Saturday, July 31, 2010

Staying in, Blackball & garden planning

Paul Pitchford's Healing with Whole Foods arrived earlier this week. I'm reading bits of it each day, and much as it is fascinating, for large chunks of this week I have been completely 'over' food and health research. I functioned fairly well through a busy week and then today ended up in bed for much of the day. Whether that has anything to do with my experiment with oil pulling with coconut oil last night, I cannot say. There are no magic tablets with the answers on.

HWWF is in many ways diametrically opposed to Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions. The differences are not difficult to spot, but I've been focusing more on the commonalities. Bone broth/stock is a winner, as is eating lots of vegetables, though preparation guidelines differ markedly. Omega 3 oils are the other standout common thread so far.

HWWF seems stronger (to my somewhat untrained eye I might add) on the Eastern traditions than on the Western medical research assertions. I'm working my way through his analysis of five element theory as it applies to health and food. But when he trotted out the GP party line on cholesterol with faithful reference to the Framingham study, I recalled reading Barry Groves' scathing analysis of that study and I knew Mr Pitchford and I weren't always going to see things the same way.

Meanwhile, I have been drinking apple cider vinegar three times per day and swallowing at least a teaspoon, usually more, of coconut oil. I've been eating coriander pesto at least once per day and sometimes more. I've had no cheese and almost no bread. I feel lighter and the scales support this. My appetite is reasonable rather than excessive and I'm wanting 'healthy' foods rather than craving a glass of wine or a cheese sandwich.

The detoxing part of it is less pleasant and I would be wary of trying the oil pulling on a Sunday night before I had to function properly for the rest of the week. I'm a bit wary of this oil pulling thing full stop, but sometimes it appeals because it seems to support rapid detoxing rather than snail paced health reforms.

In less narcissistic news, Brighid and I went to Blackball on Wednesday for a meeting for the Blackball museum of working class history project. Denise had been to a Te Papa workshop on local heritage and we need to be blogging, facebooking and flickering. So as we get that up and running (not sure if we will use the original blog I set up last year but haven't kept active or start afresh), I will put links here. We chatted about upcoming exhibitions and got excited (well I definitely did) about one on clothing. Public focus is usually on off-shore sweatshops but other committee members shared stories of friends and family members who are doing piece work for a pittance, or being forced to eat by machines instead of a lunchbreak in New Zealand here and now. Another committee member used to work for the clothing union (the proper name of which I don't remember). Everyone has to wear something to keep warm and private and I think this exhibition (next year I think) will be very interesting.

This afternoon I have been planning our garden for the upcoming warmer seasons. Such fun, and easily done in bed. I know for sure that we will grow a lot of celery as it is not possible to buy this leader of the dirty dozen for sprayed fresh produce in cerified organic form here in Wetville. Similar situation for tomatoes. While I would love to have our own pumpkins and spuds, there really isn't enough space. I'm keen on plenty of beetroot and carrots and Favourite Handyman wants lots of beans and peas. I've picked a place for peas, but a sheltered and sunny spot for beans is not so easily available in the current garden setup. There is the punga raised bed but as we've been loading that up with chicken poo/sawdust mix, I suspect it would be all leaf and little bean there this season. Fionn wants broccoli. This makes me happy so has to be fitted in. Fionn has escaped asthma this winter until last night. He needs every vegetable going.

Off to do a facial steam bath with eutherol now. In lieu of pseudophedrine, there is always something to try...

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Endless warming potions & The Clothes on Their Backs

I'm now ten days into Laksme's regime of cleansing the deep seated virus. The virus which possibly seeped into my bones when I was a not more than a tot, with ear infections, the antibiotic amoxil as a fourth food group and a pile of operations for good measure. The one which manifested itself in various forms over the years when an outlet seemed necessary: bells palsy after I finished my second degree and travelling rheumatoid arthritis after I had my second child. Padded out with a general disposition towards nasty winter flus over the decades.

All a hypothesis, but not a ridiculous one from my viewpoint.

