house that really poor people live in.

I lightly dug over part of the old chook run and then spread mushroom compost over the top. Fionn (aged 6) and I planted out six cabbage and six broccoli seedlings. He is somewhat outraged that I have planted 'his' garden with garlic already, without consulting him. I offer…

More garden notes

An hour without children but with sunshine today. I covered the punga raised bed with cardboard and then weighed it with logs and tyres. That should prevent it from growing weeds in the compost and keep it a bit warmer.

Then I got cracking weeding the strip against the fence, not far from the punga raised bed. When we moved here, nothing grew in this strip at all, not even the lawn which it seemed to be designated as. But once Favourite Handyman had chopped down two large bushes and let in lots and lots of light, and then as I buried bokashi along this strip, dormant plants from far ago when it was a loved garden strip began to show themselves. The tropicanna lilly has gone from strength to strength and will be ready to divide and replant next Autumn. For the first time in the 3.5 years we have lived here, snowdrops emerged a few weeks ago.

So now I am preparing the soil for flowers the entire length (c.2.5 metres). There are trees very close from our neighbours and coal ash has…

Florence Fennel

Grew it. Ate it. We all ate it.


I sowed some florence fennel seed last year - I can't find a record of when but I know that there were no signs of germination for so long that I gave up and planted something else. Obviously not right on top though because a few months ago I noticed some feathery smelly stuff and thought it was dill from the beneficial insect blend sowing. I don't have much experience with dill or fennel so I'm easily confused with these plants.

I've wondered a few times about it being fennel and consulted a few books and still not been sure. But the August 09 issue of the NZ Gardener had a photo which looked exactly like mine. So I harvested it and cooked it with garlic and onions and anchovies and grated beetroot and then some kale and then mixed in lots of sour cream and made pink sauce. Which when put together with the rye pasta (I can't tell you that rye pasta is better than wheat, only that on the food ordering day rye seemed like…


We had a big storm last night and the roof of our garage fell in in two places. It's an old style tile roof and I suspect that it is going to need replacing in its entirety. I am pleased I wasn't collecting wood when the large tiles fell directly onto where we usually collect the wood from alongside the garage.

At least the chook run was fine this year. It is currently in a much more sheltered spot - if it was in the original spot I expect it would have also blown over last night.

Not content with getting really wet walking to the car, Brighid and I went swimming in our new town swimming pool after work this morning and it was absolutely brilliant. Warm , fantastic design, only $3 for a parent- pre-schooler combo.

Deciding to ignore the rain and pretend or at least imagine that clear skies will be with us again soon, I bought some mushroom compost (totally, utterly wonderful stuff) and two punnets of brassicas. I don't usually bother with cabbage, but if it is homegrown, …

The lost skill of using fat

A few months ago I spent a while wondering to myself and to Favourite Handyman what early people did with their fat 500 or 1000 years ago. It doesn't do anything for the compost or the garden. I concluded that they must have had less fat than us due to eating undomesticated, hunted animals with lower fat content.


Last night, months after my serious pondering, I was reading Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's books (Meat, which I own, and River Cottage Cookbook, which the library kindly lend me several times each year) and I suddenly remembered what my mother did with fat when I was a child. She doesn't now - the doctors have fed Mum and Dad up on cholesterol fright and now they have margarine on their bread and I haven't seen dripping in Mum's fridge for years.

Mum had a jug in the fridge and after a roast, she poured off the fat into the jug for re-use with other foods later (back then she used to add dripping to a roasting tray befoer cooking - divine roast veges…



I'd tried it for Fionn once before, in the UK, and not been totally converted. I didn't do any reading around the topic at the time and I did not know the difference between classical homeopathy and whatever the non-classicists are called.

But after our session with Laksmi, I've been applying the remedy as per instructions, changing our diet to more (non-dairy) protein and fewer carbs/dairy and supplementing with aloe vera juice, cod liver oil, fish oil lollies, vitamins and flax seed oil.

Changes: his eczema is receding noticeably. The dark circles under his eyes have faded and the deepness under his eyes has lifted a lot. He hasn't cried at the drop of the hat at all today.

I can still hear a chesty cough sometimes, he is still under delusions that it is hotter than it is and I would like to see him gain some weight. But for two days in, I think it is pretty damn wonderful progress.

I am no fan of big pharma. I suspect them of lacking scruples and having …

Laksmi and the dinosaur eggs

I took my boy to Laksmi who is a masseuse/homeopath/nutritional therapist/awesomely knowledgeable and skilled person yesterday. The dark and deep rings around his eyes, the tendency to weep at the slightest provocation, the re-emergence of his eczema, the not quite there energy levels, the recent history of viruses, they all pointed towards it being time to call in some help.

Help and support for the body. Not drugs to supress the symptoms of his weakness.

