Friday, April 29, 2011


The linseed microgreens experiment is going well...

Winter food: miners lettuce for salads, bay leaves for casseroles and sage for gnocchi and sore throat gargles.
For someone who has killed a number of lemon trees, these actual fruit are very exciting.
Banana passionfruit growing over from the neighbour's fence. While the sun shone today, I planted gladioli and daffodil bulbs and sowed 'mesclun simply red' seeds and some calendula seed.

Today the insulators came and finished the ceiling and insulated underneath the house. Tonight Favourite Handyman put the draught stopper attachment on the back door. I've even got the name of a man in his eighties who chops and delivers wood AND who knew Bill Pearson. Can't wait to order wood from him and get to have a chat.

There has been much sadness on the coast, in the big picture with the new camera footage of the Pike River miner and also as a friend farewells her husband in the saddest of circumstances. I'm conscious of today being all we have in so many ways, in the ways that matter. So today, seeing those I love and enjoying their presence, today was and is perfect.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Why yes, that is kale again

I found some blade steak in the freezer. I found the kidneys beside it but decided I now know too much about how kidneys are the detox unit for a body. This is what I did, throwing together an amalgam of ingredients from various Alison Holst slow cooker book recipes, less the ones we didn't have in stock.

Chop 2 onions and one carrot and saute in pan. Chop the blade steak and brown in pan. Scrub and thinly slice 2 agria potatoes.

Line the slow cooker with oil (I don't like the oil spray canisters so I pour some from the bottle and use the pastry brush to spread it round). Put the onions and carrot on the bottom. Then place several sprigs of thyme on top. Then layer the sliced potato around evenly. Then add the meat. Then add a can of mixed beans (pinto and borlotti and something else from memory), including the liquid from the can. Then squirt some soya sauce in. Then squirt quite a bit of tomato sauce in. Cook for quite a few hours (I think I started at 10.30am and it went on high until nearly 1pm when I turned it down to low). At 3pm I washed and chopped 2 leaves of kale and added them, mixing it all up at that stage to make sure the kale stayed moist.

I served this concoction at about 5.15 and it tasted good.

I haven't made gnocchi for a while - I wonder if I could squeeze some in there? Texturally, silverbeet would be better, and we have plenty of that as well... I tried mixing some blitzed spinach and parsley into scones for lunch and that went down okay.

I won a book! The NZ Gardener email newsletter was offering two prizes of Monty and Sarah Don's The Home Cookbook and I won one of them. It arrived unannounced this morning. I really liked Monty Don's columns when we lived in the UK and I've read some of his gardening books. This looks quite a lovely book with good recipes using traditional English cooking and ingredients, though perhaps not worth the 25 pounds the inside cover suggests it is retailing for in the UK. It is lavishly illustrated and hard bound, but I only buy cookbooks if they offer me something new or really in depth which I can't get elsewhere. I see he does have a recipe for pasta with cavolo nero in there, so I will be trying that out soon. My favourite kale is cavolo nero, but at the moment I'm trying to use up our curly kale while the cavolo nero grows bigger.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

kale penne

Dinner: kale penne
Finely dice one carrot and saute for about a minute in lots of butter. Then add a packet (250g) of bacon, chopped, and three leaves' worth of kale, washed and finely sliced and 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped. Stir a bit, add a splash of red wine, turn down low and put the lid on. Cook the penne pasta as per the inctructions on the packet. While that is cooking, add some cream cheese to the vege mix (I used about 180g). Stir it round to soften and mix in, then get out your whizzy stick and blend it all together. Drain the pasta and add to the sauce and mix up. Serve.

It tasted good. Slightly odd texture (think finely chopped crunchy) but good.

In other news, I have been cleaning. Lots. Yesterday and today. It is looking and feeling a lot more civilised.

I've been wondering what to do next for winter warmth: more wood or pay to get the rest of the insulation done? Today, confident that given the government's fiscal austerity, the insulation subsidy would not be available in future years, I paid for the rest of our ceiling (mostly done) to be finished and for underfloor insulation for the entire house. Scary handing over what is a big sum for us and hoping nothing else in the house breaks down in the next six weeks, but I think it is the best decision. It may mean that we have to buy coal when the wood runs out mid-season, but we will have a warmer house not just this winter but for many to come.