So, a lot of apple cider vinegar. I have learnt to tolerate some black strap molasses as well - about a quarter of a teaspoon per day so far. I had been having a spoonful of acv in a glass of water and noticing some classic detox signs like nasty acne the first few days. That has cleared though, as has the rash I had before I started this acv lark. It has definitely changeed my appetite, and now I eat three more modest meals per day with minimal snacks. I've even gone 'off' alcohol. Crikey. I have today upped my intake of acv to two tablespoons in a glass of water with some honey to help it go down. I have tried it with a bit of molasses but that version tastes extremely medicinal (translation: vile). I've also been taking coconut oil a couple of times per day. Really, I'm due to start bouncing around like one of The Wiggles any day now.

This is particularly narcissistic, going on about my ills and supposed cures. But more food stuff anyway. I had read about paw paw (also known as papaya) containing good amounts of magnesium but the dried stuff is very sugary. Today we found a fresh one in the supermarket (I didn't even look where it came from, presumably somewhere much warmer than Wetville) and had some after dinner, Fionn and I. Very nice.

I found this recipe for detoxing heavy metals today. Tonight, without the actual recipe to bog me down with what I don't have, I made a smaller batch, that involved:

sunflower seeds
brazil nuts
coriander (an expensive supermarket packet - only way to get fresh leaves atm)
juice of a lemon

all whizzed up and then I mixed in some olive oil. No doubt flax seed oil would be better, but I didn't remember that bit.

It tastes nice, and is already on Favourite Handyman's sandwiches for tomorrow. (oh yes. devoted wife indeed).

I made apple/celery/carrot juice with a lot of ginger this morning. That had the desired warming effect. I'm still coughing up gunk a lot, really a lot. I guess it has to pass sometime. This warming food thing, and an understanding of what is meant by me having a damp cold body, is starting to make more sense. Fishpond sent me an email telling me that Paul Pitchford's Healing with Whole Foods will be in my letterbox this coming Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, so after that, I expect I shall speak of nothing else ad nauseum.

But for the moment, I can speak of other books, specifically Linda Grant's novel The Clothes on their Backs, which I loved this week just gone. Apart from being a great read, it also brought to mind the same unsettling possibility that I had considered after reading the Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian (which I nearly said was by Monica Lewinsky but for the benefit of not confusing famous fellatio with a funny book on the effect of brutal regimes and sociology, it is by Marina Lewycka). Is left wing liberalism merely the product of a pampered existence, of the absence of Darwinian imperatives such as those survivors of brutal, repressive regimes had to use?

That is a dratted, difficult question. I think that Linda Grant is wonderful and may just have to beg the library to buy some more of her books. She has a blog and writes for the Guardian. I admire this article on the Gaza aid flotilla last month a very great deal.

We've had some warmer days recently and the garden is beginning to move towards Spring. We have snowdrops out, plus some borage flowers, more calendulas and part of the rhubarb has gone to seed. One of my kale plants is just going to seed and after last year's experience, I know to eat all the leaves now. I've put some maori potatoes saved from last year in the shed to sprout. There are three garlic shoots showing in the garden. I hope the rest follow soon.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Rhubarb cake

The holiday season is almost gone. Tomorrow the lunch boxes will be out before 7am, piles and piles of tasks will appear on my work desk, the school gala notices will become even more frequent and somewhere within it I will organise to get the car and the lawnmower serviced, a winter coat and shoes repaired or replaced and a star chart to motivate the tallest short person.

Thanks to my friend Ruth, a superb cook, mother, housewife and midwife, I bring you her rhubarb cake recipe (originally published in a Playcentre cookbook).
2 c flour
2 C chopped raw rhubarb
1.5 C sugar
2 heaped tsp baking powder
2 eggs
0.5 C oil/melted butter
1 tsp ginger, cinnamon, allspice
1 C milk

Mix it all together, pour into a cake tin and cook for 45 minutes at 180 celsius.

Nice and fast. I use brown sugar and wholemeal flour and butter. All works well. The first time I made this I forgot the milk and it was still nice. Tonight I remembered the milk and it is still nice and also very moist. But the lovely strong taste of the spice has diminished, so next time I will double the spice quantities to 2 tsp of each.

I spent this afternoon at the Working Class History Resource Centre in Blackball. It was overcast up there and very few people around, so we began to plan the resources for school trips to our centre/Blackball, which was interesting. We pondered how/whether we could pose the challenge to students (targeting years 6-8/ages 10-12) of ethical decisions. Should you work in something which is dodgy? It is tricky, and on the backburner while we focus on more practical activities based around living and working in Blackball in the past. I'm quite interested in the different forms of collective life available: the pub, the church, the miners hall (now gone) where movies and dances were held every week, the lodges.

