Wednesday, September 26, 2012

When the lemons rain around me, I garden.

When a globalised world with impotent local actors threatens to destabilise my sense of autonomy, gardening is my best response.  It allows me to grow food for my family, thus reducing costs and dependence on the supermarket and reducing the food miles aspect to supermarket-purchased vegetables.

I also happen to really really enjoy gardening.

Over the last few days, mostly in the weekend, I sowed sunflower seeds, transplanted my Mrs Kitson's marigolds, weeded, dug in bokashi, sowed phacelia, oriental mesclun, beetroot and a shady garden scatter blend of aquilegias.  I've also bought and planted seedlings of pak choi, two kinds of lettuce (including 'drunken woman' because that name has always appealed to me) and perpetual spinach.  Waiting on the table outside to be planted are dwarf cosmos, two asparagus plants and some coriander.

Inside I'm tending my tomato plants on the windowsill.  I don't sow much seed if I can easily buy seedlings due to time constraints.  But there is something very appealing to me about growing my own tomato plants from seed.  It is like the charting of spring.  I only grow cherry tomatoes, as the large ones don't grow in time here without the aid of a glass/plastic house.  I still think I'll get a plastic house one day...

Today I bought six punnets of seedlings.  I'm totally happy to pour a little money into our local economy and gain some autonomy over our greens supply in the process.

Not local, but still feel-good, is Cake Patterns.  I only discovered Steph of 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World a few months ago, but now I'm looking forward to making a dress she has designed called the Tiramisu.  Today she put patterns up for pre-sale on Etsy on a generous discount as a way of gaining the finances to print her pattern.  I've not done this before (technologically ancient you say?  guilty as charged) but I think it is a great idea, so I've bought her pattern.  Now I just need to finish knitting my Miette cardigan in the next month and source some lovely patterned knit fabric in readiness to sew a Tiramisu.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Why I am angry with Tony Ryall and his cronies.

How dare this government?  The government which was happy for Don Elder to be paid a salary of $1.3 million and an increasingly top heavy, highly paid arsenal of non-mining bureacrats to suck up profits. 

The government which presided over a mine safety regime which was so grossly unsafe that TWENTY NINE men died and are still underground.  A safety and management regime at Pike River which was so inept that endless lies were peddled as they scrabbled to have any idea what to do when Pike exploded.

I've met Trevor Bolderson a few times and I have enormous respect for him.  I've heard him talk about his experiences in the 1984 miners' strike in England.  He is an astute, intelligent and hugely hard working man.  It was Trevor who presented the proposal from the workers for Spring Creek to Tony Ryall today. 

Tonight at 5pm on the National Radio news, I learnt that Tony Ryall openly admitted he didn't bother to look at the miners' proposal.  Not even the slightest pretence at respect for the work of the miners.

The work of the workers.

The work of the men who have buried their comrades not yet two years ago.

The prime minister and his cronies didn't mind dressing up and lamenting a 'work of God' back then.  They don't mind killing off the industry now.

Yes, I'm aware that enthusiasts of capitalism consider such outrage to be naive.  Makes the world go round and all that.


There is no respect in this process.  None whatsoever. 

Next time you watch the workers of Greymouth and their families fighting to keep our town alive on your television, know that they fight an honest fight.  They are not picking a business apart, flicking off its workers on to the dung heap until they next need them, in readiness to sell the business into private hands.

The government are doing a hideous and nasty job of so-called running our state assets.

Could it be worse?


Pike River Coal Mine was privately owned.

Lest you prefer to assume I am stupid, I do understand what a balance sheet looks like.  I do understand what being in the red and having a mortgage which has to be paid looks like.  I make choices every damned day to keep my own family afloat.  But I don't stuff up our family finances by taking out immoral amounts of cash just for being the administrator of our finances.  And I don't lie to people about what is going on.  I listen to the suggestions of other family members about how we can best make good financial decisions.  I don't disrespect the contribution that everyone in my family makes to our financial viability. 

