Saturday, February 27, 2010

sowing before the full moon

Crumbly earth and a soothed soul. The children played around the shelter cloth counting the minutes until he went to a party and she went to collect Daddy, while I weeded.

Later on as they went to bed, I went outside again and weeded, crumbled earth and sowed seeds. In one section I sowed alyssum, rocket, lettuce, carrots (this time? eighth time lucky?), beetroot and welsh bunching onions. In another, the raised bed which is also the chook graveyard, I scattered lots of herbs seeds and then turned the soil with my hands. In this plot went chervil, coriander, wildflower blend, calendula, motherwort, rocket (I love rocket and can never have too much of it) and astragalus.

I am still mulling over the contested meanings of the term 'left'. And the contested actions and inactions relating to leftedness. But my soul is at greater peace because the four of us are back home together again and I have seeds in my garden and dirt (almost but not entirely scrubbed out) under my fingernails.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Garden Time

Tonight I weeded a section of garden, about a metre square, and sowed seeds of argentata beet (from Kings seeds, an Italian heirloom variety which is totally worth the effort of obtaining and growing from seed for its flavour), chicory, pak choi and rocket.

The garden before I started was testimony to the folly of not mulching over summer. Thick with weeds, the soil was low on worms compared to much of my garden. It was nice and dark and mostly crumbly though, in contrast with the areas which had potatoes and are now bare, exposed earth. My favourite 'weed' was borage, which has self-seeded very vigorously. I did find some self-seeded thyme which pleased me.

I'm pleased with my gardening tonight. I worked in the old chook run, an area which was grass before we laid the poultry palace over top of it. At ten square metres, it was the largest garden I had ever had the pleasure of working with. As I look across tall weeds and at healthy looking beetroot, roses, sunflowers, leeks, zucchinis and lettuces, as I pass my store of garlic (much of it awaiting plaiting), I'm grateful for the moments when I do get in the garden, for the food we are still producing and eating. My life in 2010 seems to be spent outside of our home and garden more than for a very long time, certainly more than any other time that we have lived in this house. If I can keep sowing and planting our food in snatched moments, then hopefully our garden will never be merely a sad remnant of a time spent in gentle hippiedom, at home with babies and broccoli, but something which endures with our changing lives.

I'm delighted that our garden centre sells punnets of seedlings - they provide a valuable shortcut much of the time. I'm growing basil from seedlings from a friend. I keep them in small pots on the north facing kitchen windowsill. The liquid from the bokashi gives them a very noticeable boost.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

I am ordinary and I AM thinking

The generation before me said "I am woman, hear me roar".

I've been reflecting today on Zizek as explained by John Bernstein on the Liberation Blog. Specifically this part:

Žižek’s critique of liberal multiculturalist presents a serious challenge to
those of us who want to act to change things. He presents a powerful
argument that to politically act within the parameters acceptable to the
liberal establishment, ‘…inevitably ends in a cul-de-sac of debilitating
impossibility: "what can one do against global capital?" (Žižek, 2001).’
Therefore, Žižek’s importance lays in his questioning of the dominant
liberal hegemony. His argument is that before we act, we need to begin thinking again:
One is therefore tempted to turn round Marx's eleventh thesis. The first task today is precisely not to succumb to the temptation to act, to directly intervene and
change things…Rather, the task is to question the hegemonic ideological
coordinates, or, as Brecht put it in his Me Ti, "Thought is something which
precedes action and follows experience." If, today, one follows a direct
call to act, this act will not be performed in an empty space; it will be an
act within the hegemonic ideological coordinates (Žižek, 2001).
The thing I like most about blogging is that it breaks down many traditional boundaries of writing styles and reading spaces. For example, bloggers and blog readers can share their thoughts on topics such as politics and history which previously were confined to academic writing (whether through the particular rules and styles of academic journals or through the more 'accessible' but still style-bound newspaper article). I have enjoyed the opportunity to write and read about people whose jobs involve motherhood and running households. The voices of these women simply were not heard much at all in public written spaces before the internet.

