Saturday, May 23, 2009

Ten Dead Chooks

Raelene and I have been discussing the fate of her eldest chooks for the last few months. Much as I would have liked all those old bones for making stock, my killer and plucker was just too busy. So today someone else killed ten of her oldest birds and put them in a couple of large feed bags. I collected them and buried them throughout my garden. As I was burying number nine, it occurred to me that I could have cut off the feet, or feet and heads, for stock quite easily and then buried the rest. So I might try that next time. Meanwhile, I'm expecting some bonza growth from my burial ground gardens come spring.

I also spent a bit of time tending my live chooks. I pulled all of the peastraw/chook poo out of the coop and spread it around my rhubarb. Then I tipped a big bag of wood shavings into the coop.

Yesterday I also squeezed in a little garden time. I weeded around my hydrangea cuttings which have taken nicely. I noticed that some of my rose cuttings have new growth on them which is a great result after only seven weeks. I rigged up a kind of plastic cover for my rocket and bok choy with old plastic from the chook run, clothes pegs and a saw horse. Very basic, but may well do the intended job of warming that spot up to keep growth going over winter.

I'm still contemplating the garden layout, thinking about where the new fruit trees and the roses will go. I have several roses to be moved next month and plum trees are this year's planned investment. I'm also keeping some tamarillo seeds this week for raising into trees in Spring. The punga raised bed, currently home to yams (which benefit from frost!), is quite protected from frosts so I think that will be the best home for the tamarillo. Or maybe the north facing brick wall beside the study? I guess I'll be talking to myself about this one for a while yet...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Hello Garden

Hello Garden. I thought I'd write you a letter, seeing as I spend so little time touching you lately. I haven't forgotten you, in fact I think of you every day. I watched you and planned for your next shapes through the rain, through the miasma of suspected croup, suspected impetigo, suspected chest infection, definite hail and now I watch you as I feed the chooks and think of you as I seem to cram in everything else which was neglected and yet still neglect you, my favourite.

You are still so generous. I've dug potatoes, cut broccoli, picked stalks and sprigs of celery, kale, thyme, rosemary, bay leaves and chives throughout the week. I dug yams and realised I must slow down and be patient. It must be winter proper, not winter early, before I harvest the yams. We had a frost yesterday - Favourite Handyman found the water sitting atop the chicken coop and the trampoline frozen. The vista of bright orange chillis nestled in amongst the celery and the kale that morning was especially beautiful. I felt like I had built a perfect cradle to protect the chilli plant.

You, my garden, are the centre of the independence days project which many bloggers whom I read seem to be focusing on this Autumn. But I've had some spectacular failure of common sense in the midst of some of this back to basics stuff. I was cooking up some old swede, some kitchen scraps and some kibbled rye for the chooks yesterday and it didn't just go pear shaped, it went carcinogenic almost insurance pay out black. Namely because I turned it down on low and thought I turned it off before I went out driving in the sunshine. But, um, I didn't. Boy did the house stink when I got home. Thankfully, incredibly utterly thankfully, there had been a lot of water in the pot and it hadn't got to the stage where it caught fire and the house burnt down. Thankfully indeed. This is not as bad as the day my daughter escaped out onto the main state highway when I was paying insufficient attention, but neither does it rate as remotely sensible.

I have been playing round with some indoors independence skills stuff while it is dark, while you sleep my garden. I'm still knitting my vest. I've been inspired by some of the very beautiful craft work on blogs I read to play aorund with a little fancying-up of Brighid's lovely denim dress from the Sallies. It is a Pumpkin Patch, probably quite a few seasons ago and it is gorgeous but for drab mottley brown buttons. So I have bought some bold red smiley face buttons and am part way through sewing these on. Yes I will get the camera out. I have got my sewing machine fixed and today I bought a pattern for a dress for our friend Alice who turns six soon. I thought it would be a good oppportunity for me to have go sewing something as a present, seeing as I have lots of fabric to play with. Maybe I will do a dress, maybe a swirly skirt. At first I chose some blue material but now I am looking at the bold 80s sweatshirting material and wondering about using that instead. I recall dimly that back then people did classes in sewing with this new fabric and I should set the tension differently? Me and tension on my sewing machine have a shakey and indeed tense relationship at the best of times. I'm going to finish the buttons first.

