Thursday, December 30, 2010

button necklace

Most taxing, this holiday lark. I began today with the button necklace project. I had thought a fish buttons necklace would be wonderful as below, but abandoned it when I saw how tricky it was to get them all facing the right way.

The completed necklace below, is all blue buttons. I remember when R's mum and I were pregnant and planning our home births and now R is four tomorrow. May the sun shine on you always, R, and especially tomorrow.

I spent the rest of the day gardening and bossing my children around. No. They bossed me around and we all argued until it was time to go see our friends and have tea with them and then we were all very well behaved. Something like that. I weeded around the spuds and strawberries and FH and I discussed changing the garden around completely. We could of course do it with very little effort, by buying these kitset gardens, but look at the prices!! When you factor in buying the soil on top, that is a lot of vegetables to grow to pay the investment off.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

On chocolate goo & timing

I have learned today, on the anniversary of a day of joy (at my gorgeous son in my arms) and dismay (on being inside the dispiriting hell of an NHS London hospital), that it is not a good idea to make a birthday cake from a new recipe barely more than an hour before the boy and his friends come home from the movie and McDs.

Not a good idea at all. The recipe looked fantastic, and was written and endorsed by no less than Elizabeth David (I'm slightly in love with her after reading her biography by Artemis Cooper) and Joanna Cary who is my favourite UK foodie blogger. But I put it in a loaf tin and forgot that in my experience, no matter what the recipe says, eggy concoctions such as this should be spread low and wide, not deep. It all fell apart when I removed it from the tin, and goo oozed out. Very nice tasting goo I might add, but not the kind you can ice and put candles on and cut up for eight year olds.

So when they came back, FH encouraged them out the back to play while I nipped down to the supermarket. Supermarket cakes are not bad soya and additives filled concoctions today; they are f-a-n-t-a-s-t-i-c.

Somewhere amongst birthday celebrations which included hosting my parents for lunch, I cut down the globe artichokes and began to try to prepare one to eat. I gave up after the first attempt. They are impressive looking plants and when I bought some marinated artichokes once, I did like them, but sometimes local, home grown and home cooked is not so attractive after all. Maybe I will find an online set of instructions and get better results (I followed Annabel Langbein's instructions tonight). Maybe.

I've been re-reading Kay Baxter's articles on growing nutrient dense food in recent issues of Organic NZ. I need to re-focus on gardening basics, specifically composting. I've been perusing the Koanga Gardens website, considering what I really want/need and also thinking about what changes I can make in the garden using my current compost and a visit to the beach (very close) for seaweeds.

I have more craft thoughts than I have craft stamina at the moment. Brighid's special friend R turns four on Friday and I have the materials to make her a button necklace, copying some I saw in a lovely jewellery shop in Devonport. I found two different sets of fish shaped buttons in my button jar, so tonight or tomorrow I shall make the necklace using plaited embroidery thread.

Mum gifted me some more towels today, including a worn red one which I quite like. I'd just thought (as I raced madly to create some vague sense of civilisation in at least the dining room and bathroom for their visit) that we need more hand towels. I haven't decided whether a same person would simply go to the shop and purchase some more damn hand towels or whether it is much better to split the towel in three and edge it with something pretty and thus refashion the towel into three new and cheap and useful items.

Then, a 40th birthday invite via the telephone today. I know the birthday girl is someone who appreciates handmade things. But what? And how to get it made for Sunday? It is a pot luck meal and I do promise I won't be taking chocolate cake. But one thought is to make dukka (NOT on the day!). I love dukka and cannot buy it for love or money here in Wetville. I have some cute jars... Must pull out the recipe and hit Simplifoods (which is what our old Bin Inn is now called) tomorrow. I can't wait to look at her garden - the birthday girl is also my West Coast gardening guru.

That's it. No intellectual thoughts. Maybe I will start to catch up on the Guardian Weekly editions from our holiday tonight.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Blowing in the wind

My artichokes in blown disarray. I notice that already new shoots are growing at the base. I plan to harvest all the flower heads tomorrow then chop back the branches and let the new baby shoots become the main plants for next year.
I have no shortage of herbs, but given their vigour, I have a shortage of path to walk on beside them.
Ah, compost success. This is the old compost plot, where I was concerned at the absence of worms before I went away. But tonight I turned it over with the fork and there is a wonderful abundance of red worms. I have it earmarked for the chook grave garden where the calendulas and alyssum and dill are bedraggled and past their prime.
This wind has blown over the garlic, which I cannot remember happening before. I probably should harvest the bent garlic as soon as the sun shines. The kale on the right has grey aphids. I am grateful for any suggestions on how to deal with this. We had it two years ago and it rendered the leaves quite yucky and not worth eating. I have been plucking off the affected leaves (it isn't covered at the moment) and feeding them to the chooks.
So overgrown and wild that I can barely tell where the garden stops and the lawn begins. The rhubarb seems to be holding out against the convulvulus and the spuds should be ready to eat now.
First sunflower of the season.
Gifts from my favourite out laws. The glass dish is from a very sweet lady of 89 and I plan to find some special way of using it. The doilies were crocheted by Favourite Handyman's great grandmother and given to me by his sister. I have one soaking in ecostore laundry whitener at the moment. I am wary of ruining it so avoided napisan and am soaking one at a time. I plan to make a bag to say thank you to my sil and use one of these as the motif on it.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Back in Wetville

I admired the vegetable gardens and orchards at Kemp House and the Stone Store in Kerikeri and at Pompallier House in Russell. I ate local red peppers and we all admired the views at Pagoda Lodge where we camped. We spent time at the marae and the Treaty House at Waitangi and walked part way to Haruru Falls. It was all superb and I recommend it.

In Auckland we had a marvellous time. It became apparent rather quickly that we could not all see and do and visit everything and everyone we dreamed of. We stayed with family in Albany Heights which was lovely so long as you didn't go near the soulless hell which is the Albany Mega Centre. We spent a lot of time on the motorway it seemed, but also managed to enjoy lots of friend and family visits and time at the zoo and Kelly Tarlton's. My favourite place of the Auckland trip was picnicking at Bastion Point.

Christmas itself started most pleasantly. It ended with a nightmarish event of present giving, not so much a ritual as a bun fight of present giving competitiveness. Or something like that. All year I aim to reduce and reuse and generally step lightly on this earth (and I am no model saint on this, but I try) and then in fell swoop it all seems wasted as the four of us were rained on with pieces of plastic and other oil-derived objects which we do not need, rained in such a fashion that I cannot even identify who gave the children what. At least that is over for twelve months and we won't be in Auckland for late December again for a long long time.