Not like John Key and Don Elder.  Shame on you both, and all your lackeys.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Spring projects

The sun shone brightly and the world was a lovely place.  I spent the morning in bed reading Lynda Hallinan's Back to the Land: A Year of Country Gardening, rising only once I'd devoured the entire book.  Great book.  Marking a truly spring day, I donned my floral curtain Colette Crepe dress for the first time.  I asked my daughter to take some pictures.  It's not quite summer, so I teamed my dress with black leggings, a black long sleeved t shirt, odd socks and gumboots.  In keeping with my usual Saturday style, I neither brushed my hair nor washed my face before heading out to the garden.
 I had fun in the garden.  The iceland poppies are flowering in front of the gone-to-seed rocket and beside the garlic.
 I planted out lots of pansies and polyanthus and I even had a go at upgrading the falling down, overgrown and neglected piece of sort-of garden out the very front.  Mostly what this photo shows is the falling downwind shelter, but perhaps you can see where I have tied the rambling briar rose across the remnants of a fence.  I'm hoping for a graceful arch of pink flowers from it later this year.
 A few problems became evident with the dress throughout the day.  I'm glad I didn't wear it out without a top underneath.  This evening I asked my beautiful assistant to take another photo so I could share the problem.  Despite all my careful alterations, going down in neckline size and the making a full bust adjustment, the dress still doesn't fit in the shoulders/upper chest.  At first I thought the problem was the width of the shoulders.  But now I think it is more likely that I need to make a petite adjustment between the high bust and shoulders.  If I were to pinch out an inch on either side of the shoulder seam for both shoulders, I would get quite a good fit.  Whereas in the current situation, the dress falls off my shoulders (which are narrow relative to standard pattern measurements) and the I am left with a large pillow effect from the sweet heart neckline down to my waist.  As in larger and more formless than even nature has endowed me.
Sewing?  The more I learn, the more I recognise what doesn't fit or work, and three years later the successful and long term wearable dress has still eluded me.

I've been having a look at possible uses for the $50 worth of emerald green satin I bought during the week and which hopefully I don't have to turn into a ballet costume after all.  Given I never go to formal wear events, the pickings are slim.  I am considering a half circle skirt for day wear.  Given my experiences with fitting myself with non-stretch fabrics, I'm not currently full of confidence on this project.  But when I rang the shop and what I wanted was emerald multi-stretch dance fabric and they only had jade, moving on to the evening wear section seemed the only option.  There are only a few colours I dislike, but jade may be at the top of that list.

Events in the rest of the world are utterly outrageous.  Paula Bennett's half baked punitive policy on early childcare for the children of beneficiaries has many holes in it as well as being morally bankrupt.  I've spoken to a friend in an isolated part of the West Coast who is affected by this and has no access to fifteen hours of an early childhood learning centre without driving very large distances.  What is the bureacracy going to cost to assess situations like hers?

One thing which was really good was last night's performance of The Cave above the Pa/Te Ana I Runga I te Pa.  I think it is an important beginning to telling and sharing the story of the dispossession of Mawhera Maori and I hope I find ways of learning more.  Historical perspectives on our town always seem to be focused on Pakeha stories.  There was a discussion afterwards on where to next for Greymouth which was a good idea in itself, but I didn't feel I had anything to contribute.  Once I would never have attended an open forum like last night's one without contributing.  I haven't decided whether I've gotten too cynical to see beautiful visions of a new future or whether I've acquired enough wisdom to keep quiet unless I have a genuinely valuable contribution to make.  What I do know is that this is the third play from Kiwi Possum Productions, a local community theatre group led by the talented and indefatigable Paul Maunder, and I look forward to both more discussion about Te Ana I Runga I te Pa and to whatever play is on the horizon for next year.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

An exercise in chaos

So Brighid is doing ballet.
I've chronicled my ineptness and lack of proper enthusiasm for extra curricular activities fairly thoroughly on this blog, so recidivist readers know that I'm a ballet mum without a licence.  Or a clue.

Cue dancing competitions.