Work is using up a pile of my thought processes of late, which is okay. I never think work spent empowering our young people is wasted effort. There is a call for expressions of interest in trades academies throughout the country. These would indeed provide for some development of useful, practical life skills in our next generation. I'm swept up in the excitement and the minutae of planning the how and the what of having a trades academy here on the West Coast.

Down at the league sideline this evening, I felt like this was sort of the essence of my life at the moment. We walked down in crisp air but lovely, lowering sunshine just before 5pm. Fionn wore some fabulous trainers gifted by a friend with an older child, Brighid called out to the other children and wanted to follow Fionn onto the field. I recognised more and more other parents and noted how our community has rallied around to help coach our wee kids, the under sevens. Our beloved coach Tommo cannot be there every week any more because the mines have changed shifts in order to keep it going - someone in Hong Kong has a huge mortgage over Spring Creek and s/he/they cannot get their pound of flesh unless the mine runs 24/7. The air got colder and colder but the prospect of going home and cooking, lighting the fire and generally being 'good' could not compete with the more delicious fun of catching up with another friend, one of my first friends here in Small Wet Town. We hid in the car and watched out at the kids. I saw Favourite Handyman arrive and stand close to the kids, chatting with other Dads, sharing stories not just of league, but of other projects in our town, more things to try and support our bigger kids who are in far more trouble than the tiny tots jumping and jumbling round the league field, by this time under flood lights.

So, my garden, you are always in my thoughts, but there is some competition. I would like to be with you tomorrow, but we have an extra two year old which we are looking forward to in the morning, and then in the afternoon we will be down at the league field again, this time cheering on the school cross-country. Time in the garden moves slowly at this time of the year and a weekend always follows a Friday. We will meet, converse more intimately, reform each other, soon.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Small irritations

It is not the cold or (at least initially not) the wet of winter which grinds me down. It is not the slower pace in the garden or the short days of light.

What grinds me down is the slow and incremental loss of control over my family life, my household responsibilities which comes with a lurgy which never quite disappears. Not for days and so far this time we are now on weeks.

Every winter.

Missed days of work for myself, days of carrying on to save my sick days for the inevitable of sick children. Days of soup and recuperation followed by days of that little bit too much done during the day and no energy left for cooking.

Bought dinner, dishes not yet done, a sleep in on a busy work morning leading to yet more bought food.

A determination to continue as normal leading to some achievements and still fatigue at the end meaning a household of grime, dust, scary kitchen, overdue library books.

It will come right but I'll admit to considerable impatience for it to do so. I'm awake now, at 2am, writing, having collapsed into bed too early with the children. There are signs for the new day ahead which look bright. A forecast of sunshine after many many many days of rain peppered with hail. The prospect of washing going outside, of children having space to run and laugh and play games with sunshine on their bottoms instead of mud. There is still a scratch or three in my chest, but no longer the cold ball of infection sending up nasty coloured phlegm. The rubbish man will come in a few hours and take away the smelly things from my fridge. Sometimes I want the easy way, the evil non-compsting way. I want a head start for a house which doesn't scare me, send me running back to the haven of the study and an alternative world of mucking around on the computer.

There are treats arriving tomorrow, avocadoes and tamarillos and mandarins. I've a lovely big order of meat bones, saveloys for the children, mince and a roast waiting for me at Jonesy's butchery.

I'm in no way ready for work tomorrow, but the promise of sunshine, the cathartic effect of writing out my niggles here, well maybe they will lead me through.

I grew up with a few saints. There used to be books at the church children's library of the lives of saints. I devoured them. Flowers in the Attic was boring and made up. The thrilling lives of girls who were so poor that they had to sleep with newspaper over their beds instead of blankets but to whom Our Lady appeared. St Vincent de Paul when he was a wealthy young man in Paris, before turning his back on all of that and leaving a legacy all the way down to the wee second hand clothes shop here in Wetville. When I left for London, my friend Jill gave me a medal of St Christopher, patron saint of travellers. I seem to recall something about St Anthony, patron saint of lost things. Crikey, he would get dizzy looking round helping us each morning.