I started some microgreens earlier this week, using some linseed I found when I was clearing out the chaotic spice cupboard. Some have germinated already. My Kings Seeds order arrived today and so tomorrow I can start some basil microgreens, and sprout some red clover.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Queen of the Sun

We headed south for some culture this afternoon. This is the Crooked Mile cinema from the outside

and inside looking at the seats and where my children quickly made themselves comfortable
and looking towards the screen. Poor quality photo, so hard to see the old style piano underneath the screen. I love red velvet curtains.
We went to see Queen of the Sun. Indeed you can watch the trailer here.
It was a fantastic documentary and Favourite Handyman is thinking about beekeeping now, though I suspect time poverty will prevent action on that front. The beekeeper we buy our local organic honey from is in the movie. I burst with pride seeing his honey on his wee stall in Barrytown in an international movie. I've been planting/sowing flowers to attract bees and other beneficial insects into our garden for a while now, but since the movie Fionn is keen to help me choose and sow some more seeds to make a bigger effort.

Back home, this was dinner: finely chop 3 large leaves of kale, 1 leek, 4 cloves of garlic, 1 x 80g jar of anchovies. Sautee the anchovies and garlic in plenty of olive oil and then add the rest of the ingredients plus some thyme sprigs and stir. Add a can of chopped tomatoes and put the lid on the frypan and let it simmer for a while. Whizz some of it if you feel like it but it does mean you lose the lovely bright green colour of the kale. Then add a can of cannelini beans and a small amount of cooked brown rice (or a lot if you get unexpected extras but I'm currently trying to keep the carb content of our meals lower rather than higher) and stir to warm through. Top with grated cheese. We had the last of the beetroot salad with it as well.

I tell you this exciting detail because I've got this idea of recording on my blog the next 20 meals with kale. Many will be alike or the same as I do not promise to be that inventive as to have 20 recipes, but I'm just sharing, y'know, that kale is a superfood. A cheap superfood which you can grow in your garden so long as you do some killing of caterpillars and slugs so that most of the plant goes to humans, not molluscs or insects.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Red bucket, green book

It was going to be all about me. I pulled out a skirt pattern I had bought at considerable cost five years ago and then never made up (getting pregnant did get in the way of the fitting part). I was going to push back the rubble on the lounge floor, ignore the washing basket and the other half started projects and make myself a skirt. Skirts are relatively easy as I don't have to alter them in complicated ways.

Mum there is spew trying to come up with my hiccups.

Plain and to the point. Coast talk you might say, though please note not offensive to particular groups Damien O'Connor type talk.

I won't be making a skirt tonight. I'll be rather grateful if I can manage to finish this post and avoid the temptation to go buy some alcohol.

Anyway, Lolo Houbein. What I really like about her book is she makes it easy and keeps it easy. There are not long exhortations about pure ways of gardening (or not for me anyway). You want some plants for your garden? Go buy them. You'll get to raising your own from seed soon enough, seems to be her approach.

When I started blogging in July 2007, I had a four year old and a six month old baby, Favourite Handyman and I had owned our own home for nine months, and I was all about gardening. I rarely blogged about my children because I was, for the most part, mothering every second of the day and night and my garden and my blog was where I pushed out of that role and was myself.

Now, with an eight year old and a four year old, I'm back at work part time, parenting still feels busy but it's a different kind and it's definitely easier to feel a sense of myself outside motherhood. For the first three years, I made new garden beds every year, sometimes more than one. Last year we hit the point where more was no longer attractive or viable; keeping up with what we had was a decent challenge. Since then I've still done new things in the garden, but the size of the lawn remains static.

I've got a wonderful life. I know it and I love it, despite my short fuse around five pm most evenings. It doesn't matter that I rarely get anything really big finished in less than a year because I love it that I can work and parent and garden and blog and sew and knit and read and research nutrition and cook and clean (no I don't love that but I do it anyway even if it never seems enough). I can dip my fingers in a lot of things and I do.

So when I was laid up in bed earlier this week, Lolo Houbein's book, with her simple beds and unfussy information, was the perfect prompt for some careful planning of my garden over the next 2-3 seasons. You can have it all, one square at a time, she says (my paraphrasing). Magic metres. She has some tips on compost I hadn't picked up or at least hadn't absorbed from previous reading. I can't find it to quote right now, but I do remember that I'm going to layer some of my herb prunings around my fruit bushes and as mulch across bare soil and I'm sure that's in One Magic Square somewhere.