For those of us who grew up in cultures of moral questioning (mostly but not exclusively found through religion), it is easy to overlook the fact that this is a nurture rather than nature feature of our lives. If you have lived your childhood or adulthood watching television soaps, playing Playstation and shopping for clothes and toys, to the exclusion of other pursuits or reflection, then moral questioning can seem rather irrelevant.

Which seems to me to be quite scary. It seems to me that the more passive a population, and I live in a country which is quite passive, the easier it is for someone like Hitler, or the genocidal leaders in Rwanda, to induce the entire population into previously unthinkable brutality.

John Key and his party have had a fine time this weekend it seems. Union officials are to be on work premises only at the say-so of workplace owners. Paul commented this afternoon that the unions have accepted a lot (a gentler wording than Against the Current's) but hadn't expected access rights to be attacked/withdrawn and it is time to be angry. I'm prepared to protest this one publicly but for me it isn't about supporting union officials; it is about supporting workers and their access to union support.

Yesterday I sowed some seeds. Fionn and I pulled out the seed box and looked through for seed packets which indicated they could be sown in winter. So we have some bok choy and florence fennel in the ground. I have finally confirmed that the weed I have been pulling out in the old chook run bed is indeed the cornsalad which I sowed last year and never ate. It certainly likes our current and recent germination conditions.

Making very progress, though very slow, on getting my head around five element theory (from Tradition Chinese Medicine). I have ordered my non-fiction resource book for 2010: Paul Pitchford's Healing Through Wholefoods. Laksme lent it to me last year and it was totally absorbing. This time, I plan to focus on the five element theory linkage and discussion at the beginning of the book as well as all the wonderful information on specific foods which follows.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


apple cider vinegar. I'm all about apple cider vinegar at the moment.

Yesterday I went to see one of my favourite people, Laksme. I went replete with aches and pains and niggles and wiggles and I have come home armed with much more knowledge, lots to think about and an action plan.

Aside from the annoyance of the cough and endless phlegm from the chest infection which has eased rather than gone completely, I also brought to Laksme my concerns that really I should have more energy, should be stronger.

And the question I have had no answer for: why do I want to eat so much more than I need to? I have noticed it quite a bit lately, particularly with visitors. The other grown adults (male) were not eating nearly as much as I was. I have been eating more than I *need to* for ages, but not bothered to wonder about it - zest for the finer culinary things in life y'know. It could be an eating disorder but I wasn't convinced by that idea at all.

Laksme and I talked for a long time about my medical story, which I don't think I shall be rehashing for posterity for the entire internet. She thinks I have a virus at a very deep level which manifests itself periodically (bells palsy and travelling viral rheumatoid arthritis have been the top ranking events).

Key part of the action plan: apple cider vinegar. Another part was black strap molasses which unfortunately, mixed with the acv, is so repugnant to me that endless illness seemed more attractive than supping that three times per day. So I am on day two of acv drinks and most interestingly, I don't feel so hungry when I drink acv three times per day (in a glass of water). Not dangerously un-hungry, but three meals per day is enough, not three meals plus heaps of snacks plus seconds and sometimes thirds at dinner.

So far, definitely interesting enough to carry on. I presume that all the detoxification that acv is famed for is also beginning inside me. The rest of the project involves kelp (in my food and also in supplement form for the moment) and more more more magnesium. This hasn't come out of thin air for me, I've been reading and considering and talking to Laksme and observing for ages and I'm convinced it is worth doing. I've eschewed (or told myself I do) notions of traditional slender beauty and the diet game for a long time, perhaps forever, but the idea of continuing to gain weight is another thing altogether. I know women for whom their very large size precludes them from living fully and I'm not keen on going down that path.

We cleansed a few other things today, like the floor of the car and the large stash of empty bottles in the garage. The kids and I went shopping for more items for my kitchen apothecary. Variously, coriander, brasil nuts, almonds, buckwheat flour and quinoa seemed a good idea. Next is to use them. I know what often happens to things I buy in the holidays. Not the same thing as that which happens to sausages and bread during the busy season.