But what I could really do with is making friends with a patron saint of waking up on time during the week. Yes I do realise that an alarm clock might indeed be a practical thing. One which the children don't lose or break or take out to the toilet and leave there (on the temperature setting which means I know that it is 10 degrees celsius in the toilet right now) and one which will wake me at 6am but not the others as progress in the morning goes best if I get up 45 minutes before everyone else. So you see why a saint's intercession might be more use than a noisy clock?

In the interests of helping myself get back on track, sleeping a little more before hopefully waking on time around 6am, even 6.30 would probably prevent a lot of yesterday's disasters, I'll sign off now and head to bed.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Refashioning

Im sure there are readers out there who know the answers to these questions (e.g. Sharon, Nova, Gill?).

1. I have recently been given a lovely wool jersey, man size. It is made from homespun wool and handknitted. The wool was from my friend's parents' sheep and it was his Mum and her friends who did the spinning and the knitting. He doesn't wear the jersey and would I find a use for it?

Yes. Only I need to change the collar from the high round scratchy one to something more open, and given I want to wear it out in the cold when I'm gardening and tramping, I want to change it to a more practical colour than white.

I would like suggestions on how to dye this jersey and also on the best way to change the neck to something more comfortable. No, more than that. I would love any suggestions on this.

Hunger - the only certainty?

I've been reading my history books this weekend, looking at the 1930s depression and the 1951 watersiders' strike. There are indeed blessings to being too poorly to get out of bed much.

On Saturday I read a historical novel called Union Belle by Deborah Challinor. The romance part of it was pretty trite - bored housewife falls for handsome new bloke to town, handsome bloke has no scruples at all about chasing and screwing his mate's wife. So much for solidarity. But the context of the miners supporting the watersiders and the endless perhaps crazy battles between the big union guys and the government, well that got me looking for a bit more information from the non-fiction history books. The other aspect of the novel which struck me was how the men kept on going to the pub through weeks and weeks of strike. Had they no shame? There might be blogs aplenty out there talking up the old days when people had all these wonderful do it yourself skills, but it seemed to me that the miners of Puremiko needed to go teetotal or learn how to make home brew.

On Sunday I read patches of Michael King's Penguin History of NZ and Jamie Belich's second volume on NZ (name escapes me atm). Although, true to our house mess, I cannot find King's book to lift an exact quote, he did note that in the 1930s, many people believed that capitalism was finished.

Oh um, well I wonder about that right now. He did also note that things had changed massively and that were it not for WW2, our economic path would have been much more modest.

So, war or prolonged widespread scarcity. Pretty sobering either way. I'm still enough of the capitalist scorner to decline to join kiwisaver - I'm not at all convinced that it is worth it. But if capitalism is the dog which never completely dies and indeed rises to fight again, then maybe I will be poor and stupid in the mid 21st century while the kiwisaver enthusiasts live a much more comfortable life.

No matter what happens, we will need to eat. Which is why I'm carrying on planning the garden. Which is why I prioritise getting rid of our mortgage as fast as possible - maybe we will be able to afford to buy a piece of land to grow more food on once our current mortgage is totally paid off.

So, food to warm hearts and minds on a budget.

Bacon bone soup
I bought a few smoked bacon hocks from Jonesy last month and threw them in the freezer. They cost $5 each.

Saturday:
I plonked one defrosted hock in the slow cooker, some chunks of pumpkin, about a cup of puy lentils, some onion, garlic, celery, carrots, thyme and bay leaves. Filled it up with water and let it cook all day - on high at first and then down to low once I saw some regular bubbling. Then I realised I was sick and went to bed.

At the end of the afternoon I lifted the bone out and chopped up the meat on the bone. Then I returned the meat to the pot. Served up soup for four of us. Heaps and heaps left. Put that in the fridge - I could see I wouldn't be feeling like cooking the next night either.,

Sunday:
Pulled the soup out of the fridge just before dinner time. Ladled some into a saucepan, added some water and kale and reheated it. Still plenty left over. Thought I'd keep the rest for Monday given I'm on a 66 cent challenge after I looked at our bank balance on Thursday night.