Anyways, some photos:
I guess I was wrong about not creating new garden last year. This corner was not so much lawn as a big pile of mess. We shifted the mess, getting rid of most of it completely and trying to use up the more useful pieces of old stuff waiting to be repurposed. Favourite Handyman painted the fence 15 months ago, on Christmas Day. I still love it. Then he built the tyre cactus garden which prospered throughout last winter, despite very little sun and a very damp climate. We even had cactus flowers this summer, rather rare I'm told, and they were beautiful.

The newest part is the black strip alongside the fence, which FH made yesterday. Underneath is almost pure sand and full of invasive grasses. Favourite Handyman is a wonderful man with no patience for gardening and weed mat seemed to suit his goal for this strip. Now our kowhai is out of its pot and in a permanent home. I'm planning to grow flowers in pots (calendulas for starters) and place the pots on top of the weed mat.

In the cactus garden, our newest cactus, gifted by the lovely people we buy our wood from.
Today, before the vomit, we played fun things. I bought some candles and crayons and we made melted crayon pictures. The kids and I had fun. I'm not a particularly crafty mum but I've wanted to do this since I last did it in kindy. In 1976.
I did start knitting after all. This wool is from the cardigan I made for Brighid when she was a baby. It took me so long and I couldn't bear to give it away, so I unravelled the cardigan when she outgrew it and waited for a new project for it. This is going to be a wee scarf for the girl herself. The cardigan was entirely in garter stitch and I think the variegated wool comes out better in this pattern, which is mostly stocking stitch. The curviness comes from my Readers Digest book and is called fan stitch.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Lolo Houbein

I think One Magic Square by Lolo Houbein will turn out to be my book of 2011. This interview gives an indication of Houbein's strength and wonderfulness. For me, this book is the best since Linda Woodrow's Permaculture Home Garden, and in practical terms, a better book to start with than Woodrow's.

Germs of diverse persuasions have punctured our days and nights, especially the nights, here. The wide shallow red bucket, with handles to grip with, is the best vomit bucket we've ever owned. The large amount of money we spent on replacing the washing machine in January has been worth it already, given that I can no longer easily recall back to a day when no one's bed linen needed hot washing. I haven't escaped the germs, but I have appreciated Favourite Handyman being home, enabling me to stay in bed sleeping and then resting and reading for two days. This TED/Hans Rosling talk on the transformative power of the washing machine is a wonderful one, and a message particularly resonant this week.

I've been poring over One Magic Square and planning our winter, spring and next summer gardens from my bed. I read Jenny Pattrick's Heart of Coal as well yesterday, a rollicking holiday read set two hours up the road, and profiled in this clip of Denniston. Apparently the new tourist-oriented restoration of Denniston opens next month and I'm keen to see it.

Photos from the garden today below:
Firstly, the strawberry patch, resplendant with autumnal leaves and seeding dandelion. There are a few white strawberries there, but I doubt they will make it to red in this cooler weather. I plan on removing the bird netting for winter, digging these strawberry plants up and putting them in the old chook run garden for winter. If we get the plastic house (indeed, Favourite Handyman and I are in serious, constructive talks about the placement and design of a plastic house - home made of course given the eye watering costs of a readymade one) up in time, they will go in there in spring. Then, I am going to weed what is left and begin my super spud experiment. We don't have enough cultivated space to grow as many spuds as we would like. Nor do we have the time to dig more garden and maintain it. So the solution has to be the same as for garlic: grow bigger and grow better in the same amount of space. The gardening books sometimes suggest a comfrey leaf underneath each spud as it is planted, so I'm starting by layering the comfrey from the front garden over the remaining soil. Then some wood ash. Then some compost which I'm hoping is ready at the bottom of the compost bin. Then more comfrey and more wood ash and then pea straw. More wood ash can go on through winter. By late spring, when it is time to plant the spuds, I hope to have beautiful soil full of the best spud growing ingredients and then it is up to me to heap the pea straw up round the growing plants, something I have often forgotten to do.