A key feature in Laksme's work/therapy/advice is five element theory from Traditional Chinese Medicine. I need to read a lot more to understand it properly.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

chook feasts and red hot pokers

Calendulas, winter suns on chilly days.
We gave the chooks a feast.
Here is the fence we rigged up to keep them in their feasting spot. Only two escaped, only one into the neighbour's garden. That habit I have from motherhood of endlessly head counting turned out useful today.

Red hot pokers against our red fence.

The short people, especially for my siblings. Notice the Crusaders t-shirt P? My sister won't see this for a wee while as she is in hospital with multiple bones broken in multiple places. We hope you recover soon J, and that the parcel I sent today helps your convalescence.

Indeed I did finally find the camera charger...
I've been reading more of Clarissa Dickson Wright's book (something about drawers in the title). Some gems in amongst the hunting stuff. One about baking a cake in a wooden box, what they did before they had tins apparently.

Monday, July 12, 2010


Still open, despite all those irreligious (of books rather than God) politicians who cut communal things up into so many small pieces most odd months and all even ones.

Yesterday I got an overdue notice and an attached sheet detailing the new schedule of fines. They went up last year but this year's rise is even more dramatic. I may have to get a lobotomy and become a person who puts the library receipts on the fridge door and marks due dates on the calendar (which is hidden under the back seat of the car - the Trout Hotel 2010 calendar never quite made it to the walls of our palace) and returns library books on time.

Anyway, far from deterring me from getting books out, I thought that as the philistines will probably want to ban libraries altogether in the not too distant future, I should use it as much as possible right now.

It turns out that our local library has only two New Zealand poetry books and neither is by my heroine Tusiata Avia. It does have Nabokov's Lolita though, which I have never read and decided that now is the time. I also got out Clarissa Dickson Wright's Rifling Through My Drawers, an memoir of her last year, published no doubt because her memoir Spilling the Beans was so popular and so damn good. This more recent book is nowhere near as good. Interesting material, but overly padded out, to get the book to publishable size quickly I suspect. Something I do like about this Fat Lady is that she is fat and appears to care not a damn and still manages to be very good at what she does and loved by the media. For a chick, very unusual. I would make her a poster girl beside Tusiata Avia if I was in the enviable position of commissioning a set of posters of wonderful people.

Actually, that would be fun. Who would you choose if you were commissioning posters? [I know, assuming anyone is out there]

Two more books: The Clothes on their Backs by Linda Grant and Confessions of an Eco Sinner: Travels to find where my stuff comes from by Fred Pearce.

Now in the morning I shall rescue Room on the Broom plus five errant books of mine from under the bed and take. them. back. One of the kind assistants at the library did a comparative maths exercise with me on what the new fines will be on them from next week.

My sewing machine is back today, fixed far more quickly than I wanted because now it is back, I can actually do some project finishing which does inevitably lead to the idea that I should finish the odd sewing project.

I tried a recipe from Allyson Gofton's book Slow, copied from Mum's copy last week. According to the lists in the weekend papers, the entire country is engaged in a frenzy of buying slow cooker recipe books. Surely preferable to actually cooking anything. It was called 'Puttanesca chickpea braise' and I'm rather underwhelmed by it. Basically chickpeas plus classic mediterranean foods (anchovies, olives, capers, tomatoes, oregano, basil, more tomatoes only this time the expensive sun dried ones) shoved in a slow cooker for the day. The chickpeas weren't as perfectly tender as we (the adults) like them and I didn't think the flavours were suited to the cooking time and method. Plus there were no vegetables and if I'm to get up and chop so vigorously, so early, on a winter's morning, then I don't expect to have to chop and cook all over again at the other end of the day just to prevent us all from getting scurvy.

We have loads left over as, like most slow cooker recipes, it made enough for a banquet. I'm thinking of roasting some pumpkin and parsnips (parsnips courtesy of my Dad's frost hardened garden) with herbs tomorrow and then cooking the leftovers (together with some kale) a bit longer to soften the chickpeas some more. I might top each plate with parmesan. Or turbot.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

garden & kitchen

The Kings Seeds catalogue is here. It is normally a moment (stretching into week/fortnight/month) of huge excitment for me. I was a bit less sure when this one arrived - could I justify buying seeds when I was gardening so much less this year? But it is holidays at the moment and there will be another fortnight in October and I do sneak out and get little little bits done outside of holidays.