Monday:
Dug some potatoes from the garden, boiled and mashed them. Greased a casserole dish and ladled the leftover (quite solid) soup into it. Added some chopped kale and then topped it with the mashed potato, to which I had added grated cheese and paprika. It's in the oven reheating now.

Pumpkin has been our other staple of late. We've had pumpkin soups, pumpkin risottos, pumpkin quiche and today after school we had pumpkin scones.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

skin deep supression

It's been a shade frantic around here since we found what we thought was impetigo on Fionn's legs. Amidst his tears of sadness at the prospect of missing school, a birthday party and league practice, I managed to get him into the doctor's first thing this morning.

Locum.

I am getting way too much experience of locum doctors being mad or bad. Mostly bad.

Good news was that it wasn't impetigo, the dreaded highly contagious school sores which would have meant quarantine at home. The bad news from my point of view was that the doctor related badly to both of us, wouldn't answer my questions properly, claimed that his legs had bites on them from unnamed general household 'things', that I should clean the house more, and prescribed a corticosteroid/antibacterial cream without any guidance on how often or long to use it for.

We saw Dr Locum at the surgery. Yes I do need to clean my house more. Those marks on his legs are definitely NOT bites. Actually given the fumigation from the fleas a month back, I'd wonder what mysterious unnamed bites could be hanging out. Actually I think that a doctor making such a claim could come up with at least ONE actual example of a possible biter. Especially given how many times I pressed Dr Locum for this information. I also asked whether he considered that the problem was bacterial or fungal but I couldn't get that out of him either. Although surely bites don't require anything but time to heal and perhaps some anti-itch cream? And more crucially something done about the source of the biters - I wouldn't have thought an extra vacuum would be enough.

But as we already know that they are not bites, we may as well ignore his ridiculous prognosis. But what about his pharmaceutical prescription? Why prescribe a antibacterial/steroid cream? Well I do believe him when he says it will ease the marks and the (pre-existing) eczema as well. Steroids do that. But on what grounds do we suppress symptoms without looking to the actual cause of a new skin lesion which has spread fairly rapidly along the arms and legs of a six year old boy?

The analagy between the bandaids and steroid creams being applied to the global financial system and the steroid cream being prescribed for one little boy's patchy looking legs only came to me later today. But before I hit the similarities, I spent some time at our local health shop.

Maggie and Kerrie are wonderful resources of knowledge here in Wetville. Today I had the benefit of Maggie's knowledge as we discussed various options for improving the health of my boy. I was pleased to realise as we chatted that my lotions and potions cupboard is already quite well equipped. I already have some colloidal silver cream, some grapefruit seed extract, aqueous cream to which I have added a few drops of tea tree oil, vitamin C and various other immune boosting vitamins and minerals. So I opted to buy some more vitamin C and also a bottle of liquid zinc to push all of our defences against the general cold lurgy which ails this house at the moment.

I'll be watching how Fionn's legs respond to the regular creaming with colloidal silver and the zinc boost ( we were already doing probiotics, flax seed oil and a childrens general multivitamin each day). Despite the poorly nature of too many people round here, mostly coughing and snivelling grumpy old me, I've mostly managed to keep up the proper meals routine. Fionn's very own home grown broccoli is nearly ready to eat and we all know that this stuff has magic properties which lead to great health and the scoring of tries on Saturday morning.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Winter tactics

1. Finely chop one large clove of garlic, and the same amount of ginger. Then add a heaped teaspoon of raw honey and a tablespoon of plain yoghurt. Mix together then spoon into your mouth.

2. Warm house. After Fionn's scary asthma bout just before Christmas, I have lost the drive to minimise wood consumption. The fire is currently burning every evening and sometimes during the day as well. If you live in the UK, you would still think our house is cold during the day. if you are a traditional New Zealander with a hot lounge and cold bedrooms, you would think our bedroom is lovely and warm. Our insulation efforts each year keep paying off in terms of reduced heat loss. The kitchen (blocked off after dinner) is the only room without pink batts. In Spring, we will get pink batts for the kitchen and then start saving for underfloor insulation. I think there is more curtain work to be done yet also. The lounge and the bedrooms all have heavy duty blackout lining to add to their insulating properties. Not so the study, the dining room or the kitchen.

