Monday, April 19, 2010

shifting timetables

I liked this post from Simple Green & Frugal, and I particularly liked the quote at the end, from someone called James W Frick, whom I have never heard of:
“Don't tell me where your priorities are. Show me where you spend your
money and I'll tell you what they are.”
So at this point I could mention, rather honourably and even smugly, my enthusiasm for local Gaalburn goat cheese, or ... I could mention the visit to the KFC drive thru yesterday. Granted, I have avoided KFC for months until yesterday. But my hangover from drinking red wine at a locally owned cafe the night before tipped me over and global-corporate-chemical-excuse-for-food it was.

Buoyed up by the grease and some very happy children who normally despair of their failure to get me to buy KFC or McDonalds, I went home and baked some sourdough bread, some chocolate and cranberry muffins, put some chickpeas on to soak, drained and topped up my kefir and made delicious salad with montasio cheese, organic avocadoes from Eco Avo, pumpkin seeds from the local health food shop and greens from the garden. At night we had more similar salad and fish from the local fish shop, caught from the boats which dock here in Wetville.

Which makes me not quite a good girl, but a skitey one nevertheless?

It is a curious thing to me, the way that shopping can define us whether we like to shop or not. Food is not completely easy but it is easier than clothing. The Sallies provide much of my wardrobe. A small local lingerie shop provides my underclothing (I've tried the cheaper stuff at the big stores and it wears out so fast that it isn't cheap after all). But that clothing is still made in China under conditions which are not transparent. I buy shoes locally (not quite every year) but again, they are made somewhere else. The togs I bought after the last pair threatened to fall apart (they were older than my son) probably fail every imaginable ethical criteria in terms of sweat shop production, unnatural fibres and fossil fuel emissions in transport to our Small Wet Town, but they were marked down from $60 to $12.50 and my ethical impurity is such that I may never ever sew my own togs. The rate I am going, I won't finish sewing any of the two things I have cut out, let alone sew up the fabric which surrounds me as I type.

It is the end of the school holidays. One way I can tell is that I fell asleep with the children and then woke up at 3am and could not sleep. The plans for a tidy house have not eventuated - why would it be different this time? But, there are some improved spots and I have made a little progress in the garden. With less than two weeks to go until the opening of the Blackball Working Class History Museum, I have still done very little which is of use whereas Paul and Matt have achieved amazing things for it. I have printed posters off to post around town and then lost or damaged them twice now. I have arranged childcare so that Favourite Handyman and I can attend the forum, the march, the opening and the evening dinner. When it is light, I've done my paid work and Brighid is at kindy, I hope to sort out the afternoon tea catering for the opening. I've not been at my paid work in the holidays for nearly as long as I wanted but I did get almost two hours there yesterday which has at least got me back in some sort of appropriate headspace and organisation.

A very cool thing which I want to see is Gaylene Preston's move called Home By Christmas which opens here in Wetville (where it is SET!!) in less than two weeks. I went to see Boy last week which was good. The promotion material which I had seen focused on the funniness but I found it really sad. Sad because I could feel how true it is. Cool to see small town New Zealand on screen though, that bit is totally wonderful, a story worth telling.

I've had some local requests for the recipe for my juicer pulp muffins. They use the pulp from our new and very wonderful juicer. I use however much pulp I have, which is likely to be from 2 apples, 2 carrots and a 2cm piece of ginger. I use kefir but I imagine yoghurt or half yoghurt, half milk would achieve the same effect.
2 cups white flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup sugar
juicer pulp (or other flavourings which are dryish and hence won't make the mixture overly soggy)
mixed spice
1 egg, beaten
75g melted butter
1 cup kefir

Put flour and baking powder in a bowl and whisk round quickly to simulate sifting without having to find the sifter. I use my Kenwood mixer because I am extraordinarily lucky and have a mother who gave me one. Add the sugar and stir. Add everything else and combine until just mixed. Put in muffin tins (I always use paper muffin cups inside the tins because I don't like my food to contact the teflon) and cook at 200 degrees celsius for 16 minutes in my oven but I would start checking from 10 minutes in a new oven.