So I have gotten excited and I have had the highlighter pen out. Here is a sample of seeds I am seriously considering:
tomato oregon spring
winter greens (mixture of arugula, minutina & miners lettuce)
tamarillo best red (I've picked out a frost protected spot for it for this time)
pumpkin baby bear
mesclun simply red
leek lungo della riviera or leek winter giant (the practical or the romantic sounding one?)
carrot amsterdam forcing (it says "easy to grow")
St Johns Wort
Evening Primrose

I haven't indulged in the flower section. Yet.

I did go outside and do a little weeding and also began to plan the garden for the next 6-8 months. I am going to clear out the punga raised bed and add more compost and soil. Still considering exactly what to put in, but I am resisting the braod bean urge. Every winter I get the broad bean urge because it is the only thing I can plant apart from garlic right now and every spring we don't like eating them. Wait Sandra wait.

I started to fill the fridge and tummies again after a week off. Here is my revised

hummous recipe

1 mostly drained can of chickpeas. (390g from Delmaine is my first choice)
3 cloves of garlic, peeled & roughly chopped
2 heaped dessertspoons of tahini
juice of 1-2 lemons
rocket leaves
flat leaved parsley leaves
olive &/or avocado oil

Whizz first six ingredients together in a food processor or with a whizzy stick. I cut off the bottom parts of the rocket but leave the stalk in. I add the parlsey leaves but leave out the parsley stalk. Then add a slosh or two or even three of oil and whizz it some more. Done. Cover and keep in the fridge.

I've been upping the lemon and tahini slowly this year. Today was my first experiment with rocket hummous and I loved it.

Sometimes I soak and cook the chickpeas from scratch. But I make hummous a lot and often when I am in a big hurry. Chickpea cans rock when you are making it at 6.45am on Tuesday morning in order to pump up the flavour and protein in, er, butter sandwiches for lunches.

I also made rhubarb cake today, though forgetting the milk from the recipe wasn't the very best thing to do. So then I had a crack at making proper custard to have for pudding with the rhubarb cake. All good for the adults and Fionn moved from complaining about rhubarb to eating the cake and complaining about the custard. I grew up with custard from the Edmonds packet (wonderful poured on hot cooked apricots) but panna cotta in Spain was so divine that I've wanted it ever since. Now that I realise that cooking things in a dish of water is not terribly difficult, have knocked down that psychological barrier, there will be more custard in my kitchen.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Falling in love

Tusiata Avia. I listened to her at a conference in Christchurch this week. She spoke about poetry and childhood and a sense of entitlement (or not) and then she performed some of her poetry and I fell totally in love with her. I wish her book(s) was for sale afterwards so I could grab something to take home and keep immediately, forever.

But they weren't and so next I will google and fishpond and bigape or whatever it takes to find one of her books. She argued for the particular power of the performed poem and I will see if I can buy a cd of her poems.

Also I got to listen to another wonderful writer - Kate de Goldi - and it turns out I'm still a bit in love with her as well. My friend Elizabeth Gordon spoke about the politics, pedants and power in relation to the teaching of language in New Zealand schools over the past 40 years and that was fascinating.

So I am in this nice motel (all motels are nice to me - much flasher than a tent you understand) and I am there all by myself and I try television which we don't have at home but I only last two minutes because it is too awful to qualify as entertainment. But in the morning?

In the morning I have a shower.

I have breakfast.

I get dressed.

I get organised.

I walk out the door and across Hagley Park to my conference.

At NO point does anyone interrupt me, or lose their shoe, or need a packed lunch.

No one loses their shoe.

There is a huge amount of shoe losing going on in our house, every morning, every week, every month. I loved having a break from people losing their shoe and requiring me to find it.

All the rest of the conference was wonderful as well and I came home all fired up about work though of course I have no idea how I would fit the rest of my life in if I increase my work hours.

I fitted a few things in around conferencing. Mooning over books at Scorpio bookshop. Catching up with a friend who I hadn't seen for ten years. Eating souvlaki which you cannot buy in Wetville. I read an entire novel across 1.5 evenings. I used public transport. I loved being on a bus again. I bought some green clay at the Herbal Dispensary (first stop when I got into town was hippie street) which I have read is good for poultices and until now have never seen for sale in a physical shop.