Now we are home and it is blowing and raining and the garden looks most wild. Everywhere there are plants laying sideways - globe artichokes, jerusalem artichokes, tomatoes, celery and garlic. The plants which I put in not long before I left look fantastic, not dried up as I feared but thriving as they were too small to blow over and apparently it rained 16 inches while we were gone. The nieghbours have erected a six foot fence to give them more privacy while we were gone. For the moment, the rusty waist high fence remains on our side of the concrete posts. Sometime I would like to replace it with trellis and grow things to cover the ugly new fence. It isn't top of my sometime list - with January all at home together in front of us I have many many things I would like to do or for Favourite Handyman to do. More to come on that.

By the height of the grass, it is clear that there was sun while we were gone. By the lack of even green tomatoes, it is clear that there wasn't lots and lots of it. The blueberries have disappeared, probably taken by birds as I didn't cover the bush with netting. But the birds have not found the blackcurrants and they are ripe and beautiful. I haven't told anyone else - my own antioxidant bushes for as long as possible. They are nice enough to eat, raw and unadorned by any sweetener. There is one zucchini ready and some lettuces. But January lays ahead of us yet. I won't harvest the garlic until late January, when a drier period should have improved its keeping qualities.

I managed to read three books on holiday, totally spoilt by my favourite out law who gave me the biggest holiday from laundry and meal preparation that I have had since I became a parent. I read A Short History of Paradise by Norman Bilborough which was pleasant holiday reading, a romp through hippy commune life set where my grandparents currently live, which is something of a stark contrast in lifestyles. Then another Alexander McCall Smith novel, this one called something about chocolate and most enjoyable. Finally an Anne Tyler novel, Digging to America, which was very good and reminded me how good Tyler is. I'd stopped reading her a few years back as it all seemed a bit samey in terms of intensive relationships but Digging to America was fantastic and I'm starting again when I've paid my library fines.

On the flight up I got a Lifestyle Block magazine and found wonderful, inspirational pieces of fibre art profiled in it. The link to see them online is here.

I've been reading Jeffrey Paparoa Holman's book of poems, Flood Damage. I got it out and then lost it and now I am reading it with relish in the full knowledge that tomorrow it must go back to the library and will cost me almost as much as if I had bought it directly from the shop. Holman has his own blog which I am looking forward to reading more slowly. For the moment, taking the liberty of assuming it is okay to reproduce one of his Flood Damage poems here, this is:

T-bar clothesline, Okarito.

a T-bar bearing
the lichen of centuries: his bush socks
soaked last night
in beer-sweat
buried in his boots
in the pub,

her wet panties
pissed in fright
when the back door
locked to keep him
out for the night
caves in, and-

O, Christ!

something she can't
scrub out is in her.

Teatowels flap naval
signals, double bed sheets
spinnaker belly: tacking, the rusty
centre bolt shrieks. Bellbirds
toll the flax, herons stalk
the creek; eels grow tusks
in the black lagoon

and it's marvellous drying weather.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

links love laundry

I'm not packed. The laundry mountain is reducing though, and slivers of couch cushions can now be seen. The celery and the passionfruit and the rocket seed and the basil went into the garden today.

Some things to read or listen to in the absence of my wittering:
1. An interview with the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, youngest of the Mitford girls. She is fantastic, with dry observations which I loved. Radio Four has been a wonderful salvation at times recently when I have felt like some radio but definitely not the wall-to-wall Pike River coverage which continues on New Zealand media.

2. The 31st Down Under Feminist Carnival. Self explanatory. I'm only part way through, but it's good.

3. Life on the latte line. Megan is also a coaster, one of the first people I met when we moved to Wetville. She is a talented mother, crafter, writer, teacher and all round fun person and I am thrilled that she has started blogging.

I better go back to the laundry pile... Thank you to all the people who have commented or emailed me to welcome me into their physical lives on my holiday. I'm not going to be in the area for everyone as we fly directly to Auckland, but I will definitely be out socialising as much as I can fit in. Whether you are drinking whisky or red wine or camomile tea, I hope you experience some chilled summer days with people you love during the rest of this month. I still recall Helen Wilson's poem for our 29 men and share her goal of being kinder to each other. May that mean the fewer people are lonely this December, whether death has touched their loved ones or not.

Ka kite ano.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

How to sandbag a community?

Today Lou would have been 92. Lou grew up down the road from where we live in a little rental cottage. A child of the depression, he started school at six and finished just at the end of primary school. His father was out of work for some of the 1930s and they were adept catchers and eaters of rabbits. In World War Two Lou was captured in Greece and spent several years as a prisoner of war. The nightmares of what he had experienced never left him and became particularly menacing in his later years.

Lou came back to Greymouth after the war a changed man, the cliche which is only a cliche because no one was lucky enough to come back unscathed. He married a lovely young woman called Mary, the daughter of a sawmiller father and a strict Methodist mother. Mary is also my Dad's cousin.

Mary and Lou made a new life, a life which they wanted and which the country desperately wanted. The sorrow was not over - they buried their first child only five days after he was born. Only, Mary did not bury him. She lay in hospital, not far from the mothers feeding their live babies, while Lou stood at the graveside of the son he had longed for and wondered if it was something that had happened in the war which had contributed to the baby's health problems.

They had two more children and devoted their lives to their families and their community. Lou umpired cricket - a sport he enjoyed and had not had the chance to play in his financially impoverished childhood. Lou brewed his own beer and Mary sewed her own clothes. Lou battled the oxalis in the garden to grow spuds, lettuces and beans. Mary filled the cake tins for her husband and children and for many more besides. Sometimes the grandparents minded the children while Mary and Lou went to dances.

In 1968 they were on holiday, Mary and Lou and their two children, at Mitchells, on the edge of Lake Brunner, when the news of the Strongman mine disaster came through.

Lou was spared the news of the Pike River mining tragedy - he died three years ago. Today we took flanders poppies and red and white roses to his grave. The children danced and jumped around and over gravestones while Mary cleaned the bird poo off his age at death on the stone.

Lou has not just been spared the details of the tragedy; he has been spared the questions we all have to face in our community. I ration media exposure tightly as so much annoys or upsets me. As a community we all stood together during the fortnight of hell as we waited for a miracle for our 29 men and then as we marked our love last Thursday. I fear that as others ask their analytical questions and probe for answers about the future of mining on the coast as well as the history, I fear that our community may be torn apart. We have lost so much, is it so very stupid and naive to fear losing more?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


I had aims to write something more extended and reflective about gender, class and dangerous work this week. The debate about extractive industries is so often framed around corporate interests (I'm talking about from a supposedly left wing perspective here, not just from the right), and does not, in my opinion, look at the opportunities and costs from the perspective of men looking for manual work. I think the concerns of the 'green' movement often arise from people who earn their living at quite some remove from that basic need to find something raw that can be sold for quite a lot of money. On the West Coast, danger money is a feature of all well paid manual work and the days of strong unions are largely gone. The strongest was/is the miners' union. The contractual nature of much logging at the moment seems to leave workers very vulnerable. Women are a strong presence in manual jobs on the coast, but the hours required by logging, mining and fishing deter people who have primary responsibility for children and this skews pay rates by gender before we even get into cultural and physical strength factors in the workplace. I don't have the mental space to reflect on some of the challenges posed by these realities at the moment, but I'm putting these setnences up here as a reminder to come back to it later and also if anyone has any comments already, then I'd love to read them.