I love our neighbour's mamaku trees. On our side of the fence, the canna lillies are lost against the red fence and I'm thinking of moving them out to the front of the section. I figure that they are hardy to our climate, judging by how many are in surrounding gardens, multiply easily on their own and hopefully should thus hold their ground against surrounding weeds in the very front garden and will transplant well, based on the last time I split and moved some. I would like to get some yellow canna lillies for this spot. I'm thinking of yellow everything for this garden actually. Favourite Handyman made a start today by planting our potted kowhai alongside the red fence, though I don't have photos yet.

In the old chook run garden, phaecelia is in flower, now offering support to the borage and alyssum in the important job of attracting beneficial insects and bees to the garden. What looks to be a small tree behind it is actually kale. Lolo Houbein says you can feed the world on Siberian Kale and while I'm not sure which variety exactly she is referring to, I do agree based on what I've seen. I grew Red Russian Kale from Koanga a few years ago and it was enormous, even bigger than the curly kale in this photograph. I didn't grow it again though as it didn't taste nearly as nice as the other varieties we grew.

Rather annoyed today by swollen glands despite two days in bed, I took two lypo-spheric vitamin C sachets, on two separate occasions, to see if they would work better or faster than vitamin C (sodium ascorbate) powder. Although the lypo-spheric sachets taste truly vile, they are faster to take than faffing round with powder and juice. I think they have helped today, though at $1.50 per sachet, I'll be back on powder tonight (my body is improving, but still needs help).

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Two adults, two children, all home together. No school lunches, no work to rush off to, not even any rain today. We are all loving it.

Today Favourite Handyman cleaned the gutters and (though not at the same time) cooked a divine meal of fish (turbot) and chips and broccoli and kale for dinner. I ordered weeded and buried bokashi and sowed rocket seed and put black mustard and red cabbage sprouts in a jar to soak in the kitchen. The children and I went to the library and Fionn now has the reading bug good and proper and I love seeing him reading every second he can. Brighid has a broody bug and spent much of the day looking after her brother who she called her 'baby' or various dolls.

I've ordered some more seeds from Kings: more rocket, more miners lettuce, some mesclun simply red which I've never grown before, some calendula, basil for microgreens and green brocolli and red clover for sprouting. I'm toying (very lightly at this stage) with whether I could successfully make up trays of microgreens to sell at the school gala at the beginning of August. A wee tray, already sprouted, with instructions on when to harvest and how to grow the next crop yourself. So little grows in time for an early August gala in Wetville. I've decided that I am not going to do the PTA committee, but if I can think of a new idea to help them make money at the gala, I will happily contribute it. I've only grown microgreens once before, not perfectly either, so I need to get better at it before I play round with advancing the cause of microgreens in order to advance the coffers of the local primary school.

I've lost interest in knitting. Earth shattering news indeed.

At the library: Mrs Wishy Washy for Brighid, Famous Fives and Zac Power for Fionn. I chose Heart of Coal by Jenny Patrick. It's the sequel to Denniston Rose which isn't that great in my opinion but I wanted to read it anyway because it is set on the coast (and I'm hoping we can all go up to see the Denniston Incline this holidays) so the sequel might be a good holiday read. Then Bernard Schlink's Homecoming, after enjoying The Reader. Also The Herb Growers Handbook for New Zealanders because I haven't prioritised buying my own copy so I need to get this one out at least once per year, and a new to our library garden book called One Magic Square: Grow your own food on one square metre (The New Zealand edition) by Lolo Houbein.

I had Sins of the Father out last week, the story of Neville Cooper of Gloriavale's son who left the Cooperites as they were then known. I didn't get past the first few pages, I think because it is so close to here and I've seen the clever ways in which the Gloriavale leaders have manipulated our wider West Coast community to seem rather wonderful and to spread their own propaganda and reading their dirty laundry in my time off work seemed neither valuable learning nor entertainment.

There will be a new sports centre in Greymouth dedicated to the 250 men who have died on West Coast mines, it was announced today/yesterday. I don't know what I think. Or I don't know how to express it in words and sentences. I would be pleased if the announcement also included changes to mine safety systems in New Zealand and a reintroduction of the mines inspection system.

Monday, April 18, 2011


The sun shone and today was beautiful. I harvested lots of rhubarb so that there is room for things to grow around it. I killed the zucchini that would not die. I made silverbeet and cheese muffins but I did not pulverise the green down to flecks which meant that the four children (I brought in extras for added fun and joyous fun it was indeed) identified the green streaks as silverbeet and refused to eat them.

There is lots of miners lettuce growing in my herb garden, which bodes well for my winter salads.