So. That's the end of the holidays. It is 5.30am now, and maybe I can get 30 minutes kip before it is time to start the circus.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


One shelf. Indeed it is not easy to find anything. Should this worry me now? We-eelll I have ordered 24 kilos of dry goods to turn up this week and next, so a little order amongst the existing provisions seemed a good idea.

My 'helper' with the contents of the other two shelves beside her. The pot plants are basil and the rose in the beer bottle was to raise funds for Red Cross this morning. Wetville being small and possessed of many confident women, I knew the seller well and not purchasing wasn't an option I took seriously.

The lino lining for this cupboard must have once also been on the floor. I think I like it better than the current lino.
Below is the current lino. I think it looks better in the photo than on the floor. For ease of viewing the actual pattern, I took a photo of it without chocolate hail, mustard and cocoa on it.Further on the delicate, floaty topic of cocoa and mustard powder...
Tomorrow, I am going into work for two hours. To be truthful, I'm rather looking forward to it. I'll be a mummy for the rest of the day, an afternoon in which I will remember to buy the rugby league star a new mouthguard or suffer the consequences, possibly deep into my dreams.

Holiday in paradise

Perfect blue, lush green. On holiday at the end of our street. Yes I do know I am lucky.
Duckie has shared many adventures with our family recently. That little bit of blue and foam at the end of the driveway is the Tasman Sea.

In this area between road and sea, the native bush does seem to have beaten the gorse over time and created a beautiful green belt. I love the look of the cabbage trees in profile against the sky. Most of the gorse is on the edge of the stream where there are no competing trees.

The highlight of the walk for the short people. The tall(ish) people wanted to fly kites, but it was too calm.

That was last week and it was glorious.

Monday, April 12, 2010


Halfway there, it was obviously still raining sometimes and I liked the look of this old tractor resting in the corner of a paddock.
Great trip east, to where it rarely rains at the moment. No lush rainforest here.

Came back with Grandma's knitting bag, which arthritis now prevents her from using. I also came back refreshed from the change and our childless night. Plus I stocked up on veges and a little meat from the Oxford Farmer's market, organic apple cider vinegar from the orchard near where we stayed and pumpkins, apples, pears, plums, blueberries and tayberries from various roadside stalls. I came back with some ric-rac and a small piece of gorgeous fabric from the quilt shop in Hanmer and with the sheet music and books for the piano.
How good is that?
Terrific and lucky and special in my world.
I never expected to get the family piano and although I wanted one, the reality is that we would not have had one for a long time without Mum and Dad's generosity. Tonight I played from my sheet music for the firts time since the piano arrived a couple of months ago. (I don't play well enough to play without sheet music). It was a good feeling, though I am rusty and the piano needs tuning. The coolest thing though was the effect on Fionn and Brighid. They have been experimenting with the piano every few days since it arrived, often to the extent that I chide them to be gentle with it. But once they listened to me play, they both played on it quite differently, aiming for more melodious and tuneful effects as they pressed on the keys. It was amazing and if they want to learn formally as they get older, we will make it possible.
As if it were possible for more wonderfulness, I have more carrots germinated!! My Egmont gold germination rate is far superior to any other varieties I have tried and even the first seven seedlings are growing and have not been razed to the ground by some ground-dwelling gremlin.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

These are my seasons

All that thinking about seasonal celebrations and I think I'm getting somewhere, possibly right back where I started.

I've thought for ages about how out of sync our religious holidays are with our weather. Christmas in England did make a whole lot more sense than having it in the middle of the summer holidays.

Then I was thinkinhg about pagan festivals and enjoying looking at my southern hemisphere wheel of the year and eyeing up what is coming up.