3. More on warm house. I was going to fill the boot with kiln dried pine offcuts tomorrow but after hearing of a fatality in our area due to unsecured heavy things in the station wagon boot flying through the air in a car crash and killing one, injuring three others... well after that I think I'll fork out for delivery and get a proper truckload's worth.

4. Chooks are still laying. For nameless birds which we will eat one day, I am very fond of them.

5. Lots of swiss chard and kale in the garden, plus potatoes, broccoli, radiccio, rocket, chillis, celery and yams. I think I have achieved a much better winter garden this year than previous attempts.

6. Lemon drink. Now for some more. I hate it that this latest round of coughs and colds has knocked me sideways.

7. Bone broths. I've gotten back into making them. Used one to make risotto last night and the leftovers, mixed with corn, swiss chard and four eggs, are baking in the oven for tonight's dinner as I type.

8. Two more yet to be achieved: time to give kefir and beet kvass another go...

Sunday, May 10, 2009

May Day in Blackball: photos and a link


It was a beautiful day in Blackball. The top picture shows us marching with our banners from the Working Men's Club to the Community Centre. I've put the bottom picture in as well cos I like the banner and the young leftie leading the way. I'm on the right, holding Brighid, the youngest leftie there. Next year I'm thinking we will do something especailly for the children, we'll be bringing both of our children and we'll make it part of the rituals of their childhood. Should have the shrine and the museum open by then. For more on May Day at Blackball, see here.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Struggle

People have to choose what they are going to struggle for. Life is always a
struggle, whether or not you’re struggling for anything worthwhile, so it might
as well be for something worthwhile.





Quote from Carla Emery, via Sharon Astyk, with thanks to Johanna Knox for giving me the link.



I love this quote. It reminds me of Paulo Friere, who also talked about the need for struggle in order to achieve change and said (paraphrased here, not quoted) that struggle is constant, there is no nirvana or rest place where the work of enfranchising the disenfranchised is finished. Life isn't about finding a way to spend your whole life on the golf course. I expect to work and I expect that requirement to be universal to us all. What I think is worth fighting for, what I like to imagine I am trying to do in my own small way, is to give dignity to the work and struggles that mark the days and months and years of each of us.


I think of my cousin when I look at the quote above on struggle. Vanessa's little boy, born with severe heart problems, is in Starship Childrens Hospital in Auckland at the moment, having come through a heart operation well but now with fluid around his lungs. The struggle to keep your ill child alive must be so terrible and yet nothing could matter more to a parent. I hope I never have to go through such agony.

There was a lot of talk about our small town yesterday about the recession starting to bite harder locally. A friend who does repossession work is getting very busy and not just for individuals. He told me stories today which brought home the particular vulnerability of small businesses, who might be owed money, significant sums, but who so often have to wait behind the big guns to get any money back when individuals and businesses go bankrupt.

So I was very mindful of where I spent money while in town yesterday. Yes indeed, payday is still a bit exciting. I paid off another $50 on my new boots. My current boots (gumboots being, unfortunately, inappropriate for work) are six years old and need the zips replacing. I don't muck around with cheap winter footwear and consequently I don't need to replace it very often. But in the small local shoe shop (the kind which I want to keep going but which must be struggling in the current climate) here in Wetville, you can still do layby. I bought the last pair of really good, fairly classic black leather boots a fortnight ago and I will pay $50 off per fortnight until either I have paid them off or other bills stop and I can clear the full sum earlier. The same shop also offer a repair service, and when I have my new boots I will send my current ones away to get new zips fitted. Currently I am careful how I hold my tongue each time I do them up, never keen on having to wear gumboots or really extremely old tatty shoes to work.

Then I took my sewing machine in to be fixed. Last week I posted about my windfall of fabric and clearly I'm not going to get far with a broken machine. I figured it was me - I probably shouldn't have a sewing machine driver's licence. But our wonderful local sewing shop lady checked a few things and identified that the tension spring is broken and made a note for the repair man for when he came in later in the afternoon. Service like this is totally wonderful and worth supporting and preserving in my opinion. Life ain't all bad in smalltown.