My latest health kick thing is bee pollen, from local bees up the Coast Road. Stan in the health food shop sells it in little bags from his fridge. Tastes nice.

That's it. Too late for thinking. Just wanted to post my rhubarb picture cos a) I like it and b) I grew the rhubarb and c) it makes the kitchen look really clean which probably relates to a). I moved everything for the photo.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

sewing bee + Rita Emmett

Today we had our sewing bee for the Christchurch kindies dressups project. My favourite bit was being out of the house without any children, away from the vomit bug (Didn't we have one not long ago? Why yes we did...) and chatting with my lovely sewing friends, but the sewing itself was also good fun. The photo above is of my pink and frothy concoction, assembled from the many pink and frothy fabric remnants we were given. I didn't take my camera to record the fabulous capes and crowns which Ruth and Linda and Megan made. But the crowns reminded me of Wonder Woman - I think we should all have one, never mind the children.
More test pots. From left to right, hot chilli, monza and well read (Resene colours).
As you can see from this angle, 'well read' isn't very nice at all. Our favourite of the three is still hot chilli, but I've a couple more circled for test pots to see if we can find a colour in the same vein as hot chilli but not quite as dark.

I've finished reading my self help book Manage Your Time to Reduce Your Stress, another free gem from the local library. It came at the right time as school holidays begin and I evaluate how the last eleven weeks have gone. The short version of that evaluation is that I am doing work for which I'm not paid instead of being with Brighid or gardening and that was never the plan when I cut my hours at the beginning of this year. Changing that is my top priority for the next month.

Well, actually eliminating vomit from our house is my top priority, followed by gardening and getting us all away on a short holiday further up the West Coast.

Thoughts on cooked duckling? I'm eyeing it up at the supermarket for a change. It's pricey, so I'd want 3+ meals out of it.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Garden photographs

The last of the roses. The trunk of the rose bush is bare and autumnal but at the very top are these red beauties.
Today I harvested the pumpkins, weeded in in the gap they left and around the gooseberry and kale plants, and planted irises.
I hoed the garden around the new kale and mulched it with pea straw.
Lemons: this is lemon balm.
This is the lemon verbena which look about to die completely last year. Now I need to find some uses for these two herbs.
The rampant zucchini, seemingly about to colonise the entire lean-to.
The pumpkin harvest. Only one is from deliberately planted seed; the other two are evidence that pumpkin seeds do not die off in bokashi.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Damien O'Connor and what West Coasters talk like.

All New Zealanders likely heard of Damien O'Connor's recent outburst over the Labour list, but in case you missed it, Bryce Edwards has indexed the media write up here. In several places, I read references to how West Coasters talk. Like we all talk the same. Like bigotry is okay with everyone on the Coast.


We don't all talk the same and bigotry is not a natural and useful political tool for many of us. Straight talking yes. Bigoted rudeness no.

That's all.

green pie and red salad

That's what we had for tea last night. I can't be cooking two nights in a row on the last week of an eleven week term so tonight's dinner came out of a parcel of paper. The green pie puffed up in the middle like the vinegar sand volcano experiments we've done with the kids.

Then it collapsed, but it still tasted good. Annabel Langbein calls it Anne's spinach tart, but I do not. The red salad was mostly beetroot, but I didn't take a photo and the recipe is mine and not Annabel Langbein's.

In other news not related to work or parenting, I collected more pieces of wood from the beach and more dead cabbage tree leaves from near the beach, all for the fire.

My latest library read is called Manage your time to reduce your stress, by Rita Emmett. I have only read selected snippets, but I think I like it. When I go to medical waiting rooms and read glossy magazines, the tips in the "15 ways to manage your home on no time" style articles piss me off no end. Prioritising my jobs doesn't magically get them done for me. Emmett says:
True time management means actually spending as much of your time as you can doing those things you want to do rather than activities you don't care about. (p.30)

Which struck me a little like a light bulb that although I often feel like I do a little bit of a lot of things and nothing much substantial at all (yes I do get that raising children is vital and valuable and I do get that I achieve good stuff at work but the sense of fragmentedness is there), actually I am doing a lot of the things I want to do, and being busy doing them is great.