Only Lughnasadh was just after school started back and Samhain, which I do intend on us celebrating as it has the courtesy to fall on a Friday, is also soon after school starts back for Term Two.

So I'm hanging out the washing today, and it occurs to me that I do have a seasonal life and a distinct rhythm and what it revolves around is term time and school holidays and I may as well just love it because anything else is mostly layering more stuff on top of what really makes us tick here in the messiest house in Wetville (though as Cathy came today and I carried on doing even more cleaning afterwards, we may, temporarily, not qualify for the title).

In term time we live crazy lives. Not as crazy as they could be, but quite crazy enough. I have learnt through dismal experience that if I don't employ the marvellous services of Cathy for two hours per fortnight (more is too expensive and less is not enough to avoid drowning), then by the end of the year (and long before that), we live in a cesspit.

In the holidays, I read books instead of making school lunches and going to paid work and once I've read one wonderful book cover to cover, then I am ready to attack our house, to turf things and make order and go to the dump and deal with all the jars and bottles which hang round looking like they could be useful but in practise being quite the opposite.

We do wonderful things together like go to the movies and watch Nanny McPhee. That was lovely - almost two hours in which we sat together, all four of us, and had fun without a single bicker. Not one. And no one wee-d in the wrong place either. Nice movie.

So I guess our lives have an institutional rhythm. I may as well enjoy it and find the good bits (of which there are plenty) because the reality is, that it isn't about to change for us for a long time.

A great thing happened here in Wetville today. We have a fish shop again, selling mostly fish caught off our own coast and brought to shore right here in Wetville. Super fresh turbot for dinner was divine.

Tomorrow we are off on a holiday. We are going to my parents' place where they will look after the children while we go out tomorrow night in their little village (drinks without anyone saying muuuu-uuuuum). Then the next day Mum and Dad will look after the children again while we go out for the day and then go to my special university days friend Jan's place and stay overnight. First time that we've left them overnight. We are all excited, all six of us. Seasonal joy.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Annie: for my brother & sister

Who will tell your family story? Will it be the fishing-stories uncle, the one who lives on sausages and budget beer, opening the fridge for more several times before lunchtime? Will he tell your family story, with his accent of bitterness and remembered insults? It was always the old people who let him down, until his sons grew old enough to join the stories, the litanies of complaint.

Should it be him?

Do you prefer something more respectable? Ask Grandma. Some names and dates, a few pale stories if you push. It is not a family of storytelling. Lots of men; few women.

The men will tell you some stories of grass and cows. A few beers and the usual jokes about the priests. The priests left these boys alone and as the stories come out of the woodwork, the altars and surplices, more and more, the men profess their amazement that they escaped.

There are more stories of the men in cow country. The same stories of the same mad drunk buggers every year.

There are few stories for the women to tell, for there are few women. Our matriarch, the who has her father's manner and her mother's looks, the only daughter and the only sister, narrates lineages of marriage and death and farm ownership, corrects all errors.

There are no blood aunties. Fifty years ago there were no blood great aunties either. All dead. Dead just out of nappies, dead and virtuous, dead and abandoned by a bigamist husband.

I can tell you a story though. A made up story which might not be made up at all, but no one knows because no one spoke.

They were two brothers and they were handsome enough. Left from Dublin. What do you think their mother thought? Other side of the world. Gold, fortune and bodies lost to a woman who wanted to stroke the heads of her grandchildren one day. Maybe they would read to her; she certainly couldn't read to them. The cocky one got his photograph taken in Dublin before he left, with hat and gloves and a small classical statue on the table next to him. They must have had a couple of pennies, even a pound. Surely they wouldn't pay for a photographer if his mother was starving?

I don't know what they did on the boat. I don't know if they got drunk or gambled on cards or lingered on the ladies with their eyes of their hands or their penises. I imagine the racy brother, the one who prospected for gold here on the West Coast adn then shot off to Australia, well I imagine him as the racy one, he moght have been a smooth talker, the one for the ladies.