After yesterday's rant, I've been acutely aware of the elitism in some of what I've been reading lately. Clearly, I may have many things out of context as I've not been spending all of my working days reading Zizek and other political philosophers. But let's put that aside until someone can articulate any contextual misunderstandings for me. Zizek appears to be saying that us little people are just neo-liberal minions who, no matter what we do, are merely supporting the current status quo. We should stop acting and start thinking.

Really? Like no one has been thinking lately? No one? How very fashionable. Fashionable as in if you say that then thought begins with you. I think this is emperors' clothes stuff and I think we should say so. Well I will; I do understand that perhaps I am the only person who thinks no one has been thinking.

Let's take the example of childcare, ground it in some specifics. I have raged against the idea that women have opted out of feminist struggle against oppression because they no longer demand 24 hour childcare. In reality many women in shift working industries have had to give up their careers when they found themselves solo parenting as the child care is just incredibly difficult, and in the absence of close family support, impossible. Many women tread a heart-breaking path between having no money to feed their children if they don't work shifts and the vulnerability of their children if they do. Amanda Cropp's article on truancy here gives voice to that dilemma. As ever, the struggle remains, and mothers alone are particularly vulnerable to childcare nightmares.

So, what's that got to do with a grumpy 38 year old who appears to have everything she wants? I am annoyed at the flippant dismissal of almost all people as retreating, counter-productive, because they are not dreaming about a radical new society. My favourite practical example of someone who boths does right now and articulates strategies for a new future is Sharon Astyk.

This is childcare in action here in the messiest house in Wetville. Friends of ours have no childcare after school on Fridays and attempts to rearrange work hours have not succeeded. Could we help? Of course. Love to. Payment? Absolutely not. It is a gift to both our son who will enjoy playing with his classmate and to our friends who juggle extended family responsibilities in the US and the Phillipines with the needs of paying the rent and of raising their own children. Another friend has asked me to look after her boy next week for the day, my non-paid work day. Love to. I offered when I first found out that she really wanted to attend her daughter's school camp. I've since realised that there is a clash with a community meeting. I can't see myself properly contributing and listening with two small, inquisitive and advernturous children and I must email and work out how to be useful without being there. Then I worked out that I do have a work meeting after school that day. I'm part way through arranging for my extra child to go with my children to my childminders that day. And how to slot in my older child's sports practise at the same time. I think that one will work out. Today I stayed home as it turned out I have two sick children. Given that their father is in Auckland burying his Nana today, there was no choice about who stayed home. I have begun tentative arrangements for tomorrow pending the health of my children. My childminder has a baby granddaughter in her household with a cold and that impacts on whether I can send both children there if they are still a bit poorly. My childminder works part time outside of her home, outside of her mothering and paid childcare roles. I work my hours in with hers in order to have my children where I consider they are wonderfully, carefully, loved. This year as I have upped my work hours and as my childminder has become a grandmother, I pay her daughter to look after my daughter two mornings per week. She has been part of my childcare web for a long time as an evening babysitter and is now a wonderful mother.

Bewildered? Bored? I write it down not because it is scintillating but to demonstrate why I am annoyed with statements suggesting that women have retreated away from radical demands for 24 hour childcare as though they are lesser for doing so. A lot of women are damn busy organising childcare all the time! Many of us work carefully to support each other and provide a web of nurture which allows for flexible motherhood. A radical vision of 24 hour childcare - who would provide it? Robots? errr ummmm err well


Low paid women who wouldn't get to see their own children much at all? Oh, how much cleverer - better paid women who would work shit hours? That would make it all alright then.

Utopian vision my wobbly bottom.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


I've linked to this post on a so-called nuanced class analysis on the Liberation blog before. Yesterday I had another look and John Bernstein has replied to the comments, including mine.

I am furious. Let's have a look at his comments.

Collectivism: Sandra negatively associates collectivism and freely provided
social services with state institutionalisation. Such a view very much fits in
with the dominant ideologies of our times. So, the common-sense view of today is
that ‘collectivism’ is a dirty word. This anti-collectivist discourse became
mainstream when neo-liberal governments swept to power in the West during the
1980s. New Right governments, such as the fourth Labour regime in NZ, were able
to convincingly portray the state as inefficient, wasteful, as well as
draconian, and to label ‘collectivism’ as being an anathema to all those who
uphold freedom and choice.