I thought I was being rather clever and healthily self indulgent finally giving myself the treat of a long soak in the bath earlier in the week, but not so clever today at the chirpractor's getting him to help fix the damage I'd done to my neck. Laying in the bath. Doing nothing, by myself. I guess I need to find one of those flight pillows to support my neck muscles next time.

Tonight I opted for the indulgence of red wine instead, as I know my neck muscles are well adjusted to drinking.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


I think we will go for more hot chilli, this time in the dining room.
We considered various greens, but once the test pots wereup, I changed my mind. In honour of the new paint, I shall tidy my cookbooks, though really those Guardian Weeklies are in quite the most useful place regardless of their feng shui.
The shape of the wind on our beach. As well as creating triangluar bush, it conspires with the tide and storms to bring lots of wood up onto our beach, wood which I collected for kindling for the fire. All by myself. I almost never go to the beach by myself and I loved it.
This piece was hosting its own garden, but it was the red pieces of flotsam rata that I was most keen on finding.

The trikeathon involved lots of waiting around while the children rode in very safe, very small groups and the rest of us stood in the cold. But this did not bore Brighid as you can see. She had a blast on the trikeathon circuit.
The kindy parents all got given a plastic plate to return with baking for the cake stall. I was busy and disinclined to bake for something which I predicted (correctly) would be attended only by parents and a few nanas and we would have to buy the baking back for the kindy to make any money. So I handed my plate in with money on it to shortcut the process.

We bought sausages and drinks afterward and then headed home to collect Favourite Handyman and then out to Wingham Park, home of champions, to where Fionn was having a grass roots community something or other - skills and a league carnival at the end it seemed to be. The people who came in and took it finished early, which just goes to show they have no brains about the implications for parents and young children of finishing early and supervision. The lovely local league people were of course still there, and Fionn was playing goal kicking with a few of his mates who were still there. We got back home and Fionn started to count the hours until the next league event (21).
Does this look like a rugby league player just finished the sevens tournament which his team won and during which he scored his first try of the season? Still wearing his mouthguard and the brightest footwear in our house?

In the garden, I focused on plant security, which is my latest flashy phrase for catching caterpillars and feeding them to the chooks. It's obviously still warm enough for the white butterflies.

On the sewing machine, I finished the two red capes for the Christchurch kindies dressups project which have been awaiting the return of my sewing scissors (sharpened by the local clever sewing machine repair and maintenance person). Near the sewing machine, I've been reading blogs and the patternreview website and sewing vicariously, slowly gaining confidence and understanding in techniques to alter patterns so clothes fit me. This blog, Sew Silly, was today's new find and inspiration.

I read Wendyl Nissen's A Home Companion which I liked. I got it from the library and deemed it from the outset as a lightweight fluff up riding the back to earth penny saving wave of the last couple of years. But as I read on, I decided it was better than that and if I owned it, I'd find it valuable enough to keep rather than give away after reading. Wendyl has a website which I'm going to spend some time on judging by my first squizz.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

world health day: autonomy over our own bodies

I'm writing this for the abortion blogswarm advertised on The Hand Mirror. It wasn't hard to know what I wanted to write for this post as I've been thinking about it for some time. I want to write about the effect of abusive parents on perceptions of abortion and choice.

I've been thinking about two real life situations, one I know of more intimately than the other. Two young women, separated by time and place, were made to abort their babies by their parents. Mum and Dad in the case of one and Dad in the case of the other. Woman A and her partner, both young teens, were committed to each other and keen to have the baby and riase him or her themselves. Woman B was clear she wished to birth and raise the child that she, as women who want to carry through a pregnancy do, saw the foetus as.

The scars continue for these two women and one of the notable forms of those scars has been a massive resistance to the notion of abortion in any form. To force someone to have an abortion is a particularly cruel act and when we are talking about the very people charged to care for a teenage child performing this ugly coercion, the abusive element magnifies in my mind. These women are (one far more proactively than the other) trying to restrict bodily autonomy on other women in their anti-abortion campaigning. It saddens me that this is a product of the abuse they endured when they were young.

