Monday, November 30, 2009

Soothing my grumpy soul with gardening...

After the thunder storm, the rain abated, just as Favourite Handyman was putting the children to bed. Oh beautiful window of opportunity...

I pulled out some of the huge seeding parsley and potted up tiny parsley seedlings from underneath the umbrella. When you pull out a large parsley plant, you can smell the relationship to carrot - there is a distinctive sweet, earthy smell very similar to carrots.

I planted dahlias (hopefully not too late). All of them are divided tubers from a huge one I dug out in winter. It had not been divided for many years.

I transplanted one tomato into a bigger pot and two chillis into medium pots. The tomatoes have flower buds now.

I pulled out more errant yams and fed some sorrel to the chooks.

I enjoyed my evening session in the garden more than words can express.

Inside, I have finished the knitting for the baby coat and now only have to sew it up (yes there is a little procrastination on the sewing up front). I am nearly finished knitting a doll's skirt out of scraps of wool. I will knit a matching top for the same doll and then sew the rest - faster surely. Though given I can knit and surf the net at the same time which I certainly can't do with the sewing machine, sometimes the knitting wins out. The clothes are my daughter's Christmas present. Oh, see how well behaved I am trying to be about Christmas this year.

I had a go at making mayonnaise tonight which worked out okay. Thanks for your tips Nikki.

Nothing more to report - I would like to be reading more, but I can't read and knit and surf the net at the same time, or read and do the dishes or read and fold washing or or or...

Friday, November 27, 2009

Once upon a time

I had aspirations as a non-punitive mother. I longed to have a baby and once those periods finally stopped coming and I started vomiting, I spent many a long hour choosing pregnancy and parenting books in earnest London bookshops. It is not hugely surprising that this baby planning thing took place largely in my head, as the physical manifestations had me bent over a loo or a doubled plastic supermarket bag much of every morning and on lucky days in the afternoon as well. Head stuff was comparatively attractive.

Oh how I hated Gina Ford and her baby routines. I also despised the medicalised model of childbirth and enrolled myself in various classes at Janet Balaskas' Active Birth Centre in North London. That involved a fair few trains as we didn't live anywhere remotely as fashionable and potentially unmedicalised as north London. Most incredibly for me now, I even read books and articles about people who raise/d their children without saying 'no'.

Which turns out to be like being alive without breathing in my case. Often I say 'no' to my children before I even open my eyes in the morning.

So I don't whack her (or the first-born either, but as he is asleep right now, he seems pretty angelic) which I suppose is evidence of some kind of boundary on my part. I don't not whack her because of the law, for goodness sake, I decided not to whack my kids long before that because how else was I to raise pacifists who wouldn't take us all to war if I taught them to solve problems with violence?

Ah yes. I'm one of those. Insert your own words here___________.

But right now, as it is 135 minutes since I put her to bed, as I hear her banging some object like a drum against the door I have just closed to stop her running out and round the house for the 56th time this evening, right now I know for certain that those no to 'no' people are both wrong and also, if they ever read this blog in search of some procrastination fodder while they let their little darlings find themselves in their own special non-combative way, could find themselves satisfied that people who say no to their children before they even open their eyes in the morning, also don't get a decent evening's child-free rest. Or not tonight anyway.

Monday, November 23, 2009

knitting, hand mirror

I am appreciating knitting more and more. Right now as I try and fit in a few rows as many times in the day as I can, hoping to make a lovely parcel up for Lyra as soon as possible, I'm noticing the power of knitting for reflective time.

In some ways knitting takes absolutely ages. In an age where I can pick up a ready made jersey or fleece from the charity shops the Warehouse or many other shops for a few dollars and five minutes of my time, the time involved in making a jersey is e-nor-mous. The number of hours involved in Lyra's wee jacket are the gift I want to give to my friend who is so far away, but they also seem faintly ridiculous at times. I am delighted that when I was cold and in need of practical gardening warmth not long ago, I walked into the Sallies and found what I wanted easily and for just a few bucks. I'm wearing one of the two fleecy finds right now.