With costumes.  International theme, as the children skip across the room in painfully rehearsed formation to the words "children of the world". 

Which the parents provide.  "Parent" being, for the most part and certainly in my household, a euphemism for the mother.

I screened out the costume aspect for most of the term, having decided we would go Irish and assuming that would be easy peasy to source on Trademe.

On Tuesday I found out that next week is dress rehearsal and it dawned upon me that the actual competitions were less than two weeks away.  I told the teacher that we weren't quite entirely sorted.

That night, and the next, Trademe let me down.

I got a bit flappy, and everything else got a bit busy, and the teacher never got back to me after suggesting she would ring me with the name of the person who has an Irish costume from last year.  This morning I woke up late, took FH to school in my dressing gown, took the kids to school in my dressing gown without their lunches and, at 8.58am remembered the ballet costume challenge and decided to put my supermother cape on, make the damn thing and rang Fabric Vision in Christchurch immediately (I'd already checked the local fabric shop and no joy there).  I ordered two metres of emerald stretch satin, because that seemed a good idea.  A really good idea. 

This afternoon I left work earlier than usual because a) I was still too tired to make good decisions on tricky topics and b) the computers wouldn't work.  Point a) should have been a warning to me about making decisions about non-work activities.  Should have.

I sorted through patterns, sighed and wrinked my brow, chose the easiest one and started cutting out a muslin.  I told every person I saw about my project, both noble and overwhelmingly ridiculous.  I posted my project on facebook and friends began to worry that Brighid would be on stage naked.

I think they did more than worry.  They prayed.  Big time.

So tonight the ballet teacher rang and then there were more phone calls and now we are going to collect an Irish dress at the dress rehearsal on Tuesday.  I will endeavour to get it off Brighid as soon as I possibly can, as she likes to feed her clothes a regular diet of tomato sauce.

Meanwhile, assuming the loan dress fits, I can think about what I could make with emerald green stretch satin that isn't evening wear. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Miette, Dyson & tomatoes

So I left 19C Cornwall for a week, and participated in 21C Wetville a little more.  League has finished for the year and the freedom we had in the weekend because of that was beautiful. 


We went to Shantytown and hung out in the rain, and the next day we went to the swimming pool.  We bought a new toy which prompted some housework.

What toy does that, you ask?

The old vaccum cleaner had lost its suck.  I'd kept it going for an extra two years beyond when I first thought it needed replacing by lots of cleaning of the brushes and making do (and, it could easily be argued, by not using it very often).  I thought I'd shift from my Dyson, but when I researched my options, Dyson came out on top by a million miles.

So the house is quite a bit cleaner than usual which is lovely.  Long may the interest in using the new toy last.

I'm making quite good progress with my Miette cardigan.  I'm knitting the pattern as per the size 42" instructions.  I wasn't confident to make changes to the pattern this time round, but I am learning from the process and think I could another time.  Like lower the bust darts.  I've started those as per the pattern and I can tell you that even with the best bra engineering that money can buy, my bust point ain't going to be right up there beside my armpit.  There will be some blocking going on at the end.  I'm not unravelling at this stage, just having powerful learning experiences.

Still no news on Spring Creek.  I alternately feel grateful we still have quite secure jobs, and guilty that we do when so many of my friends and acquaintances face the job axe.  I've been reading the recent Listener articles on retirement planning and trying to be as sensible as we can.  I think Diana Crossan the retirement commissioner has a lot of good things to say.  A month or so back I wondered if we could be radical enough to drop to one income for a year and I would return to the garden and be at home for the kids some more.  After the Solid Energy initial round of cuts and terrible intimations of more here on the West Coast, staying home when we were lucky enough to have two income streams started to seem quite insane.  Our kids and indeed all four of us are really lucky and a bit of crazy busy-ness won't kill us- by some big city standards, our life is probably quite zen.