Do you know about Bill? You've seen the photographs? Do you imagine him, too, to be the bearer of a family habit for correctness, authoritarian orders, an intolerance for fools?

He was the boss. The cocky one from the Dublin photo. I don't know if his brother invited him on the trip to Australia. The brother had the Emerald Mines on the West Coast. Just up the road from here. The cocky one from the Dublin photo set up the Emerald Stables in Chertsey. Bought a piece of land there. It was going to be the town. Poor investment, it turned out. They built the town in Ashburton instead and Chertsey wouldn't revive for more than one hundred years, not until the wealthy lifestylers with their flexible working hours and broadband bedroom offices moved in.

They got married in 1880. Bill from Dublin, about 30, married a teenage servant girl from Cork. Annies signed with a cross. When Bill registered the births of the children who arrived every few years, he signed his name and everything was spelt just so. Her paperwork was randomly spelt, dependent on the official scribing for her.

Bill was a barman in Christchurch when his namesake arrived. I guess it was a homebirth. Where else would you go? I wonder who attended her. She had some sisters or cousins, women, yes women, but even when I was young and keen and curious, when I got the old people talking before they died, before AI wargued with my mother about family trees and family history, and what the boundaries of enquiry should be for a 19 year old Catholic girl of a good family ... even then these women were shadowy, remembered so distantly it was hard to be sure they were relatives.

Still, 1884. Different shadows, living people, a woman almost or just out of her teens risking her life pushing out a son, an heir to a country recently stole from Maori. Would he rise to the life of opportunity? Possibly. Fought for English king and kiwi country in 1915 and died in the mental hospital forty years later, a prisoner of death in his lifetime. Liked the bottle apparently.

Did Annie's sister or cousin or neighbour boil the water and keep the room warm and guide the baby out? Useful if she had some female relatives. If you needed a midwife in colonial New Zealand, she migth be a drunk prostitute. A woman used to the intimate parts of strangers.

There were more babies. Birth, loss, silence. You've heard the whisper that Annie wasn't so nice, that she might have liked the bottle? You'd have to listen carefully for that one, and not when the bosses are in the room.

She died young. Not quite the half century. Survived birthing all those babies but not long enough to see grandchildren, mostly boys. Not long enough to see the baby, or the youngest to survive, up the duff with a bigamist. Of course he weaqsn't a bigamist when he met her. Then he was a philanderer who had deserted a family in Australia. The bigamy part came out later, after the first generation were all dead. I don't imagine Bill and the brothers asked Mr Bigamist if he had a family when they found out Aunty France was pregnant.

A few stories. Still no knowledge of Annie. Annie, wife of the more respected Bill. Annie who crossed wild seas to bear children and crumble to compost in the soil of Aotearoa. I nearly named my daughter for you Annie, my great great grandmother and the first female Irish New Zealander in my family. My husband said she couldn't have the initials of a bag lady. Later I found out she has her Irish great great grandmother's name on her father's side.

Annie your silence doesn't yet talk to me. You are not in my dreams. Perhaps it wouldn't be pleasant.They keep dying, the old people who were born after you were buried. I no longer look in newspapers and birth records for your story, but keep writing, wondering if I can catch your story some other way. Writing, the gift you never had. Your name on the page and a woman who still wonders about you.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


Last week when I was grilling the spare ribs, the ceiling of the oven caught on fire. Not good, really. It was getting seriously unavoidable: the need to clean the oven.

For the most part, I'm a rather hopeless greenie these days. I've returned part time to Persil washing powder because I got sick of dingy looking clothes and fancied a bit of that naughty optical brightener. Part time because eczema boy still needs his clothes washed in home made powder and not everything needs optically brightening. I've got Brighid in disposable night nappies. I was a Nappy Lady advisor in an earlier life for goodness sake! Once upon a time I would walk over hot coals to avoid using disposable anything on my darling child's bottom. But that was before child 2 decided to take such an age to stop using nappies. I use our car rather frequently to run errands and we use the fire long before it is below zero outside.