In other ways knitting is undemanding and gives a sense of achievement when there are other things I care about a lot but cannot control foremost in my mind. I've done about 30 rows of the hood today, alongside cleaning the dining room, making brownies, making meat loaf, feeding the chooks, tending to toddler wounds and collecting poo - Brighid currently fancies herself as a dog in her toileting patterns as far as I can work out. The knitting is tangible and lasting while tomorrow everyone will be hungry again, need to poo again and already the children have begun to recolonise the dining room with toys and projects.

After a gap of too long, I bought the Guardian Weekly in the weekend. The feeling of brainfood is wonderful. I really enjoyed the review by Kathryn Hughes of Amanda Vickery's book Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England. I've been having a wee google of Amanda Vickery since and wish we lived in a university town with a university library again... Mostly permaculture and the sound of the sea and being mostly at home with the children and making bread and blah blah is enough. Mostly. Hughes on Vickery's latest book:

But perhaps the most important chapter in this book is the one that tries
to understand female craft work. Late 20th-century feminists saw such
fiddly productions as a symbol of female repression. Other scholars have
tried to see subtle subversion stitched into these activities. Vickery
argues that we have lost the ability to read all those handmade quilts laboured
over by women who could have afforded to buy the finished thing. The fact
that so many of these items have survived suggests that they were valued, not
just by the maker but by her family and heirs. We should at least try to
understand that they were executed with pride and pleasure.

Vickery wrote an article on the bluestockings and art which I enjoyed here.

I've been reading and enjoying this kiwi feminist blog - the Hand Mirror. I think it's time I sharpened up my feminist thoughts. Not long ago I was reading a blog I have often frequented this year and that day was all about making your own dishwashing liquid and dreams of washing the dishes with daughters-in-law wearing dresses. It was a pivotal moment as I realised I did not want to go down this path. I've been doing the frugal simple living thing but I am not about to do the traditional female roles boxes and expecting that from the next generation. NO!

I will still be gardening and cooking and knitting and sewing but I'm also getting ready for a bit more outside the home work, a bit more focus on literature and learning. I've been noticing some scary things in our town on the expectations of girls front and I want more for me and for Brighid.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunday food

On Saturday I only went into the kitchen for glasses of water. Favourite Handyman made eggs for breakfast, fed us sandwiches for lunch and bought fish and chips for dinner.

On Sunday Favourite Handyman made eggs for breakfast and did the dishes afterwards. My rest was now sufficient to contemplate a little cooking. I made pasta with bacon and tumeric and garden greens for lunch and kumara curry (also with bacon and spinach from the garden) for dinner. I made pesto using almost all of our coriander and basil. Coriander pesto is good for detoxing metals, or mercury at least, out of the body. It also tastes great. I didn't have enough of either herb to make a singular pesto.

I made the first part of a sourdough loaf and have it in the fridge for finishing tomorrow. I experimented with a slow rise focaccia and that has come out well. I made hummous because hummous is vital for a week not spent eating cheese.

I have discovered macadamia nuts. As part of my nutritional fight against arthritis, Laskme is keen on me eating nut butters with celery. No peanut butter fan, I thought I would try macadamia nuts. Even Sally Fallon (the woman who surely crossed Catholicism with food to bring an incredible list of dietary dangers to the crazed like me who bother to read her) thinks macadamia nuts are good. Of course she says something about soaking them to prevent danger of ever eating anything without hours of preparation but never mind that. So for $13.80 I could buy a small jar of organic macadamia nut butter, made right here in New Zealand. Spot that virtue. At that price it is hard to know whether it is good or bad to like it. But I do. It is kind of sweet and tastes divine if you put a spoonful in a bowl and dip your celery stick into it as you munch while mucking around on the computer.

I also made popcorn. Why not? Butter on everyone's fingers as they wander throughout the house afterwards. Can't tell too much because of the pre-existing mess.

I am developing a liking for a little sorrel. Useful as I seem to have grown a good crop of the stuff.

Yesterday I ate the first strawberry. Divine. The netting over the raised strawberry bed seems perfect thus far.