Leeks. When Christmas and work and family ill-health and the holiday which looms incredibly close are all a bit much, then leeks are the answer. I planted 40 leeks tonight and then watered the garden until it got too dark to see what was in the garden. I put beetroot in in the weekend and have celery and passionfruit to go in tomorrow. Tonight I made/assembled little Christmas hampers for our much loved childminders and delivered them. I had some eggs to go with them but when I realised I had forgotten to include them in the wrapping, I decided that those 24 eggs should go to the Salvation Army instead.

My hair is now brown and blonde instead of grey and brown. Favourite Handyman is on antibiotics (needs must sometimes unfortunately, sometimes the bacteria win for too long). The fact that we leave for our Big Holiday North in only 65 hours is a little alarming, but after the zen of my gardening time, it seems possible that we shall pull it off. I think.

Tomorrow involves rubbish disposal, the cemetery, Christmas tree displays, kindy/school/sick husband and hopefully some progress on the Big Trip prep.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Made in Dagenham

Made in Dagenham is the most fabulous movie I have seen in ages. I think it might be the only movie I have seen in months but that is beside the point; it is fantastic. I loved the storyline and it was so uplifting to be involved in an exciting quest for justice which was successful. Voyeuristically of course, but it is quite a contrast to the impotency we have felt in our town as our men lay buried down the mine.

Back to Made in Dagenham, the story of women machinists fighting for equal pay, a fight which went all the way to Westminster and prompted equal pay legislation. The movie sexed up the story no end, with the workers mostly young and super sexy and with fabulous wardrobes. The footage of the estate looked just like where I worked in 2002, most likely because I was working in Dagenham. Some of the class and bullying stuff in the film didn't seem to have changed nearly enough 20 years later. There is a part of my heart which will always be in England and I loved that aspect of the film. I clapped out loud at Rita's speech to the union conference in Eastbourne. I loved loved the part where her husband overcomes his own difficulties and backs her. Oh yes, soppy me, but so many women in Rita's situation do not get their partner's backing.

I want to read some more about the actual struggle of these women. The end of the film showed excerpts from interviews with the real women who struck for equal pay at Ford Dagenham and that was awesome.

Moving on from the fabulous film, a health kick recipe. I haven't had a health kick obsession on this blog for weeks, maybe months. It's overdue. Chia seeds. This morning I am drinking a chia fresca, the recipe from the Nov/Dec 2010 issue of Organics NZ. 300 mls water, 2 t chia seeds, juice 1 lemon, honey to taste. Mix and leave for 10 minutes. Drink. It tastes nice. I will report back on any miraculous energy boosts tomorrow.

Five more sleeps until we leave for the Big Trip North. I suppose I better get dressed and get sorting then. I have sort of done some things for Christmas which is quite good for me. Hopefully they arrive in time.

Yesterday my friend Ruth gave me some gorgeous sparkly bright aqua fabric which is going to make some very pretty birthday skirts in January. I think I will get some tulle and go all out on the party frills aspect. No more sewing apart from mending this week though.

I've got more mulching to do in the garden and some lettuces to plant. The artichokes are hearting up nicely and I may try one before we go.

Did I tell you we are going to Auckland-all-of-us-first-time-ever-for-Brighid-and-for-seven-years-for-Fionn-and-I? Yes yaddee ye-es. On Friday. Time I got out of my jammies and into the garden (important prep don't you know) ...

Thursday, December 2, 2010

We will live

It was a beautiful service today. Thousands of people and scarcely a sound, even before it started. I loved Helen Wilson's poem, We will live. She captured our feelings perfectly. I hope it is publsihed somewhere as I would like to keep it, to read it again and again.

It was hot. A hot hot day and it has scarcely rained (in West Coast terms) since the second explosion, and no proper rain since the first. I thought about Hone Tuwhare's poem Rain tonight as I watered the garden. Part of me longs, paradoxically given the season, for rain. Gallons and buckets and at least a whole day of heavy rain. It feels like it would be cleansing, though we've not sinned or sullied as such. The rain of the West Coast is what produces the lovely ferns which were shared and placed today. It is the fire in the heart of the mine which burns our men up even now and the persistent sun is an echo.

I had held back from visiting, fearing to overload an already burdened family and then given the bugs in our household. As I left Omoto today, I knew it was now time, in this coming week, to visit a young man I know, a man whose Dad is still underground.

In Helen Wilson's poem, she talks of being kinder to each other, of this as the tribute to our 29 men. I hope to hold onto this, to put it into action not just in coming weeks, but as the months and years roll on here in Wetville. Opportunities to build hope, to build love and build achievement will present themselves in the difficult ways, spiked and twisted by trauma. I want to be here and do something useful.

At the end of watering the garden, I took the camera out to watch the ball of fire go down in the sky. From the top of our road I could see the waves rise and crash. The fire in the mine won't go down with the sun. I didn't get a fern today - our bus arrived only fifteen minutes before the service and I didn't see any where I walked in. But for me water - rain and sea - is the symbol of hope, of the renewal which means we will not burn our hearts out.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Quarantine continued today. My daughter was not impressed. She wanted to go to kindy and paint pictures. So she sourced some aqueous cream and painted this on the cupboard door:
She also painted aqueous cream all over her body but I declined to photograph that.

I used the vacuum cleaner. She ran away and although I would have preferred to run also, I held onto my adult self and vacuumed.

Weeding, planting, mulching. Brighid planted a tomato by herself. Watching her carefully take the seedling from the pot and plant it correctly from through the window, I think I might be raising another gardener.
Dill. Especially for the beneficial insects. I think it is beautiful.
My ANZAC poppies. Tomorrow we will remember our 29 men trapped beneath the Pike River Mine.
Tonight the supermarket was full. Only without the festivities usually associated with extra people stocking up. Our town is not full for a forthcoming wedding or musical concert or sports game. Our town is full and our hearts are sad.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

fewer buttercups, more sunflowers

About three weeks ago, I got stuck into this stretch of garden. I weeded and weeded and pulled the invasive flower bulbs out and planted tomatoes and freed up the lemony-yellow rose to actually grow and bloom. I got as far as the red rose, starting from the left.
The remainder looked like this three weeks ago, and since then the buttercup and dock and tobacco and grasses have got a lot bigger.