How incredibly convenient. Yes he is right that Roger Douglas et. al. made collectivism a dirty word in the 1980s and there are definitely powerful groups still underminig collectivist efforts now. I accept that as I have never met John Bernstein outside of the Liberation blog and presumably he read my linked post before he replied, I could come across as fitting into a right wing 'box' given I disagreed with extended state provision of childcare.

But I'm not and it's no understatement to say I am furious at being put in a box. Oh yes her, neo-liberal at heart.

end of story. No need to look at the actual problems with institutions being involved with our very young on a really large scale.

Let's try another quote from John's comment:

The ‘utopian’ demands I presented, of free 24-hour childcare and free
quality restaurants, is a vision that would seem bizarre and disconcerting to
most of today’s liberals and leftists. Although, as Maia has earlier pointed
out, free childcare ‘is’ (well actually ‘was’) a standard demand of the women’s
liberation movement. Unfortunately, many feminists and liberals have now
retreated into the politics of ‘realism’, looking for solutions within the
parameters of existing structures. So, rather than challenging the family
structure as a centre of oppression and repression, many of those who recognise
women are oppressed now celebrate women’s role in current structures. Of course,
women’s role as the dominant caregivers of children and their grossly
disproportionate role of carrying out domestic duties should be acknowledged and
highlighted. But, liberation and emancipation will not come from elevating such
roles, but instead from offering concrete demands that point towards a
transcendence of such roles.

How patronising. Apparently none of these 'feminists and liberals' used their intelligence to make choices based on their realities and the communities within which they lived. No, they just 'retreated'. Like so many wet and wimpish tadpoles. Ah the lesser sex. They never wanted to play with guns properly anyway.

Then there is this bit taken from someone called Firesone. The bit that makes me realise that I should have read Marx himself a while ago because I see a glaring, neon flashing light of a hole in this quote from Bernstein:

'Marx was on to something more profound than he knew when he observed that
the family contained within itself in embryo all the antagonisms that later
develop on a wide scale within the society and the state. For unless revolution
uproots the basic social organisation, the biological family—the vinculum
through which the psychology of power can always be smuggled—the tapeworm of
exploitation will never be annihilated.'

I think this point of view refuses to engage with the very challenging paradox of family. The family, in any of its compacted or extended forms, is both that which oppresses and that which liberates. I never ever mind paying tax towards the domestic purposes benefit which allows for persons experiencing oppression within their family situation to start new lives. I have seen the biological family uprooted and I have not seen the tapewqorm of exploitation annihilated, quite the opposite. I have known children with over a page worth of 'families' and as many again of different schools. I think that Bernstein's attack on the choices many women have made for their sites of struggle glosses over so much as to make it an empty statement. I have seen women and men fight for the right to adopt children within same-sex relationships and make other strides to create their own families, free of the oppression which comes from a narrow view of 'family'. I don't think it was radical and certainly not utopian when I kept my own name after legally marrying. There are aspects of traditional marriage which horrify me, the way in which such a fuss is made of the bride and of the whole shebang being according to some women actually for the mother of the bride. We stepped out of all of that, breaking a few hearts temporarily as a result.

We still need to fight very hard against violence towards women and one of the oppressive parts of some family values is that horrible thing of staying together for the children. I do wonder how any parent could love their daughter and yet still tell them this thing when they arrive on the doorstep battered. It is still happening.

I do not believe that we reduce oppression by blowing open the entire construct of family. Obviously I do lack utopian vision because when I think of times when this has sort of happened I think of even more repressive regimes - the Romanian orphans, the slave trade in America. Family also offers the possibility of growth together, support in the face of disaster, the incredible journey of watching a new generation emerge.

While I've been writing this post, I've been up and down countless times to my daughter who is running a temperature (No I haven't given her pamol, but I'm happy to vent forth sometime soon about big pharma, one of the most oppressive and powerful groups in the entire planet. My utopia won't involve those brutes). It's not oppression. It's work and I'm pleased to do it. Obviously there are sites of power and oppression around illness and family. Who will take the day off work tomorrow if she has not recovered? What about the wider workplace and family care issue? In the UK I remember Tony Blair talking about childcare for ill children to keep the economy going (why else?). Moron. Yes, family life presents situations which don't respond well to an economics-based model. I think it would be quite easy to track changes in publicly available childcare against economic imperatives. The match is pretty good.