The time I spent at home when Brighid was a baby was valuable beyond the time I spent with her and four year old Fionn.  We'd only bought and moved into our home three months before she was born and in that first year I spent a lot of time creating vegetable and herb gardens.  Now there are more flowers, but the important groundwork was done then and now it is relatively easy to grow food.  I transplanted my tomato seedlings into small pots in the weekend.  It rained before I could do anything further gardenwise, but every small step leads to more yummy and cheap food in a few weeks or months' time. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

head in the clouds

It's evening, so my head has been in 19th century Cornwall for the most part.

No fabric, patterns or clothing purchases.  I spent the potential fabric purchase money on ordering death certificates.

Things which have finished: drum lessons, league practices and games and a reduction in kung fu attendance.  The difference in smoothness of a week is noticeable already, and it is only Tuesday.  There is a five week gap between league finishing and swimming lessons starting.  I'm enjoying it.  This does remind me that I need to sort out a costume for the ballet competitions this holidays though.

Ouch ouch ouch on the job cuts in provincial New Zealand already this week.

Recent developments in my garden: first iceland poppy (orange) out.  Lovage has re-emerged.  Feverfew and white sage taking off.  One bay tree appears to be flowering.  It's never done that before.  There is a flowerhead emerging from the Chatham Island Forget Me Not and one from an aquilegia - firsts!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

good bad great

Good: the new Cornish project is still fascinating me.  Today I learnt about hedging practices and forced enclosures over the past 300 years and I found information about my great x 4 grandparents who married in 1769 and my great x 3 grandparents who married in 1804 and my great x 2 grandparents who married in 1837.  I want to learn about how my great grandmother learnt to read and write in the period before compulsory schooling and some more about Methodism in their part of Cornwall. 

Bad: The housework fairy didn't visit over night.

Great: the rugby league season has finished for the year!

Friday, September 7, 2012

the new hobby

In our town, it has never been easier to find a park (except perhaps on certain days in November 2010) and at the supermarket in what is normally the crazy peak just after work hour on pay day night, there were two lanes free.  By day, I do my normal things, like alternately harass and adore my kids (actually the adore bit is usually at night when they are asleep), organise food, go to work, visit Mary K, do loads of laundry, conspicuously not manage any other housekeeping and thus witness the slide into Septemberitis which happens after eight months of busyness each year, chat to my friends, discuss the state of the world with FH, and sneak out into the garden even just to admire the current sea of white and yellow on green formed by the daisies on the unmown lawn, the daffodils and the white and yellow irises and the rocket run to seed.

By night I have a new hobby. 

I've had this bug before, when I was 19.  My flatmate would warn people at parties: "Watch out!  She'll talk to you about dead people and cemeteries!"  Some people played sport on Saturdays to keep fit; I kept incidentally fit by cycling to cemeteries on the far side of town and working out where my Irish forbears had made their new life in 19th century Christchurch.

This time, I've got the bug for my Cornish stories.  When I was 19, the internet was still some silicone valley pipe dream.  Now, there is so much I can find out online.  I've been finding out about my great grandmother and my great grandfather who emigrated separately from Cornwall and married in New Zealand.  Along the way, I'm learning a little about their siblings and the places they've been.  I've been looking up history articles to learn some more context, particularly about the links between Penarth, near Cardiff, and Cornwall. 

Not so far from life in Wetville after all.  Massive emigration from Cornwall 1861-1901 was prompted in part by the closure of the tin mines.  Cornish miners were valued world wide for their high level of skill in deep mining.  The mines in Glamorgan, Wales, or the docks for exporting the coals in Penarth, part of Glamorgan, appear to have been the reason that some of my ancestors moved to Penarth before eventually moving to Western Australia.  When I found that one of my great grandmother's sisters had moved, with her Cornish husband and the first couple of children, to Penarth, where they had more children, it suggested an origin for an old, delicately made pin with 'PENARTH' on it and surrounded by flowers that Mary K gave me earlier this week:

My camera couldn't manage to retain clarity on such a small object, so the script is illegible and flowers a bit fuzzy.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Frock planning