Today, home in quarantine with the shortest child (the bug I'd been warned about but not escaped it seems, though she was perky enough to garden with me), we weeded and weeded and weeded and then planted and now it looks like this:

In the background is a Red Russian sunflower, I think and in the foreground is a gooseberry bush. Another superb tasting fruit which is never available in the supermarkets.
Lest I consider the mountain of housework awaiting me inside as a priority, here are some photos of other parts of the garden also in need of hard work. The picture below is out the front and while I kind of like the lush abandoned look, it doesn't leave room for my pumpkins to grow, or indeed for the last three to even be planted.

You can just see the rhubarb here, but you can't actually reach in to harvest any. I made the mistake of planting this rather quickly two years ago in a spot with well established perennial weeds. Survivors like convulvulus, dock, thistles, a spidery invasive thing and of course, creeping buttercup. I need to dig the rhubarb out and do something serious about the weeds before anything goes in again.

After three years of idly planning a superb new (but actually brilliantly recycled of course) compost, not one which was a heap below the treehut which is a really useless place to have a compost, yesterday I caved and bought some plastic at Mitre 10. Now we have a compost heap which is getting properly hot and over summer we will redesign the base of the tree hut to make it more child-centred. This compost bin is now living beside the oppressed rhubarb. I have thoughts of moving it on to the newly cleared oppression site (after I've removed the rhubarb of course) to really kill the perennial weeds in a couple of months' time.
This is Brighid's garden. Nobody offered it to her that I can recall, she just claimed it. So I had to get resource consents before every change I made to this garden this afternoon. The onions which are harvested to the side were removed from the garden after a particularly lengthy consent process. This garden looks much drier than the same time last year and tonight after this photo I put the hose on the garden. I haven't mulched the garlic with peastraw because some book said not to (have done other years though) but the kale and broccoli definitely need some moisture retention help. I was disappointed that my Iceland poppies were not flowering but on closer inspection, that is because Brighid is deheading them before they even bloom.

Monday, November 29, 2010

He knew I loved him and I knew he loved me

Just two days before the mine exploded at Pike River, I wrote this post, where I reflected on the process of stocking up wood for winter in our small wet town. I've chosen, since the mine disaster, not to reflect here on individual men who died. The connection which saddens me most is one I am still choosing not to publicly reflect on. Even for a girl who has been here not quite five years, the connections are multiple, these men of our town who are loved and mourned and lost.

But I've just seen the interview with my favourite wood merchants, originally broadcast on TV3 and now online where I found it via facebook.

There are not words, but also words are all we have.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

red & purple

Lurgy day. So instead of doing anything of practical use, I lay about trying to rest and thinking about making a special bedspread from our heirloom purple blanket. Well, I'm defining an heirloom as something old and precious and I think this one counts. FH's Nana sent two lovely, deep purple blankets down to us, looking like they'd scarcely ever been used, when she moved out of her own home about three years ago. In an age where New Zealand practical wool items are rare, I'm particularly fond of the label:
I like the imagery on the label of the crown with the 'princess' label in the centre and the tiki on either side. When I first met FH, I was living in Onehunga (Auckland), in a done up house with a tense feel to it which had once been a gang house (pre-makeover). Not quite the scene the purple blankets conjures up to look at.

So I fancy turning this into the bedspread for our bed and I spend a good part of the day googling blanket art and wool dyeing and any other linked idea which came to me. By the middle of the afternoon I knew that the colour was not going to change and I started to think of how to decorate the purple expanse in a Sandra-possible fashion which would also somehow look fantastic.

Enter my sister's legacy. I didn't bring a lot of fabric back from our time living in the UK, but I did bring the skirt length of Welsh herringbone tweed which my sister gave to me one birthday or Christmas after her trip to Wales. It is soft and lovely and very fine and not quite enough for the style of skirt I favour and I have ummed and aghhed over how to actually wear it for years now (um seven maybe eight years).
Pre-felting above. After I had felted it twice in the washing machine and tumble drier this afternoon, it looked and felt wonderful. The felting intensified the red colour and the fabric density is now viable for my wool applique plan. Fabrics ready below.

Of course I am not allowed to actually start this until I get the purple-cardigan-of-never-endingness finished. I did do quite a lot of rows today, about ten I think, enough to feel the arthritis.
The children and I collected garden flowers for the windowsill. I decided not to be deterred from such beauty by the surrounding lack of Martha Stewart-ness. The children chose the dandelions.
The foliage in the front is sage. I cooked some up in olive oil after dinner and ate them as I recall their excellent properties for throaty-malfunction. I don't recall the specifics, but they did taste nice.

A fourth explosion at Pike River this afternoon. It's not as simple as banning mining as the Green Party have advocated, or I don't see it as being that simple. The complex desires for wealth and adventure and extraction enterprise leave me feeling not just grateful for my own relatively safe job, but also with deep questions about what powers our economy. I work for the government and without taxes from the generation of wealth, I am unable to offer my skills to the community (or not if I want to get paid for it). I don't have answers, only questions.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Supporting our rescue workers

Nice reflective piece from Amy Glass in today's Press. It is online here. You can also read the Press tribute to Grey District mayor Tony Kokshoorn here. I found both of these articles in the paper version this evening as I waited for dinner in town and it was a nice antidote. I've been upset by some people, including bloggers, deriding the rescue operation. When I heard the news of the first explosion, I asked to use the phone immediately to know that my friend T was alright. I was so relieved when he answered the telephone. He has been doing long hours ever since, using every ounce of his geologist training to assist in a dangerous situation. All across our district and with national and international assistance, people are putting their very very very best and most skilled feet forward and I am grateful and proud to know them or know of them.

If you discovered this blog in the last week, you won't be expecting details of a local girl's clumsy but improving sewing attempts on a blog titled "supporting our rescue workers". But that is how it is here, snippets of my life on a web postcard. Favourite Handyman is sick. The children are tired. I have a mysterious lurgy which has as its key symptom a startling loss of patience with small children. I got out the juicer to make us all better this morning which worked a bit and mostly made a lot of mess. We visited our friends who have recently created an animal farm in their backyard. I like our Brown Shaver hens, but their Rhode Island Reds are extremely handsome birds. Our friends also have rabbits, which my children can enjoy on visits as I don't allow pets who don't produce eggs. If we had enough space, I would allow milk-producing pets also, but 800 square metres mostly taken up with a house and garden does not quite allow for a pet goat or cow.

I also considered labelling this post Yellow Kaftan Night.

With photo credits to my son, you are can see me in my latest creation, a nightshirt of considerable proportions (finished apart from a button and the hems). I have no plans to gain 20 kilos or have more babies, but I do now have a nightshirt which could see me through such events. The pattern sort of matches the kitchen lino don't you think?