It's a lovely thing, swanning around with words. Blogland has provided a great platform for us all to swan around with words. If you read the next Liberation post, you will meet a supposed guru called Slavoj Zizek. From the linked post, I think we are talking emperor with no clothes country. I would love to know what others think.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Condolence biscuits

My mother is a whizz baker. As we grew older and she returned to the paid workforce, she refused to lower her standards. Sometimes I would scramble out of bed just before seven on a weekday morning to find Mum had been up since 5am and baking for most of that time. Not for us (that was the weekend or I did it), but for a fundraiser (school, brownies, cubs, Catholic Womens League, others I have forgotten) or if someone had died.

Tonight we learned that Favourite Handyman's Nana died in her sleep this morning. We've found flights for him to go to Auckland and let work know he will be away for the rest of the week. Now that he has gone off to sort out his work this evening and the children are asleep, I wonder what I can send. It doesn't take long to know - these things are enculturated into my bones. I'm not sure if enculturated is in the dictionary, but I know what it means.

Off to open my long acquaintance Edmonds and turn the oven on.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sunday kitchen: muesli slice

I'd been playing round with Nina-the-kitchen-queen's muesli slice last year, with some failures due to, for example, leaving out the flour. Today I am most pleased with my latest tinkering.

Laksme-our-angel-therapist suggested we soak our oats in prune juice. She had a convincing rationale which was so convincing that I forgot what it was. So today I soaked 3 cups of big fat oats in a few sloshes (perhaps 1/4 cup?) of prune juice, later remembered to add a handful of dried cranberries and sunflower seeds and left it there while I did other stuff. I melted 120g of butter and put about 300g of condensed milk in the mix, together with 1/2 C of sugar, 1/2 C yoghurt and 1/2 C of flour. I put some dark chocolate and some brazil and cashew nuts into my whizzy machine and pulverised them and added it to the mix. Stirred it around and out it into a greased pyrex dish (20 x 28cm) and into the 180 degree Celsius oven for 40 minutes.

It is fantastic.

I also made pork spare ribs for the first time ever. Nice and easy. Something new to add to my regular repertoire, which needs expanding. That's all. Not much of a kitchen marathon today - dealing with the consequences of a broken washing machine again.

Friday, February 19, 2010


Winter 2010 knitting project: pattern
Today in the Methodist Mission shop: one square tablecloth in appealing colours and pattern. It had some marks on it and also it stunk. I think it had been stored in a room where people smoked cigarettes. I took it home for the princely sum of $1, soaked it in bleach, washed and dried it, ironed it...
... and made a handkerchief hemline-style skirt. I could pretend that this is ordinary Friday night activity for me or I could acknowledge that we are out of alcohol in the house and I didn't want to do paid work, housework or community work.
I already owned a lovely handkerchief skirt (is that the correct term for jagged hem?) which I had ripped beyond repair. I used the stretchy band of that one for my new skirt - I have a top long enough to cover the brown band and the rough stitching of tonight's experiment. I do like things that can be finished quickly.
Looks like I have a skirt for St Patrick's Day. And tomorrow night. Not to mention every third day in between.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


I believe it is called multi-tasking. If all this multi-tasking burnt calories the way it burns brain cells, then I would be skinnier than my sunflower stalks.

Yesterday I took a break as it was Wednesday which about once a month involves no paid work and no meetings and I had deemed it a special occasion. I weeded part of the garden and admired my leeks, my borage, the sheer size of some of my weeds and almost but not quite planted some plants before it rained. I did not launder, I did not cook and I did not give any consideration to the relationship between acronyms and live human beings.