Something else to struggle against: big pharma ruling our lives. The big pharmaceutical companies have a huge global reach and the way in which capitalism and modern medicine are intertwined make it extremely difficult for each of us to make truly informed decisions about our health. The sway which big pharma has on national health providers is gobsmacking. Individuals who have made choices not to vaccinate themselves or their children are very effectively kept as isolated individuals - the way in which non-comformist choice is branded anti-community has nothing to do with medicine in my view and everything to do with market control. For me, a sea shift came with the realisation firstly that the herd immunity theory was just that, a theory, and secondly as I wondered why I had never asked before why an effective vaccine was so apparently reliant on other people having it. Either it gives you personal immunity or it doesn't, surely?

The other big gun in medicine which I think is worth struggling against is antibiotics. There are still doctors, many doctors, prescribing antibiotics very freely and also patients demanding them without sufficient knowledge of how they work (or don't work). Last night I began reading a book by Dr James McKenna on natural alternatives to antibiotics. He freely acknowledges that there is a time and place for antibiotics and also that the overuse of them threatens their efficacy when they are really needed. So I'll be furthering my knowledge with him for the rest of this week. Maybe there will be more herbs in the garden soon so I can opt for more homemade remedies as time goes on. I've already noticed liberal mention of echinacea. I managed to raise one plant from seed but then I killed that when I transplanted it in year two. Time for another go, come spring.

As for the big picture of economic struggle. Over the past five days, I have seen assertions that New Zealand debt is variously 25%, 40% and 97% of our GDP. Rather big differences. I'm finding it very difficult to really understand how New Zealand is placed in terms of debt burden and how to compare apples with apples, not cherry guavas. Any suggestions of good reading (preferably online for cost accessibility) on this are very welcome.

Monday, May 4, 2009

A change from screen time

My computer died last week. Yesterday, our other computer could not receive the internet for the entire day. By evening, I decided that as we have no television signal and there were no dvds I wanted to watch and I'd read for a while already, I would enter the short story competition advertised in the Sunday Star Times. So I've started writing that.

We're well into the sniffle and vomit season here and today three out of four of us were poorly or just beginning to recover. By 3.30pm however, it was warm and sunny outside and I finally got to spend some time getting dirt under my fingernails. Oh the sweet satisfaction. I trimmed some very overgrown edges and did a little weeding. The rhubarb we got given at the beginning of this year has adapted to southern wetville life well and the rhubarb I was given last spring is looking very very good. I need to empty the chicken coop poo and peastraw onto the rhubarb plots - apparently rhubarb loves manure.

I eyed up the garden plot by the lean-to as I worked, plotting it's transformation into a home for 1-2 espaliered fruit trees. I read recently of a permaculture enthusiast surrounding her fruit trees with comfrey plants and I think I'll do that also.

I think I have a new project. Less than an hour ago, a friend appeared at the door with two huge boxes of fabric for me. His wife has had a big clear out and I now own more material than would even fit in the entirety of my two drawer craft and vital documents chest. I could gift some, send the rest to the Sallies, keep the pieces which I like best in a drawer to admire but ultimately never use. Or I could set the sewing machine up where the dead computer used to live, sort the always problematic tension out and get creating. There is some very beautiful material in there and it's time I got some use out of my sewing machine. That would surely be a good skill development for Sharon Astyck's Independence Days challenge...

Saturday, May 2, 2009

May Day at Blackball: Part One

My 'provocation' which I shared at the forum at Blackball today:

Invisible work

I’ve got a friend in Greymouth who cares for her baby granddaughter, her ten year old son and her suicidal adult son. Can someone tell me why this woman, this mother, grandmother, carer of our most vulnerable, is being badgered by WINZ to get paying employment?

With unemployment rising weekly, it is difficult to understand what prompts WINZ to badger and harass like this. I guess there won’t be a WINZ deputation at Steven’s* funeral. I forget who was the last extremely well paid consultant to suggest we rename and rebrand our government departments and focus on “joined-up thinking”. CYFS might have very good reason to hope that my friend can be home and provide continuity of care for her family. But WINZ appears not to have spoken to CYFS.