See these two dresses (brand = catalyst)?  I think they are quite gorgeous.  The fabric in the second one is utterly gorgeous in my eyes.  How much do you think they cost?  In the flashest women's dress shop in Wetville, they are $279 each.  Plus, they are only in a size 12 plus a larger size probably wouldn't fit me either, even if I had $279 to spend on a frock.  In this context, making a dress for $70 doesn't seem completely outrageous.  I'm planning and plotting (and poring over the sample Global Fabrics sent me earlier this week and eyeing up this on trademe.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Save Our Town

There's a rally in our town tomorrow.  A rally to save Spring Creek, a rally to save our town.  A rally where already I see our young people discovering something worth fighting for.  The older people in this town already know it is worth fighting for.

Maybe, if you've known me a long time, or read my blog in earlier years, you wonder where my greenie principles have gone.

Like many women, I honed my greenie interests and passion as a new mother, thinking at home instead of being out at work, looking for a better future for my children and grandchildren by treasuring the natural resources in our world.  I used cloth nappies, grew vegetables, made food from scratch as much as possible, experimented with home made lotions and potions and campaigned for better recycling facilities.

Tomorrow's rally is also about creating a better world for our children, for the young and old, those single and those in families, in Greymouth.  I do realise that coal is vilified with reason in green circles and academic literature.  When I look around me and see so many people dependent on Spring Creek for work, contemplate so much loss to our community if Spring Creek closes, I cannot consider the "green" argument (not that Solid Energy is either).

My Dad was a freezing worker from when I was four years old until I was 31.  I remember listening carefully as freezing works around the country closed, and communities suffered.  I remember Islington, in particular, closing, as my uncle and one of cousins worked there.  My uncle, I later learned, never really recovered from the loss of the mateship that he experienced at Islington.  His son, who had a large and young family at the time, went to Western Australia and never came back.

The freezing works in Nelson is still going, albeit in dramatically changed form.  The axe swung above it many times, and although that was worrying for our family and for our community, I never experienced something as central to a small, isolated community as the mines are here on the West Coast.

It is hard to put a percentage on how many people I know, who stand to be out of work by the end of this month, and how many more by the end of the year.  But I do know that everywhere I go, whether to work, to the primary school, to the supermarket or into town, I see many people who will be directly affected. I worry about our hospital, a service which wasn't guaranteed in its current form even before the series of recent announcements from Solid Energy.

12pm @ the skatepark, Greymouth, Tuesday 4 September 2012.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Indolent genealogy

My world is much improved.  I got sleep, I went to work on Saturday and wrapped up an outstanding (as in late) project, I visited the lovely 85 year old Mary K, and the scene was potentially set for me to spend Sunday cleaning the house.

Ha ha.  I spent the day in the indolent pursuits of knitting myself a cardigan (30 rows, replete with fancy shaping!!!) and playing genealogist.  Yesterday Mary K showed me a photo of her grandmother (my great grandmother) looking very elegant, and another of her with her sister.  I had never heard of this sister, but it turned out that Honor Ann T. left Cornwall some time after Emma Jane T., my great grandmother.   She went to Australia first, where she had family, and then to New Zealand.  I've found some details relating to her first widowhood, her second marriage and her death.  I also found that both of these Cornish women lost sons in World War One.  Emma Jane T. was also married twice.  She too left Cornwall as a single woman and spent some time in Australia before moving to Christchurch and settling with the Cornish community at Harewood, where the airport now stands.  Emma Jane T.'s two husbands were friends, two Cornish men who had travelled to New Zealand on the same ship fifteen years before husband #1 found himself dying of pneumonia.  Not long before he died, my great grandfather went to visit him.  Husband #1 asked him to look after his wife and very small baby.  And so he did.  What was initially an arrangement of respectable support grew into a marriage of love.  Awwww.

About 5pm, I got up from my spot by the computer and saw the room with new eyes.  I'd ignored the mess before, screening out the effects of Brighid's creative endeavours with scissors and toilet paper.  Hmmm.  I was jolted back into a functioning adult and started to wash clothes, cook dinner and throw instructions around.