Today I had a lot of food made by eight am, a lot of people dressed and in the right places and I was going to be a paid working mother maximising the first 40 minutes into A Lot of Things Achieved. Only on the wall at work was my name beside an activity taking place this very evening, the kind of activity where I needed to be Ms Working Woman with no short people hanging off my skirt or careering up and down the hallway. Or pinching the boss's bottom, as my son did one night in the pub when my big boss was rather new.

Which is very short notice. I got a tad worked up as I do actually like to be professional about my work only I need more than seven hours' notice if that is going to involve lining up evening childcare.

But I have very supportive bosses (even the one whose bottom was pinched) which is how they agreed that it wasn't possible for me to be there and that Work World would certainly not fall down without me. Instead, I am marathoning on the kitchen front for the boy with hollow legs.

I took the boy with hollow legs to see Laksme, the therapist with angel wings which envelope me every time I see her. His request, which was very interesting to me. Some health intuition developing already. She agrees about the omega 3 oils and says he needs more magnesium and that chocolate is a good source which of course we all loved utterly and entirely. We also grabbed some more epsom salts for magnesium-rich baths as none of us can live by chocolate alone.

Today we went to the hairdresser as my short people love getting their haircut and also because neither of them could see out of their eyes properly. They have kindly explained to me that I have no training in hairdressing when I offered to keep my cash and cut their hair myself.

We also went to kindy as my daughter has thrown down the vestiges of babyhood and begun her journey through institutional education. She shows no anguish while I, the one who has risen from slumber to tend her every need most nights out of the last one thousand, feel like crying.

I have done absolutely nothing on the Blackball working class history project even though we are organising the entire opening to be held mere weeks away. I have no idea how to evade the newsletter about the friends of the kindy meeting for fundraising. I don't know how to square my delight in a community facility which involves parents instead of being a drop-off mega-institutional-money-making childcare facility for people who don't want to be part of the decision making with the fact that I have no idea how I would fit in selling more bloody raffle tickets and most likely selling Easter buns to boot.

The washing machine man has charged for parts only, after the wash-house flooded as soon as I used the newly-repaired machine. The panel-beater and the telecom people and the mechanic may or may not have sent their bills today; I refuse to check the mail until tomorrow.

Amongst all this, I have chosen a colour for the 2010 winter knitting project. I decided against the red as it would clash with all the other red things I would want to wear at the same time. The beautiful fernery soft green was out of stock and discontinued as idiots run large wool companies these days and have no idea what we all love. But purple was available and it is a gorgeous strong purple with a lovely warmth to it. So purple it is. Feminist knitting while the bathroom germs grow and the laundry pile waits.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The good oil

Last week I found this article and recipe on omega 3 goodness at the same time as my son (7) was struggling with his fast-worsening eczema during school swim week, which is where they swim twice per day every day for a week and have a glorious time.

We have a long history of trying almost everything invented to help improve Fionn's skin. I have supplemented with flax seed oil before but after this article, and with the fortuitous discovery of quite a bit of flax seed oil just on its official use-by date in the Health Shop $5 bargain bin on Monday, I have started rubbing several capsules of flax seed oil into his skin, 2-3 times per day. The difference is totally wonderful. Whereas the budget aqueous cream that we had been relying on in recent years (i.e since it eased off from his worst days of looking like a burns survivor) merely moisturised his skin briefly, the omega-3-rich flax seed oil literally feeds and nourishes his skin. In addition, he now has his own tub of Tui Bee Balm (beeswax-based moisturising cream) which he puts on before swimming to create a barrier to the chlorine.

Now I realise that a teaspoon of flax seed oil in his porridge which I used to dole out was not sufficient quantity to make a real difference to his skin health.

As for the taramasalata in the link above, I cannot source smoked cod roe or smoked any-fish roe here in Wetville, but I did find a bag of walnuts at the supermarket tonight and bought some jars of anchovies with which to have a go at making bagna cauda. Lots of good oils by the looks of the recipe, which I will post if it works out. I also bought some smoked salmon. There are worse things to 'need' in your diet.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sunday kitchen marathon

zucchini pickle, hummous, tzatziki, roast garlic, pea & garlic puree, bread, chocolate chippie biscuits & fishy ratatouille

phew! Actually I realised as I typed that I'd forgotten the bread and so pulled that out of the hot water cupboard, portioned it into tins and put the oven on. If I wasn't so tired, then I would give it a few hours in the tins proving, but it looks well risen so far and should survive to make a nice crust.