With less than two weeks to go until the Big Holiday North, we made the smallest of gains on our preparation. FH weighed the tents, Brighid broke the scales, I lost the plot, Fh mended the scales, I folded washing to create some order, the children dirtied themselves and as much fabric as they possibly could. If anyone else has read Mr Little's Noisy Train, that is how it feels here, except now the children are asleep and I do love them unreservedly. I guess a holiday with three packets of toothpaste and no tent pegs can be fun, certainly we've enjoyed them before...

Thursday, November 25, 2010


I drive through town, a mum slipping away between taxi duties. Our little streets, never hot spots of night time excitement, feel a little restful again. The man with his camera by our feature rock (don't you have a feature rock in your small town? You should) has the tripod packed up and slung over his shoulder, ready to leave. I am, as you know, one of the lucky ones. My friends, neighbours and menfolk are all above ground and alive. The guilty living clamber to do something and I remind myself that my opportunities to help, to 'do' something, will come over the months and years, long after the media has gone, but before it recedes enough to become the stuff of school social studies projects, like Brunner and the Wahine.

At the Blackball Museum of Working Class History we will find a way to make a permanent tribute. In 2009 on May Day a CTU representative gave a speech on workplace safety and the idea of a wall of tribute to those who lost their lives in workplace accidents was mooted.

I have a new blog on my sidebar: Found Stitched and Dyed: a whirled-wide sewing circle for gatherers, menders, dyers and dreamers. I find the posts quite moving, as they relate fabric histories and human histories in their many layers. There is so much there which is very quotable and I highly recommend a read through even if fabric is not your passion. Here is a sample:
I’ve acquired a deep respect for the way cloth behaves. It breaks down, wears out and is then repaired and reconstructed. These sensibilities resonate for me: Cloth is very powerful when it retains traces of its previous life, gathers history and becomes something new. (from this post)
As I think of fabric as both reality and metaphor, I also think of our community here on the West Coast, wounded irrevocably, but also able to bind together to darn the rent.

There seems to be something healing about making fabric into clothes at this time, a faint sense of creation as a palliative to death. I got the blue dress to the stage where I could
try it on yesterday. It is at least a size too big almost everywhere and also the volume of serviceable blue reminds me of a nun's habit so that can go aside for future dress ups or school plays. Now I am making a nightshirt. I cut the fabric, an old sheet handed down from my Mum, last year, using a pattern from Mum's extensive pattern stash. I am about a third of the way through getting that to wearability.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Thank you to everyone who has posted comments of support on this blog and to all my friends who have emailed or sent messages of support on facebook. This morning I thought I was hoping for two miracles. The first was for the men to come out alive. The second was for the media to leave town.

We don't have the first miracle. That dream has gone and it wasn't until I heard the news of the second explosion this evening that I realised I still had real hope of that miracle.

The second miracle would be a wonderful thing. That one is physically possible.

In memory of the 29 men who died down the Pike River Mine, and all their mining brothers who went before them, at Brunner, at Strongman, at Dobson, and throughout the world, I am taking the children for a drive now, to find a church or a beach where we can remember. Lest we forget.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

frontier country

My Dad tells a story about going to Greymouth with his Dad, when he was about ten years old. They stood on the bridge over the Grey River, the one which connects Greymouth and Cobden, and watched as the Barber (the dense, cold fog which marks the start of a day in the colder months of the year where we live) swept down the Grey Valley. Despite hailing from Canterbury, my father said he had never been so cold in all of his life.

On that holiday, he went out on the boats once with his Dad and the local fishermen. He liked the boat but the boat didn't like him - our shores are choppy at the best of times. Another day he and his father went up to the forest and sawmill to see where Uncle Eddie worked. Many of the men were missing limbs from workplace accidents. My father swore there and then that he wouldn't be a forestry worker when he grew up.

Forestry accidents are relatively rare now for the simple reason that forestry and sawmilling activity is relatively rare compared to those days. I still sometimes hear bitter comments from locals about central government building houses and grand buildings throughout the country with West Coast wood and then prohibiting Coasters from milling any more (there is still a pine industry, but no more felling and processing rimu like what was used to build our own home).

Fishing accidents are also less common because there is less fishing. Much of the fishing off our shores is done by big boats who don't even berth in Greymouth, much less put any money into our economy. Some fish does dock here in Greymouth and it is a pleasure to support our local fish shop.

There is a reason it feels like frontier country here in Wetville. Much of our economy is built on extractive industries. The nature of a frontier is pushing boundaries. Tourism doesn't push boundaries like the search for more coal and gold.

Parts of today went well. The sun shone and as the pressure at work has eased compared to the last fortnight, Brighid and I spent time in the garden instead of me working extra hours. I planted a pumpkin and two tomato plants. Brighid decided to play water controller, turning the tap off in the middle of watering because she thought I had done enough. Naturally, I have no idea where her bossy streak comes from. But in my mind was often a guilt, that I had enough distance to be happy while so many others near me are going through hell.

This morning at kindy there was a basket out collecting non-perishable goods for volunteers working with those affected by the trapped miners. Tonight I read in the paper that the Salvation Army are running a drop in centre each day to support community members who need to talk and process current events. Something I can do! There are chocolate thins, tea and coffee in the car boot now, ready to hand in at kindy in the morning. Now I know the Sallies are helping, I hope I can find out more things to do from my Sallies stalwart friend, C.

Thank you Ele Ludemann for your comments on National Radio today. While I'm honoured that Ele mentioned this blog, I wish with all my heart that I was still preoccupied with our December holiday, bits and bobs of gardening, cooking and reading and that local news focused on the latest school gala, instead of being paralysed with grief.

I wish all our men could be safely above ground right now.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Acting like normal

Today was all about acting like normal, at work, at Fionn's school, at Brighid's kindy. Mostly, it worked. When a call came through to our office at work to say that the names had been released mid morning, spirits took a plummet.

So things like normal. Things to like and be proud of. I am extremely proud of the young people who have been part of the Red Cross response team.

A feature of our tragedy in Wetville is how little we can 'do'. I felt like doing something for someone and our beloved elderly relative, Mary K, is always a great choice. Brighid and I took her shopping and are planning something special for her birthday next week.

At school pickup, every single dad there was a particular blessing. Every single one, I thought when I saw them "there's a kid with a dad who is alive'. Despite the media hamming up the presure to go down the mine with dangerous gases and very poor safety indications, I don't actually think anyone in our town (that will be the m-e-d-i-a excepted; they are welcome to go back to their own home towns) wants to jeopardise more lives.

Back home, two treasures in the garden: artichoke hearts just beginning to show. I squeezed in a little weeding around the garlic before the story-fest which marks a rather too slow descent into sleeping silence in the children's bedroom each evening.