Brighid picked red roses and red flanders poppies today. Without permission, indeed directly against my expressed wishes. Compliance obviously runs in our genes. But we do now have red roses in the flower jar on the kitchen windowsill and I have two gorgeous red poppies by my keyboard, looking like expensive, exquisite crushed silk.

Still knitting as much as possible. Onto the hood now. It's looking much better now that I can see the shape of the jacket.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Sparkly skirts and local literature

I've been busy lately, and feel like I'm fitting in little bits of lots of things and only getting a small number right through to completion so far. I am getting some very long projects at work through to successful completion and I'm satisfied (and a bit exhausted) with that.

Last weekend Fionn went to a sixth birthday party and so I made a pink sequinned sparkly skirt for the effervescent Kate. Brighid wanted one too so I did an unlined one for her. They are both a bit wonky, but nevertheless look great - it's not about the sewing but about the swirly sparkly pinkness.

My treasured friend Marion in London has had a baby girl called Lyra. I still haven't finished the jacket for her but I am knitting as much as possible and loving the way facebook means I can see pictures of this newborn wonder from across the globe, only hours after she was born. I am up to the yoke on the jacket now, and then only have the hood to go. I came across a technique I didn't know but my trusty Readers Digest guide (well Mum's actually) taught me well.

We are eating from the garden every day but I'm not getting out to do much planting or weeding or mounding of potatoes at all. Maybe today, maybe tomorrow...

Last week we went to the book launch for Paul Maunder's book Tornado. I am loving reading the stories and thrilled with the inspiration it has given my six year old son, who is now writing poems and stories and talking about publishing them. They aren't children's stories but the very act of going to the launch and realising he has a friend who both publishes stories and throws a mean paper plane down our hallway in competitions has had quite an effect.

I've been reading and changing foods, the odd potion and fitting in some swimming as I've had some return of the demon arthritis. One consequence is looking again at the oils I consume. I've generally steered clear of soy and canola oils for a long time but they slip in easily when pre-made foods are involved. I realise I 100% have to make my own pesto if I want to avoid canola and ditto for mayonnaise. I have done pesto plenty before (though that was before I broke the food processor) but mayo will be a new project. Might muck around with garlic aioli this weekend.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Immoral EPMU

Local mine workers, members of the EPMU, are out on strike in sympathy for their North Island comrades. Though maybe 'comrades' stopped being the appropriate word a long time ago. You or I may or may not sympathise with the actual union demands, but there is something much worse going on and it isn't making the media.

Recently I learnt, directly from an EPMU member, that members working for subcontractors to Solid Energy are on strike and thus losing pay, but as sub contractors, HAVE NOT BEEN GIVEN AN OPPORTUNITY TO VOTE ON THE STRIKE ACTION. In a nutshell, they are paying union fees to EPMU and getting no democratic voice. Totally immoral.


Unions like the EPMU may not like the modern world of subcontracting, but right now they are being the bully guys every bit as much as the capitalist bosses in my view.

Seems like in the past unions have often been slow to embrace female workers, workers of colour, gay and lesbian workers and now the new pariah is the miner risking his health and toiling long days under the ground who managed to get his or her job through a subcontractor rather than directly through the parent company whose employees the union privileges.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Gaylene Preston working class hero

I am currently reading Her Life's Work: Conversations with five New Zealand Women by Deborah Shepherd. It is a totally wonderful book and I am loving every page of it. Thank you Grey District Library. This morning I read the section on Gaylene Preston, a woman who before I only knew a little bit about. I loved her film on Hone Tuwhare and her War Stories. I have lots more of her to see yet.

Anyway Gaylene comes from Greymouth. She is born in the same year as my mother and took a different path. She is in many ways like other women who strode out in that era whose lives inspired me as a young feminist. What I took as inspiration when I chose very willingly to stay home almost all the time with my kids is another matter. Back to Gaylene.