I used the same zucchini pickle recipe as two years ago. Last year was a terrible season for zucchini in our part of the country so no pickle then. The only changes I made is that in the interim I have learnt how good turmeric and celery seeds are for good health, so I poured lots more into the vinegar than my original recipe stated. I even went outside and collected celery seeds from the garden - one use at least for my early bolting celery this season. The second change was that I grated the onion and zucchini. Much faster.

Hummous with 1 can chickpeas, 3 cloves of garlic, juice of one lemon, 1 dessertspoon of tahini. No parsley as we are in between when it all bolted to seed early and the seedlings being too small to harvest.

The tzatziki recipe is this one from Kalyn's Kitchen. It is so long since I'd made it that I needed a recipe and I think this is better than the shortcuts version I recall making years ago. That went on the fishy ratatouille in pita breads at dinner time and there is plenty left for throughout the week.

The pea & garlic puree is an Annabel Langbein recipe I've been meaning to make for years. It is a wonderful bright green and looks fantastic. No I haven't fitted food photography in amongst the kitchen marathon and looking after my children. But you mix two heads' worth of roasted garlic and some oil with 2 cups of briefly cooked frozen peas (2 minutes), some salt, 1/2 teapsoon of dried chilli flakes and that's all. Hummous, tzatziki & puree all courtesy of my whizzy stick. Every kitchen marathoner needs one.

Sourdough bread as per Andrew Whitley's French Country Bread recipe. I don't need any other bread books now I have his.

The chocolate chippie biscuits are from the Edmonds book, of course. I didn't have quite enough condensed milk so I topped up with yoghurt and a bit extra sugar and then I grated green & Black's dark chocolate into the mixture instead of the not-very-cheap-but rather-nasty-quality cooking chocolate chips I used to buy. Dark chocolate has lots of antioxidants don't you know...

The fishy ratatouille was dinner. The rest is an attempt to provide food for lunches for during the week.

The only drawback was that the day was gone before I could get into the garden and weed, something which is desperately needed. I bought some peastraw last week to go on the soil once I remove the evidence of neglect.

Still no functioning washing machine. Yes I know that people (oh who am I kidding? - women) in the majority world mostly manage without a washing machine, but I can't imagine they like it.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Season turning

The long, hot dry stretch of the last three weeks is broken. Although there will likely still be some nice weather to come, I suspect this marks a turning. The forecast of rain over the weekend prompted me to collect my drying garlic in, clean it and begin to plait it. Yesterday, with thanks to Nikki's recipe, I made a winter flu formula. Using my still-quite-new-and-exceedingly fabulous whizz stick, I pulverised about 33 cloves of garlic with 500ml of apple cider vinegar. Then I added 4 T of honey and 1 T of cayenne pepper and whizzed some more. Voila! Spicy medicine for winter chills. I found it a satisfying way of marking the shift onwards from the summer harvest and I think I will make some each year. Maybe each year on Waitangi Day (Feb 6). Unless Lughnasa falls on a weekend, the reality is that I won't be in the kitchen making it exactly then.

Also a shift thing, Brighid and I mooched around the wool shop and I began to ponder making something for me for winter. After making two thick winter crossover things during the last two autumn/winters, I thought I'd venture into something a little finer. Still on a crossover theme, I am thinking of making a crossover cardigan (sort of like a ballet cardigan, in Cleckheaton book 942). There was a lovely soft green on the shelf in studio mohair (i.e. the yarn specified in the pattern) but I think it is time to stop this gentle stuff. When I was 20 and slim, I wore bright red a lot. Just because I am 37 and heavier doesn't mean I need to dress to blend in with the pungas in the back yard. I've bought a ball of bright red home to knit a sample and think about. Yes I know I said I would use up all those brightly coloured leftovers from children's projects before I knitted anything else, but it turned out that I am not going to do what I said I would do. Are you really that surprised? I do need to see how fluffy it is though. Remember the eighties and older ladies with far too much perfume and very fluffy sweaters? I'm not up for going there.

