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Showing posts from December, 2012

All This and a Bookshop Too

I brought this autobiography (her second volume) by Dorothy Butler back from Christmas, on loan from my sister.  Initially, I thought it nice but not astounding, and thought it in the same vein as Barbara Anderson's very nice autobiography, about which no one said anything either.  But increasingly, I found All This and a Bookshop Too quite moving.  Butler had eight children, involved herself in Playcentre, ran her own bookshop, wrote books and most of all had a very ordinary and wonderful passion for books for children and for children's books.  By 'ordinary,' I mean that she does not employ elaborate academic structures for her arguments, but passionate and intelligent observation and the deepest knowledge of the children's book publishing scene.  I loved her stories of her family life as well as those of her book-related adventures.  I had the sense of someone who approached parenting (and marriage and grandparenting) with the same warm intellect as she did her …

Comfrey & broad bean compost

Summer is a wonderful thing.  Summer holidays are even more so.  Today I chopped all the broad bean plants into chunks about five centimetres long and dropped them into our rotating compost bin.  Then I harvested an armful of comfrey chopped the stems below the leaf off (anything close to the root is just too prone to surviving and setting up a new colony of hard to eradicate plant) and then whizzed up the leaves in my mini kitchen whiz. Usually I use it to make hummous, but comfrey pulp is just as worthy.  Then I put it all in a large bowl, covered it with warm water and left it in the sun for a while.  Then I closed all the holes on the compost bin, opened the lid and poured the mixture in, closed it and rotated it round and round a few times.  Comfrey is a compost activator, and the broad bean plants with their large leaves and woody stems  (plus some old beans I had no inclination to cook) will contain a good mix of nitrogen and carbon.

I weeded some more, and planted basil, white…

the season for gardening

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We had a great holiday away, especially in Nelson and Kaikoura, and now we are back on the West Coast, I'm spending much of my days gardening. 

Today I've been weeding, adding compost, planning and dreaming.  The tomatoes under the lean-to (in pots) have a disease and the ones in the garden are doing much better.  Neither are looking perfect leaf-wise, because I delayed planting them out from the windowsill pots far too long. 

In other years, I've not harvested my garlic until late January, which seems to work well here.  January is when it finally dries out here, so by allowing the entire month for final growth, the garlic keeps better.  But the downside is that I'm back at work before I can replant the garlic bed into a new crop for autumn/winter.  I harvested one garlic head this afternoon and it looked a good size.  I gave the remaining crop (and my tomatoes) a dose of liquid fish fertiliser and will harvest it at the end of next week. 

Meanwhile I bought pea, cele…

NW by Zadie Smith, and other projects

I finished Zadie Smith's NW.  I agree with the reviewers who found it uneven.  Regarding the reviewer who thought it captured London life perfectly, I can also see how they could take that out of the book.  (These are probably Guardian & Observer reviews but I haven't kept the references).  I'm not convinced that it is a great book though.  The characters seem to be deliberately a bit (or a lot) pathetic, which may be very realistic, but I dpn't think it added to my enjoyment of the novel.  The book does address the split world feeling of working class women who make it to university and a 'new life', a topic which is always interesting to me.  At the end, when one educated woman originally from a tough north London estate asks her lawyer friend who also 'got out' of the same estate why they deserve to be doing well when their peers are drug addicts on the streets, I got Smith's question.  If you didn't, I personally suspect that…

The Mystery of the Severed Hand

We went away.  We saw sun and sunshine and watched some seriously fantastic martial arts practitioners (Chan's Martial Arts - a form of kung fu) and I got hay fever and the kids played at Spencer Park and we had dinner with friends in Christchurch and told them our sad Greymouth stories and then felt ashamed as we learnt of life for so many Christchurch people in post-earthquake limbo hell.  I spent a morning on genealogy with a wonderful and talented relative and it was great to be away from usual life, to find ourselves never talking about work.

Today was also wonderful.  I rearranged my work hours so I could be home today with the children as their school has a teacher only day.  We had two extra children for the day, two wonderful children from different families, both of whom will move to Auckland later this month.  I've known these two children since they were two and three years old.  The sound of children playing round the house, watching them run to the creek, to the …