We live under an economic system which talks of labour units. I flinch when I hear the term. But of the people who care for the elderly, the very young, the new mothers and the struggling teenagers, of the people who care for the mentally unwell, the confused and the infirm, none of them for money, I never hear of a term for them. They are invisible under the neo-liberal economic paradigm.
--------

I never imagined that staying at home with my children would be a radical decision. Not as a teenager, nor as a university student nor as a young working woman. So it was something of a shock as a new mother, when I realised what powerful inroads capitalism has made into family life. I began to see what an opening the feminist movement presented to that octopus which is capitalism. House prices began at double income level and fears about education provision in poor neighbourhoods intensified the notion that food and shelter were not nearly enough. Children had to be handed over to institutions so that money could be made.

My decision to teach only part time, later not at all, when we didn’t even own our own home was seen as foolish and ridiculous by many men and women. That was in London, six years ago. It’s not as different here in New Zealand, West Coast, as I’d romantically imagined.

Here, with two children now, I spend most of my week outside of the paid workforce. I spend most of my week in full control of my children’s health, I spend my time caring for my children, visiting an elderly relative, growing our own food and eggs, swapping childcare to support friends, running food co-ops and supporting non-profit local initiatives where I can.

I still find myself making such lists to justify myself, still not quite strong enough to totally shrug off the neo-liberal denial of the worth of community fabric, of caring, growing and sharing outside a state-sanctioned institutional framework.

So why, in a country where we all shed tears and wrung hands when the Kahui twins died, and the many abused children before and since, why do we not give respect to unpaid caring work? I know many grandmothers who work supporting elderly parents, vulnerable children and tiny grandchildren. What is the difference between those who stay warm at night and those who sometimes go hungry and are challenged to do more by the state? The difference is whether they are under 65 or not, as pensioner bashing is currently, thankfully, not part of our national and political psyche. For those under 65, the difference is whether they are poor and on benefits or not.

If we want a community where we are more than economic units, invisible unpaid workers and uncomfortable, unemployed reminders of the fag end of capitalism, then we need to demand and create change.

We need, in short, to honour the time which growing healthy families and communities requires.
* Not his real name.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Organic NZ magazine

The May/June issue is out now, with some very interesting material and stories of great developments throughout New Zealand, stories which uplift compared to the articles on GE trials and expansion.

One of the valuable sections to me is the classifieds. This is where I've found sources of quality New Zealand produce. I first found Eco-avo organic avocadoes in this magazine and since then we've received hundreds of kilos of avocadoes over the last few years - they are delicious, and much appreciated by many coasters. This month I see an Opotiki place called Fruit Forest also offering avocadoes for sale. They have other seasonal fruits such as mandarins, feijoas, tamarillos and persimmons and offer mixed boxes. But the ones I have just placed an order from are South Island growers of organic feijoas. We like feijoas here at the messiest house in the world (Fionn has decreed it thus), and I am often looking for replacement fruit instead of the imported oranges and bananas which my children so love. I want to support the most local growers hence the choice to go South Island first.

There is a fascinating article on backyard beekeeping this month. I think our place is too small for beekeeping, but I am at least reminded that I'm doing the right thing buying local, predominantly organic, raw honey.

I'm feeling cautiously pleased about this winter's supply of dark green leafy vegetables from our garden. I've been sneaking dark green veges into every dish I can and at least some of it seems to be going all the way into my children's tummies. Us adults, we love the stuff.

Although I'm rather proud of my sourdough breadmaking of late, I still need to face the evidence that lots of bread is doing me no favours. I made a big pot of rice this morning, mixed it with rocket and radiccio, carrot, tuna and a smidgen of balsamic vinegar, and this is the habit I need to entrench - reaching for a bowl of rice instead of a slice of bread. So although I've nearly used up the 20kg of organic flour I bought from Terrace Farms earlier this year, another order isn't such a good idea at the moment.

Happy May Day to you all. Celebrations at Blackball tomorrow look good, though I'm unsure whether my daughter will be well enough for me to attend the forum. Tonight when the weather draws in again will tell me whether we have a mostly healed cough or the return of the croup-like scary cough of last night. I've been adding vitamin C and echinacea alternately to her drinks and I think that is helping.