That mooch was after Brighid and I had hung out at the library together, perhaps the first relaxed non-busy thing we've done together since term started back. She is three and wandering around together just us is so precious. At the library I found a book on Irish gardens with a photo of a home made cold frame which looked most suited to our stash of old windows stacked against the side of the house awaiting deployment. I'm about to show that book to Favourite Handyman very soon.

Last night we went to a birthday party of a friend turning 65. I loved the invitation where it said a party to celebrate Paul becoming a burden on the state (and we all loved the party as well). Paul is a writing friend of mine and instead of a speech he read a story he had written about his community. It was brilliant and I now want to write a story for my Dad for his 70th later this year.

Sometime when I magic some un-tired time out of thick, fetid air, I am going to work on the final version of the programme for the opening of the Blackball museum of working class history. The launch is now on May Day, not Easter as we had earlier planned. More details to come - it is very exciting that this long-sought after project is really happening. May Day is the day after the Southern hemisphere Samhain. I need to think about where I want to take that idea. Exorcising the ghosts of capitalist oppression? We could get some pumpkins and have fun.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

herbal season

Not sure if Lughnasadh (see here) is going to work for us after all. Even Waitangi Day didn't get a look in today, despite there being various wonderful things to do in celebration of the ties that bind in Aotearoa. The beginning of February, year after year, sees us broke and very busy, including in the weekends. But I do notice that on my southern hemisphere Celtic calendar, Mabon, the Autumn equinox (and linked to the book of Mabinogion which is on the shelf behind me for when I am ready to learn more), is very close to St Patrick's Day, a festival I have a long tradition of celebrating. Frankly, since I became a mother, I don't celebrate it enough, so last year we got a babysitter so that we could both sup Guinness with adult friends for a couple of hours (I no longer crave ten hour Guinness drinking sessions). Hopefully this becomes a regular tradition.

I have been doing a few herbal experiments of late. Early in January I made some red clover vinegar and that should be ready mid-Feb. Last week I made some rosemary tincture. I planted up seven basil seedlings this morning (put them on the kitchen windowsill for maximum heat and prompt-for-watering scope). This evening I cleaned all of my garlic harvest, finishing the last one as the light faded. I've done two plaits and aim to do more tomorrow. Then I am going to make this flu remedy for the fridge as I know know know that we will benefit from it at some point.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


I've got my gardening mojo back. Now that it's school and paid work season, I've taken to spending a little of most evenings in the garden, enjoying the cooler temperatures after sweltering hot days (summer really did come after all). I've not been rocking the boundaries of the gardening sport in the slightest, just weeding, a little planting and of course, mostly watering. Tansy, one celery seedling, one kale seedling and some parsley went into the ground tonight.

We had huge bills for the car and I've had to give up my beloved and much appreciated cleaner for this month. I felt really shitty having to do this, knowing that despite the car bills, we are so much richer and more privileged than her. Had our family stuck to our budget better last year, that money would be staying local and helpful instead of paying credit card interest. I want to employ C again as soon as we can stem the worst of the money-letting. As for the house itself, who really cares. I cleaned it loads over summer, I'm still cooking, I've organised FH and Fionn to do the night dishes (I was over the relentless morning Cinderella stuff) and really I'd rather be gardening. Or reading or writing. Sewing and knitting has taken a very back seat of late.

I re-read and loved the short story 'Cockleshell' by Tim Winton this evening. The first page is here. I think Winton is a brilliant writer, though I have to be in the right mood for his dark tone.

Tomorrow the piano arrives. I dimly remember the day it arrived at our family home for the first time, and now it is coming to my home to live. I notice how my daughter loves music and am glad that she will have a piano to explore sound with. I've asked several favours from strong men around our neighbourhood to get it off the truck and inside and bought some beer for them this evening. I've asked one teetotaller and so I think some pizza making might also be useful.

Just as we ran out of grit for the chooks and I couldn't get to the shop today, our neighbour called out over the fence and handed us a busket of mussel shells. I've smashed some of them for the chooks and will do more tomorrow. Chooks are superb re-users, and indeed recyclers for that matter.