Now I am back here in Wetville and as soon as I got back there was more wonderful excitement. My old university friend Peter was in town and he came round for dinner and we talked about things literary cultural and meritorious on the West Coast and he thinks we should bring all these wonderful things together in some fashion. Maybe a literary festival. Maybe it could raise funds for the Runanga Miners Hall.

Tomorrow I suspect I will be rotating around the washing machine almost all day and people will lose shoes. But this last week has been wonderful and usefully I do love my children so I won't sell them off after all. Even despite the shoes.

Sunday, July 4, 2010


All day in my pyjamas. No deadlines. NO food to prepare for the week or clothes to have ready for the morning (well sort of, but not the usual term time pressure).

We made banana muffins and popcorn and had lemonade and ginger beer for afternoon tea (well the kids had the sweet drink, I held off and then had wine). I tried cooking the popcorn in half butter and half coconut oil. Still good (and smelt like the movie theatre ones which I never buy as they are outrageously expensive) but I think I like just butter best.

I gardened! Just little bits but it felt wonderful. I found some slugs for the chooks and pulled out the queen annes lace to make more room for the rocket, alyssum and calendula to spread out and strut their colours/flavours. I threw alyssum seed down this autumn in case it worked and I think it has grown better than when I have bought punnets of alyssum seedlings.

I'm having another poor season for celery. Something is eating the plants in one garden bed and a disease has afflicted the others. My purple sprouting broccoli is disappearing - slugs I guess. The kohlrabi is withstanding the slimy onslaught better.

I thinned my carrots. MY. CARROTS. Big enough to thin. It seems that if they can survive the first six weeks, they are okay. The slugs don't, so far, seem to go for the older carrot tops. So in the future I will stick to the Egmont Gold which has germinated so much better than anything else I have tried (2% germination is not worth it, no matter how heirloom and open pollinated and karmically blessed) and sow more carrots every month - surely I'll get some food out of such a method?

I weeded the pots under the lean-to, vestiges of the summer of the hissy fit over the tomatoes. I expect that I could grow something in them right now. Under the lean-to so frost free and we only get a couple of frosts per year on the rest of the garden anyway, so probably wouldn't go below 5 degrees celsius under the lean-to.

I eyed up my roses, which are ready for transplanting to the side fence which I plan to be a mass of red blooms this summer, but I need to do a lot of weeding and digging to make that transition happen.

Tomorrow the children and I head east to Hanmer Springs (FH has already left Wetville for his conference) where they will stay and on Tuesday I will drive to Christchurch and stay in a motel and go to a work conference and be without children or husband for multiple days and nights for the first time in many many years.

The conference is guaranteed to be attended by women who might not even own gumboots, let alone wear them to town. This prospect is dragging me out of my West Coast grunge, especially as staying away from home means I can't wash and recycle the same outfits every day so easily. I've been sorting through my wardrobe, shopping at Postie Plus (bought a dress for $15 which I had tried on but restrained myself from buying at $50 at the beginning of winter) and tonight I dyed my hair. The chemical stuff which may well give me cancer (if my takeaway fish and chips cooked in canola oil doesn't do it first). Postie Plus had the kind which you can create your own highlights with on sale for only $9. Looks alright.

Which is all very sweatshop surely. But I have taken my sewing machine in to be fixed and I did pay $50 to get the zips replaced on my boots which are five years old and irreplaceable in my view. A local treasure called Steve cobbled them for me. He works at our hospital making orthotics and has the skills to make shoes from scratch (cue peak oil music, how wonderfully useful). He does shoe repairs in the evenings at home. I also mended Fionn's jeans today.

I've been knitting some more and some more. I've completed the back of my crossover cardigan and one side of the front. Now I'm in the early stages of the second front. This double knit lark takes a while when I am making it for me. I hope I like it. Once it is finished and I have completed my other sewing projects (who am I kidding?), then I have seen the purple fabric with a paisley print embossed on it which I want to make a skirt from. To go with the cardigan. Which isn't finished.

That Sharon Astyk woman. She sure knows how to put a sentence together. A sentence, a sermon and a lot of brain cells. Like this essay here. I've been thinking about it for the last few hours. The Hayes book on Radical Homemaking is one I'm not sure I'm up for at the moment, given that this year has seen me away from home and my garden more than any other time since I had my daughter. It is about money, the extra time at work, but it's about some other things too which are satisfying. Maybe I am. Sharon, I know you were reading it - any thoughts so far?