I've gone back to working on the dress I started sewing in January. Now it has sleeves and the skirt has a skirt-like form to it. I'm up to the part where I make the midriff pieces into the waist and ties. I think it is all going to be rather too big but given I didn't pay for the material, it takes the pressure off and gives me a chance to just learn to sew. I've been reading about adjusting patterns for fit recently. I definitely need to learn to sew with a straightforward unadjusted pattern first, which is what, I tell myself, I am doing at the moment.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


We stayed home today, treasuring our time together as a family, resting before the week ahead of us. I made a dress for Brighid, who begins morning kindy tomorrow. As you can see below, she likes it. The kids were both healthy and happy today, not so surprising when their Dad is playing with them, when they know their uncles and grandads and cousins are all safe, not trapped down a mine. We've not told the children about the Pike River mine situation. There are several miners' children in Fionn's class and although I think they are all at Spring Creek, I don't want to say anything until I know they are safe.

I ironed and mended, jobs with a bit more long term currency than cleaning the floors or picking up the children's mess. As the weather improved, I weeded in the garden and planted the grape seedling which I bought at a local market recently. I also have a red currant , a gooseberry and a rose to plant from the same market expedition.

I'm not looking forward to tomorrow. Today we have insulated ourselves from the world, totally privileged in that all four of us are alive and together. Tomorrow is when I meet the grief of those who cannot sleep at night, those who have very close relatives down the Pike River mine. I'm hoping that the police are able to help shield our young people in particular from the voracious media. There is another group of people I want to offer my empathy, my concern and prayers: the miners at Roa and Spring Creek and their families. I have not heard whether those mines have stopped, but given the severe financial imperatives on those mines to keep producing coal, if they are stopped, I doubt it will be for long. The Roa and Spring Creek miners and their families must be suffering or will suffer greatly not just from worry for their mining brothers but also from going underground with such risk so much to the front of their minds.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

In solidarity with my town

I would like the media to piss off.

They do not need to swarm around our town, vultures in search of a product to sell on their 'news' programmes.

I too, am desperate for news of the Pike River miners. I too, checked the internet and the radio about a zillion times today, hungry for word that the rescue team can begin their job. Like everyone else in Wetville, I appreciate the messages of support from all over New Zealand, all over the world.

But none of this requires news crews to be in our faces, prodding our pain, trying to get names of miners despite a request from the miners' families that they retain privacy in this time of hell. I missed the service for the miners at our local Anglican church this evening, asleep after a long night shift mothering my vomiting son. But I have since heard that it was something of a media circus, with about 8 tv cameras and 6 photo people there.

I have heard just a little by word of mouth about the names of miners, and just from that little, I know that I know men underground, and their families who are in living hell right now. Of the mining families I know, I cannot be sure that all of them are at Spring Creek (i.e. an entirely different mine), though I think most of them are. I was relieved tonight to hear back from one friend that his son in law is at Spring Creek, not Pike River.

Something about our town. The media has broken down news of the miners into locals and overseas workers. Please do not get the impression that the workers who were not born here are not part of us. These men, their wives and children, are part of our community. Their children are doing well in our schools, they are playing sport, selling sausages to fundraise for sport and school like the rest of us, mixing and mingling and are much liked.

So thank you, to everyone who is reading this and has been sending prayers, best wishes and concern for the trapped miners. We are all desperate for good news. But please don't expect to see interviews with mining families, or to know more names and personal stories. That is more than it is reasonable to ask. Our town and our grief is not a commodity for the media to sell.

Friday, November 19, 2010

waiting, hoping, praying

In our small town tonight are families waiting to know if their husbands, dads, sons, friends are alive.

The Pike River Mine at Atarau appears to have suffered an explosion and 27 men are unaccounted for. There are concerns about ventilation for those trapped inside.

I could talk about other stuff, but right now nothing else really matters.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Longer than a pregnancy

I went into the local wool shop today as they rang me to see if I still wanted my purple wool kept aside. The date on the packet of remaining balls was February. February. I've grown babies to the point of them breathing all by themselves in less time than this damned cross over cardigan is taking. I did a few more rows this evening.

I was looking at this article on the WAPF conference earlier this evening. Great for the blogger that she was sponsored in return for writing it up on her blog. I recalled a recentish post from Sally Fallon wants to soak my nuts in which it transpires that the blogger's wife (and the blog is all about the food they make for each other, in their private life) is the publicist for the WAPfoundation. Something is ringing alert bells in my head. I do understand that I am a small town hippy who doesn't have the balls to go head to head with the big guns like Monsanto and play them at their own marketing game. Maybe the war of marketing of ideas and food love has to be played with the same tools.

But I'm not quite convinced. If you are on a media junket to a conference, how free are you to review the content in genuinely critical terms? Questions are starting to bubble up in my head at least about the agendas behind the WAPF.

Crocheted dish cloths. Shoot me now if you need to. I saw the cotton in the shop for them today and it is $11.70 for 100g. How many zillion can you knit or crochet from 100g please? Only I'm not taking the damn purple cardy on our trip north but I just might find, (I know siblings, yes I know like whom) that I want to make something of an evening while listening to the out laws. Crocheted dish cloths seem quite portable and tiny. Fancier than using up old towels, though clearly an insane amount of effort.

Coming up next week: Poison and Purity: a play about 1080 shows here in Wetville, site of much anger about 1080 from all sorts of groups. If you are near Greymouth, then it is at the Tai Poutinin Polytech atrium, 25-27th November @ 8pm. $5. Also next week, TV6 are coming to Blackball to film the Blackball museum of working class history project.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

moments of gentleness

The wood pile. Not currently a work of art as it is the remainder of this winter's wood and many pieces have been removed (and reluctantly returned) to make obstacle courses for biking around (over, through). The pea straw will go on the garden soon. On the ground to the left are the flax flower stalks and on top of the wood pile are cabbage tree leaves. I keep bringing these back from our beach walks for kindling for next winter.

Preparation for winter fuel is a serious topic of conversation in Wetville. This leftover wood represents a milestone for us on our goal to be an entire year ahead with our wood. One colleague proudly tells me he has pine which he has aged in his garage for seven years. Burns very nicely, as you'd imagine. Raffles (central to much that moves in our community) which offer a trailer of wood or coal are always popular. We tried out a few different suppliers in our first few years. One guy gave us some venison with the second delivery of wood. His freezer was overflowing with it apparently. The next fellow also sold us some punga logs, and punga trees. The logs are now the walls of the punga raised bed (see the artichokes photo below) and the trees were planted the day Brighid was born. As FH was pressing the soil in on the last tree, I got a contraction which was too big to manage without a servant, and Brighid was born on the lounge floor a few hours later.