Laksmi worked her magic. I have seen my boy take a shine to people before, but he adored Laksmi.

So when we were going through her eating plan, he was prepared to follow her guidance. Especially because she made food magical.

Dinosaur eggs for afternoon tea. Baked potatoes and then the flesh taken out and mixed with kelp salt, lashings of butter and something green which I couldn't quite remember. Today I added wakame, Japanese dried seaweed. Crumbled it in. Both kids wolfed it down.

One of the themes to come out of her recommendatio…

Garden expansion

I've walked around our section many times today, both literally and figuratively. I've found a spot for some maori potatoes and a place for some jerusalem artichokes after receiving Corrine's lovely swap suggestion.

I had already planned out where the pumpkins, squash and zucchini would go and the smaller soft crops can fit around the rest of the spaces (the punga raised bed and part of the old chook run bed) fairly flexibily. Not much point angsting over the finer combinations as it always changes at planting time.

But really, I want more garden space. Every year I have made new garden, but every year I have also turned established garden plots over to perennials. The spot which first had zucchini on it went to blueberries the year after. When they failed to thrive in that spot, I put the lone survivor in a pot and bought a potted blueberry to go with it and planted rhubarb in the vacated garden spot. My first garlic spot is now a perennial herbs bed. Another bed whic…

Garden audit

In which I take to myself and my seed box with a large reality stick.

The highlight of every July since I moved back to New Zealand is the arrival of the Kings Seeds catalogue. This year is no different but today I am making myself face the existing seed box instead of ordering up more.

I have been planning the summer garden, wanting to squeeze in even more than before. I am also working on matching up our family priorities with our spending and our home-work. What needs money on it, what needs time on it, what needs to disappear?

So um, like other people have wool or fabric stashes, here is my existing seed list after I binned seeds past their best before date:

anise hyssop
chervil curled
thyme english winter
garlic chives
parsley gigante italian
basil gourmet blend
astragalus milk vetch
sunflower giant russian
sunflower dwarf sensation
sunflower moon walker
calendula dwarf colours mixed
marigold inca
chamomile german
epilobium willowherb
echinacea purple…


Looks like we will stay clothed when peak oil wreaks doom and disaster upon us all after all.

Hot on the heels of making pyjama pants for me and mending one pair of Favourite Handyman's trousers last week, I have now made a pair of shorts for FH (with fabric I bought for this very purpose only six years ago), mended another pair of his trousers (saving us hundreds of dollars in the process) and extended the hemline of a favourite pinafore of Brighid's.

Oh yes I do think a medal is a good idea.

I am getting more confident and thus sewing more evenly with this practise. FH saw the fabric (smallish paisley on a deep red background) I had out to make the shorts and loved it. 'Are you going to make me a shirt with that?', he asked. I'm not up to making a man's shirt just yet. But after reading on some very good and organised person's blog today about starting making Christmas gifts now in order not to get in a panic and a funk close to the time, I did think tha…


Beautiful day at Arthurs Pass. Friends with us both had their camera and kindly copied the pics on to my new gadget - a memory stick. Now if I could just find our camera...

Sewing day

Which actually happens once or twice per year here. Today makes twice already in 2009 though...

I mended Favourite Handyman's trousers, sewing flowery denim patches on the inside of the seat of the trousers and zig zagging it all together with purple thread. They should last for ages more now.

Then I finally made up the pyjama pants that I cut out at sewing class last year. I'm wearing them now. Op shop fabric, more purple thread which I already owned and elastic from my stash of things which I buy for specific projects and then forget. All round cheapy goodness. I broke one sewing machine needle but that is an improvement on last year, when I broke the entire machine every time I tried to use it.

The sewing machine is back on the floor, my laptop on the desk again. Who knows how long until it comes out again, but of course this flush of success at actually finishing even small projects has me thinking of more. Perhaps some sewing for Favourite Handyman's birthday? …


Today we had a wonderful visitor - my friend Caroline, together with our friends' boy S7, who we were also really pleased to see. Being lucky enough to have school holidays free, I enjoy having other children over whose parents are not so lucky (and other children more generally). We loved having B11 over earlier in the week before more vomiting put paid to visitors of any age.

We talked about lots of things. Cuba, childcare, vaccination, the Green and Labour parties, motherhood, local community challenges and politics, the tragedy and ripples of a local murder, gardening.

I brought up the issue of kiwisaver and I was so relieved to find someone besides Favourite Handyman and I in agreement. To my mind there are just two options. The first is that the big guns get a lot of money to speculate with and squander. The second is that we have a comfortable retirement off the sweat of someone else's exploited labour. How else are returns generated from investment?