And someone else I've admired this weekend: Harvestbird who is soooo impressively lucid and interesting just days after giving birth.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Grace & agency

We are all going to be asked to think carefully about life and about abortion. I'd noticed the a-word debate hotting up again lately and now I see why: Steve Chadwick has proposed a bill in parliament reforming the current abortion law in New Zealand. I want to keep thinking about agency and about grace as I consider this question.

I aim to keep to "I" statements. This, to me, is consistent with my belief in female adult agency in this topic. It's also because why should I put words in other people's mouths?

I started life out somewhat immersed in Catholic doctrine. I had a couple of anti-Catholic teachers when I was at school and if Mum seemed to be asking too many probing questions about my work output (or lack thereof), I would pop in a concern about Mr X or Mr Y's anti-Catholic comments. Worked a treat on the distraction front. Or for a while anyway.

A key experience for me was supporting a Catholic friend through her discovery of her pregnancy, through the abortion, through the counselling sessions, through the event itself and the placard holding people at the hospital gates, through the experience of opening the paper very soon after to see a full page advertisement of a foetus. That was sixteen years ago. I've never thought she did the wrong thing.

I watched the movie Vera Drake when it first came out. Bawled for a BIG chunk. Not long afterwards I remember reading about the class ramifications of abortion law in Portugal. Not forty years ago but in 2004 when I was reading the article. Wealthy Portuguese women requiring an abortion could travel easily to Spain and get one. Poor Portuguese women could not and a number were facing prison. Thankfully, abortion can be obtained in a wider range of situations in Portugal now.

There have been some good outlines of the role of female agency in reproduction in the Hand Mirror recently. For example, here and here. I find it a convincing principle. But I have some quibbles, quibbles which relate to the comments section. My quibbles relate to positions which do not recognise the diversity of experiences which women have (not even up to the men bit!). The argument which says that oh how wonderful it is for the world that women have choice because then every child is 100% wanted is either naive or deliberately obfuscating the very difficult choices women (and their partners) make. Many women, including those with access to abortion, do find themselves pregnant against their plans, feel very ambivalent about it, and decide to go ahead and make the best job mothering the child they can. They grow into the job. Why oh why would we want to denigrate the difficult choice these people make by suggesting that abortion makes it all easy because any baby which wasn't actively pined for is aborted?

I don't think there is enough said about forced abortions. I know of plenty. Having an abortion because your partner insists and says he will leave if you don't have the abortion is not choice. Having an abortion because his family puts the pressure on is not choice. Having an abortion because you are young and your family insist is not agency. My principle is agency for the women who finds herself pregnant. Access to abortion does not magically infer agency to those women.

I've got a lot of privilege. I am married to a great man who has explicitly said he would never ask me to have an abortion, no matter what the circumstances. I have two planned and much loved children and we are both in secure employment with good wider family support should exceptional challenges cross out paths. If I had another baby, it wouldn't be planned, but more children is within what I know we can cope with. I don't see myself as ever having an abortion within this marriage.

But I will march to keep abortion legal in this country. I believe it should be available to all women. I had a powerful experience earlier this year when I found myself thinking that a person I know should have an abortion. If access to abortion on the West Coast wasn't so difficult, then I think she would have done so.

I see the theological purity in valuing all life, no matter what, from the moment of conception. I see it's appeal and why people believe it strongly and passionately. I also see many children, too many, who grow up amidst violence and abuse. I listen to children recommend to other children never to go into a social welfare home. They talk from bitter experience. Not that the kids get a say in these moves. Not that they have agency over their lives.

Women are human beings who must have the right to exercise agency over their bodies. Much as I struggle to see children born into terrible situations, I still uphold the right of agency of all mothers over their bodies. That is the paradox of life which we all struggle with, if our eyes are open. Nothing is cheaper than sex, and nothing is more costly.

I see the law reform bill proposes abortion after 24 weeks in certain circumstances. Sixteen years ago my Mum rang up to say that one of my cousins had just had a baby, at 26 weeks gestation. E was given 48 hours - if he made it through that, he would probably be okay. I went up to the neo-natal ward at Christchurch Womens and saw this tiny tiny baby, teeny tiny scary and his so so young looking parents and I was no help to anyone. Bawling bawling bawling. E is a big strong teenager now. My aunty, a nurse, told me that it had changed her views on late abortion, seeing how this baby born so early could survive. I can understand. On the challenging issue of time frames for abortion, I have no clear thoughts.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

infection re-duk-shun

Reading about good health and nutrition is an interesting pastime, but merely reading about it won't actually in itself lead to great health. I think we can all two of us see where I'm going next.