Hard to choose which bits to quote. You really should read the book. All of it. All of you. Here's one bit:

By 1947, when I'm born, this little country was beginning to fast track a
middle class, an educated middle class, and the standard of living is
rising. I was put into a primary school system that was forward
thinking. It was a child-based system designed by the progressive Dr
Clarence Beeby (1902-1998) who was our director of education from
1940. Big paint brushes were thrust into our chubby fingers
and we were educated for free to the end of our university.

No wonder we had a generation gap. We were the luckiest generation
you could possibly imagine. My mother left school at 13, my father at
10. My mother walked from Blaketown to Cobden, which is a long way to go
in the cold if you've got bare feet, to help her mother clean Cobden
School. The work they did, the physical work, was never-ending and then
they educated their children way beyond their own capacity. And that's how
it was for an entire generation. p. 210-11

Walking from Blaketown to Cobden in bare feet. This is my town. The one I live in now anyway. I cried reading bits of this just from the emotion of seeing these stories in print and seeing what Gaylene Preston has done to get the stories of ordinary people on screen. I remember reading one of Maurice Gee's novels where he describes an area on the way to Richmond. It is actually a section of land which looks radically different now with the new motorway but which was once owned by my maternal forbears many generations back where they made cider so I presume they also grew apples. I had a similar very emotive response to seeing a small part of my world in a book and a really good book at that then.

Gaylene Preston has done about a million wonderful things and links in to some other heroes of mine like Sonja Davies with her film Bread and Roses. I need to get hold of that film - I certainly loved the book. The book Her Life's work is having the effect of me wanting to get out and read lots more by these women - I can't believe I haven't read any of Anne Salmond's work before and fingers crossed our local library has at least some of her books. Here's another quote from the Gaylene Preston interview. Deborah Shepard's question is the part in bold.

Do you think women are in a better place today? Is it a
better world for young women?

I actually feel that our young women have been rendered unconscious because
they haven't had to fight for equality. They haven't had to fight for
equal pay and equal opportunity. They didn't have to fight for the right
to be free of sexual role definition. They haven't had to struggle with
the narrow range of job options for women - the teaching, nursing and
secretarial jobs. The possibilities have been truly, radically
broadened. Young women today grow up knowing that 'women can do

But they've been able to have it all without thinking and are living in a
world that is full of celebrity-focused media slush, their headds full of
romantic notions about lurve and shopping. This generation knows how
to shop. They've been born into an era that assumes the fight has been won
although it is actually only partly won. So it's much harder for them in
some ways.

Oh golly you wonderful woman Gaylene Preston, articulating all this for me. Because I have been feeling it, and frustrated by it, and watching the gains I saw in the staunchly feminist women who taught me at high school gliding around like an oil spill which is shortly to be eradicated when I look at the scene in our high schools, here and overseas.

I should go back to my physical world, where I can hear Brighid complaining and the others are fixing the plastic shelter for the poultry palace and I'm still in my pyjamas and the washing machine isn't on yet ... But I am so much the richer for reading this book, for the strength of what women can do with families and their passions rather than one excluding the other. It is the reminder of a world of possibilities that I needed right now. Not because life is bad, quite the contrary, but because sometimes I lose sight of the view beyond the fence and it it is good to open my eyes a little wider.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Livingstone daisies

I love them. Just bought and planted another punnet's worth. Those psychedelic pink ones are particularly appealing. The very cool picture is, of course, not mine, but one I found on a google search. I am making progress on my camera layby though.

Also planted out what I think are marigolds from the Italian stall in the Wood (Nelson). I mounded my maori potatoes and weeded out lots of unwanted yams. Also planted out more lettuce from the garden shop plus repotted some of my own lettuces which I grew from seed. They are not quite ready for the big wide world of the open garden where the blackbirds and slugs love to feast, so they can get a little bigger in bigger pots first. I repotted six sungold tomatoes and planted out another cucurbit. Is that the correct generic name? I sowed zucchini, squash and pumpkin seeds in the same tray and now they are indistinguishable. I would like to be able to know the zucchinis from the pumpkins and next year I will do a little more careful labelling.

On kitchen strike. Until further notice.