Caroline talked a litt…

Cooking skills and my thinking challenge

Further to my recent thoughts on things which last beyond the whirly-gig of daily care for a home and family, I've now definitely got a new skill. I made gnocchi for the second time last night. I took Christy's guidance (thank you!) and did not bother with a recipe. I worked with the feel of the potato mix. I put spinach in as well in last night's gnocchi and made a tomato sauce to go on top.

Except I have a new fancy word for my tomato sauce.


flash aye?

So although the gnocchi is gone and the dishes taunt me and the boy is hungry for more dishes-making food right now, the thing that endures is my new skill that I can make something so yummy which is otherwise so expensive to obtain (and the shop stuff has all sorts of additives in it as well as being pricey).

I've been thinking about the philosophical state of our worldview, inspired by Madeleine Bunting, but I'll be back to that when my boy isn't so desperately needy. Bunting's article feels to …

something lasting

I've been enjoying the writing on handwork of Sharon and Sharon lately. I especially liked Sharonnz' teacosies.

The specialness, I would even tender the sanity-savingness, of work which lasts is very true for me. I find this with my garden. Even though it won't last forever, my garden work lasts a lot longer than the clean bench or the folded washing. My project to fill the punga raised bed with compost this past few days has been my sanity project in the midst of child illness which seems close to endless. When it was raining as well as Fionn ill, I managed very tiny projects. I would lay on the bed with one or other child in my arms and hang on to this small sign or progress. One day I emptied a bag of seaweed on the punga raised bed. Another day I spread the last of my bale of peastraw. But yesterday dawned beautiful and there was a gap before my daughter came down sick. In that gap (bright with the short-lived prospect of illnesses over), I moved four wheelb…

local food: squid

Last month we were talking about how lots of squid is caught near us and yet we can never buy it. Today I found some at the fantastic fish shop in Hokitika. Five dollars for a whole squid. I took a few tips from the fishmonger on what to do, wondered about the eyes etc. back home and rang a chef friend in Auckland for more expert tuition and then cooked my very own calamari
for the first time.

Before children, when we spent a large portion of our two incomes on gorgeous food in Ponsonby, I used to eat calamari every single time we went to a small restaurant (not at all ponzy or pretentious) called Calabria. I've been keen on having some more ever since but as tonight's meal (entree size) for two was probably $40+ worth of calamari in a restaurant setting, I'd despaired of having any for a very long time.

My first attempt was a reasonable feed and I'll be buying it again and practising until I have that Calabria sensation in my mouth once again.


The front page of this week's Guardian Weekly details the about face of the banking industry, which has now, merely five minutes after ruining the lives of millions, romped back into it's time honoured culture of mega bonuses. There is also comment on something called the 'derivatives market'. As far as I can work out, this refers to the practice of selling on mortgages such as that in the sub prime sector in the US. And selling them on and on. But to quote the Guardian Weekly article (which I can't find online, I'm referring to the print version of 3 July 2009):
Initially almost all parties involved after Lehman Brothers went bust agreed
there had to be huge changes to make these markets more transparent. But
ISDA [International Swaps and Derivatives Association] believes the bigger risk
today is that regulators will over-react and kill off an industry which is again
generating substantial profits for London. "We would suggest that there is
no little dange…

A distinct lack of purity

Many of the blogs which I read demonstrate fabulous commitment to their ideals, whether they be green (environmental), red (political), simple living or gardening. Or craft.

I'm committed to a pile of things, or so I think, but on a Friday night on the eve of two weeks off work, there ain't no purity of ideals round here. I did manage home made school lunch for Fionn but nothing for Favourite Handyman. I did manage to walk to collect Fionn this afternoon (in the rain) but this morning in the rain we all piled into the car. Brighid and I had sausage roll snacks at lunchtime and for dinner the kids and I had fish and chips from the chippie shop. Then we went to the pub for a while and the kids had lemonade and orange juice while I had wine. Brighid swiped her glass sideways twice and I may have to ban her for the next ten years. A pile of non-essential spending and I don't regret it at all. Blowing $40 on bought food and booze once per pay period won't stop us paying for …


Once upon a time there was a little country called New Zealand. The children in New Zealand went to schools and were ranked. There was practise at this ranking for a decade or so before the earnest ranking began. All the fifteen year olds in the land would sit their school certificate. They tried their hardest or nearly their hardest. Most of them mucked around and made their teachers fear for their (the children's) futures right up until their teachers had drained the local liquor store of booze as a result of their stress. Then, and mostly only then, they would pull finger and work very hard and mostly do themselves proud and make many people beam and reach for more alcohol. That is the nature of teenagers. I remember it myself.

The thing about this ranking was that only half of the people were allowed to pass. Every year far more than half of the people would try very hard indeed. They would study and swot, swear and stumble, make leaps in understanding and climb some …