I carry with me the stories of brave and strong women who have made brave and strong decisions to terminate pregnancies. Women who knew they had the right to autonomy over their bodies and made difficult decisions which were the right ones for them then and remain the right decisions today. Today, on world health day, I put my hand up tall and say that I believe free access to abortions for women of all ages is an essential service in any decent society.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A certain romance

In which I begin a post with the idea that I will at least part way through discover that I do have something to say after all. I've resisted the guilt around the primary school PTA, helped by the fact that it clashes with martial arts (my son and husband, not me, but that leaves the girl in need of an adult caregiver for the evening). I am about a zillion things annoyed by the kindy fundraising, but I'm either lacking courage or lacking callousness in my decision not to complain to the kindy staff (who are great teachers) or the kidsfirst administration given they are in earthquake recovery mode over the hill where the admin is based. If you organise a fundraising meeting and no one turns up, that is an important vote. It is not a sign that you should organise a fundraiser and ask people to volunteer lots of things and say that parents will need to do the next one. If private childcare centres can run without fundraising, then so can kidsfirst kindies which change their provision terms without any community consultation. I didn't go to the rugby league AGM either, but that was easy because so many sporty people in one room is far too frightening for me.

According to the radio this morning, Greymouth is filling up with people for the Royal Commission on the Pike River deaths. Maybe they had gone home again by afternoon, because I could get a park easily enough by the library. I did see two flash suits walking around town though, which is two more than usual.

Remember Peak Oil? PEAK OIL?? Over the last few years since I began this roller coaster lark known as parenting, I've gotten interested in a pile of greenie things. Cloth nappies and wooden hairbrushes (NOT joking, it was useless and still had to be replaced though, just more expensive than a plastic one) and mooncups and washable sanitary pads which I absolutely refuse to call mama pads because you know you do bleed before you have babies unless you are extraordinarily unlucky and making foods from scratch and gardening and permaculture and reducing consumption and then once we got back to New Zealand I was reading blogs about BEING READY. I read Sharon Astyk who I kept thinking was called Sharo Nasty K like an evil version of that expensive breakfast cereal. Sustainable energy and lots of tinned food stashed away and knowing how to knit my own socks and all that. I quite liked it all, particularly at an intellectual level, though when they talked about storing things for emergency possibilities like old fabric in case the shops run out of clothes, I knew that I couldn't believe all their religion or else my already bad hoarding tendencies would make our house unliveable in for the here and now.

Then we had Pike River which was the saddest thing I thought I could get my head around even though I'd been reading about wars and Rwanda and other bad stuff which was somewhere else. Then we had the second Christchurch earthquake and we had to go over there and be grown ups while they made my daughter go limp and got ready to cut her open. That night, as we lay attempting sleep through countless earthquakes and I kept my pj bottoms on even though it was too hot in case we had to evacuate in the small hours, I thought:

This is grown up stuff. No choice this time.

You might think I'd had a few opportunities to be a grown up, but none felt as serious as this.

A couple of nights ago, I woke up and remembered that I had decided I had grown up recently. Then I had to concentrate hard to remember why.

I see why they say 'lest we forget' on war memorials. The human instinct is not for memory of the hardest stuff. Not for the winners anyway, those who still have homes, who stand like I do on earth that has hardly rocked this year, who go to work even as the papers fill with the news that fewer and fewer people have work.

Once I was working on moving our dried foods into glass. Bad stuff plastic. PBAs I think is the term for the worst of it. Now I think plastic is great stuff. I've got our glass goods kept as far away from the plastic and cardboard stored stuff as possible so that one doesn't wreck the other in an earthquake. I've talked liquefaction with the resident science geek and apparently our place should be alright, though the neighbours may not fare so well. I've been upping my efforts in the garden so we can eat greens even if the supermarket prices go crazy this winter. We've been looking after the chooks.

There was a certain romance to the peak oil preparation idea. We were the purists, while the baddies out there in mainstream culture defecated on our beautiful landscape in their huge cars and expensively packaged approximations of food.

There is not a certain romance to the Christchurch earthquake, or to preparations for one here in Wetville, where we'd been told for years that we were overdue a biggie.

There is not a certain romance to having 29 men buried in our hills. There is no romance to leaving for work in the morning and not coming home again.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

All the Way Home

So I devoured David Giffels' book All the Way Home, and afterwards and in the gaps when meals and the most unavoidable of family responsibilities dictated I stop reading, I talked to those I love most about painting the dining room, changing the colour of almost every surface in the kitchen, turning the garage into a sleepout and making a roofless plastic house with the old poultry palace roofing plastic. Those are the bits I remember, there may have been more.