The next guy was called Ray and I loved him. He delivered his very last truck load of wood to me before handing the keys over to a new owner a few years ago. Ray's successors are particularly fabulous people, who also run the Tui Festival in their spare time. 'Tui' like somewhere beautiful, not the alcohol brand. Steven told me the other day when I called in (yes indeed I am planning next year's wood already - do you think I should be cleaning the toilet or some other annoying real time job?) that they are planning a new product. He showed me a brick (though much lighter than a brick) made of coal finings, lime and sawdust which is very low in emissions but burns with the heat of good firewood. The ash can be put on the garden as potash fertiliser. Hopefully we are going to be triallers for the new product in autumn.
Calendulas and potatoes. Agria.
Oh how I have waited for you, purple sprouting broccoli. All winter and the spring, and now you finally offer up a small head for my pleasure. I have grown decent broccoli before, but not consistently.
How sumptuous is this? I keep forgetting what it is called, but it has gorgeous scent.
Nasturtiums and jerusalem artichokes.
Red poppies and celery. Weeds on the fringes. When I see these poppies, I wish I had planted them in every possible space in the garden. Actually, if it weren't for the small matter of the short people wanting to ride bikes and play cricket, I would want them all over the lawn as well.
Sunflowers, pumpkins, kale and tomatoes on my new potting table. They should be in already but time is in short supply at the messiest home in Wetville.
This is my dog rose against my red fence (FH painted the fence for me on Christmas Day. What better sign of true, patient, love?). I think I will move the roses elsewhere in winter and leave this garden for the vibrant oranges and yellows of the sunflowers, the dahlias, the red hot pokers and the tropicanna lillies. I wonder if anyone could ID the white flowered weed below the rose please? To the right is tansy, which is fulfilling the prophecy in the herb book of being vigorous.
The artichokes are growing well, but no sign of flower heads yet.
Twirly skirt progress. This is for the seven year old outlaw niece and will be finished when I sew up the elastic band.
Fionn got an invite to K's seventh birthday yesterday. She loved the pink sequinned skirt I made her last year and I thought a red gingham twirly skirt might go down well for birthday #7. It looks a little ridiculous on Brighid as she is only three, but you get the idea.

Trademe bargain today: Kendrick Smithyman's Imperial Vistas Family Fictions for $5. Our local library has a very poor selection of poetry from anywhere (though their New Zealand novel collection is pretty reasonable for a small town library) and I am keen to follow Maps' and Mad Bush Farm's suggestions for reading round the Kaipara Harbour (in the comments section of the post).

(remember remember we are heading north soon? You'd think I'm going for the life the way I go on, but it is a 16 day trip we've been anticipating for literally years)

If all this gives the impression that life in the messiest home in Wetville is a gentle stroll, peppered mostly with roses and poetry, indeed I have enjoyed that illusion as I've put together this post. It is a lovely antidote to the pressing deadlines at work which are driving me nuts, to the solo parenting in the evenings so that FH can meet his pressing deadlines, the extra childcare so we can be at compulsory work functions and extra meetings and fitting in the work for the aforementioned deadlines. I remind myself daily that we are lucky to have jobs we enjoy for the most part and enviable job security. Off to do dishes (no FH = no dishwasher loader and cleaner of the kitchen) and then the work I brought home...

Monday, November 15, 2010


It's less than four weeks until we take the children into another country. Not in a legal sense, but across water, the first plane journey for Brighid and the first for Fionn in almost five years. Indeed it is almost five years since we got on a plane at Heathrow with the son we grew and nurtured alongside the District Line and then the Central Line, on the borders of East London and Essex. We took him to my parents' place in Hanmer Springs, a place he thought of as "New Zealand" for some time (Wetville was not NZ, it was another country altogether to him). I will never forget day three of our new life, when he said he had had enough of being on holiday and wanted to go home.

There is no home.

That's what we did to you, my child, we took away your home, everything outside of your parents that you knew and before you could write or facebook or email your little buddies, and created another one. Thankfully it worked.

We came to the South Island for several reasons. I wanted my parents to be within affordable driving distance from their grandson and later their grand daughter and that meant no expensive ferry crossing. FH was keen on the South Island and we had bonded to the West Coast on a holiday six years before. That was the holiday when we decided to get married, when we borrowed bikes and cycled to Carters Beach and when we avoided the mirrored-window pub at the end of the shopping strip in Westport, preferring the one with the pipe band on New Year's Eve. The West Coast was also affordable, a place where we could buy our own home with a bit more saving, a place by the water, a place where we could have a second child without both of us having to work full time to pay the bills.

That first year, I went to Wellington for a friend's 40th birthday, and each year since we came back to NZ, FH has gone to Auckland for friend or family reasons. This is the year I promised my mother in law that we would be at their 50th wedding anniversary party, no matter what. So we will spend time with FH's family in the outer reaches of West Auckland and on a hill in Albany, places which don't seem to exist in popular renditions of Auckland from the outside. There is more to Auckland than either the fashionable strip of Ponsonby or the cliches assoicated with Otara.

We are planning to go camping further north, country which I have scarcely explored. I remember going to stay with family in Warkworth as a teenager in 1987. There was an exhibition, I think called Te Maori, in Auckland and I wanted to see it. It wasn't quite what anyone else had planned and in the end we had a day trip down to Auckland to shop in Smith and Caugheys (closest thing to Ballantynes for my Cantabrian mother I suspect) and go to Kelly Tarltons.

In 2000 FH and I drove north one sunny Saturday and I saw the Brynderwyns for the first time, wondering about this bright landscape with its Welsh name. We drove through Opononi and past Ruawai. Soon it was dark and too late for me (the wuss who prefers not to drive after midnight) to go back to Auckland. Our best option appeared to be a pub in Dargaville. FH noted that our room was directly above the bar but I was breezy about that, it was deserted at 8pm on Saturday night so nothing to worry about. I avoided looking at the brown stains on the brown walls. On a scale of budget accommodation, many things are better than a tent when it is not summer. Only it turned out that this was the late night venue after the other pubs had closed.

We left promptly the next day.

I don't feel the need for a Lonely Planet for my own country, but I am keen to hear recommendations for places in the north to explore. I've been eyeing up Aroha Island and Whananaki Beach so far. Man who likes stones (geological), woman who likes food, 7 year old who likes action, 3 year old who likes water. Budget. We are taking our tents, permissible in the summer.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Learning to be a reflexologist

This weekend I was part of a wonderful class in Hokitika, taught by Laksmi (who is one talented goddess) and it was such a gift to be there. Gorgeous food, wonderful fellow students and an opportunity for me to learn through my hands, not through a book. Next step is lots of practise, and a series of classes a month apart. I am not at the point of articulating my thoughts about the actual reflexology learning into words, but I can comment confidently that I now want to learn to make inside out sushi rolls. We had some with the nori on the inside and sesame seeds on the outside and they were divine.

Laksmi had giant red mustard in her garden and it is so beautiful that I have to grow some, whether I eat it or not. I've been telling Favourite Handyman about her raised beds built of river stones set in cement. They are in long curves and I would love to build some like that myself.