But I'm still a selfish greenie and I don't like nasty chemicals going into the tummies of the people whom I both love a lot and grumble at almost as much. So despite the reprehensible, risible, reportable state of the oven, no heavy duty shop bought chemicals here. I had some orange oil (d-limonene) which I'd bought from Trademe months before for heavy duty, 'natural, supposedly 'non-toxic' cleaning. I had baking soda of course. Where has someone written an article on where baking soda is made and how to secure access if indeed we do have post-peak oil melt-down? So I sprayed, and made baking soda paste and scrubbed a lot.

Then more. Scrubbing. Paste. Spraying.

and so on.

Now it looks pretty damn good. Not perfect, because I do have to do something else with my life apart from clean the oven. I found that one of the door seals is split so I will replace that on Tuesday and that should increase the energy efficiency of my oven.

While I was on my knees scrubbing, I unfortunately noticed how much more grub there is in our kitchen, at on-my-knees height. Most unfortunate. Pair that observation with the flea scare (yeah yeah I have hot washed all the bed linen including the duvets themselves again -even if I want Piner the Pest man to exterminate the lot, he won't be available at Easter as he is famously religious) and the cluster flies (some import down from Auckland scaring the suburbs apparently) all over the back house wall and the other things which might be fruit flies but equally could be something unknown but worse which I haven't found the horror for just yet...

well all that and you can see that I had to do some more cleaning. Not just get out the vacuum and wipe the basin and fold the washing which grows faster than alfalfa sprouts, but what would be termed spring cleaning except I am doing it in April in the Southern Hemisphere. So I've done some more today and now part of the wall, a dingy corner of the floor, the dingy grimy side of the cupboard and the truly revolting outsides of the bokashi buckets are all shiny clean. Not a fly mark in sight. On those bits. Though I can report that the yellow highlighter is permanent.

Thank goodness for Guinness. I've been very good on budgeting this fortnight as well. Fingers crossed there is something left in the bank to buy some more booze for tomorrow. I simply cannot keep up this kind of cleaning lark without alcohol to soothe me and grant me fortitude at the end of each day.

We've got more wood. Fundraiser for the local Catholic school who are sending two sports teams to Australia. I'm planning a third spot for stacking wood so that we don't end up with the situation where the greenest wood is always on the outside and thus really has to be used first. We want to become like the proper old timers who have their wood stacked and drying a year in advance.

Today we had pumpkin soup for Easter Sunday dinner. Fionn wrote the menu and made place cards for each person. Rather miraculously they forgot about the icecream which he wrote on the menu. Pumpkin soup seems a fitting choice for a southern hemisphere Easter meal. We are planning some pumpkin carving for southern Samhain at the end of this month. I also have a post on Easter and meaning and religion and cultural heritage and wierd country-called-NZ which has two days of total consumer shutdown for a holiday for which school children don't learn anything about Easter. Throw that one in your national standards, Anne-please-fall-off-your-Trolley.

Oh but the post isn't written so far. Mothering and cleaning. you know.

But. but but but. I have not six as previously reported, but SEVEN healthy looking little carrot seedlings in my garden. Then there are the two rows of Egmont Gold I sowed last week and I do think my carrot growing fortunes could be looking up.

Which means life is quite good after all. Now I'm off to bed to continue reading Albert Wendt's The Mango's Kiss which I am loving so far. I wish I had that much to say that was worth reading. Writers' group in less than 48 hours and I have written nothing for it.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Communists head back to Blackball

Front page headline in our local rag. Jose Garcia, Cuban ambassador to New Zealand, has accepted our invitation to attend May Day celebrations in our very own, very special, West Coast town, Blackball. This May Day we will be celebrating not just the workers of the world and our fight for better conditions, but also the opening of the Blackball Museum of Working Class History. It promises to be a special day and I am looking forward to it. For more information, see here.