Somewhere along the day, a little reality seeped in. I did make a start on the dining room, and collected a box full of newspapers and filled a large black rubbish sack just by clearing one cubic metre. Really. I got half of the room done (filled a second black sack) and then the shortest people wanted to eat and I didn't quite get to the other side. Maybe tomorrow. If you didn't believe about my/our bad housekeeping before, you might now. On the aesthetic side (though collecting large volumes of half started craft and weekend newspapers does have an aesthetic consequence too), I rubbed the white marks off the wall and now the wallpaper looks quite pristine beside the fridge. I thought it was chalk but the children, artists you understand, explained that it was the Christmas snow spray. They would know.

Then Favourite Handyman remarked that we should buy the last lot of batts and finish the ceiling. Oh yes. That. I have to admit, coming gently down to earth, that that is a more pressing matter than choosing paint for the dining room (thinking of lime green - first we were joking and now we are not). If I spend money on that, it would start to save us heating money straight away. A very nice man gave me a quote for getting it done with the government energy subsidy earlier in the year and I must find that. I know FH could do it himself like he did the rest, but the very nice quoting man gave me some tips on how it could be done better and there are such a lot of other projects which Favourite Handyman would surely love to do more. We can't afford the floor and the ceiling straight away, but I'd like to see the ceiling finished. We have been buying and installing batts (only one of us installs actually) since Brighid was born...

Tonight we had leek and potato soup. The leeks came from the garden, as did the thyme, and I did make the chicken stock myself. It was very nice, three of us thought. For pudding, we had pieces of chocolate cake, with the exception of a fourth person who gagged on the soup and had no manners at all. I made this cake again, only without the expensive choc chips. I was going to make rhubarb cake, but I had to walk past the zucchini to get to the rhubarb and there were five more zucchini needing to be used. So zucchini chocolate cake it was.

Yesterday I weeded some more, leaving, of course, still more to be done, and I killed a lot of caterpillars. Today I killed more caterpillars, but I was too busy creating actual usable space in the dining room to weed more garden before it began to rain.

That's it. Tomorrow I believe I need to earn some money, about which I do not blog. But there are some things to look forward to. We are going to have a working bee at the local high school to finish the dressups for Christchurch kindies project. It's only one month until May Day and we have an evening in Blackball to look forward to for that. Brighid and I went to a meeting for the Blackball Museum of Working Class History Trust last week and wonderful things are happening and I am not much use to them at all. I've kept clear of the kindy and school fundraising committees to date this year and then yesterday I saw in the newspaper that Fionn's rugby league club has an AGM this week and "needs new members". I really don't think I'm much good at being on committees, but somebody has to do it (them).

Saturday, April 2, 2011


In which we went on an adventure to the beach because we could. Because it was Thursday and we were free of work and school and as we dropped Fionn off at school I thought the dreadful thought that I shall drop them both off next year and by then we absolutely could not do ordinary things like go back home.
It was a misty, dark grey day and we had the beach entirely to ourselves. We found seaweed and as I went to untangle it from the stick, I decided to keep it on the stick and carry it like a swag.
Bordering the beach is gorse, paddocks with sheep, and a resting fence for the seaweed, which was more as I'd tied the new finds on to the swag.
Then we went home and did normal things like dye a perfectly normal skirt blue.

I bought it for $5 at Postie Plus earlier in the week and I thought I would dye it a beautiful intense turquoise.
I don't think the result is the intensity of colour I had imagined, but I do still like it. Once I've worn it a while I shall know if I need to overdye it again.

Then last night I bought blue cheese and red wine and foccaccia bread and ate almost all of it while beginning to read all the way home by David Giffels in which he tells the story of buying a totally falling down mansion and repairing it. I love it. It makes me want to achieve things. To change things forever. Back down on earth I know that the fanciest and most effective thing I could do to our kitchen or hall or dining room or any room is to clean it. Not. very. exciting.

Thankfully Favourite Handyman has woken with something of this bug and as I type (rather useless occupation relatively), our chooks are in the temporary run, the tallest short person is inside the poultry palace dealing to the deep bulges of water from the plastic roofing and FH is preparing to replace the soft plastic with corrugated hard plastic roofing. Brighid and I read Mary Poppins while they went shopping for diy supplies and now she is in the trampoline which is not a trampoline apparently but the Faraway Tree. We all need some magic, and this weekend it appears we have some.

Off to attempt some of my own...
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