On the whole, I'm quite well behaved about food. Vegetables, three meals a day, limited amounts of highly processed food. If you are a dieting type of person, then you would correctly observe that I'm not much of a portion control kind of person. If I like it, then I eat plenty of it. My main exercise is walking up the steepish hill to collect my son from his school. When I go to work I seem to run around a bit - I can feel myself get a shade heavier in the holidays. The pies I sometimes eat on busy work days when I make everyone else's lunch except my own may not be ideal, but at least it means I don't faint on the job.

I wish my main exercise was gardening but alas, this year I dream about the garden and look at it and hardly ever actually garden. This year I had to farm out my favourite and deeply symbolic mid winter job of planting garlic to my husband and children.

Last week and the week before, I was b-u-s-y. I got a cough and I kept on being busy. I struggled to get as many vegetables on the table as I usually manage but I kept on being busy. I woke up last Thursday feeling awful but, you know, I was b-u-s-y. People to see, jobs to do, sports to get other people to, meetings, blah blah. Not to mention the uber scary need to CLEAN the HOUSE as my parents were coming the next day for a whirlwind of more events and meetings and the like. No I would not take the day off work or off anything else for two and a half more days, by which time I badly badly badly needed to crawl into bed.

Which is, for the most part, where I've been ever since. Sometimes I get up and read or write on the computer, including times like now when I can't sleep. Being upright is a bit better than laying down anyway.

The cold wet river (think Waimakariri) which is the path way from my throat to my lungs is not quite so cold and wet feeling now as on Monday, but progress is ridiculously slow. I thought not being a smoker would insulate me from such nonsense, but not so.

Anyway, some reflections on the things which are cheap and helping me. I could get out of the way first the expensive vitamins which are helping me and the also expensive Malcolm Harkers eutherol and emphysemol which is helping me.

Miners Lettuce is my new rocket. I still have rocket but miners lettuce has good vitamin c according to the comments here and it is also closer to the back door than my rocket.

The anti-flu concoction I made earlier in the year with apple cider vinegar, garlic, cayenne pepper and honey is wonderful stuff. I drink it with blackcurrant and apple juice. It has excellent expectorant properties. I could talk about lemon/honey/ginger drinks but mostly I can't be bothered making them so not so powerful. I have been using coconut oil, which is expensive if you go to buy a big jar of organic cold pressed coconut oil for the first time but it does last for ages if you primarily use it as medicine not as food. I found some olbas oil so I mixed some of that into the coconut oil and massaged it onto my chest and the soles of my feet. Coconut oil is, amonst its other virtues, antiviral. I've put hydrogen peroxide ($2.70 for a 100ml bottle) on a cotton wool ball and squeezed it down my ears and I think that helped a bit. Fizzy fizzy fizz fizz pop.

I think that did some good. The best thing though? Truly wonderful and cheap and lasts for years and years and years?

Hot water bottle. Finally thought of it last night after a day with no luck trying to warm my feet despite having a warm house and a warm rest of my body. I think the wet feet thing is to do with infections - I remember taking FH to the reflexologist a few winters ago when he had this same chest infection thing I've got and she talked about him having wet feet and that being the infection. Anyway I half filled my hot water bottle with hot water and took it to bed and finally, some joy.

Hot water bottles are king and queen. Maybe even God. Give one at Christmas to all your nieces and nephew or cousins or anyone who is young and going flatting/leaving home/moving to London/getting married and you want to play wise and embarassing nana to.

So there you go. That is my life at the moment. Up at the wrong time, down at the wrong time, slowly returning to health. I seriously want to get better as I have a conference in Christchurch next week and I haven't been away without my husband and children for EIGHT years.

It isn't a head cold though and so my brain works not too far from capacity and I do want to get a blog post out this week on one of the favourite real people in my imaginary life. No that wasn't a typo or unintended construction error. I want to introduce Mrs Janet Watson, late of Queenstown and Naseby. I've been carrying her around in a box for 14 years now. It is time to get her out and tell her story.