We also had guests for the weekend, favourite friends of mine called Jen and Hamish. That was wonderful as well, all the more so because they were unfazed by the mess around them. We'd had a babysitter the night before (in order to go to work at night as well as during the day...), so I'd managed some basic hygiene cleaning so no one ran away in terror, but indeed our guests did sleep surrounded by toys, books and unfolded (clean) washing. Now we want to save up and go to Wellington and see them as soon as possible. I might have to move to Wellington for a month really, for all the things I'd like to do and see (and people to meet), but I suspect a few days would be pretty darn good.

I fitted in a few minutes weeding, just before sundown last night. Garlic doesn't compete well with weeds according to all the books, so clearing the soil around it was a priority. We have more and more roses. More than a dozen Dublin Bay blooms, a gorgeous scented red rose from the rose nursery (taken from cuttings from our clever rose show neighbours), a yellow one just out for the first time since I bought it two years ago and the first bloom of the pink rose which I've also grown from cuttings. Indeed the link for the pink rose which I've just given demonstrates that it is a weed in the South Island, but I love it anyway and as far as I know it is not on the noxious weeds list. There is an old car/scrap metal yard in our town with a fence covered in this rose and it is totally gorgeous. I haven't yet planted the rest of my tomato/pumpkin/zucchini/kale seedlings but I'll fit it in somehow.

Tonight I finished the black ric-rac on the older outlaw niece's twirly skirt. Progress progress. Although it would be logical to finish my own dress next, I've been putting it off because it is more difficult and I am mostly sewing when tired.

I finished Fiona Kidman's Songs from the Violet Cafe during the week. I enjoyed it. I feel like I have some kind of symmetry now. I read A Breed of Women and Mandarin Summer as a teenager (not that I can remember details) and then recently both volumes of Kidman's memoirs and now a more recent novel. Everyone seemed to have made money by the end of Songs from the Violet Cafe, which seemed a bit unconvincing to me, but perhaps that is a feature of generation X gloom, whereas these women are baby boomers.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

How marriage made me soft

On Sunday Favourite Handyman had the loan of a motorbike for the day. It was a heavenly treat for him and I wasn't surprised to hear he was having a great time when he rang mid afternoon. Only that wasn't all the news. The accelerator cable had broken and he was a long way from anywhere. He gave me the names of three friends who would be able to help. "If I can't get hold of any of them, then I guess I hire a trailer and come and get you?" He didn't sound hugely convinced but then three friends is a good number to try.

No one home. Not one or two or three. It's been a long time since a drove with a trailer but indeed I have done it before. It has been a very very long time since I've backed a trailer and I'm thinking about avoiding that bit. I pile the kids in the car and we stop at the Mobil shop and I pay for and hook up a trailer. I concentrate carefully on hooking it up properly, ignoring that we don't have the wiring for the lights and that we only have a 1.6 litre vehicle. Needs must.

On my second intersection (about 400m from the Mobil garage) a car stops and calls out that I have a chain hanging down from the trailer. Not a good look. I then see my friend Paula, whose house I had called at for help earlier. "Do you have a few minutes to help me please Paula?" Paula is a very capable and generous person and soon I have returned the trailer for a refund, the kids are playing in her backyard and plans are in motion. More friends are called in and two men head off in Mr G's truck to collect FH and the bike. We collect food and drink from the supermarket and start the barbeque. My kids are in heaven as more children arrive to play with. Eventually the men are back, the bike is back with it's owner and all is good with the world. FH and I are humbled by what good and generous friends we are blessed with.

Yesterday I popped round to the G's house with a tray of chocolate brownies and some petrol vouchers. Tonight, they pop round with the empty tray and a bag of venison steaks. Truly we are spoilt. Last week I offered our neighbours eggs without expecting anything in return. Only that was spoiling day as well as they gave us some whitebait. Who needs the big city...

The big holiday is only a month away. I've been looking on the kodak website for gift ideas which are easily transported, personal and not time consuming. I can't be making the adults twirly skirts as well. Next step is to find some good photos of the children to turn into cups and mouse mats. I also want to call into a local screen printer tomorrow and see what they can do to keep the spending local. The local kodak shop will take the orders, but the cups and mouse mats etc are done elsewhere. If anyone knows of a good source of plain white tea towels for printing onto, I'd be interested in the details.

Things are growing well in the garden but I always seem to be somewhere else of late. The chooks got out of their temporary run the other day and trampled round my newly planted tomato. No go zone, egg workers.

I am creating order in the chaos of my sewing pile. I do understand that some people can re-fold sewing patterns so that they fit back into the original packet - my mother does this properly without fail. Only I cannot. Now I have a pile of snap-lock bags with a pattern in each and the number of lost pattern pieces underneath piles of fabric is diminished. Of course, when there is a babysitter due in two days' time and visitors for the weekend in three, the sewing pile is the obvious place to start cleaning...

The last sleeve of the interminable purple cross-over cardigan is in progress. Planning for autumn 2011, perhaps. Never mind that it was supposed to be for the winter just finished. I'm enjoying Fiona Kidman's Songs from the Violet Cafe. I started Robin Hyde's The Godwit's Fly but couldn't get gripped fast enough for my 10.15pm almost asleep but still want to read something at the end of the day attention span.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

flower love and twirly skirts: Saturday in suburbia

Dublin Bay on ochre corrugated iron. My poor photography skills don't do this beautiful plant justice. I found it languishing and super-cheap at the Warehouse a few years ago. The first season in the punga raised bed did not go well and last year went okay, but this season it is a stunner. One day it will be all along this fence-line. In autumn I shall take cuttings.
A couple of years ago we grew tobacco. In the absence of specialist equipment, we dried it on a clothesline in the shed and hey presto, cheap tobacco. Favourite Handyman, after the lung infection, thought the home grown was wetter than bought and worse for his lungs. I canned all tobacco growing from that moment onwards. The stuff is dangerous enough in packets. But these nicotiana flowers are from some self-seeded tobacco from that crop two years ago. Pretty flowers. I am pleased to note that the chooks don't care for the leaves.
The first skirt for the out law niece is finished. Brighid models it above and below so I could adjust the elastic. I think the pink ric-rac looks great. It is a very full skirt - the hem on this measured 2.6 metres, and the size 7 version which I am part way through sewing is 3.4 metres around the hemline.
I haven't been in the kitchen all day apart from making breakfast and multiple cups of vitamin C and blackcurrant juice. Wednesday's last load of washing stayed out for three days. The world is still spinning.

But next weekend, we have visitors all the way from Wellington AND I am doing a reflexology course. V-E-R-Y exciting.

This Atlantic article on the multiple problems with medical 'research', Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science, is very interesting so far.